In 2019, Ofsted asked teachers to take part in a research study exploring the challenges of the profession. The results showed that 61 per cent of senior leaders felt that teachers are undervalued and that the profession was held in low esteem. Unfortunately, even after the impact of Covid-19, similar sentiments were echoed in the National Education Union’s (NEU) survey earlier this year. According to the NEU survey, which examined the decline in staff retention, one significant reason why teachers are quitting is because the profession was not valued or trusted by the government or media. 53 per cent of respondents felt insufficiently supported and negatively represented by the government and press.
With headlines reading, “Video of militant teachers boasting of strike threats to keep schools closed fuels fears that unions are plotting to block March 8 return” there is no surprise why teachers feel ambushed. The narrative started after NEU activists discussed strategies for ensuring schools were safe enough before returning to work. Teachers and unions were portrayed as selfish, boastful outlaws who took pleasure in causing commotion.
The chairman of Campaign For Real Education, Chris McGovern, said, “The union bosses are holding children to ransom, we are in the middle of a major power struggle about who runs education and the children are in the middle of it.”.
Although the NEU’s reason for advising some of their members to stay at home was based on “upholding government recommendations on safety in schools”, the press chose to twist the story and paint teachers as self-serving and disruptive. Many teachers harked back to the chaos caused by reopening schools too early in the autumn term and did not want the government to make the same mistake again.
The attacks didn’t stop there. The press proceeded to demonise the apparent ‘hard-left unions plotting to ‘name and shame’ MPs to get teachers a pay rise’.
Let’s just forget the fact that teachers are overworked and underpaid, slandering teachers has become a major political sport. Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has previously warned that the government’s “demonisation” of teachers before and during the COVID-19 disruption is putting staff at risk of violence from pupils and their parents.
Khan said, “If politicians and the media attack teachers today, we can’t be surprised if tomorrow parents, pupils and others are abusive and violent towards teachers. I think the way we treat educators in the country is outrageous. It really upsets me because I wouldn’t have achieved a fraction of what I have in my life but for teachers,”.
The media plays a huge part in shaping the way teachers are perceived in wider society. Educators are hardworking. We aren’t layabouts looking for a way to disrupt government plans. After all, teachers are on the frontline and see how the pandemic has impacted the well-being and learning of our students. If anyone knows the best course of action it’s us.
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