On Tuesday we will be able to read a ‘state of the nation’ study of England’s education system published by the Institute of Education. It is already causing quite a storm because it is clear that the report will highlight that coalition reforms which set out to free our education system from the madness of LA red tape is increasing inequality within the system and in turn causing high levels of stress amongst teachers. No one working in a school is surprised. We have clear facts showing us that the retention of early career teachers is lower and there is a clear downward trend in teacher retention rates.
But it is the DFE spokesperson quote that caught my eye the most this morning:
“Thanks to our reforms and the hard work of teachers, the vast majority of pupils are in a good or outstanding school, 1.9 million more than in 2010, and an increase from 66% to 86% over that time.”
So, the reforms must be working? That is a great statistic. If I was Mr Gove I’d be beaming a very smug smile as I slurped my coffee this morning. The reforms have made a difference to outcomes across our country and we should be rejoicing. So why aren’t we then? Why is the debate so polarised? Is this, as one politician alluded to me this week – just people playing at Politics?
Nick Gibb wrote on twitter this week, “Unions have now admitted that their claims that schools would lose money next year are inaccurate, school funding is protected in real terms per pupil – contrary to some inaccurate and misleading claims”
To which Kevin Courtney replied:
On the question of school funding. Compared with last school year England’s schools have 137,000 MORE pupils but: 5400 FEWER teachers
2800 FEWER teaching assistants
1400 FEWER support staff
1200 Fewer auxiliary staff
We are all playing at politics right now and like Brexit none of us really know what to believe. The only person many of us seem to be able to relate to is Danny Dyer – of all people!. There is so much information that much of it seems to cloud the facts. In fact, the facts no longer seem relevant. They can be plastered across buses or written in reports but no one really knows what to believe any more. Social trust is so low that we no longer feel secure and we are terrified that our society is crashing down before our very eyes. We know that:
“Trust affects the well-being of individuals, as well as the well-being of civic society.” The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett p56
Therefore, this constant battling of facts and figures based on fundamentally different political visions has overpowered the experiences of people who are doing the job. People who are experiencing the day to day realities of working in schools. Nick Gibb can effectively argue his side and be supported by facts… but the reality as a headteacher going in to schools everyday is the needs within schools are increasing;
Mental health issues without our communities are UP whereas access to important services are DOWN
The costs of National Insurance and meeting the minimum wage are UP whereas money to pay for this has not been provided.
I know of heads who are having to make over £200,000 worth of cuts in their budget. I had to do that 3 years ago. This isn’t because we are spending more on mad schemes… this is because the basic costs are more. That is a fact – though I’m looking forward to the clever info-graphic to say it isn’t.
Teachers are stressed and are leaving or talking about leaving… they are unhappy and no matter what you try to do as a school they feel that the job is impacting upon their well-being. There is a perfect storm brewing where schools will not be able to put teachers in to classrooms. In fact we are already seeing it.
This lack of trust extends to the community. I see vicious attacks on school leaders via Facebook posts calling for heads to roll when decisions are made. Often these decisions are basic day to day ones that only make minor changes… and yet the comments are personal and damning. I know of many head teachers who are scared of making certain decisions because the impact those attacks have on their health are VERY real.
It is hard not to express how you feel in this social media circus and I too have posted things in disagreement that must be annoying to read. This only helps to ensure that the trust distance just gets wider. I am quite sure I will never be on Nick Gibbs Christmas card list. And yet… I bet we all want the same thing? Our education system to be the best it can be. To educate our children to the highest standards. I have to believe that. If I was Nick Gibb those DFE spokesperson stats would make comforting reading. We need to somehow find a better trust position between us though. We need a better forum for debate than “Twatter” (Sic) or Angrybook. We need more people to listen to each other and really try to get to the roots of statistics OVER personal experiences. I really do feel that the biggest problem we have in politics today (And lets face it EVERYTHING seems to be political) is a lack of love and understanding and a religious belief in the sanctity of statistics. It feels as though we are currently in the middle of a very modern civil war and someone needs to bring us together. Someone needs to take the middle ground again and build communities of trust because that is the only way we will get through this with hope in our hearts rather than vitriol in our veins.