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Are teachers blocking change?



Teachers will do anything to stop changes for the better that impinge upon their culture of long holidays and as little work as possible.
Brian, UK

They do a fantastic job but not surprisingly feel fed up with constant changes being made by civil servants who haven't set foot in a school since they were attending it as a pupil.
Darren Laker, UK

Just two of the comments received by Talking Point so far. Take part below.

Background ¶ Your reaction

The Background:

Tony Blair has renewed his attack on "forces of conservatism" in education.

The UK prime minister criticised a "culture of excuses" among some teachers whom he said tolerated educational failure and underachievement.

Mr Blair says too many teachers lack ambition, reject excellence and treat poverty as an excuse for failure.

"What have we got do is get the money and investment in but tie it to the change and modernisation - make sure we are removing the bad and rewarding the good," he told headteachers.

The Professional Association of Teachers rejects the idea that teachers resist change.

"Teaching has seen more changes recently than any other profession or area of work," said its general secretary, Kay Driver.

"Teachers have had to adapt to countless initiatives affecting what and how they teach and their pay and conditions.

"Teachers are not resistant to change and have worked hard to adapt and make a success of the challenges thrown at them. All they get in return is criticism."

What do you think?

Are teachers standing in the way of educational reform? Or are they simply being used as an excuse for government failures?

Background ¶ Your reaction

Your Reaction:

Read the first comments we received

Rather than blocking change, teachers are in the driving seat of interpreting government initiative and seeking innovative ways of empowering children in their learning. Every time I hear Tony Blair, David Blunkett or Chris Woodhead whinge on about teachers stopping their reforms I get fed up. If I treated the children I teach in the same way I'd be drummed out of the profession. Come on Tony, let's be positive...or you may just create the conditions for a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Steve, UK

Many of the teaching professionals are dyed in the wool socialists whom resist any attempt to change the system they have to a large extend controlled to a more responsive and up-to date system. In part since it would increase the accountability aspect of their profession and mean more work and less time off.
Chris Van Bekkum, Canada

People are too quick to judge teachers. Everybody thinks that they know what a teacher's job involves but unless you have done it there is no way of knowing. We need less criticism and more support. We work extremely hard and people should see that as opposed to the short working days and long holidays which just don't exist!!
Laura, Now in Ecuador due to stress

After years in industry I attempted to become a teacher via an Open University Postgraduate Certificate of Education. My experience of school life opened my eyes to the workload that ordinary teachers labour under. I can only say my impressions of the staff left me full of admiration for their dedication, energy, commitment and sheer guts. As many of your contributors are aware, teaching is not a soft option. Suffice to say that, despite getting no job satisfaction from my current employment, I felt I was financially and emotionally better in my current position in industry than I would be in becoming a teacher - and it makes me sad to say this.
David M Law, UK

Education appears to be re-invented daily, is it any wonder that teachers are getting just a little resistant to change when there is no clear plan for more than a few weeks? Remember you don't get pigs fatter by just weighing them!
Richard Bell, UK

It is amazing that people still think that we teachers have a soft touch. Please let me be paid by the hour at the same rate that I've just had to pay the plumber and electrician who were in my home to do repairs. Of course, I would expect to be paid for marking and lesson preparation time, just as the electrician charged for the time spent driving to my rural home. I don't think the public purse is deep enough to afford that.
After 29 years in the profession, I can see the wheel coming full circle again. Because of the retirement of us baby-boomers, there is a huge demand for teachers which will go unmet. What between listening to the likes of Mr. Blair and the cost of getting a university education, who in their right mind would want to be a teacher?
Terry McCune, Canada

The vast majority of teachers want what's best for students. Teachers know a lot more about education and learning than politicians and civil servants. Change is not always for the better. If teachers are seen to oppose government ideas maybe it is because those ideas will be detrimental to the education of our children.
Neil Currant, Englishman in Pakistan

Performance related pay is not the road to be going down, as teachers will be concentrating on statistics rather than the children.
Steven Tweddell, UK

"The UK prime minister criticised a "culture of excuses" among SOME teachers whom he said tolerated educational failure and underachievement." Why has an attack on a minority of teachers become an attack on the whole education establishment? Because the British media are constantly attempting to set Government against Public Sector workers. It is the media who should be criticised for their constant negativity.
An NHS Worker, UK

The majority of teachers, in my experience, do a fantastic job. Remember that the day's hour teaching are just that. The preparation, and staff meetings in addition easily double that figure. It is common for my wife to work late into each evening, and about three hours each day at the weekend. Long holidays? Don't make me laugh. They are spent developing more material, that is when not stripping down the classroom and re-placing displays.
Simon Hooker, England

Mr Blair's attack on teachers is as misguided as his attack on the `forces of conservatism`. It is a travesty of an argument and political doctrine
DRG Andrews, UK

For so many years it was teachers, almost in isolation, that worked to improve educational standards for their pupils. This is the driving force for most teachers. Over the last three decades schools have been under-resourced. In my early years, I had to buy books to ensure that we had something in the classroom. Even today my own team of teachers have all purchased their own computers to carry out important aspects of lesson preparation, assessment and recording. These are not offset by tax or provided by the employer. Hearing that head teachers may get laptops is hardly encouraging. Since the mid-Eighties we have managed government initiative upon initiative. We have made often unworkable schemes successful. In my own school results have risen year on year. In this decade, we have rewritten the curriculum several times over. Like many secondary schools, we have increased the number of lessons we teach by some 25%. Class sizes continue to rise as the school seeks increased financial efficiency. There is inevitably some conservatism in education as we must preserve and enhance the best. However, the government must play an active role in raising achievement. They must ensure that teachers are increasingly effective in the classroom. This will require resources and training. The government needs to consider the opportunities it offers teachers to develop as educators. Lastly, the government must promote a culture that supports and values education.
Nick, UK

The real forces of conservatism in education are government ministers promoting the 3 Rs and traditional chalk and talk lessons with a bit of IT thrown in to look modern
John Dalton, UK

Tony Blair as usual gets it wrong. This total hypocrite with a combined income of about £400K knows nothing of the difficulties faced by teachers in their everyday lives.
Peter Gilmore, Oman

Surely the most telling thing about teachers opinions is their lack of experience of other commercial and industrial environments. It should be impossible for teachers to go straight from school into teacher training. They should be required to spend at least 3-5 years working in a non academic environment before getting embarking on a teaching career. That way we would get a little breadth of vision into their thinking and perhaps an ability to think outside the school environment rather than concentrating on the woes they feel they are experiencing within it. I feel that would deal with a great deal of the conservatism that is alleged to be a feature of the profession.
Mike Ahlquist, UK

To put teachers' jobs into a language that the pompous 'work in the real world' business people might understand: imagine having to put together five or six different fifty-minute presentations per day, for clients that talk throughout and abuse each other and yourself. How much planning and extra time do you think that would take? And I'm not a teacher, I'm a high-paid 'real world' executive. Teachers and other public sector workers have it tougher than their private sector counterparts could ever imagine: we should be lining up to kiss their feet, not smugly trotting out received cant from the morning's Daily Mail.
Tom, UK

I can't say I'm surprised by many of the anti-teacher comments here. Most people base their opinion of teacher on what the media reports and, as always, "Blair attacks teachers for resisting change" makes better copy than "Teachers do good job in tough circumstances". Have the media challenged Blair's statement? Have the media asked on what facts his statements were based? In actual fact, teachers face and handle change year in, year out. My partner has been a teacher for more than 10 years and has since the curriculum change in every one of them. And who imposes those changes? Politicians. Who then says teachers are to blame? Politicians. And who then demands more change? Politicians. As for motivation, my partner studied law but decided she wanted to make a real difference and went into teaching. It's rather odd that society would have valued her more as a lawyer than a teacher!
Dennis,

I don't think most people realise how much work teachers do. Several of my friends are teachers and have had to go through hell to become teachers. How many of those people here would work from 8am-6pm then go home and stay up till 2-3 am doing lesson plans UNPAID just to get the qualifications to become a teacher. They do a good job and all those people complaining here should think who taught them all they know.
Vishal Ashisht, UK

Poor Tony blaming all the country's ills on professionals like teachers and doctors. How can teachers teach if you take away tools that remove disruptive pupils and ask them to follow every topical lefty maxim. Lousy parents are more responsible for poor pupils than teachers. Parents who encourage truancy and misbehaviour severely disrupt other children. This culture of blame is designed to take the blame away from random policy making based on opinion polls of selected yes-men rather than any real science. You cannot make Einsteins out of every kid. Taking respect away from teachers will make their jobs harder.
H Ong, UK

Performance related pay will finally make teachers wake up to the reality that everyone else in UK has to live with: if you are not up to scratch, improve. Don't expect a pat on the head for mediocrity
Clive Parfitt, UK

The people quoted here who think teachers have an easy life should try it for themselves. I doubt very much that they could spend 5 days a week in front of a class of 35 children, let alone undertake all the planning, reporting and bureaucracy associated with the job. Add to this the genuine sense of responsibility for the educational and emotional welfare of each child felt by most teachers -in spite of the jibes they receive constantly from the government and parents alike- and the result is a highly stressful job suited only to the most emotionally resilient.
Teachers are not against change. They merely want the changes to be well thought out and flexible enough to cater for the needs of each individual child so that they provide realistic chances for improvement.
Alison Gawith, UK

Considering how teaching has been infiltrated by left wingers I think its the dark forces of Socialism that resists change. Blair's constant reference to the dark forces of conservatism with a little c is an obvious effort to imprint the word conservative as being bad. Mind you he probably loathes socialists more. All people are sometimes afraid of change. It's a natural reaction and the teachers should be supported for their efforts but fairly encouraged to embrace the change as being a positive way forward in an ever changing society, apart form politics of course where nothing changes.
Kevin Yates, UK

The supine attitude of the British people sickens me. Countless millions have been spent on 'education'. Theories and theorists abound. The government bureaucracy alone for teaching probably spends enough money to feed Africa. And that's just to pay for the administration. Teachers moan about being not properly paid. Oh, I forgot, because you have a degree you have a 'right' to a better job with better pay and prospects than those without an 'education'.
What's the solution? Give 'em all a University education. Has anyone considered what this will cost? Does no one think that this would mean constant State interference in education? For ever. This whole fraud is perpetuated by Socialism, because without control of education you can't control what people grow up to believe in. When will people wake up to this deception? Why can't we have truly public schools? Schools which can teach whatever they like to children without NO interference from Government at all?
Pod, Scotland

Some of the comments on this page show pure ignorance of the teaching profession and the stresses that they are constantly under. My dad is a teacher, he works 12-14 hour days and 48 week years constantly trying to improve the learning experience for his pupils. I know that practically all teachers are similarly dedicated professionals.
Secondly, to judge teachers on exam performance alone seems like an absurd way to go about things. If Tony Blair wants to improve standards in schools he should tackle the root cause of poor exam performance - poverty. This constant maligning of public service professionals (which now includes doctors) is as counter-productive as it is undeserved.
David, Scotland

Ultimately, the government is responsible for all education. They have no right to place the blame on teachers. I am not a teacher and I don't believe school holidays should be shortened nor, that I should have to spend my evening helping them with homework. The problem lies in the culture which doesn't believe in education, and the lack of support and interest in education in the family unit.
Nadine, UK

The reactions to Tony Blair's comments rather prove his point. Too much paperwork, rude kids, not enough support, etc etc. Excuses. Instead of teachers moaning about their lot they should spend some time in industry or business and see how hard other people also work, with just as many problems to overcome, but without the option of an excuse.
Graham Bell, Brazil

I am frankly appalled by some of the comments expressed here. I can only think that some people have posted them to get a response. My partner is a teacher and she too leaves at 7.00am, returning at 6.00pm only to carry on working until 10.00pm. As for long summer holidays, this is one of THE greatest myths of teaching. They seem to be for preparation for the next round of changes/reforms.
Before anyone asks, I myself am NOT a teacher but know numerous people who are. If teaching were such a cushy number why is it that we are nationally facing a recruitment crisis and increasing numbers are leaving due to stress. Perhaps teachers should gain experience of the 'real world' and leave teaching as the real world seems much easier!
Martin Hart, UK

Blair epitomises the modern day "blame" culture. Teachers provide an easy target. People are jealous of their holidays and they can also blame teachers for their own failure to take parental responsibility. Government obviously don't want to say that poverty contributes to poor academic performance because that would mean that they would actually have to tackle the problem of poverty.
Gordon, Scotland

Teachers are not adverse to change but for these changes to be effective they must be evolutionary changes and not revolutionary. At the moment we are smothered with paperwork and inspected to death, by inspectors who are extremely well paid and who are accountable to no one. Chris Woodhead has recently received an in crease of 35%. Scottish teachers are routinely offered 2 or 3 % with radical changes to conditions included.
David, Scotland

I spent many years teaching in British schools watching dedicated teachers fall by the wayside as time to prepare for and TEACH was eroded by form filling and 'get on the band wagon' philosophies. They either resigned and are now working in highly paid areas or have taken early retirement as a result of pushing on, trying to maintain their own high standards in the classroom against impossible strictures from bureaucracy.
Jan White, England

Blame the teachers! Its all their fault! They should be more like the teachers of Tony's kids who erm... go to a public school?
Conall Bullock, UK

Teachers are not blocking progress, but they are fed up with change! The National Curriculum was introduced, schemes of work were drawn up around it, lots of hard work was put in. Then the NC was changed again and again and again. Those schemes of work had to be changed again and again and again. The introduction of a 'new' subject - ICT and all there's a lot of work involved in keeping up with the changes in technology. Then for Primary teachers the Literacy Hour came, and now the Numeracy Hour. Wouldn't you moan if your job was radically changed almost every year? Teachers just need time to adjust their teaching styles and methods to these new initiatives, before any more are thrown at them.
Kirsty, UK

If the government thinks that social depravation does not effect achievement then why do they use the number of children on free school meals as an indicator of potential achievement?
Huw, UK

As in every profession, there are the conservatives and the progressives. The main problem is that teachers can no longer punish disruptive pupils, and therefore, in some schools, are subjected to high levels of stress. Teachers here in Asia expect much from their pupils, are well respected, and the pupils want to learn. Very different from the UK state educational system!
John Atkins, Singapore

I think if the government stopped moving the goalposts so much, then maybe teachers would know where they stand. And each time changes in education, from pre-school to university, shouldn't they consult relative bodies first?
Matt Evans, UK (living in US)

Teachers do an excellent job in very difficult circumstances. Blair's use of the "forces of conservatism" jibe is a real irony for the man who will not put his money where his mouth is and spend the money needed in education because of his conservative economics. Knocking teachers is cheap votes, it is sad that Blair does not have the principles to take the tough decisions that are really needed to help our children and instead wants to create a smokescreen for his own failure. Blair reminds me of the parents who go and rant at teachers because their child is not doing better, when the real issue is their own inadequacy.
Ed Manning, UK

Teachers represent almost the epitome of the "culture of conservatism" that Blair talks about. They spend their working day telling children what to do, and in their breaks they go to conference booster sessions with other like-minded teachers. And then they wonder why the public doesn't agree with their ideas. Well, maybe if they interacted a bit more with non-teaching adults they would develop better ideas.
Jon Livesey, USA

The teachers are not blocking Mr. Blair, Mr. Blair is blocking the teachers from doing a good job. When will he stop identifying all those who disagree with him and single-issue extremists? He doesn't seem to understand that Britain is full of people who are capable of independent thought..... maybe that's something he intends to change?
Ferdinand Lovetree, UK

In my opinion, there are teachers who are blocking change. Namely, high school teachers. It seems like teachers hate their jobs and are more interested in tricking or getting rid of the students then actually teaching them anything. I don't know if it has anything to do with salary or whatever, but I wish that I had my college teachers in high school. I think that I would have done an even better job. And probably would have retained a lot more information.
Keri , USA

I believe teachers do a good job. They do far more work then they are paid to do. Teachers put up with a lot (school violence, taking work home, etc.) for the public to be criticising them. We should respect the teachers and realise that our country would be no where if we didn't have teachers to teach us the things we need to know.
Jenny Cutlan, USA

The one change that the Government should be thankful that Teachers haven't accepted is a change to a 48 hour working week. I shudder to think of the mess that my wife's school would get into if the staff followed that. No "holidays" are not time off work like the rest of us enjoy. It's time spent preparing for, evaluating and analysing the most recent set of edicts from central government.
Oliver Crispin, UK

As a student who has just commenced a university degree, having finished studying A-levels for 2 years at a Grammar school in Kent, I can certainly testify from personal experience that teachers are *extremely* resistant to change.
The syllabus chosen by one department, for example, is out-dated and old-fashioned (it has no coursework element, and is non-modular, both aspects which would greatly benefit the subject): the reason for this lack of change? Simply that the head of that particulars subject has been at the school for over 20 years and cannot be bothered to change the way things are taught. And that is according to certain members of staff, not just my own personal opinion.
Similarly, the overall standard at the school is low, and there is no drive for success; there is nothing in the atmosphere at the school that causes the students to aspire for something greater. The education system as I have seen it is apathy-ridden and too happy to stay that way.
Simon Jones, England

I'm sure teachers work hard, but they also expect much less of their pupils in England than they do in many other countries. It still seems to be an ideological idea fixed in many teacher training colleges that their job is to impart "self-esteem" before information. Facts seem less important than tone. This is also why public exams, in particular A-levels, are easier than they once were.
That said, the whole culture expects too little from education. If the parents are utterly unconcerned with their child's education, it is probably too much to ask teachers to take up the slack. One has to start somewhere, I suppose.
Ben Broadbent, (British in) US

To those who think that teaching is an easy life of long holidays, short hours and easy money - why aren't you doing it then? Also - why shouldn't teachers be concerned about their pay? We don't expect private school teachers to do it out of a sense of vocation - why should state school teachers be any different?
Julian Lawton, UK

Of course teachers are against change. Militant, left wing women who enjoy gossip, long holidays and doing as little as possible. They hold the country to ransom if they don't get every demand they want and refuse to accept any responsibility for their actions. Many of today's teachers were people who couldn't get any other job during the recession and couldn't get into higher education to do anything else. We need to change the whole ethos of teaching in this country by recruiting people that have worked in the real world and not school/college leavers.
Tom, UK

My parents were teachers all of their working lives who spent countless hours in their own time preparing tutorial work etc for the benefit of their pupils, for, quite frankly, a measly salary albeit with more holidays than most. Some of the comments on this page are extremely insulting, ignorant and inaccurate as I am sure many teachers would agree. As a rule, teachers are ordinary people who give a lifetime of effort for little reward, where only a few bad apples linger.
What we all must remember is that Blair spent quite a few parliaments in opposition slaughtering, insulting, damaging and opposing Tory Education initiatives. Many would argue that these were wrong...maybe so. However, bearing in mind these now "very forces of conservatism", we must recall how Blair and Beckett manipulated this, by making sure their Middle Class children benefited from the Opted out School system to their own advantage...rather rich. If these had been Tories, this would still be front page news today. Conveniently, Labour supporters choose to forget this.
Gareth (non teacher), UK

Teachers are overworked already. Any right thinking teacher would want to improve education for our children so where is the conflict? The conflict arises when even larger demands are made on them and their time. My partner works until 10pm every night after coming home from a class of 34 ten and eleven year olds. I doubt she would want to stand in the way of any positive change. Progress at the moment, should come in the form of more money and resources.
David Griffiths, UK

When it comes to the teaching profession the PM's priorities are STICK, STICK and STICK. It may make for great headlines for the Daily Mail readers but undermines any confidence the teaching profession have in the government. No wonder teachers are leaving droves. As for those who criticise teachers none of them are capable of doing their job, Chris (don't ask him to do fractions) Woodhead et al.
Malcolm McCandless, Scotland

I don't know whether or not teachers are blocking change, but I do think that they need to adapt to the 'real world' and accept the same stresses that everyone else in the private sector have to face. Why shouldn't teachers have to perform to the best of their ability and be judged by the results of their efforts. Rewarded for success and penalised for failure. Teachers don't have to face the threat of redundancy like so many of the workforce.
Ivan Woodhouse, UK

So teachers can't accept change? Think about the last 10 years - introduction of GCSE's, a National Curriculum, SATs, testing for all ages, NVQs, GNVQs, teacher 'Baker days', 5 term years, continual assessment. Teaching has hardly stood still has it?
Dave T, UK

My daughter is still surprisingly a teacher. She had a breakdown just before last Xmas. She was driven to despair at an inner city school by children who were mean and nasty, certainly did not want to learn and if there is a polite way to say it told her to "F" off and ripped up their detention notes. Her doctor said she had roughly 10 teachers a year come in with the same "anxiety" state that she was in. The job does not sound a push over to me!
Chris, UK

I am studying to be a teacher, and as I read some of those responses I really got offended. Teachers really do care about the best interest of the child. Others who are not teachers demand certain things and expect the classroom to be run in their way. Nobody can really have a say about how teachers run the classroom and how they handle change unless they are a teacher themselves. I think teachers should be looked at little more highly than they are by some people.
Emily, US

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