The view inside the classroom

31st October 2008 at 00:00
Three surveys have taken the temperature of teachers and pupils, revealing tension about the status of education, financial strains and worries about careers


By Michael Shaw

Nine out of 10 teachers do not think they have the same professional standing as lawyers and doctors although many are just fed up at being compared to them.

There were some irritable replies to a poll of more than 200 education workers which asked if teachers were treated as professionals.

One said that the word professional had become a stick to beat teachers. "At best it aligns us with a bunch of disreputables: lawyers, doctors and whores." Another was "fed up" with being compared to other professions. "Doctors and lawyers don't deal with 30 `clients' at once," said one worker. "Consequently, the nature of (our) work is radically different, and arguably much more complex."

The survey, predominantly filled in by primary and secondary teachers, was carried out by the Standing Committee for the Education and Training of Teachers (Scett). Its findings are due to be discussed at the Battle of Ideas, a festival of debate starting in London tomorrow.

Three quarters of those surveyed felt teachers' pay should be comparable to doctors and lawyers.

"Both the hours most teachers work and the intellectual challenge of any outstanding teaching is easily commensurate with the hours and intellectual challenges of law and medicine," one said. "I would say it probably exceeds them."

Nine out of 10 felt teachers want to be recognised as professionals. But seven out of 10 thought the status of teaching was diminishing.

Some felt the curriculum, and the way they were monitored, was so prescriptive that they no longer had freedom to exercise judgment.

"We are watched ad nauseam through digital, data and physical observations," one said. "Even without the cameras in our rooms, you can get the feeling we are not to be trusted."

Another said: "Successive governments have attempted to reduce teaching to an unproblematic activity that anyone with the appropriate handbook can deliver."


By David Marley

Pupils are increasingly worried about their futures and are enjoying school less than a year ago, according to an Ofsted survey of more than 150,000 young people.

The poll, the biggest of its kind, found that significantly fewer pupils think their schools are dealing well with bullying - down from 57 per cent last year to just 35 per cent this year.

The number who said they had never been bullied fell from 70 per cent last year to 56 per cent.

Almost a third of 10 to 15-year-olds said the thing that most worried them was their body, the first time that question had been asked.

The Tellus3 survey involved pupils in years 6, 8 and 10 at more than 3,100 schools across England.

Only one in four pupils said they had never had an alcoholic drink, compared to more than 40 per cent last year, which was the first time the survey was carried out.

Eighty-nine per cent said they had not used cannabis in the past four weeks, a slightly higher figure than last year.

The numbers saying that they had never smoked a cigarette increased from 73 to 75 per cent.

Christine Gilbert, chief inspector of schools, said: "More needs to be done to support concerns for those children who do not feel safe in schools, those who are bullied and children who smoke, drink and misuse drugs."

The number of pupils worried about their futures marked one of the biggest changes since last year, up from just 30 to 49 per cent.

More said they wanted to go on to university, but many felt they did not have access to good enough advice on courses and careers.

The majority of young people (69 per cent) said they were happy and almost all (95 per cent) said they had one or more good friends.


By William Stewart

Teachers are much more stressed, worried about money and their relationships with colleagues than they were a year ago, new figures from the Teacher Support Network (TSN) suggest.

The charity has seen a massive 64 per cent increase in the number of contacts it has had from teachers seeking its help between July and September compared to the same period in 2007. It attributes some of these 9,175 extra inquiries - pushing the total up to 23,499 - to improvements in its service. But it believes much of the increase is down to teachers' own personal circumstances deteriorating.

Patrick Nash, the charity's chief executive, said: "It seems the credit crunch is taking its toll on teachers' wallets and through an increase in anxiety, stress and depression."

The charity has given out 25 per cent more grants and loans so far in 2008, compared to the same period last year.

The amount of money awarded is also increasing, with an average Pounds 1,116 paid out between July and September, compared to Pounds 970 the previous quarter.

But a Department for Children Schools and Families survey has brighter news on pupil behaviour.

The poll of 1,400 teachers found that 94 per cent rated behaviour as acceptable or better, and 83 per cent thought they were well equipped to tackle poor behaviour.

Newly-qualified teachers and trainee teachers appear to be particularly hard hit by the economic situation, with requests for money advice or assistance making up 30 per cent of all calls to TSN from the two groups, compared to just 10 per cent last year.

"We work with people to identify other sources of support, such as benefits and tax credits, and ways of reorganising their debt to make their repayments more manageable," said Mr Nash.

- TSN can be contacted on 0800 0562561 or at


By Michael Shaw

The global financial crisis has a potential upside: now City jobs seem more precarious than ever, schools may hang on to their Teach First graduates for longer.

About half of the high-flyers on the scheme leave teaching after their two-year placements in challenging secondaries. But now schools seem a safer career option.

Teach First continues to run events to help participants get jobs in other industries when they complete their placements.

But some teachers who are on those courses seem to be having second thoughts.

At a Teach First event this week, a straw poll of 30 participants found the majority were considering staying in teaching more seriously because of the economy.

"Teaching has always been a reliable, steady job but even more so now," one English and history teacher said.

"Having been in teaching for two years, I came to a point where I had considered being ambitious and thought I'd try something new. I've since decided to think twice about that now."

Laura Kavalier, a maths teacher at the Harris Academy in Bermondsey, south London, said the state of jobs in the City made her even more glad she had already decided to stay on at the school.

But she said: "I don't think many Teach Firsters are driven hugely by money, they want careers in something they are passionate about. I also think they will do whatever it takes to get there, credit crunch or no credit crunch."

Teach First said it was unable to predict if more participants would stay in schools, but it was planning a scheme called Teach On to help them.

Brett Wigdortz, chief executive, said: "We expect our graduates will continue to pursue diverse careers but hope they will always address educational disadvantage throughout their careers."

Teach First still lists a foundation established by collapsed bank Lehman Brothers as one of its main sponsors. It had previously invited Peter Sherratt, the bank's vice-chairman, to one of its "Cock-up club" meetings where business people talk about their mistakes.

Do teachers have the same standing as lawyers and doctors?

NO - 89%

Should teachers' pay be comparable to lawyers and doctors?

YES - 76%

Should teachers be concerned to be formally recognised as professionals?

YES - 91%

Is the status of teaching as a profession diminishing?

YES - 72%

Has the General Teaching Council and government made you more professional?

NO - 48%

In general, do teachers have people's trust?

YES - 58%

Are teachers better trained today than decade ago?

YES - 40%.


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