'Ministers now see that teaching is a vocation'

Coronavirus has changed perceptions of teaching – politicians now appreciate the dedication of staff, says Colin Harris

Colin Harris

Coronavirus: Teachers' response to the coronavirus pandemic has been amazing, writes Colin Harris

My career has spanned more than 40 years, and I have seen quite a bit in that time. But, in terms of challenges to the profession, nothing compares to the coronavirus crisis.

Covid-19 has resulted in the roles of both teacher and school changing overnight – and they have almost universally risen to the challenge in the most extraordinary ways.

But there has apparently been another step-change. It does seem to me that the government’s appreciation of the teaching profession has also improved. Ministers appear to recognise that heads and teachers are doing some truly amazing work.

(Of course, in my four decades, I’ve never witnessed school staff fail to overcome the challenges presented to them, but that’s a different matter.)

Coronavirus: Teachers' amazing response

Politicians finally seem to understand that almost all teachers still see the profession as a vocation rather than a job; that we choose our work not because of the pay cheque but because we want to work with children and their individual human needs.

When major events occur in our community, it is often the schools that respond first. From deaths of individuals to floods to supporting charities, the list of ways in which schools provide support is endless. Schools are at the hearts of their communities and teachers feel they have no option but to rise to the occasion.

They also manage to make the best of reforms that land on them from on high, with the same blend of professionalism, resilience and dedication to their pupils.

Overnight, coronavirus has changed perceptions of the profession. Schools have had to change and change fast, supporting their students online, developing new safeguarding policies, working with their communities.

Contrary to popular opinion, I believe this is because teachers are better at adapting to change than just about anyone else (because of the endless avalanche of reforms).

It is, of course, great to see the plaudits now flooding in for school staff, but, for me, their brilliance does not come as a surprise: I always knew the quality of the professionals in teaching. They are second to none.

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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