Politicians seem to ignore or are never briefed about certain inherent reasons as to why publicly flogging teachers and schools ‘to do better’ is doomed to failure. In fact, their policies often contribute greatly to large numbers of teachers leaving the profession within 5 years of qualifying. There are many issues I could raise (not least the policy that allows militant parents to set up free schools in defiance to counties which have democratically decided to phase out Middle Schools) but one stands out – the increasing demands on the profession caused by social and cultural upheaval.
I read today of the rising number of children arriving at school without being ‘toilet trained’. Without going into the reasons (more numerous of course at the current time) why children often appear to arrive at the school gates with so many disadvantages (emotional and health problems, poor literacy etc) it is clear that they are confronted by a system of schooling based largely on out dated middle class values and toyed with by ambitious politicians who seem not to consider or care about the full implications of their edicts.
A member of our family is a Primary NQT who works practically a 12 hour day and some of the week -end. Is this really the best use of highly trained and skilled professionals? Why do we not allow the new generation of teachers to say how the system should be run? Who else knows better? Another problem that goes unnoticed is not having the necessary 350,000 or so good teachers in place to run the system. Even if we could ensure this quota existed we can not ensure that they are all in the right place at the right time.
It may be that we need to rethink the model. Instead of having a front line army who deliver most of the teaching and a range of managers who compensate by doing the things that this front line group do not have the time to do, perhaps we need to increase the number of classroom staff by properly elevating the role of the para professional. I know the Unions would be concerned but perhaps we might begin with some carefully monitored and evaluated test cases.
We are unlikely to achieve improvements in performance by either children or teachers unless we recognise that teachers are having to do at least 2 jobs at once and sometimes 3. There is the job of being an educator, the job of being in loco parentis and the job of coping with the latest vote winning initiative from Whitehall. It is amazing that schools do as well as the majority are.