Reasons to Be Cheerful About UK Education Following the Budget

Reasons to Be Cheerful About UK Education Following the Budget

A poll of over 4,000 teachers published in the Guardian makes for some sobering reading. In England, apparently 43 per cent of state-school teachers plan to leave the profession in the next five years. A total of 98 per cent say they are "under increasing pressure" and 82 per cent reportedly describe their workload as "unmanageable".

Research we have been undertaking at the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) suggests that the situation is worsening since last week's budget. We have heard from 40 school leaders since the budget last week, and 83 per cent think the 2016 Budget will lead to their budgets being cut over the next 3-4 years. Over half (56 per cent) believe that the £1.5 billion pledged by Chancellor George Osborne is "nowhere near enough".

But let's leave aside the doom-and-gloom momentarily. In undertaking our research, we also asked headteachers what grounds there were for optimism. Some, inevitably, said "very little". One teacher from Wales declared, "Nothing, we are in crisis. Unions failed us, consecutive governments have failed us. Inspectors ruin us. It is desperate."

But the overwhelming majority gave some insights into what made UK education remain great.

Linda Dupret, headteacher at St. Pauls School in Brighton said that her teachers see their job as a vocation and "not just a job". "They give so much to the children," she tells us, "and this keeps me optimistic". The fact that the "staff are still passionate about education" was also highlighted by Lisa Meacher from Moulton Chapel Primary School. Even though, she claims, "this is not celebrated by government or press. [They] always seem to be battering us with some stick!"

One head from the North West emphasised that he drew optimism from the fact that, "We are professionals and we are intent on providing the very best education for our children". Raymond McGovern, headmaster at St George's School in Harpenden observes that, "Students joining us from other countries frequently talk about the care and professionalism of our staff and the high quality of their educational experience compared to other counties."

Debbie Light, assistant headteacher at Elthorne Park High School said that a "real positive" for her is the way in which research is now starting to inform teachers' pedagogy. "There is much more use of research and links between schools and other institutions to work together on projects that could improve student outcomes," she told us, citing the Education Endowment Foundation, CUREE and Teacher Development Trust as examples.

The overwhelming aspect of teaching that keeps their love of the profession alive seems to boil down to one thing: the children themselves. It's here that any jaded cynicism falls away, when heads talk of the "fantastic children", "enthusiastic children who attain well" and the fact that children are "hard working, flexible and innovative". The children, one head of department from the South East tells us, is the reason why, "I still love my job after over 20 years teaching".

"For all the doom and gloom," says one school leader at an East Midlands academy, "we have a vocation to inspire inquisitive young minds to achieve what we fail to achieve!"

Even though things can sometimes seem bleak in the education sector, these are wise words that we should all seek to remember.


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