These are the collection envelopes for the 18 staff leaving one small school at the end of term. Many of the staff have “served over decade, others more. All brilliant. A disintegration of a talented, loyal and dedicated workforce.”
This English school has been forcibly turned into an academy. A charter school by another name.
The teachers say:
“I didn’t want to leave but had to choose between madness and sanity. I chose sanity”
“When they took over we had promises of support, ‘bespoke’ training, nurturing of the staff that know the school, children, area the best.
Of course none of it happened.
We’ve had empty promises, backhanded threats and insults, dubious observations – the lot.
I’d only been there just over 3 years but left as the stress and understandable negativity around all the uncertainty and upset was just too much – after almost 20 years, it’s made me want to get out of teaching.
My heart goes out to all of the staff who’ve also made the difficult (yet easy) decision to go. As it does to staff in similar situations around the country.”
“…all of us have chosen to leave because we don’t want to work for this academy and particularly its interim head. The school is a shadow of the place it used to be”
“…this is exactly what [Education Minister] Gove wants, no qualified teachers and no union for them to stand together in”
” [The Minister] approves of older teachers being forced out. He believes teaching will be better for it. However, if you hollow out the profession of experience, it will end up badly for society. “
“[They] think they can run schools on a low-wage, high-turnover basis – but not if schools are to offer a decent education”
“And remember there have been others who have left mid year.”
Ten years ago this would have been unthinkable in England, just like it is for most people right now in New Zealand.
But it’s happening there, and parent’s and teachers’ concerns are ignored.
And it all started with a few changes … much like the ones New Zealand is seeing right now…
The pile of leaving cards from the school.
Every week the list grows longer as great teachers resign and leave the profession forever due to the crazy path that education is being pushed down by politicians.
In England and the USA there have been many highly public resignations outlining just exactly why the reforms have pushed teachers to say “No more.”
It’s sad not just because these good teachers are lost to the profession, and not just for them personally, but because these teachers are leaving because what they are being forced to do in the name of education is not beneficial to students.
It makes me both incredibly cross and very sad to know that unless something drastic changes, it’s only a matter of time before New Zealand starts to see a flurry of the same.
Here is Lucy Fey’s resignation letter:
” Dear Mr Gove,
I am writing to thank you for teaching me so much about education. I have been a primary school teacher for 14 years and have always worked in challenging, inner city schools with many children who have complex behavioural and emotional needs. According to my performance management, I am an ‘outstanding’ teacher. I feel that over the last few years my skills have diversified considerably.
I am proud to be able to say that each year my pupils’ achievement and attainment have improved. I have become skilled at pinpointing what they need to learn and prioritising their experiences to ensure they succeed in the core subjects. Sacrifices have had to be made but, despite what they would like you to believe, there is not a single pupil who has not wanted to achieve and be successful.
The last few years in particular, my job has become even more varied. As we no longer have any external support and advice to help us, we have learned ‘on the job’ how to be counsellors, behaviour specialists, social workers and mental health workers.
We use our instincts when dealing with children with complex emotional and behavioural needs. We do everything we can, but you never can tell without the training. Hopefully those children experiencing extreme difficulties will pick up how to become good citizens and be able to live within, and contribute to, the community.
I can only hope that they will know how to create a supportive and nurturing environment for their own children to succeed in the future. Maybe they will feel confident and proud of their achievements despite the lack of professional, quality specialists available to support their own complex needs in their formative years.
Until recently, I was not adept at data analysis. I now know that the pupils we are teaching are not simply children, they are numbers, percentages. The hours I have spent analysing data to decide which children need intensive afternoon intervention groups, those who need that extra ‘boost.’ Those children do not take part in the afternoon history, geography, art, science, music, PE or RE lessons as they are struggling with maths, reading and writing.
They understand that they must miss out on subjects they are more likely to engage with, feel confident in, so they have the opportunity to achieve the required level in writing, reading and maths. They spend all day, every day struggling. Slowly feeling more and more like a failure, becoming more and more disengaged.
It is amazing that every one of my pupils knows what level they are working at and what level they need to be at the end of the year. Children are so desperate to achieve and to please others that they naturally put themselves under a huge amount of pressure. If they are not working at age related expectations they believe they are not doing well despite the amazing progress they have made.
They are in tears. They feel the pressure. They know they are not where they ‘should’ be. They know already, at primary school, that they may not be ‘successful’ in the future. They know that the only subjects worth anything are reading, writing and maths. They know that their options are limited.
A big part of teaching is, and always has been, acting. You draw your audience in; encourage them to take part and to be inspired, challenged and enthusiastic about what they are discovering.
There is nothing better than a class full of buzzing pupils, excited about what they are learning, taking ownership of the lesson. This is becoming increasingly hard to achieve when we expect so much from them. There is little time to have fun, to enquire, to be intrigued, to be children. They have too much pressure. They must, “compete with the world’s best.”
Why are we not letting them grow as individuals? Why are we damaging their self-esteem and confidence by trying to make them all fit into the same box? To ensure a successful future for our country we need to give children a broad, balanced curriculum which enables everyone to excel at what they are good at. They need to feel empowered and valued for their individual skills to be able to take risks and push the boundaries to be successful.
How is that possible if they have had a restricted education? How will all those talented people who are not necessarily ‘academic’ excel in their different industries if they were not given the opportunity to hone their skills throughout their education? How will this improve our country? What sort of adults will they turn in to? I know I never had those pressures when I was a child.
I handed my notice in last week. I can’t do this to them anymore.
How sad that New Zealand is following on with reforms that are wreaking this kind of havoc.
We need to be asking who is driving this push and why, before there are no more Lucy Feys left.
I read the letter below with a heavy heart. Mrs Utting was recently widowed when her husband, a teacher aged 37, died of stress-induced heart attack, and here she writes to Mr Gove, your English counterpart.
Mr Utting was a teacher in England, but could just as easily have been in many other countries, including New Zealand, as the same reforms and policies are pushed on teachers worldwide.
I urge you to change tack. The levels of stress and feelings of mistrust regarding government policy are reaching epidemic proportions.
Mrs Utting says:
I should be proud that my husband was a teacher. But right at this moment, I’m not. I’m sorry that he was. Because if he had a different job, he might still be with us.
Teachers love their students and care deeply about doing our jobs well – we want support, not workplace bullying.
29th April 2014
Dear Mr Gove,
I am writing to inform you of the death of Mr Gareth Utting, a teacher of English at a secondary school in Shropshire.
Gareth died at the age of 37 of a massive heart attack. There were a few contributory factors to his death, but looming large was the word ‘stress’. He leaves me a widow with three children, aged fourteen, four and one.
This is not the angry rant of a bereaved person. I haven’t got anywhere near angry yet. I am still reeling with shock and wondering if there was anything I could have done to prevent my husband’s death. When these thoughts beset me, I keep coming back to the fact that I should have done more to help him get out of teaching. And how can that be right, to think that? I love teaching. In the few weeks since Gareth died, I have heard and read so many tributes from his students that attest to the positive impact that a good teacher can make. I should be proud that my husband was a teacher. But right at this moment, I’m not. I’m sorry that he was. Because if he had a different job, he might still be with us.
I don’t pretend to know the ins and outs of the changes that have hit teachers in the last few years. I qualified as a teacher myself but have been at home raising our young children, so have not been directly involved. But I can tell you what I see around me.
Teachers like Gareth have changed.
Their hopes for the young people in their care have not changed. Neither has their willingness to go the extra mile to help those young people to succeed. But the work-load that they struggle under and the pressures that are applied to them from above have greatly increased. If this led to better education for our children, then I would be supporting these changes. But I don’t see better education. I see good teachers breaking under the load. I see good teachers embittered and weary. I see good teachers leaving the profession. I see good teachers never even entering the profession, for fear of what lies ahead. I see pupils indoctrinated with achievement targets, who are afraid to veer from the curriculum in case it affects their next assessment; pupils for whom ‘knowledge’ is defined by a pass mark and their position within a cohort.
Within this atmosphere, my husband struggled to help his pupils in every way he could. The comments that they have left on social media reflect a teacher-pupil relationship that was honest, helpful and mutually respectful. He taught them English, and they did well at it. But he also taught them about life, and love, and self-esteem. But he did this in spite of, not because of, the current state of the education system.
Gareth is at peace now. But I have some difficult choices to make.
Do I return to a profession that takes so high a toll? When my four-year-old son says he wants to be a teacher, do I smile or try to talk him out of it? When I see Gareth’s colleagues, do I congratulate them for being so amazing, or encourage them to explore other career options?
Mr Gove, I don’t envy you your job. I don’t know the best way to achieve a high standard of education for all pupils, everywhere. But I do know this: People don’t become teachers to be slackers, for the pension or for the name badge.
Here’s an interesting theory of mine that I was discussing recently with my husband. If you took away all external inspection and supervision, all targets and reviews, if teachers were left to themselves to teach what they wanted to teach, the way they wanted to teach it, what do you think would happen?
This is what I think: Every teacher that I know cares deeply about their subject and their students. They would teach marvellously. They would share knowledge and encourage each other. They would deal with problems (including less-than-perfect pupils and teachers) with the professionalism that they possess in spades.
Of course we cannot remove all monitoring of teachers and schools. But it seems to me that you have forgotten this basic fact: Teachers love to teach, and they want to do it well.
I don’t know what I want to ask of you. All I know is that the situation as it stands is wrong. On behalf of all the teachers and pupils out there, I beg you to go back to the drawing-board. Learn from your mistakes. Gain knowledge.
And please don’t send me your condolences.
Unhappy with news that England is to begin testing its 4 year olds and even 2 year olds, New Zealand Education Minister Hekia Parata has been busy this weekend not only avoiding the mounting calls for her to resign but also trying to figure out how to win in this increasingly tricky race for data.
After careful and open consultation with people she knew would agree with her, she has decided that henceforth all children should be tested in utero.
To avoid cheating and ensure the data is rigorous enough to share with businesses, mothers will be blindfolded and gagged so they can’t give their progeny help with the tests. Consideration is also being given to the idea of putting mothers’ heads in vacuum flasks so that they cannot pass on information by telepathy.
ACT raised the very real concern that twin and triplicate pregnancies could lead to siblings cheating. In has been agreed that, in this instance, the babies may be induced early so that they can be tested in separate rooms.
Education and medical specialists have raised concerns, which Hekia dismissed as “The usual hoohah from those with a vested interest in the status quo,” adding that it is “essential that five out of five unborn children have the right to know where to put an apostrophe and how to share a pizza fairly between five people.”
National Standards data will be published by Stuff.co.nz so that would-be parents can judge which doctors would give their unborn children the best chance of success. Doctors and midwives may, admitted Parata, be paid according to how clever the babies they deliver are.
Fetuses will also be allocated National Student Numbers (NSN) as soon as the little blue line appears on the stick, so they can be tracked through the system.
Parata was heard to mutter, as she walked out of the press conference, “Beat that Gove.”
There’s fierce opposition at the moment to UK Education Minister, Mr Gove’s curriculum tinkerings, but as The Guardian pointed out “Like many politicians, Mr Gove prefers the disaster narrative” and will forge ahead no matter what the actual evidence or need.
Or as The Guardian editorial so eloquently put it “Mr Gove is a man with a mission that sometimes floats free of the evidence.”
I think he and Hekia would get on famously!
Anyhoo, I found this satirical blog post about Gove’s changes to the UK curriculum, and thought it was worth sharing. It is on one hand completely hilarious, and on the other hand … <sigh>.
Among the changes being introduced are a requirement for more interminably monotonous tones to be used by teachers in design and technology lessons, as well as subjects such as history and geography to include a lot more soul-destroyingly dull lessons full of irrelevant facts that young children will learn to hate by heart.
According to a Whitehall source:
The introduction of pointless tedium into the national curriculum will prepare state education children much better for the kind of monotonous work such as shelf-stacking and burger flipping which probably awaits them when they leave school.
Boredom and monotony will become the standard in our schools – and this combined with spiritless, fed-up teachers will ensure all schools will be falling over themselves to become academies or free schools just to escape the mind-numbingly tedious national curriculum we’ve introduced.
Key skills such as whinging and carping in many subjects have been brought forward in a child’s school career, so primary-age pupils will be given a lot more annoyingly dull tasks for them to complain about from a much younger age.
Read the rest of this blog post here.
Thank goodness NZ still has its great, flexible curriculum. So, maybe we are no so parallel after all.
At least for now.
Education is top of the agenda not just in New Zealand but all over the world.
Reforms (or as I like to call them ‘deforms’) are being pushed through, and once a reform hits the USA, it hits the UK, and sooner or later Aotearoa catches up. So, in my bid to keep my beady eye on the GERM (global education reform movement), I read a lot of what happens in the UK.
In good old Blighty, the political parties are in the midst of a bitch-fest on a scale last seen on Glee, with accusations flying back and forth between MPs, and even the exchange of terse letters .(You remember those, right? They are texts but on paper).
It’s all rather riveting, to be honest, and would be funny if it weren’t for the fact that it’s children’s learning that is being used in this political football match.
Anyhoo, I was particularly interested in this piece by Tristram Hunt. Dr Hunt is a UK Labour Party MP, a broadcaster, and an historian that lectures on Modern British History at Queen Mary, University of London.
This week the Minister of Education has been arguing that Dr Hunt should not teach lessons in his local school as he is not a qualified teacher. Now this intrigued me as it speaks to questions being asked in Aotearoa, too. So I read Mr Hunt’s response to Mr Gove with interest.
Here it is for you to ponder:
When my son has a fever, I sometimes give him a bit of Calpol; this doesn’t make me a doctor. Sometimes I take a class on Stoke and the industrial revolution; this doesn’t make me a teacher.
Indeed, every time I enter the classroom I am more and more convinced of the need for well-trained and qualified classroom teachers as they manage all the modern demands of pedagogy, scholarship, learning, inspiration, empathy, analysis and sheer bloody time-management. The success of the Finnish education system is based precisely on a highly motivated and qualified teaching profession.
But rather than encouraging MPs to spend more time in the classroom, Gove wants to pillory public representatives who are passionate about schooling.
So be it. The Labour party takes a different view. We will not stand in the way of civic minded experts speaking in schools, be they from politics, the arts, science or industry. Indeed, we want more of it.
This is also a matter of social justice. While the likes of Eton College and St Paul’s can enjoy an endless caravan of high-profile speakers, this is not the case in other schools around the country. As a result, their children’s horizons can be lowered and their career options stunted, and potential unfulfilled.
So, we wholeheartedly support brilliant initiatives such as Future First, which exposes people to inspiring professionals as part of careers education, or Teach First’s Every Child Can campaign, which attracts high-profile business leaders to teach a one-off lesson.
We are also very open to allowing new talent into our school system. Teach First, which was set up under the last Labour government, has demonstrated the success of attracting high-performing graduates into our most challenging schools.
But exposing our schoolchildren to as many outside speakers and ideas as possible (such as BBC business editor Robert Peston’s excellent Speaker for Schools programme) is a very different issue from that of raising professional standards for full-time, permanent teachers. On this our message is clear – at the next election Labour will offer what parents want: high-quality, fully qualified teachers in every classroom.
As Jacques Barzun, the great American philosopher of education once said, “Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.” The Labour party has not lost its regard. And if my local heads let me, I’ll be back at the chalk-face. Source.
Now, I have to make it clear that I’m not at all convinced yet that the UK Labour party and I are on precisely the same page regarding education policy. but what Dr Hunt said sits well with me.
Teachers should be educated professionals, planning lessons, and guiding students’ learning with a full and comprehensive understanding of pedagogy.
I love space and could teach a good unit about it at primary level, but holy moly how fabulous to have someone from Carter Observatory or an amateur astronomer or a postgrad come in and share their knowledge, too.
I should note that many teachers already invite in experts, but wouldn’t it be fabulous if it were done more – much, much more? Wouldn’t it be great if experts knew they were welcome and felt welcome to offer their voluntary services for a lecture here, an experiment there?
Surely this is the best possible scenario? Well trained, respected, professional teachers inspiring students alongside visiting experts.
Think TED for schools.
What do you think?
This simple, honest blog post could have been written by almost any teacher in the UK or New Zealand, and most likely the USA or Australia or many other countries, too.
Teachers are NOT to blame for a country’s problems. But they ARE the answer to many problems, if only those in power would actually listen to them, support them, and stop making them the scapegoat.