16 Jun, 2012 @ 10:00
2 mins read

Learning difficulties

PUT quite simply, it didn’t occur to me that there was such a proliferation of teachers’ unions in the DisUnited Kingdom.

At the last count there were 14 separate organisations representing chalk-face workers, though this number may have increased by the time you read this column.

But what puzzles me is: Why on earth don’t they amalgamate, cut the administration costs and swell the membership numbers to gain more clout when they negotiate with government?

Are they so ideologically opposed that the Association of Headteachers and Deputies in Scotland (AHDS) cannot bear the thought of joining with School Leaders Scotland (SLS) to press their demands on the flaccid Alex Salmond?

The numbers presuppose that the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has already dismissed any thoughts about integrating AHDS and/or SLS into its ranks or that AHDS and/or SLS members would rather eat their own genitals than join the NAHT hegemony.

The acronym for the National Union of Teachers (NUT) is not especially attractive which might explain why the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) prefers to maintain its independence.

On reflection, it would be impossible to combine the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Woman Teachers (NASUWT) with the NUT as members would spend most of their waking hours trying to come up with humorous anagrams from the combined acronyms.

I guess that the Welsh Undeb Cenedlaethol Athrawon Cymru (UCAC) rules itself out of any marriage with another teacher union on the grounds that no one else has the slightest idea what the hell it is talking about, let alone what its teachers are teaching the pupils.

Despite some glaring differences, I have discovered the one thing that most of these teacher organisations have in common.

After following the proceedings of the latest round of annual conferences, press conferences, interviews and appearances on various current affairs programmes, I have noticed that, in general, teachers are the scruffiest bunch of people one could ever encounter.

Unshaven, unkempt hair and dishevelled appearance appears to be the norm, and that is just the women.

The days of the avuncular chap in olive-green shirt, brown tie and leather-elbowed sports jacket are long gone.

I know that there are fashions in educational methods but these people are supposed to be role models for our children (grandchildren in my case).

It would be a positive step if they strived to achieve some personal standards before appearing on television demanding the preservation of their generous pensions or the maintenance of their payscales.

It would be even better if they appeared in the classroom looking like they knew how to iron a shirt.


A close shave

THERE was an interesting article in a recent edition of The Sunday Times which focussed on the enormous mark-up that the Gillette razor blade company makes on its range of multi-blade shavers.

The ST alleged that it costs something like 25 pence to manufacture each of the disposable razor heads that are sold for pounds – many pounds.

These allegations, if correct, are outrageous and another example of the rip-offs that consumers face every day.

Personally, I am unaffected.

For many years I have used my Solingen steel, pearl handled cut-throat razor with no need to pour more money into the coffers of companies like Gillette.

A few strokes on the leather strop and my razor is as sharp as…a razor!

Nevertheless, as a concerned citizen, I have been thinking about leading a protest campaign by the most obvious example of growing a beard.

However, I abandoned this idea when I remembered that The Lady Bartie had beaten me to it.

James Bryce

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