According to Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw, I got it wrong. I never felt stress. This is because I didn’t do lunch duty on my own or run a school when teachers were striking, like he did.
Forgive me, Sir Wilshaw, but you don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t doubt his experiences, that are outlined in this article on the BBC website, were incredibly stressful and I don’t envy him. And I don’t doubt that his father was extremely stressed while looking for employment and then having to work very long hours to make ends meet. But, unless Sir Wilshaw has worked as a classroom teacher in today’s educational climate then he has no idea what he is talking about.
I never used my stress levels as an excuse for poor performance, mainly because this wasn’t an issue for my students. But it isn’t an excuse. It is a reason. If you’re so stressed that it’s affecting your health, how can you perform to your best? Headteachers having more power and pay isn’t going to help your average classroom teacher! Society has changed a lot since he was teaching and the difficulties that teachers come across have changed.
If young people feel stress because they can’t gain employment due to a poor educational experience or lack of skills and qualifications, then something needs to be done. (Lets not forget that there’s been an economic crisis – NEAT’s aren’t just the fault of schools!) I have thought for a long time that the current National Curriculum isn’t necessarily up to scratch for modern society. But to just continue to blame teachers isn’t the answer. And I’m not sure that Sir Wilshaw has the answers, mainly because he suggests banning mobile phones in schools instead of suggesting ways for schools to use them in a positive way.
Another problem is that many subjects don’t receive adequate funding (and schools becoming academies won’t necessarily solve this). IT, for example, is hugely underfunded and schools find themselves very poorly equipped. How is it possible to prepare young people for university and the world of work when schools cannot access the equipment that exists within the business world?
Sir Wilshaw needs to stop blaming teachers, start listening and working WITH education providers instead of against them. The fact that he is so out of touch worries me. Clearly Ofsted judgements will come to be meaningless to the profession as they are being led by someone who doesn’t understand the requirements of the job.