I’m personally sick of hearing “6 weeks’ summer holiday, that must be easy” every time I announce that I’m a teacher. Teaching isn’t and never has been an easy profession. In a recent conference I attended, I was privy to a discussion regarding the troubles and difficulties facing the education system today.
The news is constantly drawing up figures and implications of the budget cuts, but the struggle goes much further than that, it’s the lack of qualified teachers and guidance available for schools, it’s the pressure from the national curriculum and the pressure surrounding ensuring students make adequate progress from primary to secondary school.
We are entering into an era where there are few experts within the education system, schools are forced to look for guidance from each other as opposed to some sort of authority, which leads to poor decision making. More often than not you’ll find head teachers that haven’t actually completed their NPQH. One colleague at the event mentioned that 17 schools in her district lost head teachers, and only 3 of which had been replaced by a qualified teacher.
More and more staff are working longer and longer days, some more than 60 hours a week, simply to make up for the staffing problem. It’s common to find teachers crossing over multiple subjects and teaching way beyond their knowledge base.
“A head teacher is only as good as their last set of results.” This was a recurring theme at the conference. As educators, we constantly fear for our job security, no wonder we pressure our students into achieving the best possible results, it’s our livelihoods at stake. Results day is just as nerve-wracking for the teachers and head teachers to boot. Schools are under constant pressure to save money and make cuts and if your results aren’t satisfactory then you’re first in the firing line.
Moving on to the most obvious challenge that we face: budget cuts. Education is facing the first real cuts to the system in 20 years. Schools are losing teaching assistants, counselling staff, and we’re losing the ability to improve our schools. Spending per pupil has already fallen in the past few years but it’s now expected to fall even more. How is it possible for an educator to provide excellent teaching to classes of 30+, when we have neither the resources or motivation to do so?