Shocking reality for those teaching our children – Dad’s Diary by Simon Carter
They are, by any standards, a shocking set of statistics. And they sadly illustrate why so many of our nation’s school teachers – the men and women tasked with education our children – want to quit the profession.
A recent survey by union NASUWT revealed that out of around 5,000 teachers questioned 89 per cent had been subjected to physical or verbal abuse over the last year. Almost a quarter – one in four! – said pupils were physically attacking them at least once a week, and four per cent (around 200 teachers) said this happened every day.
The NASUWT union’s annual conference heard shocking examples of the threats and attacks its members have been subjected to. They included a pupil pushing a member of staff with enough force that his arm went through a double-glazed window. Another delegate told the conference a seven-year-old boy, who did not want to do literacy, threatened his teacher and said: ‘I will stab you in your pregnant belly.’
Welcome, dear reader, to the state of (some of) our schools in the year 2019, a disturbing picture painted of an education system I don’t recognise.
Recalling my own schooldays, I can’t recall a single incident of a teacher being physically assaulted. And I’m fairly sure dissent was minimal – some of our teachers were intimidating to the students, not the other way around. That was the status quo, right?
Our maths lessons were regularly interrupted by throwing of objects and kicking over of desks, but they came from the teacher - ‘Madman’ Mr Davies. And at junior school our French tutor, Mr Fraser, enjoyed knocking some sense into the boys with the board rubber.
Those now seem innocent times compared to the reality today – a reality which left one teacher from Northern Ireland commenting: ‘We cannot continue to put up with this lack of dignity, this absolute prostitution of our professionalism. We have to stand up for what is right.’
Emotive words, obviously; but teaching is an emotive subject.
Another recent survey provided little comfort either. Around one in five teachers polled expected to quit the classroom in less than two years, while two-fifths of teachers, school leaders and support staff wanted to leave within five years.
And ‘out of control’ workload pressures and ‘excessive’ accountability were the primary reasons given. With all that it mind, who’d be a teacher these days – especially when the pay isn’t great either. A newly-qualified teacher in London (the most expensive place in the UK to live by a mile) is paid around £23,000 – £6,000 less than the UK average.
Would YOU put up with the abuse, the workloads, the accountability and the pressures for that amount of cash? I certainly wouldn’t.
A 21st century problem ...
Among the ‘out of control’ workload pressure on teachers these days appears to be a problem that never existed during my schooldays – emails.
Another NASUWT poll recently said constant emails from ‘aggressive’ parents are becoming ‘unbearable’ for some teachers. The poll revealed seven in 10 teachers have had their email addresses passed on to parents, leading to the (unreasonable) expectation they are available at all hours. Of these, 90 per cent said this had been done without their permission.
According to a poll of 1,572 teachers, 14 per cent are expected to communicate electronically with parents in their own time. Every day.
Nineteen per cent said they were expected to do this on a weekly basis.
Another delegate, Alfredo Gualda, from Doncaster, injected some sense into the teachers’ annual conference.
He said: ‘If your child is constantly disruptive, if they are violent, if they are abusive, it's about time that schools and teachers question the parenting of those children. Because it does not happen.’
Alfredo is spot on. I know that, and you know that.
But can you ever see the day when society as a whole knows that, accepts that, and change starts to happen?