Archive | April, 2014

All of us remember inspirational teachers – or do we?

24 Apr

I           Why Teach?

It is rarely the case that young people and mature folk decide to become teachers because of the monetary rewards.  Most do so to create a positive impact on future generations of youths and leave a permanent legacy. This is what attract recruits to the Teach First programme.   Jane, in George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman, must have been talking with tongue-in-cheek when she told Bob, who lamented that he was discouraged by his writing teacher who told him his novel was hopeless: “Those who can do; those who can’t teach!”

While teachers are quite well remunerated in this country, the teaching profession, per se is poorly rewarded.    Teachers work long hours.  Their salaries are not in line with those in the financial sector.   A survey carried out by the DfE in 2013 revealed that, on average, a primary teacher worked for 59 hours and 20 minutes every week and the average secondary teacher for almost 56 hours.  The 13 weeks’ holiday a year for which they are pilloried is well-deserved.  Continue reading

The Benefits and Pitfalls of Performance Management Pay

24 Apr

On the 27 March 2014, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) called on its members to take strike action against the government’s measures to increase pension contributions, raise the retirement age and institute performance pay.  (Performance management has been running for the last 14 years.) The response of the public was muted, to say the least.   Parents of pupils sent home because of absent teachers, like Queen Victoria, were not amused about having to take time off work to care of their wards.   Over the Easter holidays, 2014, the NUT and NASUWT have been sounding the war drums again and aim to strike again in June.

However, performance pay seems to be here to stay, albeit it has yet to be embedded.   According to right-leaning Policy Exchange, a think tank, performance-related pay would drive up standards.  Notwithstanding, it had a caveat stating that this would have little impact unless schools grasped the nettle of making “difficult decisions” and not give salary increments to those teachers that were deemed “satisfactory” in old English and required improvement in Ofsted’s new terminology.   Continue reading

Governors from industry add value to schools

24 Apr

(1)       Education’s secret garden is opened to industry

The business world has been quick off the mark to describe the shortcomings in maintained schools.   In its report, First Steps: a new approach to schools, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) heralds its approach by quoting Plutarch, “The correct analogy for the mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting.”Industrialists have, with some justification, moaned about how we, in schools, fail to prepare our young people for the world of work.   It is always good, strategically, to ask someone who grumbles about the darkness to light a little candle.  This is precisely what the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and his minister for education, Lord Andrew Adonis, did when they invited industrialists to sponsor academies which were to replace failing schools.

Accordingly, the picture changed quite radically, when, at the turn of the millennium leading businessmen like Lord Harris were invited to come into the education circle and spit out rather than stay outside and spit in.    Since then, the business community has assisted in sponsoring the creation of academies when failing schools were closed. They have also helped in other ways, i.e. providing career advice and offering work experience to students.

Headteachers and currently serving school governors have been swift to realise how invaluable industrialists can be.  They have energetically been recruiting governors from local firms, businesses and the arts.  By so doing, they have been able to harness much-needed industrial skills to benefit schools.  People from industry bring new perspectives – especially when it comes to making the curriculum relevant to the world of work.  They expand the horizons of headteachers and teachers and, often directly influence in myriad ways, occasionally transforming what transpires in lessons.   It is also not unknown for co-opted community governors from industry to encourage their colleagues to spend time in the classrooms to hear children read and talk about their own careers, so as to shape the futures of our children.   Continue reading

National Funding for schools to change in 2015-16

24 Apr

The government has acknowledged that the current school funding system is unfair and must change.  It has, at last, decided to take action to address sins of omission and commission.     The disparity in secondary pupil funding from one authority (possibly in an inner-city area) to another (probably in a shire county) can be as much as £3,000 per annum.

As part of the change, additional funds will be made available to the least fairly funded local authorities.  Funding will be allocated on “the actual characteristics of a local authority’s pupils and schools rather than simply their historical levels of spending.  However, no local authority of school will receive less funding as a result, states the consultation paper issued by the Department of Education, for which stakeholders are invited to comment by 30 April 2014.  (See here.) Continue reading

Details of changes in assessment unfold

24 Apr

(1)       The Early Years

The government announced at the end of March 2014 that it would be introducing tests for four-year-old in 2016.   The baseline assessment will be taken at “the earliest possible point in school”, thought to be the first term of reception when most children are four. Schools will be able to choose from a number of approved assessments.

Proposals to rank pupils by decile – i.e. telling parents where precisely their children were at – the top, middling or bottom 10 per cent — have been dropped following widespread opposition.

If a school uses the baseline tests it will be judged on the progress its pupils make from the age of four to 11. Continue reading

Can governors work as a team and capitalise on their talents?

24 Apr

I           The What and the How

Most people are now familiar about what the role of the school governing body is – i.e. to devise a strategy for the school and keep it on track, promote accountability and act as the school’s critical friend.   These three functions must have a direct impact on educational quality and be reflected in the progress and achievements of the pupils.  However, what proves to be much more challenging is how to bring a disparate group of members together and make them work as a team to ensure that the “what” of governance can be achieved in the best interests of the pupils of the school.  Continue reading

How important is vocational education?

24 Apr

The National Curriculum will change from September 2014.  A notable feature is that it is a much slimmer document than the one set by previous government.   The focus will be on the acquisition of knowledge.

In mathematics, children will be expected to know their tables and all about fractions.  They will be required to take the subject up to the age of 18. In English, there will be a much greater concentration on phonics, grammar and punctuation.   There will also a requirement for pupils to imbibe scientific knowledge across all the key stages.  In design/technology, pupils will be exposed to various aspects of technology, including robotic, computer aided design and coding.

Schools will be expected to prepare for the new curriculum in ways that they think best. No more will government take an active part in “rolling out” as they famously appear to be have done in the past – their ways of delivering the curriculum.  The mandarins in the DfE have stressed that government will not dictate the How – only the basic What.   Even in regard to the latter, it will be up to schools to expand this slimmed down curriculum to embrace learning in an holistic form.

What appears to be absent from the discourse is the inclusion of vocational education, the Cinderella of the curriculum. Continue reading