Education · Politics

Sorry, Nicky, I’m out.

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Dear Nicky Morgan,

Please accept this as written notice of my resignation from my role as Assistant Head and class teacher. It is with a heavy heart that I write you this letter. I know you’ve struggled to listen to and understand teachers in the past so I’m going to try and make this as clear as possible. In the six short years I have been teaching your party has destroyed the Education system. Obliterated it. Ruined it. It is broken.

The first thing I learnt when I started teaching in 2010 is that teaching is bloody hard work. It’s a 60 hour week only half of which is spent doing the actual teaching. It eats into the rest of your life both mentally and physically. If it’s not exercise books and resources taking over your lounge and kitchen table it’s worrying about results or about little Ahmed’s home life keeping you awake at 2am. I’ve never minded this. I’ve always been happy to give my life over to teaching as I believed it to be such a noble cause. Besides we’re not the only profession who work long hours. What I didn’t realise back in 2010 is that the job would get harder each year.

First you introduced the phonics check. I was in Year 1 that year and continued teaching phonics to the best of my ability. I didn’t spend much time teaching children to differentiate between real words and “non-words” because I was focused on, you know, teaching them to read. I sat and watched child after child fail that ridiculous “screening” because they read the word “strom” as “storm”. The following year I taught to the test. We spent weeks practising “words” and “non words” and sure enough our results soared.

My second year brought with it the changes to the Ofsted framework and the obsession with data began. Oh the sodding data game! The game that refuses to acknowledge how long a child has spoken English or whether or not they have books or even food at home. The data game changed things. Attainment in Maths and English was no longer just important, it would almost entirely decide the judgement made about your school. Oh and whilst we’re on the judgements “Satisfactory” was no longer satisfactory – it was the far more sinister sounding: “Requires Improvement.”

From then on things began to unravel at an alarming rate. The threat of forced academisation hung over each set of SATs results and the floor targets continued to rise. Gove cut the calculator paper (because calculators are cheating) and introduced SPaG. Grammar was no longer for writing – it was for grammar. Around the same time he also froze teachers’ pay and doubled the contributions we would have to make to our pensions. Teachers were suddenly worse off than they had been the previous year and under more pressure than ever before.

So teaching became harder still and life in schools started to change. There were new hoops to jump through and somehow we just about managed to get through them. It meant sacrificing everything that wasn’t SPaG, English or Maths but we did it – we learnt how to play the game. Outside of the safety of our schools though there was a bigger game being played – one that we had no chance of winning: the status of the teaching profession was being eroded away. There was the incessant name calling and smears in the media from “the blob” to “the enemies of promise” and, of course, “soft bigots” with “low expectations”. You drip fed the message: teachers were not to be trusted and it worked: the public stopped trusting us.

As bleak as it sounds, those years look like a golden age compared to what we have to deal with now.

I was delighted when Gove went. I knew there was every chance he’d be replaced by someone equally awful but I couldn’t imagine things getting worse. I figured the Tories were done playing with Education and they’d move on to something else. I was so wrong .


This year brought with it our greatest challenge to date – the new assessments. For most of the year we were completely in the dark. We had no idea what form the tests would take and how they would be scored (we’re still not entirely sure on the latter.) There was also the introduction of the SPaG test for 7-year-olds (which was sadly scrapped because of your own department’s incompetence.) The criteria for assessing writing has changed dramatically.  Gone is the best fit approach and what has replaced it is an arbitrary list of criteria of the things children should be able to do – some of which are grammatical rules that your department have made up . Year 6 were tested on their ability to read long words and remember the names of different tenses. Whatever foundation subjects were still being taught have had to be shelved in favour of lesson after lesson on the past progressive tense.

In some ways I don’t feel like a teacher at all any more. I prepare children for tests and, if I’m honest, I do it quite well. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of as it’s not as if I’ve provided my class with any transferable, real life skills during the process. They’ve not enjoyed it, I’ve not enjoyed it but we’ve done it: and one thing my children know how to do is answer test questions. They’ve written raps about how to answer test questions, they’ve practised test questions at home and test questions in school, they’ve had extra tuition to help them understand the test questions. They can do test questions – they just haven’t had time to do anything else.

At the same time you’ve cut school budgets to pieces. This one hasn’t been widely reported yet but it will be over the next 18 months. I know of 3 head teachers who are considering having their own class next year as they can’t afford to replace the teachers that are leaving. Most schools I know have already cut back on support staff (read: made valuable, hard-working teaching assistants redundant.) And this is just the start of it. I suppose the only thing schools should be grateful for is that you introduced performance related pay and, with the leap in National Expectations, there will be fewer teachers getting their pay rise this September.

In many ways I’m one of the lucky ones – I work for two smart Head Teachers in a school with an SLT who genuinely care about teacher workload. Meaningless box ticking exercises are kept to a minimum and meetings are kept brief. We only have INSET on average every other week and book scrutiny/monitoring is only carried out once a term. Demands on teachers’ time are kept to a minimum but there is very little we can do to protect teachers from the unreasonable expectations being put on them by your Government, the threat of no-notice Ofsted inspections and, of course, the ever increasing risk of academisation.

I know I’m not alone in feeling like this. A recent survey found that nearly 50% of teachers are considering leaving in the next 5 years. Just within my own family my fiance, my sister and my sister-in-law have all quit the profession in the last 12 weeks. Rather than address this issue you’ve decided to allow schools to recruit unqualified teachers to fill the gaps. The final nail in the profession’s coffin. I don’t want to stop teaching. I love teaching but I have no interest in being part of this game any more.

Worse than being a teacher in this system is being a child at the mercy of it and to them I say this: we tried our best to fight these changes: we rallied, we went on strike, we campaigned and made as much noise as we could. I’m sorry it didn’t work and I’m sorry that I’m not strong enough to keep working in this system but as I’ve told many of you many times: when someone is being mean to you – you ask them to stop. If they continue to be mean you walk away. It is now time for me to walk away. I’ll keep up the fight though.

Maybe in time things will change and, when that time comes, I can come back to the job I loved but until then sorry Nicky – I’m out.

Yours Sincerely,

Zoe

P.S: One last thing – if you do end up losing your job over your shambolic running of the Education System – make sure they don’t replace you with Boris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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232 thoughts on “Sorry, Nicky, I’m out.

  1. Oh Zoe.. I read this post with such sadness…bring your passion and your skill and come and teach in a Steiner school, where teachers still have the time and the autonomy to actually teach their pupils, in small classes and without the plague of political whimsy falling upon them. The posts aren’t particularly well paid as most of the schools are small and run on a shoe string with plenty of bursaries (that might be different in the free schools).. But you will be appreciated and supported by the parents and children alike and you will be able to pass on your knowledge and wisdom as creatively as you are able.. Think about it…it’s not a bad call….

    Liked by 2 people

  2. How did we manage to survive in the 1950s. Later my wife taught my children to read BEFORE they started school and teacher’s were not happy WHY ????

    Like

  3. If the thousands of civil servants that it takes to keep monitoring and making up extra things for teachers to do were not needed anymore then they would be out of a job.
    Think about that.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. First they came for libraries and under valued then dismissed the profession..after all volunteers can run libraries. Then they attacked and destroyed my profession..,Careers Adviser..after all business people can do that job. Then they came for those lazy good for nothing junior Doctors, whilst undermining them and their union..and of course the Teachers.. Get rid of them..replace them with untrained staff. Utter contempt.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. sorry Zoe have friend’s who are in the same boat as you sad to think our school’s have been treated like this But all these rule’s and change’s have come frome out side the U/K WE at the moment are ruled and controled by the EU our so called government are told what they have to do it’s not just school’s but every were the NHS is another case in point and the list is endless they are doing every thing they can to destroy our country our army airforce and the navy are the same all being run down so they can take over our country complety we must VOTE OUT and get our country back we pay £58,000,000 million a day to the EU that would go a hell of a long way to resupport our public services our schools hospital’s Ect IT may take time but we can do it

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    1. 1/10 See me after class – or in other words – please go back to school, this is utter bunkum. None of the changes in the curriculum cited in the article have come from Europe. We pay £58 billion a day now? Even the LeaveEU campaign don’t claim that much. Meanwhile…

      Can we get back on topic please?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. That is complete bullshit, John Smith. It is the UK government doing this. If you were right, other EU countries would be doing the same thing, but they’re not. Finland, for example, has a completely different approach to education, and is leading the world as a result. Plenty of EU members do better.

      These destructive education policies are entirely the willing choice of conservative governments looking for ways to cut costs where they shouldn’t, and if that results in a population that’s too stupid and uneducated to challenge their rule, that’s a nice bonus to them.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. What a brilliant post: stunningly articulate, utterly compelling and persuasive. You’ll be a huge loss to the profession, but I completely understand and sympathise with your reasons for leaving.

        As a long-time teacher in all sectors from Primary schools to University postgrad and national museum/gallery education, I wholeheartedly agree with your core argument about Government cost-cutting, and, by implication, their handing out of lucrative contracts to their supporters, while starving all others of funds. That’s why I left my post in teacher education, where I gained an ‘Outstanding’ grade from Ofsted, & why I couldn’t now recommend teaching as a career for any intelligent and creative person who might also want to have a life outside of work. Nicky Morgan is not of the first water intellectually, and her appointment to this key post demonstrates this government’s total lack of interest in the potential of our country’s youth within the maintained sector. Their futures are all up for sale.

        Jan Hunt

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    3. You have not understood the points Zoe is making at all. It Is ridiculous to blame the Tories onslaught on Education and Teachers on the EU. Education would not be any better off if we were to come out of the EU. The Scandanavian countries Finland and Sweden are both in the EU and appear to have Education systems that care about their children and their teachers.

      Liked by 2 people

    4. this is nonsense
      If we left the EU we would be plunged into recession and have no money for anything. The Tories love spending money on tax breaks in preference to the NHS and Schools. If we left things would be NO DiFFERENT. ALL the directives from Nicky Morgan come from our government. Not the EU

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    5. Zoe, this seems to be the state of education throughout the world. My cousin shared this on FB and I was so interested in why you resigned I had to read and reply– A very sad state for our children and future.
      I taught here in the US for 43 years. 27 of those in West Virginia and 16 in Texas. I retired in 2014. I began in 1971. Teaching was all I ever wanted to do. I had so much fun. It was exciting. I got to have a relationship with my students. We got to learn things together. Then, through the years more demands were made and not compensated. More people became confused as to what our jobs really were. There were so many different educational programs that were given us the beginning of the school year. We had training after training to quickly become “master” of the program only to have it gone by the end of that school year and another “wonderful” program to replace it. Needless to say it never changed.
      I am a fill-in, substitute teacher since 2014. WHY? Because I miss the children. I do not miss the system. I get to spend great time with little people ( I enjoy grades 2-4 or ages 7-10). I do not spend hours at home coming up with ways of being creative to allow all students to be engaged in my class. I do not stay late for meetings or many evenings grading the papers. I do not give up a planning time for some group meeting usually three times a week at a time designated for me to call parents, have conferences, speak to a confused child, tutor a child who may be behind, solve a dispute between kids, or put finishing touches on the next lesson. I do not give up quality time with my family or OWE my life to a job. After 43 years in the classroom I can still say that teaching was all I ever wanted to do. I am thankful to hundreds of parents who trusted me enough to be with their child as the teacher.
      Your blog report will be seen by many. I am going to share it on my timeline with a txt to all my teacher friends in TX and back in WV and in other places.
      Teaching is a GIFT. I believe it comes from GOD. I believe only certain people teach with the love , patience, and understanding needed for little people. We teach CHILDREN, not robots to answer test questions. It is almost unbelievable that you experienced the same as we do here. That does not make it comforting. It actually makes it alarming. I continue to PRAY for teachers still working ,and I hope the system wakes up SOON…. Thank you so much for giving this read to those of us EVERYWHERE who love teaching, love education, love children, and have been discouraged about what the future holds for our kids.
      WE ARE NOT ALONE!!!! MANY TEACHERS ARE LEAVING LIKE YOU. WE WILL NOT BE DOING IT FOREVER! THEN WHAT?
      ~JanRimmer, Texas, USA

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    6. John, I think you may be a biit confused. It’s not the EU that are encouraging our government to cut everything in sight. They are coming up with these terrible ideas all by themselveess.

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    7. Shame on you “John Smith”. This has nothing to do with Europe. It is due to senseless conservative politics, aimed at placating people like you. I’m sensing you are a Tory out to divert the blame towards someone or something else. Get your facts right. Listen to the experts and maybe you will learn something. God help us if you have the vote!

      Liked by 1 person

    8. This literally has nothing to do with the EU!? This has everything to do with the conservative government! It chills me to think what more damage they can do when they have total freedom!

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  6. Glad to find others with the same viewpoints as me. I’m not a teacher – through circumstances I never followed that ambition but became a secretary instead. Although getting older now I still help with a Brownie Pack once a week and find that helps satisfy my teaching ambitions of long ago. I can sympathise with all those who now find teaching as a career a positive no no – teaching is a vocation not an ordinary job and the more rules and regulations and paperwork that are put into it detract from the real vocation of teaching – that of helping our young people to become better, more informed citizens. Do we really want to go back to the Dark Ages? Education is a wonderful thing and is different for each individual – what works for one won’t work for others. Some children naturally take to the academic side of life – others are more practical; we can’t all be clever at the same things. I can write letters, spell – mostly correctly – and delight in composing what I call pictures in words. But give me a tap to repair; a car to maintain; and I’m fishing in the dark. When will our Government recognise that children are not zombies – they cannot be moulded – they all need treating differently – AND GOOD TEACHERS CAN COPE WITH THAT but not when they get hidebound with silly Government ideas like SATS and the like, and look what happened to the idiotic system of phonetic spelling that was all the rage a number of years ago. Children who could easily take to spelling could take to that system and had no trouble changing into spelling the words correctly afterwards. Children who didn’t take easily to spelling got on with the phonetic system and still couldn’t spell correctly when they changed over. As I said, academic and practical skills should be taught in schools and there should be no pressure on either – children all learn at different times – and if they have good parents, and good teachers, then they will learn life skills as they go along. I could go on, but time is moving on. Do we really want clones in our schools or real life children who care about their community and country?

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    1. Yes, you’re missing something – Zoe’s talking about academisation, not academia. Academisation will eventually (probably) force local schools to convert to academies, eliminating local control and turning them into what some critics call “chain schools” with no local accountability. In US terms, kind of turning them into the Wal-Mart of schools.

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  7. We used to have a rule at home: Rule #1 “Don’t talk about education after 9pm” because it got us so worked up (me and wife both Governors more than 10 years). Then we had to introduce Rule #2: “Don’t talk about education before 9pm”. If both rules are in force, you will see that each day, technically, we can talk about it is at the stroke of 9pm. I have no idea how you can write a post like you did without getting insanely rudely violently angry. I admire you for that. But it just makes me more angry. This stuff REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY matters.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sometimes I think the only solution is for parents to start suing the officials making those stupid rules. Sue them for damaging their children, for not allowing them to be taught skills that will help them succeed, for causing anxiety problems, and for all the terrible harm they are doing. Obviously no teacher who truly cares about the children will stay in the profession. It will be too stressful for those who care. To be forced to harm children simply because the. government orders you to is torture to a caring person.

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  9. Pingback: State of the Arts
  10. Oh so familiar! The previous labour government, and this tory government have been doing the same to general practice for the past 15 years, which is why when you now go to see your doctor, you might wonder why he is looking brow-beaten, and has lost interest.
    Successive administrations have fallen prey to the cult of management, and rather than the administrators being facilitators working for the benefit of health and educational professionals, they now truly believe they are in charge, and able to guide professionals in subjects they themselves know nothing about.
    Teachers are there to inspire, and adapt their methods to the kids in front of them, but clearly there is no room for this now, as they try to stay afloat and keep the boxes ticked.
    The only way out of this is for the whole profession to stop, and say, enough is enough, we are not doing this anymore. They can’t sack everybody.
    Similarly, this is why the junior doctors need to stay strong, and their seniors need to support them.

    The probability is that none of the people making these hair-brained decisions will actually see the results personally, as all their offspring will be safely ensconced in the private sector.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. So, so true Zoe and David Macdonald. My daughter aged 34 has just qualified as a primary school teacher, 2 years of blood, sweat and tears, after serving in the army for 8 years. N.Ireland, and 6 tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, a doddle compared to teaching. Her school day starts at school at 7.30am. thrown out at 6pm by the caretaker, to continue at home until midnight after half an hour putting Jack, 4 1/2 and Lucy 3 1/2 to bed. She loves teaching, she’s good at it, but the imbalance in work/life will get her in the end.
    The other side of the coin, Jack started school in September, just 4, bright eyed and bushy tailed, a lovely, keen, eager to please little lad, seduced by his induction visit in the outdoor play area, sand pit and water table. 8 months later, “I don’t like school, it’s too long, the work is too hard and there’s too much writing” Yes, the pressure on teachers Zoe so accurately described starts in week 2 in Reception!!
    My son age 36 is just completing his teacher training, a 1yr. fast track based in school. He’s also primary, loves it and is good at it. Sadly he is not continuing, he says working a 60 hour week with a 9 month old son who he hardly sees is not for him.
    How anybody manages to have a life and teach is beyond my comprehension. Things have got to change, you’re heroes one and all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hear you Wendy. Just about to finish my ninth year of full time teaching. And it’s to be my last. 3 kids under 6 and the 2am work nights have finally taken their toll. Don’t know what the future will hold but it will involve my kids having a dad who finally has time for them!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Zoe,

    It’s so sad, not only that you feel the need to leave education, but that your comments are almost word-for-word the exact comments I hear every single week.

    I work with for an independent company supporting primary schools. Through this I have daily contact with staff at all levels of the school. I can count heads, deputies, teachers, etc. as friends and as such hear about what’s affecting them. I see truly outstanding teachers doubting their abilities, being frustrated by the pencil thin curriculum, feeling personally attacked by the politically motivated comments of supremely arrogant and insensitive ministers. I see great head teachers leaving the profession. I see all levels of teachers suffering stress, to the level where it affects their health. I see budgets cut to ridiculous levels, despite the claims of protecting schools. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. The education system is looking down a deep dark empty well.

    My children are taking GCSE and A Levels, and I am so grateful that they passed through primary school in time. I would hate for them to be part of this senseless experiment undertaken by frankly stupid and self serving politicians. Have my children’s teachers been perfect? Of course not, but they have been good to outstanding. What other professions are asked to be faultless? Certainly not the DfE, which doesn’t seem to be able to get anything right. When will they learn that half of schools will always be below average? When will they understand that they have great schools and great teachers. At what point do they accept that there are other influences which affect a child’s education? Attendance and attainment must be in measured in the context of the community. And yes, sometimes, there really is just a statistical bad blip of a cohort. Surprisingly, we parents actually do need to stimulate our kids at mealtimes and during holidays. Maybe even take them to the holiday schools that teacher give up their own time to provide? Maybe ministers should bully us in the same way they bully teachers… no wait, that might lose votes? I also feel your unions let you down. Politicians again! Over the last 12 years, I’ve not heard anyone moan about pensions. Sure, if I ask, I’ll get a response. But the things you list are the real problems, which are causing a crumbling of the foundations of primary education. The politicians are unbelievably out of touch.

    Zoe, I wish that instead of you and the many other teacher leaving the profession, you would stay and fight. I know that years of bullying by Gove and his evil band of Troglodytes takes its toll. We’ll toot for teachers in the same way we toot for Junior Doctors. It’s all about the children, so we can’t let this madness continue. Surely now is the time to strike. Not for pay, not for pensions, but for the future of our children. Guided not by the desire to appease party factions, but simply to return the guiding hand back to the teaching profession, so they can truly enrich the life of our children.

    Please, Zoe, stay and fight. Strike. Protest. March. Join together. Everyone in primary education knows this is wrong. The parents know it’s wrong. We can and must change the system before the madmen (and women) destroy it for a generation.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. It’s no better in NYC.

    Our contract defers a portion of our 2008 wages until 2020.

    There is plenty of money for tests, but not text books.

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  14. I had a child say to me the other day, ‘Miss Harris, you can’t use an exclamation mark in that sentence because it doesn’t start with how or what!’.

    Teaching children to answer stupid questions about stupid definitions is actually doing more harm than good!

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  15. Zoe, If you can’t hack it in teaching, just move onto a job that you can do. Life’s too short to waste time, dwelling on your failures.

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    1. There will always be morons like Robert in the world. I surprised he managed to muster the brain cells and coordination to type this ill informed response. Well done Robert. Your parents must be proud.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Not sure what Robert’s inane and unhelpful comment was meant to achieve . . . hope to God he’s not working in a school!

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