Forced academisation, shambolic assessment, budgets shrinking, teacher morale in crisis: is this the perfect educational storm?

One celebrated headteacher worries that we’re looking at the ingredients for a major schools crisis

Colin Harris

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Are we witnessing the final element of the perfect storm for schools?  

Probably. This government plans for all schools to become academies certainly suggests we have reached that stage.

First of all, a definition: according to one online dictionary, a perfect storm is "a detrimental or calamitous situation or event arising from the powerful combined effect of a unique set of circumstances".

Boy, do we have those circumstances. Unfortunately we have a government totally unaware of what devastation such a storm will have on our profession.

Let's look at the elements that make up this storm:


We now know we are all going to become one. Yippee. What an interesting four years are in front of us. Do we really believe the structures and systems are in place to enable this to happen? I think not. The majority of schools do not want it (proven by the numbers that have converted) and certainly nor do the teachers. What we will see again is the teachers being trampled and forced to accept a situation most actively don’t want to. Who will lose out? Teachers, perhaps, but let's not allow it to be the children.


We all know we are in a recruitment crisis. We have a lack of numbers through the universities and training colleges and a lack of genuine desire to become managers. We also have far too many quality professionals leaving. Why? Well it is not an attractive job to many right now. Too much paperwork, a lack of trust from all, low pay and…well, the list goes on and on. Will the chancellor’s rhetoric in the Budget help? I think not. Instead it will compound the problem and this will only get worse as we hear of stories of contracts being altered and pay withheld.

Further education and colleges

We know this sector has so far borne the brunt of the cutbacks. So much so that the teachers have resorted to strike action. This was not taken likely and all I hear from this sector is doom and gloom.


It takes real skill to create the shambles associated with assessment in both the primary and the secondary sector. Replacing levels and reinventing the wheel. What we all could do with is some semblance of calm.

Ofsted and the DfE

What a relationship this has turned into. When they once sang from the same hymn sheet we now have a situation of total indifference. While this relationship doesn't need to be cosy it does need to be cordial and professional. It does not inspire any trust or indeed belief.


No one believes that extra money will become available – it might if we all do 24-hour days. The reality is we are all going to have to cope with reduced budgets and staff lay-offs. What is going to happen over the next four years is anyone's guess. Can we provide the service we provide now? I know we cannot.

Pupil numbers

We also have a bulge in pupils. Lack of school capacity, insufficient teachers, lower budgets , and who is going to coordinate all of this. Well it won't be the local authorities.

Now let's throw all these factors together and give them one big shake. Let’s add a seasoning of disquiet from teachers and their unions, parental concerns and some out-of-touch politicians, too arrogant for the positions they hold.

These ingredients are the perfect recipe for "the perfect storm". This is not some rent-a-quote, doom-mongering educationalist stating this; no it is a passionate headteacher who sees our system being ripped apart at the seams.

We all have a duty of care, folks, to all the children we teach. We need to protect them from these amateur educationalists and try to create some positivity. I know this is the right thing to say but at the moment I really don’t feel it.

Best dust down the wet weather gear.

Colin Harris is headteacher of Warren Park Primary School in Havant, Hampshire 

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Colin Harris

Colin Harris

Colin Harris led a school in a deprived area of Portsmouth for more than two decades. His last two Ofsted reports were “outstanding” across all categories.

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