A student in my class attempted to assault me recently, and would have succeeded if others hadn’t restrained them and thrown them out into the hall. We locked the classroom door and the student stood outside, screaming threats.
I made a formal complaint to my manager, as did those who had helped calm the situation. But it was decided they wouldn’t be expelled, because that would mean we were unable to receive full funding for them.
At our school non-attendance, lack of effort in class, fighting and abusive behaviour are overlooked by senior management, as losing a student means losing money. My safety was worth less than securing the full payment for them completing the course.
We get an annual funding allocation from the Education Funding Agency (EFA) for the provision of 16–19 education. Each student who remains in learning to the planned end date of their study programme receives full EFA funding, while each student who is not retained only attracts 50% of the full funding. An institution where large numbers fail to complete their qualification will have a low retention rate, and so gets less funding in the future.
To keep student numbers high, individuals are accepted for the course even if they’re not up to the required standard to complete it. I’ve been told that all my pupils must be retained, and to achieve this teachers need to ensure students see out the year regardless of ability.
No matter why they might fail – non-attendance, lack of effort or any other circumstance outside my control – my spreadsheet still needs to show a pass grade at the end of the year. Senior management have said they don’t care if exam board rules are broken for this purpose, as long as it happens behind closed doors.
Teachers employ a variety of tactics. If a low-ability student submits plagiarised coursework, we pretend we haven’t noticed. If a student isn’t capable of doing their coursework, a teacher will sit beside them and give a level of help that contravenes exam board rules – then hide the evidence.
Sometimes, teachers write the answers and get the student to copy them in their own handwriting. In other cases, where a pupil hasn’t attended or can’t do any work at all, a teacher will “observe” the student demonstrating the required knowledge and write an observation statement, which is mostly lies. Deadlines are so flexible as to be virtually non-existent and work will be back-dated to look like it was submitted on time.
There is a sense of collective responsibility among school staff – we are the ones who can make sure the funding keeps coming. But there is also a sense of collective shame because we know we’re breaking exam board rules and avoid talking about it. There’s a strong feeling that we’re violating our professional integrity, but we have no choice if we want to keep our jobs and continue paying our bills. The excuse for all this is job security.
The situation has convinced me I need to leave teaching. More than anything, I feel ashamed that I am pushed to go against my ethics for financial reasons. I am teaching young people that they can achieve “success” no matter how little effort they make, and setting an example of lies and dishonesty. Losing my career will give me something much more valuable: self respect.
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