Let's resist a return to past failures

4th April 2008 at 01:00
Is the strike due to take place by members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) in England later this month a good idea? Our poll of more than 7,000 staff, as detailed in our front-page story, suggests a majority of teachers are sympathetic, even among non-NUT members.

If nothing else, the finding confirms the unpopularity of this year's 2.45 per cent pay award. Yes, salaries have grown in real terms by 15 per cent in the last decade, and teaching as a career has many other things to recommend it - from its pension scheme to high rates of job satisfaction (see our magazine cover story).

Yet at a time when MPs are reluctant to show transparency with their own remuneration - last year the average backbencher claimed pound;135,000 on expenses alone - it is hard to expect teachers to be impressed by calls for pay restraint.

Even so, teachers are clearly split on what action to take. It remains to be seen how many who talk the talk will be prepared to walk the walk on April 24. More than half of those in our poll will not take part in the strike because they are in other unions. Even among NUT members, around one-third look set to disobey their union's call.

The strike will cause inevitable disruption to pupils' learning and will tarnish teachers' reputation with parents: not a good idea. It is difficult to see what industrial action, which failed in the 1980s, will achieve.

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