What do we want? Pensions! When do we want them? Before we’re too old to enjoy them.

When I was a little girl and went to play at my friend’s house we would bandage her teddies and give them pretend medicine but when it was her turn to visit me, we would line up our toys and pretended to be teachers. Many years later she grew up to be a doctor and I grew up to be… well I think you can guess.

When I was that little girl I didn’t think about pensions or the public sector I just wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. And even when I went to university, in between lots of practice snogging boys and drinking too much alcohol, I worked hard to learn my profession. I can’t remember rubbing my hands together in glee and planning to work in the public sector because of the pensions or because it was an easy option. Nascently political, I wanted to teach in state schools so I did.

But teacher pensions are a perk in a job where you get yelled at by parents on a daily basis, abused occasionally by the kids you try to teach and slagged off regularly by the media and politicians. So I’m behind the strikes on Thursday. Michael Gove has already got his knickers in a twist at the thought of striking and calling it a ‘massive inconvenience.’ It will be, especially to some working parents who, as Guardian journalist Suzanne Moore points out, use schools as a child-minding service. It’s frustrating and annoying when train drivers or airport staff go on strike but it’s a last resort and it lets the world know how fed up people are.

The ATL (Association of Teachers and lecturers) is striking for the first time in its 127 year history.

Gove (circled) on strike: teachers will lose respect of they strike .

Perhaps you should start listening to the teachers, Mr Gove. Because of course you’d never go on strike yourself, would you?

For more on this debate read the excellent page in The Guardian. I appear at 1.40pm.

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Back where he belongs: Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

Remember when smoking was allowed everywhere? If you’re old enough you’ll remember seeing the cinema screen through a haze of smoke, getting stuck in the smoking carriage of a train. Remember coming home from the pub smelling like an ashtray? It seems strange now we’ve got used to publics places being smoke free and it’s a bit like that now with healthy school meals.

Remember when school dinners consisted of turkey twizzlers and sugary puddings? I remember trying to enthuse my Year One class about school dinner by pointing out the delicious mashed potato.

‘That’s not mashed potato,’ sniffed the cook, ‘it’s cauliflower.’

It seems almost unbelievable now that schools are expected to provide healthy food options including salad, vegetables, fruit based desserts and plenty of fresh water . We still have a long way to go in terms of promoting healthier eating options to children but even in our darkest days when the cauliflower was put on to boil at 10am we never stooped to the depths of food hell shown in Jamie’s Food Revolution in Los Angeles. 

Lord Jamie of Burger has featured regularly in this blog. When writing about his Dream School I mentioned that he’s not shy of a challenge. We know that from his tackling of England’s school meals and of course the infamous Norah but he faced his greatest challenge to date when he tried to improve meals in LA schools.

The district superintendent was determined to shut him down from day one and banned him from visiting any LA schools. It might have been the shortest series in history at this point but Saint Jamie of Corndog (Look it up. Ugh) managed to find a school that would let him work with its Culinary Arts students to cook for small groups in school. Door after door was shut in his bewildered, pink face until his filming permits were revoked and you got the impression that if the superintendent could have escorted him to LAX and put him on a plane to the Antarctic on a one way ticket, he would have done. After a few requisite tears, Brigadier Jamie of Curly Fry pulled up his baggy trucker jeans and set up a kitchen opposite the school so parents and students could at least learn about healthy eating after school.

In between the school story was the drive thru owner who was eventually persuaded to serve healthier options and the singe dad who was stuck in a fast food rut but it was really only filler to main school event.

To cut a long story short with the school story, the superintendent stepped down from his post and his replacement immediately agreed to promote healthy foods in his schools. His first act was to ban sugary, flavoured milk from school canteens.

Eat like me, don't dress like me.

What it all boiled down to was one bloke taking offence at another bloke who pointed out that things could be improved and refusing to play ball. It makes me wonder how many improvements in children’s lives are curtailed because some blokes decide that saving face is more important than giving in.

Now free to involve the schools, Captain Jamie of Lard also recruited some local chefs to mentor schools in improving meal and teaching cooking. One chef, shamefacedly, wondered why it had taken an outsider to get them involved with their schools. But sometimes it takes a subjective view to make you realise what’s going wrong. I hope that in a few years’ time the junk food and flavoured milk on the menu of LA schools will be just a bad memory.

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