Is striking really the best tactic?

4th April 2008 at 01:00
Is the strike by members of the National Union of Teachers in England and Wales, due to take place later this month, a good idea? Our poll of just under 8,000 staff (page 1) suggests most teachers are sympathetic - even those who are not NUT members.

It is apparent that Welsh-medium teaching union UCAC, although not in favour of strike action, will also not stand in the way of those colleagues who walk out.

If nothing else, the findings of our poll 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 past 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 in expenses alone), it is hard to expect teachers to be impressed by calls for pay restraint.

In Wales, there must surely be extra fuel on the fire with discontent over the growing gap between per-pupil funding with England. There are also huge concerns over mounting workload, a product of what many see as "initiative overload".

Tension is mounting and things are not looking as rosy as this time last year. With hard times forecast and recession looming, being hit in the pocket will only drive down morale at a time when the teaching profession needs to be firing on all cylinders.

Even so, teachers are clearly split on what action to take. Most will not take part in the strike on April 24. Even among NUT members, around a third look set to disobey.

It is difficult to see what the action will achieve, except to disrupt pupils' learning and tarnish the profession's reputation with parents; not a good idea. The profession would do better to reject the tactics of the 1980s and campaign for a lighter workload, with less paperwork and smaller classes.

With public support they will, over time, win more money too.

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