Even Tory teachers are spitting blood about the Coalition's betrayal of the profession

Francis Gilbert's picture
I couldn't believe it, my fellow teacher, a long-standing Conservative (and a rather wonderful 'old school' teacher too) was furious. He said: "This government seems to have no morals, no backbone. I phoned my union today and found out that if the changes to the pensions go through, I'll have to work until I'm 95 just to survive in retirement." He was very angry that the government seems intent upon portraying the teaching profession as a bunch of whingeing, useless idiots with "gold-plated" pensions.

He expostulated: "Gold-plated! People like George Osborne have no idea that the average retired teacher is on a very modest pension and that it's only the leaders of councils that get the real 'gold-plated' ones." When I said I felt very ambivalent about striking, he rounded upon me and said that he would definitely strike. "We need to give this arrogant, shifty government a bloody nose. None of them can be trusted. None of them come anywhere near the status of Margaret Thatcher, they're all a bunch of light-weights in the pocket of the bankers. Michael Gove, what a shifty person he is. He just doesn't seem to have any real sense of what's right and wrong! And Osborne, what a pathetic man he is with his skiing trips in Klosters and his complete lack of knowledge of what ordinary people have to live on. I can't see how anyone in the right mind would go into teaching now: poor pay, poor working conditions, and now a very poor pension too! How are they going to get anyone to teach?"

The Coalition sound be worried, very worried. This teacher is normally a staunch Conservative; a supporter of selective education, strong discipline, traditional subjects and all the stereotypical attitudes that one attaches to being a Tory teacher. But he is completely disillusioned by the way the government has systematically denigrated the profession, plunged it into yet another round of shambolic change, and sought to erode teachers' pay, conditions and pensions. He was openly talking about supporting Labour.

A survey published in the TES today backs up this teachers' complaints with over 7 out of ten teachers rating the Coalition's education policies as "bad" or "very bad".
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Rosemary Mann's picture
Fri, 13/05/2011 - 15:42

I'm not a teacher but the partner of one, and as such I also have a vested interest in maintaining teachers pensions! Your colleague has clearly been a teacher for many years, and if someone in that position will struggle then I worry for everyone else, including our own future household income. My partner left a lucrative professional position which was fairly highly paid ( but boring) in his 40s to retrain as a teacher. One of the carrots was the improved salary range that teachers could get after a few years and also a secure pension. His salary dropped by about 40%.

Unfortunately there are too many people holding the view that all public sector employees are somehow raking it in when they retire. It is extremely hard to get into that position as most of us know and its extremely irritating to hear the Tory propaganda on this front and also continually denigrating schools and state education in this country. I know how hard teachers work and the effects that these pressures of constant performance can have on a teacher with a young family. We struggle to balance everything including managing our time together as a family. My partner does his marking and preparation at home in the evenings and weekends.On the days we both work he comes in from a long hard day at work, picks up our 3 kids from nursery, gives them tea and puts them to bed- then he does several hours of school work. Altogether he must do about 10 hours work at home. Put all of that together plus the 7am starts and 6pm departures from work, he has a very challenging life indeed. I feel so angry that he is now to be cheated of his 'deferred' payment which is his pension, assuming he lives long enough to see it, given the invariable stresses of teaching.

It is outrageous that teachers have to suffer this further indignity; let them strike, strike, strike. As a parent and governor I will support them to the hilt. If its on my day off, I will be joining him on his picket line!

Fiona Millar's picture
Fri, 13/05/2011 - 16:26

I am not sure I fully understand the detail of the current proposals but I fear they may have perverse consequences in that some senior teachers and experienced heads in their late 50s will choose to leave the profession early to avoid being caught in this trap that Rosalyn describes. Some may be hard to replace, especially in the primary sector where there is already a shortage of heads in many areas.

Andy Smithers's picture
Fri, 13/05/2011 - 19:08


Interesting. This long standing school teacher will have to work till 95.
can you explain to us mere non teachers how this works.
If he retires at 65 what pension would he get ?
I do not know.
Please explain to the rest of us how poor this person will be.

My feeling is that you are Scaremongering?

Francis Gilbert's picture
Sat, 14/05/2011 - 11:04

The teacher in question phoned his union and this is what they told him. I am merely reporting what he said. It may or may not be hyperbole. Personally, I am not fully up-to-speed on the ins and outs of the pension issue and feel that striking over the issue may well backfire with the general public. But there's no doubt that many teachers -- not normally 'militant' -- are very angry with the government.

Fiona Millar's picture
Sat, 14/05/2011 - 12:12

Can anyone out there give us a clear and simple explanation about how the new proposals would work and what they might mean for teachers and heads?

Allan Beavis's picture
Sat, 14/05/2011 - 12:24

Not just teachers, Francis. Other public sector workers, private sector workers, students. These are not gold plated pensions. Public sector workers - including those in NSH and Education - are the backbone of a civilized society. A recent survey, which I highlighted elsewhere in this site, showed that many people thought public sector workers deserved their pensions and did not think they were too high.

It is crucial that the unions get the message over to the public that striking over pensions is just but one expression of anger towards a government which is systematically denigrating the teaching profession. We do not need teachers demoralised by the dismissive and openyl aggressive attitude to teacher in our classrooms. It is the government which has created an untenable position for teachers and they should therefore bear the brunt of the public's anger if this is what comes to pass.

It is the middle and low income earners who are bearing the brunt of the government's savage cuts and they represent a majority of the public. I think the era has passed where strikes were automatically linked with self-interested union militancy. Osborne's economic policies have led to the economy stalling so the impact of the financial crisis, of which much of the blame must be laid at the irresponsibilities of the banking industry and not squarely on the shulers of the previous government, will be a burden for many many ordinary people. I hope there will be huge solidarity behind teachers. It is what they - indeed we all - deserve.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sat, 14/05/2011 - 12:45

And Gove's latest bribe to entice maintained and independent schools to turn into Academies is offering teachers private health care and the chance to enrol for courses at Oxford or Harvard universities.

I therefore wonder if the motivation behind this announcement is that Academies are not attracting as many good calibre teachers that Gove had hoped?

But if all schools became academies and offered these perks, the bill for the education system would be much higher and it is insulting for Gove to be talking about these perks at the same time as he trying to cut teachers' pensions. Just as Academies and free schools will discriminate against certain children, so they now will discriminate against teachers who don't toe the school "reform" line.

. "It is somewhat slight of hand to be talking about season tickets when the government is trying to cut teachers' pensions," he said. "Teachers should be paid a good basic wage and then it should be left up to them what they spend this on."

Fiona Millar's picture
Sat, 14/05/2011 - 15:10

I may be missing something here but who is going to pay for the contributions to private health schemes?

Francis Gilbert's picture
Sat, 14/05/2011 - 12:58

Good point about the pensions issue, Fiona. Yes, Allan, I certainly agree that teachers and public-sector workers' pensions are certainly not gold-plated at the moment.

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