What is putting young people off teaching?
I loved my job. I was a teacher and Headteacher for over 30 years. I am still in touch with dozens of former pupils who are now in their 30s and 40s – fabulous kids who grew up into quality adults. It hurts to see what is happening to education today. Why would any right-minded 21 year-old want to teach in this day and age? 60 hours a week, a salary half that of a train driver, no chance of a mortgage, unpaid overtime taken for granted, marking till midnight, pension theft, constantly moving goalposts, testing instead of teaching, hostile and sometimes violent parents – and everyone thinks you’re a shirker – or worse, they went to school and they know how to do your job better than you do. What a joy it is to teach in the 21st Century.
Figures published last week show that teachers are quitting the profession in their droves and the DfE, training universities, colleges and schools cannot recruit qualified replacements. The result will inevitably be plummeting standards. Teachers can quit, but their students cannot. They will end up on the receiving end of a sub-standard, under-funded education taught by low paid, unqualified staff. If we want our children to receive a first class education we have to pay first class wages and massively reduce class sizes and workloads. We cannot have it both ways.
It is the same as any other profession, indeed, any other job: you get what you pay for. Yes, it’s a vocation, and if people were not committed to working with children they just could not hack it. But like everybody else, teachers want a life, the opportunity to afford a mortgage, a home, a decent car, and a social life. My 25-year-old daughter, in her fourth year of teaching, has a nice car but she can only afford the repayments because she is living at home. She works in an inner-city school in London. How on earth is she supposed to afford a £1000 a month mortgage? She is a highly qualified, highly capable young professional who is brilliant with really difficult kids and huge classes. She leaves at 7 every morning and is rarely back before 6. She arrives home exhausted. Then she sits like a zombie, marking for hours on end. She loves children and she loves teaching. But it is killing her.
I hear friends teasing her about all the holidays teachers are supposed to have. Well, if anyone believes teachers do not work throughout large chunks of their holidays they are unfortunately way out of touch. In addition to planning and preparation, tens of thousands of teachers will be going into work over Easter to run revision classes. The same applies on Saturdays. Yet the general public does not have the same respect for teaching as they do the other professions, nor do they have the same sympathy as they do for nurses or firefighters. Consequently the Government is under little pressure to raise the prestige and salaries of teachers, nor address the workload issue. As a result the service is woefully under-funded and in serious decline.
The bottom line is: if we value our children, and if we value their education, we have to value our teachers. If we do not, very soon we will not have teachers, we will have glorified child-minders. The unpalatable truth is, it would not bother this Government. Their children will never see the inside of a state school. That chicken will eventually come home to roost as industry decries the quality of its educationally depleted work force. But the writing is already on the school wall. Why should we have to wait for City Bank to tell us what is already blatantly obvious?