Frustration, at present, is a little like the tides. By day the frustration is out as we focus on the most important immediate job, which is to strive to make a difference to the lives of the children we teach. Later, after the drive home and freshly logged in to Twitter, the frustration boils up again. How can all this be fair? How can it be even remotely morally acceptable?
I think, in part, the answer lies in the difference between teachers and politicians. Both want to make a difference, that is true – although a difference for themselves or others is somewhat debatable. Teachers, however, are intrinsically entwined, like an errant clematis, in the lives of their charges. They live the highs and lows. They cry with them and laugh with them. Some say that you shouldn’t get too close – professional distance, etc; but I have yet to meet a really effective teacher who isn’t interested and engaged with the young people they work with. Politicians are not as close to the people they profess to represent – to a Government Minister we are a nebulous mass where everything (except the elite) appears to be seen as an average – but not a real average, an average of their own experiences. Hence Michael Gove’s unrealistic expectations and the Muswell Hill set’s failure to comprehend the day to day challenges that the majority of the nation face.
At times real experience intrudes on this generalised perception, as in the sad case of David Cameron’s child, when the sympathy of the whole nation was truly felt. He understood…. understands, as well as anyone, the pain of such an experience; but for many the lives of our school children and the challenges they face, the damage done by poor decisions to their futures, is too remote to have that sort of immediacy. Perhaps we would have seen different decisions, more sensitive comments and greater transparency if the polit bureau, sorry, Cabinet; all had their own children in their local comprehensive schools, sitting those exams?!
So we can’t help but cry foul as we mop up the tears and offer the hankies. We worry and fret like the most caring of parents when an injustice is done to our charges and we are right, no – we are morally obliged to challenge those who make such decisions on the basis of policy or ideology. If we allow such morally bankrupt behaviour to succeed, then there is no hope – and without hope, there is no point. How can we expect our children to aspire and aim high for the future if the very people teaching them believe there is no point, because their futures were locked in at the age of 10? Had a bad day on the SATs – sorry, doesn’t matter. Made amazing progress and found your mojo in secondary school – well never mind. Suffered child abuse and domestic violence during your kS2 SATs – better give up now then.
We have to keep up the pressure, even when the tide is out. We have to make it clear to policy makers that this just..isn’t…acceptable! If we don’t, we are not just betraying our current classes but every class we will work with for years to come.