One of the reasons I left my last union is because I disagreed with them on a wide range of issues and in the end was not happy about what they were spending my dues to promote. Much of the political activities were counterproductive to improving the lot of teachers. Is it too much to ask that the unions focus on the needs of their members rather than their ideological commitments to certain practices, and denouncing the government over matters that are of secondary importance at times?
I expect to be accused of being selfish but I can’t say I care. Fact is that I have worked in jobs other than teaching and I expected the union I joined to stick up for the best interests of its members, full stop. That unions have done nothing sensible to improve our conditions over the last decade is another reason why I won’t pay to be a member. I would rather hire a lawyer.
So what conditions would I like to see changed?
Number one is the notice period. It is ridiculous to only be allowed to resign a post three times in a year, have to endure working in a place that you no longer wish to be at for a few months and open oneself up to all sorts of nastiness as a result. Also if one moves to a school and realises that it’s just a bad move, having to wait months makes the difference between requiring a reference from the headteacher or not. This can trap a teacher into a horrible state of affairs in a school they hate but can’t leave because they have found themselves in a nest of vipers. One week’s notice is standard in most jobs. Longer if you’ve worked longer, but nothing like the notice periods that teachers have to give.
Heads don’t have to buck up their ideas about retention while they hold all the cards if one is on a permanent contract. Unlike most posts, their reference is required if one is to move onto another school.
Ah but what about the children? Well, maybe head teachers and senior members of staff should think about that a bit more. I don’t see why this consideration should be placed on the doorstep of the teacher. All this state of affairs has done is lead to teachers accepting worse and worse conditions. It’s easier for SLT to pander to difficult parents rather than backing the teacher; continue with ineffective behaviour management systems and refuse to accept the extent of the problem of abusive behaviour in the classroom because the fact is the teachers are trapped in that situation. A shorter notice period would give teachers the ability to move on faster.
Headteachers do have the discretion to release you from your contract sooner, but it’s simply a caveat in what is an unreasonable policy in the first place. What I want teachers to have is the ability to vote with their feet without it damaging their careers.
This post was originally published on the Labour Teachers website.