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Don’t demoralise our teachers, Mr Gove!


I recently read this in-depth article in The Guardian about the reasons teachers are leaving the profession. A number of teachers are interviewed about how targets and inspections are affecting them – and more importantly, school children.

The article starts with a popular drama teacher of 22 years articulating why she took the hard decision to leave. Whilst the whole article covers a lot of ground, I want to focus for a moment on the comments this teacher makes, as it resonates so much with me and what I’m trying to achieve with Perform.

I’ve written a previous blog about the perils of drama being perceived as a ‘soft subject’ so I was disheartened to read that this teacher also feels drama is being side-lined. But I was particularly upset when I read that 15 years ago, this drama teacher would put on huge theatrical productions involving the whole school; but now she can’t do this anymore because the hall is constantly used for exams and students can’t devote time to rehearsals as they are forever prepping for those exams.

Now, I am someone who became an actress, so obviously school productions were a big part of my student life. But I bet that even if your chosen topics were science and maths, you remember taking part in the school play. And I bet you feel that you benefited from doing so, whether helping out backstage or front of house. Because that feeling of pulling together as a school and putting on a show is priceless for our education, our development and our memories.

If teachers – and indeed students – are feeling the strain of targets and exams, then they won’t want or be able to devote time to extra curriculum activities which enrich the education experience and “teach people how to co-operate, to listen, to put aside their differences and compromise.”

My husband is a barrister but he only knew that he wanted to do this as a career because of the public speaking programme that his school ran. This wasn’t part of their curriculum but one of the teachers loved public speaking and taught it as an after school club, which lead my husband to compete internationally.  This gave him the personal confidence to pursue a life at the Bar, as well as an edge over the other hundreds of would-be barristers trying to get a tenancy at a Chambers.

We can’t afford to have a teaching profession in the state sector (which makes up 93% of our schools) which is demoralised to the extent suggested in the Guardian article. It saddens me that teachers are leaving or feeling that they can’t think outside of the box because of Mr Gove’s and his predecessors’ changes.

I’ll finish by quoting again from the article, but this time, it’s a pupil taught by this drama teacher: “You need fun,” she says. “It shouldn’t be just about the core subjects. You have to have something that’s your passion.” Then a borderline heresy. “That you enjoy, you know?”  How many of you benefited from the richness of experiences your school provided outside the curriculum, or from so-called soft subjects? And how many of you fear for the future of our school children, as I do?

P.S As I write this I’m aware that I haven’t yet organised childcare for my 6 year old on 26 March – the day when the National Union Teachers has called a national strike…




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