Volunteers to break teachers’ strike

Schools have been told to recruit a ‘volunteer workforce’ to make sure they can stay open during next month’s national strike.

Updated DfE guidance to more than 21,000 state schools in England states that headteachers should “take all reasonable steps to keep the school open for as many pupils as possible”, The Telegraph reports.

It recommends a range of measures designed to break the NUT’s national strike on the 26th March, including recruiting an army of volunteers – parents, members of the local community, scout group helpers and sports coaches. As long as they have a criminal record check they will be able to “work unsupervised with children”. Retired headteachers can be brought in to cover for any heads who are taking part in the industrial action.

The guidance praises schools that have brought in a football coaching business and a theatre company to deliver whole-school activities, covering the cost by deducting a day’s pay from striking teachers. It advises headteachers to consider dropping the national curriculum during the strike and merging classes together, to ensure pupils can remain in school during the industrial action.

What do you think of the DfE’s strike busting guidance? Is it a justified move to avoid disrupting pupils’ education or a provocative move?

25 thoughts on “Volunteers to break teachers’ strike

  1. All part of Cameron’s Big Society idea. Replace the workforce with unpaid volunteers because for the conservatives the real underlying purpose of schools is to offer a child minding service. Its the parents that matter and then only if they work! What happens with the children when parents are at work is secondary.

    Forgive my heavy satirical tone but the DFE advice is really is beyond belief.

  2. I think this is a red rag to a very angry bull. I cannot see that this will be helpful, nor as a parent, would I be happy with just anyone coming in to teach my children . I agree with Andy it just underlines the fact that teachers are now just glorified babysitters.

  3. I agree with Andy, this will force other staff employed in school to undertake duties not in their contract. These staff are often poorly paid and get very little in the way of breaks as it is. I pay my union subscriptions and feel that DFE have decided to ignore the rights I have to strike. I wonder if they would have the same opinion if it was their pay, working and pension conditions that were affected!

  4. It’s about time people started supporting teachers and realising that what they read in the media is just hype. Parents I met at a recent parents’ eve were shocked to hear how Mr Gove’s changes were having a detrimental effect on their child’s G.C.S.Es – a point that is conveniently missing from all media reports. It would be nice to see a report that discussed the real issues, revealing the effect on the students- people wouldn’t be volunteering to stop the strike then.

  5. The volunteers are likely to do a far better job than the striking teachers. I’ll put my money on a classroom assistant doing a better teaching job any day!

    Perhaps the teachers will elect to remain on strike for a year or two – this would give the country a chance to improve standards in education.

  6. Dearest Grahame,
    I do believe that all should have a right to their say, but I have to question if you really understand what is truely happening in teaching. Look further than the teachers – look at what Gove is doing.Is this really going to improve the fantastic job that vocational teachers do? It is, in my opinion achieving with great effect a workforce that is fighting to maintain its love and true vocation, which is the passion for teaching the next generation of the workforce.

  7. Graham, are you a teacher? Have you ever been a teacher? If the answer to both these questions is no I suggest you get in there and teach! And don’t forget all of the extra paperwork, you wouldn’t want to be letting the children down!

  8. A lot of teaching assistants are brilliant. Unfortunately they see what teachers have to put up with so I doubt you will get support there. I’m no longer so bothered about my pension Grove has ruined my job. Teachers are being put under more pressure and are leaving the profession. I’m probably next. But I won’t desert my kids mid year. It’s no longer a calling. Grove actually advises head teachers to bully their staff, as he believes it gets better results…

  9. The problem with teaching today is that there are too many armchair teachers who haven’t a fogyish of what the job actually involves. We have all come from very different backgrounds and in most cases spent years and thousands of pounds training to do the job we do. We are easy targets for party politics and disgruntle wanna be’s.

    Grahame you are obviously irresponsible to even suggest such a thing and one of the variables that are preventing this country moving forward….. Keep watching Waterloo Road!

  10. Will this volunteer workforce be able to demonstrate “progress” during the strike day? Will they be differentiating during these whole school activities? Will the pupil premium or SEN pupils be given more attention? Will the brightest be stretched by the football coaches? Will data be collected and analysed during the drama workshops? If not does this mean the DfE are happy for regular staff to run lessons this way?

  11. I’m a union rep at my school and we work hard with the other unions in school to make any action by anyone as fair as possible on those people who may still be working. One thing I know for sure is that members of unions have been ensured they will not have to cover for absent striking teachers, nor will they have to teach expanded or merged classes if a teacher is not in school. This pretty much kills any chance of head teachers making classes bigger. The only way around this is to use volunteers, and given the responses above alone, this isn’t a great idea.

  12. Grahame Palmer, do you work a 60 hour week in your job. I think not. Do you live with a teacher? I think not. If you did, you would not so so flippant with your comments regarding teachers.

  13. This is a disgrace. These moves are clearly Thatcherite and are aimed at undermining the trade unions as much as possible. People don’t seem to realise that this strike is about more than teacher’s pay and conditions, it’s about the education system for our children. I am not prepared to let my children go into a Victorian education system. And Grahame, it will be people with opinions like yours who destroy this education system. All of the teachers I know put in their own time and their own money to make sure the children they teach get the best possible education. The more stick and bad press teachers get, the more dedicated, passionate teachers will leave the profession. I love teaching, I care deeply about the academic and emotional progress and welfare of every single student I teach but I’m not prepared to be demonised and trampled by this government and right wing media.

  14. Attempting to look at it objectively, at a time when emotions are running high, I’d say that a lot of children would be delighted to take part in activity days. Since the rigidity of the national curriculum is isolating so many pupils, including all those who quietly underachieve without being particularly disruptive, creative days such as theatre days or sport activity days will probably come to them as a moment of light in the midst of the dreary and uninspiring normality of forced education. That such a large number of school pupils feel unmotivated and bored is a clear indication that a change of direction is needed for education. It would be far more productive, and far less wasteful of human and economic resources, if teachers were included in the process of reinventing our education system, rather than being ostracised by the fanatical diehards in government and in Ofsted.

    An enjoyable education which inspires children, and which brings out the unique qualities and abilities of every individual, would be a priceless asset to any community or society. A coercive education which adopts uniformity as its criterion for success, with the stigmata and punitive approach which lie at the core of its implementation, is at the root of the problems being experienced by schools throughout this country, as well as the demise of social harmony nationally. The seething resentment felt by an alarming number of young people is completely unnecessary; let’s take the nastiness out of education and replace it with love and appreciation. It’s guaranteed that there will be a lot more of both in those activity days.

    Sir Ken Robinson on YouTube puts it all into perspective in his TED talks. Well worth taking the time to watch them.

    Teachers: you’re not to blame.
    Pupils: you’re not to blame.
    Government: you’re sad, but you’re not to blame.
    Blaming: you ARE to blame!

  15. I was under the impression that one of the purposes of a strike, regardless of who is taking the action, is for it to cause disruption. Would they suggest calling in a volunteer force/theatre groups etc the next time the fire brigade call a strike?

  16. Grahame –

    You are beyond belief !
    Do I gather from your comments that you were home educated by a non qualified person, or even your Nanny ?
    Who do you have to thank for your education pre university – you did go to University did you ?
    Classroom assistants are worth their weight in gold, but they are what it says on the tin – Assistants

  17. I feel for the parents who will have to take leave from work to look after their children.
    I feel for the students who will miss a day of teaching.
    I feel for the teachers who are forced into a day of action due to a Sec of State who is actually deluded and knows nothing about life for an average school age student today.

  18. (Quiet chuckle)
    Yes… I am (was) a teacher – for eight years. My focus was Maths, Sciences and Special Needs in these areas. Thankfully I was “born again” and discovered a much more exciting and rewarding world away from the classroom. A huge number of the “teachers” I worked with were little more than incompetent buffoons who worked hard at the veneer of respectability, rather than their value as a proper teacher. The standard of maths and science teaching is appallingly bad in huge numbers of schools – and these buffoons get way with it because their bosses are equally incompetent, and wouldn’t know if the teacher was uselsess or not.

    Many of the classroom assistants made far better teachers. As volunteers they WANTED to be there, and were committed to doing a really good job. Quite a number of them out-shone the teachers they were supposed to be “assisting”.

    Poor Michael Gove is fighting against institutional resistance. UK Teachers – who’ve been able to hide under their incompetence for nearly 15 years (the tenure of the last Labour government) are frightened of his changes because they are designed to unmask the frauds in the profession and get them out.

    My views are borne out by facts. Look how rapidly – and to what degree – the UK has fallen in the international league tables. We are pathetic as teachers, and the buffoons should do the respectable thing and resign – not go on strike.

  19. Ah Grahame Palmer. No doubt enjoying your name being mentioned over and over. I have taught for 30 years and very successfully with devoted and highly skilled fellow teachers along side me but on a rare day I would come across a sad person like you, and along with other professional colleagues were relieved when you all left the job to go and haunt some other section of society. Thank heavens for children that you left. I dreaded my children being taught by someone of little resilience who derided other teachers rather than having the skills to support and motivate them. To change them for the better. The job really is done better with people of at least a reasonable intellect who can see how data is twisted by governments to increase parent pressure and ultimately achieve their real intentions. M.Gove was no doubt a playground weasel who bullied beneath the veneer of a smile. Scary individual. Britain has the best education service in the world but we must remove it from the politicians who successively torment it. My children were educated in Britain by devoted teachers and both are brilliant, successful individuals skilled in Maths, Science and Technology. They are intelligent problem solvers who will do good in this world we inhabit for such a short time. I have also taught many Chinese children who were afraid of the physical punishments they would endure at school and home for failing. Of course we would be more successful academically if we follow that lead. What next I wonder? Thank you to all the teachers I ever worked with or who taught my children. I salute you all and should you be finding a lack of initiative or ability in some staff find a way to support them for fear that such people might continue to fill our parliament.

  20. I am a Design Technology teacher at a large secondary school in Yorkshire. I have a 1st class degree. I work a 60+ hour week, including loads of additional classes/time/mentoring for students who are too disengaged with their education in general to put enough effort into their work and achieve the new, improved targets the government has recently set. If I don’t manage to work a miracle with enough of these poor kids, I will effectively take a pay cut. I am proactive, reflective, enthusiastic, embrace change and after 18+ years working successfully in the design industry I know my subject inside out. I also care about kids who are not yet mature enough to understand what they’re throwing away by not working hard enough.

    Please, I’d love to hear from the armchair teachers (that includes you Mr Gove) exactly what else you think I could do to become better at my job and not let the students down?

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