Sifting meticulously through the strata of tweets under a certain hashtag, I encountered more and more teachers touting the term ‘revolution’. My gut response, usually the most accurate, was to internally register what an utterly oppressed group of professionals us teachers have become. Nothing new in that, I hear you mutter, behind gritted teach… (I mean ‘teeth’).
Oh yes, I agree, it is nothing new. But…and it’s a big ‘but’, there has been a radical shift amongst teachers in recent months which appears to match political trends within the UK, Europe and, dare I mention it, the US itself. As the actor Tim Roth pointed out (in no uncertain terms) a few days ago, if you oppress the working class for long enough they will eventually rebel. This rebellion will career off in any direction it can find an outlet, like mercury flowing through the tiniest crack. So let’s apply this theory to the largely desperate, population sub-group of the British Isles; State School teachers.
Over the past six years the pressure on State Schools, teachers and support staff has intensified to unprecedented levels. Teachers have held on, under ridiculous workloads, paperwork and expectations, inflicted on them from ‘On High’. Stepping into the ring amid this despair, is a group of teachers, attached to one particular school, polished experts in self-promotion. Rather in the same way as UKIP tapped into the discontent of the overworked and underpaid worker to offer a ‘solution’, this group of teachers appear to offer a ‘revolutionary’ alternative. Like Nigel Farage, in his quest to appear to be the ‘voice of the common man’ this group are positioning themselves to be the ‘voice of the common teacher’. Looking more closely, we can see that Farage is not in fact a representative of the average worker: he himself is part of the Establishment.
Let’s take this a step further. Surely all Head Teachers fear Ofsted to some extent, after all they have the power to strip a school of its dignity and place it in the path of a hostile take-over, creating chaos and misery. Therefore, rather surprisingly (or not, as the case may be) at this desperate moment in time, into our midst comes this same School, which professes it does not fear Ofsted. We are drawn to it like pale creatures to the call of the first cuckoo of Spring, surely this is our Salvation? But open those winter-tired eyes, unused to the light, and ask yourself, how can it be this school does not dread the all-powerful Ofsted?
Imagine you (or I) are a Head of a School that stands up and shouts, ‘We are not afraid of the Inspectors’. Maybe we are supremely brave, or just plain deluded. Or is it something else entirely? Are we in fact, extremely confident that we are untouchable and completely sure of our protection. How and why could this be? I’ll leave that with you…or just ‘put this here’ as we say on Twitter. You may peruse the supposition at your leisure. Let me know if you come to any hypothesis.
Let’s return to my analogy… to UKIP and the boomerang of a leader, the ever-returning figurehead, Farage. Discontent is a powerful emotion to channel and the populist far-right in the form of UKIP have found a willing audience in the form of communities who feel ‘left behind’. Can the same be said then of the overwhelmingly oppressed community of teachers in State Schools. If someone, disguised as the ‘common Head Teacher’ stands up and says that we will take this no more, we are, in our desperation, drawn to them. But, and this is a crucial point, we must be very careful to be sure which ideals it is they are promoting.
Yes, I agree the pendulum has swung too far away from professionalism, from teachers being given autonomy to teach as we see fit and as we are well capable of doing. However, in fighting against rampant managerialism, we must be sure we are not damaging those we most want to help, nurture and teach, our students. Turning schools backwards to the past, to a system of schooling whereby our children endure rigid rules and a profoundly teacher-centred approach is not the answer. This self-promoting school, it appears to me, is doing exactly this, turning us backwards to the ‘past’. As with UKIP and it’s ‘little Englanders’ this is a not a Revolution, but instead in is a backward step, a Regression. Britain was not by any stretch of the imagination better ‘back then’ and neither were its schools. I am not interested, to coin a new phrase, in becoming a ‘little Educator’. Rigid authority and regimented curricula has no place in 21st Century Education.
There is so much more to discuss…but I don’t want to confuse the issues. I’d rather flag up, in my idiosyncratic way, what is important to remember. Just because the acolytes of a particular School dress up their ideas (in the form of a book) as ‘revolutionary’, it does not mean that it is any such thing. Their ideas are purely the means by which they promote themselves and their far-right ethos. It is difficult to be discerning, when we are a heartbreakingly keen, young teacher lacking in experience or an older, heavily battle-weary one. However, I believe most teachers would agree, that UKIP’s far-right party does not offer the solution to the oppressed in our country…and in the same way this School does not offer a blueprint or worthwhile solution for the oppressed teachers and pupils of Britain.