Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The Push for Resilience Is Just a Way to Blame Teachers

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The Push for Resilience Is Just a Way to Blame Teachers

Article excerpt

It's not up to staff to bounce back from adversity: we must tackle the causes of their understandable distress

You may have noticed the word "resilience" being bandied about by Ofsted, employers and leadership teams over the past year or so. It's worth taking a closer look at the concept and how it is being applied to the teaching profession.

Teachers in further education are reporting high levels of stress, anxiety and disaffection, due to the relentless churn of policy changes, funding cuts, job insecurity and high-stakes accountability.

Such measures increase teachers' bureaucratic workloads and intensify the pressure to prove their effectiveness through intrusive monitoring systems such as lesson observations and learning reviews. Ofsted inspection is the accountability measure that has caused the most pressure and disquiet recently, with the process being perceived by many in the profession as punitive and inconsistent.

But instead of listening to teachers and working with them on the concerns they have and the challenges they face, lately the official response has been all about "resilience".

Self-help is no solution

The gist is that teachers need to toughen up in the face of changes and extra pressures. The problem, the proponents of resilience seem to suggest, lies with teachers themselves.

The solution is easy as far as they are concerned - teachers need to take responsibility for acquiring resiliency so that they can better cope with the challenges in their work. The assumption is that resiliency is simply a matter of self-help, and the significant difficulties experienced by teachers are ones that they, individually, have the ability to cope with if they could only acquire resiliency.

Resilience is defined by education authors Qing Gu and Christopher Day as the "capacity to continue to 'bounce back', to recover strengths or spirit quickly and efficiently in the face of adversity".

So what do FE teachers do that requires us to be resilient?

We work under increasingly pressured conditions, because of squeezed budgets and the expectation of meeting the complex needs of learners - which, more often than not, have been exacerbated by cuts to welfare and public services.

We keep up with the relentless pace of change in policy to meet accountability measures from external agencies. These require us not only to plan lessons for our subject specialism but also to embed maths, English and employability skills, to promote British values and prevent radicalisation, and to develop learners' character.

We pick up the roles and responsibilities of colleagues who leave or are made redundant, often without prior consultation. …

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