And it was this section in particular:
Responding to the conference decisions England's Schools Minister Sarah McCarthy-Fry said: "Teachers pay and conditions have never been better.
"We have increased their pay by 19% in real terms since 1998 which means the average teacher is on nearly £33,000," she claimed.
"We have also cut teachers' working hours, dramatically reduced the amount of administrative tasks they are expected to do, doubled the number of support staff and given them time outside of the classroom to plan and prepare lessons."
Right then, that's take a look at that.
1. Teachers pay and conditions have never been better - ignoring the lack of apostrophe for the meaning beneath, I beg to differ. I find my conditions quite deplorable at times. I'm sure you've probably noticed my discontent if you have followed this blog, for example. Poor buildings may be nothing new, but I'm sure when first constructed in the 1960s, many buildings were actually better than they are now. And the conditions? Well, knowing that I'm virtually powerless to stop children bringing in pornography and other 18-rated / illegal content on their mobile phones, or to enforce rules about attending detentions when parents dispute my professional judgement - no, to me these things do not make my working conditions better than they have been in the past.
2. the average teacher is on nearly £33,000 - firstly, what does "average teacher" mean? Outside of London, a salary of £33,000 is available to those who have gone "through the threshold" onto the second of the higher pay scales, which takes about a decade to achieve. "Average" therefore probably means taking into account those with management responsibilities plus those with the higher London wages. Secondly, how does this compare with other professionals such as solicitors, police officers, medical practitioners?
Well done Bradford teacher Ian Murch, who said:
"We take no lessons in morality from government ministers, who fit out their homes with stone sinks from Habitat on their expenses, who pay their husbands more than a teacher earns to be their personal assistants and who don't appear to engage in even a hint of performance management of what they get up to.''
3. We have also cut teachers' working hours, dramatically reduced the amount of administrative tasks they are expected to do - Ah yes, about that Teachers' Workload Agreement. Looks all fancy on paper doesn't it. We no longer have to collect money for field trips and other little jobs like that. But the amount of other paperwork has increased because we now have to juggle targets and statistics and prove we are accountable. To proceed to the upper pay scale, which allows access to the "average wages" bandied about earlier, we have to spend hour upon hour compiling folders full of evidence that we can teach, that we have attended courses, that we can number crunch targets and show all kinds of stuff to nobody in particular.
Put it this way: in years gone by, May to July were the best months to be in school. Years 11 and 13 disappeared on study leave and the remainder of the school became a more relaxed place. A few more free lessons to mark internal exams or create new resources ready for the new school year; end of term activities to chill out to; taking classes out into the open balmy air to read poetry under trees or collect water samples from the streams. But now there never seems to be any let-up. Children are often too unruly to take outside for lessons; budgetary constraints mean that timetables are reshuffled the minute exam classes leave so that you end up teaching random lessons in subjects you really don't have much idea about; and end of term activities are vetoed because the associated risk assessments are just too complicated.
So all in all, teaching today is more demanding and stressful than it ever was. Perhaps England's Schools Minister Sarah McCarthy-Fry should come and enjoy the ambiance of the average classroom and staffroom before making such paper-based judgements. Looking at her background, it would seem that Ms McCarthy-Fry has had pretty much no experience of schools since her own education quite some number of years ago. She's worked for a multi-national defence engineering company and is now a chartered accountant, and even her own website states that: "Her main political interests are trade and industry, defence and the social economy." She's been the Schools Minister for precisely six months and eight days. So I really don't give much weight to her opinion at all.
But the thing is, people are going to believe what this politician says, because it's a convenient thing to believe, that "we've never had it so good", when it's all such a load of hogwash.
By the way, in the year 2007/2008, Sarah McCarthy-Fry claimed £144,498 in expenses. I was not able to claim any for all the printing I did at home, my travel expenses to and from school, washing off the dirty fingerprints from my car where little scrotes had messed around it during lunchtimes, the books I bought because my department's collection was sadly lacking, the electricity and home internet connection I needed to use to do my lesson preparation, and so on. Lucky MPs... just think of the holidays...