Secret Teacher: are you teaching in a climate of fear?

This week’s Secret teacher, who works in a primary school in the Midlands, says the pressure of Ofsted inspections and a data-driven culture is destroying staff morale at his/her school. This is from the Guardian…

My colleagues and I work in a climate of fear. We see people crying in their cars; not able to come in for fear of the day ahead. People crying in corridors after years of successful teaching, demoralised and mystified by bad observation feedback. People crying over their loss of confidence and joy of teaching. People sad remembering that children used to be valued individuals not just analysed as statistics. Misery at the injustice of the system we’re currently victims of.

We have the pleasure of working at a fantastic primary school which just happens to be in one of the most deprived parts of the Midlands. Our children are a delight, despite having many social and financial hardships. As caring professionals we have always tried to compensate for this; spending considerable extra time and, at our own choosing, our personal money to ensure that our pupils have the best. Nobody in an office needed to tell us to do this. For a long time we have quietly been ‘narrowing the gap.’

Staff spend large amounts of time liaising with outside agencies, filling in special educational needs (SEN) and welfare-related paperwork, dealing with English as an additional language (EAL) new entrants and low level language skills generally. On top of this we are expected to stretch the tops, accelerate the ‘slow movers’ and deliver high quality first teaching in all lessons. Our children are often complex individuals and our unrecognised and undervalued strength as a staff has been to nurture and include these complexities into a happy, cohesive school. However, these skills seem to count for little in the current climate.

Now it is all about academic progress. Isn’t progress more than just academic knowledge and going through the sub-levels? Don’t get me wrong, we want our children to make great steps forward academically, we have always strived for this and more often than not achieved it. But in a school like ours progress is also about building confidence, helping to mend broken hearts and ensuring that a child’s emotional, physical and social security is safeguarded. How is this measured? Should teachers stop calling children by their names and instead call them 2c, 3a or 5c? Sadly, this trend is already well established. Children are not individuals, they are data…

The article concludes…

It is time for honesty in education. How is it that less than a year ago, many of us were judged by a range of professionals to be ‘good’ or ‘good with outstanding elements,’ yet suddenly we require improvement or even worse are inadequate. Do outstanding teachers really teach outstanding lessons, according to the new framework, day in, day out? If this is possible then it can’t be physically sustainable for a long period of time. It seems to us that skilled teachers with the intelligence and experience to freely use their professional judgement are no longer required. Welcome to the rise of the factory production-line teacher.

Of course schools need to be inspected and teachers observed. Of course schools and teachers need to strive for constant progress. But a good teacher is their own worse critic, constantly striving for improvement. A good teacher welcomes constructive criticism from fellow professionals and experts. Now in schools like mine we feel like we are being hunted. The shadowy executioner waits in the corridor, rubbing his hands with glee at each contrivance of an inadequate lesson.

It is up to all of us in education to stand together and put right these wrongs; before experienced, passionate and excellent teachers are lost to our profession forever. The goalposts will move again and next time it could be you teaching in fear.

More at:  Secret Teacher: are you teaching in a climate of fear?

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Categories: Primary and Teaching.


  1. schlteacher

    SchoolsImprove I recognise this & totally agree. Sadly M.Gove would probably see the writer as an enemy of promise. He is ruining education

  2. OOK_Librarian

    SchoolsImprove So many teachers who used to enjoy & therefore devote huge energy & passion to the profession, now dread going to work #Gove

    • SchoolsImprove

      OOK_Librarian Horrible to hear… but… desire for improvement = change = stress/pressure. Can stds go up w/o this happening?

      • OOK_Librarian

        SchoolsImprove Change or consolidation of current initiatives or meaningful consultation with & respect for advice from professional bodies

      • OOK_Librarian

        SchoolsImprove Stds may not go up without this happening, but the key is effectively managing that change. The #Gove dept lacks this skill


    SchoolsImprove nothing is worth feeling like this. If you’re on tears at the thought of work, you need to leave.

  4. TeacherComforts

    SchoolsImprove Absolutely!Am I getting out at the first opportunity? Oh ho yes. When is someone going to be honest about retention figures?

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