General Election 2017 - Your Views: ‘Crisis in teaching must be reversed’ says Leeds school head

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Kauser Jan is an assistant head teacher at a primary school in Harehills, Leeds.

There is a huge staffing crisis currently facing our education system and it is a major election issue that I want all our politicians to address.

Kauser Jan

Kauser Jan

We had 50,000 teachers leave the profession last year. That wasn’t because of them reaching retirement age – it was because they simply couldn’t cope with the kind of bureaucracy that has been created in education.

Things are being thrown at us all the time that are irrelevant and funding has been removed.

If you look at the budgetary cuts that local authorities are going to have to implement, the average school is going to have around £430 less per pupil by 2019/20.

If we were to manage and sustain those losses, that would be equivalent to six teachers being lost. How are schools supposed to deliver good quality education to children with those kinds of cuts?

At the moment, four out of 10 teachers are quitting education within five years of qualifying. At our conference at Easter, I spoke to a number of newly-qualified teachers who were leaving teaching within two years or less. It was absolutely heartbreaking. They were saying they simply couldn’t sustain it, because it was impossible to try and keep up with what was expected.

People are working late into the night marking. They are in early and working at weekends, and some are working 60 hours plus a week. That is not sustainable. I have heard stories of people marking schoolwork with their child crying at their ankles. But they just have to finish that marking because everything has to be checked. This not a healthy working environment.

The pressure comes right from the top.

The Government is putting it onto the head teachers. The heads are putting it onto the senior leadership, who are putting it onto the staff, who then have to put it onto the children.

I have been a teacher for over 25 years, and I have noticed in the last decade a huge onslaught of ridiculous, fancy policies.

For example, the phonic health screening test, where children in year one are taught how to spell nonsensical words in order to assess their phonic knowledge. When they can’t spell the nonsensical words, they feel they have been labelled as failures. This is five and six year olds!

And then we have the SATS. I had a 10-year old pupil who was really upset. She said ‘Miss I’m really worried, our SATS have started’. The stress and anxiety being caused to pupils is phenomenal. I know of other schools who are having to arrange weekend and booster classes .

We are hothousing our children and turning schools into exam factories.

Schools are feeling the pressure to perform so Ofsted can knock on the door and say your school is good and outstanding and all because the school has managed to get children to jump through these hoops.

The SATS curriculum itself also has to be questioned. We had one parent who has done a Masters in English and couldn’t do the spelling and grammar test! We are saying we are raising the bar, but we are raising it to such a nonsensical level!

Children need to develop a love of reading, a love of learning.

We need assurances from a future Government that they will listen to what teachers are saying , and listen to what the parents and children are saying, Don’t simply impose these fanciful ideas from your offices – which we then can’t implement in schools.

We need you to listen to us, and to look at our budgetary requirements. We need your help to recruit good quality staff, and we need to retain them.

The system has to have accountability, of course it does. Everybody should be accountable.

But listen to us. And if you want to see what’s going on in schools, come and see and hear it, talk to the children and parents.

We need our politicians to speak to our children, and to all our communities.

Sarah Champion MP

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