It’s time to leave the bunker

I’m sorry Marilyn Jack felt my comments about schoolchildren in Kelso on Friday afternoons “vitriolic” and “boring” (letters, November 27).

However, such explosive overreaction to my deliberately-neutral comments is, I fear, typical of the reaction one gets when commenting on teachers’ conditions of service.

Like certain other professions which operate in a rather closed social context (I imagine school staffrooms can be pretty insular places), the teaching establishment seems to have long ago lost the ability to take a couple of steps back from itself and ponder why the poor public image of teachers, of which they so often and so strongly complain, is there in the first place.

The defensiveness to which teachers resort, and the “them and us” mentality they demonstrate, is, I suggest, part of the problem. If teachers and their representative organisations, who continue to do them a considerable diservice in this context, could only acknowledge that certain aspects of teachers’ conditions of service are very favourable by comparison with other public and private sector workers, perhaps a debate about the future of the profession could be had in more reasoned terms.

But instead folk like me who dare to criticise are told, “You couldn’t do our job” (true, neither would I wish to) and that 12-hour days are routine (which is widely disbelieved because of public cynicism about the profession generally).

Decades ago, I had a number of wonderful teachers who gave me inspiration for life-long interests from which I still derive great pleasure, and no doubt there are many hundreds of such teachers around today at all levels and in all subjects.

Nor do I advocate the sort of levelling down of working conditions of which English Tories are so fond and propose, for example, that teachers’ holidays are reduced to the legal minimum of sweat-shop employers. Indeed, it would be grand if all workers, both public and private, enjoyed such conditions.

But that is something that, as a society, we seem to have convinced ourselves we cannot afford, although with the ever-rising number of super rich I doubt that logic. But that is another debate.

But for the present, if the teaching profession could just get out of its bunker and acknowledge a few truths that to other workers are self-evident, they would find the current public-sympathy deficit would change overnight.

Sadly, with the likes of Ms Jack fighting their corner, this clearly is not going to happen anytime soon.

Richard West

Inch Park