Teachers deserve better, but this strike is not just about pay | Letters

Year 10 pupil Milly Bell and headteacher Elisabeth Broers are united in support of teachers going on strike this week

After three years of disrupted education, in the form of home learning, bubbles and incessant mask-wearing, the thing my classmates and I wanted this year was normality. I’m in year 10 – I have never had a “normal” year at secondary school, with schools being closed halfway through the academic year in 2020.

We’ve all watched helplessly as our country has emerged from Covid into an economic crisis, clinging to the fact that our education at least had been returned, and that it could only get better. I find it, as many of my peers do, utterly appalling and disgraceful, not that the teachers themselves are striking, but that they feel they need to (Teachers in England at ‘end of their tether’ says union chief, 29 January).

Teaching is a noble and brilliant vocation – teachers quite literally mould and nurture the very fabric of our future societies, and yet they have been catastrophically let down by the government. The pay cuts they have received in real terms are shocking, and, frankly, I’m surprised they didn’t strike sooner.

Every time I step into a classroom I am conscious that the person educating me is highly intelligent and educated themselves, and could be doubtless fetching a higher salary in a different profession, but they choose to come to my school every day in order to make sure that my future, and that of my classmates, is the best it can be.

I thank and commend all teachers for everything they have done over the last few years for young people across the nation, and I hope that this strike action is a wake-up call for those in power and gets them the recognition they deserve.
Milly Bell

• Like the education secretary, I am disappointed about this week’s strike action – not that teachers are taking it, but that it has come to this. I have watched my team struggle with this decision over the last few weeks and not one of them is striking over their personal pay packet. We are struggling with the impact of the chronic run-down of education funding and support every single day.

I watch young children in meltdown who cannot get an appointment with child and adolescent mental health services. I watch teachers and teaching assistants preparing multiple different lessons for children new to English who have joined the country and their class. I see the special educational needs and disabilities coordinator battle to get support for children with additional needs and the school business manager juggle the budget endlessly to meet the energy costs; the partly funded pay awards and rising costs of everything from food to paper.

Despite all this, I see dedicated professional people who come up with amazing ideas to challenge and extend the learning; who give up their free time to run clubs and take trips off site that cost parents as little as possible.

I read our great Ofsted report, which says: “Pupils are delighted to be a part of this school. They see it as a warm, welcoming place where they feel that they belong. Pupils said it is like being part of a big family.”

Then I go back to begging for money for music support from a charity; asking the local building developers if they will help with the outside areas; and reassuring my staff that I know they are taking action because there are no other options left. Don’t dismiss this as being about salaries.
Elisabeth Broers
Headteacher, Robin Hood junior school, Sutton, London

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