December 9: Teachers and a loss of prestige

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WHO’D be a teacher? Clearly not enough people judging by the scale of the recruitment difficulties being reported by nearly 80 per cent of all schools according to the National Association of Head Teachers.

And who can blame teachers from walking away from this vocation, a labour of love, when they continue to be treated with scornful disdain by Ministers who have never worked in a classroom?

It should not be like this. Once respected by all, teachers now have to contend with a growing tide of insolence on the part of the youth of today while, at the same time, being denigrated by pontificating politicians if they miss targets or can’t keep pace with a school curriculum which appears to change on a weekly basis to suit the latest whims of the powers-that-be at the Department for Education and Skills.

Yet, unless the Government accepts that its policies are driving experienced teachers and lecturers away from a profession that they once loved and cherished, the vicious circle will only intensify, still further, because this shortage will inevitably lead to a further rise in class sizes – a scenario that is unlikely to hasten any discernible improvement in morale.

Of course pay is a contributory factor, and will remain so, until the Government can afford to relax its policy of wage restraint. But the biggest problem is morale – and the reluctance of teachers to work in under-performing schools where the challenges are at their most complex. And until Ministers and the teaching profession can come up with a way of tackling this conundrum, pupils will continue to suffer and be denied the world-class education to which they should be entitled.

How about the Government and teaching unions resolving to work together in the New Year on this issue? This would be a first. And a start...

Donald Trump’s gutter politics

IT SPEAKS volumes about the parlous state of American politics that a maverick like Donald Trump is amongst the front runners to be the next President of the United States when he holds such extreme views, not least his divisive call for all Muslims to be banned from entering the “land of the free”.

Yet what is so dispiriting is not that Mr Trump made this outburst – his campaign has been defined by crude outbursts that have sought to exploit deep divisions in American society – but that some polls record a perverse rise in support as each utterance becomes ever more outlandish. As such, it can only be hoped that this hate-filled speech galvanises the Republican movement into finding a credible contender to confront such gutter politics.

Perhaps it will take another Bush presidency – George W’s mild-mannered younger brother Jeb remains a candidate – to save the world from this outlandish firebrand winning the keys to the White House and the responsibility that this entails, whether it be military action against Daesh, the so-called Islamic State, or a diplomatic rapprochement with Russia.

Like so many Americans whose outlook on global affairs has become more insular, Mr Trump not only makes the mistake of tarnishing all Muslims for the barbaric actions of a tiny minority – David Cameron condemned this ignorant rhetoric as “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong” – but ignores the fact that the greatest threat to the freedom of the USA is the country’s liberal gun laws. If this is the best America can offer, the consequences for world peace are truly terrifying.

Teenage troubles: Standing up to cyber-bullies

peer PRESSURE has always made teenagers susceptible to social vices like cigarettes, drugs and alcohol. These issues, and their knock-on effects, are well-documented. Yet what is perturbing is that more than half of young people, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre, have been a victim of cyber-bullying.

Though this statistic reflects the extent to which young people use social media to communicate, it is disturbing that many are using this means to torment their contemporaries. Though schools did have the power to remove a bully from a class, there is no hiding place when a victim is receiving abusive messages in the privacy of their own home.

This survey has performed an invaluable role in highlighting the problem. However it will be a betrayal of each and every victim if the information is not used to devise strategies which encourages them to report the perpetrators of such abuse before it is too late. The time to act is now.