This expression by Will Davies has stuck with me since I read it a few months ago. Teaching is a disturbing example of the process Will is alluding to: ratcheting up demands on staff to the point where many are unwilling to continue. In fact increasing numbers seem unable to continue:
The BBC has also seen a survey of 3,500 members of the Nasuwt teaching union which shows more than two-thirds of respondents considered quitting the profession in the past year.
Workload was the top concern, with 89% citing this as a problem, followed by pay (45%), inspection (44%), curriculum reform (42%) and pupil behaviour (40%). In addition:
- 83% had reported workplace stress
- 67% said their job has adversely impacted their mental or physical health
- Almost half of the three thousand respondents reported they had seen a doctor because of work-related mental or physical health problems
- 5% had been hospitalised, and
- 2% said they had self-harmed.
Much of the issue here stems from the demand for ‘excellence’: as David Cameron recently put it, “if you’re not good or outstanding, you have to change. If you can’t do it yourself, you have to let experts come in and help you”. For head teachers a bad Ofsted report can mean the end of their career and this tyranny of excellence mutates into something ever more brutal as it works its way down the hierarchy.
Replace ‘heads’ with ‘HoDs’ and ‘Ofsted’ with ‘REF’ and we can see the same trend at work in higher education. Meanwhile the VCs fly around the world, creating strategic partnerships to actualise latent synergies. Here on the ground, one in six universities refuse to answer freedom of information requests about their expenses.
Across both spheres, we can see people breaking the professions, one personal tragedy at a time, while rewarding themselves extravagantly for doing so.