We’ve all seen the headlines. Teachers are leaving in the droves. Teacher’s workloads are unmanageable.The educational apocalypse is coming!
Ok, maybe not that dramatic. However, there are some clear issues within the education sector that everyone can see. Funding is no longer as high as it was previously, education seems to now be predominantly data driven and teachers don’t feel appreciated enough to be the best they can be. Ok so let’s have a look at each of the issues in turn and actually, think about it.
Funding is no longer as high as it was previously
Well yes, this is true, but if you think about it this is the same thing being said everywhere. Private and public businesses are tightening their purse strings because no one has spare income and governments are constantly shedding public spending in order to get over the economic crash from over a decade ago. I am a very positive person and I am very much aware of the struggles of the lack of funding, more conscious poverty and working poverty, that are amongst other struggles in this sector but I can safely say that even with ALL of these issues, teachers are still giving the precious gift of education to students. Everyone deserves to have an education and it is no surprise that at the front line of our education system are the teachers and teaching assistants (those who are still surviving) essentially putting on their armour and shields and protecting the students as much as they can. These valiant Knights of Education work in an environment that looks to keep a consistent, high level of education all the while school buildings are crumbling, freezing or just falling to pieces. Teachers are no stranger to obstacles in their way but somehow, they always come through with a battalion of lessons, schemes of works, and a cavalry of ideas to fuel student’s brains every single lesson, every day. We should reward these warriors of knowledge, with money yes, but also with appreciation and understanding from us all.
Education seems to now be predominantly data driven
Partly true. However, this is also the same in all other businesses too. There are, I agree, some unnecessary stats in Education which I believe do very little to show us anything. There is also an issue with data collation in schools too. Now more than ever data drives the league tables, internal assessment tables, GCSE uptake, Ever 6 students, FSM students, SEN students the list goes on. The collation and input of this data is often delivered at the door of the teacher who has very little time to give themselves effectively to data input, but it is the deliverance and results of that data that often determines their fate within the school. As a teacher I remember staying up until 3am inputting year 8 assessment data while marking the assessments as I went along, all the while I was also marking homework, planning lessons for the next day and making resources in my data breaks. Now some data does have to be delivered by teachers, some are just unavoidable, but there are some that can be delegated to members of staff who do not teach or just be scrapped entirely. This decision is dependent on each school and the culture put in place by the Senior Leadership Team (SLT). Change needs to start with SLT, all of the data that is currently with schools are not all entirely necessary and have been accumulating over many years without anyone filtering or questioning them. As a member of SLT they have the authority and skill set to stand up for the teachers under their command and have the authority in the SLT board meetings to say; ‘Guys, I had a look at our data and there is a number of data collations that we have that actually do not benefit us as a school’
You just need one brave SLT member to say that and the data driven culture that we’ve all come to know will fall.
Teachers don’t feel appreciated enough to be the best they can be
As a society we do not appreciate teachers as much as we should. There is a systemic lack of recognition of the importance of the teaching profession, which is a calamity for all of society. The apparent jealousy for the long summer holidays and the seemingly envious working hours of 9am- 3pm is so embedded in society’s perception of teaching that society itself struggles to fully comprehend the complexities and multifaceted nature of teaching in this modern climate.
Yes, that is a mouthful, but it’s the truth. When society looks at teaching as a profession, they immediately think of teachers from their childhood they didn’t like, or they produce a blame station on the teachers for being unhelpful to their own children. The latter is some what justified as every parent wants the best for their child, and in the midst of knowing that maybe their child is not the best behaved, nevertheless, they expect the teacher to be able to deal with them effectively. They forget about the other 29 students in the class because their focus is on one. A teacher’s focus is on 30 students, not one. As someone who was a Teaching Assistant before I qualified as a teacher, I used to tell the students how lucky they were in comparison to some of the teachers that I even had as a child, I fell into the trap. Teachers choose a profession where they are held accountable by not only the school and OFSTED, but also held accountable to parents, students and their colleagues. Sometimes, a teacher can feel like there are multiple battles going on at any one time on all flanks. So, it is understandable that teachers feel overwhelmed, feel like a failure sometimes, feel undervalued. So, the change in this attitude towards the teaching profession and teacher as a whole needs to come from the very top. The Government need to deal with long overdue policies on workload, funding and salary. Then, in addition each school needs to create satisfaction and retention strategies for their schools. I have written about ways to do this in a previous blog, but they can include, weekly prizes, cake in the staff room and CPD training. These can be easily implemented and relatively cheap.
These are my opinions and observations of the current conversations in education right now. I’ve worked in the education sector for quite some time now and I know how our teachers feel. They need their motivators, their cheerleaders, their champions. I am honoured to be their cheerleader, pom poms and all.