I was interested in the recent headline from the Scotland on Sunday:
TEACHERS have been told that their “primary responsibility above all others” is the wellbeing of children, rather than teaching.The comments by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) have been met with disbelief and anger by parents’ groups and teachers, with one union leader saying they defied description.
In the convention’s submission to the McCormac Review into teaching pay and conditions, the authors wrote: “Teachers are part of the children’s services workforce. Their terms and conditions need to stress that a teacher’s primary responsibility above all others is the wellbeing of children within their care, and they have a duty to work in a collegiate way.”
Jim Docherty, depute general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA), branded the remarks “stupid”.
He told Scotland on Sunday: “Cosla is so far off the beam it does defy description. The role of a teacher is to teach.
I won’t get drawn into the rights and wrongs of the CoSLA submission to the McCormac Review into teachers’ pay and conditions and you could argue that its line of argument could have been more nuanced.
However, as a teacher (I still describe myself as that when anyone asks me what I do) I’ve always believed that the job entails so much more than just “teaching”. I’ve seen too many teachers throughout my career who were masters of their subject, had a grasp of pedagogy but couldn’t “teach” because the young people in their care knew that their teacher didn’t have an interest in them as human beings.
For me the care and welfare of the child must always be the priority. If a child comes to school unfed, sleep deprived and frightened due to domestic violence, unkempt because their parents are addicted to alcohol or drugs – then how can you expect them to learn? The best teachers – and we have so, so many of them in East Lothian do care about the whole child. They do work with colleagues in other services, they are sensitive about child protection issues, and above all they are committed to the well being of all of the children in their care. None of that means that they don’t care deeply about the teaching and learning process.
I’ve always subscribed to the principle of “in loco parentis” – when I teach I am in place of the parent. As a parent my prime concern is – always – the well being of my child. I expected nothing less from the teachers who taught my children – as its only from that foundation that any productive learning can take place. I expect nothing less from the teachers who work in East Lothian schools.
I’m surprised by the uproar that statement has caused as I would like to think that my job is much more than to teach science. I think perhaps it wasn’t expressed very well, and the context of the document it was stated in really didn’t help.
It’s such a shame that such critical discussions such as this are being dragged into a mud slinging match…
Our first duty as teachers has always been the care and welfare of our pupils. Without that respect and nurture, it’s very hard for children to learn and for teachers to teach. So it’s a great statement. I think it would be great to use for debate in our schools and authority, particularly in the upcoming ASN trainings. Honest debate would enable us to unpack the barriers to giving pupils the personal support that is so much a part of Curriculum for Excellence, but I fear is being forgotten in the current focus on Es and Os and Assessment/Moderation.