Teacher bashing has got to stop!

Allen Hall

Allen Hall is a vice principal for curriculum and assessment at Waterhead Academy part of the South Pennine Academies in North West England. Allen is a participant of the Future Leaders programme under Ambition School Leadership and a specialist leader in education (SLE) with the South Pennine Academies. He is a keen Twitter user (@ahalledu) and blogger at www.allenhalledu.com. Allen enjoys debating and discussing education with others to learn new ideas and refine old ones so to improve student learning. His particular interests are in organisational health and evidence-based practice in schools.

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Over the last few months, I feel like we have been suspended in reality, dangling along the edge of a black hole where every minute feels like hours or days… 

It was only in early February that the first cases of Coronavirus were reported in Britain but, by the end of March, it had quickly spread across the United Kingdom dramatically changing everything and everyone overnight. 

Listening and watching the world react was surreal but, at the beginning, life at school remained unchanged. Lessons continued and pupils worked hard. Year 11s had just completed their mock examinations and the official countdown to GCSE exams had begun. Our utopia however quickly began to evaporate when schools across Europe started to close and confirmed that cases had drastically risen; people rightfully began to worry when the government then enacted a shield to protect vulnerable people. Staff and pupil attendance significantly declined and the government finally ‘partially’ closed all schools. 

I never imagined ever closing our school gates in the middle of the year. We are here to teach, that is our calling. Through the good, the bad and the absolute gruelling, we want the best for our pupils. We are fully aware of the impact that a prolonged closure can have on the majority of pupil progress and motivation and as a School, will do what is realistically possible during and after the lockdown to give our pupils the best education. 

It is a disappointing picture therefore, when looking at the growing number of critical press releases and tweets from politicians, journalists and other industry leaders attacking our professional integrity.

Quotes such as: Teachers lack courage and need to get back in the classroom not only suggests that teachers are not as brave as the NHS and should be in schools but implies that teachers are doing little work for their full pay. Recently, there has even been a headline calling for Ofsted to monitor and highlight good and poor practice of all school’s online offer; it is not marvelled upon that Teachers have shut down their physical classroom on a Friday and built a digital one from the ground up by Monday but instead, scrutinised. 

To clarify a few points:

  • The partial closure of schools was a government mandate; we did not close them. To suggest that we are not brave or lack courage or that we are not playing our part is nonsense. We want to be in school, we want to teach but it must be safe for the pupils, staff and families. 
  • Schools are partially closed which means some teachers are still attending school to provide an educational provision so that frontline workers can continue working as well. 
  • Teachers are setting work via online platforms and sharing hardcopies with pupils. However, this is not easy and the quality of work will undoubtedly vary from school to school. Schools are working quickly in extreme disruption to improve their home learning provision and organisations such as BBC Bitesize, GCSE Pod and Oak National Academy have been a massive help in supporting teachers in preparing lessons. Teachers certainly didn’t sign up to teach our classes online, but we’re doing it because ‘showing up for our pupils’ is what we do – a reality that press releases are not seeing or choosing to ignore.
  • No doubt there will be some ‘lazy’ teachers but surely this is no different than any other profession but to brand all teachers as lazy is unfair. The vast majority of teachers are not only setting online work but are writing schemes of learning, creating resources and, as many of them will have children, are home schooling as well. Every part of society is affected and I feel for them but when I hear that we are doing nothing- it really grates at me. I could be crass and reply with similar unnecessary spiteful comments about other professions and what their employees are doing with accepted furlough taxpayer funding. And I hope the answer is they and their families are safe and well. Whereas it feels that if you are a teacher, you are tarred and feathered. 

It is disheartening that even in a time of crisis; the profession continues to be battered. Teachers were fleeing the profession before coronavirus but if the ‘teaching bashing brigade’ does not stop, will there be anyone left in the profession to teach on return to a version of normality? 

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