Thoughts from school teachers

Phillip Smith, secondary school English teacher and assistant head, West Midlands
The downgrading of BTecs in league tables affects us massively. As an early academy – we converted in 2009 – with a large intake from socially deprived areas, we’ve had a lot of success offering pupils a personalised curriculum. Gove says he wants teachers to offer a first-class education and be respected, but we’re being asked to do that in a climate of reduced budgets and in which pay and conditions are getting worse. the continual tinkering makes schools very unsettling places to be for teachers. Heads and teachers inevitably try to simplify what they’re doing to meet the latest criteria that Ofsted imposes, compromising their beliefs on what education is about.

Claire Smith, headteacher, St Werburgh’s primary school, Bristol
There’s an issue around primary places in Bristol; most schools are working with some quite challenging structural issues. We are thinking carefully about what the benefits and implications would be if we used the new freedoms being offered to schools by the government. As academies start setting their own terms and conditions, we’re going to see an awful lot of disparity between schools and areas. For children already in their teens, there’s going to be enough of the public-sector ethos left among teachers for the changes not to be too much of an issue, but I worry for the five- and six-year-olds who’ll be heading into their GCSE years in a system that’s been privatised for almost a decade.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of schools
We talk about problems and challenges, but actually I think these are exciting times in education at the moment.