Many children, it seems, are being taught by unhappy and stressed-out teachers.
1200 of them have written an open letter to “The Independent”. They describe a working life that is becoming “increasingly difficult and for many, unbearable.” A “constant fear of being judged to be failing” is “bleeding the profession dry”.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) union that organised the letter claims that close to 40 per cent of new teachers quit within a year. Even though this may be a statistical exaggeration, a recruitment and retention crisis is looming. And who wants their child to be taught by a demoralised and depressed teachers suffering angst, anxiety and apprehension about the job they are doing?
It is hard not to feel some sympathy for both teachers and for pupils. Above all else, teachers need to be fresh, alert and enthusiastic. Such are the demands of working with children that one should be energised and invigorated by the job rather than drained and debilitated by it. During my 35 years in the profession I doubt that I would have ‘survived’ long if I had not received back from my pupils as much commitment, passion and enthusiasm as I gave to them.
In an article for the The Daily Telegraph headed, “How have we got education so disastrously wrong?”, head teacher Peter Tait addresses the issues raised by the teachers’ open letter. Given the general mood of self-congratulation that so bedevils the educational establishment, the so-called ‘Blob’, Mr Tait’s analysis is refreshingly honest.
For all the tests and exams that they may pass, even at the expense of a happy childhood, he does not believe that children are better educated these days. He pins part of the blame for a demoralised profession on the extra demands, mostly non-teaching, caused by ‘wrap-round’ care, various forms of social work requirements and the inadequacy of some parenting. Add to this the excessive bureaucracy and endless monitoring to which teachers are subject these days, all to very little effect, and it is small wonder that some teachers have had enough. Sadly, he confesses that as he approaches retirement and prepares “to leave the profession that has been my life and joy for so many years, I would not go there again, not as it is now.” He concludes by warning that “it is time to rescue the profession from the bureaucracy that has almost destroyed it.”
Mr Tait is correct, of course, but, unfortunately, he does fully answer his own question. How did we ever get into this disastrous situation in the first place? The answer is that we tried the alternative, with the profession in charge, and neither did that work. The second-rate ‘bog-standard’ comprehensive school system we have today, the all-ability and low quality public exams, the fashion for failed methods of child-centred learning and so on, have all come from the misguided educational establishment. Our schools are in the over-controlled state they are in now because, by the mid 1980s, Government felt it could no longer trust the teaching profession to provide children with a good education.
Many of the ‘wounds’ described by the 1200 teachers in their open letter have been self-inflicted. A self-interested and misguided teaching profession is as much to blame as Government for the current state of our education system. You reap what you sow. Both professionals and politicians need to do some serious re-thinking… and re-sowing!