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Two teacher unions wed to become the National Education Union

18 Aug

On 1 September 2017, the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers joined to become one in holy matrimony, forming the National Education Union (NEU).  The purpose of such a move was to strengthen the hands of rank-and-file teachers following the systematic emasculation of both, the unions and local education authorities (LAs).  The teacher unions and LAs are strange bedfellows in that both have seen their powers weakened considerably with the creation of academies and free schools.   The NUT-ATL marriage is an attempt to change the state of play.

The NEU has brought together the majority of the 457,300 full-time equivalent teachers in England.   Some members have campaigned over recent years to unite all the teacher unions.  The creation of the NEU is the culmination of those attempts.

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‘NowTeach’ seeks to lure industrial compatriots into teaching

1 Jan

I        Teacher recruitment crisis

The number of teachers leaving the profession has increased by 11% over three years according to a report from the National Audit Office. The shortfall in teachers has been exacerbated by ministers failing to hit their recruitment targets for four consecutive years (despite a £700m annual bill for their efforts). More secondary school classes are being taught by teachers without relevant post-A-Level qualifications in their subjects – especially in physics.

When The Guardian did a straw poll of teachers, one told reporters, “With fewer teachers in certain subjects, some teachers have had to move over to a different department or straddle more than one. This can be a good thing if you have a brilliant teacher who can pick up a topic quickly but, more often than not, a teacher is being asked to slide into a different teaching area and offered no support.

“Maths is my subject and I know a great deal of Maths teachers without a degree. I am not saying this is the worst thing, but not having an A-level in Maths is certainly a problem for most of them. Those teachers tend to be the ones trotting out the same error-filled lessons and are understandably scared and insecure when confronted with their own lack of expertise.”

A headteacher said: “We now have a situation where it’s so hard to find a good head of department in certain subjects that if you promote someone to an assistant headship, for example, you have to ask them (sic) to continue doing their (sic) old job too. So someone might be a head of department and an assistant head and teach a 90% timetable. This is driving people out as it puts them under so much pressure.”

A member of the leadership team at another school remarked: “A shortage of teachers means that those higher up in the profession don’t have time to help less-qualified teachers. Students as well as teachers are being let down because of it.  When there’s an observation or a department is being inspected, your heart sinks because you know certain teachers aren’t going to be perceived as good enough.  This is especially the case when you have a supply or agency teacher in as they (sic) tend to get even less support.

“Inconsistency is, therefore, a big issue.  In certain subjects that are harder to recruit for, you might have 10-15 staff members of varying standards and levels of training and support. It’s probably true that none of them gets enough support.  I have waited more than six months to get feedback from a lesson observation by an assistant headteacher – by the time I got it, it was worse than useless.”

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Teacher-Workload Challenge: Review Groups’ Report to Government

9 Apr

On 31 March 2016, the three workload review groups commissioned by Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, released their reports.  Their findings and recommendations, which were accepted in full by Mrs Morgan, were as follows.

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Vacancies for governors and teachers

25 Aug

(1)       Governors

A survey commissioned by the National Governors’ Association (NGA) and carried out by the researchers of Bath University discovered that 67% of governing bodies found it difficult recruiting members.  Half of all chairs put in enormous time and effort to do so.  The schools most in need of knowledgeable and skilled governors found the greatest difficulty filling in their vacancies.   However, these schools expended the least energy and devoted little time to recruiting governors.   Continue reading

Teachers’ Performance Reviews – One Year On

3 Jan

I        Background and Context

The link between the performance management of headteachers and deputy headteachers in England and the salaries they receive has been in existence since 2000.   However, it was only in September 2013 that all teachers became the subjects of annual performance reviews linked to pay.  Performance reviews go by the name of appraisals in the business world. For the purpose of this article, I will stay with “performance reviews”.

Autumn 2014 saw the end of the first cycle.  During the term, governors formally reviewed how the system worked or didn’t.    The researchers are busily beavering away to assess the success of teachers’ performance linked with pay.  However, it would be apposite to make a few observations based on first-hand experiences and anecdotal evidence, and signal health warnings to improve the process for teachers, school managers and, most important, the children.

In the autumn of 2013, teachers were made aware of the fact that, for the first time, they would not receive increases if they simply performed satisfactorily – or, to use the Ofsted terminology – required improvement.   Previously, a salary increase was withheld only if a teacher was the subject of the capability procedure.

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What can governors do to address teacher workload?

3 Jan

Many governors are keen to create conducive working conditions that attract quality teachers into the profession and their schools to provide a first-class education for the pupils in it.  Conditions of employment that go towards achieving this noble objective include leadership that nurtures learning and creates a positive, happy atmosphere which motivates the workforce to take initiatives which, in turn, motives pupils to work well, make good (if not outstanding) progress and attain high standards  Central to this is securing a work-life balance for these teachers.

Accordingly, one of governors’ default responsibilities is securing the well-being of all staff, most especially teachers, albeit this duty is mainly exercised through the headteacher.   The problem is that there are a number of factors outside the control of governors such as constant legislative changes vis-à-vis the curriculum, testing and examinations, league tables and, of course, the pressures emanating from Ofsted, the watchdog.   These factors increase the stress levels for teachers.

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Proposal to establish Royal College of Teaching develops head of steam

3 Jan

The College of Teachers has been garnering support from the great and the good to establish a Royal College of Teaching.   In mid-December 2014, the Secretary of State, Nicky Morgan, announced that government funding could be made available to get the project off the ground. According to the College’s web-post, the Royal College will be founded on a revamped Royal Charter updated to reflect the needs of a modern fit-for-purpose chartered professional association.

In 2012, all three main political parties supported the Education Selection Committee’s recommendation to establish a College of Teaching which would enhance the profession’s standing in society.   Were such a college established and have the royal tag to it, the body would be charged with setting high standards of practice, require the members to follow a professional code of practice, act ethically and, (this will please Tristam Hunt, the Shadow Education Secretary) possibly require teachers to take a Hippocratic-style oath.   (At present, teachers are more inclined to vent their spleens with other oaths given the pressures placed on them.)

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