Stressed teach­ers need more sup­port

The Observer - - Comment & Analysis -

Amanda Spiel­man states that teach­ers “shouldn’t have to carry out parental du­ties” (“Schools can’t be sub­sti­tute par­ents, warns Of­sted chief”, News, last week).

When I started teach­ing in Lon­don 50 years ago, thou­sands of teach­ers were shout­ing that from the rooftops.

The pro­vi­sion of school meals was the start. The en­gag­ingly en­ti­tled phys­i­cal de­te­ri­o­ra­tion com­mit­tee con­sid­ered the re­jec­tion on fit­ness grounds of many young vol­un­teers for the Boer war and made rec­om­men­da­tions that led to the 1906 Ed­u­ca­tion (Pro­vi­sion of Meals) Act.

The gov­ern­ment’s or­der in Au­gust 1939 for school­child­ren to be evac­u­ated from towns and cities placed enor­mous parental pres­sures on their ac­com­pa­ny­ing teach­ers. The com­pre­hen­sive rev­o­lu­tion set in mo­tion from the mid-1960s re­sulted in a new em­pha­sis on pas­toral po­si­tions, given the large size many se­condary schools be­came. And the greater num­ber of women go­ing out to work fol­low­ing two world wars in­creased the pres­sure.

Teach­ers largely sup­ported these de­vel­op­ments in prin­ci­ple, but were fiercely crit­i­cal of suc­ces­sive fail­ures of most gov­ern­ments to pro­vide enough ap­pro­pri­ately trained staff to meet these huge ex­tra de­mands. Spiel­man has plenty of scope to re­duce the in­ap­pro­pri­ate du­ties piled on teach­ers who still com­plain bit­terly about ex­ces­sive work­load, as they did through­out my years in teach­ing. Nigel de Gruchy Or­p­ing­ton, Kent Schools, and the gen­eral men­tal, emo­tional and cul­tural devel­op­ment of their pupils, are the “boot­straps” by which a so­ci­ety pulls it­self up and advances from one gen­er­a­tion to the next.

Per­sonal prob­lems of ill health and the re­lated eco­nomic ills of so­ci­ety can in­deed be ad­dressed by teach­ers in state schools. They need only be joined in their ef­forts by teach­ers in pri­vate schools and univer­sity lec­tur­ers. Miles Secker

Heck­ing­ton, Lin­colnshire

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