We are damaging our students. It is time for change
The picture above illustrates the complex relationship between teachers and their employing politicians. On the surface, the politician smiles and asks for votes, while the teacher holds a banner to encourage students to stop bullying. However, the word “stop” is faded, symbolizing the lack of attention given to the issue. On the floor lies a broken banner, representing the way politicians have shifted the teaching agenda towards aggressive compliance. Behind closed doors, the politician has tied a rope around the teacher’s neck, pulling her face towards an open flame with ever-increasing demands for ever-decreasing pay. This reflects the current relationship between politicians and teachers, which is one of bullying, intimidation, and abuse. This dynamic is also echoed in the relationship between politicians and those in the health sector.
The NHS is in a state of crisis. Ten years ago, the Tory government implemented privatizing policies to the health service, creating artificially competing Trusts. This has failed to improve outcomes, as evidenced by record-high waiting times for ambulances and operations, the ever-deteriorating condition of people being seen by hospitals who had been unable to get doctors appointments in time, and a newly declining life expectancy.
Education has been subject to a policy of privatization in the form of artificially competing Academies. People with no teaching experience whatsoever are empowered to run these Academies, and schools that find themselves in poorly performing trusts have no legal means of leaving. Parents have no legal say in how their children are educated, and the outcomes are devastating. Children’s and teachers’ mental health are at the worst levels since records began, and record numbers of teachers are planning to leave the profession. Every teacher that leaves disrupts students’ education and results in significant and unproductive costs to train a replacement. Student engagement with their schooling is inadequate in five of the seven measured domains, with the lowest levels of interaction with staff averaging below 40%. This is a concerning situation that requires urgent attention.
The Common Thread
There is a common theme that runs through the government’s actions: they say one thing and do another. They promise to improve standards of health and education, yet they have decimated care in the community through underfunding and mismanagement. Doctors and hospitals are expected to take on the burden, while schools are subjected to fundamental changes to the system every few years, changes that are often untested and, in hindsight, largely ineffective.
The government expects more, but they are unwilling to pay for it. For example, teachers are expected to spend countless hours understanding, developing, and delivering new standards, yet the government refuses to fully fund any of them. Mental health provision has been drastically reduced, leaving schools to manage students’ mental health without proper training or support. The additional funding for such expectations has been woefully inadequate, with referrals to specialists taking up to 18 months.
For the last decade, the government has been insatiably demanding more, yet they have simultaneously cut schools’ real funding. This is a clear example of the government’s hypocrisy and disregard for the wellbeing of its citizens.
The Hypocrisy in Government
In public, the government claims to be improving standards, yet behind closed doors, their bullying actions are achieving the exact opposite. Funding is so inadequate that caretakers at schools are being advised to use foodbanks due to their inadequate wages. This is a form of abuse, and it has dire consequences. How can we expect our patients and students to be treated with dignity when their doctors, nurses, and teachers are stretched to and beyond their breaking point? This is why so many students have lost trust in their teachers.
The quality of health and teaching has plummeted, and this is not a feature, but a direct consequence of the introduction of a policy of underfunding and quasi-privatisation of public services. Profit should never be the primary motive when it comes to delivering public services.
It is time for a new, more effective approach to education. It is time for a change that will ensure our public services are adequately funded and our staff are treated with the respect they deserve.
If you enjoyed this article, you may enjoy my www.animating.vision website which brings to life a vision of the people we live with and the world we live in. And to see more of my Photo Art, check out the Photo Art gallery on www.animating.vision/art.
And if you are an artist seeking to influence the world, you may want to explore whether to incorporate the emerging genre of Morally-Explicit Art as part of your artistic expression.