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

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.

Preparing for Ofsted!

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 and produced a slide show based on my findings.

In February 2013, Ofsted paid my school a visit. 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!

Preparing for Ofsted! 2013

<div style=”width:425px” id=”__ss_12069324″> <strong style=”display:block;margin:12px 0 4px”><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/paceanderson/preparing-for-ofsted-nec-2012&#8243; title=”Preparing for ofsted! nec 2012″ target=”_blank”>Preparing for ofsted! nec 2012</a></strong>

<div style=”padding:5px 0 12px”> View more <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/thecroaker/death-by-powerpoint&#8221; target=”_blank”>PowerPoint</a> from <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/paceanderson&#8221; target=”_blank”>paceanderson</a> </div> </div>

Lee of the ‘Thought Weavers.’

What Kind Of Restaurant Is Your Classroom?

Myself and David (AKA the Thought Weavers) love to play around with analogies, sometimes they help us get a point across and at other times people look back at us with glazed eyes. However, we really feel this one works and will hopefully help you think about your practice.

So here goes.

We think classrooms are like (or perhaps even should be like) a good restaurant. However, this is not always the case, sometimes they are more ‘fast food’ than ‘gourmet’

Let me explain some of the classic features of a ‘fast-food’ model of the classroom:

  • Pupils walk in with no-one to greet them
  • Adults talk really quickly; they’re impatient and want answers quickly.
  • The menu is always the same.
  • A diet of uninspiring food learning is supplied daily. (it does however hit all of the APP outcomes)
  • Pupils will never remember their favourite or lesson when they’re older
  • Standards are high because the criteria for judging them is so narrow. The ‘fast-food’ restaurant makes and healthy profit and the classroom produces high ‘standards’
  • The tables and chairs never move.
  • All posters and displays are professionally made by adults.
  • Differentiation is made by the words ‘small,’ ‘regular’ or ‘large,’ or in classroom speak; ‘poor,’ ‘average’ or ‘bright.’ (Although occasionally ‘G&T is on the menu)
  • Sometimes special menus/promotions are created, in schools these are known as ‘theme days,’ this is the only time when the menu is slightly more interesting.
  • Feedback is standardised and irrelevant. In the classroom this might be ‘Good Work’ or ‘Well Done’
  • No tips are given; the children will never go the extra mile.
  • Customers can never change the menu and ask for something a little different; in the classroom children get what they’re given.
  • There is no overt way of expressing pleasure or disappointment at the service provided.

On the other hand, a gourmet restaurant (or perhaps country pub!) model for the classroom might read as follows:

  • A friendly smile when you walk in.
  • Small talk at the table with staff.
  • The menu changes regularly and there are lots of daily specials
  • The meals (learning) are well deigned by experts who truly know what they are doing.
  • Great memories are created by the quality of service and friendly atmosphere.
  • Relationships with all adults and children are positive.
  • ‘Difficult’ customers are treated with dignity and respect
  • Standards are exceptionally high, because of the attention to detail at every step of the process.
  • If something special is required or someone wants to deviate from the menu it is celebrated and explored
  • Differentiation is the choice of the customer/pupils; there is a wide variety of activities/meals set out in a variety of ways.
  • Feedback is personalised and unscripted, it feels natural but authoritative.
  • Plenty of tips! Children bring in masses of things from home because they’ve been inspired in school.
  • Pupils can personalise the menus, giving feedback to the lead adult about their performance.
  • Pupils are encouraged to think about their decisions; they have time to evaluate the menu before making a decision

And so on…

Let’s make it clear. Classrooms are not restaurants and certainly shouldn’t be run as a business; pupils are not our customers, they are learners and we should be proud to facilitate their progress.

But, we feel the comparisons can be made. We believe that too often, the standards agenda pushes schools into a ‘fast-food’ model of education. Children deserve better! Whilst a ‘Gourmet’ classroom means hard work, it does mean that the children are the most important people and they will remember their experiences.

So how do you make your classroom ‘Gourmet?’

The Thought Weavers

How does the Government support education? mmmmm…

Michael Gove often talks about leaving the running of schools to the professionals. We agree!

Below are headlines from the BBC website over the last few months. We suggest what Gove actually says and what he actually does are two different things!

‘Schools minister cracks down on league table incentives’

‘Ofsted plans to scrap ‘satisfactory’ label for schools’

‘Poor teachers face tougher system under shake-up’

‘New Ofsted chief takes aim at incapable teachers’

‘Third of schools in Wales not good enough, says Estyn’

‘Labour ‘would have cut school building scheme’

‘Ofsted head to tackle coasting and incompetent teachers’

‘Schools in England will face no-notice inspections’

‘Ofsted inspections to scrutinise teaching quality’

‘Michael Gove queries schools’ Ofsted ratings’

‘Education Bill outlines shake-up for England’s schools’

 

The great thing is that teachers are breathtakingly resilient! We are the eternal optimists! We get on with our jobs despite the headlines above! This is what makes teachers great!

The Thought Weavers

Adapting to Curriculum Change. (BETT conference notes)

Perspective 1.

The ‘soft skills’ of learning…

The biggest change as a result of curriculum change should be the mindset of school when delivering the knowledge and facts contained within a proposed new curriculum.

We are always reminded that built into its design is the ‘extra freedom’ it will allow. This is what schools should hook onto. In it’s previous (still current) guise the national curriculum was seen as the end. The entire day had to be built around it (this was never the intention) – school should move away from this model and more focus should be given to the ‘Hidden curriculum’ – which ironically, if schools interpret curriculum change appropriately will not be so hidden.

When I speak of the hidden curriculum, I mean the aspects of learning that builds resilience, that promotes curiosity, encourages learners to be independent and helps all of us develop our role within society – recent years have seen a surge in this type of focus (PLTS / BLP); these have great potential, they are however hampered by the current assessment framework – the idea that if its not measurable its not worth teaching.

With relation to Academies and Free Schools, who will have greater freedom over their curriculum, my hope is that these organisations won’t simply use the ‘Safety net’ of the national curriculum as a basis for their pupils education and be innovative and brave; designing their very own! In reality however, because the summative assessment framework will be based on the national curriculum, I believe it likely that most schools use the new framework.

On the one hand autonomy is promoted whilst on the other it is hampered!

 

Perspective 2- Leadership

If the new curriculum does allow schools more freedom to plan their own approach and schools are willing to take the risk (as I believe they should)  this has implications for leadership.

The role of the curriculum leader would be one of real expertise, they would be leading a curriculum that reflects the local, national and international issues of the day and the decisions made must be based on evidence available rather than simply subscribing to a scheme. The freedom to also deliver a curriculum in a way the school chooses, adds to this autonomy.

Curriculum leaders in school therefore need to be social commentators, interested in the latest research and confident enough to say that the approach the school is taking is the right one. The school would become an ‘intellectual community.’

The word ‘expert’ is not used enough in schools. Teachers are (and should consider themselves) experts in their field, in the same way a doctor is an expert in medicine and solicitor is an expert in law. Curriculum leaders would be expected to be leading experts, to be clear about their methodology, to read/promote/apply/challenge up to date pedagogical research, be brave enough to say some things are not appropriate for their schools and to have a clear rationale for everything they lead.

This would represent change because currently the all encompassing National Curriculum is a safety net – as long as there is ‘coverage’ then there is no issue. If, as seems likely, the new curriculum will explicitly say that it should not be all encompassing, then the only ‘safety net’ is the secure knowledge and understanding of the leadership team, the expertise of all staff and a clear vision of where the school is going – an expert community.

This would have implication for school inspections, as each school will have a mildly different curriculum, one they will have to justify and communicate clearly to a range of inspectors; this represents even greater accountability. Inspectors will have to make judgments on an unfamiliar curriculum and give reasons for it; very difficult! The evaluation schedule would need to be different.

What I believe will happen is that under the new curriculum, the very best schools will prosper, the expertise of the staff will shine through and ultimately the pupils will benefit greatly; many schools are ‘ahead of the game’ and curriculum design expertise is part of their fabric. In other schools, where a rigid curriculum ( or bought in ‘creative curriculums’) has been employed for many years, curriculum change will be a huge challenge; without confident leaders, who have a deep understanding of curriculum design and learning processes, the results could be catastrophic.

The one thing that will hold back innovative and relevant curriculum design is the assessment framework. True freedom would not only be curriculum design, but also to decide the criteria for success.