Dear Mr Hunt,
Thank you for taking the time to read this month’s #blogsync’s contributions. I’m sure you’re a very busy man with plenty of other things to do.
I read your proposal about teacher licenses with dismay and this particular sentence caused me some discomfort.
‘If you’re not a motivated teacher- passionate about your subject, passionate about being in the classroom- then you shouldn’t really be in this profession’. (Tristram Hunt ’14)
I believe that I am incredibly passionate about my role. I work the hardest I can possibly do for the poorly children I’m entrusted to educate. I regularly work over 60 hours a week and I keep myself bang up to date with current initiatives, new technology and general professional development. I have a degree, a PGCE, a Middle Leader’s qualification and also a Masters Degree in Inclusion and SEN. Does that not show passion and commitment? I’m sure it does. I agree that some teachers may be in the wrong job but these are few and far between. Thanks to recent policies we now have the means to remove under performing teachers. Licensing teachers will just be another hurdle for hard working teachers. As for your concerns about CPD I have a suggestion. Why not make professional development a statutory number of hours and stipulate what you would like us to cover. At the moment there are 5 Inset days and some schools do not use these to the best advantage. Other professions such as Medicine and Optometrists follow this model and it is satisfactory for them. It could work for teachers too.
Moving on from teacher licenses I would like to briefly mention linking Performance Management to pay. This is something I’m rather unsure about. It is not so simple as looking at children’s achievements and deciding if a teacher is successful or not. Teaching in a leafy suburb is not the same as teaching on a sprawling housing estate. Teachers who work in poverty stricken areas deserve to be applauded and rewarded with extra pay. Theirs is a very difficult role and given the starting point of some of the children progress is difficult to achieve. Sink schools will be created with this policy if we are not wary.
Lesson observations are something that is causing teachers a great deal of stress at the moment. I know this would not be your remit but the stress is all stemming from Ofsted. I am not proposing to disband Ofsted at all. I am of the opinion that we should be accountable for our actions and if Ofsted is your chosen body then so be it. However I say that with a caveat. Would it be possible to regulate Ofsted itself? At the moment there are worrying stories of lead inspectors not following Michael Wilshaw’s direction. This is utterly wrong and causes school leaders to follow policies which have not originated from Mr Wilshaw. One of these is lesson observations. Some leaders are entrenched in looking for a particular style of lesson and seeing rapid progress within 20 minutes. Mr Wilshaw himself has stipulated that this is not the case. There is no particular style. In my school observations are agreed against a set criteria and the feedback conversations are supportive. No stress involved. This is the way it should be. At the moment some lead inspectors are waging a punitive campaign and it is ruining education. By regulating Ofsted you would be helping the teachers enormously.
I would also like to mention the curriculum. Would it be possible for us to be allowed to embed the new curriculum in September before there are calls to change it? As teachers we spend a great deal of time planning the curriculum. Long term plans are set for 3 years and as you know are ultimately aimed at external accreditation. At the moment this is all a very grey area. In Primary school we do our best to plan for children embarking on a secondary school curriculum and taking exams at 16 years of age. The exams are constantly changing which makes planning the curriculum something of a minefield as we have no idea what we are aiming towards. It would be helpful to have an established curriculum leading to an established exam system if possible.
I would also like to ask you to please try supporting us. Be our hero! Goodness only knows we need one. Make us want to please you. As a profession we are tired of battling Mr Gove. We are feeling disheartened and demoralised. We would like someone who believes in us and accepts that we want the best education for the children in this country. Please don’t be yet another Minister who lays the blame for all the ills of society at the door of the teachers. This is your chance to get the teachers on side. You probably aren’t too interested if we’re on side or not but like everyone else we work better when we are happy and appreciated. At the moment we are neither.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.