The need for well trained and dedicated teachers has never been so dire. With budget cuts claiming jobs in almost every sector, it would seem that the key to any kind of success begins with a good education. While this may seem fairly self evident, the reality is that fewer and fewer people are dreaming of becoming a teacher when they grow up. Similarly, once they have grown up, fewer and fewer people are considering teaching as a possible career path. In this blog, we’ll look at the pros and cons of becoming a secondary school teacher.
The reasons for this are varied. The so called pros and cons of the teaching profession weigh fairly evenly. On the one hand, as a secondary school teacher you will have wonderful, long holidays, unlike those who work a traditional 9 to 5. You are able to take school trips., and teaching can be incredibly rewarding. This is especially the case if you are teaching a subject that you like. Finally, the pay is reasonably good – a basic secondary school teacher salary is about £35,000.
On the negative side of the scale, whether you like your job often comes down to whether you are working in a good environment with good people. If the school where you work is unpleasant as a place, or the people are unpleasant, it can make for an extremely taxing workplace. One of the worst parts of the job is undoubtedly the piles and piles of marking, and of course there are the students who can be both a pro and a con depending on their discipline and willingness to learn.
Unfortunately in recent years the focus of education has shifted from pure education, to meeting targets set by the government. Schools are now required to meet increasingly strict targets, putting not only students but teachers under pressure. Target setting is an incentive that has worked with alarming regularity in the corporate and retail world – setting targets for employees to meet ensures that they have a good idea of what is required by them by the company. The target sets the expectation. The role of targets in the educational environment is the same.
The target has now become the focus of the educational system, rather than seeking to educate the students. Just like in a retail or sales environment, teachers now must compromise and do things they would otherwise not do just to meet the set targets. Many teachers feel they are being pressurised to manipulate the test scores that they once would have marked fairly. In addition, many teachers have been required to exclude parts of the curriculum in order to focus on exam practice and put on after-school exam coaching classes, some have even resorted to bribing students to get the results that they need.
The past few years have seen a stark increase in the number of strikes from UK teachers. Due to all of the factors above, many teachers now feel that their basic salary is not enough. They argue that the factors above mean that they should be earning more. Cutbacks mean that teachers are now working more hours, for less reward. If you think that teaching is a 9-5 job, think again. As we mentioned, along with marking, there is lesson planning, early starts and the psychological impact of dealing with difficult students. Teachers will frequently start work at 7, and finish at 6 in the evening. For the majority of people, this is unthinkable, so why do we expect it of teachers? Factors such as the change in government mean that teachers are now being held to unrealistic standards, which they cannot possibly meet.
So, who is at fault for this? Is it the teachers who cannot deal with unruly and undisciplined classes? Or is it the government instituted targets? Whoever is at fault, what is certain is that education in the UK is deteriorating.