Teachers strike in 2011, but more than 10 years later many have suffered through real terms pay cuts. Image: eilidh_wag/Flickr.
Do you remember the pandemic, when parents across the country were trapped at home with their own children and had to try and get them to sit down and read Of Mice and Men. Thank god that’s over.
Children returned to school and teachers stepped back in. But now they’re striking. So what’s it all about? (Hint: it’s not because they hate Of Mice and Men).
“Being a teacher in a state school often feels like trying to put out 10 fires at once,” wrote teacher Nadeine Asbali in the Big Issue recently, “except the government has cut your funding so the resources once available for quashing flames have depleted, and instead you’re left trying to do it with your bare hands.”
Here’s what you need to know about the teacher strikes.
How much do teachers earn?
Teacher salaries are decided by their school governing board and vary depending on their qualifications and where they teach. Salaries for qualified teachers now start at £28,000, or £34,502 in inner London.
Most state school teachers received a 5 per cent pay rise in 2022, but it didn’t come close to matching the rate of inflation. The Institute for Fiscal Studies reckons teachers the real value of teachers’ salaries fell by 11 per cent between 2010 and 2022 as inflation significantly outpaced pay rises.
When are teachers going on strike?
On Tuesday May 2 members of the National Education Union (NEU) will go on strike. It is already the fifth day of national teacher walk-outs since the start of 2023.
The last strike was on Thursday April 27 when an estimated 200,000 walked out demanding fair pay. This fresh wave of action comes after unions voted in early April to reject the pay rise suggested by the Government. Teachers argued the offer was not fully funded and their schools would have to make cuts elsewhere in order to afford it.
Teachers’ unions announced at the end of April that they may join forces in a strike which could affect every state school in the country and plan to ballot their members in the coming weeks.
Do teachers get paid when they are on strike?
No. Teachers who go on strike will have a day of pay deducted from their wages, the same as other industries who strike. Some unions have hardship funds to support their members when they strike.
Why are teachers going on strike?
Teachers are demanding fair pay and better funding in schools to ensure they can do their jobs, support the children and to make sure their pay rises do not eat into existing budgets.
Asbali wrote: “We would rather be in the classroom, but with the government’s repeated refusal to put an offer on the table that even begins to redeem the deep-rooted and multifaceted problems in our schools, it’s difficult to see an end in sight.”
Austerity-driven education cuts and increased pandemic-related pressure have resulted in bulging classes and staff shortages. Some schools are having to let go of teaching assistants, consider a shorter week to pay the bills or scrap extra curricular activities to pay a maths teacher. And it’s vulnerable students who lose out the most.
Despite this, salaries have not kept pace with inflation and one in five teachers have had to take up a second job. A third are being forced to regularly skip meals because of the ever-rising cost of living. Some have to rely on food banks as the price of food and fuel is pushed to impossible levels.
“Pitiful salaries and unsustainable workloads push excellent teachers out of schools and into better paid and more appreciated positions,” Asbali says. The statistics reflect just that. One in eight teachers who qualified in the summer of 2020 had all quit by the next year and over 40 per cent of teachers surveyed by the NEU planned to leave the profession within five years.
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