Over 40 authors including Alan Gibbons, Cathy Cassidy and Michael Rosen have backed a protest against the current UK school system following the "deeply disturbing" findings of a poll which suggested more than half of teachers are thinking of quitting.
The YouGov poll, commissioned by the National Union of Teachers (NUT), revealed that 53% of teachers are thinking of leaving the profession in the next couple of years, with the top reasons given as “volume of workload” (61%) and “seeking a better work/life balance” (57%).
Altogether a 316-strong group signed the open letter, including over 40 authors, appealing to Nicky Morgan, secretary of state for education, and Nick Gibb, school’s minister, to “turn their focus away from turning all our schools into academies and instead to look urgently at the core issues and reform inspection and accountability so that teachers can devote their energies to teaching and learning.”
They said: “We, the undersigned, believe that enthusiastic, confident teachers, with a long-term commitment to education, are essential to children’s development, so these figures are deeply disturbing to us. Worse though are the reports that this workload isn't driven by preparing exciting lessons for children but by demands for 'evidence' and 'data' arising from an increasingly irrational and punitive system of inspection and from constant political interference in curriculum and assessment."
Gibbons, who works with a lot of schools, said the amount of paperwork teachers have to do is "unsustainable". He said: "We need to re-balance education so the experiences of the children dominates, not the constant chasing after ever more demanding targets and intrusive paperwork.
"As I travel around schools, I've seen teachers burdened with stress - sometimes in tears. To me, data and paperwork should be subsidiary to teaching and learning."
Responding to the findings of the survey, general secretary of the NUT Christine Blower, said: “The government’s current priorities are both wrong and profoundly out of step with the views of teachers. They are the essential cause of the growing problems with teacher supply.
“This survey demonstrates the combined negative impact of the accountability agenda on teacher workload and morale. Teachers feel that the department for education’s work thus far to tackle workload has been totally inadequate.”
A department for education spokesperson said: “Great teachers are at the heart of our drive to ensure every child can fulfil their potential and we know the number and quality of teachers in our classrooms is at an all-time high. We recognise that unnecessary workload is one of the biggest frustrations for the profession which is why we are working with leading education to tackle issues like marking, lesson planning or expectations around inspections.
“As a result of this Ofsted has already produced a myth-buster clearly setting out the things that inspectors do and do not expect to see and are taking steps to simplify their handbook. We have also given schools the freedom to set their own pay allowing heads to reward their best teachers.”