Pressure is on to move ever upwards

happy teacher in  school classroom
happy teacher in school classroom

EVERYONE has views about education - especially politicians.

Successful schools and well educated children are an ideal sought by MPs of all parties, and they all have different ideas on how that might be achieved.

This is one underlying factor behind the increased levels of stress said to be felt by many teachers around Sheffield as the new year begins.

A new government always brings new strategies, new initiatives, new approaches to education - usually scrapping the innovations introduced by their predecessors.

A lot of hard work is then needed to make everything run smoothly - until educational fashions change once again.

Take David Blunkett’s big idea when he was Education Secretary in the late 1990s.

He was so concerned about standards of English and maths in primary schools that he introduced daily literacy and numeracy hours to kick start improvements.

Yet a few years later those same schools came under fire for squeezing arts, sport and culture out of their lesson plans.

It’s teachers who have to square these circles.

But ask them what has changed their schools most over the last two decades and they’ll point to one overriding issue - the introduction of annual league tables.

Schools were under scrutiny before, of course, but never had their performances been placed under such a harsh spotlight of bald percentage pass rates.

The importance of the tables has if anything grown over the years.

Those schools not making the grade are routinely threatened with a variety of sanctions, with heads and senior staff under huge pressures to keep standards moving ever upwards.

According to the unions, increasing numbers of school managers are resorting to bullying and intimidating staff as a result.

Sheffield NUT’s appeal to the city council for urgent action details a variety of what is sees as ‘oppressive management styles’.

“Particularly in primaries we see the apparent targeting of older, more experienced members of staff for capability procedures - and then their subsequent replacement with young, inexperienced staff,” the union says.

“We see the imposition of excessive workloads and never ending new initiatives, with teachers being given no voice when changes are imposed.

“There is an apparent lack of physical or mental safeguarding of our members.”

Another concern for teachers is what they see as a constant drip-drip effect of negative impressions which undermine public confidence in what was a highly respected profession.

As a result it seems to matter little if their wages are frozen, pensions attacked or motives questioned.

Now for some, it seems, enough is enough.