FIND YOUR VOICE (19)

What is going on with Teaching?

Over the last couple of years we have been hearing how unhappy our school teachers are. We wanted to look at this issue as teaching is one of the most undervalued professions in this country.

Most modern or emerging country’s understand the value of high quality education and invest accordingly. The teaching profession has a crucial part to play in the future of any nation. Being a teacher is the same as being a Doctor, without them society suffers. In this edition of FIND YOUR VOICE we have gathered some opinions from teachers and it makes interesting reading.

30-year-old English teacher. She has been teaching for nine years and is a member of the NUT

"The main problem is exam results, mostly due to the A*-C measure, which has very little give and means that every child is expected to progress and achieve high standards.

"There is an insane amount of pressure to keep improving and achieve better results year-on-year, but sometimes circumstances are out of your control. The pupils are not robots that can churn out grades. Some people are not going to get a C, but it is a C that is the only measure of success.

"Grade boundaries increase year-on-year and it is a system based around success and failure, with no real alternative for people who are not academic, so they become unhappy. Last year I taught the lowest ability set and it was a two-year charade of telling them they might get a C, as that was the only thing that motivated them. It was a horrible experience operating towards an output, rather than learning for the sake of learning.

"There is so much focus on measuring success on grades and numbers, but very little measurement of children's happiness and of them enjoying learning. I think the Government has got it wrong. Are we building happy, engaged, excited and opinionated people? Or are we building a future generation of wage slaves? We need qualitative rather than quantitative teaching methods. Under the Coalition, it has become all about numbers and evaluating performance, while issues like children not eating, self-harming or experiencing depression are often forgotten."

48-year-old Head teacher. As a head, instead of being focused on the quality of teaching, care and pupil experience which should be top priorities, you are diverted by external pressures that are entirely avoidable.

"Ofsted's behaviour causes huge difficulties for head teachers. Outcomes to inspections are uncertain and unreliable and there is a very significant pressure that in many schools can ripple down to classroom teachers.

"The coalition's tendency to declare policy without preparatory discussion or forethought about implementation also causes numerous issues. To be a head teacher of a secondary school is like being the CEO of a medium-sized company with around 150 employees, but you don't receive proper budget forecasts. A CEO would expect a three- to four-year forecast, and it's almost impossible to run a school without one.

"Almost every type of school is seeing the same amount of money coming in while costs are going up, so you have to make savings somewhere. What is madness is that you also don't know about your funding for the next financial year until a couple of months before, after you have already been forced to make most of the employment decisions.

"There is no strategic plan at a national level to oversee teaching supply, with insufficient amounts of young people entering the teaching profession. On many occasions we have placed adverts without receiving applicants. The low supply of teachers, combined with a deregulated salary structure, also means you have to pay more to get tutors."

37-year-old head of history. I work in a challenging school because I want to make a difference – even if it's just in a very small way. And there are times when kids come to see me and I'm irritable. I hope I don't let it show, but it's difficult to be there for them one-on-one when I've got an observation the next day or things to plan. It takes time away from the really important stuff and a lot of it is quite meaningless."There have been times when the challenges have made me reconsider my career. My school is very reliant on good results, so if we have a dip it's going to have a consequence for us – particularly as they're opening an absurd number of free schools in the area."Coming up to exam time I've often thought, 'This is just ridiculous. The pressure is just too much', but I'm happy and have accepted that this is a lifestyle choice – but I know teachers with families find it very difficult to manage."The hysteria that government policy causes among senior managers is a big problem. I've got no objections to monitoring; I think that's a good thing. But there's a constant fear of Ofsted descending and reaching in and making what I think is often a very misinformed judgement on the school."There's definitely an understanding in each school as to which teachers can be relied upon to pull off a good Ofsted observation. And unfortunately that seems to be, in a lot of ways, how teachers are judged."The pressures teachers face have definitely increased over the past 10 years. When I started, of course there was pressure, but it was more accepted that there might be all sorts of reasons why results have dipped or you might have a difficult year group. Now it's not like that. Our management is pretty sympathetic, but we must still go through every single child and if they're underachieving there needs to be an explanation for that. Life isn't that black and white."

After reading these opinions we think that Governments need to listen to Teachers and their Unions, stop interfering and playing political games with education. Let Teachers set the agenda as they are the ones on the front line. We will be publishing more articles in relation to this issue. After reading these articles, don’t stay silent, please.....

FIND YOUR VOICE


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