‘We had just one glue stick to share between 30 kids’

Thomas James Elms, primary school teacher

It’s not just about teachers’ pay. The strikes represent much more than that. For me personally, it’s about the funding in schools. The government right now is asking schools to pay their staff out of school budgets. The big issue with this is that it’s coming right out of children’s education and from stuff like support staff, the chances of going on trips, SEN support, and support for children with special needs and abilities.

Looking at our school budget, the government is proposing a cut of nearly £40,000, and that too without the staff pay. This means that each pupil is missing out on education worth £105, and this is gravely hurting their future. In my classroom, I don’t have a teaching assistant which means that I’m not able to give as much attention as I’d like to those students who are in need. 

Equipment is another issue. By the end of Christmas, we had just one glue stick to share between 30 kids. There was even a massive shortage of paper at a point. There are even instances where I’m losing my PPA time or my planning time because I’m dragged back in due to a lack of staff. 

I also know that going on strikes hurt me financially. Right now I’m staying at home, but I do have plans to buy a property of my own in the future. With the housing market in an awful state and my pay being what it is, I have to save for longer than what I had in mind to get my own place. Fun fact: just before I got paid the last Friday I had £15 to my name. I did four years of university and PGCE and all I was left with at the end of the month was £15! 

But for me and for most teachers I know, going on strikes is all about future-proofing the next generation. I have kids who come to school just to get away from their homes. I have kids who come from underprivileged backgrounds and the least I can do is ensure that they have access to the education they deserve. 

I know being a teacher is hard and right now — it’s harder than ever. But it’s the children themselves that make it all worth it. Seeing them smile and having them come up with outlandish questions just reminds me that what I’m doing is actually making a difference in their lives.

As told to Yadhu Krishna Menon.

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