Whether you consider it to be promotion or demotion, the key point is that there was motion of some kind. As if the start of the summer holidays wasn’t enough, David Cameron gave teachers an extra reason to be jubilant last week, with the news that Michael Gove was no longer the Minister for Education. The papers have been alive with countless opinion pieces about Gove, his legacy and his future within the party – including the oft repeated idea that it was Gove’s alienation of the teaching profession that contributed to his removal from the post. What, then, can Nicky Morgan, Gove’s replacement as Minister for Education, do to ingratiate herself with the profession? Here are some ideas…
1. Don’t change things for the sake of it.
Michael Gove was all about change. He proposed changes to the GCSE and A-level syllabuses, changes to the school league tables, changes to the way teachers were trained, changes to the OFSTED criteria… always change, change, change. What he failed to realise (or simply didn’t care enough about) was that each of these changes – some of which were contradictory, some of which were swiftly retracted – left teachers with extra paperwork to get their heads around. Extra paperwork takes a teacher’s mind out of the classroom, leaving them less time to devote to the attainment of their students.
2. Trust teachers to be the professionals that we have trained to be.
Teachers are highly skilled individuals, balancing the need to meet curriculum targets with the personal needs of thirty-odd individual students and, each hour, both the targets and the students are exchanged for another set of targets, and another set of students. Teachers need to be flexible, they need to adapt their lessons to suit the students, they need to make good decisions quickly and decisively. And they need to feel that they are trusted to do so. The concept of trust seems to have been eroded from the world of education – help us to get it back.
3. Don’t mistake schools for convenient childcare institutions.
Yes, childcare is an issue for working families, but Gove’s proposals to extend the school day and cut the school holidays were not made with the education of the pupils in mind – they were made in the interest of increasing the Conservative’s share of the votes in the next election. Please, Nicky Morgan, don’t use education as a vote-winner…
4. Listen to our opinions – don’t just dismiss those who disagree with you as part of ‘The Blob’.
Overwhelmingly, the distance between the policy makers and those who implement the policies has grown – in fact, it seems insurmountable now. There is a real sense of impotence for teachers; the feeling that what we say or think just doesn’t matter. This is, in my opinion, the reason why the papers recently reported a teacher recruitment ‘crisis’; to do this hard job properly, teachers need to be valued. Value us by listening to us.