Ease up on the pace of initiative overload

14th December 2007 at 00:00
Constant change is a great source of stress for teachers, and education has always been like a game of political football for the policy-makers Doubtless the politicians mean well and believe that their policies will revolutionise learning and herald a new era of educational excellence.

But in reality the classroom at the grassroots of education rarely changes. Teachers still can only cope with so much before something gives. We now have the Welsh baccalaureate qualification; the foundation phase, key stage 2 and 3 assessments, the 14-19 learning pathways, and the skills-based curriculum.

As a teacher, do you feel well-prepared for the tasks ahead or do they fill you with doom and dread? It begs the question of a work-life balance. Whatever happened to the promise of more quality time under the workload agreement?

Then there's the question of funding. The settlement in the latest budget round is poor and efficiency savings will be the order of the day in 2008. How does the Assembly government expect schools and teachers to cope, and more importantly does it care?

Does the government want teacher stress levels to soar and more teachers on the sick? Teachers, by and large, are some of the most conscientious people in society. All the present discontent reminds me of the time a few years back when the Dearing review had to come to the rescue of the Government and led to the downsizing of the national curriculum. This impending juggernaut under a devolved government must be stopped or meltdown will ensue.

Is there no joined-up thinking at the Assembly? Surely new initiatives, as previous history in education has taught us, must be introduced very gradually or they are doomed. Then there are falling rolls, crumbling buildings, teacher redundancies, chartered teacher status, school closures, poor pay settlements over the next three years, and the inclusion agenda... I'm exhausted just writing it all.

Anyone thinking of applying for a post as a head would surely think again in the present climate. Teachers are sometimes accused of being educational dinosaurs but even the "let's suck it and see" crowd will blanch at so much so soon. In any case what's wrong with dinosaurs? They lasted unchanged for millions of years.

I believe these changes, some of them supported by teachers, must either be phased in or adapted so schools can cope. Failure to do so will have a deleterious effect on teachers and pupils. There is only so much a body, mind and soul can take and all these things all at once will overload the dedicated workforce. The politicians must go back to the drawing board or else.

Jim Goodall is a retired science teacher from Torfaen.

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