Dutch teachers on strike

What are you doing on the 12th of December? It’s quite possible your kids are free that day because of a teachers’ strike. The 5th of December is the deadline for a decision. If nothing has improved, a strike will follow. But why are the teachers so unhappy?

The job

We have all been through education, but do you know what the job of a teacher contains? Teaching is not a 9-to-5 job. Teachers are at school when you are still at the breakfast table and when your child leaves the school the teachers are still working. A teacher leads an average of 6 classes each day. During those different lessons, they are trying to teach the children how to behave (in groups) and how to work/study independently in several different subjects.

After your child leaves, the teachers are busy with keeping you up to date, marking work, analysing results, using this analysis for progression plans, training and studying to stay up to date, organising events, meeting with the team to control and develop the vision of the school, cleaning the classroom, building subject plans and schedules, preparing meetings with parents, writing reports and preparing the lessons and work for the following day. Teachers can’t really complain about days off. During summer they have 5 weeks off. Apart from those weeks, they will have 6 more weeks during the year. So what are they demanding then?

Fair salary

Primary school teachers want a raise. The salary of a primary school teacher is far lower than a teacher in secondary school (voortgezet onderwijs), even though their qualifications and mental capacity are identical.

Extra hands

Another demand is more help in the classroom (or more teachers) so that classes can become smaller. Many teachers feel that their workload is too much. Classes contain more children in primary schools and there is not enough time for the teachers to serve every kid’s individual needs. This is difficult for the teachers but could also harm the child’s education. Administrative tasks are blocking time for preparing lessons but there is not enough money to realise these demands.

The high workload and an unfair salary result in unusually high levels of sick-leave compared to other professions, many teachers quitting their job and fewer students at the PABO. At the moment we are already short of teachers. If this continues, schools will have bigger problems in just a couple of years.

Teachers care about the children in their classroom. We trust teachers to look after our kids for nearly half of their waking hours every week during their formative years. Just as a happy and supportive family is important for kids at home, it is clear that happy, healthy and motivated teachers will provide better care and education for our children at schools throughout the Netherlands.



Mirjam Mainwaring-Burton
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