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'Government education policy has a debilitating, pernicious and all-pervasive impact'

As long as government refuses to listen to teachers, a healthy work-life balance will remain a pipe dream, says one education consultant

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As long as government refuses to listen to teachers, a healthy work-life balance will remain a pipe dream, says one education consultant

It is extraordinary that we seem to have given the middle finger salute to European bureaucracy in the shape of the EU through a vote for Brexit, yet our own home-grown variety seems to flourish like knotweed in a flower bed.

Most teachers hardly feel the impact of EU bureaucracy on teaching (is there much?), yet the pernicious, all-pervasive and debilitating impact of much or our own government education policy continues to drive us away from the profession in droves. It is this very English disease that keeps me, and many others in the profession, awake at night.

Alan Keyes, the American political activist, writes:"Bureaucracies are inherently anti-democratic. Bureaucrats derive their power from their position in the structure, not from their relations with the people they are supposed to serve.  The people are not masters of the bureaucracy but its clients."

The inspection regime is a case in point. Why is it that we have an education system controlled by a police force? How much more effective could our education system be if the inspection bodies acted as a health service instead? 

There was a time not so long ago, under the previous system, when the inspectors who visited a school would actually be a part of the process of change. If a school was found wanting the inspectors would stay and help that institution’s managers to bring about the necessary changes. Nobody lost their jobs or reputations or even lives, and teaching and learning flourished in a less stressed and more productive environment. 

The inspection 'police'

How much better things would be if Ofsted and the Independent Schools Inspectorate services ensured that the school inspection regime itself was a part of the solution and actively assisted in implementing change in failing schools rather than just pointing out a school’s shortcomings and walking away from the problem, as at present. 

After all, if a teacher was writing a report on a pupil’s progress and found that child to be wanting in a certain area, it would hardly be best practice for that teacher to point out the child’s shortcomings before walking away. A good teacher would actively show that child how to improve and take appropriate measures to assist in that process.

Yet, as I write, it seems as though little will change as our government continues to bury its head in the sand and refuses to listen to the very people who deliver education to our children – the teachers themselves.  

Instead, we will continue to experience sleepless nights, worried about the pressures of looming inspections. The mental health of teachers and pupils will continue to suffer and a healthy work-life balance will remain a pipe dream. 

As for the teaching and learning environment, will this too will be held hostage to the vagaries of tick, box and Miss Management along with our children’s progress and their joy of learning? 

However, we are seeing some encouraging signs, such as the proposals to simplify and streamline Ofsted grading of schools. Maybe with a new prime minister and secretary of state, educators might be able to look forward to a government that is more inclined to listen to its teachers, parents and voters and steer policy accordingly. We can only hope.

James Glasse is a tutor and education consultant

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