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Striking arguments as teachers' industrial action closes schools
11:00am Monday 14th October 2013 in Education
SCORES of schools across Southampton and Hampshire are set to close on Thursday when teachers strike over changes to their pensions, pay and conditions.
Already 55 have confirmed their doors will be closed to all or some pupils, meaning parents have been forced to make alternative childcare arrangements.
Many more head teachers have delayed making a decision until today as they assess how many staff will be walking out. Those planning industrial action are not forced to tell heads whether they are taking part. Only 48 schools have confirmed they will definitely be open on Thursday.
As previously reported, the main teaching unions the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union Women Teachers (NASUWT) will stage their joint day of action as part of a series of rolling strikes.
NASUWT executive member Paul Watkins told the Daily Echo that it is the intention of the unions to shut every school and that head teachers should be supporting striking members. However, critics say the strikes will harm children’s education and mean more disruption for working parents.
Here the Daily Echo gives the chance to people on both sides of the argument to make their case:
FOR: ‘Teachers right to hold strike – and half are thinking of quitting’
says Paul Watkins, NASUWT union executive member for Hampshire.
SINCE December 2011, teachers have been Standing up for Standards by taking pupil, parent and public-friendly action to defend their pay and conditions of service which enable them to focus on teaching and learning, but the Secretary of State for Education has refused to enter into meaningful discussions, so teachers are now taking part in a rolling programme of strike action to persuade the coalition Government to engage in genuine dialogue.
Teachers’ pay and conditions are linked to the entitlement of children and young people to be taught by highly-skilled professionals, who have working conditions which help them to ensure high educational standards.
The current system of pay and conditions has meant that our education system is seen as the sixth best in the world and the second best in Western Europe; therefore it is not the broken system that the Secretary of State would have you believe.
As a result of the coalition Government’s cuts, thousands of teachers have lost their jobs. This has a direct impact on pupils who are no longer receiving the support they deserve.
Unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy means that teachers have less time to spend on the teaching and learning of pupils.
Half of teachers are seriously considering quitting the teaching profession due to changes to pay, pensions, working conditions and jobs.
I have seriously thought about this because the current system is unsustainable. The expectations cannot keep being raised to the levels expected.
Teachers are passionate about doing the best for all their pupils and about delivering high standards for all.
Teachers believe that the changes to their working conditions will mean that they are not able to focus sufficiently upon the needs of their pupils. I love the interaction and the thrill you get when a young person gets their grades and are so excited.
Coalition Government cuts have meant that, as teachers have lost their jobs, class sizes are once again increasing within schools, denying pupils the individual support and attention they need.
Strike action by teachers is action of the last resort – the coalition Government needs to listen. The Secretary of State is refusing to engage in genuine dialogue. Teachers have no choice but to take strike action.
AGAINST: ‘These strikes are damaging and wrong’
THIS week’s strikes will only serve to damage the education of thousands of children in Southampton and disrupt the lives of hard working parents.
Many parents will themselves lose a day’s pay as they have to take the day off work, and others will have to pay the cost of making alternative child care arrangements.
Southamp-ton’s schools are driving up standards and results are improving year after year. One of the key drivers of improvement is better attendance.
The more children are in school, the better they do. The reverse is true; the more children miss school, the more this sets back their progress. Strikes this week and perhaps in coming months are therefore damaging and wrong.
Schools in Southampton will be doing their best under these difficult circumstances; with some able to keep their school open or partly open for some year groups, or able to facilitate self-study for older children.
Schools need to know how many teachers will be off work and how many are working in order to plan ahead, to communicate early with parents and to run an open or partly open school on the day.
It is therefore deeply irresponsible of some of the more militant elements among the union leaders to be advocating that teachers refuse to tell their school if they will be in work or not. This is designed to maximise disruption to the school and to parents, and ultimately to the education of children in the city.
The union leaders should respect the right of teachers to come into school and teach if they choose, and I am sure parents across the city will be very thankful to those that do.
Politics should be kept out of schools and the focus of everyone – school heads, the unions, the teaching profession and parents should be on delivering for children.