In the media, alongside all the teacher bashing and cries from those at the top that they want teachers’ heads on a spike, you will often hear about new initiatives designed to recruit and retain better staff. Most recently, there have been suggestions that the difficulty bof the key skills tests for teachers should be increased.
There is also a perception that there are hundreds of rubbish teachers, hardly doing any work at all, failing students all over the place, having a grand old time of things and getting away with it. Anyone working in education will be able to tell you that the reverse is true: teaching is filled with staff who work themselves into the ground, despite being treated terribly on all sides from managers, students and parents.
My point is that there is a perception that there is a lack of talent in teaching, and that the staff we have now need to be booted out and replaced with something better. What I believe is actually happening is a talent drain: it appears to have the same effect, which is a low standard of performance in staff, but it occurs for completely opposing reasons.
Teaching is actually rubbish and the standard of it needs to improve. It’s not because the wrong people are coming into the industry and are sticking in it like a barnacle on the side of a very cushy ship.
It’s because of this: passionate, talented, able students are choosing to become teachers. The working conditions of teachers are so shocking that they are leaving the industry for something better. Those that are less able and have less options are staying.
By poor working conditions I mean that the workload is too high, the status and pay is too low and, most significantly, there is an epidemic of workplace bullying. Bullying occurs more often for student teachers and NQTs because it is easier to get rid of someone at that stage that you have a slight dislike for, rather than take a chance and be stuck with them further down the line when they may possibly be less than 100% perfect.
New and talented teachers are realising at an early stage that this is going on, and either chose to leave for something better, or more likely, are forced to leave through mental health issues, capability proceedings and compromise agreements. Some are now being put off in advance of starting their ITT programmes, as they are being warned off by other teachers.
Improving teachers working conditions will attract and retain a better quality of employee. It will improve teachers’ performance by allowing talented staff to thrive, rather than only allowing untouchable, dog eat dog, spin doctor type teachers to survive. You could even argue that success as a teacher simply happens at random, through being lucky enough to avoid being bullied by nothing more than chance.
There is a definite attempt to come down harder on teachers in order to raise performance. This will actually achieve the opposite, making working conditions worse, which will in turn make more talented staff leave, or never join in the first place. This will over time erode performance and mean more and more teachers are not up to standard.
Do you agree? Have you witnessed a talented teacher leaving the profession? Were you a teacher who has left and found success somewhere else? I’d love to hear from you, please comment below.