Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The looming crisis

According to reports in several newspapers, there is a looming crisis in the British education system created by an acute shortage of teachers.

Numbers of pupils in secondary schools are expected to spike by more than 500,000 to 3.3 million by 2025. Set that figure against the fact that the overall number of full-time teachers in secondary schools fell by 10,000 between 2010 and 2015 and you can sense the problem.

A YouGov poll found that 53 per cent of teachers were considering leaving teaching and it wasn’t just experienced senior staff. 11,000 young teachers actually leave in training, an exodus that has tripled in the last six years and points to a terrible loss of energy and new talent into teaching.

Shortages lead schools to spend £733million on supply teachers from agencies. Apart from the stress on school's budgets that are being constantly cut, a supply teacher can often be just a "bum in the classroom" because they are  used to fill in for subjects that they have no specialisation in.

Why do so many teachers want to leave?

A regime of inspections by OFSTED which seeks to destroy rather than support teachers has not helped. An increasing workload has not helped either. Teachers are weary and feel undervalued by governments that  constantly criticise them and pick faults in their work. When did you ever read a report by government that said teachers were doing a great job? Instead of praising the good work that many do, it is easier to find fault with the few who fail.

During term times, many teachers work late into the night marking and preparing for their lessons. And those long holidays that people complain about are often cut into by visits to the school just to keep up with classroom management.

There is also a problem for teachers who, too often face low level disruption in their classrooms. Exclusion units that helped in these cases became unfashionable as teachers were told that inclusion was the right of every pupil. You could sense the logic when you saw the same children spending much of their time outside their normal classroom. Exclusion units tended to offer simple repetitive tasks to occupy the children rather than any actual teaching.

Of more concern than minor disruption, in an increasing number of cases, teachers have also had to suffer abuse, either mental or physical, from their empowered pupils. Going to work only to be bruised in this way is no fun. Often, the teachers are told that it is their fault, the abuse is a result of their failing.

Teachers, perhaps more than most other workers, need support and guidance to make the most of their pupil's abilities. Sadly, it is easier to dismiss failing teachers than it is to support them. All those adverts about a rewarding and worthwhile career must seem to be a joke to many in British classrooms today.

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