“When do we ever get time to focus on our jobs and do them well?” said NEU teaching union joint-president Kim Knappett in her speech to the union’s annual conference in Liverpool last night.
She was talking about the “constant variations” to the Ofsted framework, the “relentless changes” to the curriculum (often after teachers have already started to deliver the course) as well as the lack of funding and the “interminable accountability.”
The mother-of-two, who has been a science teacher in London for 30 years, spoke of “a triple whammy” in which teachers were having to work longer, pay more and get less “in a toxic education climate.”
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She said: “The hours that education professionals are paid for represent only a fraction of the hours worked – the hours needed to do the job as it currently stands.
“Not only are teaching staff working so many hours that their hourly pay is often only just above minimum wage but many of our hourly paid support staff are expected to stay after their contracted hours to attend meetings or complete tasks at home. Education is a profession where the more hours you work, the less you get paid.”
She added: “Workload, along with accountability, is the main reason that some 40 per cent of members do not think that they will be working in education in five years’ time. We are haemorrhaging education professionals at every stage of their careers.
“We need a significant change and we need it now before it is too late to make a real difference for many of us.”
The conference in Liverpool has voted on action this week –including to prepare for a national strike if the union’s 5 per cent pay demand isn’t met – as well as balloting teachers on a boycott of Sats testing.
Ms Knappett said some teachers were “so committed” that they were sacrificing their own money which should be going to their own families just to keep their classroom running buying glue sticks, scissors, paper and pens.
She said: “We saw the government flagrantly disregard the STRB’s recommendation in terms of the pay uplift needed to both attract and keep teachers in the profession last year. Support staff pay has also been hit by austerity and as schools and colleges struggle to make ends meet, they often reduce hours, resort to term time only contracts and fail to replace those who leave making those who stay work even harder.”
She added: “We can’t change the past, but we can, and must, influence the future. We can and do make a difference in the lives of each other, of the children and young people that we teach and of our communities.”