Morale higher in toughest schools

11th November 2005 at 00:00
Teachers in challenging urban areas are keener to stay in the profession than many of their counterparts in leafier areas. Michael Shaw reports.

Teachers who work in challenging schools are more optimistic about their careers and keener to stay in the profession, according to a new study.

Staff in tough inner-city schools feel more positive about government education initiatives than their colleagues in leafier areas, the report says.

Researchers from the National Foundation for Educational Research analysed data from a survey of 10,000 primary and secondary teachers conducted earlier this year by England's General Teaching Council.

Teachers at challenging schools were significantly more likely than others to expect to become senior managers or headteachers within the next five years.

They were also slightly less likely to say that they intended to leave teaching during that time, and consistently more positive about government initiatives, including academies and changes to teacher assessment.

But not everything was rosier in challenging schools. Teachers working in them were more likely to consider leaving the state sector for jobs in private schools and less likely to think that teaching was considered a high-status job.

They were also more cynical about the usefulness of performance tables and less likely to say that they had received all the support they needed in the past year for their professional development.

Carol Adams, chief executive of the GTC, said that the high aspirations among teachers in challenging schools were encouraging. But she said the survey underlined the importance of improving their training.

"Working in schools in challenging circumstances is about as tough as it gets," she said.

"It's very disappointing to learn that the teachers who have arguably the hardest job get the least support for their own professional learning."

Broadwater Farm primary in Tottenham, north London, is one of the schools which would have been classified as extremely challenging.

The majority of its 530 pupils speak English as a second language and live on the surrounding Broadwater Farm estate, an area of high deprivation made notorious by rioting in 1985.

The school has been repeatedly inspected since last November, when Ofsted found that it had serious weaknesses, low attendance and exceptionally poor test results.

But Katrin Goodwin, 25, who has been teaching at Broadwater Farm for two years, said she was looking forward to many more years at the school and was keen to take on management responsibilities.

"The school's been through a sticky patch but the challenges keep you on your toes and there is a real team spirit because of them," she said.

"I feel very comfortable in this school and I think it's helpful to work somewhere that is very different from the state and private schools I attended when I was growing up in Cambridge."

Ms Goodwin agreed that teachers in challenging schools were more appreciative of government initiatives because they were under greater pressure to learn about them.

However, she disagreed with the survey's findings about insufficient professional development, saying that she had received all the mentoring and coaching she needed.

The researchers studied how answers differed between teachers who worked in schools that had more and less challenging social contexts than the average, which they measured by creating a score for each school based on a mix of factors, including exam results and the proportion of pupils who spoke English as a second language or had special educational needs.

* michael.shaw@tes.co.uk

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