Why do we never learn as teachers? It seems that not a month goes by without us angrily reacting to something that the current Secretary of State for Education has said or that the current Chief Inspector of Ofsted has pronounced.
We get riled by a press release or a headline in the national press, feel unloved and misunderstood and then say our morale is low. Then our unions bluster and put out counter statements which go unheeded or continue to flog horses long since dead (Academy resistance anybody?)
It’s always the same, but for me it’s odd that as people paid to educate others, we don’t learn form our mistakes and stop exhibiting behaviour that clearly doesn’t work.
Yes, an education secretary will say something unhelpful and uniformed- most of them have never been teachers nor have many of their advisers and the vast majority of the people working at the DfE. We know this. Yes, an education secretary will use education as a political football and try to score points against the other side. It’s what they do, education, like health is political. We are men and women of the world, we are sophisticates, we know this. Yes they will say that standards are too low. If they don’t then it means the previous administration did a good job, which ruling party in their right mind wants that message to get out? We’ve been around, we’ve played the game a few times we know this.
Oh, but it seems we don’t…
Lets be clear here. There was no golden age of education. It wasn’t better before. There was time when standards for many were too low for too many. That time has gone. The school work force is more skilled and professional than ever before. Talk to any body who has been in education for 15 years + they will tell you that. Education is improved and there is scope for it to improve further. We are in a more accountable age in all spheres, that’s life and its as it should be- its kids futures we are dealing with here.
I’d also like to address the issue of morale. No, it’s not helpful for prominent people to say negative things about our profession. It’s a bit of a shot in the foot for the same people to then turn around and say we want to attract the brightest and best into the profession. However a person far away in Whitehall or on the Today programme, or writing in a broadsheet does not affect the morale of a classroom teacher. You know what does? A head teacher who creates a culture mistrust and undue bureaucracy . A senior leadership team who doesn’t support staff with issues of behaviour or seeks to blame rather than working with staff to support and develop together. Leadership teams who forget that repeatedly measuring a thing doesn’t improve it and use Ofsted as a stick to create fear cultures and increase stress with nonsense such as ‘Mocksteds’ . These are the things that make teachers leave the profession. Not a person on TV talking about what he thinks he knows.
They don’t know. We know. We live it. We lead our schools and we teach our kids and we do it day in day out. We’ll be doing it when they move to another post. Let them say what they will. We’ll keep one ear open and tick their compulsory boxes but we’ll discard what doesn’t work in our own contexts with the children we teach. We’ll do the rest our way and enable kids to learn. We’ll form alliances with other education professionals who feel the same way and we’ll keep getting better. We’ll put our energy into that rather than whistling into the wind.