The UK teachers’ strikes have been a hot topic for the last few months. In February 2023, as voted by the National Education Union, tens of thousands of teaching staff fled their working premises, in protest of their current salaries.
However, the most recent update saw teachers in England rejecting an offer from the Government, which promised a 4.5% (on average) pay rise. However, members of multiple teachers’ unions voted to turn this down – a decision which has certainly rocked the boat. Some parents claim that this rejection was “selfish”, particularly in the run-up to exam season. However, there is far more to this story than meets the eye. Titanium Tutors has spoken to several working teachers, to get a clear insight into why this offer was rejected, and why they believe these strikes are so important. These teachers have been anonymised to protect their privacy. So, without further ado, let’s delve into the truth behind the UK teachers’ strikes.
UK Teachers: Underpaid & Undervalued?
Shocking statistics have shown that just 23% of teachers would retrain in the profession, if they were able to turn back time. Why? We spoke to a teacher from Birmingham, who gave us his personal insight. “The way I see it, the current government does not value education in the public sector. The message is loud and clear - we’re not being denied a pay rise because of inflation, or that there are more important things. The money is there. The message is that we are not deserving of one, and the children we teach are not deserving of a better quality learning environment.” This interviewee felt that teachers are not only underpaid, but also undervalued: “the issue goes so much deeper than pay, however - this is both a financial and ideological issue. We are condescended to every day by people who have never been inside of a classroom, telling us not only how to teach, but that we aren’t doing it properly or aren’t caring for our students. Do they really think they know what’s best for our students better than we do?” Whilst teaching is renowned as one of the most rewarding careers, more teachers than ever are leaving the profession. There are many other factors which they mention besides feeling undervalued. For example, many teachers haven’t recovered from the stresses of the pandemic – the aftermath of which is now paired with the cost-of-living crisis. The increasing financial pressures are resulting in many teachers re-evaluating their career path. They are being forced to consider whether they can afford to nurture young minds for a living.
The Harsh Reality of School Strikes
Following the rejected pay offer, there were two strikes (27th April and 7th May), and there is no telling when further strikes will be announced. There has been significant backlash against these developments; the recent strike dates were right in the middle of exam season, and many are concerned about the negative impact this will have on pupils. Unfortunately, it is likely that some schools will close due to strikes – a decision which is in the hands of the individual school’s headteacher or local authority. But don’t panic! The required notice given prior to each strike increases the likelihood that schools will find a way to work around teacher absences, depending, of course, on how many teachers choose to walk out that day. Some schools may be partially open, and will prioritise students with upcoming exams (cue a sigh of relief from parents!). Governments have also taken steps to ensure that the children of key workers will have priority, in addition to any children who are classed as vulnerable. However, this isn’t a guarantee – lessons will not be carried out if it isn’t safe and feasible to do so. In the event of a full closure, some students may be set work to complete at home, particularly if they are due to sit exams in the near future. If worse comes to worst, whilst not ideal, the strike days could be a great opportunity for students to undertake independent revision. For our exclusive tips on how to balance revision and relaxation at home, read our blog here!
School Strikes: Selfish or Taking a Stand?
Strikes, in general, are a divisive subject, particularly when they have such a significant knock-on effect upon the British public. However, one could argue that the entire purpose of a strike is to show people – namely the government – how society would struggle to cope without the workers, thus shining a light on their true value. And what job is more important than shaping the lives of future generations? Titanium Tutors spoke to another teacher from Essex, who responded to claims that the strikes are ‘selfish’. “Our rejection of the government offer has been painted in a way that makes teachers appear selfish. However, (the government) were only providing funding for 0.5% of the pay increase. Therefore, schools would have no choice but to make redundancies to keep them running, despite already barely surviving.” Now, we doubt that’s a statistic you’ve seen printed in the tabloids! “The number of staff (both teaching and support) leaving the education system has risen and we have seen staff members who have worked in schools for 20+ years leave to try new professions as they cannot cope any further with the salaries they are on.”
At Titanium Tutors, we believe in the value of good teachers, and the pivotal role they play in enriching children’s hearts, minds and futures. We also have every sympathy for those impacted by the disruption of the strikes, and have a plethora of expert tutors on our books – many of whom are qualified teachers. If your child needs extra support during this time, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Are school strikes selfish, or taking a stand? Whatever your opinion on the matter is, you can’t deny the importance of teachers – and how these strikes have illuminated this for all the UK to see.