by Tim Lamden
Monday, January 14, 2013
Historically, education ministers have never been popular with teachers.
But it seems the antipathy towards the current man at the helm of the Department for Education (DfE) has risen to unprecedented levels.
As part of a recent YouGov poll for the National Union of Teachers (NUT), when asked what New Year’s resolution they would like to see from Michael Gove, the most popular answer among the 804 teachers surveyed was “resign”.
The poll results, released earlier this month, found 55 per cent of teachers rated their morale as low or very low – a 13 per cent rise on a similar survey carried out last April.
The findings have sparked concern that the education reforms being pursued by Mr Gove and the government – such as cutting pensions and introducing performance-related pay – has seen teacher morale hit an all-time low.
For Julie Davies, NUT branch secretary in Haringey, the poll results were no surprise.
She said: “Some teachers feel very isolated and very fearful of management in their own schools.”
It is a view shared by Ms Davies’ colleague in neighbouring Barnet, who has encountered a similarly downbeat atmosphere among teachers.
Keith Nason, secretary of Barnet’s NUT, said: “The problem is Michael Gove seems to want to fight teachers. You get cascade bullying which stems from Gove.
“He puts pressure on Ofsted who are being bullied to provide results, which is then putting pressure on headteachers. They are worried if they have a bad Ofsted it’s their job gone, so they are putting unreasonable pressure on their staff.”
Even more damning for Mr Gove is the poll’s revelation that only 13 per cent of teachers working in academies and free schools – seen by the government as the template for education in the future – supported the direction taken by the DfE.
Government plans to cut teachers’ pensions and introduce performance-related pay in recent months have done nothing to raise spirits, while a letter written by Mr Gove last month to all state school headteachers urging them to dock the pay of striking teachers has added to the discontent.
There has also been anger around the proposed replacement of GCSEs with the EBacc qualification, not to mention last summer’s GCSE marking scandal.
One Haringey teacher at a secondary school in the west of the borough, who did not wish to be named, fears the toll Mr Gove’s policies will take on the teaching profession.
He said: “The whole agenda for state schools has been ripped up. Teachers are thinking ‘No-one has asked me about this, we are not involved’.
“In my school we have increasing numbers of teachers absent with stress-related illnesses. What I’ve seen is teachers coming in with enthusiasm and talent, and within a few years they are talking about leaving.
“The thing that really worries me is that the most talented and committed will be the first to go, because they have better employment opportunities in other fields.”
In response to the YouGov poll, a DfE spokesman said: “We are reforming our education system to raise standards by giving more power to headteachers, attracting the best graduates and professionals, and helping those teaching now to do their jobs even better.”
The government point out that teaching is attracting more top graduates than ever and vacancies are at their lowest level since 2005.
Academies and free schools give headteachers more freedom, with performance in sponsored academies improving at twice the rate of maintained schools in 2011, the government claims.