Inaccurate and misleading media reports fuel the government’s divisive agenda to disempower teachers by pitting parents against them in much the same way that scaremongering amongst the general public has been seen in recent months when nurses, doctors and firefighters discuss strike action as their only option in their individual disputes.
Teachers, like most workers, have taken a pay cut in recent years in real terms, but this is not their only grievance. In recent years, workload has increased vastly due to additional bureaucracy, stress-related absences are rising [source] due to constant monitoring and threats of capability action are rife for those whose performance is not deemed to be at least “good” in every criteria that is outlined by Ofsted and school policy which in itself increases workload. This has led to many documented cases of work related stress [source] and workplace bullying:
“At around 20% (of over 10,000 cases), teachers, lecturers and employees in education are the largest group of callers to the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line.” http://www.bullyonline.org/workbully/teachers.htm
Teachers are leaving the profession in droves with approximately 47,700 leaving in 2010-2011 [source] and when polled:
“77% of young teachers said that in their experience, the Coalition Government’s education policies are having a negative impact on the pupils they teach;
97% of young teachers said that the Coalition Government rarely or never respects or values teachers;
Nearly four in ten (39%) of young teachers said that the punitive accountability system was the main reason for 40% of new teachers leaving the profession within five years. Giving all teachers a pay rise in line with the cost of living and giving them more professional autonomy would most encourage new entrants to remain in teaching, young teachers said;
Over half (56%) of young teachers said they had experienced bullying and harassment during their teaching careers;
Administration, inspection and lesson planning are the biggest generators of excessive workload, according to young teachers.”
Statistically, it is interesting to note that somewhere in the region of 50% of new teachers have already left teaching within their first five years and in a joint survey by the county’s two largest teaching unions the NUT and the NASUWT 84% of teachers felt demoralised and over 50% had seriously considered leaving the profession in the previous twelve months [source].
Discontent in the teaching profession is high but staff are determined to ensure that their pupils receive the best that is available to them. I recently spoke to one teacher who had logged a total of 96 additional hours of work to ensure that ONE pupil received the additional support that he was entitled to.
Those outside of education may be unaware of the additional tasks undertaken by teaching staff. Marking and preparation make up a proportion of this as you would expect but many hours are needed every week to complete additional tasks such as: completing individual education plans for children with additional learning needs, dealing with pupil indiscipline, telephoning parents, entering pupil data onto school database systems so that the progress can be monitored and analysed, writing reports, analysing performance data, producing and updating seating plans, writing and re-writing work schemes to reflect constant changes in school policy to meet new Government directives, undertaking quality assurance of work schemes, pupil work, teacher’s work etc., undertaking intervention with pupils at lunch times or after school to allow them to catch up following an absence or if they’re falling behind their target grades, many hours of operational and planning meetings, etc. The list is seemingly endless and I’ve yet to meet a teacher who has said that they go home at night and they are completely up-to-date!. Far from refusing to undertake additional tasks, teachers are constantly on the lookout for software and tips from colleagues that help them to complete these tasks more quickly.
What is less widely reported is how the Government is systematically dismantling the state education system itself in an effort to re-build something that resembles their private or Grammar school experiences. Changes to the National Curriculum are imposed seemingly with little regard as to what the professionals who will be delivering it actually think of it. The Government favours Ebacc which leaves little room in the timetable to teach creative subjects such as Drama, Art, Music and DT and in doing so devalues them creating concern amongst many teachers [source]. Coursework in many subjects has already been shelved and written exams have been introduced into BTEC courses which means many of our weaker learners are likely to struggle to achieve their desired grades. How can removing the ability to allow pupils with different learning needs and abilities to succeed be a sensible policy? To quote Albert Einstein:
Which, sadly, in reality translates to:
To clarify what the media fail to report; it’s teachers’ pay AND pension AND changes to working conditions AND workload that is under dispute part of which is removing from them the ability to help all children to succeed in whichever area of education that they are able to excel in.