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A bonus for all teachers at Christmas? Why we should expect a big cheque from the government

Nicky Morgan seems a sensible woman, writes one teacher. Surely she can see that now is the time to give school staff a pay rise?

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As the bells ring out on Christmas Day, the education secretary, Ms Morgan, will broadcast a surprise goodwill package for teachers – a Christmas bonus of £2,000 and the promise of a bumper pay-rise matching the one received by her fellow MPs at Westminster. The traditional toast to “Good old Saint Nick” will forever have a new meaning before the week is out.

All right, so I may still be writing under the influence of a winking neighbour's mulled wine recipe but miracles do tend to happen at Christmas, including virgin births. School end-of-term productions, for instance, do usually pass without any of the calamities experienced in the dress rehearsals. Many survivors from the last day of term will similarly vouch for the miraculous powers of the “Fabulous Elf Game” for keeping a class calm and focused in those potentially fraught few hours. 

What’s more, some of the most influential, beautiful and charismatic leaders on the planet (and I don’t just mean ATL leader Mary Bousted) have been calling this year for teachers to get a pay rise. Even the Pope has declared that teachers are “amongst the worst-paid workers”. He has referred to the “injustice” more than once in 2015 and it would be no great surprise to hear him calling for world peace, Ofsted overhaul and fair working conditions for teachers in his Christmas Day message, should Morgan fail to act beforehand. 

Similarly, the American president has praised South Korea for ensuring that the country's teachers get paid about the same as doctors. There also seems to be some kind of special relationship forming between Obama and Bousted, particularly over the issue of excessive testing. So can Nicky Morgan really ignore the opinions of such an awe-inspiring triumvirate as the Pope, Obama and the blessed Surgin’ Mary - the three wise mentors.   

Besides, I think Nicky may – deep down – want to do this anyway. She is much more respectful of teachers than her predecessor.  He essentially saw us as a stubborn red “blob” whereas she perhaps sees us more as a sparkling red bauble. She is also an instinctively charitable person – one of the few MPs who did actually donate their pay-rise to charity this year – and, the final clincher, she comes from Surbiton.

Surbiton may not evoke quite the same snowy seasonal images as Salzburg and St Moritz but Nicky Morgan’s Surbiton is a town long steeped in the Christmas tradition and all the generosity of spirit that goes with it. As a child skipping home from school on chilly December afternoons Nicky surely must have overheard fellow resident David Essex occasionally crooning his classic old Winter’s Tale? David’s rueful sentiments on the love he let slip away (“I wonder if you hear, I wonder if you’re listening”) must surely still resonate with Nicky as she reflects this Christmas on another potential year of disillusioned, disappearing teachers. Not only that, but Mike Batt (the composer of that song and of many another Christmas hit) also lived in Surbiton.  Surely she won’t want to have any of Batt’s other lyrics haunting her when her work is done in education – “Remember you’re a Womble” for instance?

So this is her big moment, her great chance to turn it all round and start to make teachers feel genuinely valued again this Christmas – before it’s too late and the story is of “one more love that’s failed”, “just another winter’s tale”. She owes it to teaching. And she owes it to Surbiton.

Stephen Petty is head of humanities at Lord Williams’s School in Thame, Oxfordshire

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