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The Pressure On Teachers In The UK And Its Effects

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In this essay I will address the pressure that teachers are under everyday due to wide range of factors, which include the National Curriculum, OFSTED, League Tables and the impact it has on the teachers and the school. The National Curriculum was created as the 1988 Education Reform Act came into place, according to Gov (2017) the national curriculum consists of both core and foundation subjects. The Education Reform Act was introduced to give back power to schools, however the real reason was to remove power from the Local Education Authorities (LEA’s) and schools in order to give power to the secretary of state. In this sense, The act took away a public service and turned it into a business, something that the Conservative government had been wanting to do for a long time. Pupils in schools now were seen as market value.

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Through this the birth of the National Curriculum takes place. The National Curriculum is a standardized set of subjects used in both primary and high schools, this was introduced so that all children would have the same level of learning as everyone else at all bases of their learning journey. In addition to this, key stages and targets were introduced by the government through this teachers now had a duty to ensure that children were achieving these targets and stages by any means. The National Curriculum has huge impacts on the teachers that have to implement this strategy, most teachers do 30-35 hour weeks but because of the need to live up to certain expectations within the school and the national department, 22 hours a week out of their working week have to be dedicated to core curriculum subjects, such as maths, english and science. The rigid structure of the school day did not allow educators to make a choice about when and where they work, this would inevitably affect their home life and lead to more pressure and stress in both personal and work life.

This also stops the teachers from being as creative as they would like to be. Ofsted also play a huge part on putting pressure on teachers by requiring schools to demonstrate that they are meeting the national time expectations for the core and foundation subjects. In contrast to the findings, the curriculum is now a very important part of the education system in the UK. The national curriculum does allow all students to receive the same education and can assist when children move to different schools around the UK and be able to study the same thing they were doing in their previous school. The National Curriculum is fluid and dynamic in the sense it changes as our society changes, one of the biggest changes was the introduction of the subject Citizenship. According to Bilbao et al. (2008) subjects such as citizenship, religion and history was giving children an all round total learning experience, however this was not just constrained in the walls of a school but in our society too. The National Curriculum could take credit in passing on culture, preparing children for the world of employment once they leave school and giving the child that platform to make whatever they want of their lives once their educational journey is over.

Teacher’s in the modern era often carry heavy workloads and it is affecting them mentally, socially and physically. The constant pressure from external sources ie. OFSTED and headteachers, our teachers are driven to meet deadlines. In direct result of this, the love for being an educator immediately leaves the teacher and more teachers become dissatisfied with their occupation they initially had so much love for. When an individual is under excessive pressure, the weight on their shoulders can be at the very least bearable if they know they have control of one of three things this is choice, control or time limit. In the case of the teachers they have none of these things which almost makes the workload unbearable. The constant focus on examinations and testing which comes through league tables and SATs, leads to teachers strictly just teaching children to pass the test instead of imparting valuable knowledge upon them so they can fully understand the concept of why and what they are doing and again does not allow the teacher to have any flexibility in the job at all. Webb, R (2006) implies that teaching to the test has gone over and beyond in primary schools, this would often lead to the teacher focusing on numeracy, literacy and science which in relation to this leads to the negative effects on the other subjects.

Teaching to the test is when teachers organise and set up their lessons around a particular questions that have been seen on tests. The classroom lacks creativity due to the constant pressure of having to make sure children achieve the set standards before anything, this can then subsequently lead to a teacher being dissatisfied in their job. Hayes (2006) discusses that creativity can be used in every subject including maths, English and science, however due to time restraints and the pressure to having top exam or test results, is it really possible to implement creativity as well as achieve all this? In direct relation to this children are often seen to take negative views on school and how they find school boring in the midst of teachers becoming so entangled and subscribed to teaching to the test it can also have negative results as students begin to disengage and behaviour comes into the picture simply because the children are bored and by misbehaving this gives them that little bit of freedom, this directly then affects the teacher and once again leads to the teacher having to deal with the behavioural matter as well as follow certain guidelines in order to keep a school at a maintained level.

The impact that OFSTED have on teachers and schools is so great that many schools often have mock OFSTED inspections where the head of departments or even the headteacher may come into the class and observe in a similar way to an OFSTED one. This is to prepare the teacher for the inspection and can often leave the teacher stressed and under pressure as it is like the teachers are preparing for their own examination. Every week OFSTED carry out hundreds of inspections throughout England. OFSTED is the office for standards in education, children services and skills, their goal is to make sure that all learners achieve excellence in education and skills for learners of all ages. The Guardian (2014) outlines the work teachers do compared to other occupations and found that teachers are doing the most unpaid overtime work than any other. The Health and Safety Executive (2016) explores the idea that work related stress can have issues not only on the teachers but also have a negative effect on the children they are educating. Half a million workers in the year 2015/16 were suffering from work related stress such as anxiety and depression, this is just a little statistic on how much stress and pressure our teachers are put under. Bloom’s (1976) mastery learning theory model, suggested that all children can achieve certain levels if they were given enough time what was meant by this was allowing children to grow on their own and learn in their own due time and not by the government making the assumption that all children should be ready for certain stages at certain ages.

Bloom (1976) advocated for the fact that the children needed to be provided with quality teaching and instruction to achieve these different levels of education. This supports the fact that teachers should be allowed to be creative and take their time with these children as they can all achieve the same goals just perhaps at different stages in their young lives. This then leads me on to the idea that the reason children may grow and learn at different stages is due to the idea that there may be different type of learners within a class. Howard Gardner (1993) proposed the multiple intelligence learning theory through this he became of the opinion that children have 8 different possible ways they can be intelligent. Gardner (1993) believed the traditional way of trying to use the one glove fits all approach too limited and did not offer any other explanation as to why children could be smart or intelligence in one way and not the other and supported the fact that different children have different strengths. The eight different intelligences were, logical/mathematical intelligence this was the idea that some children may be able to sort out problems or equations in a logical sense. The others were, spatial intelligence, linguistic intelligence, Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, musical intelligence and interpersonal intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence and naturalist intelligence.

To conclude, through thorough research it can be seen that our teachers in the UK are under immense pressure and stress to achieve ‘educational excellence’ for their pupils but at what cost? The role of the teacher is to impart knowledge onto their student and for that student to be able to regurgitate that information when necessary. What we are seeing is teachers teaching to the test which is confining their creativity and this is all for a school not to receive a bad reputation and leads back to the fact that schools are being run like business, league tables are used as prospectus’ for future attendees. Surveillance in schools is getting bigger and bigger, with this the autonomous nature of teaching is almost completely disappearing. The National Curriculum has both its positive and negative impact on teachers in the fact that when perhaps a new student comes into the school from a different area in England they will be starting where they left off which can be seen as a positive thing. In contrast to this the workload put on teachers through the National Curriculum is so heavy that it affects both physical and mental health.

22 hours of the 30-35 hours they work a week is spent on the core subjects, maths, English and science, so where does this leave the students who perhaps may be music intelligent or have bodily-kinesthetic intelligence? This is why it is important for teachers to be dynamic in their teaching so they can cover all bases of learning and for their students too. The government should make amendments in this sense if they will not comprehend or take on board Gardner (1993) multiple intelligence theory then at the very least they should take into consideration Bloom’s (1976) mastery learning theory model and understand that children will learn but they should not be rushed as they will all learn when they are ready, provided they have a teacher providing quality instruction and teaching.

01 February 2021

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