It's a hard road to reach excellence

16th February 2007 at 00:00
You would think that teachers, especially in primary schools, would feel positively re-invigorated and energised, particularly as they experience the full thrust of the post-McCrone agreement and the promise in A Curriculum for Excellence with its flexible, fun approach.

Yet a recent report estimated that sick cover for teachers relating to stress cost taxpayers pound;6million, and the chief executive of Teacher Support Scotland stated that the problem was so serious that the Health and Safety Executive considers teachers to be an "at risk" group.

Why is it, with the exceptionally generous McCrone package and the amazingly liberal philosophy of A Curriculum for Excellence, that teachers are not basking in a secure stress-free environment where they can relax in the knowledge that they are doing an excellent job?

Perhaps it has something to do with teachers feeling at the receiving end of one too many U-turns and changes. To go from the restrictions of the prescriptive 5-14 guidelines to the blase "anything goes" scenarios is too big a leap - notwithstanding the plethora of continuing professional development on offer.

There seems to be confusion over what is deemed "excellent" practice. There seems to be increased circulation of exemplars of "excellence" which contradict each other. There is a definite increase in the number of classroom interruptions.

There seems to be less fluidity to the day as learning assistants, behaviour support workers, learning support teachers, early interventionists, speech therapists, and so on make their way into classrooms to interact with their assigned pupilpupils. Perhaps this is what is meant by the class teacher becoming more of a "facilitator for learning". Sometimes it feels more like a facilitator of the flow of traffic through revolving doors.

Teachers want to do the best for their pupils. They want to nurture and watch them develop into confident individuals and successful learners in a relaxed and non-threatening environment. But if there is no one there to support and nurture the teacher, then the pursuit of excellence will be lost.

Those at the heart of policy-making should consider the wear and tear on individuals when pushing through their relentless drive to give Scotland a world-class education system.

Maura McRobbie is a primary teacher in West Dunbartonshire

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