"Teachers are more qualified and better paid than ever before despite this they are viewed as low-status by the public and politicians alike."
While statistical evidence is presented for teachers' attitudes towards their own profession, and examples given of politicians' criticisms of the profession, "Joe Public's" "impressions" of teachers' pay and status seem to be of the anecdotal variety.
It would be interesting to find out through research if many of the erroneous impressions held by the public are entirely their own views, based on ignorance, stereotypes and hearsay, or if they are actually shaped by the popular media and their shallow, unthinking reporting of education and politicians' pronouncements on it. The TES, SecEd and other specialist publications and journalists that look in depth at the issues are, of course, excluded from the following.
Take The Daily Telegraph's report of a speech by David Cameron, in which he suggests that:
The speech, as reported, seemed to include the usual sound-bites of almost random phrases that, on closer examination, have little meaning and no examples or evidence to back them up.
"Children who stand up when their parents or teacher walks in the room. Real discipline, rigorous standards, hard subjects. Sports where children can learn about success and, yes, sometimes failure too."
As the computer spell-checker put it when checking the text of this post: "Fragment (consider revising)".
We've commented before on party political speeches full of platitudes and the language used by politicians in order to generate headlines, most recently in March when the Prime Minister made a number of sweeping statements about education including his favourite target of the mythical schools that don't allow competitive sports that seem to have little, if any, basis in reality:
"We allowed an ideology to take hold that was deeply corrosive. That schools shouldn't compete with each other. That competitive sports are a bad thing."
Where are these schools that didn't or don't set children by ability, compete on admissions or play competitive sports? What are the "hard (and therefore also the 'easy') subjects?
In numerous posts, we have bemoaned the sweeping generalisations beloved of politicians and the journalists who report them, such as the case of Iain Duncan Smith's "our schools failing pupils from the most disadvantaged backgrounds time and again" and the confrontational and morale-sapping style adopted by Ofsted and the current Secretary of State for Education.
This simplistic, evidence-free and example-lite approach adopted by politicians keen to make their mark before the next election is perpetuated by the media and the often unquestioning way they generally report speeches and initiatives designed to please them or based on stereotypes and myths they have created.
The screaming and unsubstantiated politician-inspired headlines about "failure" and "war on failure" tar all with same brush to generate yet more headlines for the politicians and income for newspapers, leaving those in the profession to pick up the pieces.
When did anybody actually ask teachers what they want or feel, apart from indirectly through so-called consultations that the Government usually ignores and does what it was going to do anyway?
As "secondary teacher and TES behaviour Tom Bennett points out in the article:
"Other focus groups are given greater priority parents are given a huge opportunity to give input and feedback. Teachers are like stakeholders without a stake .The emphasis is on student voice and parental voice, not teacher voice. Politicians see education as an attractive ball to play with .Politicians tell teachers what and how to teach. The emphasis is on getting all children to achieve above-average results when this is a mathematical impossibility."
The problem with the "attractive ball" of education is that it becomes a political football, as education is pulled in different directions by competing visions. How do we allow teachers to be creative and inspirational in a politically-enforced regime that encourages teaching to the test and ticking targets? How do politicians expect "all children to achieve above-average results"? Do you lower standards, devaluing qualifications, or perform some miraculous transformation in pupil performance?
Ofsted has 'ParentView' but no 'TeacherView'.
"Politicians tell teachers what and how to teach" but, although they might interfere with other professions in terms of funding and administration, they don't tell doctors how to diagnose and treat, or soldiers how to fight, or judges how to judge, or engineers how to engineer
Perhaps politicians secretly, even subliminally, dislike teachers because the more educated and informed a population is, the more likely it is to question politicians and their actions
If the Prime Minister wants children to show some respect to teachers by standing up when they enter the room, perhaps he and his media supporters and reporters should set a good example and show some respect themselves.