Should I stay or should I go?

Blog
26 February 2016 by Deborah.mclachlan@ntlworld.com
Trainee and newly qualified teachers are full of energy and good intentions to be the best teacher they can be for their pupils. Will this enthusiasm be converted into a skilled teacher, who continues to learn and gain experience, so they become an educational leader in their own right?

Will these new entrants to the profession be given the time and further training to enable this transformation? I am concerned that sadly, the answer may be no. We know that far too many of those who most recently entered the profession are leaving.[1] The multiple challenges of tackling  premature leadership responsibility, accountability hoop-jumping, constant changes to curriculum and assessment, are causing once-enthusiastic teachers to ask the question ‘should I stay or should I go?’

How have we reached this point? When I trained, I was fortunate that staff had time to give advice and support me in the classroom. The course tutor came to visit, appraised my lessons and gave me feedback. Most crucially, I and other trainees had time; time to reflect back at college after teaching practice, time to talk to fellow teachers, time to hone our knowledge and skills.

Now, the viability of HEI-led training courses are threatened by the move towards school-led training. The variable quality of School Direct, from excellent to inadequate, cannot fill the resulting gap in producing trained teachers. Where do trainees who are put straight in the classroom with minimum preparation get help from? With their colleagues already working a sixty hour week, support can vary enormously and is often dependent on the attitude and aptitude of your mentor. This mentor often has neither time nor been given sufficient training to do the job effectively.

Having made it through training and gained qualified teacher status, where is the continued professional development (CPD) to move teachers on efficiently to the next stage and keep them up to date with the often rapid changes in their subjects? Few Local Authority teaching centres survive and their staff of knowledgeable advisers has disappeared. Time for constructive CPD is increasingly rare as the teacher shortage bites. The Government states it wants rigour in the curriculum, but it is not offering rigour in the training of teachers to deliver that curriculum.

I am an experienced teacher of thirty years standing and I have had a wonderful career, however teaching has and is changing rapidly. If a younger colleague who I know enjoys teaching and working with pupils tells me of their exhaustion, difficulty in finding time to seek advice from colleagues so they can improve their teaching skills, strained relationships due to lack of time for their family and friends and asks should I stay or should I go?  How should I respond, knowing that sadly the job has changed so much that I no longer have time to help them due to my own pressures of work? What advice would you give?

Teacher training has changed, the education system has changed. I have been a teacher for thirty years. Today I feel like a dying breed as I look around and see how few teachers there are who are enthusiastic, energetic, feel valued and have extensive classroom experience. A dedicated teacher for life.  As a teacher and parent, I worry how many of these type of teacher will there be in the future as our education system haemorrhages staff.

We need to devise a better plan for the future one for which we are prepared to meet the relevant costs. Our children and teachers deserve nothing less.

[1] In the 12 months to November 2014, state schools lost nearly 50,000 teachers.  This is the highest leaving rate for over ten years; it equates to a 10% rise in teachers leaving the profession in the three years between 2011 and 2014. Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/school-workforce-in-england-november-2014

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