'Trusting the profession to do its job: the only way to deal with workload and stop teachers quitting'

Politicians' disregard for the profession manifests itself in their inability to let classroom professionals get on with it, writes one former Tough Young Teacher

Oliver Beach

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Before I start, I must clarify my reason for writing: to stop teachers leaving the profession.

We need teachers to stay for many reasons: to ease recruitment difficulties, to provide consistency for students, to keep experience in the staffroom and role models in schools, to name but a few.

To be clear, I am a fan of much of the government’s reform agenda and I do not believe that many of its demands are usurious. However, I do expect the profession's voice to be heeded by decision-makers – especially in the area of workload. I don’t take too kindly to opening a newspaper and finding that education secretary Nicky Morgan has told us to stop reading emails after 5pm. Many of the issues around workload are not as black and white as arbitrary deadlines for downing tools.

Take trust, for example. Much of what central government does screams its distrust of schools and teachers – the most notable recent example being the "coasting schools" agenda.

It would be great if the powers-that-be started from the assumption that teachers are committed to the success of young people – if they did, I'm not sure the profession would be subject to the endless scrutiny it now faces. Externally, this oversight looks like league tables, BTEC- and coursework-sampling and Ofsted, among other things; internally, it can be book inspections, lesson observations and learning walks.

None of these is conducive to lowering teachers' stress and galvanising their energy to fight through despondency. From personal experience, BTEC-sampling is by far the least enjoyable scrutiny I’ve faced, and I’m including Tough Young Teachers in that assessment.

Politicians, exam boards, regulators and headteachers must trust teachers. A feeling of trust catalyses motivation and instils renewed purpose. Although this career is a deeply emotional investment, it is also a job and if teachers don’t feel valued, they will leave it. 

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Oliver Beach

A former Inner-London economics teacher, former Teach First graduate, and former star of Tough Young Teachers 

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