Wednesday 11 July 2012

Tell Wilshaw - teachers should work LESS, not more!

Another week, another attack on teachers and our working conditions from Wilshaw and Gove.

This time, reported in today’s ‘Independent’, Wilshaw is lecturing Headteachers on the importance of making their staff work even longer hours to support students with extra-curricular activities.

Nobody would deny the importance of extra-curricular opportunities for our students, especially in working-class areas where families don’t have the cash to fork out on the activities other families might be able to pay for. Most teachers already ‘go the extra mile’ to do what they can to support their students both in, and out, of lesson times. To suggest otherwise, as Wilshaw implies, is another outrageous slur on the teaching profession. But how much more can they expect from teachers?

The reality is that teachers are already working over 50 hours a week, even according to official figures. The supposed right to a ‘work-life balance’ is already denied most teachers . Most colleagues are already working most evenings and weekends as it is - and for no extra pay, of course.

It’s not just the overall hours, it’s the incessant pressure of school life, with ever-increasing demands and little time for any kind of break during the working-day.

The mental exhaustion being suffered by every teacher – particularly wearing now at the end of a long term – is not good for education and not good for teachers’ health. Teachers should be working LESS, not more!

But while Wilshaw wants us to work even longer, he also wants us to get less for doing so! The Independent points out that Wilshaw was also encouraging Heads to use their ‘freedoms’ to deny teachers an annual pay rise if they’re not fully meeting the excessive demands placed on them. This is, of course, exactly what Gove is calling on the School Teachers' Review Body to recommend as new ‘flexibilities’, perhaps even CUTTING teachers pay by pulling them back down the pay spine if they don't make the grade.

The Independent editorial, without any evidence to back its claim and without an explanation as to how we are meant to find any extra hours in the day, states “teachers must do more”. But it goes on to state that “even the best can only achieve so much”. Perhaps this final note of caution is some recognition that bullying teachers to do even more, when they are already on their knees, may not cow them into submission as Gove assumes. Instead, it may inspire a revolt from the classroom as teachers say ‘enough is enough’ and demand proper resourcing for teachers, schools and students - instead of cuts and attacks.

A big YES vote in the NUT ballot for strike action and non-strike action can give Gove and Wilshaw’s attacks the firm reply they deserve. The NUT – and NASUWT – now need to give teachers the confidence to take action together to stand up for teachers – and demand LESS workload, not more, for the good of education and our students.

1 comment:

Robin Pye said...

I was one of those many classroom teachers that 'did more'. I ran after school activities ranging from extra lessons to help students with coursework or learn additional subjects to fishing trips and, sometimes, residential trips.

Each time I 'did more' it improved the learning experiences of my working class students, opened up opportunities for them and, crucially, helped me to develop better relationships with students.

Doing more at school, of course, meant I ended up doing less at home. It meant marking work and preparing lessons late into the evening and at weekends, cutting into my time with my own children.

My headteacher never failed to acknowledge any extra work that teachers did as an optional extra for which she, on behalf of our students, was very grateful.

However, some headteachers take the attitude of Wilshaw, asking teachers what clubs they will run when they are being interviewed for a post, boasting that in 'their' school they 'make' all 'their' teachers do after school clubs.

It is essential that teachers clearly retain the right to decide for themselves how much more they will do, weighing up their commitments to their students and to their families. Teachers who are able to do more should be the loudest in demanding this right. Some of our colleagues are not able to do more. And they shouldn't have to. Looking back, I think I probably tended to do too much.