There has never been a better time to argue back

17th May 2013 at 01:00

I have often felt alone in the staffroom. You see, I am a long-term Conservative Party supporter. I have even stood in council elections as a Conservative. So please tell UK education secretary Michael Gove (pictured right) from me that simply saying something is the case - for example: "there has never been a better time to be a teacher" - does not make it true ("Teachers are doing it for themselves. Good", Comment, 10 May). The man is in cloud cuckoo land. Real-terms pay cuts, cuts in budgets (both absolute and in real terms), arbitrary and ideologically driven changes without any factual support, selective use of "evidence" to support dubious initiatives: how long a list does he want of his incompetencies and reasons why teaching now is far from the best time ever?

The problem with education, as so amply demonstrated by Mr Gove, is that because everyone has gone to school, everyone thinks they know what teaching is about. When I took up teaching after 20 years of being self-employed in the private sector, bored to death (but relatively well off), seeking a new challenge and wanting to give something back, I quickly learned the truth.

By suggesting to principals earlier this year that teachers who work to contract should have their pay docked, Mr Gove effectively admitted that his education system "works" only because of teachers' goodwill in doing far more than they are contracted and paid to do. If the unions insisted that every teacher worked to the letter of their contracts, the education system would collapse in weeks. Every time Mr Gove opens his mouth, I feel a little less willing to give of myself and a little more inclined to do only what I am actually paid to do. I find it hard to ignore the reduction in goodwill that Mr Gove in particular is engendering.

Compared with the contributions and skills needed for their jobs, MPs are the most overpaid people in the UK, with the possible exception of bankers. Teachers are arguably the most underpaid. Performance-related pay? Bring it on for MPs, I say.

P. Hermann, Second in mathematics, North Yorkshire.

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