Is There Hope For Teaching, Mr Johnson?

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Approaching the final year of my degree, the sudden reality that all too soon I will be working in a ‘real’ job, on a ‘real’ career path is striking me. Therefore, I organised a few school experiences in order to grapple with what it would mean to be a teacher. I observed a variety of ages and abilities facing the end of year exams and looking forward to the next year ahead. I had many illuminating experiences, and have hope that this will be the route for me. However, it stirred up a few niggling questions. Something underlying in the teaching profession that never seems to be fully acknowledged, even with Johnson’s £4.6 billion pledge to schools: strap on your seat belts, I feel a rant brewing…

“Don’t go into teaching for the money”. “Think of the holidays”. “Teaching is a cop-out for humanity degrees”. These are all preconceptions that have been blasted at me every time I mention going into teaching. So when I found myself in an English staffroom listening to a lunchtime discussion on how it would take 15 years to save up for a house deposit on teachers wages, the reality of this beautiful, nurturing and under-appreciated profession hit me. ‘Skilled’ jobs are defined as paying over £30,000 per annum. The starting salary of a teacher is £23,000; which would only just cover the cost of the tuition fees and maintenance loan required for a degree over a year. Teachers (on the traditional PGCE route) spend a minimum of four years at university. And for what? An ‘unskilled’ job?

With the recent revelation that headteachers have to reduce the number of teachers in a school to breaking point in order to pay for basic equipment, such as tables and chairs, it is evident that schools are in a crisis. This comes after schools have been flogged off to businesses and other companies to become academies: Giving hope for improvement and survival of OFSTED inspections. This may seem to be an exaggerated reality, however, I, myself, saw the reality of this firsthand as a student: My secondary school was a failing institution placed in special measures for a number of years, spot inspections happening every few months. But nothing ever changed. Even with a proactive new headteacher who pushed the school to the national list of the top ten most improved schools, it remained in special measures. Only when converted to an academy did any real change happen. Through a series of harsh but necessary changes to secure a sustainable future for the school, it made a ‘good’ OFSTED rating. Moreover, it is likely that you, reading this, have been asked for donations from your previous school, sometimes for thousands of pounds for new interactive whiteboards, tables or chairs: more like fundraising for a third-world country in crisis than one in our local communities.

Boris Johnson’s initial £50 million pledge during his campaign would have only raised the education budget by a pitiful 0.1%. His revised £4.6 billion promise falls just below the estimated £4.9 billion estimated for schools to reverse the damage from austerity cuts over the last decade. The new Prime Minister, whose cabinet is two-thirds privately educated, is a supporter of grammar schools: make of that what you will…

So where does this place teaching? From my school experiences, teaching is a necessary and potent career that will enrich your life by inspiring others. I respected my own teachers because of how hard they worked to make a difference. The tireless nights, the lesson plans, the unseen ‘behind-the-scenes’ work that goes into each lesson; the years of study prior to even setting foot into the classroom. It all contributes towards something significant and under-appreciated in not only pay but the overall system of things.

Perhaps it is true that teaching is more than a paycheck, but why should the two be so dramatically separated? Certainly, impacting on young people’s lives in a classroom every day beats sitting at a desk in an office; so why can’t that be celebrated in the way it should be?

 

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I am a third-year English and History student who has rediscovered creative writing

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