Morale even lower north of the border

10th January 1997 at 00:00
Teachers in Scotland are more depressed and demoralised than their counterparts in England.

This is likely to come as a shock to teachers south of the border, who see the Scottish education system as enlightened and benefiting from class size limits, parental support and lack of the interfering government that has bedevilled English schools for more than a decade.

But there are two other factors at work. The Glasgow focus group felt subordinated and alienated by rule from London, perceiving political parties as having an exclusively English focus. They felt they were unable to influence government.

They thought there was no distinctively Scottish voice in education: any pledges made by the Scottish Nationalist Party had failed to register with them, and the party was seen as uninterested in anything but independence. Under the circumstances, it is perhaps surprising that devolution was mentioned only by a couple of teachers: most seemed lukewarm towards the idea.

The other factor colouring Scottish perceptions of life in teaching is rampant job insecurity. Teachers see their local authorities as being in dire financial straits, and job losses are seen as inevitable.

Otherwise, teachers in Scotland are demoralised for many of the same reasons: class size, lack of resources, government interference in the curriculum and a lack of status and career development. Much of this may be because ministerial pronouncements and the tendency to blame teachers for unwelcome social factors has spread to Scotland, even if there is local respect for education and the bad publicity does not emanate from there.

Oddly, one thing that is less of a concern is school safety, even after the Dunblane tragedy. Only one teacher was concerned about the ease of gaining access to her school.

The focus of concern was more about disruptive children who could not be handled within the mainstream and for whom, it was felt, there was not proper provision, placing yet more pressure on teachers.

Another oddity is that despite their limit of 33 on class sizes, which does not apply in England and Wales, Scottish teachers were concerned about the whole issue.

The similarities suggest that an incoming government has a great deal of work to do in order to raise low morale which has become endemic in two different national education systems.

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