This post is part of the January #blogsync project. Other blogs on the theme are available here.
Dear Mr Hunt,
Please allow me to begin by explaining the context in which I write to you. I am a primary school practitioner based in the North West of England, currently in my third year of teaching. During my time as a trainee, and then as a teacher, I have watched as the coalition government was formed and took office. I have watched as the current Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, was instated and began to run the system in an almost antonymous manner. I therefore have come into the profession at a time of great instability and change.
I was shocked and saddened, initially, by the daily attacks on my profession, my pension, my pay and conditions and indeed my credibility as a teacher. For months I waited for your predecessor, Stephen Twigg, to interject; but to no avail. You now, as Shadow Secretary of State, have been given the challenge of convincing the public that you are fit to hold the office with the greatest potential to influence the world of tomorrow. As you set out on what is undoubtedly an arduous task, in what will be a defining year for you and your party, I ask you to consider the following points:
The teaching profession seems to be perpetually floating on a sea of change. I would never advocate that we shouldn’t be consistently reflecting and altering our practice slightly, but as teachers we already do this on a daily basis anyway. Like our pupils, in order to flourish we need some sort of stability and consistency of approach. With the changing of governance in this country, the education system has always ebbed and flowed from the left to right and vice versa. However, even by those standards the vast amount of change enforced on the current education system in such a limited period of time since the previous election has, in my opinion, proved to be detrimental and risked the futures of the pupils it serves. If you plan to make changes to policies or to the curriculum, Mr Hunt, they must be well thought out and enforced in a realistic and supportive way. Take change one small step at a time; it is better to implement one change properly than to make multiple alterations in a hasty and shambolic fashion.
Qualified Teacher Status
It seems an absolute travesty to me that pupils in this country are allowed to be taught by teachers without QTS. The pretence that the removal of this requirement in Free Schools was to enable professionals to stimulate the minds of our youth has been by eroded by the emergence of schools actively seeking to employ non-qualified teachers in an effort to ease their budgets. The simple fact is that pupils deserve better. If you take power in the next general election, I implore you to reinstate the requirement of QTS in ALL schools in the first instance. It is issues such as this with the current government that has led to a massive deal of mistrust between the teaching profession and those in power. The lack of transparency and constant vilification of teachers has eroded whatever relationships we, as a profession, once had with government. Reinstating QTS at the earliest opportunity would go a long way to building positive links with the profession again.
So too would trusting us, as professionals, to do our jobs. In order to teach in a state school, I am required to have QTS, somewhat like a licence you might say. There are various methods of obtaining this, but for me this meant training to be a teacher for four years. Over these four years I had professional training and a substantial amount of practice in school. When I qualified and found employment, I then needed to complete my induction into the profession. Since then I have continued to develop professionally. I receive or attend CPD numerous times each term. I take my work very seriously, and am good at what I do. I know this because I have continual observations, book scrutiny and data meetings which hold me to account. If I were found to be underperforming, the structures are in place to support me adequately. If it was still the case that I was not fit for the profession, my school has the power to remove me from my post. I simply do not need a licence to teach as it would serve little purpose.
Invest in the Future
If you are going to spend money, spend it wisely. Put a stop to academies and free schools being built in areas where they simply aren’t needed. Take that money and invest in updating existing schools which are crumbling in around the pupils. Invest in providing teachers with quality CPD. Invest in our amazing Teaching Assistants who do the most incredible job and ensure that no child is left behind. Provide teachers with the tools they need to produce the workforce that you will need.
Quality of Teaching
A number of months ago, when writing to the Education Secretary, I included a quote from Mr Gove. He had stated that we currently have “…the best generation of teachers ever seen in our classrooms- including the very best generation ever of young teachers.” In short, Mr Hunt, I ask you to realise that we have a teaching profession in this country to be very proud of; one that is ever improving and which is only going to get better. We have some of the most talented and hard-working practitioners in the world; engaging, challenging and stretching the minds of our youth on a daily basis. The methods teachers use to engross children in learning nowadays, incorporating new technologies and new teaching strategies are having a profound impact on pupil’s development. Despite continuous attacks from Ofsted and the government, we have continued to provide a public service that is second to none, regardless of what International League Tables may state. It isn’t perfect but, but none are. Data can be manipulated, but thanks to the diligent effort of those in classrooms up and down the country, we are preparing our pupils to emerge into a world where some of the jobs they will obtain don’t even exist yet. Champion your teachers, Mr Hunt, and champion your education system.
I don’t envy you, Mr Hunt. You face a daunting trial. Should you be elected, you will inherit a battered and bruised profession that will be guarded towards you, at best. You will accede to an education system which will require much toil and labour, if you will excuse the pun, but I assure you it is a surmountable challenge. If you wish to be elected, indeed if you genuinely wish to advance the education system in this country, begin by valuing teachers and the job they do. The current government has sought to fight, divide and conquer. Why not be more radical than that, engage with us and allow us to work together. After all, our goals are the same.
I wish you every success in your endeavours,