I have been asked to write an online column for TES. What experience, you may ask, have I got to take up such an offer?
I have taught for 36 years in a variety of different schools. For the past 24 of those I have been a headteacher at two schools and have, in a so-called deprived area and with a dedicated staff, achieved two "outstanding" Ofsted inspections. I have taught in secondaries and in universities, and have been an Ofsted inspector. I have been a local authority support head, and have written for a variety of education magazines. I also have two daughters – one a teacher and one in preschool – who provide me with another perspective. Most importantly, however, I am a feet-on-the-ground educationalist, who actually talks to his staff rather than continually telling them what to do.
Recently I had an interesting dialogue with my new local MP over a proposed visit to my school. Eventually I received a reply, although I think I could have been forgiven for thinking it to be a party political broadcast. As I read it, I pondered the fact that the people who plan our education system have little or no knowledge of it. How can this be the case when their decisions shape the lives of so many young people?
Enough of this, let's return to the letter. My favourite line was the following: "The best people to run schools are teachers, so the government has given them greater control over such things as budget and discipline, through academy freedoms. Teachers can now issue same-day detentions, and search pupils." I can hear you all cheering at this, safe in the knowledge that this is what will revitalise a demoralised profession. In fact, I’m off right now to utilise my "academy freedoms".
I also recently received an email from a former headteacher, who after nine years in this role in the North of England emigrated to Canada. He talked of his reasons for leaving but also of the Canadian system. I say this because the government likes to compare us to other countries. My correspondent talked of a far higher salary, better working conditions and a society and a government that holds teachers in high esteem. His letter showed admiration for my stance and wished teachers in this country luck for the future. Is this what we are reduced to? That what we need is a bit of luck?
It is not luck we need. What we need is a voice, for every individual who every day works relentlessly to improve the lot for children. We need to truly believe that people in power listen, and we need to get back to the ability to debate issues which affect the children in our care. Twenty-five thousand schools should not all be wasting time on new assessment packages when we know that at any time the government could change their minds yet again. We need to see a thought-out approach to our system, not what we have experienced over recent years.
Through this column I intend to offer my voice, and that of my staff and colleagues. I hope you feel free to join in with me. It is, after all, our life and will be for years to come. We need two things for the future in order to make a positive difference and change in education. First, we need to speak with one voice as a profession; all the teaching unions really need to get their act together. Second, we need to get people to listen to us, about every aspect of our profession. Perhaps this column in some small way is a start. It can certainly be used as a voice; now all we have to do is to get people to listen... Let's try.