A breakdown of...the state of education
Updated: Apr 24, 2019
Me: "...and then I got my MA from a Russell Group university"
Student: "...and went into teaching??"
Where do we even begin with this topic?! I promised myself when I set up this blog that I would keep all posts to under 5 minutes, so I have picked a fairly ambitious post here!
Teaching is in crisis!! Or so we hear... Although, I often wonder whether the current 'crisis' is in fact any different to how things have been before. As a History teacher, I have a relatively high degree of cynicism when it comes to throwaway 'crisis' terms and I convince myself that life was probably much worse back then. Now don't get me wrong, I am a pessimist through and through (I am less 'glass half empty' and more 'I didn't pick up the glass in the first place'), but I imagine that there have been challenges facing teachers since the dawn of time. When that condescending cave dweller gathered his/her hairy friends around the fire, I imagine that they had their own issues to contend with - disease, wild animals, the absence of a broken photocopier... So, should the teachers of 2019 feel any different? I often get told by my non-teacher friends that 'teachers just love to complain', and after glaring into their souls with my best side-eye, I begin to reflect on whether they could be right...
They are, we do love to complain.
But that does not mean that there are not issues to resolve. And yes, teaching and teachers have always faced challenges, but we should still try to address these and move on to the next 'crisis'.
So let's break down the state of education from three perspectives...
What the research says...
The National Foundation for Educational Research recently published their report on 'Teacher Workforce Dynamics in England' (https://www.nfer.ac.uk/teacher-workforce-dynamics-in-england/). Here they identified four key threats facing teachers and the profession as a whole: teacher retention, workload, flexibility and job satisfaction. Researchers continue to offer great suggestions on how to reduce workload and improve teacher efficiency; I will discuss some of these methods over the coming weeks and months. The government is also beginning to carry out their own research into teacher retention, so it will be interesting to see what comes off this (the preliminary briefing report for this discussion can be found here: http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-7222/CBP-7222.pdf)
What OFSTED say...
OFSTED's new education inspection framework is currently going through a consultation process and it seems as if they are taking notice of the current 'crisis' within education:
'Our proposals reflect what we have heard from you about the things that work well in inspection at the moment, and what works less well; what we have heard about staff workload; what we know about the pressure points in each phase of education today; our own past findings and recent research findings, including on the quality and effectiveness of our own inspection processes; and the wider literature on educational effectiveness through all stages of education.'
How this looks in the classroom...
For the foreseeable future, teachers can expect increasing class sizes, dwindling resources and staffing shortages; however, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. OFSTED are clearly attempting to reduce the amount of strain placed on schools by looking at the 'substance' of education, rather than results in isolation. If this filters down successfully to SLTs, we could perhaps see a reduction in unnecessary 'for inspection' tasks. It is also worth noting that, there are ways that you can reduce workload and burnout, which will be discussed in subsequent blog posts.
My advice to new teachers is to communicate as much as possible, but avoid toxic negativity. Share your concerns and issues with partners, family, friends and colleagues (Twitter is also great!), but try not to end up in a downward spiral of despair. Unfortunately, there are so many issues with the teaching profession that will not be resolved overnight. This does not mean that we cannot complain about them (what else would we talk about?), but perhaps pick your battles - focus on the issues that are specific to your classroom practice and your school. It may take a while until you are confident enough to raise these issues with SLT, so maybe write them down and hit them with the list at a later date!