This is hardly my most structured rant but I am increasingly concerned that education is in crisis. I keep hearing worrying stories and tales – this is a reaction to that. I have no answers – only more questions and observations.
Has our education system already crashed and are we just beginning to see the irreversible symptoms?
I have been in London this weekend. On Saturday afternoon I caught up with some friends in Piccadilly. One of our friends is a very prominent Mental Health professional and she said something that has troubled me all weekend. She said she has had a sudden and unprecedented rise in the number of teachers being referred to her. She said, “I would love to get the numbers on this… but it’s significant”. We didn’t have much time to talk but I asked a few questions such as why and what for. It seems that this is at the crux of it:
Work related pressure – pressure put on to teachers by the current school climate.
My concern is whiplash can be worse than the initial impact. It’s legacy stays with victims far beyond the moment. It is after the incident we see the reverberations of the mistakes that led to the crash. I do not hear prominent voices really doing anything to support the teaching profession, right now and right here.
Who is best placed to explore what is happening and what the future implications will be? Who will see education through this potential crisis? I do not hear any particular outcry for teacher well-being; apart from a few blogs here or a few voices there. Though if we dug a little deeper is there a mental health crisis within teaching? Unions are beginning to stir but is this enough? Is it too little too late? As a school leader this worries me because I know that I can easily be part of the problem (certainly many teachers feel it is SLT that are at the heart of the problem) and know how difficult it is to reverse or change what is happening right now.
School leaders, teachers and parents need to come together to stand up for what is right in education. I see parents in particular as a massive voice in ensuring their children get a top quality education wherever they live and whatever their circumstances. Experience tells me the biggest barrier is here. Parents need to think beyond their own children and in to the hearts and minds of all parents. We have to be selfless in this campaign. I don’t want to hear about small elitist ideas. I want to know about state education; education for the vast majority.
Investment in our school infrastructure. I got an email this weekend saying the LA are giving redundancy seminars for headteachers and School Business Managers. How have we got to this with so little outcry?
High quality professional teachers whose knowledge, skills and moral purpose is at the heart of policy. Teachers who are trusted because they know the classroom. In the same way dentists are trusted because they know teeth. Why have some SLT been allowed to wreck havoc with teachers professional craft when they should have been the champions of it? Very soon there will be less headteachers from my generation who do understand teachers and teaching.
Accountability that works for everyone in the community rather that as a political soundbite based on trying to keep up with the international Jones. We must be better than this.
School leaders are under incredible pressure right now. It is more pronounced than in any time in my career (over 20 years). Finance, recruitment, targets, a narrowing curriculum, multiple expectations, well-being, job security and moral purpose are all at stake and the cards have been dealt. This is no longer something that we can say might be coming. I have a feeling that it is here and we have been too slow to do anything about it.
January 22, 2017 at 2:57 pm
As a parent, an educationalist and a social entrepreneur, I agree we HAVE to stand up to a top down system that is crushing our children, our teachers and educational leaders and our future. I’m with you all the way…
January 22, 2017 at 5:01 pm
Have long thought that this day would come when the system simply collapsed. For too long schools have been expected to act as society’s gatekeeepers, righters of wrongs and solvers of all ills. It’s not possible and it’s happening right across the public sector.
January 22, 2017 at 5:59 pm
I think we’re definitely reaching the end point of a certain type of school improvement. I’m willing to accept that the Hero Leader / Laying down the law / High Intensity / Tracking + intervention model was needed- perhaps quite widely- to shake up schools, and that it led to pupils leaving school knowing more, being able to do more, and having more future options.
Up to a point.
One catch is that it’s only worked in some schools. Another catch is that the intensity has had a negative effect on the peace of mind of pupils and school staff.
More importantly, the low-hanging fruit has been picked; the schools where this approach has helped have been helped. It hasn’t helped everywhere, and it would be good to see other things being tried. But we’ve had a decade or so of hammers being issued. Even if the problems aren’t nails, it sometimes seems that the system can’t go beyond hitting with the hammer harder and harder.
January 23, 2017 at 4:21 pm
I’m not willing to accept we reaped any lasting benefits from ‘the Hero Leader / Laying down the law’ approach. I believe the well-being of many of those held up as ‘Hero Leaders’ was also adversely affected.
Don’t true collaboration and unity provide the best foundation for purposeful and sustained growth? And aren’t enabling relationships one of the best ways to reach that place of collaboration and unity? To my mind, we need an atmosphere of mutual trust and support to move us on from the current climate of judgement, self-preservation and defensiveness.
January 23, 2017 at 4:41 pm
I’ve been teaching for 25+ years and respect for teachers from inside the profession seems to be at a low water mark. In particular, we are expected to do stuff of no educational worth and no one asks Why? Education has become an industrial machine with buttons being pushed because – for example – it’s what they expect? No evidence is offered as to who they are, and very few dare to ask searching questions. It’s as bad as it has been at anytime – no one with authority speaks up effectively for teachers or, more importantly, for the children they teach.
July 15, 2019 at 3:05 am
Good post. I absolutely appreciate this site. Keep writing!
July 15, 2019 at 5:58 am
Thank you. Finding time and new content is always a challenge but will keep writing something I am sure.