After a run of conversations in the past few days with teachers exasperated and sad at the state of the education system I felt I had to do something. So I have written to Nicky Morgan, Minister for Education, the text of which is below. To me it is not just teaching but almost all vocations associated with public service that are being hugely devalued at present. Something I have written about elsewhere. I would interested to hear any responses to the thoughts of this letter.
3rd May 2016
Dear Ms Morgan,
I am not a teacher. Nor am I a parent of children anticipating the new SATs tests. I am however someone who hears the concerns and stories of a number of local teachers first hand. In recent days I have listened to two local teachers who have handed in their resignations with heavy hearts, and another who is watching substantial numbers of teachers at his school do the same. The latter estimated that 50% of those resigning were leaving the profession.
I am someone who is deeply concerned. I am concerned for children under increasing pressure to produce results. I am concerned for children who do not ‘fit’ the description of a high-achieving academic student. More than anything else though I am concerned for the vocation of teaching in the current public system. At present the government is gambling with the vocational good will of teachers. It is playing hardball with the emotional investment teachers have in their own profession and in their desire to make a difference to the lives of children. What I am seeing though is that that gamble is failing – teachers are leaving the profession; not because they can’t take the pressure, don’t work hard enough, aren’t paid enough – they are leaving because the system is strangling them of their ability to fulfil their vocation.
I am concerned that we are very close to damaging the teaching profession for a generation. Because it is not just the teachers we are losing from the profession now. But also those who will not consider teaching a reasonable vocation to pursue when they see what it does to those who currently practice it.
There has been much in recent days about ‘letting kids be kids’. But there is also the need to ‘let teachers be teachers’. You, and those before you, have created a utilitarian system that, for all its dogma about raising standards, is destroying the very foundation on which standards can be raised. The precious raw material of the education system is the dedication and skill of people who see it their vocation to pass on knowledge and help kids thrive. If they thrive, our children thrive. If they are constantly drowned by paperwork, strangled by endless central initiatives and cramped by curricula and demands that don’t represent that children in front of them, they will leave. And, in my experience, they are leaving, in droves.
A vocation is a gift. A gift to that person. And a gift to those who receive its service. It is also a gift to those whose job it is to steward the vocation of others. You are in danger of rubbishing the gift of vocation in a generation of teachers. I urge you to listen to these people, to listen to the passion of their vocation and their gift and respond – and quickly.