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Sunday, 23 November 2014

Maybe Gove was right? Why we do need to change (but not the way he wanted).

Before I start I just want to set my stall out. I have a very strong dislike for the changes that Mr Gove enforced on education. I wouldn't go as far as to say I hate them, because I like to reserve that phrase for things that deserve hatred. 

However he has done a huge amount of damage to the English schools system (in my opinion) and unfortunate I can not see schools reversing away from his changes at all. In fact it does look as if it will get much worse before it plateaus. The current hot topic of debate is the whole teachers workload shtick. With some conservative estimates putting our number of hours at around the 50 hour mark with many clocking up a much higher number. Unfortunately for all Miss Morgan has said about wanting to work with teachers and help reduce workload, honestly I don't see that being something that will happen under this or any government. The changes have gone far to far in one direction.

This is not a woe is me I am an unhappy overworked teacher post. I am just putting out there where we are at as a profession (when people actually treat us as professionals that is). I know the private sector can rack up a lot more hours than we can and I appreciate that we do have long holidays and I also get that other areas of civil service are facing a much tougher time (NHS anyone?). 

I could sit here and justify why we need longer holidays and stress to you the issues with teaching (in fact I started and deleted several sentences to that end). What does that benefit? Other than maybe to set my mood for the rest of the day - mostly dreading Monday. 

Yet I love my job. 

Seriously.

For a long time I didn't and I will be honest about that. There are still things about teaching I strongly dislike however on the whole I don't know what else I would do with my life (professionally).

However I do feel that teaching is no longer a long-term career choice. I have no designs on management or SLT in my career. I am perfectly happy to be a classroom teacher, that is what I enjoy, the teaching. The interaction with learners and sharing with them science. However I can't see myself doing this in my 50's let alone into my 70's. 

As ever I am digressing though. The point of all this spiel was to illustrate that there are obviously things in our education system that are not quite right. However the way in which the changes that have been implemented have come about is to be honest shocking. 

And totally not for the benefit of the students in the classroom.

That's my first issue. For all this rubbish about how many hours we work, the amount of marking we do and how our pay should be linked to performance. Well I say fine, do it smash us, absolutely lambaste us and destroy us in the press. Go for it, seriously burn all the teachers in the land out (its not like any of us are registered voters after all). Do you worst. 

But show me how that is benefiting the children we teach.

Honestly. Show me and show the world how children are getting a good deal out of this. After all they have no say in this. What benefit do 16 year olds have in their GCSE grades dropping? Why do students who can already read have to use phonics when it is shown to actually damage their ability? How good is a teacher going to be if they are stressed out and tired all the time? And for the love of all that is holy will someone tell me how OFSTED are supposed to be helping in all this?

An OFSTED inspector earns over £64k a year and many of them do consulting as a side line. Actually consulting is too kind a word. What seems to happen is they go into a school, claim everything is rubbish, go into the school repeatedly always nit picking and criticizing (so that there is always a reason to re-hire them naturally) and then when the school gets rated and and some minor improvement is noted they claim the credit. Even though there must be an obvious conflict of interest? How can someone who is supposed to be impartial when judging a school be paid by other schools to help them raise standards/pass an OFSTED inspection?

Actually the whole system of OFSTED, to me, is flawed.

Here is a better approach (in my mind) don't care about them. Stop putting OFSTED first, have the conviction in your own pedagogy and abilities to know that what you do is for the best interest of your classes. Surely if you are doing what is right for those students you teach, whether academically or pastorally then OFSTED can't say you are doing a bad job?

Oh they can? Because your results aren't good enough? Why are results the be all end all? BTECS have been diminished due to the way people used them to cut the books and boost performance. Coursework is being reduced for the same reason so now we are going back to judging children on memory tests. 

WHAT!?

How does a system from a different era reflect today's job market and the skill sets needed? In an age where information is instantaneously accessible from almost anywhere on the planet why does a memory test get to determine how well you did at school? It makes no sense. Yes I appreciate that another system would be hard to implement, but that does not mean the one that you used while at school is best. The world has changed so much and the needs, in terms of employers, are so different now.

With regard OFSTED I would seriously stop all the changes to what is judged to be good teaching. I would decouple teaching from learning so they are viewed as two separate things. I would actually disband OFSTED totally. Instead I would go to a jury service type system. 

This would entail teachers from schools in similar areas to the ones about to be inspected being taken from their schools to observe and comment on the school they are viewing in a 'best practice' and 'things that could be improved' type of way. This would be paid from by the salaries of the previous OFSTED inspectors (hotels for the teachers and cover for their schools). It would fit in the model of professionalism because we now have peers assessing each other, always with the mandate that it is supportive and from a classroom perspective. Naturally the odd HOD would be needed to look at how departments are run and the whole 'inspection' could be overseen by a headteacher. If there is a need to have some 'outsider' present then I am sure some form of a HMI person could lead it but I don't think that is necessary. 

Instead of messing about with education etc the government could then put their efforts into creating jobs that are attractive to the next generation of school leavers. This would then give the students goals to aim for. While we are at it they could also look at shortening the British working week as we work some of the longest around. After all working more doesn't mean working better. Instead people should be actively encouraged to spend time with their families - not just watching crap TV. As we all know that parental investment in student learning is one of the biggest factors in a child's education. Especially in their formative years. Its not like their isn't enough research in this area.

Actually this is one of my big issues with the changes made, the government seems to be wary of actual research by actual academics...

It would also be nice if the revamping of curricula was designed with the world to come in mind. Rather than it being a hark back to the 20th century it should be looking forward to the world the students will be living in - though that is another point entirely.

Alas I feel I am beginning to rant. Which is not constructive at all. The education system is fundamentally flawed in many aspects. However the changes made by the government have only highlighted (for me) the flaws in the system while shifting the mood to a blame the teacher culture.

Surely we need to move back to a student-centric model. Where we are looking at what their needs are and trying to constantly do our best for those we teach. The pressure should be on the government and the families to prepare their children for school and support them during their education and then to provide a country in which they want to be contributing members. 

Surely that is better and more constructive than just pointing a finger and getting into a fight?

However I still think OFSTED has to go!

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