What the shit is going on with the lockout?

This is more for me to get my head straight over the ins and outs of the teachers’ working time dispute.

Main Characters:-

  • Antorini (Christine Antorini) Curly haired extra from Borgen. Antorini is the Education Minister of Denmark, also in the Social Democratic party. Teaching experience: none.
  • Bondo (Anders Bondo Christensen): Harry Potter: the elbow patch years. Bondo represents the Danish Teacher’s Union. Teaching experience: lots.
  • Corydon (Bjarne Corydon): A shaven headed extra from Breaking Bad. Corydon is the Finance Minister of Denmark. He is from the Social Democratic party (‘Moderaterne’ on Borgen, ‘Labour’ in the UK). He has a tumblr dedicated to him looking sceptical. Teaching experience: none.
  • Ziegler (Michael Ziegler) Leader of the “Borough Council Union”, a nationwide group representing the interests of the borough councils in Denmark. Teaching experience: none.

Minor Characters

  • Jelved (Marianne Jelved): Member of the Radikale Venstre party. Used to be a teacher. Is married to a teacher. Looks a bit like Sandi Toksvig’s aunt. I have met her. She has observed two of my lessons. She is okay by me. And for a politician she does not say a lot. Teaching experience: lots.
  • Vestager (Margrethe Vestager): Leader of the Radikale Venstre party (think Old Labour/Liberal mashup) and Minister for Economics. Teaching experience: none.


  • The children: Attend schools in Denmark
  • The parents: Send their children to schools in Denmark
  • The teachers: Work at schools in Denmark
  • The taxpayers: Live in Denmark and pay for this show


In 2008, the world experienced a financial crisis. By 2013, the left-wing/centrist government of Denmark has woken up to the realisation that not enough tax is coming in to afford the outgoings of the nation.

Denmark has a lot of outgoings due to its large nationalised services. The government got together to devise a way of saving money on education. This deal involves longer school days and asking teachers to work more hours for the same pay.

But! In Denmark! The politicians do not negotiate with the unions. The “employers” negotiate. And the “employers” are the Kommunenenenens Landsforening, a crack team of mayors.


Odd little news articles appear in the media about how teachers do not “teach” for very many hours a week. No attempt to disambiguate “teach” from “work”. Talk of “normalising” teachers’ hours pops up as if teachers do not work the normal amount of hours. Comparisons with other countries are made in the press, the number of hours of lessons, PISA results. Though, interestingly, only separately.  A politician misinterprets results from a study that showed that teacher preparation/quality raises achievement and says that it shows greater contact hours raise achievement. China, South Korea and Finland have pretty good results and pretty low contact hours (around 16 hours teaching).

A news story emerges that children in Denmark are getting better at reading. And pop goes the “Children in DK cannot read good” narrative.

A report into how the 2008 working time agreement has improved Danish schools is suppressed by KL.

Because the “negotiations” (and I use the term loosely), have not taken place yet, politicians get stuck in. Antorini says that teachers are only going to be teaching a little bit more and besides they are just going to re-prioritise their tasks a bit, not work any more than before, just differently. Corydon, though, Corydon is like a whirlwind going on about stuff. His department puts it about that teachers are totally lazy. The teachers really do not like him.


KL and the teaching unions meet. The KL suggest some things that they would like to change about the working time agreements for teachers. The teachers’ unions have some questions about the new plans.

KL flip over all the tables and say “WELL THEN YOU DICKS, if you don’t agree right now, we’re going to lock you out of your schools and not pay you. See how you like that, you twats.”


Politicians who are NOT SUPPOSED TO get involved, get right the fuck involved. Vestager says that teachers are making up stuff about how the new plans will affect children/teachers. Jelved says “I hope Bondo wins, everyone’s against him” and then later “IT WAS JUST A JOKE!”

When interested parties point out that politicians should stay out of it, they all slap their foreheads and go “oh yeah, I forgot. It’s the ‘negotiation’ phase, right? Thought it was the propaganda phase still.”



The KL and some politicians met in secret (which is totally not cool), and work out the new teacher workload agreements. From which they must not budge when it is time to “negotiate” with the teaching unions.

The Unions beg to be allowed to attend and then beg to be allowed to know what happened. The process of being ignored is described as “kafkaesque”.

The politicians work out that once the “negotiations” are finished, the projected savings through increasing working hours will pay for a bunch of improvements. They write up these plans as if the working time agreements have already been rubber stamped.


The negotiations continue and more and more threats about lockouts are made by the KL. Parents, teachers and children get more and more anxious. The KL say that the current agreements are like something out of the last century. To which the teachers reply “You green-lighted them THREE YEARS ago! And besides what’s more last century than clocking in at 8 and clocking out at 4?”

Who knows what will happen in the next act!

What pisses me off is not so much that my working time agreements might fundamentally change next year. I am used to that. What pisses me off is how much strong arming has gone on.

The teaching unions have suggested running studies, suspending the current arrangements and trialling the new suggestions. You know, to see if teaching and learning improves. This has been dismissed out of hand.

There are studies of other successful countries. Their successes could be replicated and start-up issues avoided. No one is even bothering to find out about them.

The KL had no intention of working with the teaching unions, the strategy has been to turn the public against teachers for being lazy and then making demands and a threat to withdraw the opportunity to work.

The teaching unions have been caught on the hop, I do not think they expected so much foul play would be going on. So many dirty tricks.

This was an opportunity. There are so many ways that Danish schools can improve. I could probably write a book about what works and what could be better and everything. This is not about improvements. This is not about changing Danish schools for the new challenges ahead or increasing quality or anything like that. It is about saving money on wages.

And the unions will fail. The lock-outs will “work”, taking away education from children for weeks at a time is THE WORST THING YOU CAN DO, and the mood will turn against the teachers.

Teachers will have to accept these proposals, even though they do not take into account how teachers actually work and certainly have no link to best practice studies from abroad. This will lead to a massive deterioration of quality. Add to that the vote of no confidence the politicians are cooking up, I do not see how Danish schools are going anywhere other than the toilet from here on out. And all for a bit of money.

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