Opinion: 'Teachers strikes have angered some but dire state of children's services are a scandal'
"So it's OK for teachers to take four days off but if I take my kids out I'll get a fine?"
After lockdowns, Covid-19 and near constant illness since schools reopened about to enter from stage left are four days of teacher strikes - and many parents are frustrated, writes columnist Lauren Abbott.
Not least because details about how industrial action might affect families from next week is vague to say the least - which perhaps prompts comments like the one above spotted in an online debate about the walkouts.
But for those feeling aggrieved with the audacity of teachers to down tools in term time I can only hope there's proportional levels of anger at the dire situation not just the education system but so many children's services are in.
The NEU says while teachers wages are down 23% in real-terms since 2010, and support staff 27% over the same period, the upcoming action is about more than pay. After a quick delve into the stats I hope they're right.
A third of teachers currently leave the profession within five years of qualifying - that's quite the recruitment and retention dilemma when it takes three years for most to qualify.
A lack of maths teachers means one in eight pupils now have work set/assessed by people not qualified to teach the subject while six months ago a similar warning siren was sounded by The Institute of Physics over a chronic lack of science teachers. Only 17% of the recruitment target was met for physics teachers last year in England - the worst in 15 years. They are both core subjects for teenagers hurtling towards GCSEs and A-Levels.
'Stories of children arriving in Reception unable to use a toilet or a spoon are the tip of the iceberg...'
Which brings me onto youth services - that could arguably provide a huge amount of support to teaching staff and students - or could do if properly paid for.
Every English region has had youth services funding cut by more than 60% since 2010 - with some budgets slashed by 80-90%. And if you thought youth workers were scrabbling for cash lets not dig too deep into the money versus demand over at Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.
Support for the early years won't warm the cockles of your heart much either. Since 2010, 500 Sure Start centres - which gave new parents advice on everything from health and education to childcare and employment - have shut.
A report last year by the Institute of Health Visiting surveyed 555 UK professionals who painted a bleak picture of children falling behind, widening inequalities and services at 'crisis point'. Stories of children arriving in Reception unable to use a toilet or a spoon are seldom exaggerated. And the above, I promise you, will be the tip of the iceberg.
Add to this funding black holes for pupils with special needs, issues across the social services sector, the cut to school meals in school holidays, surging energy costs ripping through school budgets and the list placing unrealistic expectations at the feet of teachers goes on.
Teachers aren't just teaching, they've been left to play whack-a-mole with the problems experienced by kids in their classes, brought about by a decade-long decimation of crucial services, now causing far more long-term damage than four days of disrupted learning will ever do.
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