Northern Ireland news

Teachers being turned into`soulless robots'

Avril Hall Callaghan, UTU general secretary, said teachers were facing their biggest crisis in a generation

TEACHERS are being turned into "soulless robots", a major gathering of teachers has been told.

Meeting for their annual conference in Newcastle, Co Down, members of the Ulster Teachers' Union (UTU) said they feared "pointless" paperwork and "fatuous" form-filling were stifling creativity and driving the best candidates from the profession.

Issues raised included workload, violence by pupils against staff and special educational needs.

UTU general secretary Avril Hall Callaghan said parents were unaware of how serious the situation was facing teachers.

Teachers, she said, were being especially frustrated by the amount of paperwork demanded from them, before they even begin to teach.

"It's not what why they entered the vocation and it will lead to a crisis in the near future," she said.

"We see the recruitment crisis in England where schools are so short-staffed that children's education has to be entrusted to under-qualified staff. Left to fester, the haemorraging from our own profession will soon be as bad."

Dungannon principal David Thompson, incoming president of the UTU said growing numbers in the profession were becoming increasingly demoralised.

"I am seeing good people become more and more stressed because they can't meet the ridiculous standards expected of them," he said.

"Because of the stress they face daily teachers are turning into soulless robots. They no longer have the chance to be the individual teacher they aspired to be when they first came into the profession.

"Children should be able to lead the learning and the teacher should have the time to facilitate that through a variety of creative approaches. But enthusiasm is fast diminishing and moral is at an all-time low.

"There's so much paperwork involved and increasingly you find yourself asking, is it all beneficial to the child? The answer is no."

This year, computer based tests in maths and English for primary school pupils were ended.

About 24,000 children took the NI Numeracy Assessment (NINA) and NI Literacy Assessment (NILA) tests in 2016/17. However, 17,000 pupils who took maths tests last year initially received lower scores than they achieved.

"For successive years the data from these tests was flawed and had to be re-done - even this year, the year they were suddenly withdrawn, they had to be re-marked due to errors," Mr Thompson said.

"They were given such high priority yet suddenly the Department of Education no longer seems to need them even though they have taken up thousands of hours of teachers’ time over the years. It makes you wonder was there ever any point to them - we didn't think so as we are more than capable of assessing reading and numeracy standards without flawed computer-based, time-consuming testing.

"We live in a data-driven age but it must not be at the expense of what really matters."

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