Teachers deserve better than uninformed public criticism during this time of a global pandemic.

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Posted by: Sue Atkins

 

As a former Deputy Headteacher I read with dismay a rather unhelpful tweet from Lord Andrew Adonis to say he’d written to Ofsted chief, Amanda Spielman, concerned that schools are not providing enough online learning.

Teachers who were just recovering from Sir Michael Wilshaw’s Newsnight suggestion that schools should work evenings and weekends to ‘catch up’ – not to mention the recent Telegraph article suggesting that my former profession lacks courage – were rightly wounded & outraged in equal measure. The last thing teachers need is blame and criticism.

Lots of my friends are still teachers & it is certainly not a profession you go into if you want to make money. You go into it because you want to make a difference as teaching is a vocation.

I agree with Paul Whiteman general secretary, of the National Association of Head Teachers who writes ‘teachers have effectively rebuilt our education system from scratch in a matter of weeks in response to a crisis deeper than has been experienced for generations. They have moved mountains in mere moments to support children, their families and their communities. They have remained open for the most vulnerable children and for children of key workers. For those not at school, they have provided a rich mix of support and materials, both online and off.’

According to all the questions I get sent for my Facebook & Instagram Lives each week, parents are finding it a lot harder to educate their kids at home than they first thought, because teaching is not easy.

Getting children to interact at a distance is even harder & it is a completely new discipline. Teaching is hard enough when a child is with you, but it’s a whole other ball game when they are not.

I have watched with anger, frustration & incredulity the effects of austerity on schools for more than a decade. There are more children in poverty than ever before who are tired, hungry and shamed as pupil poverty stops learning.

Many children come to school in certain areas wearing dirty and ill-fitting uniforms who suffer from anxiety and behavioural issues that affect their learning due to circumstances at home, & this is before you add technology poverty with no access to laptops or internet access into the mix. These issues are not caused by the teaching profession.

So, a 30 % take up of online material in the first five weeks of lockdown shows the disparity between some families doing copious amounts of worksheets & those struggling to even access a computer.

Schools can’t recruit teachers, let alone keep them, once they’re trained and there is a massive recruitment and retention crisis. Teaching is not valued & respected as it once was in society & politicians seem to enjoy blaming the profession for all sorts of things.

The years of obsessive testing & league tables have knocked teacher’s morale & I have watched in dismay as my friends struggle under the weight of Ofsted, who are feared not revered.

The idea that Ofsted come in to praise, encourage & motivate is a very far cry from my own experience.

I’m glad my days as a teacher were not marred by constantly looking over my shoulder waiting for someone to trip me up.

I, for one, include the dedicated professionalism of teachers in my Thursday night 8pm clap. They have stepped up & have work tirelessly to support children, parents & their school communities & their incredible efforts to reinvent ‘school’ deserve better than uninformed public criticism.

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