How to stop teachers heading for the exit | Letters | Education
Sally Weale’s article (‘I’d burn in hell before teaching in England again’, G2, 13 November) reports that UK-trained teachers are moving to private schools abroad: “Often exhausted by their experiences in the UK, they complain of excessive workload, stress, a lack of work-life balance, funding cuts, a dread of Ofsted, an obsession with paperwork, accountability measures, poor behaviour, children bringing weapons to school, high staff turnover … the list goes on.”
This is not a recent phenomenon. I was a secondary schoolteacher in the 1970s and the 1980s and very similar career dynamics prevailed: just add to the above overly hierarchical structures; demeaning bosses; poor facilities; rude and aggressive staff; hostility to traditional skills in the curriculum; and so forth.
Back in the day, those who could were already looking for the exit door in droves. Personally I progressed to the further education and higher education sectors after several self-funded further degrees. As I recall, cuts and salaries weren’t (and, I would hazard, aren’t) the major issues. Make the job worth doing with some dignity, academic autonomy and respect, and younger schoolteachers will even stay in the state sector, adding enthusiasm and continuity.
Prof Philip Tew
Brunel University London
• Sally Weale raises many issues that need addressing. I am a respected and hard-working physics teacher at a college in the north-east of England with two national awards for the quality of my teaching. Two weeks ago, totally out of the blue, my principal told me that he was cutting my wages by 20% from January. This was to save money and, needless to say, I resigned. I had taught in Singapore for six years before taking up my current post and may well return there.
Billingham, County Durham
• It’s a pity that so many teachers are going overseas. It’s even more of a pity that so many are simply leaving teaching altogether. Teaching has never been easy. It has always been never-ending in its demands and has always been striving for utopian solutions in a dystopian world. But at least, until recently, it has been trusted. That lack of trust epitomised by inhumane and irresponsible accountability is the root cause, not of teacher flight, but of teacher world-weariness.
Professor Colin Richards
Spark Bridge, Cumbria
• I am a retired teacher and feel very glad that I am no longer in the classroom when I see and hear what it is like to teach in English state schools today. So I thought I would sympathise with your article about teachers fleeing abroad. But I can’t be the only person who found it odd that you compared conditions in foreign private schools with conditions in English state schools. Don’t we have enough private schools here for comparison? And indeed maybe our private schools are part of the reason that teaching in our state schools is such a frustrating task.
Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire
• I read with dread Fiona Millar’s piece (Even last week Labour was still asking for some education ideas. Well, here are a few, 12 November). I have been a teacher for 30 years and I can’t remember the number of “ideas” I have experienced. I would love to know how much all these initiatives have cost and what they have achieved.
Education does not need any more “ideas”. It needs money and a promise not to be used as a political football any longer.
I have many French teacher colleagues who are flabbergasted by the never-ending onslaught of change the English education system experiences.
So my new “idea” is not to bring in any major changes, just invest more money in the system and allow teachers and students to decide what needs doing.
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