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Post Election Education Terror…

It’s now 24 hours since the horrible realisation that the Tory party would be gaining an overall majority, and that the Labour Party have been utterly beaten into second place in the election. I am still a mixture of emotions; deep rooted fear for what the next five years will hold, anger that the politics of fear have won, and sadness that it appears that so many voted were taken in by the Tory press and propaganda machine. As a teacher and Labour Party member, education is an area of personal interest, but also an area that scares me in terms of what the future holds.

 Education has been a battleground over the past five years. Gove became the most controversial and divisive minister for education in history. His ideologically driven ‘reforms’ have ripped apart the state education system, creating academy federations run by carpet salesmen and religious zealots (other sponsors are of course available). Free schools run by anyone that have fancied running their own school have appeared and will be popping up in increasing numbers across the country.  Curriculum reform seemingly on the back of a fag packet saw confusion, uncertainty and has resulted in huge differences across the country. I firmly believe that a NATIONAL Curriculum, adhered to by all schools is a good idea. What we have now is a ‘national’ curriculum that all LEA controlled schools must follow, but that free schools and academies do not.

The impact on Sixth Form Colleges across the countries is a looming disaster. Sixth Form budgets are already at breaking point and will struggle to cope with continued cuts; do those in power not see the damage this will do to the next generation? So while on the one hand the government will argue that higher education is open for all, a combination of the burden of vast tuition fees, increasing class sizes at sixth form and withdrawal of funding for disadvantaged students.

Over the next five years, a large number of new schools and school places need to be created. At the moment the bizarre policy is in place that means local education authorities are unable to build new schools and expansion of existing schools is virtually impossible. Instead the only way that a new school can be opened is by the creation of a new free school. These are also being opened in places where there is no real demand for places! How is this a system fit for purpose?!   

 

Tristram Hunt was a terrible shadow education secretary. The man who crossed a picket line to lecture on Marx, the man whose job should have been the easiest job in the shadow cabinet (“Michael Gove is wrong” would have done the job) seemed aloof and did not connect with teachers and lecturers. Whoever becomes the next shadow education minister MUST actually listen to the teaching profession, work with them and the new labour leadership must really think about what their education policy is all about. Don’t just continue the disaster left by Gove – wipe it away! Be brave!

So now we wait for who will become the next Education secretary. There are many rumours that Gove is being brought back, which seems too ridiculous to be true. Actually, that is simply terrifying. Goodbye to the superb university teacher training system that we have in place, goodbye to collaboration and hello to competition, goodbye to hope.

I hope that I am wrong, I hope that everything will be fine and dandy over the next five years, but I know that in reality this will not be the case.

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UEA PGCE History Presentation 20th February 2015

UEA PGCE Presentation

Letters from the trenches ocr reduced_Part1

Letters from the trenches ocr reduced_Part2

Letters from the trenches 2

Why I am striking, 10th July 2014

Today across Britain, over a million public sector workers are taking the tough decision to engage in strike action. This is something that none of us wanted. This is something that our unions have tried to avoid with discussion. We have however, reached the stage where council workers, teachers, firemen and others have said enough is enough.
I cannot talk of those working in different sectors, but working in education at present is akin to working in a pressure cooker that is close to exploding. A recent survey by the DfE found that the average primary school teacher works around 60 hours per week and that a secondary teacher is working around 56 hours per week; a 6 hour increase since 2010. This equates to almost a whole extra day at work per week. Teachers are crumbling around us, EVERYONE is utterly exhausted, which impacts on one major group; our pupils. Where we need lively, engaging, thought provoking and challenging teachers, Gove’s reforms have created a shattered profession who are doing their very best to simply carry on.
The media would have you believe that we are pushing for higher wages, that we arrive at 8:45 in the morning and leave at 3:30 when the bell goes. They would have you believe that we sun ourselves for 6 weeks in the summer in distant lands, eat Easter eggs for 2 weeks during that holiday and eat Christmas pudding solidly over the new year. This simply isn’t the case. The majority of staff at my school will between 7:30-8:00, to set up for the day and do some work before school. Across the country, lunchtime is for the pupils, not the teachers; staffrooms lay empty as staff assist the latest group identified as a focus group. After school, colleagues will run revision/intervention sessions, extra-curricular clubs and stay until after 5. When finally home many will spend at least an hour marking, planning or completing repetitive admin tasks. The recent DfE survey found on average teachers are working between 6-8 hours each weekend, this is simply unsustainable.
I love teaching, it is a job that I know I am actually good at, BUT it is also a job that if it continues will have a serious impact on a generation of teachers, who are already leaving in droves. Gove continues to ignore the deafening cries from educational practitioners as he pushes through his damaging, ideologically driven bulldozer destroying education in this country. We have no other options left, strike action is NOT taken lightly.
So, please don’t just say “they should just get on with it” or “they should try my job” and genuinely listen to what is being said by those on strike today. Good luck to all others standing up today, stay firm and we can make a difference. NASUWT wake up!

 

An open letter to Mr Hunt…

 

Dear Mr Hunt,

It is with real sadness that I write this letter. When you became shadow education secretary, I felt a twinge of excitement. Perhaps it was the fact that I believed that having a Historian in this position would be a good thing. You are an extremely intelligent person (illustrated through your writing) who I had hoped would gather opposition to Gove’s disastrous impact on UK education. Sadly in the short time you have been in this position you have merely disappointed.

Your first move was to state that you would continue with the Free Schools programme, though with a few minor tweaks (http://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/oct/13/tristram-hunt-labour-free-schools) . This was not a good start Tristram. Free Schools are increasingly being highlighted as being undemocratic, unaccountable and unwanted. Only yesterday, the head of one of the government’s flagship academies was arrested on suspicion of defrauding thousands of pounds of public money (http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/jan/09/arrest-bradford-free-school-fraud-claims) . But of course anyone can establish, run and ruin a school.

Now you have announced an incredibly vague, yet massively worrying policy shift, stating that teachers must be licensed by a new Royal College of Teaching. This has of course been extremely well thought out, as the teaching profession is crying out for another level of bureaucracy. I often find myself pondering the questions “when will someone observe me?! When will someone question me about progress?! Why is there no way of bettering my teaching?!”

While I am not against developing the position of the profession, that has been publically tarred and feathered on what seems to be a weekly basis since Gove began his damaging reforms, my real fear is that you are simply carrying on down the same path. When talking of your own Free School plans, you talk of “rocket boosters” (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2456871/Labours-shock-U-turn-Free-Schools-Milibands-new-education-supremo-reveals-party-WILL-support-academies-called-yummy-mummy-schools.html)  to speed along changes. Will you also railroad through other reforms without really consulting those of us on the front line?

The next stage of the graph below will be very, very interesting. I really hope that my first impressions have been wrong and that you have simply been finding your feet.

graph

 

Yours sincerely,

Mr M

Tough Young Teachers – Thrown To The Lions…

After actually enjoying large parts of Educating Yorkshire, which I really think portrayed the profession well, warts and all, I drew breath before starting to watch the new series Tough Young Teachers last night. Was this a show that would help showcase the wonderful profession that we love so much? Would it illustrate the daily surprises teachers face? And would it show that you simply can’t predict what children will do and how they will progress? Well I’m not really sure yet…

I don’t want to go into much detail about the specifics of the show and ruin it for those that didn’t see it, but it really did seem that these well meaning graduates had simply been thrown to the lions. Were they ready to teach? In almost every case shown, no; some good ideas, but where was the support? Where was the experienced staff member supporting them in the classroom? All part of the wonderful Govean Teach First scheme.

I will be honest before I go further; I did a PGCE and loved it. The training, support and opportunities that the course offered me were wonderful, and I know that everyone else that the same course at UEA would say exactly the same. The course was run by one of the most knowledgeable, helpful and intelligent practitioners one could wish for (the brilliant Terry Haydn) and has produced many brilliant history teachers (I clearly fell through the net, but you can’t manage everything!). He who shall not be respected really doesn’t like the PGCE, labelling those running the course part of the blob (an imaginary evil miasma of left wing academia, from the mind of a lunatic). So one of the new ways to produce teachers free of the control of the dangerous ideologues of the blob

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From what I can see on the Teach First website, from various articles on the web and from this show, it appears that the entire scheme has the potential to be one almighty disaster. 6 weeks is not enough time to prepare someone for teaching in the classroom; yes it may give you a very swift overview of some of the issues, it isn’t enough to prepare them to teach. These aren’t training pupils, they aren’t simulation models, they are real pupils whose futures will be impacted upon. While of course pupils are also taught by PGCE students, this is under the careful gaze of their qualified qualified teacher, which is a good system. Problems can be quickly highlighted and advice given. The system works. Unless of course you are Michael Gove.

The PGCE course is a brilliant, established and effective system of training conscientious, committed and prepared teachers. Teach First seems to be a dangerous, ill-thought out attempt to undermine yet another pillar of our education system. But we should of course be getting used to this.

Long live the PGCE and thanks to the Blob for being ace.

Sorry this has morphed into a bit of a rant in defence of the PGCE, but I do like a little rant!

UEA PGCE Presentation – Resources & Gubbins…

UEA PGCE Presentation

Letters from the trenches ocr reduced_Part1

Letters from the trenches ocr reduced_Part2

Letters from the trenches 2

Hopefully these will be of some use!

Liz Truss… Gove’s Pet Ideologue

I was going to start by saying that I don’t often get annoyed, but anyone that knows me is aware that this is a HUGE lie. I can get annoyed by pretty much anything in life, but education, or rather inept, ill-informed and politically driven interference in education REALLY gets my goat.

Nick Clegg has suddenly popped up and raised concerns about the government flagship Free School project and their lack of accountability. Sorry Nick, perhaps you should have done this some time ago, or stopped the crazy hyperinflation of tuition fees, or generally grown some balls instead of sniffing for crumbs at the table of power. But I divulge… After the story emerged, the government trotted out Liz Truss, to defend Free Schools.

The interview that has ruined my Sunday evening can be found here. While I wouldn’t expect Truss to suddenly announce the termination of the policy, the drivel she trots out is quite simply absurd.

1 – The assertion that Free Schools are doing so well is due to the fact that they don’t follow the National Curriculum. Surely if this is the case, then NO ONE should be following it?!? Why force state schools to follow it, but not Free Schools or academies!?

2 – The comparison of state and independent schools is simply a non-goer. I’m pretty sure that independent schools are/can be selective, charge rather high fees, can remove pupils posing ‘problems’, have many pupils with private tutors and have markedly smaller class sizes. Compare these facts with state schools (especially those in more challenging circumstances) and anyone is able to see it simply a stupid comparison to make. Also Liz, might not be best to point out that many politicians were educated in these schools…

3 – There simply is isn’t the data to state that Free Schools are doing better than state schools. There are under two hundred, which have been open for only a year. Ms Truss sang the praises of Sir Isaac Newton Free School in Norwich, with their non-qualified staff. They have of course a HUGE amount of evidence to show this. Having been open 2 months. Having no results. Having no Ofsted report. Having few pupils. But of course, we should aspire to be like them!

I could go on and on, but it’s Sunday night and I need to get my bag ready for school tomorrow.

Tories – keep putting Truss on the telly, it’s a great way to make teachers want to leave the profession.

Preparing students for GCSE History…

One of the things that we have been thinking about recently in school has been exam preparation. We have been asking ourselves; how well do we prepare our students for their exams. Sometimes this can be something that teachers do very well, while at other times we may be guilty of almost expecting students to know how to answer with no focussed/considered preparation.

I’m sure lots of other people already have these kind of resources, but with the GCSE revamp, I have started to put together some flash cards that students/teachers will be able to use when learning about specific exam questions or in the build up to exams. So far I have the first attempt (some rough edges) for GCSE B Edexcel Unit 1 – C&P and Unit 2 – Germany 1919-45.

I’ve attached the first version of the cards here, but would really appreciate comments/suggestions on how these could be improved.

C & P Exam technique flash cards V1

Germany Exam technique flash cards

Industrial Action – 1st October 2013

No one wants to go on Govestrike – a strike impacts financially on us, upon our places of work and most importantly, upon the children that we teach. If you didn’t love this job then you wouldn’t do it, plain and simple. However, in recent years there has been a marked deterioration in conditions and morale within the profession.  We feel we have no other option as we are ignored by Gove and his cronies. There are numerous reasons that industrial action is being taken.

First of all pensions, which is what the majority of people believe the strike is all about. In 2007 the teacher’s pension scheme was reassessed and tinkered with, to ensure that over the next 50 years more would be being paid in than was being paid out. I may not be a maths teacher, but this would appear to be a fairly sound foundation and would suggest that the pension scheme doesn’t need further government intervention. This has of course happened, which with increased worker contributions and lower recompense at the end, simply amounts to a tax on teachers – with this extra money NOT being paid into the pension scheme, but rather the general public finances. Perhaps to help pay for the cuts in business rates…

Secondly, we seemingly face a barrage of abuse, criticism and denigration on a weekly basis. One week Ofsted will be putting the boot in suggesting head teachers are not doing a good job unless staff are stressed, the next week the government have (for the 243rd time) moved the goalposts with regard to GCSE examinations or the Daily Mail are claiming that teachers are hell bent on the downfall of modern society.  One of my personal favourites was an article that suggested that parents should be able to veto any potential industrial action…Teacher Hours Survey

Thirdly, the complete misrepresentation of teacher workload. Gove et al are quote happy for the media to trot out the old cliches of in at 9 and out at 3, with 6 weeks off in the summer. This suits their desire to show the profession as lazy, out of touch and in need of reform. Teachers work far longer hours than the press would have you believe, something that many still fail to grasp. The infographic to the right gives you a rough idea. Also worth a look is this survey from the Daily Mirror. These help to show  slightly more realistic picture…

The potential introduction of performance related pay smacks of clear ignorance in Whitehall. We do push our pupils, we do what we can to get them the best grade possible, however pupils are quite complex creatures. Targets are set based on progression at primary school and don’t take into consideration any factors surrounding their sometimes turbulent lives. Sometimes pupils will not progress as far/rapidly as they did at Primary school, sometimes their home lives are so challenging that to simply get them a grade is a real success. Performance related pay is a dangerous introduction that simply does not fit into the world of education.

Personally I see the very real and dangerous push towards what are in effect private education authorities, a very sad development. This is in effect another sign of the slow, creeping privatisation of education taking place. While local education authorities have had their problems (some more than others) to take the power from publicly accountable bodies and pass it to murky, private organisations.

While Mr Gove claims to ‘want to work with the unions’, he refuses to meet, debate or compromise on his twisted vision of a neo-Victorian education system.

I am on strike to stand up for education in this country, to say no to Gove’s constant attacks that have demoralised the profession and to say enough is enough.

IWM Presentation

IWM Presentation websiteAttached is a PDF of the presentation given at the IWM North on Wednesday 18th September 2013. Enjoy!