Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Get rid of Gove before he gets rid of you
Even before the double-barrelled attacks of ‘pay more to work longer’ and ‘payment-by-results’ take full effect, many teachers are already thoroughly demoralised by constant Government criticism as Gove and Wilshaw expect schools to somehow produce better and better results without the resources required to meet the growing needs of children, especially in communities hit badly by recession.
If further evidence were needed of the demoralisation that this Government's attacks are causing, the NUT today released details of a YouGov survey of teachers showing "a crisis of morale in the profession with the majority of teachers feeling untrusted by Government and unconvinced of Michael Gove’s education policies". (http://www.teachers.org.uk/node/17250).
In a damning indictment of the effect of Government policies and attacks on teachers, 55% of respondents described their morale as “low” or “very low”, only 15% had 'high' or 'very high' morale. 71% said they rarely or never felt trusted by the Government.
This comes on top of figures showing a "sharp rise" in the number of teachers quitting the profession ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-20585457) and others showing a significant increase in teachers taking stress leave (http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/dec/26/teachers-stress-unions-strike).
The Guardian report includes a ‘case study’ of a secondary school teacher who collapsed with a nervous breakdown explaining that “if children don't achieve the expected rate of progress, then it's considered a teacher failing” and describing an only too typical observation regime where teachers “get around 28-48 hours' notice to prepare an all-singing, all-dancing, tick-all-the boxes lesson”. This - and the results of the YouGov poll - are what teaching is already like in many schools before Gove tightens the screw of performance-pay even further. If he gets away with his plans, teaching will become a totally unbearable profession.
Significantly, the OECD research showing that there is no evidence that Gove's plans for performance pay will improve teaching ( http://www.oecd.org/pisa/50328990.pdf ), reaches an important conclusion about what does work: "Countries that have succeeded in making teaching an attractive profession have often done so not just through pay, but by raising the status of teaching, offering real career prospects, and giving teachers responsibility as professionals and leaders of reform. This requires teacher education that helps teachers to become innovators and researchers in education, not just civil servants who deliver curricula". That approach is the diametrical opposite of years of Government policy in Britain, where teachers have been deskilled, criticised and told to 'teach-to-the-test'. Gove's plans will make things even worse.
At the end of the YouGov survey, teachers were asked to give an open ended answer to the question "what other New Year’s Resolution would you like the Secretary of State for Education to make?". Not surprisingly, the NUT reports that most popular response by a long way was “I will resign or something very similar"!
But Gove won't resign, or retreat, unless teachers act firmly to force him to do so. We have to act, collectively, to get rid of Gove's attacks. If not, he will get rid of teachers as, individually, we decide we can't take the stress and attacks any longer.
As the biggest and best organised teaching union, the NUT has a huge responsibility to give teachers the chance to make that collective stand by calling national strike action. Then, together, we can defend teachers and education from a Secretary of State determined to drive through his Government's agenda of cuts and privatisation at the expense of both teachers and the pupils we teach.