Time to give a little praise to the teaching profession

25 Aug

The last few years have been tough on those working in the education sector in Wales.  Polices have been implemented which conflict with the views of the profession, often with little regards for their expertise and input. Changes to the terms and conditions of teachers have left them continuing to work unsustainable hours but for less pay and pensions.  The narrative and language that has been used by Government’s at both end of the M4 has been highly emotive and not always conducive to supporting practitioners.  The perception of teaching has not been great.  The way teachers are reported in the media at times has fuelled this view.  All this has, unsurprisingly, lead to poor morale.  However, there is a sense that the tide is turning and we should start to demand a more hopeful view of our system.

There’s no doubt that the current Education Minister has set about renewing respect for teaching as a profession.  The fact that respect for the role of a teacher was a central theme of Huw Lewis’ first real keynote speech did not go unnoticed.  He has also backed that up with the language and thrust of his arguments about creating a new deal around professional development for teachers.  Now, that isn’t to say that this is all a silver bullet.  Let’s not forget that this ‘new deal’ has not actually been accompanied by any new money.  Talk does not necessarily equate to action.  Still, we should not underestimate the importance of the language that has been used.

We have also seen the introduction of the Schools Challenge Cymru initiative.  Now there is no denying that there has been an element of scepticism around this policy since questions were raised relating to the way in which it is to be funded.  However, it is still something that, for now at least, seems to have buy in from the sector.  A crucial element that has been missing from a number of Welsh Government policies in the past.

Perhaps the biggest shot in the arm has come from the excellent A Level results we saw recently which included the number of individuals receiving the top grades increasing and the gap closing with England. A week later there was more good news with our GCSE results  being pretty spectacular.  Not only has the attainment gap closed with the rest of the UK but Wales saw its best ever A*-C grade results.  This against a backdrop of changing specifications and the fiasco we saw around the January English exams.

The results were also a positive in terms of the next round of PISA testing which will focus on science.  While this cohort will not be going through that process the fact that there were improvements at GCSE Chemistry, Biology and Physics as well as in the percentage of individuals receiving the top grades at A Level in those subjects is something to take forward.

The focus given to the good news stories is not always comparable with the bad.  Sensationalism sells I guess.  While in other years my phone has rung off the hook on results day there were no clamours for me to do any radio phone-ins following these results days to praise teachers.

What we must do internally within the profession and publicly, is to acknowledge the positives we are seeing.  It is important to still identify the challenges and work collaboratively and constructively to address them of course, but there should be nothing stopping us all from saying well done in the meantime.

 

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