Design for slow despairing death of zeal

14th February 1997 at 00:00
After 30 years of teaching what is now called Design and Technology in LEA secondary schools, I have been able to retain my enthusiasm and drive and to balance a healthy cynicism towards the ridiculous bureaucracy which surrounds us with, still, a pioneering zeal for my vision of design education.

I have established links with industry which have led recently to national and international recognition for students and most recently have enabled a student to gain a 50 per cent interest in a worldwide patent for his idea. I have even earned praise from Office for Standards in Education inspectors.

I have watched colleagues of my age and younger fall by the wayside exhausted but I, fortunately, do not feel burnt out. I still feel I have much to offer - and yet I am seriously considering packing it all in.

A popular saying among politicians in power is: "Throwing money at the problem is not the answer", as though this were an obvious truism. In a climate where denigrating "idle" teachers is good sport, it has been repeated often enough to stick and, together with sound-bites such as: "there is no evidence that class size affects learning", has aided the hypocrisy of claiming an increase in spending whilst actually making a cut.

My gas supply was cut off just before Christmas because fume extraction does not meet health and safety regulations. I have been waiting for nearly two years to have essential electrical work done. When the will to rectify these problems can be established, there will be the inevitable bureaucratic delay and no one is quite sure yet where the money will come from.

In mid-year, a moratorium was declared on my faculty spending, technically making me no longer a budget holder, and the reason for this was and still is that we have an enormous projected budget deficit for the next financial year.

My teaching groups are mostly close to the absolute maximum size but, in order to deal with the expected deficit, it is likely that we shall have to cut our teaching staff. It is the only way to make savings of the scale required. This will certainly mean larger teaching groups and less non-contact time for staff who already have recently experienced increased workloads. Simultaneously, there will be less money to run departments.

I am angry - very, very angry that a Government which declares education to be at the top of its agenda can even begin to allow such a situation to develop.

It is a personal tragedy to reach middle age before realising finally that you have chosen the wrong career. I have spent my career saying "maybe next year things will start to get better" but I am approaching the worst situation in my experience. The "fastest-growing economy in Western Europe" and the country which is producing 200 new millionaires every year will never afford to fund state education properly.

I say: "Don't put your son or your daughter in the classroom Mrs Worthington. " It's not a profession worth the name.

The old truism has become untrue with a vengeance. If education really is the key to all our futures, then the time has come to throw money at the problem, and lots of it. It needs throwing at teachers' salaries, at teacher numbers, at buildings and at equipment and materials. It needs throwing at early years, at primary education, at secondary education and at continuing education.

If this is not done, the social dislocation through disadvantage which we are seeing currently is but a prelude to the storm.

R W BROWN Furlong House Swallow Lane Tydd Gote Wisbech, Cambridge

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