Opinion: 'Many teachers see quitting as way to find work-life balance' - Green Party's Nicola Day

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Councillor Nicola Day, Green Party group leader, says teachers want to make a difference in her latest Peterborough Telegraph column

Earlier this month I joined teaching colleagues from the National Education Union in the first day of a wave of strike action.

Teaching is a tough but highly rewarding occupation.

People in my profession often work far in excess of our contracted hours.

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The ‘Right to Strike’ Rally was organised by the Peterborough Trades Union Council (PTUC) on February 1 this year.The ‘Right to Strike’ Rally was organised by the Peterborough Trades Union Council (PTUC) on February 1 this year.
The ‘Right to Strike’ Rally was organised by the Peterborough Trades Union Council (PTUC) on February 1 this year.

For instance, it has been calculated that in addition to their weekly teaching timetable, on average primary school teachers spend nearly 32 extra hours working.

This means the working week can be 55 to 60 hours long, with more unpaid overtime than any other profession.

Many teachers see quitting as the only way to find an acceptable work/life balance.

During Covid we often had to teach online as well as becoming examiners.

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Peterborough City Councillor Green party leader Nicola DayPeterborough City Councillor Green party leader Nicola Day
Peterborough City Councillor Green party leader Nicola Day

We face Ofsted, League Tables and 100% examinations in some subjects, but we carry on and face it all because we went into teaching to make a difference to the lives of children.

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School teachers' strikes 2023: The Peterborough schools open and closed on the f...

Some classes at highest capacity in 40 years

Pupils are suffering too, and the shortage of teachers means secondary class sizes are at their highest since the mid 1980s, with primary school classes at their highest since 2000.

These strikes are not just about a demand for higher pay - they are about what will happen if we don’t improve retention and recruitment in education.

We are losing teachers faster than we are recruiting them, and we have seen our pay fall in real terms by 13% since 2010.

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Some subjects in schools can no longer be taught by specialist teachers.

We are asking for a pay rise that is funded by government, and not from existing school budgets.

Young people need better

Robbing school budgets to the detriment of vital equipment such as pencils and paper to fund a wage increase for staff doesn’t have the support of teachers, support staff or headteachers. We must demand better for our young people.

The NEU General Secretaries have told us the government have been “unwilling to engage with the causes of strike action”, the Secretary of State “was unable to make any offer on the eve of industrial action.”

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The Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan said she was “disappointed that strike action would continue”.

Well, we will remain steadfast in our decisions to take strike action over the coming months.

I sit on the Green Party Trade Union Committee.

The Green Party are clear, we support the NEU strikes and have supported all striking workers this winter. Our members have voted to repeal the UK’s anti-trade union and anti-strike laws.

We believe that freedom to organise in trade unions and to withdraw one’s labour is a fundamental human right.

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The Green Party knows that the right to organise in trade unions has historically underpinned social progress in all forms, enabling people to win advances in prosperity along with social equality for all.

We are calling for the repeal of existing anti trade union and anti-strike laws introduced since 1979. We would like to see the replacement of these laws with a positive charter of workers’ rights and trade union rights - enshrining the fundamental right to strike and take action.

Earlier in the winter we wrote about the divisive language being used by Paul Bristow and some other Conservative MPs regarding accommodation for asylum seekers. Sadly, last weekend a terrifying mob descended on a hotel in Knowsley which houses asylum seekers.

As well as terrorising residents of the hotel, police and police vehicles were attacked.

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This sad but predictable event, which we warned could happen in our Peterborough Telegraph article, highlighted how words have consequences.

We hope Paul and his colleagues will bear this in mind in future.