Thursday, 2 January 2014

Uniting for Education

A new year has begun and, for those involved in education, the outlook seems bleak.  Teacher morale is dangerously low, something actively welcomed by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools.  The government's 'free' school and academy programme has, as suggested by Gove's special adviser earlier this year, led to "disastrous teaching" and "financial fraud".  Possibly most worryingly, children's right to be taught by a qualified teacher has been removed, a move cynically announced on the opening day of the 2012 Olympics.

So, where does that leave us at the beginning of 2014?

As a parent, it leaves me deeply worried about the education of my children, the eldest of whom is due to start school in September.  I worry about what impact the pressure of OFSTED and SATs will have on the breadth and balance of her education.  I worry that her teachers may be among the 76% of teachers who are ill due to stress or the 64% who feel their professional ability and confidence has been damaged by stress.  I worry that her school may be one of the many to be targeted by an inspection system that has become a law unto itself and has little or nothing to do with improving education, and that her teachers will become the victims of an accountability culture that has itself become unaccountable.

I worry about these things because I know that they will have an impact on the quality of education she will receive.  It is a simple fact that you cannot put children first if you are always putting teachers last.  If you attack my child's teacher, you attack my child's education.

As a teacher, it leaves me worried about the future of the profession and of the vision that inspired us all to go into teaching.  We did not become teachers to respond to high-stakes testing of a narrow range of functional skills or to 'perform' for OFSTED.  We became teachers because we care passionately about educating children.

But there is one thing which gives me hope.

That is the fact that so many teachers, governors, parents and others are starting to see how wrong this is.  Teacher unions have begun to fight back - over testing, over pay deregulation, over pension cuts and over workload.  New parent and community groups have also begun to spring up in defence of their children's education.  And there are the inspiring battles that have been fought and are being fought against the privatisation of our schools - at Downhills, at Dorothy Barley and at many other schools.

That is why, for me, 2014 must be the year of uniting for education - the year when we bring together the teacher unions, parent and community groups, and all those who believe that our children deserve better, to take back our schools and our education.

No comments:

Post a comment