It’s rare that everyone is completely content with the way UK schools are being run. Whether it’s disgruntled teenagers, concerned parents, or overworked staff members, someone will always have a complaint to make against a school. Are UK education institutions doing enough to appease the naysayers?
Teachers are among the most hardworking individuals in the UK, but even many of them would freely admit that serious flaws are embedded within schools nationwide. There are tensions over many matters in the education arena. Few people are ever satisfied their concerns are being addressed.
With the education sector in so much strife, only one question remains worth answering; how can schools be fundamentally improved?
The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills plays a crucial role in education. Most people know this organisation by their shorthand name, Ofsted. They carry out inspection reports on any institution that’s charged with protecting and educating children; children and families services, residential holiday schemes for disabled children, childminders and childcare providers, colleges, and of course, schools.
Consequently, their efficiency is vital. Ofsted try to hold schools accountable for their failures while also shining a light on their successes. However, because they’re so important to the functionality of schools, people expect thorough investigations and robust results from Ofsted. Are they impervious to criticism here?
Staggeringly, Ofsted itself has admitted some schools they deemed ‘outstanding’ are actually not that good, leading many to question their procedures and ethics. Additionally, in May 2018, a recorded 296 schools had not been inspected by Ofsted for 10 years or more. It doesn’t stop there, with 28% of headteachers surveyed openly admitting that Ofsted inspections did not lead to improvements in their school. Certainly, this isn’t good enough. Ofsted need to be held accountable for these lacklustre practices and reach more schools with better feedback. Only then can the institutions make improvements.
Of course, the many instances of overworked teachers have been well documented and publicised by now. Teachers across the UK are burnt out, phoning in off sick or quitting entirely when the stress starts bombarding them. Obviously, this is deeply concerning. Teaching is supposed to be a passion, a reason to get up every day and pass on knowledge, wisdom and skills.
When somebody doesn’t want to do their job, or can’t do their job, numerous complications are bound to arise. Can replacements be found? Are staff taking too many days off? Is the quality of their teaching suffering alongside their wellbeing? Higher pay, shorter hours and extra support would no doubt facilitate improvements here. With teachers voicing their concerns in bigger numbers than ever before, schools should simply listen and act. Through that dialogue, improvements can undoubtedly be made.
Of course, it’s not just teachers that suffer. As discussions around mental health circulate in the media, many children are becoming more courageous in seeking help for their problems. Unfortunately, many schools are left to pay for their mental health services themselves, which puts strain on their budgets. It’s extremely tough for them to organise and fund so many moving parts to their institutions and ensure that every pupil feels heard.
Many such schools have detailed the ‘significant challenges’ they face in meeting these mental health needs, with lengthy referral processes and delays in pupils accessing school support services being among the key causes of concern for them. Pupil bereavement often comes out of nowhere, and sometimes those same pupils don’t receive help for weeks or months after they ask for it.
However, things could be improved here through more counsellors being recruited, and more mental health facilities being put into practice. Additionally, if parents became more aware of their children’s struggles, they could put them into specialist care or therapy, which may alleviate at least some of the pressure on schools. Ultimately though, more funding and resources are needed for schools to meet the demand.
School can feel like a very rigid, hollow and overbearing environment. Timetables bring structure, teachers enforce rules and strict dress codes, buildings are devoid of personality or warmth. Perhaps school should be a very formal and straightforward environment, but when pupils feel intimidated or like they don’t belong, these influences don’t do much to help them ease into their talents.
One way of solving these kinds of issues is to offer up more vocational subjects for pupils to engage with. Additionally, further clubs and after school activities could be implemented to ensure that schools offer something for everyone. When pupils feel like they’re enriching their lives and actively pursuing their more productive interests, schools will find that all aspects of their institution will improve.
I'm a freelance copywriter with an undergraduate degree in English Literature. I've written for many different outlets, including but not limited to marketing agencies, graduate recruitment websites, and online training companies. I've even interviewed a few famous actors for student and arts blogs too! Covering a wide span of material has been incredibly rewarding, as I get to turn my experiences in the arts, education and careers into helpful advice. I sincerely hope you'll find something to your liking here!