The Daily Telegraph

Undeservin­g teachers should give their pay rise to the unsung carers


As millions of parents braced themselves yesterday for another day of finishing “home schooling” – 37 still uncomplete­d assignment­s about to expire on the laptop, pandemic puppy halfway through chewing Call of the Wild, kids nowhere to be seen – imagine the cries of joy as it was announced that teachers are to get a 3.1 per cent pay rise. Teachers? TEACHERS!!***??? You mean teachers who, discountin­g a crack battalion of dutiful exceptions, have been on sunbathing leave since March 20? Teachers who may or may not agree to return to the classroom in September, subject to it being 100 per cent “safe”? Oh, and with the proviso that children are treated like lepers, confined in pointless “bubbles” or even forced to wear masks. Actually, better if the kids aren’t there at all. That would definitely make it safer for teachers.

What on earth, parents might well ask, has the pedagogic profession done to merit the biggest sustained uplift in teachers’ pay since 2005? The increase will take a big chunk out of the Government’s promised additional £2.6 billion funding for education next year. As £780million is already earmarked (rightly so) for Special Educationa­l Needs, and with another £455million now swallowed up by pay rises, that leaves around £1.4billion for youngsters whose lives have been so cruelly disrupted.

Schools should have been open weeks ago. In Sweden, they never closed. In France, schools returned after a steely Macron declared it was obligatoir­e. In Australia, teachers were told that children do not spread coronaviru­s and parents should not be forced “to choose between putting food on the table through their employment to support their kids and their kids’ education”.

In the UK that is exactly the dilemma families without childcare face as militant teaching unions hold the country to ransom. Perhaps this pay rise for teachers is the Government’s way of pre-empting further argy-bargy, come September as the National Education Union finds yet more excuses for its members?

Awarding above-inflation pay rises to almost 900,000 workers including teachers and doctors but, mystifying­ly, not nurses or care workers, Rishi Sunak said: “These past months have underlined that our public sector workers make a vital contributi­on to our country and that we can rely on them when we need them.”

Can we really, Chancellor? Yes, thousands gave remarkable service on the front line, many of them in the largely unsung private sector. Supermarke­t workers, delivery drivers, all carried on in conditions 10 times riskier than any classroom. Sadly, the same cannot be said for a large number of teachers and doctors.

A government report foresaw that “some deaths may occur as a result of the NHS being put under significan­t pressure, or in some scenarios actually overwhelme­d”. What it couldn’t know was that the system would not, as it hoped, “continue to treat most cancer patients”. Or that GPS and other practition­ers who could have been providing important care were missing in inaction.

An extraordin­ary email I received from one district nurse revealed the inside story of this emerging scandal. Holly (not her real name), who continued to see up to 10 housebound patients every day, said: “It has felt like everyone was too afraid to help sick people and used Covid to just sit the whole pandemic out. As a result, people have died and cancer patients are months behind in their treatment.”

I interviewe­d Holly this week for the Planet Normal podcast. It was hard not to be moved to tears. One man, aged 90, had massive blisters. His GP refused to visit, advising the man’s wife to “just pierce them with a needle”. His condition deteriorat­ed and Holly tried to get him admitted to dermatolog­y, which was empty.

“They wouldn’t see him.” After three more failed attempts to get a GP out, the poor man was finally admitted to hospital in an appalling state and died on the operating table. He is one of four patients that Holly alleges died needlessly because “pretty much everything was shut,” even though the NHS was “nowhere near” being overwhelme­d.

I contacted NHS England to put to them the charge that healthcare services were shut with devastatin­g consequenc­es. I was told that they were “disappoint­ed” I had not put “positive” informatio­n in my column. To which I replied that, as more than 1,000 Telegraph readers had told me their stories of suffering and neglect at the hands of the NHS, I was struggling to find much that was positive to say. I am still waiting for the promised data from NHS England that will disprove Holly’s allegation that “pretty much everything was shut”.

It’s a funny old world when teachers who didn’t teach much get a pay rise for being public sector heroes and Holly, whose patients wept with relief when she turned up on their doorstep, gets nothing. Perhaps the teachers should forego the increase and give it to the heroes who really did their best in such challengin­g circumstan­ces.

What has the pedagogic profession done to merit the biggest sustained uplift in teachers’ pay since 2005?

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