Coffee House

Michael Gove tells heads to dock the pay of ‘militant’ staff

12 December 2012

Michael Gove has written to schools across the country telling them that they can deduct a day’s pay from staff who try to disrupt school time by carrying out ‘work to rule’ industrial action.

This form of action involves teachers fulfilling their job description to the very letter, with the NUT and NASUWT issuing list of activities their members should refuse to undertake. These include refusing to submit lesson plans, refusing to agree to timetable changes, refusing to undertake clerical tasks or covering for colleagues’ absences. Gove’s letter, seen by Coffee House, says:

‘I respect the right of teachers to take industrial action, but this action short of a strike lacks a clear purpose or even a set of coherent aims. It sets out only to cause unnecessary disruption in schools, while at the same time threatening to damage children’s education.’

The Education Secretary writes that ‘this is not a constructive or effective way for organisations representing professionals to work. I believe it is damaging the reputation of the profession with the public, at a time when we have the best ever cohort who are working harder than ever.’


He has published legal advice for schools which says teachers who follow this industrial action are ‘very likely to be in breach of their contracts’ and therefore docking pay is a lawful response.

Gove stresses that there will be very few teachers who choose to take this action but a small number of schools ‘are starting to see a severe impact and where this is the case, I believe a robust response is needed’. This action is targeted at the small number of militant trade unionist teachers in schools rather than all teachers. A source close to Gove says:

‘What Gove is doing is targeted at the tiny minority of militant types whose priority is protecting under performing teachers and disrupting schools instead of improving children’s education. Heads need to be supported to deal with them.’

The list has annoyed one educationalist so much that they have actually gone to the length of producing an advent calendar of the 25 banned activities. It doesn’t make very encouraging reading for anyone examining the behaviour of teaching unions:

You can click on the image above to read a larger version, or download the advent calendar here for further entertainment.


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  • Tarka the Rotter

    Well I am all for it, provided the same applies to MPs who don’t turn up in the chamber…I know lots of people on here think Mr Gove is the bees knees but honestly, cummon, he is just a teensy weensy bit prattish, don’t you think? Any politician at the moment taking the moral highground on any issue whatsoever has carbon-plated brass neck…

  • The Elderking

    How come the kind of tasks and flexibility built into normal peoples job descriptions are absent from teachers?

    It is another sign of the malaise that the teachers unions have created in education, the results of which are plain to see in the vast numbers of poorly educated, ill disciplined and unambitious kids they churn out.

    • Gareth

      You shouldn’t describe kids an “poorly educated” while missing out apostrophes from your post (“people’s jobs”). Similarly, I suspect you know little of the true extent of the teacher’s workload. Far too many good teachers end up leaving the profession, or burning out, because they don’t manage to strike a maintainable balance between work and private life. Half of Newly Qualified Teachers quit within five years. Gove’s comments may win plaudits with people such as yourself, but will do little to reduce the unprecedented number leaving the sector which so badly needs them.

      • The Elderking

        The teaching profession has only itself to blame for the poor discipline and underachievement of kids in their care. Its remarkable that you cannot even turn out kids with acceptable levels if literacy and numeracy. Just look at comments by business leaders – having to retrain school leavers, get them to show initiative, good presentation, timekeeping etc etc.

        You guys lost the plot back in the 70’s.

        I have no doubt there are many teachers who try their best and have the talents – but one look at the creatures who represent you in your unions is enough to show what a shower is in charge of much of the educational establishment.

        More strength to Goves hand.

    • wanderer

      Like getting in early, working late, covering for other staff, running extra-curricula activity, operating to before/to/after the bells, being spat at, sworn at, rescuing 11yr olds jumping out of top floor windows who are high on prescribed drugs, patrolling the playground unarmed for bullying, fighting and drugs, etc etc etc.
      I think they know what you mean – despite your transferred epithet of ‘normal’.

      If once were a parent one might also understand that there is a parenting role that cannot be compensated for by a Conservative view of Dickensian DoTheBoys.
      Teachers are not regarded by governments as professionals – just as expensive childminders – a bit like those nice little nursies looking after the sick. After all standing up in front of people and taking temperatures -really. My governess and nanny would wonder what all the fuss was about.

  • Sam Vimes

    Doing precisely no more and no less than you are contracted to do is a very interesting definition of breach of contract…. Someone didn’t think this through did they.

    • Andrew Taylor

      I always thought that one of the reasons that teachers are paid very good salaries is in recognition of the fact that they have to conduct a lot of tasks which cannot sensibly be inserted into a contract. For example, if you are a cleaner, your contract will be to clean this or that – it would not say: ‘you should sweep the rubbish into a pile and pick it up with a dustpan which you would empty into a bin’.

      If a teacher is choosing to not fulfill these tasks, it seems to make sense that they should also forego this ‘X-Factor’ portion of their remuneration.

      • dorothy wilson

        Most job descriptions have a final point along the following lines: “Such other duties that may from time to time be required tof the post holder o fulfill the responsibilities of the post”. If the job descriptions of teachers do not carry a similar sentence they should.

        • dorothy wilson

          Oopphhs! I managed to split the word “to”!

        • Helen Johnston

          They do. However, it isn’t in the “job description” it is in the Contract. Teacher’s jokingly call it the “slave clause” which states that they work as many hours as they need to in order to fulfill their role. The Standard Teacher’s Contract is a 200 page document freely available on the Internet here

          When you have read it, please comment on anything you think it is missing. There really isn’t enough in there to detail a Teacher’s responsibilities.

          In the meantime, while you are busy reading, I will have walked out on teaching your kids as I am sick to death of working myself to the bone, trying to instil a little knowledge into disinterested, disengaged and disrespectful young people. I wonder what would happen if every teacher walked out of work tomorrow and refused to go back. Would the world still turn? Would Society as we know it cease to exist? Perhaps all the people who so freely criticise teachers without any knowledge of what their day to day work entails would be happy to go and take over from them.

          • Fergus Pickering

            Teachers do moan, don’t they? If you don’t like it, then bugger off and do something else. You are replaceable, you know, and your job, though important, is not as important as that. Some teachers are good, some are bad, and most are sort of in-between, much like lawyers, doctors, politicians,etc etc. This has always been so. But the endless moaning is new.

            • Helen Johnston

              Of course they are replaceable. That’s why half my department are on one year temporary contracts, or staffed with unqualified supply, because we are so replaceable. When you find someone else with a first class maths degree willing and qualified to teach your kids from Year 7 up to A’Level, please replace me with them so that I won’t feel guilt stricken at leaving an already understaffed department in an understaffed and overstretched school to go and do a “normal” job.

              I went to work in teaching after ten very successful and highly paid years in Financial Services because I wanted to contribute something to Society. What exactly do you contribute? Feel free to have a moan about it. I’m listening and ready to sympathise,

              • Colonel Mustard

                You are lucky you can move so easily from being a teacher to a “normal” job. But then you are a woman. Lots of good men over 50 on the scrap heap.

                • holdingpenforkidsretiree

                  Is that why you have so much time to devote to the Spectator?
                  Helen Johnston stayed. I didn’t. A bit of respect would be nice.
                  You couldn’t write the contract that would allow teachers to teach. Whether you call it Pareto or Tipping Point the state schools have gone over the edge while acting for the social services and the police (yes the left in general).
                  Congrats to Helen who can write normally here and not be sniped at by what sound like very embittered harpies. Suddenly to change the debate to women? Please. Helen – try the debate somewhere where people are interested in anything more than their own voices.

                • Helen Johnston

                  Maybe they should do what I did then, spend four years studying with the OU to get a degree, then another year doing teacher training and you, too, could be a teacher! Of course, you have to pay for your studies and somehow find the money to live too. Being a woman, naturally I just sold myself for sex to pay for it.

          • Colonel Mustard

            It’s a dichotomy isn’t it. The ideology in state school practise that has resulted in those disinterested, disengaged and disrespectful young people is a direct product of the left wing ideology that the majority of your fellow teachers stridently support and clamour for. In other words you are, in part, architects of your own misery. Of course you will never see that, because if you could see it you would not be in the situation you find yourselves in.

            That truth undermines any sympathy and I hope you do all walk out, because maybe that would be the catalyst for a Spring that would free us all, but especially state education, from the shackles of left wing orthodoxy, dogma and cant and its teacher acolytes.

            • Helen Johnston

              Are you still living in the 1970’s?

          • Daviejohn

            Helen, do you not think it may be you that has made these children,bored,disinterested,disengaged and disrespectful? you appear as if you are ‘burnt out’ your attitude here will reflect that. I have a grand daughter who runs to school because her Teacher is so good and she can’t wait to sit down and get going, now that ,is encouragement.

            • Helen Johnston

              I am so glad your grandaughter enjoys her school. I am guessing, since she has one teacher, that she is still in Primary? My youngest daughter, still at primary, also enjoys that level of unbridled enthusiasm. My two older children (who attend the school I teach in) are both over achieving. They have been taught (at home) that education, work and qualifications are important.

              Am I burnt out? Yes and no. I love and hate my job. I love working with young people, I love the buzz in lessons, I love seeing my students succeed. I hate the constant low level disruption that stops my students from being able to concentrate fully. I hate the mobile phones and ipods that worm their way in to distract. I hate the parents who give their children no encouragement and often positively encourage them to give up before they begin. I hate seeing my heavily pregnant coworker having to deal with students, who really shouldn’t be in mainstream education, tipping over tables in her classroom, but can’t be disciplined because they have “special needs”. I hate the ignorant majority that think that teachers start work at 9am and finish at 3pm.

              I hate spending an hour photocopying past papers when I want to be planning inspiring lessons. I hate spending an hour and a half supervising detentions when I have a stack of mock papers I want to mark and analyse so I can help my year 11s target their weakest areas for revision. I hate coming home, having spent 7 hours working solidly without a break (not even to have a drink or go to the loo) with a pile of year 13 work to mark and knowing I am so tired I can’t mark them tonight and I desperately want them to have them back tomorrow so we can move on through the syllabus that we can barely squeeze in before their exams,
              I would love to put Michael Gove in my shoes and let him spend a day as a teacher. Before I went into teaching, I thought teachers had it cushy too. I once wrote a blog about what the reality is for a secondary school teacher now. 70 or 80 hours a weeks isn’t unusual. If anyone can keep that up long term and not burn out then kudos to them.

              Perhaps this is the way it should be. Work teachers to the point where they burn out, then just replace them. As one other poster pointed out, we are very easily replaceable. Is the sarcasm detectable in text?

    • Stiffit

      Naughty teacher:

      Doing precisely no more and no less than you are contracted to do …

      Good old Starbucks:
      Paying precisely no more and no less corporation tax you are contracted to do …

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