Assistant Head Teacher Resigns in Powerful Letter to U.Ks Education Secretary*
By Emily Apple
A primary school assistant head teacher has written a powerful resignation letter to Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, explaining why she believes current educational policy means she can no longer do her job.
Zoë Brown published the letter entitled “Sorry, Nicky, I’m Out” on her blog at the weekend. She says she writes with a “heavy heart” and that she wants to make the letter “as clear as possible”. She then states:
“ In the six short years I have been teaching your party has destroyed the Education system. Obliterated it. Ruined it. It is broken.”
Brown makes clear in her letter that it is not the number of hours that she has to work as a teacher – over 60 a week – as she regards teaching as being part of a “noble cause”. However, she also makes it clear that since 2010, her job has got harder every year.
The letter also illustrates that the introduction of SATs for 6 and 7 year olds and the changing of the tests for 10 and 11 year olds have led to a system where, as a teacher, she has no time to teach anything other than how to answer test questions:
“In some ways I don’t feel like a teacher at all anymore. I prepare children for tests and, if I’m honest, I do it quite well. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of as it’s not as if provided my class with any transferable, real life skills during the process. They’ve not enjoyed it, I’ve not enjoyed it but we’ve done it: and one thing my children know how to do is answer test questions. They’ve written raps about how to answer test questions, they’ve practised test questions at home and test questions in school, they’ve had extra tuition to help them understand the test questions. They can do test questions – they just haven’t had time to do anything else.”
“However, the most heartbreaking part of the letter is when Brown writes about the impact this system is having on the children she teaches:
“Worse than being a teacher in this system is being a child at the mercy of it and to them I say this: we tried our best to fight these changes: we rallied, we went on strike, we campaigned and made as much noise as we could. I’m sorry it didn’t work and I’m sorry that I’m not strong enough to keep working in this system but as I’ve told many of you many times: when someone is being mean to you – you ask them to stop. If they continue to be mean you walk away. It is now time for me to walk away. I’ll keep up the fight though.”
Lack of compassion:
This ministerial lack of compassion towards children seems to be prevalent throughout the governmental attitude towards schooling, and it was very much in evidence in an interview Schools Minister Nick Gibb gave about absences when a child has suffered a bereavement.
Speaking to the Today programme, Gibb claimed that whilst children should be allowed to take a day off for a funeral, this should be time limited:
“If it’s something like a funeral or something, then the head teacher would be able to give permission to attend the funeral, but not to have an extended holiday on the back of that funeral or other compassionate circumstances.”
In response to the interview Zoe Clark-Coates the CEO and founder of the Mariposa Trust – a charity which supports those who have experienced the death of a child – wrote an impassioned open letter in the Huffington Post stating:
“I can only presume you have never seen a child in grief to make such remarks, and that makes you a very blessed person.”
Clark-Coates implores the government to let families decide how much time a child needs off school and further writes:
“As a nation we are notoriously bad at dealing with death and grief, and the comments you made yesterday reinforced that. You are treating grief as a choice, something that can just be bottled up and put on a shelf to be dealt with in ‘non-term time’, however it’s simply not that easy. When death happens it can be earth shattering and everyone needs time…time to think, time to process and time to adjust.”
Having a government minister infer that children are taking an “extended holiday” after going to a funeral is, quite frankly, disgusting. Children must be allowed time to grieve in a way that is right for them, and parents should not feel pressurised into sending them back to school before they are ready.
No-one can criticise Zoë Brown for resigning. As she has pointed out, she has struggled with changes and fought them, but it has reached a point where she does not feel able to stay. However, we should all be concerned when committed and dedicated teachers – the type we should want to see educating our children – are being forced into this position.
There needs to be radical changes, and soon, before the education system is eroded and we are left with a generation of children who resent education and have not learned to love the acquisition of knowledge.