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What keeps me awake at night: The system that routinely breaks its teachers is itself broken

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For me, something snapped in November of last year. The widely reported news of the suicide of an award-winning primary school headteacher was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and has been keeping me awake ever since. 

Carol Woodward, a former regional primary school headteacher of the year, had been the long serving head at Woodford Primary School near Plymouth. The swift decline in her mental health coincided with Ofsted's downgrading of her school, disruptive building work and the increasing pressures of the academic year. 

What kind of system can it be that drives a hard-working, conscientious, dedicated and much loved headteacher to take her own life? What kind of signal does that send out to our children and young people? What kind of society are we creating? 

Petition for a better system

I believe that a system that routinely breaks its teachers is itself broken, and this is why I started a petition against it. Judging by the comments from the hundreds of concerned parents, teachers and headteachers that have signed thus far, I take great comfort in realising that I am not alone. No revolution here – just a request for common sense and a system no longer based on fear. The words of the signatories speak far more eloquently than I can about how teaching is becoming impossible because of the insane demands on our educationalists.

The petition on the purpose and quality of education in England was submitted as evidence to the House of Commons Education Committee by the January deadline, but I have not yet received a response. 

Since that time, signatures and comments have continued to pour in; ordinary teachers, parents, school leaders, grandparents and other concerned individuals are making their voices heard and taking ownership of it. Life is complicated enough when it is simple – common sense should tell us that the bureaucracy that teachers face is making their jobs impossible. Something needs to change.  

James Glasse is a tutor and education consultant who writes on educational blog.

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