The "toxic" intervention of naming and shaming struggling schools is creating more problems for them than it solves. It leads to teacher resignations soaring, heads being sacked and staff taking more time off due to stress-related illness, according to two separate studies published by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) today.
As a result, say one in three teachers, the schools' reputations go down in the community and parents refuse to send their children to them. Teachers who work in struggling schools are playing "Russian roulette" with their careers.
The first report, on schools labelled "failing" by the education standards watchdog Ofsted, says teacher resignations soared by 78 per cent following the naming of the school as failing. Plus, 59 per cent of the schools sacked their headteacher – compared to 51 per cent of those labelled as failing a decade ago. Teachers faced a backlash from parents – 34 per cent saying relationships with them had deteriorated – compared with just 6.5 per cent a decade ago. One in four teachers said the number of applications to come to the school had fallen.
In the second report, a study of the 638 schools threatened with closure if they failed to get 30 per cent of pupils to obtain five A* to C grade passes at GCSE by 2010, nearly half the teachers said they now had less job security – while one in four said they had more time off for ill-health.
The survey, by the NUT with questions supplied by the National Foundation for Educational Research, Britain's foremost education research body, warns: "The toxic mix of more stress and excessive workload is the driver of increased staff illness, resignation and retirement and linked to reduced levels of morale, job satisfaction and perceptions of self-efficacy at a time when teachers need to be at their most effective." It is published at the start of the union's annual conference in Cardiff – where members are expected to vote in favour of a ballot on a boycott of national curriculum tests for 11-year-olds.
The survey concludes: "The knowledge that teaching careers may be damaged or curtailed represents a kind of Russian roulette, particularly for headteachers who choose to work in less successful schools. Headteachers are more vulnerable to losing their post as a result of special measures designation and teachers are more likely to feel their careers are on the line because of an association with a 'failing school'. The detrimental effect is too great."
Christine Blower, the acting general secretary of the NUT, said: "You can be told you're doing very well and the next week you're on the Government's list. The school will be feeling bad, the teachers will be feeling bad. It doesn't need this extra turbulence [teacher resignation and headteacher sacking] on top."
Ofsted says most schools placed on its special measures list show enough improvement to be taken off it in a year.