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EDITIONS
Thursday, 1 November, 2001, 12:43 GMT
Why we left teaching
Ben Hodson
Ben Hodson and Michael Collard both gave up their careers as teachers to work in new media.

As the government continues to try to attract more people into teaching, they tell News Online why they decided to leave the profession.

Ben Hodson left to become a web producer for CBBC Newsround Online:

I taught for three years at a primary school in north London. I decided to leave for a variety of reasons that, unfortunately, are shared by many of my former colleagues.

Firstly, the mounting bureaucracy.

As a school we were being asked to fill in forms for far too many of our evenings and weekends, on top of the usual marking of and planning for lessons.

Different educational agencies would want lots of statistical data on pupils' progress.

Burden

Often they either had this already, but wanted the teacher to produce it in a slightly different format, or they could have got it from another source such as the local education authority - but decided to burden a teacher instead.

Secondary schools are always wanting pages of A4 written as references for prospective pupils.

Secondly, the status of teachers in the working community also needs to be addressed. Many teachers feel undervalued and believe that their skills would reap greater rewards in other jobs.

Many employers, in both the public and the private sectors, hardly recognise the depth and range of skills that teachers have to develop for their profession.

I feel that many more wish to leave teaching but lack confidence when considering whether their skills are transferable to other professions.

And then there is the pressure from government inspectors and from un-supportive parents, which takes its toll on the morale of overworked and underpaid teachers.


As a school we were being asked to fill in forms for far too many of our evenings and weekends, on top of the usual marking of and planning for lessons

Ben Hodson
I was lucky enough to have had very favourable reports but I have seen others who have felt worthless or in fear of being sacked as a result of a "bad day" when the inspectors have been in.

There are middle-class parents who expect their not-very-able children to excel - and blame the teachers when they don't.

Some parents seriously believe they know the teacher's job better than the teacher does.

And one school I trained at had parents who seemed resolved to cause problems over the smallest things.

One girl allegedly lost a tennis ball and her parents were threatening to cause all sorts of fuss even though the ball did not even have the girl's name marked on it and could have been one of a hundred at the school.

Petty comments would take up far too much valuable preparation and marking time.

Had I not realised it was like this before I started?

Initiatives

So many new initiatives have been introduced in the last few years which have merely increased every teacher's workload rather than improving their teaching, such as training in delivering the literacy hour, and assessment procedures.

There is more pressure on teachers in the years in which children are tested - Years 2, 6 , 9 and 12 - to achieve the very best results to get their school a high league table position.

Do I miss anything about teaching?

Yes. The children. They were great. They always were. It was all the other things that conspire against you to make people leave.

Science teacher Michael Collard gave up what he still considers to be his vocation because of the stress it brought him.

He had worked for six and a half years at a secondary school outside Portsmouth:

It was the constant daily stresses that made me give up: Arguments with children, misbehaviour of children, lack of respect from children and the inability to do the job the way I wanted to do it.

The worst time was when a parent came in and threatened me because I had given his daughter detention.

I was also threatened by children, but that wasn't so worrying.

If these had been one-offs I would have been all right and I would have carried on but everything together just ground me down.

Stressed

I was getting very stressed, very low, very tearful and it had a great effect on my family life, causing a lot of problems for us.

Now I look forward to going to work. I enjoy my job and I feel much more relaxed and enjoy playing with my children again.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of teachers, especially older ones, who want to go.

I would say roughly a third of teachers would like to go.

Very few teachers enjoy it now or want to go to work.

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