Tag Archives: ofsted

Teachers on Strike – Good idea? Bad idea?

This weekend saw the major teaching unions Easter conferences. There was certainly lots to talk about. Gove. Strike action. Ofsted. They covered it all. I don’t think anyone was overly surprised by the outcome.

Lack of confidence in Gove and his capability to be Education Secretary. 

Lack of confidence in Ofsted and what it stands for.

Lack of confidence in the Government and the current pay conditions.

But when all is said and done, is striking the best form of action?

For one thing, some parents and teachers are against it. Why? It takes teachers out of the classrooms and stops them educating the children, which is, after all, why they are there. Some people are against teachers taking strike action because they feel that teachers already get a fair deal and they should just get on with it. Some people think that we’ve all got to help the country get back on its feet.

Some people support the strike because it’s important for teachers to stand up for themselves and what they believe in. If everyone just accepted what the Government did and didn’t make their voices heard, then what kind of nation would that create?! Standing up for decent pay & conditions is right and just, not just for teachers, not just for those working in education, but for everyone who feels that the Government is taking advantage of them, which is pretty much most people.

No one wants to strike. And it might not be the best plan of action. So what are the alternatives? On Twitter, some people are suggesting that instead of striking on a school day, teachers go in on a Saturday and give an extra day. I don’t know if I’d be in support of that, but it certainly is different. What is important is that the message of why teachers are unhappy with Gove, Ofsted and the Government as a whole stays central. Educate the children on what’s going on, create YouTube videos of students telling Gove & Cameron why teachers deserve better pay and conditions, hold rallies and debates to come up with a more creative and positive way of tackling the issues. Because, after all, isn’t teaching a creative profession?! Surely we can do better?

Tagged , , , ,

Teachers Pay

It’s been a while since Sir Michael Wilshaw said something to annoy the teaching community so his most recent comment was sure to stir things up. According to this report by BBC News, Wilshaw told the Times that teachers must work extra hours if they want a pay rise and teachers who were out of the door by 3pm shouldn’t be promoted. Staff who went the extra mile, should get promoted.

I agree.

Now I never thought that I would agree with anything Sir Wilshaw said but there are a lot of teachers who work incredibly hard who don’t get any recognition. When I was teaching, I worked a lot. For example, I worked 14 hour days & worked Sunday as standard. I was always looking for ways to improve my teaching & improve the learning experience for all my students. Nothing was too much work. Another teacher at the school didn’t work to the same level that I did. For example, they didn’t plan or mark regularly. However, due to them passing threshold at a previous school, they earned more than I did. How was that fair? It wasn’t. And it used to get to me big time.

If someone isn’t doing their job, why should their pay get increased? Why should they be considered for promotion? If they can’t complete the basic requirements of their jobs then they shouldn’t get paid the same as someone who goes the extra mile.

Now, all Wilshaw needs to do is put his money where his mouth is. There are plenty of teachers who do go the extra mile and my hope is that for those teachers, they can start to see some extra money in their pay packets. No one gets into teaching because of the pay, pension or holidays. They get into it because of their passion to help young people learn and improve their life chances.

It is an incredibly stressful job, not stressful like being on the frontline of the Armed Forces, but it is stressful. And it’s not easy. With the Government constantly moving the goalposts & with each new class bringing with it fresh challenges and needs, it is like being in a hamster wheel. Unlike teaching in the past, teaching is no longer a secure job. Schools up and down the country are making redundancies and teaching posts aren’t being filled due to lack of funding, causing some teachers to regularly teach outside their specialism. This only adds to the tension within schools. No one is saying that teachers should be above and beyond economics but they are doing a very difficult job. So many PGCE students start the school year with full to the brim with enthusiasm  Find those PGCE students 5 years into their teaching career & they are exhausted.

Just like every other profession, there are great teachers, mediocre teachers and awful teachers. It would be impossible to weed out the poor ones from every school but I think rewarding those who do a great job, as long as it’s not just based on performance, is about time.

Tagged , , ,

I lied

According to Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw, I got it wrong. I never felt stress. This is because I didn’t do lunch duty on my own or run a school when teachers were striking, like he did.

Forgive me, Sir Wilshaw, but you don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t doubt his experiences, that are outlined in this article on the BBC website, were incredibly stressful and I don’t envy him. And I don’t doubt that his father was extremely stressed while looking for employment and then having to work very long hours to make ends meet. But, unless Sir Wilshaw has worked as a classroom teacher in today’s educational climate then he has no idea what he is talking about.

I never used my stress levels as an excuse for poor performance, mainly because this wasn’t an issue for my students. But it isn’t an excuse. It is a reason. If you’re so stressed that it’s affecting your health, how can you perform to your best? Headteachers having more power and pay isn’t going to help your average classroom teacher! Society has changed a lot since he was teaching and the difficulties that teachers come across have changed.

If young people feel stress because they can’t gain employment due to a poor educational experience or lack of skills and qualifications, then something needs to be done. (Lets not forget that there’s been an economic crisis – NEAT’s aren’t just the fault of schools!) I have thought for a long time that the current National Curriculum isn’t necessarily up to scratch for modern society. But to just continue to blame teachers isn’t the answer. And I’m not sure that Sir Wilshaw has the answers, mainly because he suggests banning mobile phones in schools instead of suggesting ways for schools to use them in a positive way.

Another problem is that many subjects don’t receive adequate funding (and schools becoming academies won’t necessarily solve this). IT, for example, is hugely underfunded and schools find themselves very poorly equipped. How is it possible to prepare young people for university and the world of work when schools cannot access the equipment that exists within the business world?

Sir Wilshaw needs to stop blaming teachers, start listening and working WITH education providers instead of against them. The fact that he is so out of touch worries me. Clearly Ofsted judgements will come to be meaningless to the profession as they are being led by someone who doesn’t understand the requirements of the job.

Tagged , , , ,

Sabbaticals for Teachers?

Image courtesy of anitafrances at Flickr Creative Commons

As I was scanning my Twitter timeline, a tweet from @schoolsontap made me stop in my tracks: ‘Teachers should have ‘sabbatical’ to avoid burnout and return ‘refreshed’, says incoming Ofsted head’ and it linked to this Mail article. I couldn’t believe it. I thought, finally, someone gets it. Why would I support such a costly idea? Well, it’s clear from the article writer that they think the holidays are enough. But what if they aren’t?

It’s true. Teachers have three months of holidays a year. And when summer comes along, well, lets put it this way, the MasterCard advert has it spot on! So why aren’t the holidays enough? Most teachers work twelve hour days – at least. They’ll do this for five or six days a week. Teachers aren’t paid for these hours. The salary doesn’t cover work at home in the evenings, weekends or during holidays. You can’t bid for overtime or take time off in lieu of the work you’ve done outside of school hours. You can’t book a medical appointment during school time, unless it’s an emergency. You can’t even go to the toilet when you want.

Why do it? If you want to be a good teacher, or pass threshold & add to your salary, you need to have the results to show that you’re worth it. This requires time and effort. Most teachers teach 21 or 22 hours a week, giving them about 3 hours to do all their Planning, Preparation and Assessment (marking) in that time. If you want your PPA to be good, and by that I mean marking with comments; different resources for your different abilities; lessons that are engaging and challenging, then three or four hours isn’t enough. Lots of teachers in the schools that I’ve worked in have either come in early, stayed late or both. I used to do both. I’d be in by 7.30am and stay till 5.30pm, always working during break and sometimes during lunch. I’d then head home and work until about 9.30/10pm. I’d do this almost every day. And then work for at least 5 hours on the Sunday. Then add on a trip or an off timetable day which your planning for, parents evening, open evening, and the workload increases. Or say the National Curriculum or exam syllabus changes…again. This is not that uncommon.

And those holidays – yep, I’d work in those too. Usually from home where I’d plan, make resources, analyse results, write reports, etc etc. I rarely went back to work feeling refreshed. A friend of mine said to me at the start of term this year, ‘It’s like it never ends – I feel like a hamster on a wheel!’ And that’s the problem. The pressure to perform remains. Every group has their own challenges and each teacher has to show, not only can they get those students to achieve their targets, but that they’re adding value as well.

It was suggested that I take a sabbatical this year, but I knew the school couldn’t afford it. There is no way schools could. What it will mean is that sabbaticals don’t happen. Teachers continue to work themselves into the ground helping students to achieve. They’ll be vilified for the ‘pensions’ strike, which isn’t just about pensions. It’s about standards. It’s about the pay cuts. It’s about job losses. And it’s about teachers standing with other public sector workers saying No. Enough is enough.

So glad I got out when I did.

Tagged , , , , , ,