TEACHERS in Kirklees are working in a climate of fear.
Headteachers in particular are counting down the hours to Wednesday afternoon.
If they reach this point in the week without a call from Ofsted, they can relax, as they know the Government inspectors will not be in school that week.
Several Huddersfield headteachers have spoken off the record about the increasing pressures being placed on teaching staff and school leaders by Education Secretary Michael Gove and his sweeping education reforms.
However, they have been reluctant to speak publicly about their concerns. Now one of the teaching union leaders has spoken out on their behalf.
Joanne Bailey-Taylor, Kirklees negotiating secretary for the NASUWT (National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers UK) has voiced her worries over the “fear factor” operating within some Kirklees schools.
NASUWT is the UK’s largest teaching union with over 2,000 members in Kirklees.
She said: “Headteachers are under pressure. They are dragging themselves on to Wednesday afternoon, constantly waiting for a call. If they don’t get one by then, they won’t be inspected by Ofsted before Monday.
“As a trade union, we are aware of the pressures on heads from Ofsted which is creating anxiety and demands on schools. There is a climate of fear.”
She claimed that two of the causes are the lack of middle ground in Ofsted reports since the 3 category was changed from ‘Satisfactory’ to ‘Requires Improvement’, and the Government’s drive to convert schools to academies – a move opposed by all the teaching unions.
Ms Bailey-Taylor said: “Within Kirklees we have managed to maintain some stability. The trade unions, schools and local authority see that schools do not need to run off and become an academy – strong local partnership works.
“We also see the system of state education being broken up and accountability being removed. Michael Gove came into power saying ‘We will have outstanding schools and others will wither on the vine.’
“Some of our vulnerable schools are looking to steady the ship, so they are jumping into becoming academies, instead of being pushed.
“Lepton is not a ‘Special Measures’ school. Because they got Ofsted at a bad moment, damage has been done, when what they needed was support and understanding.”
She added that there was a further issue occurring all over Kirklees where taxpayers’ assets, including land, were being transferred out of local authority control.
“Kirklees Council and taxpayers have invested heavily in creating learning environments. When a school seeks to convert to academy, vast amounts of money invested no longer have accountability.
“Land and assets are being transferred away from the local authority into the control of a handful of chair of governors. How can that be right?”
The trade union’s comments coincide with a national survey by Teachers Assurance which reveals that 76% of teachers believe that work-related stress is affecting their health, and over half say it is having a detrimental affect on their performance at work.