|Photo from NUT March 2012
kindly supplied by Vicky, teacher, mother, friend. all round good egg.
Today the National Union of Teachers (my union before I moved to Rome) took strike action to defend their members and the education of the country’s children. Teachers are leaving the profession in droves, 2 out of 5 teachers will leave the profession after 5 years of teaching. When the head of OFSTED describes this as a national scandal we see how bad things have become. We really should ask ourselves why.
Speaking for myself, I can only say that I was immensely relieved to leave teaching in England (after only 4 years). Many of my current colleagues in Rome (young, passionate, amazing teachers) left the UK because of work overload and stress. Many of them don’t want to teach in England ever again. What we are asking of our teachers is not sustainable. 10 hour days are the norm, as is taking work home in the evenings and at weekends. I don’t know any teachers in the UK who work from 9-3.30. None. A 50-60 hour week is the experience of many. The constant pressures, the constant new initiatives, the constant changes to curriculum or assessment, the constant recording of everything that you or the children do as ‘evidence’ that you’re doing your job properly, the constant strain that whatever you do you’re not good enough, becomes unsupportable.
And that’s before you’ve even started teaching. If you’ve never spent 7 hours a day trying to motivate, encourage, control, engage, enthuse and teach 30 plus children all with a range of needs, behaviours and expectations, then you should. Most other European teachers start work 5 minutes before the children arrive and walk out of the gates with them. And it is STILL exhausting. Teaching is a wonderful job, but it is like having thirty little people suck the energy and resources out of you. Day in, day out. A 7 hour day is more than enough.
Asking teachers to do this physically (in three years I never once sat behind my desk in the classsroom) and mentally exhausting job until they are almost 70 is ridiculous. I was 31 when I left and I have never been more tired. Asking teachers to be paid on the basis of how well their particular class performs that year is ludicrous. We are not talking about a factory production line here – if you input this, the outcome is assured. Target setting and assessment in this way is only asking for trouble and skewed results. The striking teachers today want the best education for your children and they know that tired, stressed, demoralised teachers won’t provide that.