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C. Dallas

The Notebook


(Summer 1967)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.29, Summer 1967, pp.3-4.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

C. Dallas writes: Teachers’ standards have for decades been falling steadily but markedly behind those of other sections of the population. The following table (Occupation and Pay in Great Britain, 1906-1960, Guy Routh, Cambridge) shows this:

Percentage increase in standard of living 1913–1960


per cent

Managers and administrators




Unskilled workers


Semi-skilled workers


Skilled workers




Doctors, lawyers, scientists, journalists, etc.




The table shows clearly that the lag is relative not only to industrial workers but other white-collar or professional workers also.

As teachers are paid according to a national scale, in those parts of the country such as London where wages have forged ahead in recent years, teachers’ income is pathetic in comparison. After: three-year post A-level training (i.e., six years beyond school-leaving age) the usual deductions from the starting scale of £14 a week, plus a further compulsory superannuation deduction of 6 per cent, and no tax allowance for the ‘tools of the trade’ (books, etc.) bring the average take-home pay down to a mere £12 for, those from 20–24 years of age, £15 for those from 25–30, £20 for those from 30–34. And it takes 14 years to climb to the maximum of somewhat over £20 (£26 gross). A comparison with Europe puts one category of British teachers at the bottom (except Eire) of the, league:

Starting salaries of women primary school teachers
in large urban areas, current exchange rates












England & Wales




Northern Ireland








Republic of Ireland



* £822 for married men

The NUT’s modest demand for £900–1,700 represents a rise of as much as 23½ per cent!

The only reason for this lag is lack of militancy. The NUT Executive is as bad as the worst anti-militant Executives of many other unions. But unfortunately for the teachers there is little rank-and-file militancy to oppose this. Reasons for this may be sought in the fact that teachers work in small units; in the widespread social service attitude, a middle-class outlook which spurns talk, even more, fight, for mercenary ends like income; and in the very uneven levels of militancy that exist precisely because of the national scale. Although in the prosperous South East and some big towns, salaries compare very unfavourably and die cultural attractions for teachers exacerbate the inadequacies, in the more backward areas, where staff turnover anyway is not so great and the proportion at the upper end of the scale greater, the national scale keeps teachers’ incomes above the norm for the area, and they retain the superior status both financially and socially that they held in the past. Hence militancy is very localised in places like London, where in particular a young teachers’ campaign has made quite an impact, and where many strike resolutions have been passed overwhelmingly at different, mainly Young Teacher, meetings. The, drag of: the very ‘professional’ country areas has, however, so far prevented any militant action as regards salaries.

The frustration in circumstances which make a militant fight difficult leads to a large-scale exodus. Last year alone 2,000 newly qualified teachers never took up a teaching post, representing the loss of trained teachers for about 70,000 children. This is in conditions of desperate shortage – there is at present an understaffing of 40,000 according to the 1944 Education Act standards. The raising of the school-leaving age and reduction of classes to statutory size would bring the shortage to approaching 200,000, about 70 per cent of the present teacher force. Luton mothers are taking over the education of the five-year-olds in play groups; thousands of children are being baby-minded by unqualified teachers; some children do not even know who their teacher is, they are being taught practically nothing, and the education system is breaking down.

The dead weight preventing militant action would seem to suggest that different tactics need to be introduced into the NUT and white-collar unions in a similar position, particularly where a national scale obtains.

Perhaps the way forward can be pointed by DATA, also white collar, and which also had a national scale. DATA gave up fighting for a national scale (together with propaganda about ‘the national importance of draughtsmen,’ the ‘brain drain to America’) a few years ago. Instead they adopted a tactic of putting heavy pressure in one narrow sector at a time, backed by the resources of the whole union; then fighting in other sectors to bring wages up to the new standard – a differentials fight as against a national scale. This method, backed by strikes or threats of one and 80–100 per cent of wages for all those out, has paid off handsomely.

For teachers this could mean a regional strike in, say, a slum area, with those out getting near full-pay. This might suddenly bring Plowden to the Government’s mind, and a differential made for slum areas (the fight must be for the whole area, not a few teachers in it). This could be followed up all over the country by other sections seeing that militancy works. There is nothing like success to make people change their minds in what they thought a hopeless situation, which they sublimated into ‘working for the Children’s benefit.’

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