Parent’s demand for strike fine goes viral

A parent who was annoyed about facing a fine if he took his child out of school in term time wrote a tongue-in-cheek letter demanding a £60 fine for the disruption caused by teachers’ industrial action. Now he’s a cyber celebrity!

Parent Ross Matheson wrote to the headteacher of Minster Church of England Primary School near Ramsgate in Kent, following news that the school would be closed by teachers taking strike action:

“Thank you for your recent letter informing me of the penalty of £60 if my child is taken out of school during term time and the impact this has on pupil’s attainment. As you have informed me that my child is unable to attend school on October 17 due to teachers being away from school, I have to take measures to also issue you a penalty of £60. If this is not paid within 21 days of the date of this letter, the penalty will increase to £120.”

Wanting to share the joke letter with friends, Mr. Matheson pasted it Facebook, the Telegraph reports, and it was soon copied by other parents. Since then it has gone viral on sites including Netmums, and even received coverage in a leading American news site.

Wendy Stone, the school’s headteacher, invited the irate parent to come and speak to her: “I really encourage everybody – parents, staff, governors and the children themselves – to work together for the benefit of children,” she said, “We are always very keen to hear from the parents of the school, and we actively encourage face-to-face contacts.”

Mr. Matheson didn’t respond to her invitation, but did reveal the real target of his letter: “I’m not really interested in getting involved in the politics behind the strikes and the reasons for them – my point was more around how the school, or local authority, sets rules and puts policies in place but then the teachers proceed to do the opposite.”

In your experience, is this parent’s opposition to strike action shared by other parents, or are they broadly sympathetic?

17 thoughts on “Parent’s demand for strike fine goes viral

  1. There is one essential difference here of course as every right minded person will see. Children are legally obliged to go to school. In a democracy, workers have the right to strike.

  2. I am in full support of mer matheson, I also sent letters to my children’s school and the local council. However my argument is not the fine it’s is the governments reasoning behind the fines.
    The government state in new legislation that to remove a children from school will be detrimental to their education. If I’m really mistaken the teachers striking are forcing my children to lose a day of school, so does this mean they will full behind and spoil any chance of succeeding in life? No! The government just want another way of making a little extra money!

    The response I received from both of my children’s school were, teachers have the right to strike and we have to enforce government legislation. Even the local council offices wrote to me suggesting I write to my MP as this legislation needs changing!

    I understand teachers feel they need to voice their views on the increase in hours, change in pension age, performance related pension etc however in the private sector you are lucky if you have a job for life, pay rises are based on performance and I will probably have to work until I’m 70+ before I get old age pension.

  3. I think you will find the £60 fine is not set by the school or the LA but from on high, so a fairly pointless argument.
    Perhaps he should be more interested in finding out why teachers are striking, then he might find a better use for his misplaced sarcasm.

  4. As a parent I fully support my child’s teacher right to strike, my child deserves a quality education by a qualified teacher who has had the appropriate training and qualification to teacher. My child’s teacher was striking to protect this and for this I applaud her. We would never allow an unqualified doctor to treat our children so why allow this in our education system? Enough is enough, let’s get behind our teachers, they only have our children’s best interests at heart!

  5. But the point is that they are fined for affecting their child’s attainment, which, by exercising our legal right, we are also doing, so she did have a point and was expresing her right of free speech.
    And of course, as usual the media (The Telegraph), then use this as the bashing stick to attack our profession.
    There needs to be far more promotion of what teachers actually do and that is not just when in a class, it is the prep, extra activities, pastorial care etc that is never reported on, the stress and illness factors need doctors to back us up in articles etc.

  6. Although workers have the right to strike, teachers are also obligated to teach our children for 195 days a year in which case by striking they are at breach of this obligation!

  7. Good for him!! Isn’t it funny how teachers have their ‘training day’ just after having holidays. Yes children are legally bound to attend school but schools are supposed to allow ten days per child as absent. Unfairly removing this entitlement keeps their attendance records high and generates an income too.

  8. Alas this is the level of intellect we have to deal with all the time. He probably can not distinguish between the importance of a holiday or day out for his kids and a teachers right to protect their livelihood. I hope he works in a call center.

  9. The man is an idiot. The law states that your child attends school. The law. Not the school.

    The union has organised the strike, The union, Not the school.

    See the pattern here?

    *bangs head on desk*

  10. Whatever you think, you have to admit that he has a point! How would we react if had to take hollidays during term breaks but only got paid “call centre” wages 😉

  11. The worst part of this is that the parents who oppose the strikes have not thought about how the children will be affected by what the government are trying to implement and are instead heavily focussing on the consequences of the children being off one day because of the teachers. Also it is the local authority who send out the penalties for a child not attending school and teachers who strike don’t get paid for that day so in some ways it’s like a penalty as the local council who pay you keep you wages for that day.

  12. Clearly the teachers above have lost their sense of humour. Not sure comments such as ” I hope he works in a call centre” demonstrates a higher level of intellect.

    The clue was in the phrase “Wrote a tongue-in-cheek letter”

  13. How petty! Mr Matheson could put his time to better use by learning how to use English grammar correctly. Such a short piece exposes his ignorance of the correct use of the apostrophe and he has split an infinitive. His need to joke about such a serious issue attracts nothing but contempt from those truly dedicated to raising standards in education.

  14. Expecting teacher to work longer for less is ridiculous, the grave yard is full of people dying well before retirement, who do you suppose benefits from all that cash. Unscrupulous gready gits who take our pension contributions and politicians expenses. The only way they will sort the economic down fall out is to stop average people getting into debt. How, ban credit cards, don’t give loans to people who can’t afford it, and make life more affordable. Make long term unemployed work for there money. There was a women on the TV the other day, 6 kids. Apparently she has to earn £600 a week to make it worth her going to work. Thats 28000 odd a year take home pay. Teacher don’t get paid that much after years of study and years in the Job, a senior leader in a school would struggle to do that. Why should she not have to work for it. If not stop her money, but feed the kids at school and make sure they have clothes to wear and pay the heating bill. That is not poverty, poverty is when you have to walk a mile to your nearest water hole like in some African countries. What has this got to do with pensions, it is where our pensions are going.

  15. I do support Teacher and they do a fantastic job, however, I’m sorry but Teachers do get a reasonable salary and reasonable hours of work/holidays compared with public sector workers.

    Main Pay Range for Teachers 2013 : Annual Salary
    Minimum 21,804
    Maximum 32,914
    This depends upon where in the country you are. This is the lowest band of pay scale for a teacher.

    Neither myself or my husband earn the maximum salary and he works 8/9 hours a day and sometime longer including weekends and only has 20 days annual leave. I have been to University and have a good education with professional qualifications too.

    Freedom of speech etc Freedom to strike etc but don’t say you are not well paid!

    Both my husband and I have to pay our own pension contributions out of our salary as our companies don’t provide.

    So think positive. You are already better off than most of the country at present.

  16. The parent does not understand that the fine is imposed by the government- not the school. So his argument makes no sense. In addition the comment made about training days is ridiculous. They are set up after holidays to prepare the school for the children to come back!

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