Valuing our Teachers

ralph berry masthead for columnWhen talking to people whose roots are from Pakistan and India I have been struck in recent weeks by the huge difference in the esteem given to teachers in those nations, whose education systems still bear the hallmarks of many English teachers.

In recent years, there has been constant change in the education system, both in structures and in how teachers are told to teach, and what is to be taught. It is worth a look at the morale and standing key people who work to educate our children.

It hit home when my step son, after four years teaching in a Manchester School ; working to transform lives, who loved ‘the job’ left due to the impact of the exam changes upon his class. Add to that seventy hour weeks, not knowing what he would earn from year, no autonomy in his work, and the impact of constant changes in Ofsted inspections.

The issue of stress and workload has got  to the point where it is now the biggest issue facing Education and is holding back all our plans to focus on achievement.

In many schools all staff has taken a pay hit. Small wonder we face a loss of good teachers; we cannot afford to continue like this. Pay progression linked to a performance system that is often arbitrary in its implementation to the point that some schools have seen virtually no teachers’ progress.

Surveys reveal a very worrying picture

  • 52% of teachers are less likely to stay in the profession because of changes to teachers’ pay and pensions.
  • 57% are less likely to stay because of changes to teachers’ conditions.
  • 93% of teachers believe academies and free schools should employ teachers with Qualified Teacher Status.

Listening to heads and teachers I fear the last four years of blaming, scapegoating and constant targeting of the teaching profession has hurt the standing of teachers in society and morale. More worrying is the talk I pick up from time to time of teachers and heads, facing  some parents who taken on the blame culture that Mr Gove the former Education Secretary excelled in, and turn  on the class teacher.  A local head recently described to me how a parent whose child had been affected by the GCSE re- grading scandal , and believed his child should get 5 A* to C, took his anger out on  the staff of the school when the child did not hit that target ; the dialogue about the child’s own needs and journey  became impossible . It left both parties upset. They should be allies. The recent media narrative has been deeply damaging, if your kid is not a success it’s fault of teachers.

Transforming results and securing better education for kids of all abilities needs creative and innovative teachers.  Our Children are varied and learn and  work in different ways, uniformity stifles We need teaching that is delivered by a workforce that is self-confident  , yes accountable , but is also entrusted to improve apply its skills and build on effective work and not subject to arbitrary whims and zig zags in policy .

Teachers we see at parents evenings feel their say in their work has been whittled away;  that is not good.

We do not want technicians we want inspirers and motivators.

We have taken consumerism into what should be a partnership with a well-trained and empowered profession, by treating schooling like a transaction not a process of engagement and shared commitment.

We have workforce that clearly feels it has been set up as a target, yet is the key to delivering for our children.

The saying goes’ It takes a village to raise a child’ well a teacher must be a part of that village.

The Academies and Free School programme has brought constant changes and uncertainty  to employment terms and conditions and for the first time since 1944 introduced Non-Qualified teachers on lower wages.

We now have private firms taking over large areas of Education, often based overseas. The ethos of a local public service is being strangled. Then we have the imposed pension’s arrangements this means teachers made to work until 68; yes 68!

Small wonder this profession is reaching out to debate with the Public on the future of Education, the voices of people who deserve to be heard. We need local young people to think of becoming that leader, that teacher that inspiration, to do that we have to rebuild the relationship with the people who choose to go into the business of enriching the lives of children, it’s a role that should have all our respect.

There are local Education debates led by the National Union of Teachers taking place across England to discuss these and other issues.

Bradford is hosting one on 6 February at Grange Technology College.

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