Headmaster's Blog

Post-election blues in the world of education

Following the outcome of the General Election we are hearing a good deal of concern expressed by a range of education professionals over the Government’s policies. Commonly expressed anxieties include concerns about cuts in funding for state education, a fall in numbers applying to become teachers and a perception that the Government fails to work in partnership with teaching professionals.

Many of these worries are understandable, however I feel that professional associations and leaders within the teaching profession need to demonstrate more constructive ways to handle such things. Failure to do so makes the problem worse. This further undermines the public’s respect for teachers and lets children down.
It is the case that state schools are experiencing funding cuts. No easy pill to swallow when, rightly, aspirations for children’s education are so high. However, no national political party was promising increases in education budgets during the run-up to the recent General Election, the money for such is simply not there. We need to recognise that calls for increases to school budgets require equivalent cuts in other areas of public spending, which few of us wish to see. Do any of us wish to see health budgets cut as money is moved to education for example? The teaching profession needs to accept this; teachers are great at resolving challenges so let us all quickly adopt positive, ‘can-do’ attitudes.

Fewer people are coming into the teaching profession. This is no surprise – as the country comes out of recession, alternative careers become more appealing. Significantly, we will hardly attract aspirational young graduates if all they hear is negativity and despair from existing professionals. We need to be shouting about the very real privilege and joy of teaching, if we do not feel this ourselves we should not be in the profession. Negativity is contagious and will put off those considering a teaching career.
Angry claims of Government’s "failure to work in partnership" with the education profession. It is professional to accept that governments have the responsibility and the right to manage. We should act reasonably, be relentlessly positive, understanding and accept reality. We must seek to resolve problems and remind society about the privilege and joy of teaching.
The professionals that surround me are positive; excited and exciting to work with and they relish the opportunities that working with young people bring.

Rod MacKinnon
Headmaster, Bristol Grammar School