‘Appalling and immoral school reforms have driven me out of my beloved profession’ says Leeds headteacher

Headteacher Maria Townsend pictured with year six pupils at Raynville Primary School in Bramley. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Headteacher Maria Townsend pictured with year six pupils at Raynville Primary School in Bramley. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

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A Leeds headteacher has quit the profession, blaming a “crushing wave of Government reforms” which she says are damaging an entire generation of children.

Maria Townsend, a teacher for 30 years, delivered the devastating critique of current educational policy in a letter to parents, 11 weeks before she is due to leave Raynville Primary School in Bramley.

Her words were so powerful that the letter has gone viral on social media.

It comes after parents across England took their children out on an unofficial “kids’ strike” to protest against increased testing of six and seven-year-olds.

In recent days, education ministers have been condemned by teaching leaders for a “chaotic, confused and unreliable” testing regime as well as their controversial plan to turn all state schools into academies.

Mrs Townsend, who is 52, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “Teaching is the profession that I have really known and it is what I feel passionately about.

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“Had somebody said to me last year that I would be leaving in a year, I wouldn’t have believed it.

“But the reforms that have been thrown at education, and primary education in particular, have been quite ridiculous in their number.

“My attitude as a head has always been ‘let’s get on and see how we can make it work for our children’.

“But these least 12 months have been just relentless, and the level of reform is such that I don’t want to do this job anymore. I have been driven out.

“I no longer want to lead a school where I am having to have expectations of the teachers and the pupils that I believe are, to a large extent, unfair, wrong and even immoral. It’s not an education system that I can believe in.”

Mrs Townsend singled out the pressures of the new National Curriculum, recently introduced into primary schools across all subjects, saying teachers were “expected to teach it just like that”.

“Teaching is a vocation and teachers are by nature hardworking and conscientious. But to try and achieve everything this new national curriculum is expecting of them is, I feel, unreasonable.”

She also hit out at the new “testing regime” for year two and year six, which she said “is just ludicrous and beyond anything reasonable”.

She said: “If we are not careful, we are going to have a cohort of children, or a generation of children, who are going to believe that they have failed, But they are not failures.

“I can’t continue to lead in a profession that is doing this to children.”

Mrs Townsend said she has the support of fellow staff and parents, and had been inspired to write her parting diatribe in the manner she did after repeatedly being asked why she was “really” leaving.

She stressed her concerns were not party political.

“This has been happening for an awfully long time now and there have been different political parties involved in it,” she said.

“For me, it’s to do with the fact that education has been pushed from pillar to post by all the political parties.

“Personally I believe, as do many of my colleagues, that education should sit outside of the political arena. In other countries where we are being told that performance is better, education does sit outside of politics.”

She suggested the creation of an independent commission for education, with Royal backing, so that “when there is a change of Government, you don’t have a change of educational policy”.

‘WHY I QUIT MY BELOVED JOB’

Mrs Townsend’s letter, which has now been viewed and shared thousands of times on social media, lays out a list of concerns about schools policy.

In it she writes: “The crushing wave of Government reforms and initiatives imposed on the profession in the last few years, and these last 12 months in particular, have brought me to the point where I no longer want to continue in the profession I have felt so passionate about for the last 30 years.

“Not only are our children expected to follow a content-driven curriculum which is so much harder than any that has gone before, it is full of unnecessary, ridiculous things that, quite frankly, they don’t need to know at their age.

“Does an 11 year old really need to have mastered the past progressive, the present perfect or know how to use subjunctives?

“This isn’t just a Raynville problem, it’s national, and it’s appalling that a system is causing so much stress, not only for children but for the teachers who are expected to teach it to them.”

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