Back in the days when I was at school all the brats were corralled at the back of the class; now some of them appear to be at the chalk-face.

Yes, the grandly-named Educational Institute of Scotland (a trade union by any other name), is throwing its toys out the pram once again, welcoming sunny May with a threat to take industrial action over “excessive and unsustainable workloads”.

This is separate from the two one-day and one two-day strikes in secondary schools in West Dunbartonshire over cuts to the number of principal teachers – which is separate again from the long-running moans and threats over class sizes at national level.

When my own children attended school I saw, first-hand, the dedication of many teachers to the job and the hard work this must have entailed.

Even so they just don’t seem to get the difference between a job for life with various safety nets and life in the private sector where the threat of redundancy always lurks somewhere just around the corner, even in the largest and apparently strongest institutions (think RBS).

Are teachers’ lives any more stressful than those BHS employees unsure about their futures following the collapse of the High Street retailer through no fault of the workforce?

Perhaps they would prefer to work in a targets-based job in which failure means dismissal after a fairly short period or run a small business in which the owner has to regularly chase up clients over late payment for work already completed.

And after walking out the school gates for the last time, teachers can look forward to a happier retirement than increasing numbers of private sector workers, most of whose bosses have closed final salary schemes to new entrants or switched completely to money-purchase products.

A newly-qualified teacher, on the other hand, can still look forward to a pension based on his/her final salary and constantly updated for inflation no matter how well or how badly the fund performs because the government will pick up the tab for any shortfall.

Teachers like to claim that their higher level of contributions compared to private sector employees pays for their gold-plated pensions.

Quite simply they don’t; they may have done at one time but not at a time of increasing longevity, low interest rates and annual government raids on pension fund dividends.

As for the threat of industrial action, it is tempting to wish for a ruling politician who will respond by saying: “Bring it on!”

This time the EIS is saying that action, should it happen, would comprise a ‘work to contract’, which is no doubt designed to create the most disturbance at as little monetary cost to the teachers and the union.

‘Working to rule’ was widespread in this country during in the 1960’s and 70’s (particularly in motor-manufacturing) but is now virtually unknown in the private sector.

Today, a company boss might tolerate limited industrial action to avoid aggravating a workplace dispute but should this continue for any length of time, eventually the staff will be told to work normally or not at all.

If teachers were faced with the same response from their employers and full-scale strike action ensued as a result then, of course, children’s education would suffer. But it almost certainly wouldn’t come to that.

The only reason public sector unions are ‘militant’ (or at least appear to be) is because management is so weak in comparison to the private sector.

After a week of being locked out most teachers would be at the school gates, not on picket duty but clamouring to be let back in.

We’re talking middle-class, non-manual workers already enjoying relatively comfortable and secure lifestyles – not the Yorkshire division of Arthur Scargill’s army.

So let’s call the teaching unions’ bluff and put an end to the constant whinging which replicates the screech of bad chalk running across the blackboard.



Here’s a postscript to the remarkable story of Leicester City, the 5000-1 outsiders who have won the Premiership in England for the first time in their history.

Several reasons have been put forward for this success: a personable and efficient head coach, good at man-managing players; a dedicated scouting system enabling the club to make key signings at relatively low prices; an emphasis on team spirit.

However, some have also attributed the success to the formal re-burial, last year, in Leicester cathedral of King Richard 111 of England, whose remains were discovered beneath a council car park.

After the burial service, ‘The Foxes’ went on to win seven of their next nine games.

A spooky coincidence?

Probably. Yet it got me thinking about the campaign by the Tory MSP, Murdo Fraser, to have the Stone of Destiny moved from Edinburgh Castle to Perth, close to its ancestral home of Scone.

Should this happen then I’d definitely be putting 20 quid on St Johnstone to win the Scottish Premiership!

Twitter: @PropPRMan

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