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Andria Zafirakou, Alperton Community School, bags the Global Teacher Award

20 Apr

I        Ms Zafirakou’s pedagogic journey and achievements

The Global Teacher Prize in 2018 was won by Ms Andria Zafirakou, an art and textile teacher at Alperton Community School in the London Borough of Brent.  She was deemed to be the best – having been pitted against 30,000 entrants from 173 countries.

The odds were stacked against her succeeding, but Andria defied them. Working as an art and textiles teacher and member of the senior leadership team, she was tasked with earning the trust of her pupils and their families and understanding the complex lives they led.  She redesigned the curriculum across all subjects from scratch – carefully working alongside other teachers – to have it resonate with her pupils. She helped a music teacher launch a Somali school choir and created alternative timetables to allow girls–only sports that would not offend conservative communities, leading the girls’ cricket team to win the McKenzie Cup.

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Teacher shortage, which threatens educational provision, set to worsen

20 Apr

I        The realities

It’s official. We are in the midst of a teacher shortage.  The situation is bleak. The future is likely to be even bleaker.  Research by the Times Educational Supplement (6 April 2018) has revealed that we will need 47,000 extra high school teachers by 2024 – i.e. 22.5% more than we have at present – to educate the increasing number of pupils coming through the system, owing the primary bulge working its way through into the secondary sector.

The primary sector is better placed. From a low of 196,400 teachers in 2010, the number increased to 222,300 in 2016, the most recent figure available.   This teacher increase has kept pace with the rise in pupil numbers from 3,947,450 in 2009 to 4,479,325 in 2016.  The primary population has stabilised and is likely to remain as it is in the years to come, but who can predict demographic shifts or whether the nation can become more amorous.  Also, to get to the 2005 pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) of 20.1 the nation will have to add another 8,000 teachers by 2024 at a time when the applications from people wanting to train as teachers is drying up – dropping by 26%.

There are no grounds for complacency.  The apparent optimistic scene at primary level has not compensated for the decrease in the secondary sector, where the number of teachers fell from 222,400 in 2009 to 208,100 in 2016.   If the government is to maintain the PTR of 15.1 which was the case in 2005, the number of teachers must be increased by 47,000 to 254,822 – according to the TES research.

The problem has been exacerbated by a fall in the number of 18-year-olds – the potential pool from which youngsters can be lured into the profession with appropriate training.  In 2018, the number of 18-year-olds in England fell by 2.3% compared with 2017.   This was in line with a drop of 2% of the total number of 18-year-olds applying to study further in higher education.

Further, the short-fall figure of 47,000 does not take account of teachers leaving the profession or moving abroad to teach in British schools or English-medium ones.  The National Audit Office (NAO) reported that several qualified teachers leaving state schools before the official retirement age was rising.  It increased from 9.3% in 2011 to 9.9% in 2016.  Even though more teachers were returning to take up employment in state schools during that time, they were insufficient to compensate.

The situation in Modern Foreign Languages (MFLs) is dire.  The DfE set a target to recruit 1,500 foreign language teachers in 2018.   However, 6,200 (circa) degree holders graduate with at least a low second class honours each year graduate each year.  To hit that target, the country must persuade 24.2% of these graduates to go into teaching to meet demand from schools/academies.

If the situation didn’t already look dire, it’s thrown into starker relief by the existing monumental recruitment challenge facing some subjects. While MFL teachers are conspicuous by their absence, in mathematics the situation is worse: 40% of the graduates who must become teachers.  In English, 17% of all graduates with relevant degrees need to train as teachers.

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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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