“Strike action is designed to be inconvenient and disruptive” - NUT leader Christine Blower ahead of next week’s teachers’ strike

Christine Blower addressing the Norfolk People's Assembly Christine Blower addressing the Norfolk People's Assembly

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
9:37 AM

Christine Blower seemed surprised to hear that many EDP readers were less than sympathetic to the teachers’ cause when they commented on online stories about strike action.

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Christine Blower, of the National Union of Teachers (NUT).Christine Blower, of the National Union of Teachers (NUT).

Typical remarks included “should think themselves lucky they have a job, many of them would not be able to hold down an ordinary job!”.

Ms Blower, who was elected secretary general of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) in 2009, said that everyone Sky TV spoke to about the same issue said that while the strike might be inconvenient, they could find a way around.

Maybe London teachers are better at explaining their case to the public, she mused.

“Of course it’s inconvenient and disruptive. Strike action is designed to be inconvenient and disruptive, because that’s the way you bring things to the attention of government. It’s still only a one-day strike, and it’s still possible we might have a tremendous breakthrough.”

She added: “It’s true, our strike action on March 26 will be about pay and pensions and conditions. But we are just as concerned about other things that you can’t have a trade dispute about. We are concerned that schools are becoming exam factories.”

Ms Blower also warned of a national teacher shortage, saying that two in five teachers leave the profession within their first five years.

The NUT is a vocal opponent of the government’s academy and free school programme, and a recent survey of more than 650 academies by the Reform think-tank showed that changing teachers’ pay was the freedom they had made most use of.

The damning Ofsted report on the IES Breckland free school in Brandon has given Ms Blower ammunition, and in a statement to the national media, she used it to call for a halt to new free schools, and for existing ones to be brought into the local school system.

Instead of using academies to improve schools, she is enthusiastic about the strategy credited with improving education in London, where she began her teaching career in the 1970s.

She said: “Things were massively improved by the London Challenge. That was not taking (schools) away from the local authority, but was the schools working together. There was a small amount of money in it, but nothing like the £1.7bn being put into the academy programme.”

She added: “If they were interested in what works, they would be coming to Norfolk and saying ‘let’s have a Norfolk Challenge’, rather than atomising them.”

Norfolk County Council is both pushing for schools graded “inadequate” by Ofsted to become academies, and funding a London Challenge-inspired programme to foster school-to-school collaboration.

Ms Blower accuses councils of being “meek” in the face of government pressure for their schools to become academies, and said she could not understand Norfolk County Council’s push for Cavell Primary in Norwich to convert, despite moving out of special measures.

Ofsted, itself, has never been a favourite of the teachers’ unions, but critics have increasingly accused it of becoming a tool to implement the government’s academy agenda, something it routinely denies.

Ms Blower said that while she couldn’t put her hand on her heart and say education secretary Michael Gove and Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw are “colluding”, “if it walks, talks and quacks like a duck, it pretty much looks like a duck”.

She talks of Department for Education (DfE) academy brokers “swooping” on schools that are put in special measures, and said: “It seems to be a symbiotic relationship between the DfE and Ofsted.

“They go around finding faults rather than seeking ways of schools improving.

“Their agenda is not ‘what can we find that’s good in this school?’, rather, ‘what are the problems in the school? Let’s not talk up the good stuff’. We do see Ofsted as being politicised.”

For Ms Blower, convincing parents that teachers are right to strike is just one of many battles.

Are teachers right to strike? Email martin.george@archant.co.uk

33 comments

  • Have you ever held a sobbing child in your arms whilst they tell you in gasping breaths about home? Have you ever spent your own money to buy books, pens, glue, glitter, handbags and gladrags to make a child's life better? Have you ever confronted a violent parent whom you know isn't looking after their child but somehow manages to convince the authorities they are? Have you ever worked until midnight to make sure everything's ready for tomorrow? Have you ever written twenty-four lots of three-thousand words that you're pretty sure the parents won't actually read, but you really wish they would? I do this job for two reasons... the first one is I love it. The second one is I get paid. Without the second one, the first one becomes charity. Maybe I'd even do it then. Oh, and thanks for the 'long holidays'. They make up for the sobbing children, I assure you.

    Report this comment

    mandybrigwell

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • Most jobs or professions have their problems , but it is always the same ones that do all the complaining. Life can be b@@@h .deal with it . If you can't stand the heat etc etc

    Report this comment

    Reader

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • Keep 'em coming John.

    Report this comment

    LARSON.E. WHIPSNADE

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • If parents are to be fined for taking children out of school for holidays and being accused of interrupting their education,are teachers to be fined for not providing said education ?

    Report this comment

    Reader

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • Bad Form: You're right. The free market is the way to go. I'd suggest people start by reading Robert Nozick's 'State and Utopia' and then move on to Ayn Rand's 'The Virtue Of Selfishness'. A completely laissez faire market will solve all problems.

    Report this comment

    mandybrigwell

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • I only hope that this dangerous borderline communist woman never gets anywhere near my children.

    Report this comment

    Norfolk John

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • Teachers work very hard and they certainly do not all earn up to or an excess of £150,000. It does appear that Ofsted is just interested in turning schools into exam factories rather than giving pupils a good education. All people are different and have different abilities and the same applies to children. Exam marks are not necessarily a good indicator of whether a school is good or bad.

    Report this comment

    NorthStarRaven

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • Well said Daisy! Government seems intent on fighting schools rather than working with them. For too long education has become a political football. While I believe that one size doesn't fit all and as such, there may well be a place for some free schools and academies, I am thoroughly depressed at the way this strategy is forced down people's throats and touted as being the only way that schools can succeed and improve. The evidence is telling us different, with an increasing number of academies and free schools being rated Requires Improvement or being put into Special Measures, but still Mr Gove chooses to ignore this and insist that these institutions are the future. Good schools require good teachers, committed leaders, supportive parents and communities as well as adequate funding and it shouldn't matter where you are on the political spectrum for that to be achieved!

    Report this comment

    Row71

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • ...."Well done Mandybrigwell".....Actually Sportswagon, Mary is advocating a free market in education, the complete opposite to the union controlled education system that you hold so dearly. Why not invite her to your school governors to talk about the benefits of moving your school away from union control?

    Report this comment

    Rhombus

    Friday, March 21, 2014

  • Well done Mandybrigwell ignore the usual spiteful comments on here from people who know nothing about education except for the ignorant stereotypical comments. Thank god my children have teachers like you to support us supporting them.

    Report this comment

    Sportswagon

    Friday, March 21, 2014

  • I don't have a problem with suporting the teahers' one day strike, but I'm sorry that some people see the matter as public sector workers versus private sector workers. Everyone who works shoud have a decent living wage. Teaching requires a high level of skill, understanding, and hard work. Its not 'gold-plated', Their working day doesn't run from 9am to 3.30pm. I'd ike to wish them every success.

    Report this comment

    angela

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • Really £40 a hour?? 50 hours times £40 makes £2000 a week!! £8000 a month, £96,000 a year wish I was on that!!!

    Report this comment

    Dervel

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • Norfolk John, as I've alluded to previously, most people who have children in the UK and who send them to state schools are actually taking money out of the pockets of taxpayers who don't choose to have children. If people want children then they should pay for their child's education, which would avoid all the current controversy over teachers in state schools going on strike!

    Report this comment

    Bad Form

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • My employer is treating me unfairly - and most likely illegally - what can I do? (Subtitle: Gove is an unprincipled idealogue) 'Teachers' pensions' is a contributory scheme that is fully funded through personal and employer contributions. Teachers are striking to protect both the contract they signed and the money that they have invested in their own pension. There should be no requirement for teachers' pensions to be funded through current taxation - if all previous governments had not spent these contributions there would be a balance in excess of £8 billion. Whilst 'we're all in this together' teachers would all expect contracts to be honoured. Cameron and his cronies (Gove) work to alienate the public sector with no understanding of the essential contribution made to the country. Stop seeking to create division. Stop trying to tear up contracts. Honour your promises. Engage with those who are making a difference in our communities.

    Report this comment

    Gerard Whittle

    Saturday, March 22, 2014

  • Poor V u ain't alf got issues mate.....for gods sake get help!!! U destroy any points u make with your ranting...bless!!

    Report this comment

    Sportswagon

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • How many strikes will they have had now for this reason, I thought they were meant ot be intelligent people, if the previous strikes have not achieved there objective, why do they think repeating a failed tactic will work this time ?, no sympathy at all, there is a real world out there and about time you lot joined it. There plenty of jobs out there if you don't like the well paid, cushy number that you already have.

    Report this comment

    "Bin here all me life"

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • ....."UK teachers earn on average £40 per hour, the sixth highest in the developed world, a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) revealed.".....If that isn't enough why don't they just go out and get a higher paid job, there must be lots of jobs out there that pay more than £40 per hour where you don't get your hands dirty, don't have to go in if it snows and get paid even when you miss the odd week or two because of a volcano.

    Report this comment

    Rhombus

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • You seem to be getting away from the fact that the strike is purely about pay and pensions. The rest is rhetoric to justify it .

    Report this comment

    Reader

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • Maybe not. Mr Gooch, but once teacher's salaries and pensions look any less attractive why would anyone stay in a profession where the members are routinely used as punching balls by politicians? They will decide the unique stresses of teaching are not worth it. Those who work in the NHS may work long and hard but their " customers " are usually compliant and grateful; the police may work long and hard but they have powers do deal with those who are not compliant unlike teachers who have a frown and a detention at their disposal to deal with the sort of 16 year olds the police like to be in pairs to tackle. As for fines for taking holidays-this is Gove, not teachers-or rather it is head teachers and boards of governors bullied by Gove, who is supported in this nonsense by the managers and directors of academy companies doing nicely thank you out of the money meant to be spent on your children

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • A fair days work for a fair wage. When I was at school teachers were paid twice as much and taught half as well. Go figure!

    Report this comment

    ''V''

    Monday, March 24, 2014

  • The politics of envy and jealousy shown towards teachers and other public sector workers these days is endemic of the problems in the economy. How ironic then, that it was banking and financial sectors which are in the hands of private individuals and corporations (aided by inept and incompetent politicians) that have caused and have left this country in such a financial mess!

    Report this comment

    Bad Form

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • I only hope that this dangerous borderline communist woman never gets anywhere near my children.

    Report this comment

    Norfolk John

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • If you love it and get paid for it .what are you complaining about? Like I said before no job is a bed of roses. ,there are always days you wish you hadn't got out of bed

    Report this comment

    Reader

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • What rubbish Bad John.......any civilised country must provide quality education for its children since we all benefit. Would you use your ludicrous analogy for the emergency services, rubbish collection etc??

    Report this comment

    Sportswagon

    Friday, March 21, 2014

  • Sensible parents should be supporting the strike action. Imagine if a politician started telling the world that you were not doing your job as well as those in the same position at some undefined point in the past, or as well as someone working overseas in different circumstances. You would probably want them to prove it. Yet for some years now, parents seem to have swallowed these same unproven accusations against teachers and the education system by those who see meddling in education as a way to boost their political career. We have had SATs imported from the USA, a sterile over restrictive national curriculum, baselines for standards seemingly conjured up out of thin air, exam boards run as commercial enterprises with no academic integrity, schools run by business managers and staffed by too many unqualified assistants. And teachers trying to jump themselves and their pupils through every new hoop presented to them whilst being assessed by inspectors who often do not have any teaching experience in the field they are inspecting ( if at all) and whose vested interest lies in delivering results which justify their continued employment ie the more they fail the more inspections are needed. Sounds like old school USSR bureaucracy to me. Parents have been conned, and if they do not support teachers who remember what a decent school was like, then it will be their fault if their next child or their grandchild is taught by teachers from India or other countries with unverifiable qualifications and experience. Or in classes of forty or more with unqualified ill educated lesson supervisors baby minding while children wade through work set by qualified teachers.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • Just send all invoices for childcare + an administration charge to either or both the school and the NUT. See how they like it.

    Report this comment

    "V"

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • Having done a little research I can see the real battleground is the automatic pay progression teachers get, irrespective of any real ability to teach. The NUT are dead against performance based differentials in teachers pay, and want to retain the auto pay progression model based on time served rather than teaching skills (all teacher are equal). The government wants schools to be free to award pay increases based on a teachers performance. The NUT are 'advising' schools that if they do differentiate pay based on performance, they risk being charged with discrimination in the workplace.

    Report this comment

    Rhombus

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

  • Moan about Chrsitine Blower all you like, but if she dies tomorrow rest assured Boris Johnson will be one of the first to get his mug on tv making some gushing and hypocritical tribute. Is it right de Souza doesn't allow union representation at her academies? I also hear she excludes no-hopers from taking exams to artificially inflate exam performance.

    Report this comment

    B Ungatory

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • As CB clearly stated this strike has nothing to do with systems, quality or outcomes but purely pay conditions and pensions which are already gold plated compared to the private sector. Maybe some sympathy and support would be forthcoming if they were standing up for a principle.

    Report this comment

    Roy Gooch

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • We could settle the problem overnight by ending state education. The benefits of private schools would ensure that feckless people would have to think twice about the cost of bringing children into the world and the burden on the taxpayer would be dramatically reduced. Oh, and teachers would have to compete in a free market where the salary and pension reflected the effectiveness of their ability!

    Report this comment

    Bad Form

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • So CB thinks we should have sympathy for the Teachers cause on pay, conditions and pensions, what a laugh. Compared to the majority of the private sector they already have Gold plated packages. When you are earning in excess of £150,000 (no doubt + pension etc) like CB it is easy.

    Report this comment

    Roy Gooch

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  • Don't assume anything about my views Fly Tipper until I at least express them.....as I said ignorant comment from an illegal tipper of rubbish....u r well named mate.

    Report this comment

    Sportswagon

    Monday, March 24, 2014

  • A little knowledge is dangerous Roy Gooch. I collect my teachers pension but paid an awful lot in when I started teaching at 21. I really don't know what you mean by "gold plated" and you say this twice. You maybe mistaking us for the police force or civil servants perhaps? As for "psycho V", well he just can't help himself can he ?

    Report this comment

    Responsible parent

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

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