Teaching in a tough school: ‘Kids are angry. I am, too’

At the end of my first day, I was shocked. I had failed to get any of the three groups I was starting with to the point where any learning could take place. I started to wonder if I’d made a mistake. 

The results had not improved enough in 2018 for the academy sponsors and they put the pressure on the head, who left halfway through the year as a result of the stress of trying to improve a school where you can’t staff lessons. 

With a change of management, the decision was made to re-timetable the school to prioritise year 11. Everyone was teaching more. It was for the good of year 11s.

Who could argue with that? SLT picked up the teaching of core subjects and were overworked. Staff sickness and cover was impossibly high.

But it is not the school’s fault. The staff who work there are exhausted, working longer hours, marking more and managing significant emotional labour that is not experienced in more affluent schools. 

If the government is serious about wanting to improve failing schools and close the poverty gap, we need a much more radical and strategic approach to funding, recruitment, retention and working conditions in our most challenging schools.