School leaders are due to tell MPs that they have been scapegoated for Government failures during the pandemic instead of receiving praise for working on the front line during a time of national crisis.
Diana Ohene-Darko, an assistant headteacher and acting deputy headteacher at two London primary schools, will tell MPs on Wednesday that instead of being “hailed as heroes”, teachers had been “unfairly criticized to hide Government failure”.
Ms Ohene-Darko, who sits on the NAHT national committee, will call for the teaching profession to be “given back the credibility it deserves”.
“My colleagues and I are working against a backdrop of a lack of professional agency, autonomy and independence,” she will say in a parliamentary briefing attended by Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs.
“Instead of being hailed as heroes for working on the front line in recent times we have been unfairly criticized to hide Government failure.”
She is expected to point out that while recently she would have referred to herself as an aspiring headteacher, she now has to “reflect” on this.
“A decade-long, real-terms pay freeze, along with headteachers becoming scapegoats for Government failure during the pandemic, has meant that school leaders are thinking twice about progressing all the way to headship,” she will say, adding that some may even question staying in the profession at all.
MPs will hear how research published by NAHT last year showed that over half of school leaders who are not currently headteachers do not aspire to headship, compared with 40% in 2016.
Most leaders surveyed said that concerns about their personal wellbeing was the biggest factor in why they did not aspire to headship, and 93% said that the Government had not supported their wellbeing during the pandemic.
Ms Ohene-Darko will argue that vocational commitment in the pandemic “has been tested to breaking point”.
“It is time that our profession was given back the credibility it deserves, in line with other countries who have education on a pedestal,” she will say.
“It is time we were paid in line with inflation, year on year, to reflect the continued and sustained hard work of our profession.”
Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, who will lead the event, said: “When we said school leadership supply is teetering on the brink of collapse, we meant it, and the response that we have had to this report suggests many within the profession agree .
“Experienced teachers and leaders with decades of classroom and management experience do not view headship as an attractive, viable and sustainable career choice.
“Awareness of the spiraling mental health and well-being crisis amongst leaders, and failure to address falling real-terms pay has failed to provide incentive to step up and take on the responsibility of school leadership.
“The Government urgently needs to listen to school leaders’ experiences and concerns, which is why we are here in Westminster today. We thank those MPs who have attended our briefing event and urge them to use this information to push for change.”
The NAHT survey, of 2,047 school leaders in England between September and October last year, found that fewer than a third (29%) of middle leaders surveyed aspired to a more senior role in the future, with 36% indicating that senior leadership is not their goal.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are incredibly grateful for the efforts of teachers and school leaders over the course of the past 18 months, supporting their pupils through the challenges of the pandemic.
“We have taken a wide range of action to support leaders and ensure teacher development remains attractive and fulfilling. This includes a mental health support scheme for school leaders, investing £250 million in training opportunities, and committing to help reduce workload in the Education Staff Wellbeing Charter.”
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