On 30th September, Nicky Morgan delivered her inaugural speech as the Secretary of State for Education to the Conservative Party Conference.
Following her speech, the NUT released a press statement which reiterated some of the points from their “Teachers and Workload” survey carried out in September 2014. The tone of this report is depressing and tragic – be warned, but please read.
“Today’s NUT survey shows that teachers are at breaking point with 90% saying they had considered giving up teaching during the past two years because of workload. The Education Secretary needs to address this issue urgently. The NUT can provide solutions. We know that much of the workload is completely unnecessary and a result of accountability measures, driven by Ofsted.”
NUT Press Release: 30.9.14
It appears that Nicky Morgan has some reading to do over the next few days to fully comprehend the significance of this NUT survey.
Here’s a taster.
- Over one third of respondents say they think about leaving teaching “fairly constantly”, with a further 46% saying they consider it “from time to time”
- 90% have considered leaving teaching in the last two years
- 96.5% say that workload has negative consequences for family or personal life
- 80% say that there are excessive expectations on marking work / excessive book scrutiny
- 82% say more trust in teachers will help persuade teachers thinking of leaving to stay in the profession
This goes beyond the stereotypical “whinging teachers”. This is very serious indeed. If this was a survey carried out by a large private company, CEOs would lose their jobs, stock market share prices would crash, troubleshooters would be employed and something would be done.
In education, we’re not dealing with commodities unless you are of the school of thought that thinks our children and young people are commercialised products. We are talking about human beings – the ‘workforce’, the students, their parents and carers. This level of despair can’t continue. Something MUST be done.
In the evening, @TeacherROAR took to Twitter with the hashtag #TellNicky – asking people to tweet some ideas for the Secretary of State. Within half an hour #TellNicky was trending as the most popular subject for discussion on the British Twitter feed. After an hour, it was estimated that over 680,000 people had viewed or contributed to the discussion. Let’s Hope that Nicky Morgan was one of them.
There were some heartfelt pleas and some sad, but not unexpected, stories told.
Here are a few that caught our eye from the Facebook page.
- I personally know of so many intelligent, hardworking, amazing teachers who are sinking under the weight of ridiculous targets and unreasonable pressures and sacrificing their own families and relationships in the meantime.
- I used to manage the workload because I loved teaching so much. Now the job is about getting results at any price and the price is the children’s real education. Lessons are so scripted to show progress a monkey could teach them. No spontaneity or inspirational teaching.
- Every day I have to explain which KS4 students are exceeding their targets and which aren’t. There isn’t a day goes by without me having to justify or make excuses for what we do. I’m in my seventeenth year of teaching and I’m renowned for being ultra-organised and efficient; this job, though, is killing me.
- So sad to read these comments. Broken people, in a broken system, trying to hold it together, while they continue do a job they love. I left teaching at Christmas and am still slowly sticking the pieces back together.
- I have already left teaching only this year. The demands of the job have made it impossible for me to look after my own young son properly. The amount of paperwork and evidence trail was beyond belief. I loved teaching too.
For anyone reading this who thinks that teachers’ concerns are only about themselves, then read on. That is NOT the case.
- I want to educate the whole child to be a world citizen, not be pushed aside for the juggernaut of English and Maths. They are important but they should not be the only goal of education.
- Every day I see children with emotional and mental health issues and know that I am part of the problem because I am part of a system that has league tables at the forefront of its mind. We aren’t allowed to let children be children.
Our teachers care. Our teachers are creative and professional. They’ve endured so much change over the last few decades yet will readily accept more change if it means their professionalism will be acknowledged with education policy, practice and pedagogy placed firmly back in their hands – as it is in the most successful education systems globally.
#TellNicky worked well but it’s now time to collate the positive ideas from these tweets and see how they can be worked into a series of new aims for education – that places the wellbeing of pupils at the heart of education as well as their academic development.
Here are a few tweets that show just how committed our teachers are and how their dedication to future generations is the main drive for them getting up in the morning and going to work.
- Listen to Pasi Sahlberg in his book Finnish Lessons. In Finland a love of learning is more important than passing endless tests. (@Bouffigue1)
- It’s time to start listening to the teachers you claim to hold in such high esteem. (@supernash69)
- To let teachers and unions decide on a progressive curriculum all areas. Tell politicians to leave it alone! (@Chrissy_Kelly)
- Teacher morale is not a luxury, it is essential for our kids to feel secure and valued and engaged with their learning (@vinwynne)
- Schools don’t exist in a vacuum. If the children live in poverty, it doesn’t stay at home during school hours (@MrDuttonPeadbody)
- Reverse the dumbing down of Initial Teacher Training, end Schools Direct. Even Ofsted says universities provide the best quality (@Yrotitna)
- That privatisation has not helped railways, power, etc and will not help school system. Cooperation needed. (@Dianne_Khan)
- That children deserve to be treated as people, not products and outcomes (@fred161)
- We get angry because we care about the children and we want to give them the best education we can. Simple. (@wilburpig)
- we need experts running education, the leader of which is answerable to a cross-party select committee. (@pleasepresshere)
- Our children deserve us at our best! Please get rid of time consuming and unnecessary jobs and let us get back to what matters! (@kirstie1988)
- Marking and assessment very important but let me choose how I achieve that – and free up time from other pointless practices (@apf102)
- Take into account all needs not just academic (@smugs59)
- Children are pushed into specific skills too young, and before they have had the chance to develop vital concepts (@NJLury)
- Value art craft and design for creativity, well being and an essential contributer to the creative, media and digital industries (@LBNSEAD)
- That it breaks my heart a little bit every time a child asks,’what level am I?’ You’re not a level, you’re a person (@SaysMiss)
- No primary school child should be obsessed with levels (@Yorkshireramble)
- We want our children treated as young people with needs, interests and personalities, not just data points in exam factories. (@Par4Ed)
- That teachers are full of ideas for improving education, if only she’d listen! (@TeacherROAR)
Here are a few of @3Diassociates’ tweets to #TellNicky…………………….
- To listen to young people. They know more about what’s good for them & education than most politicians. Also check out UN Rights
- Not to underestimate the passion of the educators. Look what happened to her predecessor. Children come first
- Education is about developing emotionally & socially intelligent people as well as intellectual capability.
- All schools have a “duty to promote Wellbeing” Ask Ofsted inspectors about their level of knowledge re Wellbeing & PSHE
- Situation is so bad that teachers want change even though they’ve endured imposed change for years. This time we want autonomy.
- Teachers have so many ideas for learning. We are prevented from being creative by time & curriculum constraints. Not good for YP
- Poor mental health & ridiculous stress levels because of exams are damaging our children & their teachers. Do something now.
- Homophobia? Low self-worth? PSHE ought to be mandatory. It does resilience too!
- Nicky has no magic wand for education. Give education back to educationalists. We have some ideas for learning & workload
There’s passion even through exhaustion. There’s plenty to be positive about even amidst the overwhelming sadness for the state of the profession’s stress and unmanageable workloads and the concerns for our children.
One final point, we do hope this list of concerns and ideas are not just considered by Nicky Morgan but also by Tristram Hunt. There are some very positive ideas that could be included in a positive manifesto for change – and Tristram is wrong – change is wanted and it’s not all about qualified teacher status.