I had a real “head in hands” moment this weekend when I heard the NUT demand a 10% pay rise. And I suspect I am not alone, even among (particularly among?) teachers. I have often mused that the NUT conference seems to take place in a parallel universe, but it seems more true than even this year. The economy is on its knees. Unemployment is rising. Public finances, including school budgets, are struggling to meet demands on them. And people in the real world are having their working hours cut and pay reduced. The union says that young teachers are leaving the profession because of financial pressures. It found a young teacher leaving for a better paid job in Africa. Well, I wish her luck, but I see little evidence of a general flight out of the profession on the grounds of pay. If they are leaving, I suspect it has a lot more to do with the pressures of teaching and the restrictions placed on their professional judgement.
And this is why I really am cross with the NUT. Because I wholeheartedly support the NUT and the ATL’s decision to boycott next year’s primary SATs. This campaign is smart because it is founded in genuine concerns about the detrimental effect of high stakes tests on teaching and learning at a time when children need to be excited and enthused. Parents who see the disaffection with school that drilling for SATs engenders in Y6 children will have sympathy with teachers who can coherently argue that a boycott will force Ed Balls to reach a reasonable compromise with the education profession. Schools need to be accountable and parents need to know how well their child is progressing. But SATs have become about league tables and not about fulfilling these needs. The campaign is gaining traction and there are promising signs that changes will be made. Unfortunately, this positive work is now being drowned out by press outrage at the “greedy” teaching profession. It is a terrible shame that teachers are being led up this blind alley by their union. We all deserve better from the NUT.