Obsession with targets causes crisis in teacher morale and damages children's education - ATL
24 June 2012
The obsession with targets for their own sake is causing a crisis in teachers' morale and damaging children's education as a result, argues Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).
Speaking at Wellington College during the Sunday Times Festival of Education on Saturday (23 June), Mary Bousted said: "In a culture that is obsessed with results teachers feel they are being constantly measured and judged. They spend far too much time completing unnecessary bureaucracy, such as detailed lesson plans that record every detail of every single thing they and their pupils do in a lesson. Teachers feel they have to focus on lesson activities rather than on learning outcomes.
"Ofsted may routinely protest that inspectors don't require lesson plans, but if they have concerns about the quality of teaching they want plans there and then. As a result teachers have too little time for in-depth teaching and focussed learning.
"And even Ofsted now complains there is insufficient time for reading and writing in English lessons, and too little focus on speaking and listening in primary schools."
She added: "Much of the stressful, tedious treadmill of the work teachers do does not contribute one iota to improving their teaching or pupils' learning."
Mary Bousted will also argue: "Teachers must not be made scapegoats for problems in society which hold so many of our must vulnerable children back. Too few schools have mixed intakes where children can learn those intangible life skills of aspiration, effort and persistence from one another.
"While teachers and school leaders strain every sinew in these schools to raise aspiration and achievement, they struggle against the effects of pupils' poverty, ill-health and deprivation, and children in these schools routinely fail to make the educational progress achieved by their more advantaged peers.
"I do not condone educational failure, nor am I soft on standards. If educational standards for the most disadvantaged children are to improve we need good schools with high expectations for all pupils. But operating on their own schools can only do part of the job.
"Of course good teaching matters. But good teaching is not enough to ensure equality of educational opportunity. We also need to tackle the inequality in our society which condemns thousands of children to living in acute poverty. If we do not, education inequality will continue, with children who have not had enough to eat, or are in acute distress, or victims of abuse or family breakdown left struggling against the odds to reach their potential."
Notes to editors
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) is an independent, registered trade union and professional association, representing approximately 160,000 teachers, headteachers, lecturers and support staff in maintained and independent nurseries, schools, sixth form, tertiary and further education colleges in the United Kingdom.
ATL exists to help members, as their careers develop, through first rate research, advice, information and legal advice.
ATL is affiliated to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) and Education International (EI). ATL is not affiliated to any political party and seeks to work constructively with all the main political parties.