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Society desperately needs good teachers now more than ever and the profession should be respected instead of being “undervalued and under attack”, the new National President of NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, demands today.

In her presidential speech to the NASUWT’s Annual Conference 2022 in Birmingham, Angela Butler will hail the efforts of teachers who worked through the Covid-19 pandemic in “overcrowded and dangerous” conditions, protected only by “fig leaf mitigations”.

And she praised teachers as the “forgotten heroes” of the pandemic, calling on governments and administrations across the UK to “put teachers first”.

Mrs Butler, 59, a chemistry and SEN teacher from Powys, Wales, will tell Conference: “Teachers, along with other key workers, rose magnificently to the challenge.

“Even as the virus was spreading exponentially and was mutating into more virulent forms, teachers were back in classrooms.

“And whilst many other workers remained working from home, teachers have been in overcrowded and dangerous environments now for many months, protected by what are really fig leaf mitigations.

“We know that Black teachers were particularly vulnerable and our Black members have told us that employers failed to address the increased risk to them. Teachers are the forgotten heroes of the pandemic. But, of course, it is not over.”

Ms Butler said that children had been “denied the order, discipline and care of regular school attendance” and increased mental health problems were impacting teachers in terms of behaviour.

She said: “Teachers have never been so important in the lives of young people, but we ourselves have felt the strains and challenges of the pandemic. So a perfect storm is developing and building. We look to those in power to support us in this crucial work, but instead teachers are undervalued and under attack.”

The solution was to put teachers first and make them a priority: “We find that politicians and even many school leaders just don’t get it. It is we teachers that put children first. It is why we they entered the profession.  We want to work with children and young people.  Our joy is in watching them grow and learn and develop. And children need their teachers to be happy in their work.

“An exhausted, unhappy, disillusioned teacher is not an effective teacher. So those that have power over education must understand that they must respect, support and nurture their teachers. It is that simple. Yet they just don’t get it. And the price they pay for years of neglect is schools in crisis, battered and bruised by a pandemic, and neglected and misunderstood by governments.”

She said governments and administrations needed to pay teachers properly - the pay freeze in England in particular showed “appalling contempt”. Workload needed to be manageable and teachers needed to be protected from abuse by malicious allegations and by abuse on social media.

She added: “The message that needs to go out to those in power is therefore very simple. Give us some respect. If you respect us, then so will the wider community and we will start to rebuild the profession into one that good quality graduates are queuing up to get into.”
 

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