Page 10 - Independent Schools Magazine
P. 10

 Are current pressures destro ability to teach the subject
Recent reports suggest that teachers are feeling a lack of autonomy in their roles today and although this feeling may not be universal across all schools in the country, nor something that is relevant to every aspect of a teacher’s role, it is, without doubt, a growing issue for many teachers today. Ben Evans, head of Edge Grove School, Hertfordshire, reflects...
Within the education system today, there are many external pressures placed on schools from ISI, Ofsted, unions, government and parents, all of which mean teachers are under incredible scrutiny and increasingly, have limited freedom to teach both the curriculum they want, or indeed how they think it should be best taught. As a result, regular checks and balances are essential to ensure consistency
and quality in teaching but this must not be to the detriment of teachers’ enthusiasm, innovation and basic professionalism.
A balancing act
It’s no secret that teaching has never been a nine to five job and the workload means that for any teacher, there is always a lesson
to plan, a set of books to mark, a topic to resource and research, a report to write or a myriad other exigencies placed upon them.
This often means working late into the night and at weekends during term time. However, this was not a surprise when teachers entered the profession and as it is often stated by those outside of teaching, instead of the statutory four or five weeks of holidays each year, those in the independent sector average around 18 weeks
of holiday. This has to be taken into account as it is something all teachers value and enjoy.
As with all careers, there are pressure points such as exam marking and report writing times but these are expected and can be managed and planned for in advance. The pressures definitely come from dealing with anxious and aspirational parents who are understandably paying a lot of money to educate their children and in return, expect high
standards of teaching and learning and an individualised approach to the care of their children and with the communication they receive from school.
Higher stakes
Additionally, schools are facing an increasingly competitive market where budgets might be stretched, contact time is increased, a greater number of co-curricular opportunities are being offered, before and after school care and schools are fighting to attract the same children and maintain full rolls. All of these pressures mean that teachers are being required to do a lot more in addition to their core teaching duties.
On top of this, inspection is more frequent and demanding and the stakes are much higher together with greater health and safety requirements, safeguarding and the recent addition of GDPR and all that this entails. This means school leaders are more exacting and demanding of higher standards than ever before. This cannot be a bad thing but will inevitably lead teachers to feel they are under far greater pressure.
Assessment, both formative and summative is an essential part
of teaching and learning today.
If it is not done properly, pupil progress and outcomes cannot
be monitored sufficiently and we are ultimately doing them a grave disservice. Gone, thankfully, are the days when the odd unit test and end of term/year exams were the sum total of any schools’ assessment. Assessment for learning should be happening in every lesson every day and teachers should be supported with this through training and CPD.
When teaching
becomes a chore
The issues tend to arise when school standards are scrutinised through GCSE and A-level league tables and the percentages gained at A and A*. The league tables only show a part of any school’s story but are held in great store, often incorrectly by parents, and can cause schools and teachers a great deal of pressure. In addition, prep schools who are preparing children for 7+, 11+ or 13+ entrance
exams often face great pressure from parents in a very competitive world with more children than school places and who may hold unrealistic expectations about their children’s ability and the schools to which they are suited.
It is very likely that many teachers are questioning their careers due to the pressures they face. This will result in staff who cannot give their all in the classroom and for whom the teaching that may have once been a passion, becomes more of a chore.
Flair, passion
and energy is vital
For excellence in schools, we need teachers who are enthusiastic,
passionate, child-centred and totally committed and those
who have the time and energy
to prepare well-planned and resourced lessons. They need time to mark work carefully and time to give the feedback necessary
to achieve the maximum pupil progress and attainment. Without the time and support from the school’s leadership, teachers will simply go through the motions, teach lessons and mark books but without the flair and energy that is vital for the best outcomes.
However, it is the duty of individual schools to monitor
staff welfare, put measures in place to support teachers either with workload, deadlines, parental demands or personal issues which may affect their work too. This could be as simple as auditing teaching loads, employing more lunchtime supervisors to cover break duties, a cover supervisor for when staff are absent, reviewing the reporting/parents’ consultation periods to make them manageable and other measures to reduce stress and promote wellbeing such as staff yoga, free access to a counsellor and fitness sessions etc.
  10 Independent Schools Magazine
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