Is There an Education Crisis in the U.K.?

Here is a direct quote from a friend that works in Education in the U.K.  She said,

I’ve been in question about the state of British kids’ behaviour

I think it’s a major problem – I’ve been doing supply work all over [but primary and now this week some secondary]

I find this trend [of behavioral problems by British kids] to be everywhere – even in so called high achieving schools – I had a class of boys that were extremely rude and disrespectful

I’ve kind of given up on teaching in UK due to the extreme workload on top of the behaviour issues.

It’s a shame – I’ve really enjoyed connecting with and encouraging some students on a one to one level

I think that’s my preference – small group or one to one

I actually feel quite saddened about it-but I don’t feel I can cope with the daily stress

It is pretty gut-wrenching to get a quote like this from a teacher because you can just feel the pain and hurt coming from those statements.  The feelings and anguish in her statement sounds all too familiar.  It is something that we constantly hear teachers expressing when talking about the challenges and difficulties of teaching in the modern era.  In general there’s a feeling that teachers are super humans who possess innate abilities to overcome any short-coming or challenge they are presented with in a classroom; but the reality is proving to be otherwise.  There seems to be an erosion of the structure of the classroom by forces outside the classroom and this is putting a lot of pain and stress on teachers.

We took the opportunity to sit down with this teacher in order to find out what the perceived issues are in classrooms across the U.K.  Our feeling is that there are lots of teachers who, are feeling like the integrity of classrooms is being eroded but, are too cautious to talk about it publicly.  We wanted to at least touch on the issues and hopefully start a conversation with other teachers; whether in the U.K. or in other places across the globe.  Feel free to share your story with us.

Here is a piece of the transcript from our interview:


Is this something you are comfortable talking about?  Would it be okay to put it on the site?


If I’m anonymous – yeah sure!  In the UK they struggle to retain teachers past 5 years of training.


…[that’s] interesting because I bet there are other teachers who are going through the same situation in [the UK]


The work conditions are awful – I had to quit my last job and switch to supply work because I couldn’t bear the 12 hour days plus taking work home every evening and weekend.  I was drowning.  It’s quite often for teachers to spend a lot of their first 2 years of training crying – both male and female trainees.


So what has your own experience been like? What [have] been the disciplinary problems you have encountered with British kids?


They see themselves as equals to adults.  In [the] UK children’s rights are very strong and the fears in the media, of child abuse etc., have allowed children to be elevated in their [expression of their] rights.


Isn’t that a good thing?


Though this is fantastic for the protection of children, it has however had a backlash on those who work with children- they [the children] are often so protected that discipline from adults is made less effective and sometimes useless.

Secondly, the kids of today are [becoming] the parents of [the] kids of tomorrow


An argument could be made that it’s better that the students be independent thinkers.  Can you give me an example of a situation or situations where student(s) behavior (as a result of them having more freedom in the classroom) made it less effective to teach discipline as a teacher?


Students know their rights.  …when you try the behaviour management strategies , sometimes it has no effect of they don’t fear/ respect their parents at home.  There are a lot of social issues stemming from home nowadays.  A lot of kids are living in single parent homes with major pressures and as a result a lot come to school with the wrong attitude even from age 5.  Then when you try to impose behaviour management on them that they don’t even get at home , it falls on deaf ears because they know there won’t be any further consequences on them.  Sometimes their parents will side with their kids rather than support the teacher, other times their parents will just smile and shrug helplessly.  Sometimes senior management will be the ones to smile and shrug as they don’t want to get rid of pupils that are systematically causing issues.  Schools have less power in effect as the govt places more pressure on them to retain the kids in school without expulsion [thereby] maximizing numbers attending school regardless of the impact on the teacher or other pupils.  In some classes, teachers can struggle to even get through 50% of the content of their lesson due to the behaviour of some little tyrants that are obstructing the learning for everyone else.  I even had a 7 yr old boy once, who’s aim was to completely have my attention 100% of the time and to hell with all the other kids until he got it.  He had come and left the school twice – had a very volatile home life and a very difficult mother for staff to deal with.  I feel really sorry for these kids but they will go on to produce [a] similar environment for their own kids and funny enough they are most likely to start their own family very young and be immature parents too.  The UK has a big social crisis – it’s not the former power of education as the world knew.


The reality is that good education is now a luxury – usually found in elite schools guarded off from the likes of the average family – more for those with status and money. I don’t blame those schools though because once the local council gets their paws on the school, they force them to accept any child within a geographical catchment area – regardless of their behaviour, background or family support.  That, in effect, drags down the reputation and success of the school[s] by placing added pressure on staff to have the struggling kids keep up to the standard of the more able and more privileged ones.  Education is very much a thing of class in the UK!

What do you think?


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