Dear Prime Minister,
Firstly let me introduce myself, I represent the many – the many teachers who today are worrying about the future of education. I am a newly qualified teacher. I come from a council house background. I have a 2:2 in my degree…and I’m probably not good enough in your eyes to be a teacher.
Mr. Cameron, you only have to glance at Twitter or Facebook and you will see thousands of teachers who today are afraid. Afraid of the future of education. Surely you must be thinking to yourself why? Why are so many teachers today afraid of what the future may hold? I can tell you some reasons why.
Gove. I hear he won awards for his teaching! No? I hear he was a real expert on education! No? But yet you trusted him to make a whole host of changes without really knowing what’s going on in our classrooms. Thanks a lot for that one! I had high hopes for Morgan, but still, as far as I’m aware she isn’t an ‘expert’ or a teacher. Just because you’ve been to school it doesn’t make you an expert on how to run one. I went to hospital once, perhaps I should try to be Health Minister?
Have you ever realized that children aren’t robots? Children all progress at different rates, I’m sure that your educational experts Gove and Morgan have told you all about this? No? Then why do you expect children to all reach a certain standard in their exams at the end of primary school, and when they don’t reach this standard make them re-sit it. Well here’s some news for you Mr. Cameron some children will never make that standard, not because they don’t want to, some of them just can’t. Our brains are all wired in different ways, and sometimes really awful things happen during childhood and life’s focus has to change from academia to survival. You can’t expect everyone to be the same. Somebody once wrote, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” How do you think a child is supposed to feel every time they fail that test. Yes Mr. Cameron children do learn from failure, but what if they never pass? Are they deemed to be a failure their whole life?
But its not just at Primary school we are going to make children feel like failures, you are expecting all children to take a language and humanities at GCSE. Whilst I appreciate taking a breadth of subjects, some children just aren’t cut out for GCSEs. Especially in those subjects. Why can’t they take subjects which interest them? Do you know how many children struggle with languages? They also struggle with English. Why force a child to take a GCSE that they don’t want to do. Do you know what happens when you back children into a corner? Why not offer them more vocational subjects? Oh wait…you don’t recognise vocational subjects on your League Tables.
Vocational subjects are so valuable to so many people, and from a teacher’s point of view students are more likely to focus, engage and try in subjects that they are interested in. Have you ever tried to teach a bottom set French class Mr. Cameron? I’ve seen teachers try every strategy they know with their classes and some of those children will never pass and they constantly feel like failures. Growth Mindset I hear you say sir? Yes, I’m totally on board with Growth Mindset, but you need to understand that some children will never understand the complexities of the imperfect tense, quadratic equations or oxbow lakes.
So I guess what I’m trying to say Sir, is that your EBACC idea needs to…how can I put this politely…do one? Give children the choice in their qualifications. After all they are THEIR qualifications, not the schools, not their teachers and most definitely not yours. We always say children should leave school with the qualifications they need to be successful in life – a handful of F-grade GCSES or a glowing BTEC. Think carefully Mr. Cameron. You need to think about the future, give children the tools to succeed not the sour taste of constant failure.
Teacher workload Mr. Cameron! Do you go home every day and start your day again? Have you heard of a work-life balance? I earn £22000 a year and I work 90+ hour weeks on average. I work, I sleep, I repeat. Oh wait…I get 12 weeks holiday a year, I can guarantee you Prime Minister that I spend at least 8 of those weeks planning, marking and researching. I will let you do the maths, and you will soon see that I earn way below minimum wage for what I do. And it’s not just me; it’s the majority of teachers. We work our backsides off to be told that we are still not good enough and that the goalposts are going to change once again. We are all tired, over-worked and under-paid. What are you going to do about this? What are you going to do about teacher workload? Have you or your Education Minister ever tried to teach a class or 5, and then mark their books, and look at their data and make sure they are on track, then consider interventions for those who aren’t because they need to be make 3 levels of progress but they’re not because they’ve gone backwards? Yes Prime Minister, children’s levels do go backwards, progress isn’t linear – can you please stop thinking it is!
Budgets. We are in a deficit, and it scares us all that there won’t be enough money going into schools. Our class sizes are already growing, and so many teachers are afraid that we will not have the money to keep our resources going. We can see budgets shrinking. Teachers’ timetables are growing. We are being stretched in every direction and eventually something has to give. We can see belts being tightened. What’s your plan Mr. Cameron? 1 book between 5? I already buy a lot of my own resources, is that the expectation? If my wages don’t increase alongside all of the other life increases how am I supposed to afford that? So many people are afraid that the NHS will disappear, will I have to factor medical care into my financial plans?
I guess what I’m trying to say Mr. Cameron is that we need some promises. Please don’t further destroy our already broken education system. Teachers are the glue holding all of the pieces together. But start picking at that glue and it won’t hold. I don’t have to tell you the statistics related to the number of teachers leaving within the first 5 years. You keep raising the retirement age but I think I’m going to be burnt out by the time I’m 40. I’m trying to be optimistic Prime Minister I really am, but I think most teachers are struggling to be optimistic right now. Please leave us to do our job, to educate our children not just academically but in life skills also. Please don’t bring back Gove, nobody wants that, in the nicest possible way Sir, he wasn’t very good at his job and his face puts us off of our morning cornflakes.
Think about it, Mr. Cameron. The only way you will keep good quality teachers is by keeping your promises, not moving the goal posts every few months and by accepting that not every fish can climb a tree. Needless to say Prime Minister I’m going to be watching very carefully, just like every other teacher in the country. Think about the future, those students – they’re my future, your future and the UKs future. Don’t destroy them.