Some secondary pupils 'can barely write their own name'
Teachers vent their frustrations anonymously about the Scottish education system
Image credit: Bart Everson
Some secondary pupils can “barely write their own name” and turn up to school without having any breakfast, according to the latest anonymous letter posted by a teacher on a new blog.
The Dear Madam President website allows teachers across Scotland to share their frustrations and concerns in a public way without fear of repercussions.
In a new post, one secondary school teacher – who described themselves as “worn out” – painted a bleak picture of daily life at the chalkface.
The teacher said: “There are pupils that have barriers to learning. Some pupils can barely write their own name. Some of them haven’t had breakfast. Some of them cannot behave. Some of them have complex emotional needs. Some of them should be studying at a much higher level than I can offer.
“Some of them are in mainstream education when in previous generations they’d attend specialist schools. Some have anger management problems. For some of them, school is the least of their worries. However, I am responsible for every single pupil in that room, and I am expected to cater for their individual needs.
Over a week, I will face this challenge in front of me at least 26 times.”
The teacher argued that inclusion is “failing” and as a result, it is impossible to meet the needs of all pupils.
The letter continued: “Personally, I feel inclusion is a massive stick to beat me with. Teacher training never prepared me for this. There isn’t the time to develop the knowledge to tackle these issues either.
“I am trying my best of course, but there aren’t enough hours in the day. In the Scottish classrooms, the well behaved and hard-working pupils are ignored.
I am too busy micro managing the complex needs and behaviour pupils. Inclusion without appropriate funding and specialist staffing results in neglect for everyone. Maybe this is the real ‘closing the gap.’”
Another letter hit out at Ken Muir, chief executive of the GTCS, for comments he made in the Herald on Sunday looking at the reasons why teachers leave the profession.
The anonymous letter writer said: “In this article you successfully vilify and alienate an entire generation of young professionals which you and your organisation represent.
“As the highest representative of the GTCS, young teachers look to your office for support, encouragement and guidance. This is especially true of those who are in the first few years of the profession, which you acknowledge yourself to be some of the most challenging.
“The myriad of problems and challenges presented to teachers of all generations is increasing daily. Your sweeping and insulting generalities give indication that you are out of touch with the harsh reality facing teachers every day.
“I joined this profession under the illusion that teaching is still a profession which is held in high esteem and regard. I have quickly discovered however, that there is little respect for the vocation or its dedicated professionals at a national level.”
Responding to the criticism, Muir said: “This was a wide-ranging interview focused on looking at the full range of potential reasons for teachers leaving the profession. It was intended to be open-minded and thought-provoking.
“We are well aware that most teachers leave the profession for reasons of stress; workload; and pay; but there are also other reasons which is what we wanted to convey.
“We regularly speak to teachers who lapse from the teaching register and they tell us about other complex factors that have influenced their decisions. In fact, GTCS recently commissioned independent research by a company, Chord UK, which investigated our concerns that 861 teachers between the ages of 21 and 45 had lapsed from our Register in a single year. The findings of this research informed some of our input and the comments I made to the Herald on Sunday article.”
Muir added: “It is hugely disappointing that our democratic right as a national organisation to speak freely and honestly about the information we gather from teachers has been attacked in such an arbitrary and aggressive way.
“Some of the comments we have viewed on Facebook and other forums are not befitting of professional teachers and would be viewed as completely unacceptable in a school setting.
“We understand the points raised by teachers and welcome those who have contacted us directly to express them. We can reassure the profession that GTCS will always be talking up teaching in as many positive ways as possible.”
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