The week

9th April 2010 at 01:00

Surreal days on The TES. On the one hand, it's the Easter hols (sofa-bound teachers throughout the realm gently doze in front of Jeremy Kyle) while on the other the year's two biggest teacher union conferences coincide with the Gord popping around for a cuppa with her Her Maj. The vibe from the delegates in both Liverpool and Birmingham was certainly angry, with the politically conscious among them more than prepared to bare their teeth in a Derek Hatton-esque fashion.

"Come and 'ave a go if you think you're 'ard enough," seemed to be the overwhelming attitude at both the NUT and the NASUWT. Come near our pensions and we'll punch you. Come near our salaries and we'll punch you. Don't agree to a strictly enforced 35-hour week for classroom staff? We'll punch you. Many a union activist bore the expression of someone whose time had come.

At the NUT they share their venom equally among politicians, whatever the colour. They don't forget that that most hated of government education policies, the academies programme, was born out of a Labour administration. The NASUWT - which seems to forget this fact on a selective basis - spent a lot of their conference cosying right up to Ed Balls and kicking lumps out of his Tory and Lib Dem counterparts, Michel Gove and David Laws, respectively. The latter was compared to being "like kicking a kitten" by one seasoned observer.

The national press, of course, made hay while the sun shone out of this militancy, with Fleet Street news editors clearly deciding that angry left-wing teachers made a lovely backdrop to the coming election. Unions are certainly the current flavour of choice for the media - think Unite airhostesses and Bob Crow at the High Court - and most senior journalists who grew up in the Seventies and Eighties would like nothing more that a return to the good old days of pitched battles and flying pickets as Thatcher warred with organised labour. Time to dust down that "milk snatcher" placard ...

All in all, though, while it makes for lots of great column inches, one can't help but suspect that it wouldn't even garner a flicker of animation from the overworked, stressed teachers enjoying that well-deserved bout of daytime telly. Hill of beans, anyone?

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