A national demonstration: Will you be there?

Written by: Dr Patrick Roach | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Serious recruitment and retention issues and the cost-of-living crisis is compounding workload and wellbeing issues at the chalkface. Dr Patrick Roach calls on teachers to join a national demonstration on June 18 calling for change

There can be no doubt that families the length and breadth of the country are facing a profound cost of living crisis.

Rocketing fuel and energy bills, forecasts of double-digit inflation, and rising interest rates mean misery for many families. And unless there is urgent action from government the situation is only going to get worse.

Teachers and school leaders do not need to be reminded of the stark effects of this crisis on their pupils and in their own lives.

They see it every day in their schools and in their classrooms. Children whose parents find themselves in insecure jobs and struggling to make ends meet. Many relying on food banks and struggling to pay bills and keep their children clothed and fed.

Hungry pupils can’t concentrate on their learning and the knock-on effects on behaviour are making a challenging job more stressful. Schools are struggling to deal with the fall-out as they find themselves taking on wider roles to try and support these families – roles which were often supported by local authorities, but which have been stripped back due to more than a decade of austerity.

The job of teaching has become even more challenging as a consequence of deep cuts to school budgets, the loss of vital support for children and families, and a crisis of teacher and headteacher recruitment and retention.

Despite ministers’ promises to protect education, in the last decade, education spending has fallen by 9% in real terms according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (Sibieta, 2020).

And the salaries of teachers have fallen too – across the board, teachers’ pay has been slashed by at least 19% since 2010 (based on what pay would have been if it had grown in line with inflation).

Our recent teachers’ pay survey revealed how many teachers are relying on credit cards, overdrafts and some are even using food banks alongside their pupils’ parents. Shockingly, 11% of the almost 10,000 respondents say they have had to take a second job in the last year. Many more are worried about their financial situation.

But as if the cost-of-living crisis affecting teachers wasn’t enough there is a wellbeing crisis as well caused by extreme workload pressures and teachers’ deepening financial worries (NASUWT, 2022a).

However, at the Department for Education (DfE), in the ironically named “Sanctuary Buildings”, ministers are presiding over a system where teachers and headteachers are at breaking point. Unless action is taken now, a desperate situation is set to become even worse.

Already, government figures show that one in five teachers leave the classroom within two years of qualifying and almost a third of new teachers leave within five years (DfE, 2021).

The latest data from our own longitudinal Big Question survey found that two-thirds of teachers are seriously considering quitting the profession – citing workload, wellbeing and pay as key reasons (NASUWT, 2022b).

The government is fiddling in the wake of an epic recruitment and retention crisis and a crisis in relation to leadership succession – more headteachers leaving and fewer and fewer teachers wanting to take their place.

Perhaps not surprisingly nine in 10 teachers we surveyed report that their job has adversely impacted their mental health in the last 12 months and a disturbing 3% have self-harmed and are experiencing a severe mental health crisis because of the job.

And on top of that we have the growing problem of Long Covid which is a ticking time-bomb in schools.

The NASUWT is calling for a better deal for teachers on workload, wellbeing and pay. As part of this campaign, we are calling on the government to recognise that a world-class education system needs highly motivated teachers working in world-class schools and colleges.

To that end we want to see a substantial real-terms pay rise for every teacher, an enforceable contractual working time limit for teachers, the right to switch off and disconnect from work at the end of the day and at weekends, the ending of fire and rehire practices, banning zero-hours contracts, equal rights for supply teachers, scrapping the link between performance and teachers’ pay, and safer workplaces underpinned by safe and respectful working practices.

We will be highlighting these demands at a national demonstration that takes place in London on June 18 where teachers and workers from across the public and private sectors will be demanding action on the cost-of-living crisis, a decent pay rise for workers, and a better deal for all working people.

It’s time for the government to understand that the situation needs to change. Teachers are demanding change and so are parents and the general public. Spread the word – be there on June 18. Join us, join in, and help win a better deal for teachers.

  • Dr Patrick Roach is general secretary of the NASUWT.

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