I missed the beginning of Newsnight last night and came in part way through the item on the teachers’ dispute about pension reform. Dr Mary Bousted, the General Secretary of the ATL (a union so moderate, that few outside of education will have ever heard of it) had the obvious displeasure of being sat with and patronised by, Graham Stuart MP (Chairman of the Education Select Committee).
The interview reminded me of why I have, over the years, become rather disillusioned
with politicians – as a collective, they are generally rather unpleasant (regardless of political persuasion). Although teachers may not have the same level of public sympathy as their colleagues in the medical profession, Stuart’s tactics showed concern that they might just have some public sympathy. Whilst being seemingly balanced and reasonable, he rattled off that tried and trusted politician’s line “I believe in the professionalism of teachers” – coded language, directed at any teachers watching, meaning that any of them supporting strike action are clearly unprofessional. This was followed by another common trick by politicians – disempower your opponent with one statement that they cannot
possibly argue against without looking like the bad one: Stuart (turning to Dr Bousted as he delivers the blow) spits out “we’ve either got to put the pensions of teachers first or the education of children and I hope Mary would join me in always putting the education of children first” – low Mr Stuart, very low.
Teachers are already pretty much the lowest paid of the professions (including those Stuart compared them to – solicitors and accountants) and teachers’ average earnings
are on a downward trend. They do not deserve this poor treatment and disrespect simply because their profession is predominantly funded by the public purse. It is time that we all stopped complaining about falling educational standards (the root cause of which, again, lies with politicians) and started valuing our teachers at least as much as we value accountants and solicitors – after all, we’ve either got to ensure that teacher’s pay and conditions attract the best professionals or we prioritise making savings to cover successive government mishandling of public sector pension funds and I hope Mr Stuart would join me in always putting the education of children first.