A teaching crisis we can’t afford

Teachers are our most valuable asset. Why are we wrecking them?

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The Independent Online

Should we be surprised at the latest stats telling us that nearly four out of 10 teachers leave the classroom a year after qualifying? We should be more surprised that six out of 10 teachers decide to stay. Teaching is the most undervalued profession when it should be the most prized. Teachers educate and raise the next generation. Is there a more important job? Yet successive governments have slowly driven teachers down to the ground. Shame on them.

I have friends who changed careers to become teachers in their early thirties. The government publicity, aimed at them, promised a fulfilling career that would improve not just their lives but the lives of countless young people.

Quite a different scenario to the reality that’s hit my friends in the face: horrendous workloads, power politics and bureaucracy. Still, they did well to make it to the classroom: the 40 per cent of new teachers who quit the job are joined by more than 10,000 teaching students who never even make it into the classroom. That number has tripled in the past six years. What a monumental waste of talent, time and money.

One of my friends, a teacher in an urban comprehensive, has given up all hope of having a life because of the unreasonable demands of his career. He has to endure a seemingly unending workload that lasts well into each evening and weekend, well beyond the hours of the classroom, all compounded by stress and additional paperwork.

Teachers are our most valuable asset. Why are we wrecking them? Why should we expect anyone, let alone a teacher, to give up their entire lives to work?

Teachers need a balanced life. They need health and happiness and good pay. Those things are vital for their personal and professional lives. Do we want our children taught by people stressed and knackered to the point of surrender? Or taught by people who are energised and happy?

Whoever comes into power after  7 May needs to make vital changes to the system by listening to teachers who are leaving the profession: they can tell us what’s wrong and what needs fixing. Or we can just carry on as we are, and hope that kids will be able to teach themselves once the last teacher has left the classroom for good.