Hundreds of thousands of people joined rallies, picket lines and marches across England and Wales yesterday to protest against pay and falling living standards. Rallies attracting thousands of school workers, firefighters and local government workers took place in cities across the country from London to Liverpool, Sheffield to Brighton.
In London thousands of workers descended on Trafalgar Square in what union leaders said was the biggest round of industrial action for three years. Firefighters wearing t-shirts with the slogan "We save lives - not banks" joined school workers and refuse collectors to hear union leaders tell the crowd that the government was deliberately trying to run down public sector wages and they the service staff provide, and one newspaper reported the following statement from a stressed teacher:
“Right now, teachers and students are under attack! Education Minister Michael Gove is eating our brains! Teachers are subjected to relentless pressure and overwork, our holidays are being cut and our weekends are under threat. We are forced to work until we’re 68. Our pay is being tied to exam results. Our ability to work creatively and with care is threatened as we are increasingly inspected and surveilled by managers with increased power. Meanwhile, children as young as 4 are subjected to endless testing and ten hour school days. The life is being sucked out of our community schools as they are handed over to corporate academy chains and education is recast as a profitable 'service'.”
I think that the above statement really puts into perspective and brings home the reality of what is occurring in education today, by no means do I pretend to be informed with the current situation and the multitude and large number of changes that have taken place in education since I left school some 43 years ago now, but what I do know is that access to education and advice has been dramatically reduced in recent years: tuition fees have trebled, the careers service and education maintenance allowance has been axed, the student loan stock is or has been sold off and the funding pot for disadvantaged students is set to be halved. Local authorities have been quick to cut their youth budget; some have disposed of it altogether.
Michael Gove and the Tory party have been waging an ideological war on the education system, they have given away countless £billions worth of taxpayer funded infrastructure, for free, to unaccountable private sector interests, including to a number of major Tory party donors.The virtually unregulated shambles they have introduced has created countless opportunities for the unscrupulous to pillage taxpayer funds that are supposed to be used to educate our children.
They have allowed academy bosses to "topslice" extraordinary salaries and inflation busting pay rises for themselves at a time when teachers (the people that actually do the work) are having their wages repressed with below inflation pay rises.They have allowed schools to set up extremely dodgy financial arrangements, where the directors and trustees divert taxpayers' cash into their own businesses and personal accounts via no-bid "service" contracts.They have allowed foreign corporations to establish academy chains to extract vast sums out of the education system (and out of the country) by charging for the use of their curricula. They have used the UK's archaic and undemocratic honours system to bestow Lordships and Knighthoods upon the people that are milking the privatised education system for everything they can get out of it. So is it any wonder that a third of teachers would consider an alternative career, and isn't it just as important to retain our teachers as recruiting new people to the profession if schools are to avoid a looming staff shortage. Recruitment in 2013 was slower than in previous years, leaving secondary schools short of teachers for design and technology, computer science, physics and modern languages – and even some primary schools are now short-staffed.
Our teachers are passionate about young people the subject, the profession they have trained so hard for, so why treat them like dirt or filth?