7 Facts Teachers are Sick of Hearing from Politicians by @TeacherToolkit

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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Education, education, education! Over the coming months, as we approach another general election – I know we are some time away – we may be suspicious of upcoming messages from our beloved politicians.

In this blog, I present some of the classic messages we may have heard before.

What 7 Facts are Teachers Sick of Hearing from Politicians?

“When Britain chooses which party will lead the next government, it will choose between a party dominated by privately educated MPs, and one ruled by political insiders. Such is the state of representative democracy today.”  (New Statesman)

The Contenders:


What Makes Teachers Sick?

As I write this, there are 185 days until the next General Election and “YouGov/Sunday Times poll today has topline figures of CON 31%, LAB 32%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 18%, GRN 6%, continuing YouGov’s recent trend of showing a wafer thin Labour lead”. Despite who may or may not win the election and what political figure (above) sits in the Secretary of State for Education post, I asked some of my readers, What Facts are Teachers Sick of Hearing from Politicians?

Here are some of the responses …

1. Pay and pensions:

Don’t tell us that we are paid well. Teachers have has faced pay freezes or rises of 1% since coalition formed in 2010; and some may argue, long before this. Conservative minister Matthew Hancock suggested pay restraint would have to continue until the government has ‘the books balanced’ in 2018. Alternatively and according to The Daily Mail, at almost every age, public sector workers earn more per hour than someone of the same age in the private sector, according to the Office for National Statistics.


Public Sector Workers GraphicSource: The Daily Mail

As of March 2013, teachers in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland start on the main salary scale of £21,588, rising each year to £31,552. (Source: Save The Student) On the DfE website, a minimum of £22,023 (or £27,543 in inner London), the starting salary in teaching is high compared to other graduate starting salaries.

If you are new to the profession? Did you become a teacher for the salary and benefits?

2. Working Conditions:

Don’t tell us that we work hard. We know we do. Workload is currently the latest le dernier cri at the moment. Current Secretary of State Nicky Morgan MP said: ‘I want to build a new deal for teacher workload – and I need your help.’

Morgan announced The Workload Challenge and states that ‘the average English teacher works nearly 50 hours a week, compared with an OECD average of 38 hours a week.’ You can fill in this survey and at least have your say. The call for views closes on 21 November 2014

You can also read the results from the last DfE survey (Feb 2014) here which reports  (page 11) that the (minimum/average) working week is 55+ hours for teachers and headteachers! Apparently, it’s less than 50 hours for senior teachers in primary eduction, but I don’t believe that! Do you?

Will anything change as a result of this latest survey?

3. Standards:

Don’t tell us that standards are rising under your leadership and has fallen under others. Any headline facts, derived from data is often not contextualised, designed to suit the politician speaking at the front. For example, more or less everything derived from PISA. So, are educational standards falling? Well, relative positions maybe, but not standards.

According to Ofqual (August 2014) ‘GCSE and A level results for England, Wales and Northern Ireland have generally been relatively stable from one summer to the next, with only very small changes in the overall percentages of students achieving A*-C grades.’

4. Autonomy:

Don’t tell us that the number of schools converting to become an academy or a free school are doing so to have more autonomy; and as a coincidence, standards rise dramatically. Don’t tell us there is a national curriculum and then say it’s not compulsory. Don’t tell us it happens everywhere else but here, and that from a day-trip to Finland, China, South Korea, Canada and anywhere else, education is better there than in the UK. We need to look at ourselves and keep focused on expertise from within.

As Pasi Salhberg says, the Global Educational Reform Movement (GERM) is here!

Pasi Sahlberg Blog

“GERM has emerged since the 1980s and has increasingly become adopted as a educational reform orthodoxy within many education systems throughout the world, including in the U.S., England, Australia and some transition countries. Tellingly, GERM is often promoted through the interests of international development agencies and private enterprises through their interventions in national education reforms and policy formulation.”

He outlines five stages that we can identify GERM. First is standardisation of education. A second common feature of GERM is focus on core subjects in school, in other words, on literacy and numeracy. The third characteristic that is easily identifiable in global education reforms is the search for low-risk ways to reach learning goals. The fourth globally observable trend in educational reform is use of corporate management models as a main driver of improvement. And the fifth global trend is adoption of test-based accountability policies for schools.

His book, Finnish Lessons will help us kill 99.9% of GERMs.

Are schools and education in general, improving in the UK?

And finally, some quick facts.

5. Inequality:

Don’t tell us that poverty doesn’t matter. It does! For the past 20 years, I’ve worked with some of the poorest students in Europe.

6. All Ears!

Don’t tell us that you are listening to us. How many teachers on the front line do you actually (genuinely) meet and talk to? And we are not talking about round-table discussions here with cherry-picked views. Make wellbeing a genuine priority. Invest in teacher recruitment (and retention) beyond fast track graduate programmes. Invest in the current workforce, ensuring that all teaching staff have an annual investment in their CPD and that schools oblige to meet individual teacher development.

7. Touché!

Don’t tell us the clichés. We’ve heard them all before. For example; ““Let me absolutely clear on this.” “And make no mistake.” “Frontline services.” “Not fit for purpose.” Why not throw education a curve-ball and fund all state schools the cash to reduce teacher timetables from 90% to 80%, giving teachers more time for planning, marking and professional development during the school day.

“It’s not just that it [Teacher’s Oath] seems such a silly, trivial idea. It’s also another disheartening reminder of the way that politicians seem to spin a toy globe, pick a country with apparently better educational performance. … if I were drafting education policy I would incentivise great teaching, but not through performance-related pay.” (Geoff Barton)

You can read headteacher Geoff Barton‘s Own Manifesto in full, published in the TES here on 31st October 2014.

What do you think? What facts are you sick of hearing from politicians?



This blog has been inspired by Seven things teachers are sick of hearing from school reformers in the Washington Post (14th August 2014).


16 thoughts on “7 Facts Teachers are Sick of Hearing from Politicians by @TeacherToolkit

  1. Pingback: 7 Facts Teachers are Sick of Hearing from Politicians by @TeacherToolkit | Education Insights
  2. Didn’t quite grasp the point? Teachers work hard, but are well paid… standards are ok… politicians talk like politicians (and always will)… and somebody (who?!) says poverty doesn’t matter.

    I’m sick of hearing about evidence based blah blah, but then watching as unpopular evidence is ignored. I’m sick of excuses being made, but causes never tackled. I’m sick of debate for debates sake by those more interested in their popularity and ego than listening, learning and finding solutions (ironic in teaching, that!). I’m sick of watching schools tiptoe towards privatisation and commercialism (and if you want to talk about poverty shall we mention school uniforms, trips, residentials, reading lists, sports kit – all set by the school, not politicians)… oh now that’s £1 for non-uniform day (it’s a good cause – Children in Need).

    As for the political contenders, they must be the weakest bunch of candidates in memory. Things can only get better…can’t they?

  3. What really irritated me about Nicky Morgan’s workload survey is that it appears to encourage teachers to admit that they spend their time engaged in unnecessary activities when that is not the case. Working under a ‘listening management’ who do their best to reduce unnecessary tasks and provide us with tools (iPads, high quality in house CPD etc.) to work efficiently, I find the things I’m doing that create excessive workload are entirely necessary. I clocked a 20 hour working day yesterday to meet a reporting deadline after some personal issues prevented me getting the work I intended done over the half term “holiday”. My response to the survey was that assessment, planning, intervening in collaboration with colleagues, acknowledging progress and achievment, reflection and development, and data sharing to allow my managers an overview so they can do their bit for our team, are all necessary and reasonable activities for teachers. The implication of the question is that we are either too daft to use our time effectively, or that there is some cheap fix that can be sorted out by employing non-teachers.
    What we need to improve our workload is simply a reduced teaching timetable.
    Glad I got that off my chest!

    1. This is so important yet never seems to get mentioned. Well said!
      Having started a new job in September I am averaging a 70 hour week on absolutely necessary planning and marking. I’m still not on top of everything and don’t have a work-life balance. As a result of this workload I’m sure my teaching in the classroom has suffered due to lack of energy. As you said, excesdive workload can only really be tackled by reducing teaching hours.

  4. Pingback: 7 Facts Teachers are Sick of Hearing from Politicians by @TeacherToolkit | The ISV Hub

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