I know the real source of our classroom rot

Schools have been chronically underfunded under Conservative-led governments, which dole out starvation rations to all public sector institutions. And it’s quite right for the National Education Union, my union, to campaign for higher funding as an election issue. But both Conservative and Labour governments have endlessly meddled with education policy, to disastrous effect. One anonymous teacher writes in The Guardian.

I loved teaching, believed it was my vocation, and taught English to secondary school pupils for 30 years. I saw it as my mission to foster in students a love of literature which would stay with them all their lives. Staff appraisals labelled me “inspirational”, “outstanding”, “excellent”. One year ago, my health finally shot, I left teaching for good.

Why did I leave? Because of the permanent revolution of change: in school structure, in the curriculum, in the ethos of education – an unending storm which prevents teachers from serving children by giving them the education they deserve. Has this perpetual revolution improved education? No.

The teacher’s job was to inspire you , but you had to make an effort. Now, many students and parents believe that it is the teacher’s job to get a child good grades, whether or not they make an effort. If they do badly, or misbehave, that is your fault for making your lessons boring. Can we raise our voices to get quiet in a classroom? No: that’s verbal abuse.

This transference of responsibility – from the student to the teacher – is actually a transfer of power from the adult to the child, and anyone who’s read The Crucible knows what a great idea that is. It has ended with pupils deliberately taunting and humiliating their teachers: take the matter to your managers and you may not be not supported. I remember a parents’ evening when a mother and father screamed in my face because their son, a lazy sixth former who played truant, hadn’t got the A-grade that was his “right”. Management told me that I had to take it, because that was the job. I struggled on, but was succumbing to depression. In a dispute between parents and teachers, managers often back the parents because it creates less work than investigating what happened. This is especially significant in private schools, where bums on seats means cash. Blame the nasty teacher, discipline him, keep the kid, balance the books. At all costs, avoid bad publicity.

And the curriculum? The party of the “small state” dictated that with the 1988 Education Act, which introduced the national curriculum and gave the government 500 new powers. Before the national curriculum, I spent my working day teaching, marking, preparing, coaching sports teams and directing plays. These worthless frivolities were junked in favour of assessment objectives, strands, schemes of work, grids, tests and levels. An obsession with league tables has encouraged schools to play safe. Fancy teaching The History Boys to your GCSE students? Sorry, it’s An Inspector Calls for the 15th year running. Because it’s a great play? No. Because it’s easy, so kids get good marks and boost our league table position.

And the changes! As head of English, I introduced new GCSE and A-level syllabuses every third year. Then there was the endless river of snake oil flowing from educational consultants – mountebanks who promise they can solve all your educational ills if you follow their five-minute fad. And while you’re at it teachers, solve the problems of society! Teach kids to avoid drugs, underage sex and radicalisation.

Read the full article I know the real source of our classroom rot

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

Are you a trainee teacher, NQT, teacher, headteacher, parent or  just someone who cares about education and has something to get off  your chest in a Schools Improvement Guest Post? Follow this link for more details at the bottom of the page.

Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our daily email bulletin (around 7am) with all the latest schools news stories. Your details will never be given to anyone else and you can unsubscribe at any stage. Just follow this link.

We now have a Facebook page - please click to like!


Angela Rayner warns of 'crisis' in teaching profession
A letter from your school business manager: 'Please understand that when it comes to funding, we have no choices left'
Categories: Budgets, Employment, Exams, Primary, Secondary and Teaching.


  1. Anonymous

    ‘ … educational consultants – mountebanks who promise they can solve all your educational ills if you follow their five-minute fad. ‘

    Goodness me, we are a petulant little rascal aren’t we. Is this due to your ‘nobody has any principles or expertise except me’ self-image?

Let us know what you think...