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Strike debate: Havering teacher vs Department for Education

07:00 26 March 2014

Members of NUT will strike

Members of NUT will strike

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Today’s teacher strike will see 25 schools across the borough close or partially close, and the Recorder has taken a look at both sides of the ongoing dispute between the unions and the government over pay, pensions and workloads.

Education secretary, Michael GoveEducation secretary, Michael Gove

The national walk-out comes as part of a campaign by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) against controversial intiatives Michael Gove, secretary of state for education, will introduce, including performance related pay in September.

The teachers are against this, and argue changes to their pensions will see them working for longer, paying in more and receiving less when they retire.

Regular meetings have taken place as union officials and the Department for Education look to come to an agreement, but as yet there has been no resolution.

Sam Gelder heard both arguments.

For the strike:

A secondary school teacher, aged 33, who will strike, and wishes to remain anonymous:

“Most teachers are massively anti-Gove - he has completely ruined teaching for the teachers. We used to enjoy our job and gave our best for the kids and prepared for each lesson.

Now we are going down the path of data and the kids are looked at as numbers. He’s put competition between schools, everyone is struggling to get numbers and he wants the headline stats. He’s putting in all these intiatives that aren’t working [performance related pay will begin in September].

There is so much more unnecessary paperwork now, we have to put data into a computer every six weeks about a child’s performance and they have all these assessments, but it doesn’t always help. Not every child needs an assessment every six weeks.

The teacher’s responsiblities have been taken away - it’s all data and numbers. So many schools are losing teachers - they are just leaving the profession.

It’s all about him, he’s not doing it for anything other than his own ego. And he’s got that smug face too - but that’s not why I’m striking.

The workload is just crazy - teaching has taken a back step because of all the meetings we have.

Pay has frozen over the last three years, but in that time the cost of living has gone up. We earn nowhere near what we did three years ago and pension contributions have increased too.

I’ve definitely thought about leaving the profession, 100 per cent. I’ve been teaching for seven years and it’s difficult because I love my job.

I would personally be more militant and take a week off because I don’t think the strikes are working.”

Against the strike:

In a letter to union heads on Tuesday, Michael Gove outlined his reasons for performance related pay:

“The reforms to teachers’ pay are about ensuring schools have the processes in place to pay the best teachers more and we would expect schools to use the flexibilities resulting from these reforms to do that.

Regarding teachers’ complaints over their workload, he said he was happy to work with the unions over the coming months with a “key aim of reducing bureaucracy.”

Speaking about the strike, a Department for Education spokesman said:

“Parents will struggle to understand why the NUT is pressing ahead with strikes over the government’s measures to let heads pay good teachers more.

They called for talks to avoid industrial action, we agreed to their request, and talks have been taking place weekly.

Despite this constructive engagement with their concerns, the NUT is taking action that will disrupt parents’ lives, hold back children’s education and damage the reputation of the profession.”

The spokesman added less than a quarter of teachers voted in favour of this strike and a Populus poll last year found 61 per cent of people supported performance related pay. Seventy per cent either opposed strikes or believed teachers should not be allowed to strike.

A YouGov poll also showed teachers are receptive to change in the way they are evaluated and paid, with 89 per cent believing quality of teaching should be a major factor in pay and progression.

What are your thoughts on the strike? Email sam.gelder@archant.co.uk with your views or call 020 8477 3810.

To see which schools will be affected, click the link on the right.

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