In support of striking teaching staff… SEND children need the right support and so do their teachers

As anyone with a child or young person in a state school or further education college will know, the vast majority of children will be at home today as thousands of teaching staff go on strike.

It’s not ideal, of course, especially as many parents will have to take a day’s leave, or mix parenting with working from home. But running our schools and their teachers into the ground isn’t ideal either — and that’s every day, not just today. When a teacher with a passion for the job, a degree and a PGCE quits for a better-paid and less hassle job outside education, something is very, very wrong. It’s time the millionaires in Numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street realised this and acted accordingly.

We need our teachers, whether in mainstream, state special, or sixth form/FE, to be at the top of their game. We need them to feel supported and to approach every day with energy and dedication. But how can anyone do this when the pay they receive has been degraded over years and the buildings they work in are crumbling and potentially dangerous? The government might think teachers do it for love not money, but while they may love their vocation, they’re not going to keep doing it if their health, their family and their bank account are paying the price.

Children with SEND ultimately pay the biggest price— but we don’t blame teachers

Our children with SEND especially, are already vulnerable and disadvantaged by having access to too few specialists and support staff and too few teachers—many of whom have not been given the SEND training they need. These are the children who have already suffered the most during the pandemic. They deserve teachers who aren’t ground down and worn out. The same teachers who often use their own money to buy school supplies and even breakfast for pupils who arrive without having either.

As well as today, further national and regional strikes are planned throughout the month. Other strikes are planned by rail workers, NHS staff, university staff, Tube and bus workers, and civil service staff — including Ofsted officials. The Government says the strikes will cause "significant disruption". Well, duh! That’s precisely the point, you lemons. We hope the Prime Minister finally acts in good faith and, if he can manage it, understands why. If they are hoping that support will fade away, they are wrong.

SNJ supports the strike by educators

Special Needs Jungle has joined with other parent-led education organisations, Square Peg, Save Our Schools, Rescue Our Schools, and Let Our Kids Be Kids, in support of teachers’ call for fair pay. We share the concerns of educators that children’s education is being harmed because of a lack of qualified teachers and a high turnover of staff. We want the Government to engage with the National Education Union (and other unions), to negotiate a settlement and avoid further industrial action. 

The full statement is below: 

As groups representing parents, we support members of the National Education Union (NEU) in their Pay up! Save Our Schools campaign. We share their concerns about the impact of years of underfunding and urge the Government to come to a settlement with teachers. 

Our children are losing out because there are not enough teachers. Increasingly those that are in the classroom are not qualified in the subject they are teaching. Special needs support assistants are leaving their jobs for better-paid work elsewhere. Lack of qualified teachers and turnover of staff harms the education children and young people receive and particularly impacts on children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). The current situation cannot continue. 

Without a fair pay rise for teachers and sufficient funding for schools, recruitment and retention issues will not be resolved and schools and colleges will continue to struggle to find, train and keep talented and capable educators. 

This campaign is backed by parents: polls conducted in recent weeks illustrate the scale of support for teaching staff in their campaign to protect our children’s education. We applaud educators for taking such a strong stand, understanding that they do not want to be on strike. They want to be in the classroom, doing what they do best – teaching and supporting our children and young people. Striking is a last resort.  

So, we ask Government ministers – if they really do care about children’s education – to engage with the National Education Union, to negotiate a settlement and avoid this action. 

It is time for ministers to demonstrate that they truly value our schools and those who work in education. It’s time for them to show that they truly care about the life chances of our children. 

“Taking strike action is very much a last resort for our members. They do so with a heavy heart because they cannot stand by and watch their pupils not receiving the education they deserve. 

“Parents know from first-hand experience that children are losing out because of the chronic shortage of teachers. Often pupils are being taught by short-term supply, or staff who aren’t qualified in the subject they’re teaching. 

“Knowing that parents and members of the community support them taking a stand to Save Our Schools will give educators huge confidence in taking this action, not just for fair pay, but in defence of children’s education.” 

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union  

Is your child in today?

If your child is in an independent school/special school they will be in today. If your child has an EHCP, they may well have the option of going in, but some schools are closed to all and some parents say it will be too strange for their disabled child to cope with the changed environment. Other parents told us their child wouldn’t be able to access remote learning anyway.

The most stupid thing is— these children are the future of our beleaguered country. We will be depending on their support and tax receipts in years to come. We need to ensure they can depend on our government to give the support they deserve now.

Also read:

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