Letters: Teachers’ morale has never been lower

These letters appear in the 27 April edition of The Independent

Independent Voices
Sunday 26 April 2015 19:05

The young teachers’ letter (25 April) is serious, as are its implications for state education. Thank you for publishing it and for your Letter from the Editor.

I work in schools in an advisory role, and morale has never been lower; it has not, as your Editor’s Letter wondered, been “ever thus”. Young teachers now have no security of pay, conditions or pension in many schools. Some are on zero-hours contracts. They are accessible by email from management and parents at all hours. They are judged constantly. The reluctance to exclude pupils means they can be isolated and unsupported in challenging, dangerous circumstances.

The young teachers’ letter says it all. Believe them.

There has been a consensus in education, as your editor stated, but that is not a sign of health – rather of the voicelessness felt in the UK in general. The letter is teachers’ voice. Some academies and Teach First and other educational “businesses” are almost impossible to criticise as they operate outside of how mainstream schools are measured. They parachute in and out, and often report their own successes with their own data to those they cultivate in Westminster through lobbying. They are the educational equivalent of stealth privatisation of the NHS. Their successes are achieved at the expense of the whole system and bought with money diverted from elsewhere within the budget.

Labour and Conservative education ministers have had more meetings with those from the global corporate world who want to make money from state education than with teachers and their unions. That is a matter of public record.

I am ashamed to report feeling relieved when my goddaughter left teaching for a career as a translator. She now lives without daily criticism, has a permanent contract and a subsidised mortgage and other perks teaching would never award her. She has a work-life balance. Five years ago I would have begged her to stay in teaching because of her skill at engaging children in language study.

Rachel Harris
Ynysybwl, Rhondda Cynon Taf

When will the rise and rise of absurd expectations about the capacity of teachers and schools to transform society be properly challenged? When will the appeal to data as fact without looking at the way it’s interpreted cease? Take my advice, don’t bother looking at wonky Ofsted data to see what is happening in a school; try working there for a while and you’ll find out. Look at the young teachers dropping out after a year or two, look at the established teachers driven out by overwork and general abuse.

Much of the rot is generated by the politicians’ language. What do words such as excellence, inclusion and progression mean any more? The erosion of meaning is corrosive and deliberate. Language has been systematically done to death by education bureaucrats. Orwell would recognise it.

The real message is: forget about parents and the fault lines within wider society – teachers will sort it out. As a nation we have never had much regard for education and now, thanks to successive governments’ unhealthy interest, it’s at rock bottom.

Martin Murray
London SW2

“Why are so many teachers saying enough is enough?” (25 April). Simple. Because over the years successive governments have politicised the teaching profession for their own self-serving agendas.

There are tests, tests and more tests. And paperwork. Piles of it. Teachers should teach. Teachers should not be spending weeks of their time filling in forms, dreading incoming emails, and living with a constant fear of being judged to be failing. Is it any wonder that many teachers are bailing out of the profession?

Ray J Howes
Weymouth, Dorset

A letter signed by 1,200 teachers criticises Ofsted and the Government for a “punishing workload”, but there is silence from the heads and senior managers of their schools. Similarly, thousands of PGCE lecturers in our universities are apparently content to factory-churn out “cannon-fodder” for this “reduced to coaching-script” teaching profession. The silence from both significantly powerful groups is deafening. Sad that this longstanding issue is only regarded as newsworthy when teachers are leaving their vital professional posts in increasing numbers.

Professor Bill Boyle
Tarporley, Cheshire

Green party ‘betrayal’ is no such thing

The headline “Green betrayal”, above a photograph of Natalie Bennett taking a selfie in Sheffield (23 April) suggested a number of horrifying scenarios. Has the Green Party reversed its policy on fracking? On Trident?

The “betrayal” turns out to be the claim that she has not talked about climate change enough. After years of accusations of being a single-issue party, the Greens now, it seems, have too many policies.

Yes, we need to mobilise public awareness and support for the green agenda. But are individuals and families struggling with poverty, unemployment or chronic health problems likely to watch Bennett banging on ceaselessly about climate change, and immediately Google their nearest solar panel provider?

What the Green Party has attempted to do is to set out a broader platform of social reform. Building communities aims to create the conditions for the public to really engage with the environmental agenda.

The real climate change betrayal is by the big parties who, as Bennett, pointed out, did not mention climate change once in the recent TV debates. And who want to frack more fossil fuels out of the ground when the science tells us that is no longer sustainable.

Rebecca Duffy
Hove, East Sussex

Your report of scientists criticising the Green Party for failing to lead on climate change is timely (23 April).

Nor is it just climate change where the Green Party has ceased to campaign on core environmental issues. Nowhere is this failure seen more than over the issue of population growth, and the enormous pressure this is currently putting on both natural and social resources in this country, let alone the world.

Equally depressing is the way in which Bennett, in order to avoid facing these issues fairly and squarely, has adopted the tactics of conventional politicians, of ignoring the question, answering a different one, etc. The Green Party should go back to its original principles of telling the people the truth about limits to growth, which – in a good sense of the word – is actually a form of austerity.

Ken Haggett

Why the SNP is nothing to be scared of

Why are people worried about the SNP being able to wield a disproportionate amount of influence? (Letters, 23 April.) After all, Great Britain has been described as “a country ruled by the Scots from Westminster”. Ignore that all 21st-century prime ministers have been Scots (David Cameron can claim dual nationality because of his Scottish father).

Consider instead the recent referendum. That was, in effect, to dissolve Great Britain back to an independent England and Wales and an independent Scotland. But the SNP were allowed to define the question, the electorate, even the date. At least if the SNP prop up a minority Labour government they would now be openly pulling the strings.

Martin Oakes
Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire

Airport debate is silent on climate change

Peter Wadhams and his co-signatories (18 April) highlighted the gap in current political discourse about climate change. This is nowhere more apparent than in relation to the impending decision on airport expansion.

Shortly after the election, the new government will receive the advice of the Airports Commission in relation to new runway capacity. But while the commission’s head, Howard Davies, speaks as though climate change impacts are being taken fully into account, in fact the commission’s own analysis predicts that aviation emissions will exceed the maximum level compatible with the UK’s Climate Change Act if any of its shortlisted schemes at Heathrow or Gatwick is granted approval.

This enormous climate hurdle in the way of expansion appears almost totally absent from political debate. With a new runway potentially locking the UK into an emissions path entirely at odds with our long-term climate commitments, politicians will very soon need to face up to the CO2 consequences of sanctioning airport growth.

Tim Johnson
Director, Aviation Environment Federation (AEF), London, SE1

All have a scam; only some go to jail

The economic disaster of 2008 was caused by bankers, yet we have no programmes called “Tax Dodger Street”. There is surely more tax avoidance than benefit fraud.

Everyone has a scam, but benefit fraudsters go to jail.

Gary Martin
London E17

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