Labour 'too tough on teachers', says Twigg

24th January 2003 at 00:00
REPORTS, after a survey of teachers by England's General Teaching Council, that that one in three teachers wants to leave the profession within five years were "misleading", a minister said this week.

Stephen Twigg told The TES that coverage of the MORI survey of 70,000 staff gave the impression that one in three teachers would leave because they were unhappy with teaching.

But only 6 per cent had said they would leave for other careers. A sixth of all teachers would reach retirement age within five years, while others were leaving to take a career break or have a baby.

Mr Twigg said the media, rather than the GTC, was to blame. He did acknowledge the survey's findings that many teachers still faced serious difficulties in their jobs.

And he admitted that Labour had been too tough on teachers when it came into power.

He said that the Government had "emphasised the negatives too much" in its bid to reassure the public that standards in schools were its main priority.

Mr Twigg said: "I think it was important that we demonstrated as a Labour government that we were first and foremost concerned to ensure educational standards.

"We were absolutely right in our priorities for education in 1997. We were absolutely right to implement the literacy and numeracy strategies. "We were right to focus on class sizes, to send out a powerful message on the need for standards and accountability and inspection.

"But our rhetoric and emphasis could have been a bit different, to give an emphasis on the positive work and the professionalism of teachers."

The admission came as Mr Twigg sought to emphasise the positive work ministers were doing with teachers, from proposing new measures to cut their workloads to setting up professional bodies such as the National College for School Leadership and GTCs for England and Wales.

"It's no longer the case that politicians feel the need constantly to be critical of teachers," he said. Some 56 per cent of teachers polled by MORI said their morale was lower than when they joined the profession and a third would not go into teaching if they had their time again. They cited workload, government initiatives and targets and behaviour as key factors.

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