Since September 2013, I’ve been the deputy head of a large primary school in inner London. The headteacher I work with is fantastic. We have a committed, talented team of staff and governors and the young people I teach are always entertaining. The pay is pretty good. I’ll soon be ready to apply for the top job at a school of my own.Hurrah! A happy, satisfied teacher – how often do you see this in a major newspap…
Oh. I knew it was too good to be true.
But I’m not going to. In July I’m walking away from the profession that has been my life for more than 12 years and I genuinely don’t know if I’m ever coming back.Well, what seems to be the issue?
During the last three years of the Labour government, there was a real sense of light at the end of the tunnel. After more than a decade, it felt as if it had finally come to understand primary education. Under the impressive leadership of Ed Balls…*pause for blogger to refrain from laughing hysterically*
… the rebranded Department for Children, School and Families issued edicts that kind of made sense. It ditched what remained of the national strategies which dictated how maths and English should be taught and they commissioned Sir Jim Rose to produce a comprehensive review of the primary curriculum. This suggested that traditional subject divides be replaced with broader areas of learning and stressed the importance of play, particularly for younger pupils. It promoted the development of good speaking and listening skills and the value of nurturing character traits in young people such as resilience and independence, as well as the clear focus on maths and English that already existed. The Rose Review set out a direction of travel which almost everyone that knew about education agreed with. Everyone, that is, apart from the new shadow Education Secretary. And there was an election looming. Enter stage hard right, Michael Gove.Ah, The Bogeyman!
Here to undo all of Labour’s efforts to turn pupils into Labour-voting mini SJWs, and usher back in a school curriculum designed to teach them how to read, write and add up instead.
But 2012 was the turning point. Ofsted’s obsession with results and the threat of no-notice inspections for schools whose test scores dipped engendered a culture of fear. Terrified by the threat of losing their jobs in an academy takeover, headteachers made more absurd demands of their teachers’ spare time. The Government stepped up the anti-teacher rhetoric in the media as they fought battles with unions over cuts to pensions and the introduction, against all the evidence, of performance-related pay.Everyone else has performance-related pay. Why shouldn’t teachers?
We used to inspire young people, open their minds to new possibilities and give them a lifelong love of learning. Heaven knows what this strange game we’re now playing is supposed to accomplish. Teaching was once a creative, optimistic, energising job. Not in the Gove-Morgan world of coordinating conjunctions and “formal written methods”.Fancy expecting results! Fancy expecting some form of distinguishing the best performers from the dross! What do these people think, that teaching is some sort of job or something?!?
Got a passion for music? Primary teaching is not for you. Want to inspire children with drama? Go hug a tree. Think children should learn about their local area? Officially that’s fine (it’s on the meaningless, untested part of the curriculum) but just make sure you link it to grammar objectives because any child that doesn’t understand the grammatical role of the subjunctive mood at the age of 11 will be branded a failure.Well, they can always go work for a major advertising company, I suppose…
Meanwhile, it seems teachers in most other schools are monitored, examined, scrutinised and graded as though working a 55-hour week for 32 hours’ pay is a special privilege.I think you’ll struggle to find any traditionally ‘middle-class’ job role now that isn’t ‘monitored, examined, scrutinised and graded’, won’t you? And why should teachers be exempt from this?
Good luck finding a job where you can make stuff up as you go along and no-one ever checks that you’re worth your hire, Tim...