I HATE missing school. It makes me feel sick. Even sicker than the sickness that caused me to miss school in the first place. If that makes sense. Sick. And not in an s-i-k way, in a BADDDDDDD, guilt-ridden, anxious, I’m losing control and failing the kids kind of way. Will they get so far behind they can never catch up? Will I fall so far behind with my paperwork that when I come back, my classroom will have become a snowstorm of unmarked books and forms, mixing up and multiplying with every moment I ignore them? Will I turn up and forget how to teach and just end up sleeping in the book corner all day?
What could be worse than missing school? Okay, lots of things; for example, kids missing out on a fair future. Which is why I’m striking today.
I am not striking because I want to earn heaps more dollar and become a million billion squillionaire although, as with most teachers, if you worked out my hourly salary, you would see it works out at below the minimum wage. I am not striking because I want an easy day off, rolling around in bed all day, painting my nails and catching up on some quality telly (still haven’t seen this week’s First Dates Abroad!) And I am certainly not striking because I want to ‘harm children’s education’ (cheers for that, Nicky Morgan, looks like you’re doing a pretty good job yourself).
I am striking because these funding cuts (funding is expected to be cut by 8% per pupil by 2020) and the unnecessarily large workload are cutting at the HEART of education and if we just sit by and ignore it, we could be looking at a generation of children who have had the creativity, confidence and independence sucked out of them.
Firstly, if Nicky Morgan manages to turn loads of schools into academies by showing them to be ‘failing’ with the new unrealistically high standards the government expects, schools will be run by and funded by businesses, who are much LESS likely to have children’s best interests at heart, and much LESS likely to have experience and understanding of running a school, plus they won’t even have any parent governors to help them understand the community’s needs. All staff can be paid differently, for instance related to their ‘performance’, so if you are teaching a particularly needy year group, with kids who perhaps don’t perform as highly as expected – UNLUCKY. Because let’s remember the facts here: CHILDREN ARE JUST NUMBERS. HERD THEM THROUGH THE SYSTEM. Now at the end of Year 6, instead of a SATs level, they are told whether they have passed or failed the exam. If you have scored below average, it’s official: you go into secondary school as a failure.
Invaluable teaching assistants are leaving/being made redundant and not being replaced – there’s not enough money. Same goes for art, dance and drama teachers because – let’s face it – those arty farty wishy washy subjects are just not as important as being able to use a semi-colon. Nowadays, you hit Year 5/6 and you can’t be banded as writing at a high level (with ‘greater depth’) if you can’t use a semi-colon. Because everyone knows depth is about semi-colons. Anyone can rote learn. Easier to tick the boxes if children are assessed through facts they have remembered, rather than encouraged to develop confidence in experimenting with creative, independent, free thinking.
With all these good intentions in mind, I arrive at the march, and am immediately handed a banner saying: ‘Invest in all our children’s future’. I notice other people holding these banners, with different children of ethnic minorities on. Obviously, I have been handed one with a ginger girl on. I mean, the resemblance is uncanny. I am proud that the NUT are looking out for gingers, that oft overlooked ethnic group, and I am even prouder to be physically representing the token minority. GINGERS FOR JUSTICE… that’s what this march is really all about.
What this march is really about, is what teaching is really about. At its core, we want the best possible opportunities for our children. Children are amazing, and complex, and full of talents and precious qualities that can’t be ticked off on a mark scheme, or converted to data. However children are also vulnerable and of course, as a teacher, you want to foster the most nurturing, comfortable environment for them to develop their identities in. If our time is spent filling out endless data when we could be putting more energy into planning exciting lessons, what is the real benefit? Is an education minister who doesn’t believe in gay marriage or in compulsory Personal Social and Health Education lessons really the best person to guide these children forward? Is turning education into a figures game really fair?
So Mrs. Morgan, I’m sorry you felt this strike would “damage the profession’s reputation in the eyes of the public” but us taking a pay cut today, leaving our massive pile of work, and coming out to strike should be taken instead as a sign of how much we care.