I know I haven’t been on here for a couple of months and to be honest I am not sure why not. Actually I am. It has been a crazy (unprecedented!) couple of months with a great deal going on in the world of education. Every day there seems to be a new outrage about “militant unions” refusing to go back to school, even though all they are asking for is guidance. Teacher bashing and a lack of trust in teacher’s judgements is at an all time high. To be honest I have been spending a bit of time considering what to do. I am sure I won’t be the only one. Teacher morale seems to be at an all time low. What has happened to our profession?
I think that the problem, as I said in a recent podcast with Unprofessional Development, is government involvement in education. I am not about to get political (actually I am) but there seems to be no person in government who understands that the purpose of education and the role of everyone who works in schools is to facilitate learning. Education is seen as a political football with each side quoting improved percentages in this that and the other. The team that wins is the one who pumps the most money into a system, thinking that improvements will follow. How long has this been going on? When are politicians going to realise that what they are doing is stifling education and creating a culture where teaching is reduced to a formula, a recipe or even just a set of instructions?
I would like to take you on a little daydream, it will only take a minute. Just relax. Now, when I say “Department for Education” how does that make you feel? Annoyed? Infuriated? Confused? Incandescent? Just accept those feelings and hold on to them, whatever they are, even if they are positive. (By the way, if they are positive you may need to consider seeking help)
Now, imagine that it was called , “Department for Learning.” Imagine that every single piece of guidance that was issued was focussed on improving learning. Imagine that teachers were encouraged to be more creative, that the curriculum was truly broad and balanced. Imagine that leaders in education were judged on their ability to create a learning climate, rather than percentages. Imagine that your judgment in the classroom was trusted. Imagine that the government properly funded schools so that CPD could be a real investment rather than a cost. Imagine being able to have personalised learning for every child. Imagine a performance management system that rewarded real learning. Most of all, imagine a system and a department that holds learning as its core purpose.
Now, how do you feel? Does that sound like a better way of doing things? It’s not that hard to imagine a better way than we have now. One that is based on real research into learning. A system for learning that is separate from whatever government is in power at the time. A system that is led by education professionals. By that I mean people who have actually worked in schools, school leaders, teachers, teaching assistants, administration staff. Why not have the “Department for Learning” run by those who understand learning, rather than those whose main priority is to be re-elected? Most of all, let us get rid of the things in education that are used for political purposes, rather than educational ones.
I honestly believe that standards would rise, children would become lifelong learners, there would be a decrease in the dropout rate for teachers and more people would be attracted to the profession. Staff absence due to stress would drop, teacher wellbeing would increase and hopefully the teaching profession would receive a bit more respect for the work that they do.
Now, slowly come back to the present. Our little daydream is over. Sorry about that.
I left school leadership due to stress and anxiety. The job and the demands became too great and I had to sacrifice my career for my health. I wanted to create a climate where staff and children felt valued and respected. I wanted a place where relationships were good, where everyone felt supported. I wanted to run my school as a “Department for Learning” school. Unfortunately I fell victim to the Department for Education.
I wonder how many other people out there are like me.