Inspiring teachers say they lack the freedom to excel


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The Independent Online

Even the country's most inspiring teachers are upset at the amount of central government interference in how they go about their jobs, a new study has revealed.

Former education secretary Michael Gove had insisted that for his reforms to succeed, teachers needed more freedom from central control.

However, a study of 36 inspiring teachers identified through inspection reports – for a research project aimed at uncovering world-class teaching – revealed that many are worried their autonomy had been reduced and their working conditions suffered as a result of the reforms.

"Only one teacher was not becoming disillusioned with work, reflecting disquiet at current education reforms he saw as badly reducing teacher autonomy and working conditions, increasing workloads and distracting from classroom work," said the study by researchers from Oxford and Worcester Universities for the CfBT Education Trust. "However, many teachers drew attention to their worries in this area and expressed concern and disagreement with what they saw as external interference by central government.

"The majority had strong and negative views about recent changes in the national curriculum, national assessment and examinations. They saw these changes as highly political and felt they had produced great confusion and work overload, and lacked clarity. The changes were seen to have shifted the focus from engaging students and innovating in teaching to managing change and achieving targets with too much focus on tests and examination results."

Under the Government's reforms, maths has been made tougher for primary school pupils, who now must learn their 12 times tables by age nine. British history is to be taught chronologically; coding is to be taught to children from age five and pupils must learn more Shakespeare in the first few years of secondary schooling. In addition, the focus in GCSE and A-level exams has shifted from coursework to end-of-course "sudden death" exams.

"Teachers felt they had put in more time and that their past efforts in developing their resources and planning were being wasted, including having to replace expensive texts and materials because of curriculum and exam changes," the research added.