The Independent London Newspaper
23rd April 2017

NEW JOURNAL COMMENT: A demoralised profession ill-serves our schoolchildren

    Striking teachers marching to Parliament in July over funding, pay and condition

    Striking teachers marching to Parliament in July over funding, pay and conditions

    Published: 5 August, 2016

    THE struggle facing teachers in Camden schools is no doubt replicated across inner London, and perhaps the country. The National Union of Teachers says schools, nationally, are facing the worst cuts since the 1970s. 

    But the issues at stake appear to be particularly acute in our borough this year. 

    A Camden teacher has come forward this week to warn about the impact on pupils and staff. The routine removal of support staff is creating new administrative burdens. It is eating into teachers’ prepara­tion time, adding to their stress and disillusionment. 

    The cost of rent in north London is also sending many to live way outside the M25, some as far as the south coast. This leads to time-consuming and often soul-destroying commutes that cut back time on lesson-planning and, perhaps most importantly, on hours of restorative sleep.

    Few would choose a life as a teacher in Camden if it meant they had no time or money spare to enjoy the cultural riches of the city.

    Housing schemes do exist for “key-workers”, but they are often temporary contracts and for rooms in shared houses. Newly qualified teacher salaries are not enough to secure one of the government’s new “starter homes”. New social housing projects are too few and far between.

    Teenagers, during their formative years, often look up to  motivated teachers. Watching a role model up sticks and leave could, in some cases, provoke a sense of loss that is tantamount to grief. What management-speak might term “continuity” is of crucial importance to a child’s education.

    Anyone who has taken a walk around a school in Camden will have been struck by the state-of-the-art facilities. Many have the most modern computers, science and PE equipment. Gone are the days of broken lockers, wobbly tables, and time-worn equipment of the 1960s. 

    Tens if not hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent improving Camden schools in the past 15 years in money made available through Labour’s progressive Building Schools for the Future policy. 

    Education, education, education was the buzz phrase of the time, and a generation of Camden students have now become used to school buildings that are not unlike universities.

    It is a tragedy, then, that our children have been given the tools and the environment to break new ground in education but are now being held back by cuts to funding.

    The independent academy schools policy conceit was that schools education standards would rise if new buildings were funded. 

    We need our leaders to understand that, in time, a properly funded education system is more than the bricks and mortar. 

    We need our teachers to flourish so our children can as well.