'We have a broken system, with broken teachers'

Education has been the whipping boy of governments – election promises will do little to change that, says Colin Harris

School funding cuts: Government austerity has caused teachers to flee the education system, writes Colin Harris

Once again, it is a time of promises and lies. Yes, it is election time and, once again, education is a political football to be bounced around for the enjoyment of all. That is, of course, unless you are a teacher. 

The promises are staggering. Yet, when the veneer of positivity is scraped from those words, what are we actually left with?

The past 10 years have truly devastated our beloved profession. Austerity is a word often bandied about, but the reality of it is that our children have suffered the continuous cutbacks in staff, resources and courses, in order to satisfy budgets. And, all the time, schools need to show that they’re continually improving, otherwise the jaws of Ofsted will get you.

Teachers fleeing the profession

Something was always going to give. The truth is thousands of individuals left the profession, driven out one by one – to the detriment of the pupils they supported. Because of austerity, the profession is now a shadow of what it was. 

And now young graduates have heeded the words of those already in the profession. They’ve heard about its low pay and status and high workload, and have gone elsewhere. 

Thanks to austerity, we have a broken system, with broken teachers.

The Tories can pledge their billions, which in reality will just take us back to the financial levels we had in 2010. They can talk about beefing up Ofsted, and more choice, but the truth is that the gate is open and the horse has bolted. Our future teachers can see through the smokescreen of a ruptured system, and it is going to need more than a few billions to put right.

I would be all in favour of the scrapping of Sats, and a real reform of Ofsted. Other policies can sit there in the ether, but without the recognition that we are probably in our worst position we have been in as a profession for 30 years, there will be no positive change. 

School funding cuts

Years of being the whipping boys of successive governments have left teachers with the lowest morale I have ever seen. This is not going to change overnight.

For far too long, we have been subjected to continuous change with little or no consultation. Government so-called improvements have ripped out the very heart of our education system, to the point that professionals in the system are as confused by it as the parents

Those of us with education in our blood are saddened by every new initiative, but we are seldom surprised by its futility.

Education is on its knees

What happened to involving the professionals? This should have been at the heart of every party's manifesto. It is time to create an education system that teachers, parents and children are proud of, and which meets the needs of the future – not the narrow political ideology of a few.

It saddens me to say this, but education is on its knees at the moment, and has been for many years. Of course, more money is needed. But we need so much more than the empty promises currently on offer. 

Colin Harris led a school in a deprived area of Portsmouth for more than two decades. His last two Ofsted reports were "outstanding" across all categories

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