Policing Teachers’ Private Lives

This post was written by Reuben on January 24, 2011
Posted Under: Education

The Metro today reports a surge in cases in which teachers have been punished or disciplined over their private behaviour. Teachers’ union the NASUWT have hit out at the impact of the General Teaching Council’s code of conduct, which came into effect in 2009 and which demands that teachers “standards of behaviour both inside and outside school that are appropriate given their membership of an important and responsible profession”.

According to the union teachers have been disciplined for such things as attending gay pride, wearing fetish wear, or for facebook photographs showing them drunk or in skimpy attire. In such a situation it is necessary to defend the ,limits of the working day, to reassert that employees sell their labour power, not themselves to their employers. The predicament facing teachers is, it must be said, part of a broader attack on the autonomy of public service professionals that began under New Labour. As the government became increasingly obsessed with managing the behaviour of the people, public servants came to be treated not simply as professionals providing public services, but increasingly, as exemplars of the new model citizen. This blog has reported before on the nurses who were banned from smoking in their unforms, even outside of working hours, and the public sector workers forced to survive on the kind of super-healthy rations that even Jamie Oliver would deem over the top. Quite simply, the authorities got into the habit of treating public sector employees like human billboards.

Yet the attack on teachers’ personal autonomy a threat, not only to workers’ rights, but also to the quality of education. The educational welfare of kids is unlikely to be effected by whether their teachers get drunk, at the weekend, or go to fetish clubs or whatever. Yet they will lose out young, intelligent people who might otherwise join the profession are put off  by such unnecessary controls. The situation for teachers is compounded by the vetting and barring scheme, under which teachers cann effectively be banned for life for all manner of non-criminal behaviours, and perhaps more worryingly, by the rise and rise of  privately sponsored academies. Last year a teacher ended up in trouble after the conservative Christian charity sponsoring her Academy caught site of facebook pictures in which she was, shockingly, wearing a bikini.

Teachers can do a great deal of good for their students, beyond simply instructing them in their subjects. Yet to start treating teachers like quasi-parents is neither fair to them, nor conducive to strengthening our system of education.

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To contact Reuben email reuben@thethirdestate.net


Reader Comments

David M

Was reading about similar debates they had in France in the early twentieth century about teachers and other civil servants being allowed or not allowed to join trade unions. Similar arguments seem relevant in this debate, about the extent to which teachers’ non-working lives is related to their work, and by implication, the state.

A well argued post btw.

Written By David M on January 24th, 2011 @ 10:54 pm

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