For some teachers the effects of the ConDem robbery is already very real. With the rise in inflation, increased pension contributions, and two years’ worth of wage freezes teachers have been hit hard.
For every £20,000 earned in 2010 teachers will earn, relatively speaking, £3,140 less by the end of 2014. At the risk of pointing out the obvious, comparatively speaking, £20,000 in 2010 will be worth, around, £16,860 by the end of 2014.
This robbery has been facilitated by a wider change in the context of education.
David Cameron was asked in an early-morning, BBC Radio 4, interview at the beginning of January 2013 what he was most proud of ‘his Government’ having achieved since they came into power. His response was unequivocal; the one thing the Prime Minister is most proud of having achieved is “cracking the state monopoly on education”.
For this Government; this coalition of toffs, bankers and business gangsters, education is not a responsibility of the state. Education isn’t something that the state should serve to protect for the benefit of all those in it. Education, for this government, is a multi-billion pound industry, and one that should be distinct from the state in order to continue the self-preservation of the most affluent classes.
Michael Gove, Cameron’s commander of operations, has engaged in an agenda of rapid privitisation. That agenda is reliant on driving down cost and increasing ‘productivity’. That agenda has a number of key elements, for teachers.
Gove’s agenda is broad and it’s tantamount to stealing the chalk from the chalk-face.
Let’s start by making one thing very clear pensions are and were affordable. The teachers’ pension scheme, unlike some others in the public sector, is not based on the model of a ‘pension-pot’ where money is paid in, stays in and is subsidised if it runs out – where it’s effectively ring-fenced and shared between all the members. Instead, teachers’ pension contributions are directly paid into the treasury and their pensions are paid ‘directly’ from the treasury.
Teachers’ unions argue that over the life-time of every teacher, the scheme is self-sufficient. In other words, the bottom line might dip and peak but, over-time it’s a balanced and affordable plan. But, the government say the scheme is unaffordable, that teachers need to pay more, get less and work longer in order to make the scheme sustainable. They claim that the treasury have to subsidise the scheme when it is running a deficit; and strictly speaking this is true. But, it’s a one dimensional argument; a contextual fallacy.
Excuse the coarse analogy, but imagine the teachers’ pension scheme as a stretch of a river: when less goes in at one point, and the ‘same or more’ still flows out at the other the middle will begin to dry.
However, when more is going in at one end than is able to come out at the other (i.e. the scheme is in surplus) the middle of the river will begin to swell. Crucially, abetting Gove’s agenda, (forgive the pun) the ‘banks’/the treasury (or future private sector institutions) absorb that swell.
In efforts to increase the swell, and in-turn the amount of money that the treasury will absorb, the government changed the unit used to measure the rate of interest, which calculates how much teachers are paid on receipt of their pension, from RPI to CPI. Without going into detail about the calculations: CPI is lower.
CPI means teachers get less and the treasury can absorb more of the swell. In fact, since the change, just over a year ago, the treasury has amassed savings of over £22 Billion.
The teachers’ unions know that an independent evaluation of the pension scheme has been commissioned by, and returned to, the government. It’s no big secret but, the government have refused, point-blank, to release it. Effectively, the government have hidden the document from the sight of teachers and unions; but still retort, ‘it says the same as we say… we promise…’
In one of the most effective swindles in recent history, the government’s agenda is clear: hood-wink teachers into paying for the banks whilst at the same time they are undressing the robes of the public sector; watering the eyes of the serpents in the ‘private’.
One could be excused for thinking that the swell might eventually begin to dry again as the RPI/CPI change begins to settle. It stands to reason that this ‘settlement’ is inevitable. But, in a move towards unquestionable supremacy Gove has usurped the power for the Secretary of State for Education to make even more, future, changes to the teachers’ pension scheme without even going back to Parliament.
It’s clear how this will manifest itself. The Secretary of State has the sole power to drag the conditions of teachers’ pensions even closer to the ground. Any future minister can wreck any development in terms of working people’s pensions without even going through the democratic, due process of Parliament.
The government can’t lose. As long as the scheme remains in public hands they can continue to absorb the swell and if it’s made private the companies can gamble with the liabilities: teachers’ end pensions; workers’ lives after work.
There’s been no discussion with unions, representing 90% of employees, and the evaluation of the teachers’ pension scheme remains illusive; buried deep in some dark corner of Whitehall.
Michael Gove said ‘good teachers should be paid more’; but it’s a thin veil. It stands to reason that amidst his agenda for privitisation, driving down the cost of labour will be a priority.
Under Gove schools already have the freedom to employ, less expensive, unqualified teachers as professionals and experiment with socially and educationally divisive interpretations of the curriculum. To be frank, this isn’t about paying good teachers more; the changes to teachers’ pay are about paying more teachers less.
Teachers’ pay in England was designed to pay teachers over a consistent period and was always based on successful performance management reviews. If those reviews were unsuccessful, head teachers always had the ability to decline a teacher’s ‘automatic’ progression.
Gove peddled the myth that these ‘new freedoms’ were needed to pay ‘good teachers’ more we should recognise this for what it is; an effort free-up employers to ‘hold workers back’. Judgements will be based, not on success and experience, but appropriations from the school budget.
In effect this is a move towards the application of the ‘corporatisation theory’.
The corporatisation theory, in general, is difficult to apply pay to education. There are a number of different reasons; but two of the most prevalent relate to a ‘market value element’ and a ‘production for reward element’.
The latter, the ‘produce for reward element’, can be applied fairly simply to industries like production or sales. Take a sales-person who is paid a modest salary and given an incentive to meet targets for sales through bonuses and so forth; the model might work quite well in the favour of the employee and the employer. It is widely accepted to be an incentive to ‘produce more’. However, children develop in relation to their wider context and their context ‘beyond the school gate’.
Their ‘actual, natural ability to succeed’ and their circumstances beyond the school gate vary. For example their family support is very important, as is their eating, sleeping and exercise habits etc.
It’s a fallacy to assume that a teacher’s salary could be fairly and robustly determined on the merits of a child’s achievement in school when so many external factors are at influence.
Children don’t learn on a production line, isolated from the outside world, and the motivational argument for ‘produce more success, get more pay’ will, inevitably, be completely counter-productive when teachers are aware that their influence might be little more than negligible on certain children. Gove knows this; Gove is unconcerned with education, he is driven by reducing cost and this mechanism will ultimately drive that cost down.
Production for reward, in the context of education, is completely incompatible with the complexities of learning.
The second element, ‘the market value element’, is shrouded in social injustice; a social injustice that is completely incompatible with the existence of the trade union movement and socially-divisive in terms of education.
Once we begin to apply a market value, or a worth, to a child’s education we are effectively decentralising the worth of the child as a person and focusing the worth on a child’s potential to succeed. In that sense the market value element will provide employers with the tools to ‘invest less’ in areas where there are lower chances of success. This might manifest itself in lower ‘investment’ and lower ‘pay’ for teachers and education in ‘naturally’ less affluent areas. Beyond regional disadvantage, the contrast between the North West and South East for example, this will result in huge disparity between funding for schools and teachers’ pay within, relatively near-by, localities. Small pockets of Peckham (London) would be disproportionately affected compared to, for example, Notting Hill.
As a general rule, the very children who need more investment to improve their life chances are the very ones who will get less.
Compound these two elements of the corporatisation model with a third strand that says that teachers no-longer have a statutory entitlement to take their pay with them from one school to another and we can foresee stagnation in the profession. Teachers beginning their career in less affluent areas will have less chance to progress in their career than their colleagues from more advantaged starting points.
The changes mean that there are professionals who will be paid a salary in September 2013 and never receive another increase for the remainder of their career, no matter how ‘successful’ they are. Gove has created the conditions for merchants of the private market to create a glass ceiling for salaries; where only very few high-earners will ever see real career progress in terms of pay and where children with the greatest needs are condemned to futures of uncertainty.
For the vast majority of the workers, for the first time in a long time, a decent standard of living will be out of reach. Cars in the car parks, mortgages, food on a Friday and so many basic and affordable ‘comforts’ will be unaffordable.
Evidence from around the world has put beyond any doubt the notion that pay is inextricably linked to standards of education. With the implementation of Gove’s vision, teachers’ pay will be hammered. The private sector can make millions through cracking the monopoly and dragging down the cost of labour; teachers will have serious difficulty in maintaining the standard of living to which they have become accustomed.
The result is predetermined: unlike the high educational standards of Finland, where teachers are amongst the highest paid profession in the country and their vocation amongst the most revered, standards in the classroom will plummet. Teachers will become more demoralised and children will be condemned.
Linking pay of teachers to the performance of children shifts the focus away from the quality provision of education for ‘the whole class’; a bleak future for the next generation.
Cutting cost is slashing standards: as well as a whole profession, whole communities will be left behind; equal and free access for all will be no-more.
More than half of all teachers have considered leaving the profession completely in the past year and two thirds have considered leaving their job. In a poll of over fifteen thousand teachers from all over England, 98% reported that they don’t believe this government are doing what’s best for education.
OFSTED is a statutory body supposed to champion high standards and inspect schools against criteria that will ultimately improve our education system. In the past, OFSTED has generally been acknowledged as a ‘necessary evil’ by teachers – unpleasant, but ultimately serving a beneficial purpose. But now, 41% of teachers rank school inspection in their top four concerns about work. To put that into some context, teachers are as worried about OFSTED as they are about their pay, pensions and their workload.
It beggars belief that a body geared towards improvement would inspire such fear within the profession. However, if truth be told, OFSTED is Gove’s military wing of privitisation. Under the direction of Michael Wilshaw (Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector), OFSTED send in storm troopers of privitisation to target our ‘failing schools’; most commonly in our most deprived areas. With few exceptions, teachers report horrific accounts of ‘political OFSTED inspections’. These are inspections with a predetermined result serving a political agenda; these inspections are alive and well in England. Even accounts of OFSTED commenting that certain schools will be forced to become an academy; threatening teachers’ jobs and children’s schools. OFSTED have absolutely no jurisdiction to make such claims.
OFSTED, essentially, serves a dual purpose in Gove’s agenda for rapid privitisation. Firstly, the ‘stubborn’ schools who don’t (or won’t) share Gove’s vision for a highly autonomous, low cost model for education can be targeted and ‘forced’ to see the light when they have been exposed as ‘failing’ their children. Secondly, it serves to develop the illusion that England’s schools are sub-standard by highlighting, in the media, the number of schools that ‘aren’t doing well’. That too many schools are ‘failing the nation’s brightest children’. These claims are all made against the fact that the most recent round of PISA (the body that assesses international standards of education) ranked England at 6th in the world for the quality of education and 2nd, only to Finland, in Europe.
OFSTED, Gove’s advance guard, are responsible for war crimes. They are unjust, undemocratic and effectively unaccountable. They force the shift in control from the accountable-mechanisms of the local authority (council) to unaccountable private boards. They load stress on teachers at every grade and force so many of our best out of the profession.
Gove and Wilshaw agree that this is all positive. In fact, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector commented, “If teachers are suffering from stress you know you’re doing your job”. This is the mentality of two of the most powerful Generals in Education.
Pensions, pay, OFSTED and teachers are working twelve hour days and 70 hour weeks. Focus has been driven from the kids to the bursars. They’re focusing on spreadsheets and collecting dinner money rather than education. Families are being split-up by the pressure; and times are tough.
This isn’t a period of transition for education. It’s total destruction. It’s about breaking, beyond immediate repair, the state’s relationship with provision.
It’s all based on myth and whilst so many people are rushing to save the NHS, education is being pushed out the door. It’s all ideological; and whilst it’s not Thatcher, it’s worse. This is Gove.
This is a war on the state; a war on teachers. This is a war on education and schools. This is a war on the working class and on the most vulnerable. This is a war on those with the greatest need in our society.
They’re already being tortured by OFSTED, they’re already being robbed of their pensions and come September 2013 teachers might be losing out in terms of pay; but we have to realise that this is a symptom and not a cause. This is a symptom of corruption; a symptom of privitisation; and a symptom of condemnation of the future of our children.
We are at war with this government; our teachers are in the trenches.
For more information and a short video, visit: http://www.goveversusreality.com