Where Have All the Teachers Gone?

“Recruitment Crisis: Councils demand powers to tackle teacher shortage.”

(TES: 17.02.17)

“Almost a third of teachers quit state sector within five years of qualifying.”

(Telegraph – 24.10.16)

“More than 80% of Midlands teachers have considered leaving the profession.”

(NASUWT – 15.11.16)

“Nearly half of England’s teachers plan to leave in next five years.”

(Guardian: 17.03.16)

Over the past twelve months you may have seen or heard some of these familiar headlines on newspaper stands, news programmes or via the Internet. The main question to ask ourselves is WHY?   We all have our own theories of why our noble profession is losing brilliant teachers in droves. Some of us may even be able to pin point, where we think the exact problem lies and can name the main protagonist that are causing the problem.

We can take our arguments to the decision makers and continue to bang, silently upon the ‘Door of Change’ or we could encourage our young teachers to see what a beautiful and inspiring profession we have!

We worked out last week that in our sixteen years of teaching (since September 2001) We have had nine Secretaries of State for Education: Morris, Clarke, Kelly, Johnson, Denham, Balls, Gove, Morgan, Greening. That’s an average of one every 1.8 years. So let’s say for instance a new teacher entering into the profession in their twenties will work for 40 years before they retire. They’ll experience approximately twenty two Sec. of State for Education, each one with their own individual agenda of how to they plan to reform and reinvigorate the Education System.

In summary the system of education is always changing – Evolving? Some may question that! But what is for certain, it will never stand still and when one accepts this as a fact, the whole thing becomes a little more palatable.

It can be said that it’s not very often one remembers the words of a plumber, accountant or mechanic – but nearly all of us remember the words or actions of a teacher – whether it be positive or negative. The position and influence we hold within the lives of the young people is a tremendous honour and privilege.

We can (each and everyone of us) support our colleagues and try to address the issues of excessive workload, low staff morale and every changing goal posts of education.

On Friday 17th February 2017 we were invited by the University of Wolverhampton to give a keynote speech at the 8th Annual Learning Conference, organised and hosted by the superb Education faculty.We were privileged enough to speak to around 140 under graduates who will be hopefully stepping into teaching positions in September 2017.The message we gave was quite simple: You are entering into the most exciting, challenging, exhilarating, soul searching, awe inspiring and changeable career you could ever wish for. So enjoy the ride, roll with the punches and flourish.

Admittedly teaching is not for the faint hearted and it is a true roller-coaster of emotions and experiences. A rainbow of life changing highs to soul destroying lows, but all in all it’s a brilliant way to earn a living as everyday is different – each day has its own trials, tribulations and triumphs.

As part of our keynote speech we shared our  of ‘Top Tips’ that the young teacher could call upon if and when they needed them. So here goes with our:

GREAT 8 OF ‘TEACHING:’

#1: Be Yourself

The only person we know how to be is ourselves, therefore as the famous sports company says: “Just do it!”  Never be afraid to being you. You were created unique and you are the only person that thinks your thoughts, experiences your life in the way you do.

Let the children know who you are, share a bit of yourself with them – it’s liberating. Obviously as the adult in the relationship, we have to keep certain things to ourselves, our PIN numbers and the balance left on our mortgage for example! But we can share information about our family, our holidays. Let the children know about your favourite: Film, childhood memory, song, meal, colour etc.   Let them know what makes you happy, sad, worried, excited – let them know what your superpower would be if you were a super hero. It’s great fun and it builds long lasting relationships.

Our favourite chapter in our book ‘Optimal Learning’ focuses on ‘Relationships in the classroom’, offering a range of approaches to promotes fun and exciting learning within an ethos of solid relationships. See details below. 1

#2: Passion

Most of the Newly Qualified Teachers that we have met usually bound into school full of exuberance and optimism however, by the following Easter the sparkle has left their eyes and their passion is being eroded on a daily basis by the ‘Quartet of Catastrophe: The Time Bandits, The Mood Hoovers, Coaster and Boasters.

The Time Bandits are the ones who steal your time, time that you will never get back and they are cunning thieves as they come in all shapes and disguises, they masquerade as colleagues, pupils, governors, parents, family members, local authority inspectors, caretakers and cleaners – the list goes on. But their main task is to distract you with mundane detail, hearsay/gossip, endless chitchat and complaints – listen, smile, add no comments (this is vital) and then move on.

There is a brilliant book by Andy Cope and Andy Whittaker entitled, ‘The Art of Being Brilliant.’ 2 There is a whole section that talks about Mood Hoovers, those people (similar to the Dementors in Harry Potter) who suck out every once of happiness within your body. The ones that drag tomorrow’s clouds over today’s sunshine. The glass is not only half empty, it’s smashed, irreparable, never to be replaced – I’m sure you’ve met them! When you encounter them be kind to them, acknowledge them, smile politely and move on as they’ll drain you while you wait.

The final duo that chip away at your passion are the Boasters and Coasters. The ‘If I were you…’ fraternity. The ones that have done everything, not only bought the t-shirts, they’ve sourced the materials, designed them manufactured them and bought and sold them. The ones who say, “It’s pointless, we tried that and it didn’t work.” The ones that Sir John Jones refers to as,

 “Those in the staffroom who have retired, but haven’t told anyone yet!”

 If we are to protect our passion and integrity, all we have do is to be on the lookout for negative people, recognise them, acknowledge them but most importantly ignore them.

#3: The ‘Y’ Factor

A colleague of mine once said that she was astounded as I never stopped asking questions. Even at the age of 53 I still thirst of answers to questions of which I’m not really bothered about the answers. Questions that will never benefit me or enlighten me, they’re just questions that I like to ask.

A child once asked me: “You know when you’ve got an itch and you scratch it and the it goes? Where does it go?” Truly brilliant I thought. Billy Connolly says that he lies awake and night pondering such questions as, ‘The man who drives the snowplough – how does he get to his work in the morning?’

Always encourage children to be curious. A brilliant quote I saw on Twitter a few weeks ago stated: ‘That teaching was 10% asking questions and 90% was encouraging children to ask questions that you can’t answer.’   I read somewhere once (sorry can’t recall the source) that in the USA there are a group people who think up scenarios that could effect a nations stability and wellbeing and they were referred to as, ‘The Department of the Unthinkable’ I don’t know if there is any such organisation but if there is, we need to prepare our youngsters to work in such a department.

“Isadore Rabi, winner of a Nobel Prize for physics, was once asked why he became a scientist. He replied: “My mother made me a scientist without ever knowing it. Every other child would come back from school and be asked, ‘What did you learn today?’ But my mother used to say, ‘Izzy, did you ask a good question today?’ That made the difference. Asking good questions made me into a scientist.” 3

#4: Fail Fast

Teaching is a wonderful, rewarding career that has many brilliant opportunities for one in which to succeed and become successful. Nevertheless, lesson observations, Local Authority inspections, OFSTED, disaffected parents and failed job interviews etc. Can all have a negative affect on our self esteem and wellbeing. I know talking from personal experience one particular job interview almost finished me. The whole process was brutal and I felt I had nothing left to give as a teacher. But that’s when my ‘Team’ (which we’ll discuss in #5) came into full swing. They joined forces and presented me with solutions and opportunities to reflect on the event. What was at the time (to me) an epic failure became a lucky escape. The whole episode reduced me to tears, I remember sobbing uncontrollably in Cannock Chase a large area of outstanding natural beauty in the heart of a rural Staffordshire. I remember calling my best friend and fellow Thought Weaver and asked him what I could do and I’ll never forget his reply, “Quite simply – write a blog and record your feelings and share with others. I did this and the whole experience was cathartic and liberating. It also gave me one of my best lines within a blog…

‘As I sat the staring at the malevolent septet of distaste gathered there before me.’

This was a great example of failing fast, learning from it and moving on.

#5: Build Your Team

I’m sure we all remember those heady heights of the 2012 London Olympics and Super Saturday with rush of medals all day finally culminating in the one hour of pure ‘Olympic Magic’ on the Saturday evening with Gold winning performances from Greg Rutherford, Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis. All three of these athletes won individual medals and were soon to acknowledge that they were just a small part of the phenomenon that became Team GB.

But behind the smiles and celebrations, even behind the support of Team GB, lies a whole host of individuals that support an individual athlete. Take Jessica Ennis for example I’m sure that within her camp throughout the year she’ll have a: Fitness coach, technical coach, nutritionists, psychologist, physiology therapist, doctor, tour manager, press secretary, PR personnel. All making their own individual contribution to Team Jessica.

Likewise as a teacher we have to build our own team full of very different people and personalities that will support you through good times and bad. There are the following:

The Mentor

This doesn’t necessarily have to be someone in your school, it’s handy if it is. There must be a feeling of mutual respect between you both and this person may be the one that challenges you. You have try and listen and not take it personal. If you have selected your mentor carefully, he or she can be with you throughout your whole career.

Guru/Oracle:

The one who is your fountain of knowledge and motivates you. Your go-to-person who will guide and inspire you whenever you need it.

Media Buddies:

There is an array of e-facilities and social networks that one can tap into to gain support and advice. Old favourites such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn – However, the site we have most beneficial is Twitter. In our opinion Twitter is the single most important CPD tool out there available to educators, its interactive, collaborative and most importantly it’s free.

Agony Aunt or Uncle

This doesn’t always have to be a school colleague or even someone in education. This is the person you go and have a cup of tea with when the whole thing is getting you down. The head teacher has snapped at you, parents and having little digs at you, even the kids mention you’re not as funny as their previous teacher. This person you select is the one you can go to for a big cuddle and a cry (if needed) and they’ll patch you up and send you out again repaired and rejuvenated.

Drinking Buddy

This is the person whom you laugh away the hours. Preferably someone who is nothing to do with education. This person is your release valve, your safety harness, your lighthouse in a troubled, turbulent sea. Although we would never promote excessive drinking (I’m a teetotaler) we advocate moderation in all that we do. But this person helps you forget school, data, lesson obs., Ofsted etc. They are the ones who help us keep a healthy and manageable ‘work-life balance.’

#6: Life Beyond School

If you had hobbies and pastimes when you came into teaching they have to kept, almost protected.   A life outside of schools makes you complete inside of school. If you finish school on a Friday and plan and mark all weekend; what experiences have you to share with the children when you return to school on the Monday.

I remember a time when my children were younger and we were unable to go out as I had a whole plethora of school work to compete over the weekend.   My wife came into my study whilst I was crouched over my PC and what she said bore a whole into my very being,

 “I know you love you your job and I know you are everything to everybody else’s children but just remember you have two of your own!”

 It goes without saying we have to keep up to date with our marking and we do of course have to plan inspiring, interactive lessons. But do we have to spend hours looking for a ‘google’ image of a seahorse to insert into a spelling list?

#7: Invest in YOU

In order for us to grow professionally and to become proficient in our craft, it is vitally important that we develop ourselves. CPD – Continuous Professional Development is the corner stone of what it takes to become a more competent and well rounded practitioner. We are aware that time and money restraints are crippling some schools at the present time. There is very little in the budget for us to go on courses that will sharpen and broaden our delivery. However, CPD doesn’t have to be an arduous expensive task. Start within your own school or cluster. Ask fellow professionals if you can sit in their lessons, share planning time together. The Internet is a wonderful resources for CPD: Pinterest, Twinkl and Instagram are treasure troves of resources and lesson ideas. For brilliant debates and discussions on Education look no further than Twitter.   YouTube is wonderful for resources, lesson ideas, tricky misconception, and also for lectures. The TED talks are brilliant. I usually have a quick cup of tea and ten to fifteen minutes of watching a TED talk and I’m enlightened and inspired.

#8: Opportunity Knocks

Finally and most importantly try to find, nurture and maintain your passion in teaching and learning.

There are a whole plethora of opportunities out there for practitioners who are willing to go that extra mile.   Get involved within your local cluster group meetings with other professionals and if your school isn’t in one, then start your own.

The Thought Weavers are just a couple of teachers who believe in future of the education of our nation, we (like the rest of you) get despondent and disheartened at times. But our drive and determination drives us forward.   We (along with colleagues) have sat within the Department of Education in London and discussed education with ministers of her majesty’s government.  We have met with The Director of Schools for Ofsted and asked him directly questions that affect us all. We have taught philosophy to inmates at HMP Featherstone, and. Wolverhampton. We have delivered high quality Inset training at school and county level. We have sat on the stage at Earls Court in London during the BETT show and debated curriculum change.

Our finest hour was when we secured a book deal when we hadn’t even started writing a book.

But all of these opportunities we have created for ourselves and everyone one of them have had a profound, positive impact on our classroom practise.

We once met Ian Gilbert (Independent Thinking Company) 4 at a seminar and explained to him we were great fans of him and great admirers of his work: Essential Motivation in the Classroom, Little book series 5, Why Do I Need a Teacher When I’ve Got Google? To name but a few.

We asked Ian did he have any words of advice or pearls of wisdom he could share with us that we could adapt into our roles as teachers, writers or trainers and she smiles and said,

 “BE BRILLIANT!”

Links:

  1. http://thoughtweavers.co.uk/our-book/
  2. http://www.artofbrilliance.co.uk/shop/1/the-art-of-being-brilliant
  3. http://www.aish.com/sp/ph/68197797.html
  4. http://www.independentthinking.co.uk

5.   http://www.independentthinking.co.uk

Our meeting with the DfE

Meeting with the DfE and @emmannhardy, @heymisssmith, @educationbear, @debrakidd, @cherrylkd, @imagineinquiry and @theprimaryhead

 

Wow –we were invited to the DfE to talk about the new curriculum – came like a ‘bolt out of the blue’ and a sense of ‘at last they’ll listen to us’ pervaded our thinking. We soon calmed down though, but the thought of attending a meeting with a bunch of passionate bloggers and tweeters can never be turned down. The thought of meeting Elizabeth Truss was also exciting, perhaps we were getting a little ‘star-struck.’

Despite knowing we would be meeting about the national curriculum we knew little else. Like swatting students we downloaded the National Curriculum ‘APP’ and ensured we could talk about it with some authority. However we were not naïve enough to think that a bunch of educational bloggers would not be forcing their own agenda – And why not!

We arrived in London the evening before (From sunny Staffordshire) and stayed at the YHA near St. Paul’s Cathedral (I promised I’d give them a plug – they’ve got some excellent rates for school parties! Ask for ‘Matty’). On the morning of the meeting we ambled (with a few diversions) across to Westminster for our meeting scheduled for 2pm.

Finally, the time had come and we went to the reception area of the DfE and eventually we were escorted through to the meeting room and off we started.

Curriculum

The precise content of the curriculum was never going to be the focus. Many of us felt that in reality there is little change with relation to content and we pointed out that given any curriculum, talented leaders and practitioners have the ability to create a fantastic learning journey for their pupils. We did point out that whilst the English primary curriculum is 88 pages in length (including appendices), many other subject areas are only three pages in length; on the face of it, this doesn’t suggest a broad and balanced curriculum will be insisted upon.

 

A key weakness in ‘the system’ that was highlighted was the lack of support for implementation, both from the DfE and the LAs. Elizabeth Truss made the point that ‘Teaching Schools’ should be taking on this role, but as @cherrylkd highlighted, teaching schools are only just getting to grips with changes themselves. Overall the group felt the curriculum content wasn’t a major issue but the timeframes and support for implementation were a big challenge.

 Assessment

We spoke a lot about assessment and we came away from the meeting with an ever increasing sense of uncertainty. The policy advisers were unsure how the curriculum would be assessed. Their thoughts were that English, Maths and Science would be formally assessed at KS1 and KS2 but what these would look like remains a bit of mystery. When pushed, some mumbled response about pupils having a standardised score might be an option, where a score of 100 is the ‘Expected’ outcome. This really concerns us: whilst schools/clusters of schools are creating new assessment systems, some at a considerable cost; financially and time; the government plans to bring in a national standardised test for pupils at the end of Y2 and Y6. Should this happen, we’ll be back to ‘square one’ – schools will ‘re-build’ there assessment systems to fit around ‘National Assessments’ and pupils will be funnelled in to a curriculum where Maths and English scores rule. Pupils who have score of ‘100’ in Y3 will be targeted to get a score of ‘103’ in Y4, making accelerated progress (sound familiar?) Where a score of 100 will be acceptable for Ofsted to begin with, before long, a score of 103 will become the new ‘expectation’ and Gove will pull out his favourite line of “We make no apologies for raising expectations.”(Sound familiar?) At the meeting the rationale behind removing levels was so avoid labelling pupils; but really, what is the difference between ‘John Smith’ being a level 3a or having a score of 98? Both systems are still ‘Carrot and Stick’ and they both attach a score, tattooed into the psyche of teachers, parents and pupils!

Ofsted

No educational debate is complete without the mention of Ofsted. What was very interesting at the meeting was the luke warm response from the DfE with regard to Ofsted. Rather than defend their ‘trusty’ (though independent-ish) foot-soldiers, Elisabeth Truss seemed keen to know more about their impact on teachers/schools, with particular reference to workload and moral. We talked about the vast swathes of marking expected of teachers and the vast array of differentiation we’re expected to provide. We were met with “Where did this message come from?” – Truss was clearly unaware of the pressure from SLTs, LAs and Ofsted to jump through these hoops. Truss was keen to point out that the government does not have a policy of differentiation and she seemed genuinely surprised at the level of marking required. Our key point was that when the Ofsted handbook changes so does educational policy; the question remains; who is charge of education? The DfE or Ofsted? And we think this is where the battleground lies!

There was clearly an undercurrent of disquiet towards Ofsted, whilst this was never mentioned explicitly, the policy advisors and Truss made no attempt to defend them.

 

The ‘Gang’ #DfEgreight

Whilst no-one could really deny that an invite from the DfE is a great opportunity to share views, the most positive part of the day was the opportunity to meet with an eclectic group of bloggers from around the country, each with their own point and style. During the meeting the views were delivered thoughtfully, passionately, honestly and sometimes angrily, but every view had its own merit. For us, it was great to hear such a range of perspectives about Education. Ultimately the visit wasn’t for ourselves, we all went to the DfE to get a better deal for the pupils we nurture and educate. Let’s never lose focus of that.

 

The Thought Weavers.

Effective Feedback – PAIR marking

Effective written feedback – PAIR marking

 

I don’t remember much of the marking from my school days; but one ‘grade’ does stick in my head – I once got a D+ for a piece of work in geography. I was gutted, I worked hard in geography and Mr Machin, my teacher, seemed pretty decent or “sound” as I might have said then.

So why does this piece of marking stick so vividly in my head? Well, for one reason it damaged my fragile teenage ego (But really that’s just tough!) but the other reason is simple; there was no explanation for it – I didn’t know why the grade was so low and I didn’t know how to improve it. It was poor marking!

 

I’ve read a few blogs about marking and the first point I note is that marking really should be called feedback. The purpose of marking is to give feedback to learners to help them assess their progress and make improvements.

 Prof. John Hattie highlights the importance of feedback in his book ‘Visible Learning’ and the Sutton Trust ‘Teacher Toolkit’ corroborates this evidence. The key to feedback though is to get it right. Poor feedback doesn’t help learners and wastes the time of the teacher who writes it.

 

So what does ‘effective’ feedback (in the guise of marking) look like?

I’ve introduce PAIR marking at my school. PAIR is an acronym, not to be put into books, but as a guide to structure effective feedback.

 

The P stands for:

PRAISE – this is the most ineffective aspect of marking I see. ‘Good work,’ Well done,’ and ‘Brilliant’ are vague terms that offer no useful feedback to learners. There are some who argue that effective feedback has no room for praise, and to a point, I’m sympathetic to that view. However, praise can be highly effective when it acknowledges personal attributes. To justify this I would point to the work of Carol Dweck who explains that praising for effort and tenacity develops a growth mindset; a belief that you can get ‘brighter.’ Praising the thinking behind the learning can also acknowledge the mental effort afforded to the task.

 

The A stands for:

ASSESS assessment of the learning (not the task) is critical if the learner is to use the marking to gauge their progress. It is essential that the feedback is accurate and explains reasons behind it; for example – This is effective writing BECAUSE… is better than scribbling  ‘Great writing.’

 

The I stands for:

IMPROVE – This aspect of PAIR marking presents the student with an opportunity to improve their learning. The teacher offers guidance about improvement so that the student can reach the next step. Phrases such as ‘your next step is,’ and ‘to improve…,’ provide useful starters. I often pose questions to pupils, encouraging them to think about their learning and how they might improve it. Questions are particularly powerful for learners who find it difficult to reflect on their learning by themselves. Short ‘improvement’ tasks to address weaknesses/misconceptions can also be set to be completed at the start of the next lesson. Improvement can be explicit (e.g. ‘to improve…’) or implicit, where a question is posed to promote further thought.

 

The R stands for:

RESPOND – This is a great strategy to make feedback ‘Stick!’ The chance for the pupils to have their say! Pupils can respond in a number of ways; a signature to acknowledge they’ve read feedback; answer a question posed by the teacher; complete the short ‘improvement’ task; agree or disagree or maybe just a personal response. When pupils respond to marking this creates a learning ‘dialogue’ between the teacher and the learner; highly effective AfL!

 

What does pair marking look like?

Here is an excellent example of PAIR marking I saw in an English book the other day:

 

         Great resilience today. As a reader I was ‘hooked in’ because you varied the sentence starters. To improve vary the length of sentences.

‘How can I ‘PAIR’ mark every piece of work?’ 

A very sensible question and that’s never the expectation. I would recommend that 1/3 pieces of work should have every aspect of PAIR marking and for the others pieces use ‘PAR.’

My final piece of advice about marking is to keep it short, precise and meaningful as in the example above.

 

The Thought Weavers

 

The Mini-Plenary – Friend or Foe?

It wasn’t until a couple of years into my teaching career that I’d heard of a ‘mini-plenary.’ According to the local authority my lessons should have one. When I asked what that might ‘look like’ in the classroom I was given a garbled response about checking progress half way through the lesson.

“But what if I know that the children are doing just fine – why would I want to stop them?” I asked. The reply was short and sweet and straight to the point; “Because Ofsted want them!”

The ‘mini-plenary’ is very en-vogue at the moment, it’s a bit of an educational buzz-word (phrase) and I can’t remember the last time I made a lesson observation and didn’t see one (Or at least an attempt at one)

The problem with ‘Buzz-words’ in education is that they become so familiar to practitioners that they lose their meaning. They become the Boweneque “super, smashing, great,” feature of the educational world; said so many times the meaning is lost.

Getting back to ‘Mini-Plenaries’ then; they can be very useful. It is however, important to remember the purpose of a ‘Mini-Plenary’ is to:

 

  1.   Enhance the assessment of the teacher; ensuring the learning is meeting the needs of the learners
  2. Give the learners the opportunity to ask “How am I getting on?”
  3. Challenge the thinking of the learners.
  4.  Assist learners in target setting.
  5. Address whole class patterns of misunderstanding 

 

Too often Mini-Plenaries are for show; little thought is given to their timings, they become a show and tell session with little evaluative significance and are not intellectually demanding. Even worse, they become a trick to ‘show progress’ to an inspector every ten minutes; if we believe that pupils make progress this often and at this rate then we’re either exceptionally gifted educators or deluded.

Assessment for learning during the lesson should be ongoing; it doesn’t necessarily need a whole ‘slot’ with a ‘wizzy’ name to be useful. Assessment takes place at every stage in the lesson, whether it is with one pupil, a group or the whole class.

 

Effective Mini-Plenaries

The best Mini-Plenaries (for want of a better phrase) are intellectually demanding;  ask challenging questions of the pupils and ensure that when the learners get back to their task, they apply their new skills and understanding with greater authority and confidence.

 

 Ideas for the classroom:

  1. ‘Plenary’ questions display – great prompts for the teacher. The students will know they will be expected to respond to them as some point in the lesson – raising expectations.
  2.  Pupil led Mini-plenary – put the ‘Plenary’ questions on to key rings/cards with a ‘group’ leader who will then guide the discussion on each table.
  3. Review the success criteria – Are the prompts effective? How could we make them better?
  4. Peer assessment – students to pick one aspect of the success criteria for their partners/peers to work on.
  5. True or false statements related to the learning. Ask the pupils to move to a specified area of the classroom based on their response. Demand reasoning here!!

Mini-Plenaries are not a foe; the phrase is just over used (We suspect due to Ofsted ‘game’ playing) All of the above ideas should be part of learners’ experience in class, they don’t need a label; reflection is part of the learning process. Ultimately ‘Mini-Plenaries’ are for the benefit of the pupils, not just another box to tick on an observation form.

 

The Thought-Weavers

Preparing for Ofsted 2013

Last year I gave a presentation at the education show entitled ‘Preparing for Ofsted.’ I sifted through lots of Ofsted reports, founds patterns of ‘behaviours’ and looked for things inspectors seemed to be consistently asking for. I then created a slide show based on my findings.

In February 2013, Ofsted visited my school. As a result I’ve recently updated the slide show and below is the new updated version. I hope it will help you when your visit is due.

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/paceanderson/preparing-for-ofsted-2013-v2&#8243; title=”Preparing for ofsted! 2013 v2″ target=”_blank”>Preparing for ofsted! 2013 v2</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/paceanderson&#8221; target=”_blank”>paceanderson</a></strong> </div>

The Though_Weavers

The Ofsted Effect

I visit many schools and talk to hundreds of professionals all of the time. Never far from the conversation is Ofsted. Ofsted worry schools to the point that the whole ethos is to please Ofsted. This is wrong because a school’s ethos should be built around its pupils.

I was listening to Mick Waters just the other week and he talked about ‘Game Theory;’ the idea that organisations adjust their practices because of the coercion of others. He gave the example of the railways. Since privatisation, the government has set train operating companies punctuality targets, in response to this the timetables have been adjusted to allow for more ‘slippage;’ the outcome is simple, journey times are longer but targets are met. A classic case of:

“Hitting the target but missing the point”

Schools are in danger of doing precisely this! The Ofsted game has led to some dubious practices; below are just a few that come to mind:

The learning objective must be shared.

We’re not saying it should never be shared, but for every lesson? Surely great learning is great learning and pupils will know this! We shouldn’t forget that learning is never ‘objective!’ It’s a personal process, it belongs to individuals and groups; it is therefore subjective!

The mini-plenary.

Of course great learners need time to reflect, to think about how it might be used; a chance to ponder. However, I heard a story the other day of a class given just 1m 40s before the first mini-plenary was delivered. Pupils need time to question, discuss and just to get on with learning; they don’t need the teacher stopping them every five minutes to check progress.

The end of curiosity.

I’ve seen too many lessons in the past 5 years where the learning outcome is measured in levels. The message is clear; “no need to be curious or inquisitive, I’ve given you the outcome using an arbitrary numerical level and that’s where we’re all heading.” What happened to wonder? Wondering what the outcome might be, the chance to play, to experiment and take risks. I asked a learner in July what he needed to do to get better at maths and he replied “Get a level 5.” Earlier this year I asked a girl what she was learning in English and she replied “AF5” – she could tell I was bemused. I then asked her why and she replied “to get a level 4.” Needless to say writing for pleasure is not one of her pastimes!

Tick Box Teaching

The arrival of the ‘lesson observation grids’ has done great damage to teaching. Instead of teachers, the danger is we become technicians; just ticking the boxes as we go along and ticking as many boxes as possible when an observer is in. Of course there should be guidance, hints and tips, strategies shared and practice observed but when you’ve seen practitioners shower praise like confetti, include a dozen mini plenaries and share enough differentiated learning outcomes for the entire population you know it’s ‘Tick box Teaching.’

Teaching to the tests.

Ofsted predominantly measure a school by their ‘standards.’ Some argue this is not the case, but I’ve yet to come across a school with 100% level 4s at KS2 who’ve been put into special measures. So along comes the ‘SPaG’ test and hey presto, grammar lessons are back on the menu, the ‘how many pieces of punctuation can you fit in a sentence’ game is played and spelling tests, lots of spelling tests! Some argue that children should have this type of experience, but if they felt so strongly why weren’t they doing it last year?

If we continue down this ‘Game,’ education will lose its heart, writing will be a technical experience marked with levels, learning will become boxes to tick and teachers will become robots who simply deliver the packages of contents…And pupils…I fear for them…

So please, follow your philosophy, don’t be compliant and ensure the children in your class/school enjoy an education fit for their futures.

The Thought Weavers

WHEN TEACHERS LOSE THEIR MOJO!

WHEN TEACHERS LOSE THEIR MOJO!

“What’s the difference between a rut and a grave?”
Answer: The depth of the soil,
This phrase was rather eloquently coined by the American Novelist – Ellen Glasgow in the early 1900s; although it’s over a century old the sentiment is still as fresh as the day it was first written.

Those of you who are teachers will know that the job can sometimes be a series of extreme highs and lows.

The highs occur when the light flickers within the eyes of a child and they say:
“Oh I understand now!”
That ‘Bing’ moment when the imaginary light bulb appears above their head. An additional high point can be when you bump into a former student/pupil and they inform you that their chosen career path was all down to a comment or a bit of advice that you gave them when they were younger. (As you can imagine this can also work the opposite way round and become one of your low points.)

The lows are, all too, familiar to many teachers that I speak to:
An ever increasing workload.
High and sometimes unrealistic expectations of parents.
Demands from the Head Teacher and Senior Management Team.
The ever changing nature of education due to change in government.
Unsupportive colleagues.
‘The Class from Hell!’
Ofsted.

So the question is: How can we stay out of the rut, or better still how do you get out of the rut once you have fallen in? Here are a few Thought Weaver suggestions that may help.

1. Talk to colleagues.
Many of the old sayings that our grandparents came out with still ring true today:
‘A problem shared is a problem halved.’
Perhaps if we share the problem a second time that would take care of the remaining half; therefore the problem would be dissipated. It’s always good to get the opinion of another professional whether it be in your own school or another.

2. Try some summer reading.
Some of you may think that books about education are high brow and too academic. There are many out there which are exactly that. However, if you choose wisely you’ll be in for a treat. Here are a few suggestions, they are great for a read or something you can just dip into:

GUY CLAXTON: What’s the Point of School?

This book will help practitioners to reflect on what they feel the purpose of school really is!

IAN GIBERT: Essential Motivation in the Classroom.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Essential-Motivation-Classroom-Ian-Gilbert/dp/041526619X
A book of brilliant and inspirational ideas to promote intrinsic motivation in the classroom.

IAN GILBERT: Why do I need a teacher when I’ve got Google?
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Why-Need-Teacher-When-Google/dp/0415468337
A forward thinking book, considering the changing role of the teacher within 21st Century education

SIR JOHN JONES: The Magic Weaving Business:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Magic-Weaving-Business-Learning/dp/0956376002
Inspirational stories that help capture the essence of why we do what we do!

3. Get on Youtube and be inspired; here are few of the gems we have found!

SIR KEN ROBINSON: Changing paradigms.

SIR KEN ROBINSON: Do schools kill creativity?

NICK VUJICIC: I Love Living Life. I Am Happy.

MATT HARDING: Where the hell is Matt?

BOBBY McFERRIN: A demonstration of the power of the pentatonic

DAVID HOLMES: The Rapping Flight Attendant – Try to love your job this much!

4. Get on Twitter!
We assume that by reading this blog you are already aware of Twitter. However, if you received this link from another source, and as of yet you haven’t got a Twitter account, we strongly suggest you set one up. From our perspective it will be the best continual professional development tool you’ll ever use! It’s easily accessible 24/7, user friendly, highly informative, humorous and more importantly its FREE!

The Thought Weavers.