Being a teacher in a state school often feels like trying to put out ten fires at once – 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. This week, teachers are set to strike again – after ongoing industrial action since the start of the year. Teachers like me don’t want to strike.
Contrary to Matt Hancock’s leaked WhatsApps, 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.
When you look at the facts, it’s little wonder that over 90 per cent of National Education Union members voted in favour of industrial action. Things are dire for teachers. Over a decade of stagnated wages (amounting to a pay cut thanks to the constant rise in inflation) have collided with austerity-driven cuts to public services and heightened pressures since the pandemic.
And the outcome? A perfect storm which is pushing teachers out of the classroom and stripping the most vulnerable children of what they need to secure the best future.
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Pay is, of course, a massive factor. Teachers cannot feed their families with job satisfaction alone and end-of-year thank you cards don’t pay the bills. One in five teachers have had to take on a second job to make ends meet according to an NEU poll, while others reported relying on food banks, benefits and regularly skipping meals because their wages simply don’t cover the ever-soaring cost of living.
When I think of the years of studying and experience accumulated by me and my colleagues in order to create the best outcomes for our students – the late night marking and early morning planning and the extra (unpaid) holiday revision sessions – it seems nothing short of insulting that many of us are not paid enough to make ends meet.