British Budget Cuts, Teaching and the Quality of Education in the UK
Following the UK General Election, Teresa May has resumed control of government, and the reforming of schools in the UK will likely resume. The Tories announced the introduction of a new National Curriculum and changes in school governance, management and funding, changes in local authority and changes in teacher training and teacher’s conditions of work and employment. The changes saw the education industry struggling to cope with the giant cuts that councils and schools were taking to manage the new legal legislation and control over the education sector is presently spiralling into crisis.
With the rising numbers of pupils in each class, and the non-existent funds to support the class teacher with regards to Teaching Assistants, and better pay, teachers are subsequently leaving the trade at an alarming rate. The demanding workload is forcing younger teachers out of the profession, with older teachers also leaving due to the drastic changes in school environments. Teaching Assistants (TA) and Support Staff are facing the largest cuts in numbers, with schools having to cut their TA numbers by up to a third; leaving particularly vulnerable Special Education Needs (SEN) students in jeopardy.
Teaching assistants in particular are renowned for working harder, and exceeding expectations than their pay reflects. Rising numbers of SEN pupils in Mainstream Schools worries Head Teachers given the cut in the support these children need. Inclusion and assimilation is vital to some members of the SEN community, making these children vulnerable to being excluded from previously praised opportunities. There is very little scope to make savings within other budgets outside of staffing as these cuts have already been implemented over the past five years, which leads to Heads making difficult decisions regarding cutting their staff, and the first to go are usually TAs.
These added pressures, combined with the large and arguably unmanageable workload of teachers had let to NQTs leaving the profession. Peter Sellen of The Guardian reiterates this, ‘long hours, low starting pay and limited access to professional development, create a risk of teacher burn out, especially in the early stages of careers’. (Sellen, 10/2016). According to the Education Policy Institute (EPI), one in five teachers in England works 60 hours or more – 12 hours above the limit set by the European working-time directive – and they get far less time for professional development. Overworked teachers and a substantial lack of support within the classroom has led to the quality of education diminishing dramatically.
The recruiting of quality and number of graduates registering for PGCE and other similar courses has lowered, says Jonathan Doherty and Kathryn Gerrard of Leeds Trinity University, with many of those who do the course end up leaving the profession within five years. The demand for supply teachers is rising, with teachers quitting their roles in schools in favour of being a supply teacher at various agencies in their region. Agencies like First Call Teachers in North East England, hire quality, experienced teachers, who are ready for diversity and less pressure but are able to remain in the profession they love. While the cut of Teaching Assistants and Support Staff, the demand for specialist, experienced support staff is on the demand for agencies trying to provide knowledgeable staff that are affordable.
Sellen, P. (2016) Long hours and low pay: why England’s teachers face burnout. (Online Newspaper) Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2016/oct/11/teachers-reeling-under-massive-workload-report Last viewed: 16/06/2016
Doherty, J and Gerrard, K. (2017) The Long and Short of the UK Teacher Crisis. Leeds Trinity University. (Eduteach) Available at: http://www.educationbusinessuk.net/features/long-and-short-%C2%A0-uk-teacher-crisis last viewed: 16/06/2017.