THE BLOG
16/02/2016 08:50 GMT | Updated 16/02/2017 05:12 GMT

Teachers, Parents and Pupils Deserve Better

Parents have a right to expect that when they send their child to school they will be taught by a qualified teacher.

Children and young people have the right to be taught by those who are recognised and rewarded as highly skilled professionals and have working conditions which enable them to focus on teaching and learning.

Yet increasing numbers of parents and pupils are being denied this fundamental entitlement, which is key to high quality education, as skilled and experienced teachers leave the profession, the market for graduates intensifies and potential recruits find jobs in other graduate occupations which better reward their talents.

The National Audit Office revealed in a recent report that the Government is spending £700m annually on recruiting and training new teachers and yet still cannot meet its recruitment targets. The fact is that not even that level of expenditure can compensate for Government policies which have made the profession so uncompetitive and unattractive, generating a teacher supply crisis.

With deep cuts to teachers' pay year-on-year, excessive workload blighting the working lives, health and wellbeing of teachers and with the Government's introduction of more and more pay flexibility and discretion at school level creating a situation akin to the 'wild west' across schools, confusion, discrimination and unfairness are now rife. Is it any wonder that applications to join the profession are down and resignations are up?

The Government has undermined the status of teaching by removing the requirement for schools to employ qualified teachers. A report by Pearson highlights that the constant denigration of the teaching profession by Ofsted and the Government is having a damaging impact on morale and the Secretary of State's Workload Challenge launched just before the 2015 General Election has proved to be just a pre-election gimmick.

Teachers, who provide one of the country's most vital public services, feel denigrated, demoralised and deprofessionalised.

In a recent study carried out by Warwick University Institute, a group of young female teachers discussed the future of the teaching profession. One said 'I think what will happen is there will just be a rolling programme of newly qualified teachers starting, lasting two years, getting burnt out, then another group coming in...'.

She thought that graduates would teach for two years, find they couldn't manage the workload and stress and then move on. 'You won't get anyone over 30 teaching' she said.

Another young teacher said that the general feeling among her friends was that teaching was only sustainable because none of them had children or families but if they did, this would change. Another agreed and added that 'the level of burnout is going to increase; it's getting to the point that you just can't maintain it, all the changes with the academies, the culture, everything, it's just exhausting'.

Evidence shows that well over three quarters of teachers report they have seriously considered leaving the profession in the last twelve months and a staggering 91% of teachers report they have experienced more workplace stress in the last twelve months, with almost three quarters reporting that the job has affected their mental health and wellbeing.

In too many schools the Government's negative approach to workforce management and to equality has created a culture where anything goes and where any adverse impact on the health and wellbeing of teachers is simply regarded as collateral damage.

Despite the mountain of powerful evidence, the Government remains in arrogant denial about the crisis it has created.

High quality education for all children and young people cannot continue to be sustained by teachers whose physical and mental health is being broken and who have been robbed of their professional dignity.

Teachers, parents and pupils deserve better.

It's about time ministers faced up to the chaos and crisis they have created, admit they got it wrong and start to value, support and invest in the teaching workforce.