EVERYONE I’ve spoken to about the teachers’ strike is of one opinion; get back to the classroom you overpaid whingers.
I’m a little surprised by the level of hostility towards educators following last week’s one-day stoppage.
The general opinion seems to be that teachers are well enough paid as it is and, in any case, they get all that time off in the summer. So what are they moaning about?
It’s true that teachers are on a fairly good wage now if you compare it to previous decades, when they were scandalously underpaid.
Teachers start on just over £20,000 a year, with the most experienced earning a little more than £34,000.
While that may not seem like a lot to some, it is more than many people earn.
And the National Union of Teachers (NUT) went on strike last Thursday precisely to protect this relatively strong position.
Teachers are being offered a 2.45% rise this year and 2.3% in the following two years.
Even the Government’s preferred inflation measure – which ludicrously excludes housing costs – now stands at 2.5%. Add on the cost of council tax and mortgage payments and you get 3.8%.
So while it’s true that teachers have seen their wages increase significantly over the last decade they are now being asked to accept three years of pay cuts.
And some of them at least have decided that up with this they will not put, as an English teacher might say.
Good for them I say. Just because other workers tamely accept annual wage “rises” which leave them with less spending power doesn’t mean that teachers have to.
Indeed, I think many of the people complaining about the school strike are secretly jealous that they don’t belong to a union which is as “militant” as the NUT.
But the other thing that is driving people’s hostility to the strike – besides, of course, from the obvious inconvenience it causes to parents – is the fact that teachers are not respected in this country.
Many people consider them to be losers who’ve taken the cushy option because they couldn’t hack it in “the real world”.
As a former teacher myself you won’t be surprised to learn that I disagree with that. Anyone who thinks teaching is a soft option has obviously never stood in front of a class of hyperactive six-year-olds.
OK, it’s not as tough as working down a mine, but it’s a damn sight harder than most office jobs.
This lack of esteem for teachers is a serious cultural problem.
They do perhaps the most important job there is, educating children. By rights they should be held in respect.
People should be proud to say they’re teachers and expect to be properly rewarded for their invaluable work.
And when they go on strike – on the perfectly reasonable grounds that they don’t want to be paid less this year than last – we should support them.
Even though those long holidays are annoying.