The teaching profession has always been known to be challenging, but the levels of difficulty currently being faced is sending as many as 4 in 10 teac
The teaching profession has always been known to be challenging, but the levels of difficulty currently being faced is sending as many as 4 in 10 teachers in the direction of the playground gates, never to return.
Out of a survey of eighty-six hundred members of the National Education Union, in response to the question “Where do you see yourself in five years time?” two-fifths of those asked said that they could not see themselves working in education in that kind of timeframe.
What are the reasons behind this problem?
The primary ones are an aggressively high workload, impenetrable levels of red tape, overly demanding targets that are not backed up by increased resources, and low pay.
A teacher who responded to the NEU’s State of Education Survey that was published at the union’s annual conference in Liverpool was quoted by the BBC as saying “Working 70 hours a week for many years has meant my health and family life has suffered.
“I am getting out before the job kills me.”
In the same vein, another anonymous survey responder described their deep frustration that they could no longer focus on education in the way they really “My job is no longer about children. It’s about a 60-hour week with pressure to push children’s data through.”
What are the other main factors?
In many teachers, complaints are the aggressive accountability and health and safety culture, that has meant that the effort and extra work involved in organising something like a school trip has left many teachers not wanting to bother. Some of the more inventive and interesting aspects of many lessons, like science practical experiments, have also been lost to the tide of red tape.
Speaking on the popular podcast Hello Internet, former Physics teacher turned educational YouTube CGP Grey, described the problems he had trying to perform one of the most common and popular science demonstrations. Describing the words of the senior educational administrators, Mr Grey said they told him “You can’t have a kid touch a Van De Graff generator! What if they have a heart condition we don’t know about” to which his response of “Has that ever happened?” was apparently met with the simple reply of “It could happen!”
The joint general secretary of the NEU was quoted in the BBC as saying “So long as the main drivers of a performance-based system are still in place, schools will continue to be in the grip of fear, over-regulation and a lack of trust.”
Another major problem has been ongoing underinvestment in education service, a situation that has not been improved by governmental misuse of statistics. The UK Statistics Authority has expressed what it describes as “serious concerns” regarding the Departments for Education’s “presentation and use of statistics” in areas surrounding school funding.
Official UK government outlets have repeatedly claimed that the current Conservative minority government is putting record levels of funding into schools. However, this record is only truly noteworthy in terms of pure number of pounds spent. When factoring in record numbers of pupils and broader inflation, the true figures show a decline in funding of 8%. This is borne out in many instances of teachers needing to purchase school supplies such as paper, pens, exercise books, and other necessary classroom equipment out of their own pocket.
The UK government has also been accused by the UK Statistics Authority as massaging the truth in terms of the overall quality of the education being received. Claims from British Prime Minister Theresa May that “1.9 million more children are now in good or outstanding schools, compared with 2010”. Such schools are often envisioned by parents and outside as the kind that provide high quality in classroom provision and playground facilities something like these, however, the reality is more complex.
What does UK statistics show?
The UK Statistics Authority pointed out that “there were 560,000 more pupils in state-funded schools in England in 2017 compared to 2010…579,000 pupils attend schools that are rated as good or outstanding but have not been inspected since at least 2010, and inspection practices mean schools rated below “good” are prioritised for inspection.”
Another major source of contention is the growing level of expectation from parents for communication from teachers in the form of emails. Jon Barker, head of digital at Highams Park School, in Walthamstow, East London, said to the BBC that he was increasingly frustrated with the way parents expect to be prioritised by teachers. “Everyone thinks that the email they’re sending is important… but a teacher’s job is to teach a class, not to communicate with 30 sets of parents.”
A Department for Education spokesperson claimed that reducing teacher workload was a key part of its retention and recruitment strategy. The spokesman was quoted by the Independent as saying “We have worked with school leaders and teachers to create a workload reduction toolkit, which provides practical advice and resources that schools can use rather than creating new ones from scratch.
“We are also tackling excessive data burdens in schools; simplifying the accountability system to target the associated burdens and working with Ofsted to ensure staff workload is considered as part of a school’s inspection judgement.”
Yet however much the official education department may protest, it very much appears as if the teaching market has spoken. The Department of Education has missed its recruitment targets in England for the last five years in a row. Given the current potential for losses of the current staff, unless there are dramatic and rapid changes the situation is not likely to improve.