Everyone will have an opinion on the co-ordinated strike action taken by thousands of public sector workers today, 30th June. And, my guess is that those opinions will be pretty polarised.
This isn't a blog that lends itself, naturally, to political debate, but I am passionate about having an education system that delivers for our children. Successive governments have tinkered with the great, creaking sausage machine that we inherited from the age of the industrial revolution. As with any antiquated device, expert care and attention needs to be applied, if it's to carry on working at optimum efficiency. In short, it's dependent on talented, well trained, teachers (in that order). I'm no expert in fiscal policy, but I do know that if you start devaluing people's pensions and rewriting contracts to help patch a hole in the nation's purse, hackles will be raised. And, I understand the Hutton Report recognises that existing public sector pension schemes are sustainable in the long term.
I heard a mother being interviewed on the radio. She spoke passionately and told of how she would try to help keep her child's school open on the day of the strike. When asked how she felt about the teachers taking industrial action, her main gripe was parents having to arrange child care for the day. Arranging child care is another area I'm well acquainted with, and I do understand the pressures that mums are under, particularly working mums. But there was something about this mother's tone that I've since heard, over and over, in the build up to today. It seems that the word 'education' rarely slips into the conversation, which is a shame, because we're left with the impression that parents see child care as the primary function of their schools, with a few lessons thrown in for good measure.
For what it's worth, I don't think that teachers are being greedy, militant or self-centred. I do believe that they are yet another body of professionals, elevated in the public consciousness, and held up as paragons by countless point-scoring politicians, only to be sold short, now, in a crude money saving exercise.
Yes, quality education is expensive…but what price ignorance?