I qualified as a teacher in 1979 and have served under the DfES (Education and Science), the DfE, the DfEE (Education and Employment), another DfES (Education and Skills), the DfCSF (Carpets and Soft Furnishings) and now another DfE.
I have taught in a secondary modern/comprehensive school, a grammar/comprehensive school, a grant maintained school, a foundation school and, more recently, a County Council run Pupil Referral Unit.
I have been a music teacher, a remedial teacher, a head of SEN, a head of ICT and on a Senior Leadership Team in a PRU.
I have been inspected by HMI, before OfSTED existed. That was 3 times in 20 years. These were generally positive experiences when advice was given, and much of it very good advice. I have now been OfSTEDed 7 times in 14 years. None of these were positive or helpful – just a manic panic and potentially harmful to my health. None of these told me that I was anything but a reasonably good teacher but would have given me no help had I not have been.
I have attended INSET training on endless new curricula, boy’s underachievement, girl’s underachievement, ethnic minority underachievement and been told that my expectations of pupil achievement have been too high, too low or just the wrong type of leaves on the line.
Too many Secretaries of State to mention here have come and gone in my teaching career. Some not so good and some even worse but none as dangerous and damaging as Michael Gove.
I remember thinking that the Thatcher years and the Kenneths, Baker and Clarke were pretty bad. Reforms that were neither wanted nor needed. But these were, in the main, eventually softened or reversed and the damage not too long-lasting.
The Labour early years and Blunkett were also quite troublesome. This was another SofS who got all his motivation from his own years in the Education system. Only his was a bad experience and his actions were based on the presumption that everyone’s experiences were equally as bad as his.
Estelle Morris, now Baroness Morris of Yardley, gave me some hope. She had been a primary teacher and member of the NUT I believe. A SofS who knew something about teaching and was prepared to listen and consult with educationalists. Perhaps this was her downfall. She didn’t last long.
In fact in my time as a teacher there have been 14 Secretaries of State for Education. That’s a new one approximately every two and a half years. Their ambition being that they would all change education for the better and inevitably go down in history as “The Great Reformer”, and become Prime Minister one day.
And now we have Michael Gove – a name my wife hates. She’s neither a teacher nor anything to do with teaching she just sees the affect that he has on my blood pressure.
In the last three years between Michael Gove, Michael Wilshaw (the Chief Inspector and slayer of Schools) and other coalition politicians I have been called lazy, self-centered, a Marxist, Leninist, Trotskyist, enemy of promise and even likened to a Nazi on Twitter, just because I happen to disagree with Gove’s reforms.
The funny thing is that all I have had on my mind for the last 34 years is none of the above but just the hope that I could do the best for the children I was helping to educate – despite everything else that was going on in politics around me.
However I can now put this all behind me as I am retiring in four weeks.
Am I pleased? Well the answer has to be a yes and a no and a maybe.
Yes – I am pleased because I think I have earned the “gold-plated” pension I am going to get. Let’s face it I have been putting money into the pot for 34 years and I want it back – although I am 6 years short of getting the full pension. However the poor youngsters who are starting on their teaching careers now will never have a chance to do what I’m doing. How many of them will be able to teach until they’re 68? Most young teachers are shattered, disillusioned and demoralised by the time they are 30 and are leaving the profession burnt out.
No – I’m sad to be leaving my job in the Pupil Referral Unit where, at the moment, we do actually have time to try and turn these young people around and give them some hope for the future. How much of this will continue when PRUs no longer exist and there are just Free Schools employing unqualified teachers more interested in making a profit than sitting and listening to a child’s problems – especially if they won’t get their EBac.
Maybe, just maybe somebody will realise that education should not be a political toy to be tossed between Secretaries of State whose only knowledge of education is that they once went to school.
I am not a sporty sort of person but I feel that I have spent the last 34 years as a football being passed, sometimes violently, between the political players of a never-ending game of two halves.
TAKE EDUCATION OUT OF POLITICS AND GIVE IT TO THE EDUCATORS
And, Mr Gove, I don’t mean Pearsons, Serco or Capita. I mean the academics, the teachers and people who know about education.
p.s. if you don’t like my ideas or the fact that I have a mind of my own you only have four weeks to send in Wilshaw to sack me.