Coffee House

Teachers are demoralised, but parents are protesting

2 January 2013

5:17 PM

2 January 2013

5:17 PM

The school holidays are nearly over, so here’s a cheery tale for those returning to the classroom next week. Teachers are demoralised, says a poll [PDF] for the NUT which found 55 per cent of those in the profession described themselves as having low or very low morale. Out of the 804 surveyed by YouGov, 71 per cent said they didn’t think the government trusted them to get on with their jobs.

Michael Gove has made it pretty clear that there is indeed one group of teachers that he doesn’t trust to get on with their jobs: ‘militant’ trade union members who initiate industrial action such as ‘work-to-rule’ measures. But there’s another group that’s feeling rather demoralised, too: parents.


Just before Christmas, a group of people waving placards appeared outside a school in Chesterfield. They weren’t members of a teaching union; in fact, they were protesting against a teaching union. Teachers at Dunston Primary School had walked out over what they said were ‘intrusive and unnecessary’ classroom observations. The parents were displeased by the disruption to their children’s education, and urged the teachers to return to the classroom.

There is more industrial action planned for 2013, so the chances are there will be further opportunities for parents and Gove to be demoralised by militant trade unionists. But one thing to watch out for is how the Education Secretary fares with Lib Dems when he goes on the attack. Lib Dem members of the Coalition admit to being a little uncomfortable at the way Gove attacks the NUT and NASUWT, saying it doesn’t help attempts to calm things down before industrial action. If the teaching unions do decide to go ahead with a national strike, those internal tensions might become a little more public.

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Show comments
  • Shirley Watson

    I cant believe they want to abolish Ofsted inspections,they protect our childrens education.What would the children do without them,be at the mercy of good and bad teachers. I want the government to intervene if a school isnt getting the potential from my child

  • Dimoto

    My pet moan about schooling, is the dominance of co-education.
    Many reports have suggested that single sex education is more productive, but co-education in the state sector is never questioned.
    Given a generation obsessed with showing-off, and feminised behaviour, and with a mainly female teaching body, it is not surprising that the boys turn into disruptive, underachieving nuisances, and later into semi-literate unemployables.

  • barbie

    They’re demoralised, they should think about the elderly who are being added to the demonising list by the day. They have a job, well paid, what more do they want. As for the parents, well there are many people who don’t have kids but pay for these kids to be educated via the tax system, they should be grateful they are not asked to pay for education like in some countries. When you see kids leaving school with no qualifications and teachers have been paid to educate them, it’s galling, they have a right to moan. We can always find something to moan about, we should reflect what we have and be grateful.

  • Jebediah

    Aw poor teachers with their job for life, pension and 14 week holidays. Nobody whines about their lot more than a teacher.

  • Eddie

    It is true that teachers have good reason to be demoralised: this is NOT because of bad pay (full-time baby boomer teachers are stinky rich! part-timers are poor); it is not because of government policies either (teachers will always moan and whinge at ANY change); nope – it is because as ALL teachers know, the level of disruption in our classrooms is disgraceful – with backchat at the very least becoming noisy abusive disruption and even violence on a regular basis. Half the time of a teacher is taken up controlling a class, calming them down, dealing with demands for RISPEK.
    A few good schools don’t have this – but even grammars and the best private schools still have infantilised spoilty brat teenagers to deal with who are simply not used to discipline and because of our kidocracy worship of children and their precious wickle self-esteem, behave is ways which would have ashamed a 5 year old even 20 or 30 years ago. Parents are too blame. Not teachers.
    Having said that, I despise the mindless ovine behaviour of most teachers when it comes to following the latest silly fashions in education (instead of doing what schools SHOULD do and stick to a rigid knowledge-based traditional curriculum and methodology – as they do in Poland, which is why their plumbers and cleaners are proficient at maths, writing, reading and have a work ethic). Teachers just follow the lazy troublemaking union twerps – who know a gravy train when they see one and see their fight as something heroic on a par with October 1917. To them, all non-socialist loonies are fascists to be crushed!
    Just read the TES or the NUT magazine The Teacher to see where the problems lie: these rags are obsessed with diversity, race, political correctness, and the rest – NOT with teaching or learning. Also, one cannot ignore the fact that teahcing today is VERY female with 70% of teachers women; even 20 years ago, 50% were men: the whole ethos, curriculum, attitudes, methodology, obsessions with feelings, emotions, support, talking in class are all female traits. This is why we can’;t find any decent science or maths teachers (most of these will always be men).
    Good solid whole class teaching (as my male grammar school teachers did) is frowned upon – but guess what: IT WORKS! The traditional methods word! IGNORE ALL EDUCATIONALISTS – they are all liars and bullshitting moron timeserver academics.
    Teachers unions are obsessively and virulently anti-selection and see grammar schools as the creation of the devil: they worship the comprehensive ideal (not realising that it was an AMERICAN idea to mix the races or that the commies they so admire always stuck with selective schools and creating elites for excellence).
    I admire Gove and hope he manages to turn the teaching profession into one that deserves to be called a profession. No development in schools in the last 40 years or more has improved them at all: it has dumbed everything down and robbed the poor and bright of an elite grammar school education.
    But nothing Gove can do can make the children as they were 30 years ago: these days, children go to school and demand to be entertained – and think nothing of talking in class, disrupting everything. Many classrooms these days resemble zoos. It’s that whole me me me self-esteem-worshipping kidocracy culture – promoted by the media and believe by idiot parents, who are the real problem here.

    • Teacher

      Talking in class! Ha ha, how funny! Students only got to talk in my class if they were cleverer or funnier than me.

      • Eddie

        Well, if you were as funny or clever as your post when teaching then your students (do you mean PUPILS? Or are you American?) would have talked non-stop then!

        You clearly haven’t taught in a modern inner city school. Some schools are good – in the one I went to, we listened to the teacher, and the best grammars are like this now – selective good schools where teachers can teach (and not just do crowd control).

        However, back in the real world of now, it is clear that disruption is THE biggest problem facing ALL teachers (and purlease do not claim to be superior here!)

        Perhaps you are one of these teacher clowns who think teaching is about entertainment and not knowledge huh? Ah no I see – you were a time server baby boomer who regurgitated lessons for 25 years and jumped before you were pushed eh? I would LOVE to see you try and teach an inner city class of black boys!

        • Span Ows

          Eddie, to be honest I think Teacher agrees with you, his comment wasn’t aimed at your comments (see his posts above)

          • Eddie

            Maybe. I am prepared to admit if I am wrong.
            Not sure, though…The tone was the usual ‘I have been a teacher for 30 years so I know everything’ – but these teachers often work at one or two good schools, not the standard shithole comprehensives.

            • Teacher

              No, I did teach for 33 years but it was at a comparatively ‘easy’ outer London school as I wouldn’t have lasted a day in a tough inner city school. I actually wanted to teach my subject and did not want to fire-fight gruesome children who, in my opinion, need extreme discipline.

              • Eddie

                Apologies – I misheard the tone of the voice in your post. Hard to tell – esp as I posted here after replying elswhere to someone who left almost the same message as you did (but who was serious) – one of the typical parents who think they know everything about education and schools because 1) they went to one when they was kids innit, and 2) because they have kids themselves now.

                Actually, I probably agree with much of what you say.

                But I always find myself in the middle between the ignorant teacher-bashers (ie parents) and the smug politically correct anti-change teacher’s unions (I used to be a member of one) who want to brand anyone who disagrees with them as a fascist/racist/bigot (eg anyone who supports selection and discipline). A plague on the lot of em!

                And yes, I can be vicious, for better or for worse. I too left teaching and lecturing to start a small business and become a professional writer: so I can make words my attack dog, when I want! It’s my trade, innit?!…

                • Teacher

                  Apologies likewise. My tone was ‘off’. I really meant to say that I believed that discipline in schools is of the highest importance and that I tried to instill it while yet allowing a voice for intelligence and constructive contribution from the pupils and my comment came off as flippant and narcissistic.

                  I am in complete agreement with you about being caught between the parents and the unions. But not all parents are awful. Some are very supportive of teachers and really appreciate the good ones. They, as much as the teachers (not to mention their children), suffer from trendy, lefty policies being played out in classrooms when all they want is proper teaching and good results for their kids. I have suffered in recent years increasingly from the ‘other’ sort who used to make official complaints when I tried to impose some discipline on their unruly offspring and on occasions was shouted at and verbally abused at parents’ evenings.

                  The unions, unsurprisingly, supported everything the previous government pushed through to the extent that, while they were taking subs from their members, were championing policies which harmed those very members. And no debate of any initiative or policy was ever allowed. As you say above, the terms ‘fascist/racist/bigot’ shut down any discussion of or challenge to the leftist agenda.

                  It is interesting that you left teaching to do other things. Every single good, old fashioned teacher in my school left, retired early or was pushed out. Most of them are doing a roaring trade in tutoring the very pupils they were forced to leave as the parents recognised their quality even if the school didn’t!

                  As somebody once said, ‘It’s a funny old world…’ And especially in the lala land of state education. Personally, I think it’s shot whatever Michael Gove tries to do as he hasn’t changed the guard. He’s asking the Stazi to purge the Stazi! My concern is for my grandchildren. I think my children will have to pay for their kids’ education and I can’t think how they’re going to do it with independent fee inflation and competing with the mega-rich!

                • Eddie

                  Oh yes, I used to private tutor for a while too!

                  You are right: many of the the best teachers – and certainly those who enjoyed a classical British education and who loved their subjects and were truly educated (in the purest term of the word) – have left teaching. I think of my aunt Mary – a really dreamy unwordly teacher of English and drama at a girls’ grammar who taught at least 2 girls who because very famous actresses (household names) – she would never fit in these days at any school (not even private schools which are 100% focused on exams).

                  Teachers like that do other things now: the education system is full of mediocrities in shiny suits (like used care salemen, I always think) who aim to use their spiel to conceal their ignorance and lack of knowledge. Ditto for the female teachers (and teaching is now 70% female, and getting more so, which is why maths and science teachers – almost always men – are so thin on the ground). Any idiot – even a robot – can follow a simple lesson plan as they do.

                  Certainly there ARE good schools – grammars, the best comprehensives (which are in effect grammars anyone – the selection is just by post code rather than a fair meritocracy as old grammars were), and some private schools (not all by any means). But I think even at those the pupils are infantilised and disruptive – they want everything done for them by teachers, and to be entertained all day long like toddler. And if a teacher dares to fail any kid – mummy or daddy complains!

                  These days at all schools the parent will automatically back their little self-esteem-stuffed sprog over a teacher. It was the opposite when I was at primary/secondary school in the 70s/80s.

                  It’s all such a mess – caused by society in general, yes, and in particular the same educationalist academics who are now splattered all over the media telling us how to get out of a mess they created with their silly spurious theories!

                  Thank F I’m not a teacher any more! That’s my conclusion. Other people can sort out the mess!

          • Teacher

            No, you are right. I am truly shocked at the viciousness of Eddie’s reply. I agreed with much of what he said and was being facetious.

        • Teacher

          Just a joke, Eddie. I didn’t expect such bile. You are entirely right. I am a ‘time server baby boomer who regurgitated lessons.’ I did jump before I was pushed and my results were a 33 year fluke And no, I couldn’t hold the attention of ‘an inner city class of black boys’.

      • Eddie

        Have you got any experienced of teaching in several foreign countries so that you can compare our (very American and politically correct comprehensive mess) way of doing things with what they do in, say, France or Germany or Central Europe?

        I have.
        That is why I know what I am talking about.

  • Davidh

    Teachers don’t like ‘intrusive and unnecessary’ classroom observations? What are they so protective about? There’s no other industry where an employer is not allowed to watch people work. How are you supposed to manage teachers if you can’t even see what they are doing?

    • ommadawn

      You need to read the link given in the article to get the full picture. The reply by the mums is particularly interesting.

      • Davidh

        The reply from the “mums” seems to show exactly what’s wrong with the teachers’ point of view.

        • TomTom

          Time for ALL Children to have CRB Checks and Parents to be fully liable for their children and carry Liability Insurance

        • Teacher

          Teachers have always been observed by interested heads and management. I always welcomed a visit in my classroom from either and was happy for them to stay as long as they liked.

          The present observation system is not like that though. There is a set four part lesson and there are many different criteria by which the teacher is judged (differentiation by ability, stretching the able, special needs provision, extension activities, quality of teaching and learning, progression, EAL provision/awareness, free school meals, use of different media and technologies and so on) and the lesson has to be rigidly timed minute by minute even though there is one teacher dealing with thirty or so students so that really ‘anything can happen’. The vast number and contradictory nature of the criteria are used to wrong-foot the teacher. There is always something the observer can find to criticise (indeed they have to include a development/action point even if the teacher is nigh-on ‘perfect’) if the teacher is not one of those favoured by management. I have been criticised for doing a particular thing and then criticised in my next observation for NOT doing the same thing.

          Apart from the sheer manipulation and corruption of the whole system used by management to control and intimidate teachers I was appalled by the idiocy of the model lesson. The SAME lesson pattern to teach physics and physical education? Who thought that was a good idea? In English, my subject, many different skills are taught and they need teaching in different ways. Indeed, different teachers might have their own techniques to teach a particular skill. The standard OFSTED lesson takes no account of this whatsoever.

          I think my general gist is that the idea of observation is, in theory, a good one if used fairly, positively and sensibly but that the actual system which OFSTED and management devised and now use in schools is open to corruption, manipulation, favouritism and bullying. The criteria they use favours leftist ideas of ‘equalising’ society rather than providing the high quality education that parents and readers of this magazine want.

      • Teacher

        Agreed. They do not want to see the teachers persecuted but left to get on with doing a good job -evidenced by excellent results.

    • TomTom

      Really ? Who observes Solicitors ? Who observes GPs ? Who observes MPs ? Who observes BBC staff ? Who observes Policemen ? All this “observation” but still more teachers are injured and attacked in schools than policemen or MPs or lawyers…….so much for “observation”

  • Teacher

    Can you imagine what an ‘observation’ system is like in the hands of ideologues with initiative-itis? You are all imagining that traditionalist heads are using the system to restore standards with high quality lessons and to fight ideological nonsense. The reverse is true since those promoted to positions of power arrived there during the last decade and are dedicated to rooting out what most readers of this magazine would consider to be good teaching. I gained consistently well above average results in my teaching but was terrified I would be downgraded and left last year after 33 years. Some might say ‘good riddance’ but my students and their parents did not. Indeed, they feared for their results. I truly fear for my future grandchildren as I don’t think the state system will be up to scratch and I cannot think how my children will pay school fees.

    • Colonel Mustard

      You have confirmed what I have long suspected. That in addition to becoming a political football, education has become primarily a vehicle for the indoctrination of the young in leftist political ideology by left-leaning teachers, which of course stretches into every academic subject and seeks to control it.

      • ommadawn

        What a load of tendentious cobblers you write.

        ‘education has become primarily a vehicle for the indoctrination of the
        young in leftist political ideology by left-leaning teachers’

        So this was written in the Tory derived National Curriculum was it?

        • Teacher

          The fact that you are so scornful and so certain that schools are not ‘leftist’ and indoctrinated reveals how little you and the rest of the public (including Gove, I suspect) know of what really goes on and has gone on in schools for the last decade or so. Labour initiatives were all tied to money and promotion and became the vehicle to rise in the system so those on the left rose rapidly while ‘traditional’ teachers were pushed out or marginalised. Money also became the main driver of the exam system with cash being tied to modules and endless resits. With the amount of cash awash in the system and tied to, let us say, ‘massaging’ results, do you think that the National Curriculum stood a chance in the form in which it was devised? I saw what was happening in my school and heard from teachers that the same was happening in other schools. ‘colonel Mustard’ is entirely right in his interpretation of what happened under Labour although no one on the outside of the system saw it. Many despairing parents saw the results of awful policies on their children but did not know why their children were being short changed.

          • Teacher

            Sorry, ‘Colonel Mustard’, not ‘colonel Mustard’!

          • marzipanlil

            What you say is very true, Teacher.. My ex-head of department told me it was not my job to worry about what my pupils achieved. When I got good results, because I ignored this lefty moron, I was summoned to a meeting with the self-serving moron and the lefty headmaster and was accused of cheating. I’m not working as a teacher anymore but the lefty moron still is. My experience in other schools was much better but that was because the heads of department were ‘traditional’ teachers. State schools are no place for vocational teachers.I got sick of the silly jargon. Pupils had to be ‘on task’ and teachers were’ learning facilitators’.

          • Dimoto

            Why should we be surprised ?
            The electorate, in it’s wisdom, gave them an unparalleled 13 years, and they have used that time well to insert their poisonous doctrines into every area of the public services.

            • ArchiePonsonby

              Precisely my – recurring – argument! Be it education, immigration, the EU, defence spending, etc., etc. Who voted for the idiots who allowed all this to happen?

        • Colonel Mustard

          See below. Apparently not, although it serves slippery lefties like you to pretend otherwise.

          You also seem incapable of distinguishing between a curriculum and what happens in the classroom. “Tory devised” kind of gives you away. I would make membership of a political party or political activism a criminal offence for teachers with membership of the Labour party a politically aggravated offence. Child abuse comes in many forms, including inculcating young and impressionable minds with leftist codswallop. You know you do it. We all know you do it so don’t come the “tendentious cobblers” cobblers with me, comrade.

          • ommadawn

            Your assertion about lefty teachers ‘inculcating young and impressionable minds with leftist codswallop’ was popular in 70s and 80s, and may have resonated with the general public at the time, but is irrelevent now. It was one reason why the Tories wanted to fill the teacher’s day with a National Curriculum. (A curriculum, of course, being a set of subjects and standards which forms the basis of all teaching and learning activity in the classroom. So no scope there for any dodgy lefty activism).

            Your belief that teachers in modern classrooms are, somehow, driven to indoctrinate the children in their care with a left wing agenda is simply absurd. As a long term supply teacher in the primary sector I have met many teachers and sat in a fair few staff rooms and, believe me, they are not hotbeds of political debate. In my experience most teachers are either apolitical and just want to get on with the job they’re paid to do, or just want to keep their political thoughts private.I did find your idea of depriving teachers of their right to belong to a political party quite sinister, to be honest.

            I don’t think the original poster (teacher) even went so far as to suggest that this happens in classrooms either. He seems more concerned about the effects of the micromanagement of teachers by senior staff. I agree with much of what he writes, but would argue that both main parties are culpable for creating the current problems he describes. Compulsory teacher appraisal, along with Ofsted, was introduced in the early nineties.This, I agree, intensified under Labour in the form of Performance Management and now Gove intends to aggravate the situation by using the process divisively to determine how teachers are to be paid.

            I shall leave you in peace now, comrade.

    • Daniel Maris

      I agree Teacher (does that make me a teacher’s pet).

      There is nothing wrong with striving to increase standards. But targetting teachers is unlikely to achieve much.

      I think we need to deploy more creative approaches to the learning process in the early years and primary stage.

  • TomTom

    Privatise all schools and let parents pay fees


      Provide a voucher system and that would work.

  • Span Ows

    How many teachers are actually demoralised with government (lefty leanings side)? I would bet most are demoralised because they cannot teach due to silly rules about discipline and excluded pupils. If the wet lefty liberal advances were halted and reversed, pupils streamed and discipline allowed teachers might be able to erm…teach.

    • Teacher

      This is very true.

      • Duncan

        S Williams and those who introduced comprehensives had never attended tough inner city schools or been brought up in such areas.Their view of education was from a Hampstead perspective. The removal of discipline: the introduction of child centred education and the raising if the school age to 16 meant that in the worse schools up to 50% of the pupils and their parents were antagonistic to scholarship.The success of many religious ;schools is in part to the aspirational nature of the parents, the more disciplined ethos and the fact that unruly children can be more easily expelled. The difference in educational abilities means that children need to be streamed /placed according to sets from about 9 years old ( happens in most prep schools).Aspirational parents tend to provide quiet places for the children’s homework , read to them, encourage and support them in learning. Many private schools have longer days, more homnework and more teaching hours per year. If one looked at the number of hours a child has had of teaching where they had paid attention in a private school , compared to those in primary/comprehensives ( including homework) by the age of 16: then this would probably explain the better performance of the former.
        Once more than 25% of class and/or a school are troublemakers are disruptive, the amount of education drastically declines. In the worse state schools how much teaching is lost due to disruption?
        The reality is that learning anything to a high standard requires long years of hard slog, whether becoming a ballet dancer, classical musician, top athlete, scientists,doctor, engineer or craftsmen and too many teachers do not say this to pupils.Learning languages( especially latin and Greek), historical facts, maths, physics , chemistry , biology and geology requires years of rote learning and the practice in order that applying the skills becomes second nature and this much of the education establishment refuses to state clearly to children.

  • McRobbie

    3rd world education standards but executive level of teachers pay.. thanks to the gordon balloon and bliar for their education education education waffle and “investment” spin that has led to this. No wonder our kids can’t / won’t work, the left whinge education unions have got their way…..mediocrity is the name of their game….equality of failure for their target.

    • Gareth

      Feel better for getting that little rant off your chest?

  • Archimedes

    Not to worry. Like driverless trains, we probably won’t need teachers soon enough.

    • Teacher

      Who’s going to ‘childmind’ the kids while the parents are at work/play?

  • anyfool

    If teachers are demoralised good, they will know how parents at the rubbish schools feel when they can see this selfish bunch of useless timeservers, who put the union and its disruption for political means ahead of the education of their children.

    • Chris

      Good capable teachers have no reason to be depressed. The trouble is too many in the profession are time servers, making only modest effort. Teachers are having to smarten up and make what they provide, internationally competitive. About time too.

      • Daniel Maris

        Our performance in the field of education is actually not that bad. From the OECD 2012 report:

        “The educational opportunities for people from poorly educated families are limited in most countries, but the UK does better than other countries in moving people up the social ladder: some 41% of 25-34 year-olds in the UK have attained a higher level of education than their parents, compared with an OECD of 37%.”

        There are lots of other good nuggets in the report.

        • TomTom

          Yes debasing Qualifications has produced a highly-successful society and economy. Soon everyone will have a PhD in Self Awareness but no unsubsidised jobs. The OECD Pisa Report is actually junk…Britain has a poorly educated population, largely innumerate as does Germany in any regions where the SPD is in power

          • Dimoto

            Meanwhile the lying, manipulating, Blower woman is spewing her nonsense on the BBC on a daily basis, or, as the Speccie’s very own Fraser Nelson puts it “making some valid points” AAAArgh !