Primary school teachers threaten week-long strike action

Primary school teachers threaten week-long strike action

Dutch primary school teachers are threatening to go on strike unless the new government agrees to increase their pay and lighten their work load, teaching unions said on Thursday. ‘Teachers are ready to go on strike more than ever before,’ Jan van der Ven of action committee PO in Actie told the AD. ‘If the government doesn’t listen to this cry for help and give us more money we will shut down the schools. It will probably be in September and it won’t be a week which coincides conveniently with the end of the holidays.’ PO in Actie is an initiative of teachers from Arnhem which has the support of some 36,000 primary school teachers. Of the 7,000 teachers who have so far taken part in a survey to gauge the willingness to strike some 97 % said they are prepared to come out. ‘It’s a clear signal. Classroom sizes are too big, many teachers are suffering from burn-out, there’s too much paperwork and our salary is 20% lower than that of our colleagues in secondary education,’ Van der Ven is quoted as saying. Teachers’ union AOb also polled its 82,000 members many of whom have come out in support for strike action. Of the 5,000 respondents 91% said they would go on a one day strike, while 94% of primary teachers polled said they would do so. It is not yet clear whether the AOb would support a week-long strike. PO in Actie and the teachers’ unions will be handing a manifesto with their demands to parliament next week. The news comes in the wake a damning report from the schools inspectorate about the varying standards in Dutch schools.  More >

Schools fail students, say inspectors

Dutch school standards vary widely, some pupils missing out: inspectors The Dutch educational system is failing to make the most of pupils' abilities and this is partly due to the wide difference in standards between schools, according to the latest annual report by education ministry inspectors. The inspectorate concludes that school choice is likely to have a significant impact on the future of a child, due to huge differences in performance levels. For example, some primary school pupils of comparable ability scored 10% to 20% points lower in key tests because their school is not up to scratch. This means they enter the next phase of their education lower down the educational ladder and are unlikely to catch up, the inspectors said. ‘We knew that educational quality varies but we didn’t expect the differences to be this great,’ inspector general Monique Vogelzang told the Volkskrant. Acting education minister Jet Bussemaker and junior education minister Sander Dekker said they were ‘very worried’ about the inspectorate’s findings. ‘The fact the pupils’ talents may or may not be used to the full, depending on the school, promotes inequality. This is an extremely undesirable situation,’ they said in a written reaction to the paper. The differences in quality stretch across the country and occur in all school types, from small primary schools to pre-university gymnasia, vocational schools and universities. The inspectorate’s report is the first of its kind on this scale. Teachers and school leaders The inspectors say one of the reasons for the disparity between schools is the quality of teachers and school management. Schools with a majority of parents with little schooling have trouble attracting qualified staff. School lobby group PO Raad is not surprised about the findings. It told the Volkskrant primary education has been under pressure for years through under-funding and cutbacks on support staff. The situation will get worse because of the impending teacher shortage, the organisation warned. The VO Raad for secondary education told the paper schools ‘not always make the most of students’ talents’. What is needed is more investment in improving teachers’ and school leaders’ professional skills, it said. International While Dutch schools generally perform well, they have failed to make much progress compared with schools in other countries, the inspectors say. In particular, the number of top level pupils has shrunk and there has been a drop in the number of pupils really performing well.  More >

More students are not repaying their loans

Primary school teachers threaten week-long strike action Almost 100,000 former students failed to pay back their student loans within the allotted 15 years, according to preliminary figures from the education ministry's payment agency DUO. In 2015, some 90,000 ex students - or 13% of the total - had failed to pay back their debt but in 2009, just 7% of former students were unable to make the payments. The organisation says the increase may be due to changes introduced in 2012. Before that date, students had to apply to have the repayment reduced if their financial situation changed but that now happens automatically. Student grants were fully replaced by loans in 2015 and the rules for repayment were changed again. Students can now take 35 rather than 15 years to repay the debt before it is written off. DUO expects this to boost repayments in time.   More >

Admin overload is teachers' main gripe

Admin overload tops list of teachers’ pet hates The time primary school teachers have to spend on administrative duties is disproportionate and takes away from teaching tasks, according to a questionnaire sent to 800 teachers by national broadcaster NOS and regional broadcasters. Some 700 teachers completed the questionnaire about the pressures of work in primary schools. The respondents were asked to choose from a number of factors which increase their workload. Some 36% of respondents put administrative duties, such as updating student files and using student monitoring systems at the top of their list while another 29 % put admin in second or third place. Having to deal with too many children with behavioural problems came far lower down the list with 15% while overcrowding in the classroom was cited by 13%. Many teachers feel that numbers have taken over the core teaching tasks of schools and surveys, evaluations, social-emotional questionnaires and testing systems abound, NOS found. Fewer children per class and teacher’s pay will figure in the cabinet formation talks but teachers indicated their work would be far less stressful if the paperwork could be kept down at a reasonable level. Solutions According to teachers’ union AOb, which conducted its own survey into teachers’ working conditions, solutions for the administrative overload include fewer children per class and a class assistant to do part of the paperwork. The union also thinks schools should trust teachers to do their job. Teachers are trained professionals who shouldn’t have to account for every little thing, according to the AOb. Parent's organisation PO-Raad told the NOS that ‘the government is trying to get away with spending as little as possible. That is disastrous for teachers and students alike’. The organisation says more money should be spent on digital teaching material which can relieve the pressure on teachers, and computerised monitoring systems that work together. Meanwhile, a group of 33,000 primary school teachers have threatened strike action if the situation is not remedied during the formation talks. Ministry An education ministry spokesperson told NOS that ‘no one ever became a teacher to fill out forms’ but that the stress experienced by teachers could not all be blamed on the rules set by the ministry. ‘The way schools handle administration varies greatly. Some schools have a school plan which fits on an A4 sheet of paper while others need big fat folders,’ the ministry claimed. The ministry has promised to scrap unnecessary rules and talk to unions and education organisations about the effect of rules on workload. ‘In a number of schools we have a programme in place which helps to prioritise administrative rules. Other schools will benefit from the outcomes too,’ NOS quotes the ministry as saying.  More >

School cleared of anti-Down discrimination

Primary school teachers threaten week-long strike action A primary school in Utrecht was within its rights to send away a pupil suffering from Down’s Syndrome, the Dutch human rights commission said on Tuesday. The parents of the 13-year-old boy, named as Kubo, took his case to the commission after the school said he had to leave because he had become disruptive. The boys parents argued their son, who was being taught in group 6 alongside 10-year-olds, had the right to lessons at a normal primary school. However, the school said Kubo had begun to show ‘undesirable behaviour’ by walking away, shouting and refusing to cooperate. It argued it could no longer offer the boy the education he needs. The commission ruled the school had discriminated against the boy on the basis of handicap or chronic illness. Rather, the school had provided intensive leadership for eight years and the school could be asked to do no more, the court said in its ruling. The school organisation has welcomed the decision, broadcaster RTL said. Kubo is currently being educated at home because no other school in the neighbourhood is willing to take him on, news agency ANP said.  More >