Pink Floyd - Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)

By Clive Cosgrove, Nottingham, UK
Isn't it strange how the meaning of a song can change and evolve over the course of your life?  Even though I really enjoyed school there was no way I wasn’t going to join in with the chanting of We Don’t Need No Education – it was quite fun but the sentiment expressed in the song was quite alien to me.  I wanted as much of it as I could possibly get.

If that makes me sound something of a swot I suppose it’s not entirely inaccurate.  After school a few years of university followed by teacher training saw me go back to school in an altogether different capacity.  Teaching back then was still generally respected – despite the Pink Floyd song. parents still generally sided with the institution rather than the child and, more importantly, the institution was on the side of both.

This year will be my last year as a teacher (but not the last before my retirement) and it is Another Brick in the Wall that will resonate as I leave the profession.  I simply don't need no education – not professionally, not anymore.  I’ve had enough.  I feel guilty – over a spectrum – but I need to leave for the sake of my health, both mental and physical.

Gove, I don’t need your education, your dark sarcasm (I’m part of a blob am I?) which seeps in to the classroom, your thought control over what and how I should teach. Hey Minister, leave us teachers alone!  As for the future - well, that like the past is another country. I don’t know what I will do next (I will probably do a Ken Barlow and work in a supermarket or something like that) but all I know is I have to get out.

Quite when the seeds were sown for the effective dismantling of education in the UK, I do not know but over the twenty odd years I have taught the changes, year in year out were perhaps subtle enough to mean that I may not have noticed the differences that each academic year brought with them. The job that I did has been gradually chipped away with, eroded little by little so that now, outside of the classroom, it bears little resemblance to that which I started all those years ago.

Moreover, education has been taken out of the hands of the educators and sold off – sometimes not even to the highest bidder - but it seems to the pals and gravy train acquaintances of those in power.  The deeds of thousands of schools have been blithely passed from the hands of local authorities to the sweaty paws of those wishing to make a fast buck out of something which, almost by definition, should not make a profit.  The only profits there should be in education are the tools and means with which we equip the pupils to lead successful, creative and independent-minded lives.

There will be a day of reckoning, when these firms go the way of their Swedish counterpart and tens of thousands of kids are left without education.  I might rouse a little dark sarcasm on that day.

How can a government be so negligent of an entire generation? Right here right now because in Michael Gove we have someone prepared to sacrifice lives for the sake of ideology.  Right here, right now because teachers are burdened with a workload much of which has little or nothing to do with education in real terms.  Right here, right now because teachers are judged by a heartless inspectorate (most of whom are employed by private companies, rather than Ofsted itself) more interested in squashing kids like square pegs in to round holes and judging teachers by how they entertain rather than teach and the kids how they actively engage (oh, FFS!) – as if they can be plugged in like light bulbs – rather than how they prefer to learn.

I look at the comments made by teachers in the letters pages of newspapers and on Facebook pages like Michael Gove Must Resign.  I genuinely feel sorry for those starting out in the profession now (over 20% of whom leave in their first few years – they weren’t brought up to put up with and endure such a gruelling Victorianesque working week).  As they set their targets, pore over their spreadsheets, and prepare for the ever-looming Ofsted inspection (not to mention often fighting against their workplace becoming an academy for no apparent reason) I wonder how they ever turn their minds to actually teaching with any spirit or vigour.

When did teachers become another brick in the wall?  I don’t know but let us just hope and imagine that one day the cement laid down so carefully by Michael Gove will crumble. 

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