`More must be done to give teaching the status it deserves'

24th April 2015 at 01:00
`Worrying' figures reveal 81% of school staff feel undervalued

Eight in 10 teachers do not feel valued by society, according to a survey by TES and YouGov, which provides an insight into how low morale has sunk within the profession.

Overall, 81 per cent of the workforce say the teaching profession is undervalued by the wider public, with the proportion jumping to 91 per cent among headteachers. The figures were described as "worrying" by the chief executive of Teach First.

According to the poll of more than 600 teachers, discontent is consistent across the board, regardless of whether the respondents are classroom teachers, senior leaders or supply teachers.

Vic Goddard, principal of Passmores Academy and star of Educating Essex, said the way teachers were portrayed in the mainstream media was a crucial factor. The profession's image had also been tarnished in the eyes of the public by the impact of industrial action and "the negativity directed towards us by those who are supposedly in charge of improving education nationally", he added.

"There seems to be a default setting within the media, especially the written media, of blaming the profession for everything negative that is reported about young people," Mr Goddard said. "It's worth remembering that only 15 to 18 per cent of childhood is spent in school."

The figures show the profession is still pessimistic about its place in society despite ministers' attempts to alleviate teachers' workload and improve the relationship with the workforce.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan has repeatedly attempted to boost morale among teachers, calling them "heroes" in her speech at the Conservative Party conference in September.

And just this week, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg promised to restore morale. "I get very distressed when I hear how teachers feel they have been somewhat put upon in recent years," he said on the campaign trail, adding that he would "celebrate, not denigrate, the great, noble profession".

Brett Wigdortz, founder and chief executive of Teach First, said his organisation had helped to raise the status of teaching, but added that the figures showed more needed to be done.

"Teach First is proud to have played a part in raising the status of the profession, with teaching now being seen as one of the most prestigious careers for the country's graduates," Mr Wigdortz said. "However, as the worrying figures from TES reveal, it is clear that not enough is being done to ensure that teaching is given the status it deserves more widely. This must change."

The survey results are broadly in line with a poll conducted last year by Ipsos Mori on behalf of the Key, an online support service for school leaders. At the time, 82 per cent of headteachers felt staff morale was lower than in 2010.

But the numbers are markedly higher than in a major global census, the Teaching and Learning International Survey. This revealed in June 2014 that 65 per cent of teachers in England felt "undervalued, unsupported and unrecognised".

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said he was surprised by the figures, adding that he believed the "majority of the public do value teachers", despite the profession's insecurities.

He said: "The majority of parents, in particular, value their children's teachers and respect the hard work they put in. The reason teachers may not feel valued is because of what they see and hear in the public statements made in the world of politics."

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL teaching union, agreed. "Teachers are valued by society, but it has been the barrage of denigration that teachers have received from the right wing of the coalition government that makes them feel they aren't," she said.

Where teachers are a `force for good'

Vic Goddard, principal of Passmores Academy in Essex, previously taught in Egypt where he noticed a marked difference in how teachers were perceived compared with the UK.

"I spent three years working in Cairo and the difference in how being a teacher was valued by the community was very, very evident," Mr Goddard says. "There is no doubt that just about everyone I dealt with while I was there saw teachers as a force for good for their children and the wider society.

"Parents, taxi drivers, shopkeepers and landlords were all very respectful because of that."

Estimating esteem

Do you believe the teaching profession is valued by society?

% Yes % No

Overall 19 81

Headteacher 9 91

Deputyassistant headteacher 16 84

Senior teacher 21 79

Teacher 19 81

Supply teacher 18 82

Source: TESYouGov poll

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