Sheffield teachers too afraid to speak out against education policy

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Union bosses say headteachers are too afraid to criticise Government education policy for fear of damaging their job prospects – and being penalised by Ofsted.

Last month we reported how city MPs were demanding action after a report found pupils in London were doing better at school than those in Sheffield.

MP Nick Clegg

MP Nick Clegg

The report found just 63 per cent of pupils in Yorkshire and the Humber got five good GCSEs, compared to 70 per cent in London.

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield demanded immediate action to end the ‘postcode lottery’ in education.

He said funding should be directed to schools serving deprived areas, while admission criteria should be changed to help disadvantaged children attend the best schools.

Nick Clegg, MP for Sheffield Hallam, said more money should be spent trying to retain quality teachers in deprived areas.

MP Paul Blomfield.

MP Paul Blomfield.

But when The Star contacted secondary schools in the city to urge heads to back the calls and stand up for Sheffield children not a single one responded to our phone calls and emails.

Sheffield National Union of Teachers Joint Secretary Toby Mallinson said there was good reason for the silence.

He said: “Headteachers are gagged by fear, they don’t want to be seen as a whistleblower. Any teacher who is labelled as a whistleblower might find it difficult to get another job. They also fear that Ofsted will come along and fail their school in retribution. There has been a blame culture in education and teachers are very scared about criticising Government policy in an open way.

“The only people who want to stick their head above the parapet are the ones who are about to leave the profession.

“Anybody who wants to move on and find another headteacher job just wouldn’t risk it.”

Mr Mallinson said experienced teachers were ‘leaving the profession in droves’ and most newly qualified teachers were ‘barely lasting three years’.

He said: “Experienced teachers are leaving because of the pressure they are being put under and the ever-changing Government targets. Nobody says thanks. Teachers will only criticise the system when they’ve had enough.

“We’ve got students coming to the profession and barely lasting three years with the impossible workloads. The job is not what they expect.”

Former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said more had to be done to attract quality and keep teachers in deprived schools.

He said: “Schools in the most deprived areas in Sheffield are having more difficulties recruiting and retaining the most well qualified teachers.

“My view is that, particularly in those schools who are struggling, giving money as an incentive to get teachers to stay could help matters.

“It’s not the only solution, but it should be part of a new approach to education.”

MP Paul Blomfield said: “We must act because it is simply not acceptable that, by virtue of growing up in Sheffield and not London, a child is less likely to do well in school.”

n Teachers and headteachers – are you happy with the current system? Is there a postcode lottery and what changes can be made to end it? Talk to us – anonymously if your prefer. Email dan.hobson@jpress.co.uk or call 07738 035012.