New signage needed outside schools

Traffic sign "elderly people", Melfo...
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They’ll have to add the ‘elderly people’ traffic sign to the ‘children crossing’ one outside schools…

I have a day off work tomorrow. A midweek day to myself – very rare. I should be rejoicing. But I’m not. It’s not a holiday. I will be on strike. Along with thousands of other public sector workers I’m withdrawing my labour. I’m taking a stand. I haven’t taken the decision lightly, but I felt I had to stand up for myself and others. I hate that it’s being portrayed as private versus public sector – each sector needs the other – we all need both. Didn’t someone say, ‘we’re all in this together’ ?

I voted for the (at least two-year) pay freeze in my own profession. I believe we should take some of the pain. But, to be told I must double my pension contributions – for a smaller return – and that I must work longer wasn’t something I felt I could go along with.

I’m a teacher. I love my job. I’ve done it for more than thirty years. The pay is adequate, the holidays are great, the children make it very special. I find it much more tiring than I did ten years ago and have to pace myself more. But I keep up to date, keep attending training courses, use laptops, a smartboard, MP3 players, blogging, school friendly social media, etc, etc – to meet the needs of my 21st century pupils. I’m fifty-five –  but not a dinosaur.

However, I did get a wee wake up call recently from one of the seven-year-olds I teach. She said ‘I like you Mrs Stormont.’ ‘Oh, that’s nice,’ I replied, feeling proud and gratified. ‘ You’re just like my granny,’ she added. I was a tad deflated.

But there is a serious aspect to the above anecdote. The government wants teachers to work until they’re sixty-eight. Crikey, if I’m still at it then, I’ll probably drop dead in harness after a P.E. lesson –  or a particularly strenuous long-division session. And, I must say I don’t really want my grandchildren taught by (almost) septuagenarians. I don’t mean any disrespect to elderly people, but it seems to me that the requirements of the job are such that one has to be very fit, energetic and have loads of stamina. Yes, some seventy year olds have all these things, but they are exceptional. A sixty-eight-year-old teacher will be older than the primary schoolchild’s grandparents.

As it stands, my pension, which I was hoping to get at sixty, will be about £10000 – even after all these years – but that’s fine. I’ll live accordingly. I’ll bow out of teaching – I’ll be sad to leave my pupils – but happy to hand over to a new generation of eager young teachers. And, I’ll be happy to be a grandparent on the other side of the school gate.

So, tomorrow I strike. We ARE all in this together. We owe it to ourselves, to each other and especially to future generations to do this right thing.