My 5 most infamous cases of teacher bashing
There’s been a fair resurgence of teacher bashing in recent weeks with people keen to find someone to blame for COVID 19 – obviously, it’s the teachers with their cushy holidays, 3.30 finishes and so on.
Efforts are now underway to use the age old trope of teachers being lazy, obstructive snowflakes to turn attention away from the lack of testing and seemingly shambolic “catch up” crisis management by the government during this epidemic. Looking at much of the comments on social media, particularly on newspaper feeds, it's working, with many coming to the conclusion that the only ones not pulling their weight are the teachers. This is despite the fact many are teaching full online timetables and others remain in schools, albeit with depleted student numbers, looking after vulnerable children.
Doug Marr kicked it all off with his “teachers are sat at home doing nothing” mantra writing in the Scottish Herald which I responded to here. The undertones have spread and “the blob”, Michael Gove's favourite phrase, has started to make a reappearance and Wilshaw was rolled out by BBC Newsnight to imply teachers don’t really do much work in normal times, never mind now. Anyway, all this inspired me to think about my 5 most infamous teacher bashing moments that I can recall. It’s always been a popular pastime for many, I doubt that’s going to change any time soon.
1. Michael Wilshaw - In May 2012, speaking at a headteacher conference, Sir Michael Wilshaw said that headteachers “don’t know what stress is”. Last month, he followed up by telling BBC Newsnight that “teachers should work over weekends, after school and during holiday periods” (as if teachers didn’t already do this) and talked of a “commitment” by government to “ensure” that happened. Wilshaw was a teacher and headteacher in the 80's and 90's - he missed much of the fun the government and OFSTED unleashed from the mid 90's onwards. He turned provider. Apparently, he still isn't finished. Michael Wilshaw – take your place in the gallery of those who have thrown tomatoes at the teachers from their ivory towers.
2. Bradley Simmons and Christopher Russel, OFSTED inspectors. In 2016, these two regional directors of OFSTED came out to denigrate the teachers of Knowsley and Swindon respectively. Bradley Simmons, proclaimed that Swindon’s children were “failed by its schools at every key stage”. Swinney’s blanket condemnation of all Swindon’s educators followed a similar announcement by Ofsted inspector, Christopher Russel, when he said of another deprived area, Knowsley, in Merseyside, that its teachers have: “Already failed a generation and they are set to do so for yet another generation". Of course, this kind of language has always been common from OFSTED, but this was particularly galling keeping in mind the immense challenge of teaching in some communities in the UK. I wrote about this at the time here.
3. Michael Gove the darling of the edu right and the comic villain of the edu left and pretty much everyone in between was the king of the teacher basher during his spell as education secretary. Notable moments include when he told teachers they were "ideologues happy with failure" following their opposition to the academies programme in 2012, when he called them the “enemies of promise” following an NASUWT and NEU strike action over pay and pension reform in 2013 or when he pushed performance related pay forward in 2014/15 making the lives of the average classroom teacher that little bit harder. On departing education, he went on to lead Britain into Brexit and betray Cameron, Johnson and practically anyone else he could to try and become party leader. I've never been a huge fan of Michael, can you tell?
4. Harry Cole, Brendan Carlin and Michael Powell for the Daily Mail. On 9th May 2020, these authors, writing for the Mail, headed a piece with “Ministers fear that 'The Blob' is colluding to sabotage the reopening of schools”. In the article, it claimed unions were instructing teachers to sabotage lessons if schools reopen and included “helpful” definitions of “the blob” for keen Daily Mail readers desperate for someone to blame for COVID 19. “The term harked back to a 1950s sci-fi film called The Blob about alien life-form that engulfs everything in its path.” added the authors. They then went on to warn against the “politicisation” of the crisis, which is quite ironic based on the framing of this particular piece. Here's a picture of Harry Cole staring adoringly at JRM.
5. Andrew Adonis. Adonis apparently decided to let rip on teachers as the COVID crisis reached its peak, firing out a number of tweets directed of a profession rising to meet the challenge.
In a rather self-important and bizarre tweet, he claimed that he’d written to Amanda Spielman to tell her how crap teachers were....
Like a WWE superstar, he tag teamed with one of our other bashers, Mikey W, to continue the onslaught...
He then went on a blocking spree against anyone and everyone who challenged him on all this – particularly the implication that a) teachers weren’t doing anything and b) teachers didn’t want to do anything.
Adonis has truly capped off a memorable list with his contributions.
Teachers have always been an easy target with their apparent laziness – always from people who have absolutely no idea what it’s really like to be a classroom teacher and particularly in the modern era. This isn’t going to change and I expect there will be more to come like the waves on the shore in the years to come. Teachers have done themselves proud during this period. They have done so much! They've taught and travelled and supported and listened and innovated. It's a shame more in the mainstream can't see it or acknowledge it, but I suppose it's easier to settle with "typical teachers".