Are you thinking about leaving teaching, or teaching abroad to leave the English state school system?
On my travels to schools across the U.K. and in parts of Europe, I have been asking myself ‘What is the perfect balance between school and teacher accountability?’
Too tight or too loose?
It appears to me that in some of our English schools, we work within a – high stakes – model that is too extreme. Meanwhile, in some independent and international schools, accountability is at the other extreme, too loose in some classrooms. Teachers tell me time and time again that they leave the U.K. for a happier work-life balance, with one having been a teacher for 9 years working in one international school telling me that they “had never been observed or provided with any appraisal targets.”
Support and challenge?
These alternatives sound great if you are working in a high-accountability system, but I am often led to ask myself, ‘Where is the support and challenge?’ In international/independent schools, if a parent is paying a school £30 or 50k per year in fees, shouldn’t one expect high-quality teaching from the school? And do observations and appraisal actually lead to teacher improvement?
I fear I am a by-product thinker of a high-stakes economy … but I know we need a balance between high-stakes rigour and autonomy. Striking that optimum between both parallels is a challenge for any school.
So, what is a perfect balance?
In 1997 with £50 in my pocket, I left for Nigeria to work with the Voluntary Services Overseas. My two-year contract didn’t quite work out as I had expected and I flew home after one month with my tail between my legs. Accountability was a rare commodity – the challenges that teachers and schools were facing in West Africa were far removed from the politics of the time – that was beginning to drive up standards in the English state school system.
Twenty-two years later I ask myself, have we moved to an extreme where teachers are now voting with their feet? One of my bloggers recently raised an interesting question to those working in the U.K., Does teaching overseas appeal to you? It may be something you are thinking about but think carefully before you do.
The grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence – with the right balance of support and challenge, we can shape the narrative to make our state school system world-class. However, we need everyone to work together to achieve it.
Consider 365 reasons to teach in English state schools.