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".