Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Why a retired headteacher and current governor supports today's teachers' strike

It is simple really: teachers have no choice but to strike if they are to stop education spiralling into a crisis that will damage thousands of children. A one day strike is inconvenient - Michael Gove and the Global Education Reform Movement is a catastrophe.

The DfE and Ofsted would have us believe that the quality of education our children receive is dependent on tough 'super' head teachers and their senior management teams following government diktat. It is not.

What is important is the quality of the teaching force, their creativity and their commitment. At a day to day level is is important that they should not be tired, frazzled, over-burdened with paperwork and fearful of the next monitoring visit.

Labour and now the Coalition have put the teaching force under incredible strain in terms of workload and have accompanied this by attacks on their professionalism and their conditions of service. Pensions have been cut and contributions increased, take home pay has declined 17% since 2010 and they are now expected to work until the age of 68.

Imagine for a moment  teaching a class of  lively 5 year olds as a 68 year old! The fact is that it will be a huge strain and  bad for teacher and child. Governors and parents must realise this is something they cannot countenance. Teachers will end up retiring early due to ill-health or will be subject to 'competency' procedures that will end their careers on a sad and sour note.

Teachers are leaving the profession in increasing numbers with many young teachers giving up exhausted and frustrated after five years. Recruitment of headteachers is in crisis. Morale is plummeting.

The introduction of performance related pay will tie teachers ever closer to target driven lessons related to spurious data based on testing. 'Standards' may go up but in reality will reflect more 'teaching to the test'.

But worse is waiting in the wings. The employment of unqualified teachers by free schools and academies is a wedge that will be used to increase the employment of unqualified teachers in local authority schools faced by declining budgets. This deskilling and deprofessionalisation is no accident because corporations such as Murdoch (Gove's ex-employer) and Pearsons are on hand to supply schools with ipad based curriculum packages for individualised learning - much cheaper than teachers and supervised by low paid teaching assistants.

I respect teachers and have seen their commitment over the years and now in the schools where I am a governor. I am not surprised that the research shows that they work a 60 hour week to keep up with the planning and paperwork. I am impressed that despite this they find time to organise and supervise residential visits with children, organise sleepovers at the Science Museum, run afterschool clubs and fund raise at the School Fair.

Their commitment to children and their learning is immense but continually undermined by government interference and bullying and an inspection system that induces fear rather than positive partnership for improvement.

Support the teachers today for a better tomorrow for our children.

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