Fear and loathing in an annual union conference

24th May 2013 at 01:00

I feel compelled to express my feelings after reading the press coverage from the recent annual conference of the NAHT headteachers' union. I have led a school since 2009 and I have always loved children and learning, but things have changed. I feel under constant pressure to survive. I fear the changing inspection process and struggle to remember why I am leading a school. The staff and children effectively rescue me daily and convert my glass from half empty to half full. I chose to lead but I don't want just to survive.

In the past three years there have been huge changes in education. A culture of fear exists. No matter how committed you are, a difficult school inspection can change everything. You can feel that you are on your own - and, ultimately, you are. Local authorities have all but gone and if you are failing you will be expected to move on and the school will be sponsored.

But I have found a way to bring some sense to it all. A year ago, my school joined five others locally and we became a cooperative trust. For the first time in a while we have someone else. You could call it a fellowship. The energy I get from my fellow headteachers has rescued me and I'm ready to carry on leading.

The UK government is entitled to have high expectations but ministers must believe in teachers. They should not assume that we are stuck in the past and happy to "require improvement" or stay at "good". We, too, want the best achievement possible but genuine, sustained improvement takes time.

The government and Ofsted have the right to do all they can to raise standards. But, when I know how committed and hard-working I am, if I am not sure at times that I can carry everything then the balance is not quite right.

Michael Gove may read the last sentence and reply "then maybe we need to part company". But if "good" headteachers have misgivings about recent reform there will not be a queue of new leaders to replace them. I don't want the government to stop all that it is doing but teachers and students deserve more.

Anonymous, Author details provided.

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