Twenty years of teaching…

I saw this advert today and it made me think of how things have changed in over twenty years of teaching (it’s 22 years since I completed my PGCSE but who’s counting?)  When I entered teaching there was little accountability and consequently teachers didn’t deal with data at all, no predictions, no targets, and no four levels of progress.

So what else has changed in twenty-two years of teaching?


I was fortunate to get a ‘golden hello’ for training to teach balanced science (which paid for me to buy a PC to play Doom on!)  There was strong competition for science teaching posts, quite the opposite of what we see now, although even then the biologists outnumbered the physicists and chemists.

Teaching styles.

When I entered teaching expectations of both teachers and learners were significantly different to those we have now.  I remember a lesson I taught during my PGCE where one of my mentors praised some notes that my students copied off the board.  Fast forward over twenty years and teaching methods have moved on to the point that copying notes has been left firmly in the past.  Instead, there is an expectation that students work as independently as possible with ALL students making progress.  There is far more attention paid to how students learn and to the sharing of strategies and new ideas.


The National Curriculum tests were the worry of every year 9 teacher, would you get the right students to level 5 (and would they go on to get a C!)  When I started teaching we gave predicted grades at A-level but GCSEs were prediction free.  Students didn’t have targets and they, and not the school or teachers, were held accountable for success/failure.  I’m sure many students didn’t reach their potential but at the same time schools weren’t judged or compared based on their GCSE success.


I remember my first inspection in 2001.  We had six weeks notice so were able to plan for the inspection (my lesson plans were written weeks before the inspection) and inspectors were in school for the whole week. Many more lessons were observed and the system was far less streamlined than now (the reports were extremely lengthy and reported on individual subjects as well as the school).


School funding has been through numerous cycles of boom and bust.  When we had a Labour government there was plenty of cash but much was spent on the National Strategies with questionable impact. Conservative governments always seem to cut fundings and salary increases have always been kept to a minimum.  Salaries haven’t increased an awful lot whilst teachers pension contributions continued to increase whilst the pay freeze was in effect.


I remember teaching a student nearly twenty years ago who kept forgetting his swimming kit. Threats were ineffective so a girl’s swimming costume was found for him to wear instead.  Unfortunately, it didn’t have the desired effect (he loved the attention) but attitudes have changed for the better in the meantime.  We are now more inclusive and equality a feature of most schools but the existence of schemes like Stonewall School Champions would suggest they have a way to go.


There have been so many changes – social media, the rise and fall of the GTC, and several iterations of the National Curriculum.  Teaching may have been more fun years ago, but I prefer the professionalism that we have now.

What changes do you remember over the last 20 years?