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Michael Gove, This Is Why I Am Leaving Teaching

14/08/2014 17:02 | Updated 20 May 2015

Education Secretary Michael Gove

A primary school teacher who is leaving the classroom after 14 years has written a scathing open letter to Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Lucy Fey, who works at an inner city primary school, outlined her reasons for quitting teaching in a letter published on the Facebook page of the Teacher Roar group, a group opposed to the Education Secretary's policies ('Love teaching? Hate what Gove is doing to it?').

In the heartfelt letter she pinpoints the frustrations of many teachers: "Until recently, I was not adept at data analysis. I now know that the pupils we are teaching are not simply children, they are numbers, percentages."

She continues: "There is nothing better than a class full of buzzing pupils, excited about what they are learning, taking ownership of the lesson. This is becoming increasingly hard to achieve when we expect so much from them. There is little time to have fun, to enquire, to be intrigued, to be children. They have too much pressure. They must, 'compete with the world's best'.

"Why are we damaging their self-esteem and confidence by trying to make them all fit into the same box?"

She concludes: "I handed my notice in last week. I can't do this to them anymore."

This is Lucy Fey's open letter in full:

Dear Mr Gove,

I am writing to thank you for teaching me so much about education. I have been a primary school teacher for 14 years and have always worked in challenging, inner city schools with many children who have complex behavioural and emotional needs.

According to my performance management, I am an 'outstanding' teacher. I feel that over the last few years my skills have diversified considerably.

I am proud to be able to say that each year my pupils' achievement and attainment have improved. I have become skilled at pinpointing what they need to learn and prioritising their experiences to ensure they succeed in the core subjects.

Sacrifices have had to be made but, despite what they would like you to believe, there is not a single pupil who has not wanted to achieve and be successful.

The last few years in particular, my job has become even more varied. As we no longer have any external support and advice to help us, we have learned 'on the job' how to be counsellors, behaviour specialists, social workers and mental health workers.

We use our instincts when dealing with children with complex emotional and behavioural needs. We do everything we can, but you never can tell without the training. Hopefully those children experiencing extreme difficulties will pick up how to become good citizens and be able to live within, and contribute to, the community.

I can only hope that they will know how to create a supportive and nurturing environment for their own children to succeed in the future. Maybe they will feel confident and proud of their achievements despite the lack of professional, quality specialists available to support their own complex needs in their formative years.

Until recently, I was not adept at data analysis. I now know that the pupils we are teaching are not simply children, they are numbers, percentages. The hours I have spent analysing data to decide which children need intensive afternoon intervention groups, those who need that extra 'boost.' Those children do not take part in the afternoon history, geography, art, science, music, PE or RE lessons as they are struggling with maths, reading and writing.

They understand that they must miss out on subjects they are more likely to engage with, feel confident in, so they have the opportunity to achieve the required level in writing, reading and maths.

They spend all day, every day struggling. Slowly feeling more and more like a failure, becoming more and more disengaged.

It is amazing that every one of my pupils knows what level they are working at and what level they need to be at the end of the year. Children are so desperate to achieve and to please others that they naturally put themselves under a huge amount of pressure. If they are not working at age related expectations they believe they are not doing well despite the amazing progress they have made.

They are in tears. They feel the pressure. They know they are not where they 'should' be.

They know already, at primary school, that they may not be 'successful' in the future. They know that the only subjects worth anything are reading, writing and maths. They know that their options are limited.

A big part of teaching is, and always has been, acting. You draw your audience in; encourage them to take part and to be inspired, challenged and enthusiastic about what they are discovering.

There is nothing better than a class full of buzzing pupils, excited about what they are learning, taking ownership of the lesson. This is becoming increasingly hard to achieve when we expect so much from them.

There is little time to have fun, to enquire, to be intrigued, to be children. They have too much pressure. They must, "compete with the world's best."

Why are we not letting them grow as individuals? Why are we damaging their self-esteem and confidence by trying to make them all fit into the same box?

To ensure a successful future for our country we need to give children a broad, balanced curriculum which enables everyone to excel at what they are good at. They need to feel empowered and valued for their individual skills to be able to take risks and push the boundaries to be successful.

How is that possible if they have had a restricted education? How will all those talented people who are not necessarily 'academic' excel in their different industries if they were not given the opportunity to hone their skills throughout their education? How will this improve our country? What sort of adults will they turn in to? I know I never had those pressures when I was a child.

I handed my notice in last week. I can't do this to them anymore.

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