Are you listening, Mr Brown?

22nd June 2007 at 01:00
Pay, funding and too much testing top teachers' wish list in TES survey

HAVING COMMITTED himself to a tough line on public sector pay, Gordon Brown should not be surprised if salaries are once again at the forefront of teachers' minds.

When The TES asked more than 700 staff which issue the new Prime Minister should tell his education secretary to tackle first, pay came top of the list.

Jonathan Maunder, a newly qualified teacher at Strode's college in Egham, Surrey, agreed that pay was the big issue, particularly for young teachers.

"I'm renting at the moment with my girlfriend and rent takes up almost half my income," he said. "There are new flats being built around us which are beyond our reach. The prospect on pay looks pretty grim. Many young teachers I've spoken to are trying to get into the private sector."

A primary school teacher in east London said he had recently turned down the chance to buy a keyworker flat because he could not afford it.

"I'm not in this job for the money," he said. "But teachers, and other public sector workers, need big increases in pay."

But it wasn't just salaries that teachers want to see boosted; they also called for more cash to be spent on schools. Cutting or abolishing government tests came next on the list of priorities. Teachers want national tests to be swept away or reduced, despite Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, saying earlier this month that such tests improve standards.

Gareth Calway, head of English at Smithdon high in Hunstanton, Norfolk, said abolishing Sats should be the No 1 priority.

"Tests have replaced teaching," he said. "We go through the motions for the Sats because we have to, and then get back to the real work. The children find preparing for tests equally dreary.

"I don't think the current English test makes teenagers more literate - quite the opposite."

Mr Calway said teachers were fed up with being bombarded with new initiatives, a view echoed by many teachers, who said they wanted to be left alone.

"Let teachers teach" was a recurring plea in the survey - it was often written in capitals and emphasised by several exclamation marks. Many teachers put this top of their wish list.

After money, tests and the freedom to teach, a cut in paperwork was next on the list of teachers' priorities, perhaps inspired by the Chancellor's many pledges to cut red tape in the business world.

Behaviour ranked only fifth on the list. Familiar demands were made for more powers to discipline troublemakers.

There were roughly similar levels of support for cutting class sizes, for continuity rather than change, and for listening to teachers before devising new policies.

A large number, around a third of those surveyed, called for immediate action in line with their special interests or subject focus. One demanded specialist teachers for gifted children, another said the Government should be "more courageous" in its approach to foreign languages.

Several teachers spoke up for grammar schools, while one wanted selection completely abolished. Only two thought a ban on new academies should be the top priority for Mr Brown.

What teachers said...

... about pay: "More pay for teachers, especially new teachers."

"A pay structure that attracts and retains high quality people."

... Testing "Less testing." "Scrap Sats." "Get rid of testing for primary school children."

... Government interference "Let us teach!!!!!!" "Let teachers be professionals." "Leave teachers alone for a while - no new initiatives."

... Paperwork "Less paperwork, more teaching." "Cut down on the paperwork."

... Behaviour "Deal with thugs in schools." "Empower schools to deal with behaviour that threatens staff physically or emotionally."

Other comments

"Continue the enterprise focus - brilliant!"

"Focus on the children, not the spin."

"Don't put independent school teachers into state schools."

"All parents to do dinner-time duty."

"Choose a mission and stick to it."

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