When TLTP Education conducted its recent Barometer of the Teaching Industry, it is fair to say that we expected a degree of negativity about the state of the teaching profession.
It is equally fair to say, however, that the depth of that negativity took us somewhat by surprise. And it was for that reason that we chose to dig deeper into the reasons behind the apparent disaffection to uncover what teachers felt were the key issues that needed to be resolved in order to transform the situation.
Of the 1,000 teachers that we spoke to, 58 per cent said they were more concerned about their job prospects than they were a year ago, only 11 per cent were less concerned, while 31 per cent said their levels of concern were about the same as a year ago.
The main cause for that increased concern appears to be school budgets, cited by 55 per cent as the primary issue, followed by too much red tape (37 per cent), the growth in academy schools (35 per cent), an inability to teach what I want to teach (33 per cent), and the threat of violence or intimidation, which was mentioned by 24 per cent of respondents.
Teachers seem to be crying out for greater levels of job security, especially given the growth of the academy sector and the perceived impact of this on traditional terms and conditions. Clarity is required in many areas, it would seem.
Many of our teachers complained about confusion in the profession over constantly moving goalposts, with subject areas needing to be resourced more effectively and with teachers telling us that they need to understand more clearly what is expected of them.
Some told us that teachers will inevitably be unhappy working in academies as they feel that they take away job security, which many told us was one of the few compensations for long hours and dealing with increasingly bad student behaviour.
There is unease about the decision to allow academy groups to employ unqualified teachers which is mirrored by concern at the number of qualified colleagues now leaving the profession altogether.
This frustration was evident in the number of teachers who told us that working longer hours and enduring snap no-notice inspections was not the way to raise morale and motivate them.
If lesson plans are needed to be available for inspection at a few hours’ notice for Ofsted inspectors, then teachers need to be given more non-contact time to prepare them.
Many teachers have told us they need to plan lessons in the evenings, working up to midnight and beyond – hardly when they are at their most productive or creative. Most work at weekends too. The message from many was to cut back on the red tape and release teachers to be more effective in the classroom.
There seems to be a clear frustration with what many see as the government’s perceived refusal to listen to the views of experienced teaching staff when forming education policy. Other teachers told us that they felt that the profession was being unfairly blamed for failing pupils.
The problem, instead, we have been told is a combination of a lack of resources and a lack of good teacher training coupled with poor behaviour and the demands of too broad a curriculum.
It is seen as unreasonable to teachers to be expected to be able to deal with all of these issues. One teacher told us that they are so swamped with red tape and bureaucracy that they simply are not allowed to teach properly. An end to league tables and a reduction in the number of exams were also cited as necessary changes.
On the issues of intimidation and abuse, almost two thirds of teachers (64 per cent) said that they had been verbally abused in school during the last academic year, while nearly a fifth (20 per cent) said they had been physically assaulted. There is clearly unease about this and better protection for teachers in school in the face of physical and verbal abuse, with an ability to stand up more in the face of parent and pupil power, seems to be in demand.
Worryingly this research and associated feedback shows a profession in a state of some unease. Uncertainty created by budget cuts and increased workload is being compounded by threats on a number of fronts from within the classroom environment. This matches our experience as a recruiter of seeing experienced teachers leaving management positions and being replaced by less experienced teachers as a way of keeping staff costs as low as possible. Something is going to have to give.
Darryl Mydat is managing director of TLTP Education.