Why are so many professionals leaving the system?
My story looks at why there is a rise in the number of children being home educated but also a rise in the number of teachers and leaders leaving the profession. I want to help people realise that even teachers don’t feel the system is right for the pupils.
When asked, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years time’? 40% of UK teachers surveyed by a teaching union said, ‘No longer working in education’! WHO SAID
Generally, teachers go into their profession because they are passionate about making a difference for young people but they are leaving because the pressure on the profession no longer allows for this to happen.
I am an example of this. I was a Headteacher for 9 years until I fell out of love with the system. I realised that the current UK state education provision wasn’t suitable for me or my family and so took the plunge into home education.
In 2014 and 2015 the UK curriculum changed, the bar was raised by nearly two full years and schools had to try and catch up the children and data to match those expectations. This, for me, was when it really went downhill. Panic from teachers, pupils taking on more homework and generally everyone cramming things in with less time for deep learning but more expectation for children to learn at a greater depth! More and more sitting at desks learning, which doesn’t suit all children, particularly young ones or those with additional needs. With this came increasing tendencies to play up, be disruptive and, warning after warning, they are out – excluded. I am pleased to say I never resorted to this in my old school but I could see the pressure on schools and why there are so many exclusions. I have spoken with families recently that have had negotiated exclusions where the school have suggested they take their children out otherwise they will be excluded formally.
What constantly makes me want to cry is that we keep hearing that mental health issues in young people have doubled in the past two years. But the government continues to fire back about all the extra money they are putting into the system. I wonder why there just isn’t an understanding that it’s partly attributable to the pressure children are under from the increasingly archaic school system alongside the lack of time in schools to support social, emotional and mental issues, as and when needed, not via a waiting list.
Alongside the government’s raised bar in data performance came heavier targets for staff to reach. Performance management focussed on the expectation of staff achieving high percentages of pupils getting expected levels of progress regardless of cohorts, individual children’s journeys and starting points! Schools not able to reach those levels got put into Multi-Academy Trusts. I joined a multi-academy thinking it would help in many ways but the workload increased, the person-led approach was stripped away, undervalued and the whole school ran like a business. The business approach has its place for ordering resources or sharing compliance but not necessarily for making child-centred decisions, based on what is best for the children and families within that place.
The pressure that staff continue to function under is immense. Everyone always thinks that they have wonderful holidays but in reality, many teachers spend that time being ill because their bodies can’t cope with the constant pressure, or living with anxiety preparing for the next term. I felt like my mind or body could rarely switch off, constantly engaged for the fight or flight mode.
One of the reasons I left the system was to create a more balanced, consistent pace of life, where I could breathe steadily instead of the extremes of school life.
The impact of what is expected from children is also crazy. I see frazzled 6 year olds being forced to read by their parents while waiting to go into after-school gym classes, needing to cram in their homework before dinner, bath and bed when they get home.
I never wanted children at my primary school to do homework or enter into the world of revision for SATs. For me, that was what they were in school for and when they went home they should be free to play and be with their families. I felt it also put a lot of pressure on parents who sometimes didn’t understand what was expected of their children as there is a different method of teaching them now, causing unnecessary arguments and unrest at home. But many schools feel forced to as they feel it will increase their data performance. Recently I saw a burnt-out year 6 pupil in tears due to the number of past papers she was expected to do over the Easter holidays. Surely these children are far too young to be put under this kind of pressure.
Teachers generally work extremely hard, but if you talk to school staff they will tell you about ridiculous workloads and expectations to get all children to certain milestones. It is unrealistic in many cases and all done under threat of what Ofsted might do. It has no reference to the starting points or events that happen within a child’s life, or even the fact that we are all different, we learn at different rates at different times.
I really hope that this story helps people understand the pressure that children and staff are under and in turn it helps explains why so many staff and children are leaving the system. Fingers crossed the future brings change for the better!