It's 07:32 and I'm sitting in a classroom at my place of work. About ten minutes ago I approached the front gate, in front of which were standing a few teachers. Behind them were placards resting against the bars. I got handed a piece of paper which explained why they were striking.
Reading the piece of paper saddened me. As someone who is married to a teacher and, in my job, supports teachers in a variety of lessons, I can see the strain they are under, and even that word is an understatement.
I am getting really sick of people who say that teaching must be such an easy job - you only have to be in school between 9-3:30, and you have all the holidays on top of that. What right have teachers to complain?
They have a right because the average teacher is now working 60 hours per week, yet their paid hours are perhaps fewer than two thirds of that. As a teacher, you never switch off. There is always more lesson planning to be done, more books to mark, more emails to be answered, more data to track, more more more. And that's besides the teaching - getting a class of nearly thirty students to be engaged and quiet for nearly an hour? I'd like to see the critics try to do that, especially when a lot of students are switched off before they even enter the classroom because they don't like the subject. I'd like to see the critics experience the holidays of a teacher, because they're never just holidays. They are desperate respite times during which teachers try to catch up on every part of their job that is not the actual teaching. I spoke to a teacher who spent six hours of his bank holiday marking non-stop.
Good luck to all the teachers - and every other public sector worker - who are striking today. Let's hope Gove will finally listen, even if that hope is a small one.