Below are some messages that we hope will guide you in handling conversations with parents, the media and other interested parties. Please distribute these to as many members as possible to help ensure we are speaking with one collective voice.
Please note, these messages are not intended to be distributed to the press as a statement of our position – they are intended solely as a guide for our members’ personal use.
Teachers are making sacrifices along with everyone else. We believe it is right we do our bit to shoulder the burden of the debt crisis and have already agreed to a pay freeze.
We are not asking for a penny more from the public purse – our pensions are already affordable.
These cuts are solely about deficit reduction: effectively, asking teachers to pay for the mistakes of others.
Cuts in terms and conditions could prompt young teachers to leave and make it harder to attract the best into the profession. If we don’t get the best teachers for our pupils, this will impact not just on their life chances but on the economy as a whole.
Even after the recent concessions by the government, an average primary head will pay £2,000 a year more for the rest of their career to get £4,000 a year less in retirement.
We are extremely sorry that strike action may inconvenience families but hope the public will understand that we believe it is our moral duty to stand up for our pupils’ right to have their education delivered by a skilled and motivated workforce. Cuts in the profession’s terms and conditions will threaten this.
We are keeping open all lines of communication with the government to reach a deal which may resolve this dispute. No school leader wants to strike but feel they have been left with no option when the future of education could be at stake.
Standing up for a better future for all
On 30 November, members of the NAHT are striking for the first time in the union’s 114 year history.
We know that everyone has to make compromises if our country’s economy is to recover. This is why we reformed teachers’ pensions in 2007 agreeing to pay more and take on the risk of longer life-spans. The National Audit Office said these changes were working. We also agreed to work longer and accepted a two-year pay freeze.
The government’s latest pensions proposals amount to an unfair pay cut which is punishing a profession which did not cause the recession but will be responsible for educating the workforce that will get us out of it.
We must offer pupils the best quality teaching. Cutting teachers’ terms and conditions will not do this. We need to encourage the best to enter the profession and lead our classrooms in the future.
Denying the next generation the best teachers by refusing to honour commitments made to them will make us all poorer in the long run.
Questions you may be asked and suggestions for response
Why are head teachers striking for the first time?
How do you feel about parents who may have to take a day off or lose pay while unions go on strike?
If the private sector is suffering cuts, why should you be a special case?
Why would you close a school?
How can you justify your action? Aren’t you already well paid?
First and foremost, school leaders see the attacks on pensions as an attack on pupils. This is because they fear that any cuts to terms and conditions such as pensions could have a profound effect on the recruitment and retention of talented staff. Heads fear that high calibre graduates may be discouraged from entering the profession and force gifted younger staff to re-think staying on. Teaching is a vocation and no one became a teacher to get rich. However, we do need to ensure that the profession is an attractive career choice for the most talented graduates.
Secondly, the government’s latest pensions proposals amount to an unfair pay cut - punishing a profession which did not cause the recession but will be responsible for educating the workforce that will get us out of it.
Of course we are extremely sorry that the lives of families of children at our school may be disrupted by industrial action. But we hope parents will understand that we are standing up for the right of their children and their children’s children to have a good quality education delivered by good quality, motivated teachers.
We understand that everyone needs to do their bit to help the economy which is why teachers have already accepted a two-year pay freeze and tighter budgets. It is also why they have made sure that the teachers’ pension scheme – which was significantly amended in 2007 - is sustainable and affordable, a fact with which the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee concur. We don’t want to be a special case and don’t think any single group should have to pay for the mistakes of others.
The safety of our pupils must come first. Each school would run a full risk assessment to decide whether the school can remain open or needs to close should large numbers of staff from our own and fellow unions be taking industrial action.
You may hear that our pensions are “gold-plated” but the average teacher’s pension is £10,000 which is not high compared to those associated with other professions.
School leaders are not only teachers, they are business managers, mentors for their less-experienced staff, negotiators, financial managers, skilled administrators, politicians, social workers, health and safety inspectors, and apparently, responsible for plugging all the gaps in society that it can’t or won’t fill. And that is in addition to the actual job for which they trained - to teach children. Even taking pensions on board, in similar careers in the private sector, they could earn much more. Most school leaders represent good value for money.
Page Published: 23/11/2011