As the pressures, negativity, dictats and demoralisation increase so does the turnover of staff in schools. Recruitment becomes a crisis (a crisis which is currently with us although it will not be reported). And so this particular educational cycle wearily follows the well trodden path. What could change? What can be done to redress the resulting damage to the futures of children and young people?
Probably not the government’s appallingly cynical meddling for perceived political gain.
Here’s a an idea/suggestion. We encourage anyone who has taught to make a point of using, whenever they can, their QTS initials and to look for opportunities to continue to fulfil part of the role of a teacher at home, at work or in the community. Teachers are trained to be ambassadors for the safety, wellbeing, encouragement and development of young people. If we produce around 40,000 teachers each year and the number currently employed is around 400,000 then the number qualified and not currently teaching must be in the millions (many in high profile jobs and roles). We should celebrate the time these teachers gave and understand that many move, quite naturally, into and out of the profession. We should also continue to encourage and value the contribution that the ‘have moved on from working in school cohort’ can make. We should raise the profile, and society’s awareness, appreciation and use of, the millions of skilled ambassadors for education in their midst.
The increasing availability and reach of news and information has further reinforced the struggle for influence over what we read and what we hear. The current indignation from some newspapers, about having their right to destroy people’s lives curtailed, is interesting. Yes, we need a balance to ensure that their ability to expose corruption and injustice is not impeded. However, we also need to have an open debate and the fact of the matter is that the media, by and large, enage in forms of social and political ‘propaganda’ that further undermines their case for any form of exemption.
I notice that many radio stations and wireless internet providers are SKY News based. SKY news is ‘right’ leaning and does not give the same balance of reporting as the BBC, who are required to put both sides.
All of this makes the role of education critical. We can begin, from an early age, discussing how important it is to explain things fairly. We also need to explain that people who want to tell you things will have a motive for doing so. What is that motive?
The best way is always to find out the range of views that people have before deciding on your own. It is basically a scientific method. Gather all the facts and different poits of view before trying to make sense of it. Another argument for placing philosophy and the search for truth at the heart of the curriculum.
Individual human beings tend to organise their lives around evidence driven decision making. We base decisions on the impact evidence we have accrued over our lifetimes; cause and effect, the great lessons of learning by doing. Important decisions cause us to take stock and mull over everything we know, as well as the collected wisdom of others who we might consult. Career moves, big purchase decisions, how we treat other people, the management of our health – all informed by what we know about the impact of previous activity.
This process also relies upon being able to see the wood from the trees. Sometimes we plod on without realising the truth staring us in the face. One current example concerns hospitals. Why are the ambulances stacking up outside casualty units? Not enough staff inside the hospital and too many ‘casualties’ are the obvious answers. If we can reduce the number of ‘casualties’ we could solve the problem. We need to find ways of helping people access local medical care, in particular, the burgeoning population of the elderly who clog up the system because there is nowhere else for them to go. More local ‘hospitals’ for the majority who do not need the main hospital’s specialist care, is surely one solution.
Education does not always afford such accessible, observable evidence. However, there is some. One clear piece of impact evidence that we do have is the known cost of making changes to schools and curricula in terms of money and time. Another is the current decline in the numbers of those who want to train as teachers or even take up posts as headteachers.
In this case, it is not ambulances stacking up, it is teachers leaving the building. In both cases, surely such major impacts cry out to be the places where we need to look for answers?In this time of great challenge for all of our public services and the welfare state, surely the facts should overpower the prejudices? If that doesnt suit certain newspapers, it should certainly be the duty of the politicians.