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Kipling’s lesson on appeasing truculent teachers


NEVER try to appease disruptive pupils! That is the first lesson that effective teachers learn about classroom management. Governments should by now have learnt the same lesson when dealing with unreasonable teacher-union bosses and their camp followers. Do what is right, not what is expedient!

Some teachers have been working hard during the lockdown. They have kept schools partly open and provided carefully planned and worthwhile online teaching. They have justified the full salaries that teachers continue to be paid. Others, though, have been taking a breather and following union advice to limit or not provide online lessons at all. Some have even been using their leisure to earn extra cash-in-hand though private tuition over Zoom.

The government is concerned that union bosses and some teachers may wish to maintain a partial schools closure when the current five-month break comes to an end in September. To circumvent this possibility, it has come up with an appeasement bribe. Teachers will receive the biggest pay rise – 3.1 per cent on average – of all public sector workers. The current annual inflation rate is 0.8 per cent. 

The pay rise will come out of existing funding for schools. It will, therefore, reduce the amount left in the pot to help those children who have suffered most during the lockdown. And will this teacher pay rise – the biggest since 2005 – be enough to satisfy union bosses? Not a chance! Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL union, described it as a ‘kick in the teeth’ for those long-serving teachers who will get 2.75 per cent, slightly less than the average. Mary Bousted, joint head of the largest union, the NEU, protested that more experienced teachers ‘must see their immense hard work and efforts rewarded fairly, and this pay award does not do that’.

Ever true to its mission of whipping up resentment amongst teachers, the TES – mouthpiece of the Blob – reports the story with a graphic photograph of a besuited gentleman – presumably from the government – delivering the aforesaid kick in the teeth.

‘TES calling! TES calling!’ as Lord Haw Haw might have announced to the teacher union faithful. I doubt, though, that kids playing at journalism on the TES know a lot about their Haw Haw pathfinder.  

They could, certainly, learn something about spineless, supine and pusillanimous government policy towards teacher unions by opening their eyes and by opening their Kipling, though not the cake box version with which they may be more familiar.

Here, then, is some advice to government from the great and non-PC Rudyard Kipling. It applies as much to dealing with teacher union bosses as the bossy Vikings. It is not the first time it has been mentioned on the Conservative Woman site but, as a summing up, it deserves to be quoted in full:


980-1016 AD

IT IS always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say: –
‘We invaded you last night – we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away.’

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you’ve only to pay ’em the Dane-geld
And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: –
‘Though we know we should defeat you,
we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away.’

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: —

‘We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that plays it is lost!’

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Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern is the Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education. A retired head teacher with 35 years’ teaching experience, Chris is a former advisor to the Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street under two Prime Ministers.

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