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Between modern aversions to notions of ‘authority’ and the policing of public discourse, is it any surprise that teachers are finding it harder to be authoritative, asks Alka Sehgal Cuthbert in the Education Forum’s latest column for Teach Secondary magazine

If there’s one place in society where we’d want adults to be authority figures, you’d think it would be schools. Yet today, it seems that there’s an ambivalence, or even hostility to the idea of teachers acting in an authoritative manner, such that the job of educating is being made harder than ever.

Take two recent examples. Firstly, that of the teacher at Batley Grammar School who was deserted by his head, colleagues and union representatives when some parents and members of local Muslim groups – not all of whom even had children at the school – expressed offence at his showing of a cartoon depicting Mohammed in a RE lesson about tolerance and freedom of thought.

In the face of protests at the school gates, the head suspended the teacher (and later his two colleagues) before issuing an apology to those protesting. An investigation is ongoing while the teacher and his family remain in hiding.

The second example is that of Pimlico Academy, where students held protests over the school’s policies regarding its uniform, curriculum and flying of the national flag. The head, Daniel Smith, subsequently resigned, not long after NEU members at the school passed a vote of no confidence in him.

At first glance, both cases concerned a teacher or leader who had seemingly shown insufficient sensitivity to feelings centred around race or religion. Yet wherever you stand on the specifics involved, there are deeper issues at play here that don’t relate to racism or religious discrimination, but which serve to give both incidents, and others like them, their incendiary character. Those issues involve long-standing problems with teachers’ authority, and related failings of solidarity…

Read the full article on TeachWire.

The ‘racist’ uniform protests at Pimlico Academy have exposed teachers’ lack of authority, argues the Education Forum’s Gareth Sturdy in Spiked…

…why did matters escalate to a point where flags have been burned, police have been called, and the school stopped functioning and completely caved in? The reason is the steady ingress of the identitarian culture wars into schools, which distorts them away from education.

As spiked writer Alka Seghal-Cuthbert has commented, as adult authority in general is increasingly seen as negative, the role of the teacher has been transformed. This has emboldened pupils to challenge staff more routinely. It has also disoriented teachers themselves in relation to their job, so that they are much more likely to give ground to upstart kids.

Read the full article on Spiked.