A Teacher Exposes Theresa May’s Regressive Education Agenda

Tory Party Leader Theresa May is facing outrage at the fact that funds are being made available to Education Budgets in Tory areas, whereas the Education Budgets serving Labour constituencies are having their funding slashed.

“The Prime Minister is in denial. “Today’s report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies confirms that schools are already facing :

“the largest cut in school spending per pupil over a 4 year period since at least the early 1980s”

and that, as a result of her new national formula, funding is being diverted from schools with very high levels of deprivation. Has the Prime Minister failed at maths, or failed to read her own manifesto?” – L. Greenwood, The Labour Party

Birmingham’s schools will lose a total of £20 million under the Government’s fair funding formula, yet Surrey gains £17 million, Suffolk gains £10 million, and Windsor and Maidenhead gains £300,000. This is just like the revelations about the “gentlemans agreement” on funding for healthcare in Jeremy Hunt and Richard Hammond’s constituencies. The Tories are siphoning money away from the school systems in Labour constituencies and funnelling it in to the school systems of Tory constituencies.

So much for “we’re all in this together” – seems to be a bit more of “I’m alright, jack.”

Here’s what things look like from a teachers perspective:

“Let’s get something straight first, I love teaching: I love imparting knowledge and skills; I love enabling people to do things they couldn’t do before; I love the company of teenagers – they are insightful, thoughtful, funny and resilient people.

My decision to leave teaching was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make, my last few months in the profession after deciding to quit were like a grieving the death of a friend. In many ways I didn’t want it to happen but I knew it was inevitable. You see, I had nothing left to give.

An average teaching day would look like this:

5:30am get up
6:30 leave the house
7am arrive at school to deal with anything I couldn’t finish the previous day so that I can start afresh today
8am collect and organise resources for the day- usually a full day teaching with no free periods
8:30 – 4:30 deliver lessons (bliss) and in any free periods:
• mark some books (nowhere near all of them)
• record any behaviour incidents (in my own records, department records, whole school records)
• amend schemes of work
• record data
• analyse data
• plan interventions for individual and groups of students as appropriate
• analyse outcomes of previous interventions and amend intervention plans going forward
• record all interventions in department and whole school systems separately (it’s cheaper for the school to ask me to do this than to design a system that shares them as needed)
• deal with any pupils that have individual issues as and when they come to see me (usually during break and lunch time)
• record the above incidents (mine, department, whole school) and any action taken
• contact parents of pupils involved in any incidents, explaining what happened, how it’s been dealt with and how we intend to move forward
• attend department and whole school meetings on schemes of work, behaviour management, first aid, policy changes, etc.

During any lesson of any day, a member of the senior management team could come into the lesson and check 2 out of 30 books and assume that the work in those books is indicative of both the standard of work & the standard of marking, making judgements on your effectiveness as a teacher without spending more than 2 minutes in your room.

4:30 – 5:30 Drive home, collect child from nursery, eat dinner with family go upstairs to the office

5:30 – anything up to 9pm/ midnight finish marking books that you had no time to mark in school. As a main scale teacher I had 10 classes of 28 pupils on average and was expected to mark each book at least once a week, with individualised, levelled feedback containing at least one target for improvement and go back and check on and correct the actions from previous feedback, at the same time correcting spelling and grammar and checking they’d corrected any previous spelling and grammar mistakes.

Each book takes at least 5 – 10 minutes depending on the quantity of work, so taking an average of 7.5 minutes per book you’re looking at average 3.5 hours per class. Add to that marking tests, marking coursework (not entirely defunct as you might think from the news), replying to emails that you didn’t have time to answer in school. Add to this the fact that you might have to mark two sets of books in a night and you see how it is very easy for teachers to burn out very quickly.

Remembering all the time that if your classes don’t achieve the school’s own almost arbitrarily chosen standards, you can face:
• demotion
• pay roll-back
• no pay rise
• disciplinary procedures (which in some cases are disproportionally punitive and I have a colleague who was essentially hounded out of teaching with this).

Now all of the above are reasonable (apart from the duplication of data entry) and necessary to ensure that all pupils achieve the best they can and maybe I’m coming across as moaning- but I did love teaching, I’m sitting here missing out on sports day, school trips, and the end of year fun that’s about to begin. In September I will have a morose week where I don’t get to roll out all the old jokes with year 7, where I don’t get to hear what my tutor group got up to over the summer, where I don’t see how much they’ve developed as human beings from having some time off.

I don’t think that anything that teachers are asked to do is unreasonable in and of itself, the problem is the sheer volume of it. The state education system is creaking under the workload, cracks appeared a long time ago, were papered over and have reappeared since. The whole state system relies on teachers being prepared to do the working days I described above, but I couldn’t justify not having time with my children any longer. I couldn’t justify the expectation that my wife is essentially a single mum all year with the exception of Christmas and the summer holidays (even then I would normally have to spend at least a week working on new schemes of work and a few days preparing seating plans, full of data and expectations, for the coming year as well as holding any revision sessions running).

Now, the real problem – privatisation. Schools are being turned into academies (or in the future, Grammar Schools) and taken out of state control and run by profit-making companies (a few academy chains are ethical). OK, if they can provide a better standard for the same money, excellent, but if all they can do is maintain the status quo, or in some cases regress (there are published cases but I haven’t got time to trawl for links at the moment) then the thought of handing over state assets, for free, on 125-year leases, to profit making companies with no previous expertise in education is stupid to the point of angering.

The new academies are not legally bound to the same procedures as local authority-run (LA-run) schools. They can hire unqualified teachers, some unqualified teachers are amazing, but consider the difference in pay for qualified and unqualified teachers (check the NASUWT pay scales document) and the fact that schools are having their budgets squeezed and academies often need to make a profit. Why do you think some unscrupulous academy directors appoint unqualified teachers instead of fully qualified ones?

Also the academies are not bound by the national pay scales, this means that richer academies will be able to offer higher pay to teachers so that they can attempt to concentrate talent in their schools to the detriment of other schools (i.e. unless your school is a rich academy you may find that your teachers are not the best ones, or even qualified!)

Academies have begun to pay LA-run schools to take the ‘difficult’ children who will skew their results downwards, thus disproportionately negatively affecting LA-run schools results because the academy wasn’t prepared to lose some of its profits to enable the ‘difficult’ child to achieve their full potential. The LA-run school will do its best with these children but imagine how motivated you’d be if you felt you’d been unfairly removed from your school and your mates (remember, it will be OK in a profit making academy to be difficult but bright and achieving well!). Exactly, you’re potentially irrecoverably disengaged from education.

Teachers see the unfairness of the systems that governments instigate. Systems that are likely to further damage already disadvantaged areas where the best teachers are needed- the academies won’t be able to afford them because they don’t exceed the national average standards which is necessary to be considered good (think about the nature of an average here!) so won’t get the funding, so will have to hire more unqualified teachers while the best teachers are poached by schools in leafy suburbia and the gap widens and widens and widens.How long until so-called ‘failing’ schools in socio-economically deprived areas are turned into ‘secondary moderns’: “here you go lads, here’s a hammer”, “here you go girls, learn to sew”.

I genuinely fear for the education system my kids will be forced into and hope that by the time I can go back, and devote more time to it than my family wants me to, it’s not so damaged that I can’t fight hard enough to fix it.”

The Tories are siphoning off money from the national education pot and sending it to Tory constituencies – following the same model for Healthcare – where the NHS in the rest of the nation faces cuts, councils running the services in Tory Constituencies are offered ‘gentlemen’s agreements’ on funding.

Theresa May can find millions for Grammar Schools, because she is taking funding from non tory areas.

The British taxpayer is being robbed, and their children are paying the price for the larceny. We’ve stopped the “Education, Education, Education” – now we have desperation, no ambition & degradation.

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