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‘I understand how exhausting the work is’: mother and father’ views on the lecturers’ strike | Instructing

February 2, 2023
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More than 100,000 teachers in England and Wales are taking part in a strike organised by the UK’s largest education union. The UK education secretary, Gillian Keegan, claimed that the majority of schools in England and Wales would remain open. The National Education Union predicted that 85% of schools would be affected, with one survey suggesting that up to one in seven schools would be closed, rising to a quarter in London.

Here, three parents discuss how they and their children are being affected by the strike and their views on the action.

‘My daughter and I joined the picket line’

Michael Watts

“We recently moved our three-year-old daughter to a preschool in a primary school, and so we’re affected by today’s strikes. I took the day off work, and my daughter and I joined the teachers on the picket line this morning, brought them some biscuits we’d made, and had a chat. We spent the afternoon in the leisure centre for soft play and swimming.

“I’m in a fortunate position that my work is very flexible. [While] taking the day off work is never super easy, I’ve managed to put my phone away and it’s nice to have some more time to spend with my daughter. I appreciate that for others it’s much more complicated.

“I wholeheartedly support the teachers’ strikes. I’m concerned that as a country we can’t pay the people we trust daily with our children’s wellbeing and development better. I used to be a primary teacher myself, and I know how hard the work is, how long the days are, and that pay has been eroded.”
Michael Watts, 39, software engineer in London

‘My patience is running out with teachers’

“Luckily enough my parents can step in today – they’re at the zoo with the kids, who are six and nine. But they’re not going to be able to step in for every one of four days – I imagine we’ll have to take some time off over coming weeks. We don’t get the holidays the teachers get, you’re limited. And who knows if there’ll be more strike days? Then you’re scrabbling around, taking unpaid leave.

“My patience is running out with teachers at the moment. Do they forget Covid, when we were home schooling our children while [we got] a few photocopied lesson plans sent home once a week if we were lucky? Kids missed months of education, it affected a whole generation of kids. Now they are on strike for four days and the school is closed.

“We all want 15% pay rises. Teachers, don’t be upset with us parents if you find there is no wine or gift vouchers at Christmas. It’s quite clear you put yourselves first and the children second.”
Steve, 45, contracts manager in Merseyside

‘It is easy for me to be supportive – I won’t take a personal hit’

Sarah McKennaSarah McKenna

“My children, aged seven and 11, are in primary school and both their classes are off today. They are with their dad, who fortunately has holiday. The school didn’t mention anything about home work – we’re glad to not have to do home schooling again.

“I fully support the teachers. It’s ludicrous that successive governments have allowed teaching to be so devalued by failing to deliver attractive pay and benefits, [which would] ensure it’s an appealing career for promising graduates.

“I will say though that my husband has a lot of holiday left and we both work mainly from home, so it’s not going to cause us difficulties if the children are off for the odd day. Plus, they are both doing well at school. If I was worried about missing work, losing a day’s pay or their attainment, I might feel differently, so I have sympathy for parents in any of these positions. It is relatively easy for me to be supportive because I won’t take a personal hit.”
Sarah McKenna, 41, works for a retail design consultancy in London

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