Education policies have forced us out, school heads complain

05 May 2017

andoverandvillages.co.uk

THE head teacher of a C of E primary school in Hampshire has quit the profession, along with her husband, the deputy head, citing their disillusionment with current education policy.

Alex Foggo and her husband Peter announced their intended resignation in a letter to parents of pupils at Longparish C of E Primary School in the diocese of Winchester, last week.

“Unfortunately, we find that current education policy is in such profound opposition to what we fundamentally believe in, in terms of child welfare and development, as to make our continued work in teaching untenable,” their letter reads.

“This is not a decision that we have taken lightly, but one that we feel has been forced upon us. Increasingly we have found ourselves having to implement policy with which we fundamentally disagree.”

The couple write that Government plans for more grammar schools, requiring pupils to take vigorous 11-plus examinations, was putting an unnecessary mental strain on young children. The Prime Minister told MPs last year that the Government would offer up to £50 million a year to support the expansion of existing “good” or “outstanding” grammar schools, on the understanding that they select pupils of all backgrounds.

The couple say that their own enthusiasm for teaching has been squashed irrevocably as a result. “The excitement, creativity and wonder that we came into teaching to nurture and encourage have been largely driven out by the rote learning of facts. Combined with this is the increased stress and potential for mental-health issues that we see resulting from the pressure placed on young children by these tests.”

Other criticisms in the letter include changes to primary-level assessments, and recent alterations to the curriculum, as well as the current squeeze on school budgets. An education research group, the Education Policy Institute estimated last month that all state schools in England are facing an overall budget cut under the Government’s new funding formula (News, 17 March).

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“The freezing of school budgets, which have meant significant cuts in real terms, have left school leaders with often impossible choices to make,” Mr and Mrs Foggo write. “Which staff do you make redundant? Which subjects do you cut? Which child with an identified special educational need do you select to stop receiving support? These are not decisions that we believe are in the educational or developmental interests of children, nor should school leaders have to be making them in what is one of the wealthiest nations in the world.”

Data published this month by the National Foundation for Educational Research indicates that, while more than 90 per cent of head teachers remain in the profession until retirement, retention rates of primary head teachers had fallen — from 94 per cent in 2012 to 92 per cent in 2015. Secondary head-teacher retention rates fell from 91 to 87 per cent in this time.

The diocesan director of education for Winchester, Jeff Williams, said on Wednesday: “While the Foggos’ leadership at Longparish Primary will be greatly missed, our priority for the rest of this academic year, before their departure, will now be to put new arrangements in place to ensure continuity in the children’s learning.

“Alex and Peter Foggo have been dedicated servants to the teaching profession and we are hugely grateful for their commitment to education and to our church schools. We wish them well.”

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