This ill-judged strike won't convince anyone

18th April 2008 at 01:00
Have I missed something? Are teachers suddenly a special case? This strike on April 24 makes no sense to me at all. It is the wrong action at the wrong time.

I think it will cause embarrassment as well as disruption because it won't be unanimous in most schools. It is a crazy time to choose.

In a secondary school, it is in the vital run-up to the GCSE exams. I suspect many teachers won't strike for precisely that reason, and I shall be one of them. I think it is wrong to disrupt the revision programme for those fantastic kids we have taught for five years.

There is a negotiating process, of which the NUT is an integral part. But we didn't get what we wanted. Our argument wasn't accepted. Any process like this requires compromise. It is what adults do. But we behave in exactly the way for which we condemn our pupils: we can't get our own way so we resort to threats and confrontation. We have a mighty strop like an unreasonable adolescent.

What sort of message are we sending out? We pressure families about attendance and not taking holidays in term time. We must never disrupt the education process for a moment. Every second counts. Then, in the final countdown to those exams that we tell kids are the most important of their lives, teachers walk out.

I know lots of teachers who deserve more - just as I know nurses who deserve a great deal more - and they make a huge contribution to the future of our society. But there are also some who don't deserve more. They are known to you and me and to the community. Parents will tell you who they want to teach their children. They also know who isn't very good.

Parents' lives will be significantly disrupted. Low-paid single parents, who find it hard enough to manage their kids and hold down a job, will be in real difficulties while comparatively well-paid teachers go on strike to support a ridiculous pay claim.

Teaching and learning responsibilities (TLRs) were a disaster and caused unnecessary upset. But the appetite for action soon evaporated. I think sustained action over pay is very unlikely. It is a gesture, and one which is likely to harden attitudes rather than convince or persuade.

Is there a huge disparity with other public sector workers? Do teachers truly deserve more than others? If there is an inequality or injustice anywhere, it is there, not with teachers. And don't forget public perceptions always focus on our holidays.

It will be an embarrassment for the profession and the union, particularly at this difficult time for the NUT. We will make ourselves look very foolish.

Strikes are a legitimate action for a serious unresolved grievance, but I don't think anyone else will see it as appropriate. Other professionals seem rather bemused by it. We appear to be plugged into a different reality.

We are hardly likely to feel support surge across the country like an unstoppable force of nature. Will taxi drivers honk their horns as they pass by the science department huddled around a brazier on an NUT picket line, and offer them a cheery wave? I suspect their gesture might be more robust.

John Sutton is a pseudonym. He is an NUT member.

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