In my opinion: Hard-working teachers don't deserve this kind of attack
Occasionally Barry Thomas's jottings make good sense. But not this time. Now teachers, whom he labels as "childish", have come in for criticism from him for going on strike. (WMN Oct 21).
Citing himself as a "former governor of four schools", Barry Thomas should have a far better grasp of the teachers' position. In fact his vitriolic comments make sorry reading for the schools which he had anything to with. I would hope that at heart he is a "Jekyll and Hyde" character who writes poisonous rubbish for effect but acts honourably and sensibly when he is charged with responsibilities.
Barry Thomas writes, "They only work for 40 weeks of the year and not a full day at that." Shouldn't the time needed to prepare lessons, mark children's work and do the hundred and one things that need to be done before and after school hours be taken into account? Should teachers receive less remuneration because they "work in a warm, dry environment at all times in a clean suit"? (Criticism is often levelled at teachers who do not set a good example by failing to uphold good standards of dress.)
From Mr Thomas's comments, it seems he moves amongst teachers with a more affluent life-style than I do, ever have done or experienced myself.
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What are my qualifications for taking Barry Thomas to task for his letter? I was in the teaching profession for over 42 years. I didn't go on strike at any time by reason of my position as Head Teacher. Amongst a large staff, members belonged to differing unions and not all at any time were involved in strike action so my school didn't close. Over the years strike action has been forced on the most loyal and non-militant teachers because it has been the only way to get a fair hearing. It is by strong action that teachers have paved the way for improvements to the conditions of service, not only for themselves but for the children they teach.
I can recall teaching classes of as many as 48 ten and eleven-year-old lively, capable children. Imagine working with them each day without preparing interesting lessons! And what about marking their work? Each child needs to know that his/her work is valued and have it commended or corrected as quickly as possible.
I can tell Mr Thomas that right up to retirement, I worked a 60-hour week; I was backed up by members of staff – teaching and other support staff – who put in so many hours of work beyond the call of duty for the children without seeking to be paid for it.
If Mr Thomas wishes to tilt at payments to individuals may I suggest to him he has a go at the people and situations where the employees are paid bonuses – because teachers, most certainly do not!