We are not respected or valued, says striking teacher

Walkouts by members of the National Education Union in England and Wales will take place on Wednesday.

31 January 2023

A teacher has said making the decision to strike was “difficult” but she is doing it to protect the future of schools and the quality of education.

Walkouts by teacher members of the National Education Union (NEU) in England and Wales will take place on Wednesday – the first of seven days of strikes in February and March.

The strikes follow failed talks on Monday afternoon between Education Secretary Gillian Keegan and the general secretaries of unions representing teachers and headteachers, which had hoped to resolve a pay dispute which threatens disruption to more than 23,000 schools this week.

Woman looking at the camera
Nicola Hawkins said making the decision to strike was ‘difficult’ (Nicola Hawkins/PA)

Nicola Hawkins, who is in her mid-50s, lives in Cumbria and is a history lead and primary school teacher, told the PA news agency that she made the decision to strike to help protect the future of education.

“I have been a teacher for over 25 years and I am very much embedded in my local school and my community and I love my school,” she said.

“It is really difficult to make that decision to walk out, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it is in everyone’s long-term interests really.”

Ms Hawkins added that striking has been the only way to get attention from the Department for Education, which she said has ignored reports highlighting the problems in the education sector.

“We put evidence out to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) every year and it’s been pointed out that recruitment targets aren’t being met, that teachers are leaving, but our pay has been whittled away over the last decade or so,” she said.

Industrial strike
Ms Hawkins said she is striking to protect the quality of education (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“Long term, what I really want for the kids in my school, and for every school really, is for students to be taught by people who are valued and who are paid their worth.

“And I think it sells those students short if they don’t have that.”

Ms Hawkins also spoke about what a day at school can look like and how the work often does not end once teachers leave at the end of the day.

“We regularly plan and prepare resources and lessons, mark and grade work, we run after-school clubs, get ready early for breakfast clubs,” she said.

“We might have to do follow-up visits with families or put together special packages for increasing numbers of children.”

She added that teachers will need to make tough choices if pay is not increased.

“Decisions are harder to make – which holidays you can take or not, which part of your house needs work done – all these things come into play.”

She said she understands that people might not agree with those who have decided to strike, but it is necessary for the “future of schools”.

“I’m coming towards the end of my teaching career and I’m taking action not so much for myself, but for my colleagues and the future of our schools and the quality of education we can provide,” she added.

“We need people who are paid professionally, treated professionally and can compete with the rest of the world, and at the moment we are an outlier – teachers are not respected or valued and that is not good for children.”

Her message for the Government and Department for Education is: “If they really value the children of this country and if they really value education, then they would make sure that we are valued as professionals.”

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