Author Archives: Holly Townsend

  1. Why Are Teachers Striking?

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    With the current strike action by teachers at the moment. It seems a good moment to try and unpick the question: Why are teachers striking?

    Often the media paints a distorted picture of strike action. This is true of all sectors and – naturally – the focus is often on the disruption caused rather than the reasons behind the action. 

    It’s why you may have seen plenty of reporting about cancelled appointments and operations because of strikes in the NHS, for example. Meanwhile, in education, much of the media attention has focused on the disruption to children’s schooling – especially as the industrial action comes relatively soon after covid – and all the disruption to education caused by the pandemic.

    Why are teachers striking? here is an image of several teachers in protest holding the signs 'We'd rather be teaching'

    Teacher strikes – Some context

    For over a decade now government funding for education has been cut. The funding squeeze has had a detrimental effect on the quality of children’s education. Schools have been forced to cut services to the bone and are continually asked to do more with less.

    On a day-to-day basis, this means less teachers and support staff which, in turn, leads to larger class sizes. Provision for students with special needs and those with mental health issues has been particularly affected.

    In addition, the current climate of increased energy prices has crippled schools financially. Moreover, the government’s continued resistance to dealing with longstanding concerns about teachers’ pay and workload has exacerbated an already worrying recruitment and retention crisis within the profession. 

    Schools are struggling to attract new teachers. Not only that, one in three teachers leave the profession within five years of qualifying.

    There are teacher shortages in many subjects, including Maths. School leaders are increasingly left with no option but to put non-specialist staff in front of classes.

    Why are Teachers Striking? – It’s not just about pay

    When you appreciate the context surrounding it, you can see that the current industrial action in schools is certainly not just about pay.

    However, pay is an issue. The profession has faced pay freezes and minimal rises for over a decade. Pay offers have increased slightly in the last year – an average of 5.4% in September and a further offer of 4.5% for next year. However, these rises are heavily weighted for teachers at the lower end of the pay scale. It means that experienced teachers and school leaders receive the least. This does nothing to address the existing retention issues, the pay awards are still not enough to attract new recruits to the profession in the numbers that are so desperately needed.

    The other thing which should not be forgotten is that any pay rise that the government has offered to date has not been fully funded. The money to pay for salary increases must come out of a school’s existing budget – essentially meaning that the greater the pay rise, the more students suffer.

    Teachers’ wages have been falling behind for years now.  And with the current 10%+ rate of inflation, the pay offers that the government has offered to date are in effect real terms pay cuts. Indeed – teachers have lost 23% in real terms since 2010. And for support staff, the figure is even higher at 27%

    All teachers are asking for is a fully funded, above-inflation pay rise. 

    Teaching unions argue that any disruption to children’s education through strike action is dwarfed by the long-term damage caused by year-on-year education funding cuts, and the government’s continued inaction on teacher workload and pay. 

    All in all, the answer to the question ‘Why are teachers striking?‘ lies within a perfect storm of low pay, funding cuts, and excessive workload.

    And, as the unions say, staff working conditions are student learning conditions.

  2. Why Do We Still Study Shakespeare?

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    It’s a question that many pupils and parents alike have asked over the years… Why do we still study Shakespeare?

    On the face of it, you can see why: the language is unfamiliar and difficult to understand; and – anyway – How can Shakespeare still be relevant over 400 years since the Bard’s death?

    The thing is… Shakespeare’s works are timeless. 

    And here’s why…

    Extraordinary storylines and themes

    Think about some of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, such as Romeo and Juliet. A classic and tragic love story; or Macbeth – a good man consumed by ambition, ultimately leading to his downfall, and a story of good conquering evil. 

    Shakespeare’s plays have formed a template for countless books, movies and television dramas that have been produced over the years.

    Shakespeare’s works have strong themes that run through each play. Again, these themes are still relevant today – love, death, ambition, power, fate, just to name a few.

    So, Shakespeare’s plays are timeless and universal. This also makes them completely relatable to a contemporary audience. Ultimately, these are stories about life and human nature. This is why adaptations, such as Baz Luhrmann’s blockbuster Romeo and Juliet, starring Leonardo Di Caprio, and set in a futuristic Los Angeles but using the original Shakespearean language, have been so successful.

    Another example is Macbeth on the Estate, set on a modern council estate in Ladywood, Birmingham with Macbeth and Duncan cast as drug dealers. 

    Shakespeare’s themes and ideas are not confined to the 16th century. They are every bit as relevant in 2023, and beyond.

    Powerful characters

    We all love stories. Not everyone likes reading but everybody loves a story. Fact.

    Whether it’s cartoons, books, films, Netflix dramas, or reality TV shows, it’s what happens to people – the characters – that really holds our interest.

    Shakespeare’s characters are some of the most powerful to be created in the history of storytelling.

    The characters that Shakespeare created are so full of depth. Shakespeare had an incredible way of exploring his characters and portraying their emotions.

    Shakespeare created heroes and villains; complex and flawed characters; and individuals we love and those we love to hate.

    From murderers and traitors to lovers and dreamers, Shakespeare’s characters are full of everything imaginable and more. And there really is something for everyone.

    Stack of William Shakespeare Books that GCSE students use. Asking the question 'Why do we still study Shakespeare?'

    Why do we still study Shakespeare? Stunning quotes and wordplay

    Shakespeare’s influence on the language we speak is undeniable. Think of all the sayings that have become part of everyday life: ‘cruel to be kind’, ‘hoodwinked’, ‘in a pickle’ – they all come from the Bard. In fact, it’s likely that we cite Shakespeare virtually every day without even realising it.

    Then look at some of the most famous quotes from Shakespeare’s characters.

    Is there a better way to sum up life than: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.”?

    And is there a more effective way of showing how, ultimately, we are all the same – regardless of our colour, creed, or religion than these lines from The Merchant of Venice? “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”

    And, just how insightful is this from A Midsummer Night’s Dream

    “The course of true love never did run smooth.”

    Shakespeare was wise, worldly, and wonderful.

    And that’s why we still study Shakespeare!
    If you are struggling with the Shakespeare component of GCSE English Literature – or any other part of the course – a private tutor could be the perfect solution! Get in touch to find out more.

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