Shoddy journalism at teacher’s weekly headlining lie about knives

One teacher’s report makes the headline.

From reader stewartb:

Is TES Scotland now aspiring to tabloid journalism?

The TES has just published an article with this headline: “Revealed: why some Scottish teachers want to quit: Pupils bringing in knives, and being expected to be ‘surrogate mum’ or ‘bouncer’, are some of the reasons, survey finds”


The TES article is based on the results of an online, self-selecting survey commissioned by the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee. It was commissioned specifically to inform an upcoming inquiry on Initial Teacher Training (ITE) and on recruiting/training new teachers. The survey results have just been reported by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe). 


Notably the TES article appears to ignore this purpose and any survey’s findings on the subject of recruitment/training/ITE completely: it focuses only on (the unrepresentative) reasons given by some individuals for quitting the profession.

Before going into any more detail its worth noting this from the SPICe report: “… it is not possible to know how well the views expressed in the questionnaire reflect the population. Members (i.e. MSPs) should be cautious about using the results of the questionnaire to draw conclusions about the views of all individuals who are taking part in, or who have recently completed, ITE in Scotland.”

By the way, the survey reveals that of 653 responses: 62% indicate that they intend to stay in the profession for over 10 years; a further 8% said they will continue teaching for between 5 and 10 years; (just) 7% indicate that they anticipate to continue teaching for 1-5 years and 3% of respondents indicated they had left or would not be joining the profession. It takes ‘ingenuity’ to construct the above TES headline out of a survey that shows such positive commitment to remain in the profession. 

The evidence used by the TES seems to come from responses to just one survey question. SPICe explains: one “… question from the 2019 / 20 survey focuses on retention, looking at the reasoning behind some new teachers indicating that they do not envisage teaching long term. The majority of respondents did not answer this question. 160 out of 653 respondents answered this question. These comments are therefore not representative of the respondents to the questionnaire as a whole.” As the following shows, this is putting it mildly!

Sprinkled amongst its negative tale about teaching in Scotland, the TES highlights particular experiences – on the face of it some pretty damning ones. Let’s examine some examples and look at the evidence in the SPICe report that merits their amplification and headlining by the TES:

knives brought to schools – a search reveals this was raised by one respondent (but it’s in the TES headline!)
– teachers threatened – raised by one respondent (actually the same one as the above)
– teachers experiencing violence/teachers attacked – ‘violence’ raised by three respondents including one who refers (remarkably) to “daily extreme violence”  and two refer to ‘attacks’
– teachers as ’surrogate mum” – raised by one respondent (and whatever happened to being ‘in loco parentis’ anyway?)
– having to act as a ‘bouncer’ – referred to by one respondent (but it’s in the TES headline!)
– funding school resources from own pocket – referred to by one respondent
– teachers experiencing ‘racism’ – referred to by two respondents
– teachers experience ‘hate crime’ – referred to by one respondent.

It is appropriate here to acknowledge that some teachers no doubt have bad experiences in there workplace: the intention here is NOT to minimise the seriousness of such experiences. However, is it unreasonable to expect a journalist in a publication like the TES to provide context?

So what could the TES have chosen to report from the survey results? Well, in addition to 70% of respondents committed to remain in the teaching profession for at least five more years, there is this:

– on student placements during ITE, 71% of 626 respondents considered the experience “good” or “very good”

– on professional mentoring during ITE, of the 627 responses on this 75% considered the support “good” or “very good”

– rating of support received (or been received) in the probationary year, 74% considered the support “good” or “very good”.

If the wider teaching profession and the general public in Scotland cannot even get fair, balanced and contextualised reporting on educational matters from a supposed ‘expert’ source like the TES then heaven help the future of the important debates to be had on our national education system and on the never ending challenge for its continuous improvement.

One thought on “Shoddy journalism at teacher’s weekly headlining lie about knives

  1. I entered the teaching profession in 1970 and every year until I retired in 2009, there were similar stories relating to teachers ‘having had enough’. Many of these originated in self-selecting ‘surveys’ by the teacher unions.

    Almost all children (‘almost all’ is Her Majesty’s Inspectors’ term meaning at least 95%) across Scotland conduct themselves appropriately almost all the time and always have done. Almost all of the incidents of misconduct are resolved by the class teacher or other staff.

    Horror accounts like this are usually a precursor to negotiations about pay and conditions or, when there are questions about dealing with incompetent teachers (who are relatively few and markedly fewer than when I entered teaching) or about the general issue of accountability.

    In some schools, mainly, but not exclusively, because of mainly socio-economic circumstances, there is a greater proportion of children presenting seriously disruptive problems and these schools do need additional resourcing to deal with the issue. However, the ethos within some schools, is such that it is a cause of disruptive behaviour. Although disruptive behaviour is a serious matter another matter, fairly well known for many years by some teachers, are the ‘silent sitters’. These are young people, often fairly able and competent and well-behaved, who find the experience of school so uninteresting that they simply withdraw into themselves in the expectation that they will not be noticed by teachers, especially if the latter are focussed on dealing with misconduct.

    Liked by 1 person

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