How can churches support teachers in their congregations?
Churches can be aware of the enormous pressures on teachers, and at least be tolerant of their reluctance to work in church organisations. I preach sometimes, always to congregations who've chosen to attend. If I ever preach twice on a Sunday people say I must be tired. Most teachers teach five or six lessons every working day to young people, many of whom don't want to be there. More positively, churches can regard their teachers as a special kind of missionary, from whom they want to hear, and for whom they pray.
Does the ACT have a view on performance related pay?
There's a lot to be said for rewarding teachers who are good in the classroom and encouraging them to stay there, rather than moving away from children into management. I have three concerns at least. Firstly, money is presented as the main motivation for good teaching. When we say it isn't we're not saying that money doesn't matter. Secondly, the decision over who earns extra pay invites conflict between headteachers and staff. That's a particular problem in the intimate environments of small primary schools. Thirdly, PRP could increase the causes of dissatisfaction that make people give up teaching. As with inspection, there will probably be initial evidence of school improvement, but over time it becomes one more reason for people to leave the profession. There is a very ominous and massive teacher shortage in prospect. People don't have to teach.
Is teaching more stressful today than in the past? If so, why?
There are some fundamental causes of stress. Teachers have to love being with 35 children for hours on end. They have to overrule children's desires so as to move them through the National Curriculum. And you've never finished; every waking moment can be spent on preparation and marking, and worries about coping, let alone improving, can break your sleep. There is now the ever- changing mountain of paperwork, and the constant sense of being watched, monitored, not being trusted. My daughter-in-law left primary teaching after five years and now polices Luton at night. She's much happier.
Are Christian teachers less active in school CUs today?
If so it's because teachers' workloads since 1988 have squeezed them out of all extra-curricular activities. Nevertheless, CUs continue to flourish, and dedicated Christian teachers manage to help them sometimes. Of course, identification with CUs isn't the whole story. ACT believes that the historic redemptive acts of Jesus Christ have changed the possibilities for the world and its people in relation to their Creator, and that change affects the basis of education; education is, after all, preparation for the future in God's world and beyond.
Are there more or fewer Christian RE teachers today than ten years ago?
I don't know if anyone knows the answer to that. RE teachers are less likely now to pretend to be Christians if they're not. Certainly Christian RE teachers have had to adjust to their legal duty to teach positively about other faiths. Some of the most successful teachers of modern RE are evangelical Christians. I hope that Christians will enter and stay in RE teaching. It's a tough job, but there are major opportunities for Christian professional service.
What is ACT's stance over the likely repeal of Section 28?
We don't believe Section 28 hinders good school policies on bullying and inclusive sex education. We wouldn't have chosen it's present wording if we'd been asked, but repealing it would send unfortunate signals. Victims of homophobic abuse and bullying are not necessarily gay; they may simply not be promiscuously heterosexual, so to rush in 'support' for their 'orientation' is not helpful. Male homosexual practice carries exceptional health risks, and we want that made clear to young people. Furthermore, a Biblical view of sexual intercourse emphasises that it is the union of differences in one humanity. An exclusive preference for your own sex is worthy of inquiry, and the possibility that its origins are traumatic should be mentionable in schools. The Government's guidelines in place of Section 28 were commendable, but they were something of a fig-leaf.