Michael Gove’s bullying ways are wrecking our good education system

Former teacher Chloe Combi says she grew tired of the government’s attacks on the teaching profession and believe they are damaging morale and stopping teachers from doing their jobs. This is from the Guardian…

I recently left teaching after three and a half years. Granted, other professional opportunities arose – and I remain involved in education in another capacity – but one of the biggest reasons was that I didn’t feel I was allowed to teach any more.

Colleagues joked that on my last day I would be gleefully throwing my marking pens in the air, but in reality I left with a tear in my eye and a sense of regret that I hadn’t done enough for my pupils. Or, more accurately, that I hadn’t been allowed to do enough.

One of the biggest challenges facing teachers is safeguarding children against bullying from their peers, because it damages the child’s morale, esteem and sense of self-worth. But as a YouGov poll for the National Union of Teachers revealed this week, teachers are facing a crisis of confidence and reporting the lowest morale ever recorded in the profession. The reasons for this are many but perhaps the most common are: a deep mistrust of the government’s education policies; Michael Gove’s attacks on the status and power of teachers; and the ever-changing parameters of Ofsted criteria.

Last year, for reasons best (and only) known to itself, Ofsted changed its criteria for judging lessons. The same expectations remained: thoroughly marked books, differentiated tasks for different students’ abilities (irrespective of how wide this range might be), classroom management and demonstration of pupil progress. However, for a lesson to receive the top grade of “outstanding”, it must involve as little actual teaching as possible.

Yes, let me repeat that: as far as Ofsted is concerned, the less a teacher teaches, the better. The lessons Ofsted calls “outstanding” are lessons where the task is introduced by the teacher and the pupils get on with it independently, with the teacher acting as a facilitator. However, like many of my colleagues, I did not sign up to be a “facilitator”. I signed up to be a teacher: imparting knowledge, encouraging debate, all that old-fashioned stuff.

Ofsted is in fantasy land if it seriously thinks 32 rowdy year-nine students are going to settle down and work quietly for an hour while you glide from student to student “facilitating”. And to expect that of teachers is unrealistic, and undermines the strategies that do work. Outlandish strategies that have been used for a long time and worked well: teaching of the subject and not the criteria.

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