School are sheer pressure cookers – there are no two ways about it – and that pressure is mounting.
Rising teacher workloads, shifting regulatory goalposts, soaring student mental health issues, and schools culling pupils to skew exam results – these are just some of the challenges and scandals faced by those working in education today.
Philip Hammond may have committed extra funds towards maths teaching in his Budget on Wednesday, but that barely scratches the surface of the problem.
As a teacher and ed-tech entrepreneur, I feel wholeheartedly that, as a nation, we don’t appreciate our teachers enough.
That this malaise shows up in schools is hardly surprising, but the net impact is nonetheless eye-opening. It’s worrying that 75 per cent of teachers say their workload has caused health problems, while 45 per cent find it impossible to achieve a healthy work-life balance.
These figures have resulted in an exodus of talented teachers from the industry. And it’s our future leaders – artists, coders, doctors, engineers, historians, et al – who stand to lose.
Good teachers have that rare ability to help students realise their potential and succeed in ways they didn’t know were possible.
But such relationships take time to build, and will not happen when students are faced with a revolving door of supply teachers.Hundreds of millions are spent on training new teachers every year. Last year alone, a whopping 35,000 teachers left the profession for reasons other than retirement. This is a false economy.
A mere £91,000 was spent last year on trying to improve teacher retention issues. More money should be invested in retention.
One of the key areas for this should involve ed-tech. Many of these tools are dedicated to minimising the administrative workload of teachers, giving them back their teaching superpowers.
While teaching in Hammersmith and Fulham, I realised the extent to which teachers around me were stressed and overworked. The technology in place was dated and unintuitive.
In a bid to tackle this, I built a piece of software called Show My Homework.
It provides transparency with all homework details and deadlines, and gives pupils the option to submit homework online. Teachers can also efficiently provide grades and comments through an array of platforms.
Since our launch five years ago, we now support 35 per cent of secondary schools in the UK.
However, many schools are still lagging in ed-tech, and school leaders need help to put in place a successful digital plan for their schools.
Teachers can never, ever be replaced. But they can be supported by technology that takes the “robot out of the human” and allows the creative humanity of teachers to flourish.
It’s time that the government sat up and paid more attention to the role of technology in retaining teachers, while championing a pioneering sector.
£ Naimish Gohil is chief executive and founder of ed-tech business Satchel.