(If you're a newcomer to this blog and you'd like to start the story of how I came to leave teaching from the beginning, then click here.)
So why did I leave when things were going well? Part of it is the sheer amount of work and time I had to put into my teaching to achieve that progress. The children benefitted but I definitely suffered. The other part is the thanks that I got. I was in a meeting with one of the advisers from the local authority. Now, you'd expect there to be a fair bit of praise about the amount of progress. Nope, it went more along the lines of, "You need more 2Bs." Ah, thanks for that.
This level of gratitude obviously doesn't just come from the local authority alone. The government don't value the work done by teachers in the slightest. Michael Gove is on another planet. A planet where everybody knocks about in straw boaters playing croquet and other less savoury games in private boarding schools. He talks about taking the best things from private schools and implementing these things in state schools. Good idea; buy loads of quality resources and have class sizes of twelve. I wouldn't argue with that. It would make a real difference. Ah, no, he doesn't mean that. What he really means is to extend the school day so that parents don't have to pay for child care and reduce the length of holidays. It's a certain vote winner with parents but has it got anything to do with improving children's education. Not really. And if anything is going to cause a mass exodus of teachers, it's this policy. I was on the verge of exhaustion every single year; less holidays would have killed me.
I could rant about Gove for an eternity but let's switch now to the media. When Gove - sorry back to him again - removed the satisfactory category from Ofsted the papers reported that a large percentage of schools had got worse. They didn't mention that the criteria had changed. The reality that nothing had changed from one day to the next in the actual schools didn't matter in the slightest. To say that they are deceitful when reporting about teachers and education in general is a slight understatement.
It's interesting to note that when we did really badly in the world education league tables recently, things have only started to go wrong since governments have started sticking their noses into teaching. The National Curriculum, Numeracy and Literacy Strategies, the stupidly time consuming APP and of course OFSTED have all come into being to raise standards. What they seem to be doing is turning children (and teachers?) off education. In my last year of teaching, if you take numeracy, literacy and P.E. out of the equation I was left with an hour and half a week to teach everything else. And half of that had to be science. When your numeracy and literacy standards are low (due to stunningly low starting points) you don't really have much choice.
Some commentators noted that in countries where the children are doing really well the teachers are respected as valued members of the community. So the complete opposite to here then.
The final nail in the coffin for my teaching career was the proposed change in pensions. Possibly I should have realised how bad teaching was for my mental wellbeing when my thought process was along the lines of working to the age of fifty (saving a fair bit of cash along the way), retiring and then starting my life. Yep, starting my life, because I hadn't had much of one while I'd been teaching. The thought of having to carry on longer than this was the breaking point for me.
So that's why I left. I'd given up eighteen years of my life without any real thanks, it was time to do something different. Next time, we'll look at the actual process of jumping ship in more detail. (Click here to go straight to that page.)