According to Michael Gove, it’s a national scandal that 50% of teachers quit the profession within five years. I agree. But as an NQT I have no idea whether I’ll last the course. And if I do leave, it will be largely down to one thing – Michael Gove.
Not exclusively. I mean he’s not responsible for some dreadful things about teaching such as the mountains of paperwork I carry around with me (I teach adults part-time and we have no staffroom in which to keep our resources).
But with Gove constantly sneering at teachers; painting them out to be a bunch of illiterate innumerate morons that need to unlearn everything they picked up on their substandard teacher training courses and relearn it his way, it’s demoralising.
Now of course he wants to clamp down on teachers’ dress sense. Interestingly, as a journalist, I would never walk into a newspaper office in jeans. Yet at last year’s teaching placement at an inner-city Sixth Form college, wearing smart officewear would have isolated me from the students. Jeans worked. That’s teaching though – one size doesn’t fit all.
Gove says he wants to attract top graduates. I’m probably the kind of person he wants. OK, I’m not Oxbridge but I’ve got a decent degree (in English - the subject I teach). I have 17 years experience as a journalist and I studied for my PGCE at the Institute of Education which last November was awarded an ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted (the same Ofsted that Gove also thinks needs a shake up so he booted out its chair, the Labour Peer Sally Morgan).
So now that I’ve left a well-paid job to move into teaching, why do I feel unsure if it’s the career for me?
I’ve said this before but as a teacher you are constantly judged and scrutinised. I seem to lurch from one observation to the next; one paperwork audit to the other. After half-term we’ve got a mock Ofsted inspection and then at some point we’ll have the real thing. I live in fear of being punished for something rather than praised for anything.
A friend of mine is a primary school teacher with 18 years experience. She loves her job. Or at least she did. Now she says not only are her classes interrupted regularly with her boss wandering in, but she spends two hours a day marking and often writes more in the children’s books than the kids do themselves.
The youngsters then have to spend the first part of her lesson responding to her comments and before you know it the teaching is playing second fiddle to the administrative nightmare of ensuring there’s a paper trail for every cough and spit of the working day.
She actually has to take time out of her job to keep a minute-by-minute record of everything she does. Often she writes: “from 2.50-3pm I completed my daily logbook.” Teaching is eating itself.
It’s stories like these – of the constant auditing, monitoring and criticising in a preposterous bid to ‘raise standards’ – that makes me think I may be one of the 50% that leave within five years.
I hope Michael Gove also considers ditching the job within five years. If my maths serves me right (which it may not do, considering I’m a teacher), that gives him another 15 months.