Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Secondary vs Primary... Building trust

Today I  had a meeting at our secondary school to discuss how we can all work together to ensure that progress made in primary schools can be effectively built on in secondary.

Having just attended the ASE Professional learning conference, my head was still spinning with the wealth of ideas and questions that it raised.

Imagine my disappointment to be told that baseline testing for science might be reintroduced as the children come up with, "... hugely inflated levels..."


I totally get the accountability thing- it happens across all phases, every teacher is accountable for the progress made by the children, so accurate assessments are essential- over inflated levels are a headache for the next teacher. I'm really glad that levels have been abolished as this SHOULD get over that. (85% end of KS2 to reach expectations whatever they turn out to be might not be quite such a great thing; time will tell !)

BUT (excuse the irony) assessment is not and never will be an exact science. It is a professional judgement. Made on the basis of the experience and professionalism of the teacher.

How are we ever going to get over this? A through system from 3 to 18 perhaps?

There are some schools now with this age range; perhaps the  "Y7 dip" doesn't happen in these schools? Perhaps there is better understanding between the phases, and perhaps expectations are more consistent? Perhaps...perhaps...perhaps...

I don't have a solution, but what do have is the determination to break down barriers and misconceptions between primary and secondary. We are all in this for the benefit of the children .

I have volunteered myself to be observed by as many of the secondary teachers as they like, not to show "model lessons" but to see exactly what goes on, our expectations, the high standards achievable.  It's not "them and us" .

Bring it on. I have the bit firmly between my teeth, and like Rikki-Tikki-Tavi I am not prepared to let this one go.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Teacher recruitment and retention...Where do we go from here?

I was lucky to be able to attend the recent ASE Professional Learning conference at the University of Hertfordshire.

An incredible line up of speakers which included Professor Shirley Simon, Brian Cartwright HMI, Professor Jonathan Osborne and Sir Andrew Carter had been organised for the attendees and much conversation was generated as a result.

One of the recurring themes was the difficulties  ITT providers are having recruiting their full allocation of trainees.  One of the particular shortage areas was for chemistry graduates (Teach First and PGCE/School Direct at Reading)

A possible solution to this was suggested- to attract more graduates, why not give them greater opportunities to continue their research work ...

This made me wonder why this wasn't available to ALL teachers from ALL phases at ANY stage of their career.  When I did a little reading up of this, I found that Sir Michael Wilshaw had actually suggested this ( see here ) as far back as 2011 (!) However, I don't know any teachers who have been afforded this opportunity.  Perhaps if sabbaticals were available, fewer teachers would be leaving as a reult of exhaustion / burn out. (Teacher drop out stats here  and here)

So, perhaps one way of keeping teachers in the classroom for longer would be to give opportunities for teachers to have time away from their post (no one would expect to be paid for this; that would be too much to ask, but for the job to be held for them shouldn't be too much of a problem, surely?) to carry out research, try something new...

I can see the arguments that school leaders would immediately throw this way:
 All our best teachers will go
What if they don't come back?
What if others want to go too?

BUT how about looking at it a different way... Take on newer (cheaper) teachers, teachers will come back with new skills/enthusiam/ renewed energy...  Perhaps something that could be offered once teachers had been in post for (say) four years with a commitment to returning at the end or giving  an extended notice period to enable schools to find a replacement?

Sir Andrew Carter (review here ) spoke at length about ITT and made all sorts of suggestions such as all schools should be involved with ITT in order to be classed as good or better, and that the whole organisation of schools should be looked at. (A possible model suggested was a class of 60 with one teacher with QTS, a couple of TAs and a couple of trainee teachers- much intake of breath when this was muted in front of a lecture hall mostly of science teachers trying to imagine practical science with that number!)

The facts are clear; fewer graduates are entering ITT, greater numbers than ever are leaving the profession. ( April 2015 Guardian ) It might not yet be a crisis, but it will be if something is not done sooner than later.

Some ideas (non exhaustive!) - Comments welcomed:

1. Offer a guaranteed CPD programme that goes beyond the NQT year - put the money into school budgets which are already squeezed.

2. Ensure that ITT gives an excellent grounding in behaviour management, SEND provisions, Assessment, pedagogy and subject knowledge and plenty of opportunities for trainees to meet with practicing teachers (and for  schools with mentors to be properly funded in order for them to have the time to spend with the trainees)

3. Stop media bashing of the profession

4. Bring back protection for teachers with UPS to facilitate movement  (many pay policies make explicit that teachers will not be taken on beyond M6 regardless of experience which disadvantages those with UPS as they have to take a pay cut when moving)

5. Ensure teachers get at least a cost of living enhancement each year ( 2015 budget )

6. Get rid of Ofsted (OK, I know that wont happen. There ARE changes to the system and there is a list of myths to help schools understand the requirements ( here ) but there are so many inconsistencies that this remains a HUGE concern to schools.

Bottom line, teaching IS a great job. Working with children is a tremendous privilege.  Recognise the dedication , commitment and professionalism of the teaching force.

Endangered can be turned around...

"What office is there which involves more responsibility, which requires more qualifications , and which ought, therefore, to be more honorable than teaching?"
Harriet Martineau.