On Monday morning my Head Teacher, as always, gave an assembly to the whole school. It was a powerful assembly, and an assembly that reflected the nature of my school as a community of faith, prayer and mutual support.
It was also a sad assembly.
My Head Teacher was appealing to the students of my school to support their teachers in a decision of conscience. This Thursday, 17th October 2013, the teaching unions of the NUT and NASUWT have called for a day of strike action. They have done this for many reasons, but what drew the attention of our Head was this, teachers want to go on strike because they are deeply worried for the future of education.
You will hear in the news tomorrow that teachers have been on strike because they are upset about pay, working conditions and pensions. And, that is true. But, teachers are also on strike tomorrow because they are worried that the children of tomorrow will not have professional, qualified, experienced teachers to help them through their education. There is already a national shortage of qualified teachers in some key subjects. It is already common for a school to have to 'set cover' for GCSE examinations groups because no qualified teacher can be found for that group at present.
The appeal my Head Teacher made was this: some of your teachers will go on strike, some will not. Whatever choice your teachers make, they have thought long and hard about their choice. They have made their decision because they love teaching you, and because they want the best for your future and the future of the children that come after you. Support your teachers. You know how hard they work. You know how much they care for you. Talk to your teachers about the decision they have to make. Take an interest in what they have to say. Tomorrow, I hope that some of you will be teachers. Listen to what is at stake.
My Head Teacher was asking my students to take the time to research, listen and seek the truth of the situation. I cannot offer any better advice than that. A fellow teacher and fellow blogger has outlined very carefully why the NUT and NASUWT are taking action tomorrow here. Do read what she has to say. The biggest lie I will hear on the news tomorrow is that teachers work 9am to 3pm and have 12 weeks holiday a year. That makes me angry and shows ignorance of a profession that looks after the future of our country. The details about pay, conditions and pensions are important, but secondary. The purpose of teaching is to provide a decent education to all students, regardless of their ability, social background or special educational needs, and to give every child the best start in life. When attacks on teaching become an attack on the ability of teachers to perform that task, trouble is ahead.
I'll be in school tomorrow. This is not because I do not support the strike, but because, as part of the position I occupy in my school, I am a 'key worker' and must be in school to protect the health and safety of the pupils in our care. I'll be in school tomorrow to support my colleagues on strike, and hope, ever more dearly, that politicians will come and see what is at stake, take time to see what the education of our young people involves, and help ensure that tomorrow's children have excellent, healthy, enthusiastic and happy teachers.
Please think carefully about what you hear about teachers on the news tomorrow. Your children, or your future children, depend on them.