A pay freeze? We’re paying for government incompetence

We’re exhausted, we’re scared, we’re cold – and we’re still ploughing on. Surely someone will recognise the work we’re doing?


Woman holding empty wallet above her head

You upskilled yourself at a rate of knots, learning how to Teams, Zoom, Google and Meet your way into children’s homes during lockdown. You delivered food, books and learning packages to the doors of vulnerable families

You opened your doors to the children of key workers – not just in term time but through the holidays, too. 

You went back into the classroom, knowing full well that the virus travelled between 6m and 8m in an indoor space, and faced 30 young, breathing, talking people for six hours a day with a smile. You taught them face to face while providing work for their peers online. 

You tracked and traced contacts, worked out who needed to go home and provided work for them, while deciphering ever-changing guidance. You put plans of action in place for a tiered education Covid plan before it was ripped up without a thought for the time and cost you had put in

Coronavirus: exhausted and ploughing on

You juggled budgets and timetables to allow for sanitising and handwashing, bubbles and cleaning

You did it all. You’re exhausted and still ploughing on.

“Lazy sods!” shouts right-wing provocateur Julia Hartley-Brewer at teachers from the safety of her home office, as some start to question the wisdom of cramming hundreds of households into small spaces. 

You open your windows and shiver

You mute and block on Twitter, as you’re told you’ve done nothing for seven months. 

There’s no solace from the left. Lord Adonis admonishes you for not getting your tech up to speed fast enough – seemingly unaware of cuts to school budgets over the past 10 years, or the fact that millions of children are in poverty

The leader of the Labour party tells you to return to the classroom – “No ifs, no buts” – no PPE, no proper ventilation, no distancing, no safety. 

Crack on, comrades. And you do.

Someone must appreciate this

You’re there with the children, doing your best. Bubbles go down; your school struggles to stay open; you decide not to see your parents at Christmas because it’s just too risky. You read about teachers in intensive care or worse, and try not to worry. You’re there. Every day.

Someone must appreciate this, surely?

The spending review is announced. You’ll be thanked with a pay freeze. A pay freeze on top of a decade of pay freezes. An investigation by former Tes journalist Warwick Mansell, based on Department for Education and Bank of England data, finds that your pay has declined so much that, had your salary kept track with inflation over that time, you would be earning £7,500 a year more now than you currently do. 

You paid for banker’s greed. You’re now paying for government incompetence. In the same period, MPs’ pay has risen by 25 per cent. Wastage on PPE equipment alone would have paid for two years’ worth of modest public-sector pay increases. 

You’re too tired to be angry. You plod on. 

But some of you will retire early this year. Some will leave and pursue alternative careers. Some will decide not to apply to be a teacher after all. 

And politicians will scratch their heads, as they have for a decade, and wonder why it is they can’t put teachers in front of classes any more.

The author is a teacher and writer

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