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From The Socialist newspaper, 29 April 2009

Being a new teacher - a shock to the system

A quarter of newly qualified teachers (NQTs) leave teaching within three years of starting their first job.

Jim Thomson

It is often joked that teachers "have it easy": great holidays, good pay and the chance to work with children. However, the reality couldn't be further from the truth.

Being an NQT is a shock to the system. Young teachers get a baptism of fire, facing masses of marking, buckets of planning and the sizable chore of maintaining documents for a critical and scrutinising management.

Teachers' experiences vary from school to school, but wherever they are, teachers face hours of unpaid graft every night. After the NQT year the work continues to pile on.

Young teachers, being the most inexperienced staff members, often face a bullying management in an unfamiliar and difficult job. Instead of receiving support they face "challenges", which often turn out to be extra, unpaid work.

Without the advice of colleagues and union reps, new teachers are often not aware of their rights and what is supposedly guaranteed by the workload agreements.

I am sure that many young teachers, like myself, are physically and mentally exhausted, stressed and seriously unhappy. I don't remember this being on the TV adverts.

However, young teachers do not just face problems within the school buildings.

The retail price index recently showed that despite Britain entering into recession, food prices are still rising. Teachers, like all workers, are also facing the massive gas and electricity bills which the utility companies are greedily and outrageously charging.

The banks and building societies are now frantically attempting to snatch back higher mortgage payments.

This means difficult times for classroom teachers and their families. For young teachers who are often on a wage of just over 20,000, their pay is being stretched more and more.

Young or new teachers who have mortgages, families, student debt and personal debt are now finding themselves caught between a rock and a hard place; an over-worked, stressful job, being paid an "average" wage, or the gamble of looking for a better-paid job in the private sector which will be less secure and virtually impossible to find.

It seems young or new teachers have few options. They could keep their heads down, work hard and hope recession-driven spending cuts don't lead to teacher redundancies, or they could fight back.

Young teachers need to join the NUT union and get active. And we need to fight for the union leadership to take a radical stance in difficult times.

We should be demanding that Gordon Brown secures jobs and increases education spending, without the spectre of 'the market' hanging over any new school development. We need a fighting union to put an end to backbreaking workload and peanuts pay.

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In The Socialist 29 April 2009:

Fight for jobs!

Youth Fight for Jobs launch conference

Olympics: Defend jobs, pay and conditions

Socialist Party election campaign

European elections: Build support for a workers' alternative to Labour

Stop Press

STOP PRESS: Key union activist sacked

Socialist Party workplace news

Sacked workers protest in Newcastle

Socialist Party news and analysis

Budget 2009 - debts passed to all of us

Does the 'botch it' budget benefit young people?

It's tough at the top!

Jack Jones obituary

International socialist news and analysis

Workers' internationalism: A history of the first four socialist international organisations

Sri Lanka war: Rajapakse regime ignores Tamils' plight in renewed army offensive

NUT feature

National Union of Teachers conference: Fighting "teaching-on-the-cheap"

Hands off Lewisham Bridge school!

Being a new teacher - a shock to the system


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