Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
Image of Hilary Wilce

The Quandary - 08 Jan 2009

As a teacher my wish for 2009 is for the Government to get off our backs. What do others want?

Hillary's Advice

I was confined to bed with flu over Christmas during which I spent a lot of time staring at the ceiling and contemplating of the current miserable state of education. The mess that is SATs, the uncertainty over diplomas, the huge number of children who leave school without even basic skills, and the sky-rocketing mental and physical health problems of today’s young people, were among the many depressing things that drifted through my mind and it left me sure, like you, that the one thing we now need more than anything else is for the Government to back off from schools and leave them alone.

During the course of last year I did some work for the Department of Children, Schools and Families and was shocked to my fingertips by the quality of the people I dealt with. E-mails were ignored or answered weeks after they should have been. Standards of grammar and literacy were hair-raising. And the left hand of this particular office with didn’t seem to have a clue about what its right hand was doing.

Yet these are the very people whose working life is dedicated to aiming a debilitating stream of targets, directives and paperwork at over-stretched teachers.

A decade ago there was a need for the Government to get a firmer grip on schools but those days have now gone. My wish for 2009 is that the Government – and everyone else – would realise that its main job should be to make sure classrooms are stocked with high-quality, well-trained, well-paid and well-supported teachers. And then to step back and let them get on with it.