As September draws ever closer my thoughts, like most of yours are turning to my school and my role within school. For my school and I this is something of a new beginning. After 23 years we have a new HT. I’m not worried about this in the slightest, our new HT has been carefully selected and trained by the outgoing HT and is more than capable of stepping in to his shoes. A colleague and I have become AHTs and we have no deputy. I love my role, working and dedicating my time to the very poorly children. I do my best to ensure they get the best deal they can from me as a teacher and from us as a school. I blog about it often enough for everyone to know how passionate I am about my school.
My worries are centred around the teaching profession in general and the people who direct us. I’m talking of course about Michael Gove, Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted and the ever moving goal posts in education. These are my thoughts.
Michael Gove occupies a good deal of my thinking time at the moment. I truly believe that he has the best interests of the children at heart. It seems as though he experienced a good education, was successful at school and has been successful ever since. He therefore seems to think that if children are taught in exactly the same way he was taught then they will learn and they will learn well. In some ways I agree with this sentiment. I was taught my times tables by rote. We chanted them out on a daily basis as a class group and we all learnt them. The HT would walk in to any class and bark out a question relating to times tables and by golly you had to know the answer or you were in trouble. A mix of rote learning and fear was the order of the day. Still to this day I can swiftly answer any times table related question immediately for fear of my old HT. I do wonder how much understanding there was of this type of learning. Rote learning is fine if you’re academic, not so great if you aren’t. This type of curriculum has me a little worried.
My next problem with Michael Gove is his apparent dislike of teachers. I can’t understand this one. As previously stated he enjoyed his education and has done very well from it. I assume therefore he must have liked his own teachers. What have we done that’s so wrong? Teachers work so hard to educate the Nation’s children. We generally work 50 plus hours a week and suffer constant criticism. I personally start at 7 30 a.m. and work straight through my lunch break. I stop to make an evening meal and then generally carry on until 8 30. That’s a 60 hour week and I’ve not mentioned weekends. We suffer never ending changes to the curriculum without too much fuss. We have experienced a pay freeze, a raid on our pensions, introduction of PRP and countless other things. We are now faced with losing some of our precious holiday time when we recharge our batteries ready for a new term. Admittedly there have been a couple of strikes but we aren’t exactly kicking up a major fuss just yet. All of these changes brings me to my next concern, Michael Wilshaw and Ofsted.
Sir Michael Wilshaw says that ‘strong leadership at every level is critical if England wants to have a world class education and skills system.’ (Nov ’12). He says that leadership in schools and in LAs is key to raising standards and ensuring a good education for all. I have no problem with this statement, in fact I totally agree. Should this strong leadership not also extend to the Ofsted leader himself then? Michael Wilshaw is very committed to education, I’ll concede that. My problem is that he keeps moving the goal posts. Teachers are struggling to keep up. Last year the definition of ‘satisfactory’ was changed to ‘requires improvement’. I agree that satisfactory is not good enough for our children, but to down grade to ‘requires improvement’ seems harsh. Changes to this year’s inspection regime include Pupil Premium recipients and those with SEN must have gained in their knowledge. Progress must be shown. Again, the sentiment is correct. If money is given to help these groups, there must be progress. But this isn’t always possible. Some of my very poorly children are in receipt of PP and can only make lateral progress. Lateral progress for these children is fantastic and should be celebrated but it doesn’t show progress. These are our most vulnerable children, money is helpful, of course it is, but it can’t guarantee success.
Data has also changed. Inspectors will use a range of data including RAISEonline, data dashboard, SATs and Key Stage results. This poses a problem for me as assessment leader. RAISE is not helpful for special schools and data dashboard does not exist for special schools. We rarely enter anyone for SATs so that leaves KS results. A further change for this year is the removal of levels. That leaves me with very little to show that our children have made progress. I shall of course continue to guide my school to use P Levels and NC levels to show how hard our children and staff work.
As we have a new HT we are very aware that we have an Ofsted visit due. My school and I have always had a good experience with Ofsted. Some of my finest teaching moments have been when an Inspector has been in the room. I have fond memories of our last inspection when the fabulous inspector was down on his hands and knees playing a maths game with a child with challenging behaviour. This is one aspect of Ofsted that I hope hasn’t changed, the human element.
In conclusion I believe that both Michaels want the best for our children. To achieve this could Michael Gove please stop this public show of dislike for the teaching profession. That would help enormously. Could Michael Wilshaw please refrain from moving the goal posts and give us time to get to grips with the latest framework. If both Michaels play nicely and we as a profession continue to work hard, we might then have an education system that we can be proud of.