River Wissey Lovell Fuller

PMQs and the MOE

April 2002

The government are not answering the questions that the opposition are not asking

I think that Prime Minister's Question Time on a Wednesday afternoon is disgraceful. Visitors to this country probably cannot believe their ears. Questions that invariably never get answered in surroundings that sound like a cross between a bear-garden and a children's tea party; in fact that is insulting to children because adults should know how to behave.

Returning to the questions, it is bad enough that so many do not get answered, but it is even worse that some replies are purposely misleading. There was a question recently when the Prime Minister was asked about increasing the numbers of teachers in our schools. The answer was that the Ministry of Education's initiatives had resulted in so many thousand having been taken on. What the Prime Minister did not say was that even more thousands were leaving the education service. And why are they leaving?

I now get to the crux of this rambling article. Teachers are leaving in their droves for, mainly, all the same reasons. Their job has become more and more difficult over recent years. Paperwork has increased markedly and standards of discipline from some of the pupils have caused disruptions on a regular basis. There is very little that the teacher can do to counteract this otherwise irate parents suddenly appear and threaten to sue for verbal abuse. Likewise, many conniving pupils from ethnic backgrounds will latch on to the flimsiest of things to brand the teacher a racist. In short, the teacher has no protection and no support. He or she feels that there is an ever-present Sword of Damocles hanging over them just waiting for any small thing that can be misinterpreted. I do not make these points without some actual knowledge; a member of my family group who has been teaching for many years has finally decided that enough is enough and is retiring, much to her upset, well before her pensionable date. Teaching used to be enjoyable, I was told, but nowadays you fit in where you can.

Returning to PMQT, if the Opposition had been doing its job, it should have challenged the Prime Minister's misleading statement. Hopefully, they will eventually do that and ask what the government intends doing to improve the teacher's lot to a point where the profession is attractive enough for teachers to return. Of course, the main sufferers in all this are the honest hard-working children - the future for this country.

Graham Forster

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