Tuesday, July 26, 2011


We head off for a couple of weeks of surfing and scuba-diving next week and so I've decided to avoid the wakeboarding lake until we get back. My knee is only now feeling 99% better since landing a jump badly back in June and ending up on crutches. A bit of a pain but I'm just a tad worried that if I was to squeeze a couple of sessions in before heading for the plane, I'll f&*k my knee up again and be screwed for my 2-weeks in the sun.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Why I went on strike .....
Man, I have had some serious internal moral conflicts (and still do) about this entire strike malarkey!
It's no secret that I can't stand anything that this government stand for. In particular I have issues with the majority of their 'welfare reforms'. I don't trust their strategies (if in fact they have any strategies beyond the length of a term) and detest the fact that much of their policy remains highly sort-term and narrow-sighted.
So ...... I joined ATL Union when I started teaching; the reason being that I wanted the protection (legal) and have a long term belief in the collective bargaining powers of Union membership. But I opted for the ATL for the reason that they have a history of refraining from any strike action.
Over the last 12-month or so, working folk have faced an unprecedented attack - wages, working conditions and pensions. This has been combined with an attack on the vast majority of public services in what seems to be an attempt to roll back the progress made to the post WWII era. With these measures starting to bite, local services are being closed and people are finding themselves alone, on the edge of an economic precipice and with no one to turn to. This is having a significant impact on a number of specific groups - young people, people with disabilities and the elderly. With young people losing their youth centres and the elderly and disabled losing access to care facilities, people are being forgotten!
On a personal level, I believe it is demonstrably unfair that I am being asked to pay more into my pension, work longer and receive less when I eventually retire. This will have a huge impact on the standard of education, with teachers remaining in position until their 68th birthday..... talking to my students, they really don't want to be taught by a teacher close to becoming a septuagenarian. This change will also have an impact on the private sector. As the public sector reforms continue, the knock-on effect will mean private employers will (if they haven't done so already) change their employee working conditions and pension rights.
Furthermore, the not-so-obvious economic impact is that with an ageing working population (as we are all forced to work close to our 70's), there can only be an increase in unemployment and thus an even greater burden on the welfare state.
With specific reference to my pension (Teachers Pension Scheme - TPS). The governments argument is that public sector pensions are simply unaffordable and 'costing the tax payer'. This is simply not true! I pay my pension contributions into the TPS ( a separate 'pot') and like other public and private sector schemes, it is funded through a combination of employer and employee contributions. It is therefore a deferred pay, and is not 'taxpayers money'. Plus, over time the TPS has actually been in surplus more frequently than it has been in deficit (I ask you to look at what Robert Maxwell did with his employee pension scheme and make parallels to what the government want to do with the TPS). In 2006/7 changes were made to the TPS scheme to make it more affordable but for some reason since these changes were introduced the government has not (and continues to refuse to) carry out a valuation of the scheme. Even though this is required by law - why will they not simply carry out this valuation if only to prove their case for reform? As such, there is NO basis for judging the affordability of the TPS.
Looking at the bigger picture within education, I also feel the need to stand up and be counted about the way the government are destroying the education system. Academies  - turning all schools into competing private companies, with the bottom line firmly focusing on 'price' and students will simply be referred to as  revenue streams. Choice - telling school that they are being given more freedom to provide a diverse portfolio of qualifications to suit ALL students but in the same breath creating a league table that only accounts for maths, english, science, humanities and a foreign language. This means that those more 'applied' schools (with less traditionally-able students students - BTEC's etc) will fall further and further down the league table, attract fewer students, less funds and become the inevitable 'sink' school - check out the educational system in America! Pay & Conditions - linked to academy status. As more schools turn to Academy (private limited company) status this means that the wealthier schools, with the larger incomes will be able to pay better wages to attract better staff. This will only make the situation even worst for those school (applied focus) struggling to attract the better students to get the better teachers - access to (an equally valuable) education is a right and these actions go against any moral obligation the government has.

In no way am I militant but I fear that if we all remain quiet and allow the government to dismantle the British economy and continue to negatively impact normal peoples way of life, we will wake up one morning with only the rich being able to make choices in life (we're already half way there). I just hope that along the way, we don't don't all lose sight of the big picture and start a battle to hit the bottom first (or last).