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Teachers feel 'undervalued, unsupported and unrecognised', finds global survey

More than two-thirds of teachers feel “undervalued, unsupported and unrecognised”, according to a major international survey of the profession.

Out of more than 100,000 secondary teachers across 34 countries who took part in the Teaching and Learning International Survey (Talis), 69 per cent of respondents said they did not think that teaching was “valued in society”, dropping slightly to 65 per cent in England.

While more than 90 per cent of teachers said they were satisfied with their job and almost four-fifths would choose to join the profession again if they had the chance, the wide-ranging report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reveals that many find themselves working “in isolation”.

Just a third of teachers said they observe their colleagues in the classroom, with over half admitting they never or rarely take part in team-teaching with colleagues. Those teachers who work more closely with colleagues report higher levels of job satisfaction.

The study was welcomed by Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL teachers’ union, who said that the working lives of teachers in English schools were “dominated by bureaucracy and form filling”.

“School leaders are not empowered to do what they know is best for their pupils, but what they think Ofsted will expect and demand," she said. "The OECD, however, says that in the top performing education systems, schools are democratic places for teachers to work.”

While the vast majority of teachers in England reported receiving appraisals from at least one senior colleague, many expressed concerns about the usefulness of the exercise.

Over half (51 per cent) described the process as “largely done to fulfill administrative requirements”, while just 43 per cent were of the view that consistently underperforming colleagues were “likely to be dismissed”. 

Michael Davidson, the OECD’s head of early childhood and schools, said a good appraisal system “recognises good teaching and rewards it, and provides development needs for teachers that don’t”.

“As in any profession, there will be some people that come into teaching that are not well-suited [to it] and you need some mechanism [to tackle underperformance] in those cases,” he added.

“Teachers in England get… more feedback than [in] just about any other country, [but] the question is, is that feedback making a difference?

"The evidence [suggests] it isn’t making as much of a difference as it is on some other countries… It isn’t affecting what they do in the classroom, it isn’t having any positive effect on their self-confidence.”

Fred van Leeuwen, general secretary of the global teaching union federation Education International, said the report “paints a remarkable picture of the realities of formal appraisal”, and called for a “radical review” of current processes.

“While teachers welcome constructive feedback which enhances their teaching and believe that appraisal is at its most positive when it leads to high quality and relevant professional development, the finding that teachers believe overall systems of appraisal are not working well is very significant,” he said.

“It places a major question mark over why such schemes have been established in the first place. If teachers don’t believe appraisal is working well it won’t be effective.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said there "has never been a better time to be a teacher", adding that there had been an increase of 9,000 teachers in English schools in the last year. 

“We are incredibly fortunate to have many thousands of dedicated, hard-working teachers, committed to teaching excellence," she said.

"Teaching is now one of the most attractive career paths for graduates, with a record number of top graduates now joining the profession. Through academies and free schools, we are taking power away from politicians and bureaucrats and handing it to teachers – after all they’re the ones who know their pupils best and they should be trusted to get on with the job, free from interference.”


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