Hands up those who oppose a generous pay rise for teachers………

I am currently obsessed with a book about Abraham Lincoln and his presidency by Doris Kearns Goodwin. (“Oh oh…….. here we go again! ” said my baby brother kindly, when I quoted from the book during a discussion the other day. Well……we were talking about slavery. )

Anyway, at the risk of arousing his amused brotherly ire once more , there’s a reference in Goodwin’s book to the spouse of one of Lincoln’s rivals, a woman of great intellectual power, who was always reminding her husband of the importance of keeping what should be done to the fore in politics, when there is inevitably so much concentration on what could be done; in other words, she was warning of the risks of compromising for short term political gain.

I was reminded of that crucial distinction when reading an article by Jenni Russell today, a fierce critic of most aspects of state education, about teachers demanding a pay rise just at the point that they seem likely to win a victory over KS2 sats tests. Russell derides the teachers’ pay claim as a just cause put forward at an inopportune political time.

Meanwhile, on Comment is Free, Francis Gilbert, a teacher, not known for his irresponsible radicalism, supports the claim.

Here is his last paragraph, slightly edited:

‘There are no such things as good schools, only good teachers. If we are going to fill our classrooms with the most talented, creative and forward-thinking graduates, we have to be willing to pay for them as a society. …………. if we are going to lift our society out of this recession, we need to educate our young people off the dole queue. Good teaching is the main route out of the mess we are in: our society desperately needs to invest in it. That’s why the NUT’s call for a 10% pay rise is fully justified.’

So who is right? Should a wholly just and rational claim ever be shelved due to unfavourable circumstance? Of course, Britain’s overpaid bankers are always brought into this argument. But isn’t that fair enough? Why reward or rescue the money makers ( who don’t even make money!) and scold the value makers, who struggle with so much of the fall out of our imperfect society?

Back to Abraham Lincoln…………..

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