One celebrated head’s 12-point manifesto to rescue the teaching profession from crisis

3rd February 2016 at 16:11
Teaching profession in crisis
Trust in teachers, respect for teachers, Ofsted reform, league table abolition, pay rises and seven more targets…

Surely the question on the lips of every individual who is passionate about education is this: "How do we break this cycle of negativity which is engulfing our profession?"

Of course, this is no easy matter. However, I offer 12 points which, if addressed, could transform teaching.

  1. Let's get the trust back. Why don’t people believe that generally teachers know what they are talking about? Let's ditch the negatives and instead celebrate the calibre of teachers we have in this country. All we need is belief in them.
  2. Also let's show some respect. If we have the improved trust we may move forward and create an atmosphere of mutual respect for everyone involved in the system. This would require all parties in the education sector to actually talk to each other and then work towards a common goal.
  3. On that, what to do with Ofsted? It needs radical reform. It too needs to recover some respect, but that will only come when it is a critical friend rather than an oppressor. To do so it must move away from its narrow data-based focus, to one that sees children as individuals rather than numbers.
  4. The government has a role too. It must stop treating us a political football, stop meddling every week in the curriculum et al, and finally agree a national formula for funding for children. and perhaps have a little praise every now and again.
  5. The media needs to understand us. There does need to be a more positive stance, with an understanding of what a teacher’s life is like in 2016. Greater sympathy may ultimately encourage teachers to stay and also encourage others to sign up.
  6. All external agencies need to work as a team. There are so many people involved in the wellbeing of the individual in the school. There is an overwhelming need for far more joined up thinking.
  7. Scrap all league tables and all similar methods of comparison. The thought of comparing schools which are all so different (in terms of catchment, intake, size, teacher supply etc) is wrong. All schools in the country are unique and this should be reflected in any analysis of their achievements.
  8. We need a voice. Teachers need to believe they are listened to both in their schools and outside. One way of achieving this may be one union for all or, alternatively, a body that represents every teacher regardless of their role.
  9. Stop comparing our education system with those in other countries. Like different schools, different countries have different cultures and therefore their education system is different. There is no way we should even consider comparing an English child's results with his peer in China.
  10. Restoring pay. Most people understand why MPs had to have a payrise to an appropriate level, but why can't teachers have the same privilege? We are highly qualified individuals who change the lives of so many.
  11. The governance of schools needs to be addressed. The work of these "volunteers" is never appreciated. Like teachers, governors are leaving in their droves and not being replaced. It's another recruitment crisis. Governors need to be shown new-found respect, and perhaps remunerated in some way.
  12. And lastly, let's all start being more positive. If our system has to change, let's do it together. Improvement won't happen overnight, but remembering why we love our jobs is a good place to start.

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

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