Scandal of teachers on income support

4th April 1997 at 01:00
In response to the article "When a proper job is too much to ask" (TESS, March 21), I would say that not all teachers wanting jobs are "young", though I am sure we are all able.

I was in the Royal Air Force before entering teaching. Approaching the end of my contract, I was offered further service and indeed have no doubt that I would have been employed to the maximum age of 55. However, taking on board all my service experience working with careers, youth organisations and education business partnerships and the enjoyment I received from working with children, I decided to investigate a career in teaching.

The Royal Air Force (even though I may have been leaving) could not have been more helpful. I attended resettlement courses in preparation for the profession and I was given time to attend a school full-time to see what it was like at the chalk face rather than as a uniformed visitor. The favourable picture painted was all the encouragement I needed.

I duly turned down the offer of further service and left the Royal Air Force in 1992 and entered my PGCE (Secondary) training the same year. I completed my post grad in 1993 with distinction. I am mobile, I am adaptable, I am enthusiastic, I am committed to teaching and, not my words but those of former rectors, "I am not a good teacher but an excellent teacher who enriches the curriculum with outside experiences". I am active in extra-curriculum activities where possible and I serve on two local committees. I joined this profession by choice.

In four years I have had two periods of lengthy employment which enabled me to complete my probation and I have worked in 22 schools from the Western Isles to the east coast. I am not disillusioned with teaching but I am aghast at the way the profession is treated by employers. For instance, on supply, I am entitled to 117 per cent of my pay if I do not receive non-contact time. Try getting it. Authorities refuse, saying "it is impossible to receive 117 per cent pay for a day". The conditions of service are quite specific but what is done about it all by our unions - nothing.

More recently I was told during study leave I would be cut from 0.4 to zero. After representation by myself (my school union rep did not want to know) I have managed to get this reduced to 0.2. However, as this amounts to about Pounds 60 per week and is less than the "job seeker's allowance" (taking into account my travel costs for two days), I am worse off, so why take it?

The answer is simple. I care about my pupils and their continuity of education. As a married man with a family to support I am now "in the poverty trap". Were it not for my wife's small earnings, we would be on income support. Is this what teachers have to look forward to, certainly not a standard of living I ever envisaged for my family?

As a member of a profession where it takes on average seven years to obtain full registration, I wonder what the future holds. Even more and more teachers are being churned out of colleges - what for? Teaching unions must as a matter of urgency grasp the situation and take positive action.

P J NIELD Patrick Allan Fraser Street Arbroath Angus.

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