How to Blog For @LabourTeachers

We are always looking for contributions to this blog. While there are times when we’ll want something different, we’re always happy to be sent a blogpost that:

  1. Is by a teacher who is a Labour Party supporter (or even better member);
  2. Is less than 700 words long;
  3. Has content relevant to Labour supporting teachers (regardless of the point of view);
  4. Has not been published anywhere else beforehand.

There is more detailed guidance here. Some suggestions are here. Some advice about writing is here.  Advice for new bloggers is here. I will update this post with links to further guidance whenever I add any to the site. You can email content  to me here. It will be easier for me if you include it in the main text of the email rather than as an attachment.

Thank you.

I still don’t see the point of Corbyn | @oldandrewuk

photo (10)Andrew is a teacher and editor of Labour Teachers (and writing in a personal capacity). 

When Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership I wrote the following:

Labour normally gains support in the polls for the first couple of years after the Tories win an election, regardless of how badly Labour then go on to do. That said, since devolution there’s now a lot of opportunities to test our appeal before a general election. If we start doing worse than we did under Ed, we should stop and rethink our direction.

The party did need to change. I was as uninspired by the other leadership contenders as anybody. But I fear this is a change that hasn’t been thought through. It’s not obvious what the hard left can do when they are actually in charge (if it isn’t a purge). I doubt anyone really knows what’s next, least of all Jeremy Corbyn.

Well, we have lost support. At the ballot box last month, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour turned out to be a little less effective than Ed Miliband’s. During the EU referendum it appeared to be far worse, with serious doubts raised about whether anyone in Corbyn’s office knows how to organise a campaign on the national stage (and that’s assuming that the poor campaign was unintentional). The experiment has failed. Time to move on.

Or it would be, if electoral success was what Corbyn was about. But it is becoming increasingly clear that a large mass of support behind Corbyn consists of people who simply do not care about opinion polls or elections. They have an agenda that has little to do with electoral politics. They want to protest; they want to promote a narrative about neo-liberalism and betrayal, they want their slogans to be taken seriously, and they want to revisit old arguments that they lost at the time.  To these ends they will keep a leader in place who is unable to lead.To these ends they will allow extremists and anti-semites to take part in Labour politics. To these ends they shout “betrayal” at any attempt to save the party from Corbyn or the country from the Tories. To these ends they will let the Tories win and suggest that any configuration of the Labour Party that could win votes from the Tories isn’t worth bothering with.

But this isn’t a plan. And there never has been a plan. Corbyn is going nowhere; doing nothing. His supporters may not be motivated to win elections or referendums; they may just be there to make life uncomfortable for those that try to move the party on. And perhaps they have the numbers to keep the party in the wilderness for years. But what would victory look like for the Corbynites? No internal resistance in the party? Revenge on those who stood up to them? Complete control of policy? Expulsions of those who are still endorsing mainstream politics? I can picture all of this. What I can’t picture is a party like that ever winning an election, or even making electoral progress, and eventually that will be all that matters. Momentum have no momentum. Things will move on. The anger that some people feel at the thought of the electable Labour Party of 10 years ago will fade with every passing year, and the resentment at those who consider beating the Tories a betrayal of principle will eventually become dominant. How many more years of Tory government before Labour decide to try to win? 5? 10? 15? 20? Eventually it will sink in that there’s no point changing the party if the only beneficiaries are the Tories and that realisation will happen whether Corbyn lasts another 4 years or another 4 days and whether his movement lasts another 40 minutes or another 40 years.

Those behind this palace coup deserve to lose, and lose big | @doktordunc

me coolDuncan Hall (@doktordunc) is a lecturer in FE from Yorkshire. He’s a self-described “old Bennite” and always happy to engage in a debate, so comment away!

The Labour Party has a very clear procedure for challenging an incumbent party leader. And it’s quite a simple one. Somebody who thinks they would make a better leader collects the necessary number of nominations from parliamentary colleagues and triggers a leadership election. Then party members vote for their preferred candidate.

The process does NOT involve PLP motions of no confidence (this has no constitutional meaning in the party at all), staggered, coordinated resignations, attacking the leader on the floor of the commons or in PLP meetings. It is not part of the process to try and humiliate the incumbent or bully him with increasingly hostile letters. There is a good reason for these actions not being part of the process: they are destructive; they run counter to Labour values; they diminish us all.

There are two possible reasons why MPs chose to behave in this appalling and disreputable way. One is that they do not feel their candidate could beat Corbyn in an election. In which case they are motivated by cowardice and fear of democracy. Or they don’t have a candidate. In which case they are reckless beyond belief. And massively incompetent.

Assuming it’s the former, there are two approaches they could have taken rather than split and nearly destroy the party. They could go for an honest approach: pick a better candidate than last time; make clearer arguments than last time; organise the vote better than last time; use the supporters system better than last time.

Or they could go for the fixer approach (and that probably comes more naturally to the leading figures after their Labour Students training): mop up over 80% of MPs to nominate the chosen candidate then organise and pressure the NEC to rule that Corbyn can’t be automatically on the ballot paper.

Now don’t get me wrong. I would be incandescent about the latter. I suspect I might still be, as they may well try that too. But at least it would have avoided this disgusting, unedifying spectacle we have witnessed over the last few days. At least it would have been quick; not this drawn-out punishment beating.

So we’re left in a difficult position. Because there are people who have joined in this debacle for whom I have some time. Who, in another situation at another time, I might have supported. But they have forfeited any right to support, because of the reckless and completely unnecessary damage they have inflicted on the party they proclaim to love. When a candidate emerges, unless it is somebody who has clearly and openly repudiated this behaviour and its ringleaders, he or she deserves to not just lose, but to be absolutely hammered.

Recovering from a political hangover | @danielharvey9

image1 (2)Daniel Harvey is an experienced teacher who has been teaching since 1992. He’s been voting and supporting Labour since the 87 election and is someone who is appalled at the way that Cameron et al see and run this country. He also coaches rugby.

This post was written on Sunday night.

“We are well on our way to majority government”

John McDonnell, 26th June, Sunday Politics.

There is nothing straight and honest about this quote from this morning. I was asked to write a post last week about something about the Labour Party. There wasn’t too much on the agenda then – Brexit forecasting (obviously), the forthcoming NUT strike and maybe some other government policy stuff. Then came Thursday night/Friday morning and then the political weekend hangover that just wouldn’t stop banging!

I am glad Corbyn has been challenged and has been finally called out for his crass ineptitude. Today we might see a new reality emerging. The country is in a crisis – caused in the main by politicians on the right but exacerbated by those on the left who have let the Corbyn experiment go on too long. The country needs charismatic and profound leadership to emerge from this mess so that the divided parts of communities up and down the country, whether they were remain or leave, can address and make the best of the new opportunities we all now face.

I don’t believe we should re-run the referendum. The result is clear. We should accept what that means for us all now, in the mid and also long term. We should make sure that Labour makes the negotiations transparent and work for all in this country. I don’t want a PM foisted on the UK, that puts the needs of the Tory party first and the UK second. I do want a Labour leader that has a narrative for these times, that is listened to by Labour voters rather than just a fan club membership, who understands exactly what Labour heartland voters want from its politicians and then build some consensus around what Labour can do to make things better for the UK.

Corbyn has failed the leadership test. Not that I’m sure he really wanted to pass it. Labour voters don’t listen to him. Just ask Sadiq Khan or Carwyn Jones, who asked him to stay away last month. But Labour voters and Labour MPs want to make a difference to the way this country is run and I hope that this day of sustained resignation leads to leadership that seizes the initiative away from the Tory and addresses the needs of everyday Labour voters.

Alone we can do so little: Part 2 | @DebLFisher

DebbieDebbie has been a member of the Labour Party since her eighteenth birthday. She teaches history at a general FE institute. She believes passionately in the importance of everyone having the opportunity to develop and thrive and that education is key to this.

This post was written before the Shadow Cabinet resignations.

Continued from yesterday’s post.

This does not mean I am not horrified by the outcome of the referendum. I support Remain. The forerunner of the EU, the European Coal and Steel Federation was founded on the basis that countries that were tied together by trade and forced to talk would not fight each other. I do not agree with one of my students who asked if coming out of the EU would led to world war three but I believe that it is better to belong to a big collective group that communicates and works for the common good such as workers’ rights.

I am sad that the regions that are most improvised and in need of EU aid, are the ones that largely voted against remaining. But the public were not told this. The Remain side resorted to scare tactics from expects on what was likely to happen if we left the EU and what we would lose. Most of these experts are probably right. I looked into the competing claims and decided I agreed with the experts on the Remain side. But to many on the Leave side, when feeling alienated and ignored, just repeatedly telling them what they would lose if they voted to leave made them more determined to vote out. It felt like the many experts and politicians whom they felt ignored by, and have learnt to distrust, were shouting at them and trying to intimidate them thorough “project fear” to vote remain. I wonder what would have happened if we had tried having a proper debate and conversation rather than seeming to lecturing them.

I feel saddened for the younger generation that feel betrayed by an older generation. But this is another group that has been given a rough deal in recent years. They have gone through countless education changes that seem to do little to raise standards, they are tested more and more, they face endless debts if they go to university, they face limited apprenticeships and limited job opportunities. Rents are high, the chance of getting a mortgage and their own home seems remote. They thought staying part of the EU offered them hope. Many feel that chance has been taken. Many are fearful of what may happened to international friends and family living in the UK. Our European students feel unwelcome and in our small town have faced increased racism in the last few weeks. Many of our courses and research are funded through the EU. We face losing funding and European students who have so much to offer. At 35, mine is the first generation in over one hundred years to be worse off than their parents. The students I teach face an even bleaker future at the moment. And that’s wrong.

I have no answers, apart from saying, that at this difficult time we need to stay united. We need to come together and remain strong. We need to debate and fight for a better future. We need to listen and respect everyone’s views even if we don’t agree with them. If my class of sixteen to nineteen years old could maturely debate membership of the EU, then surely we as “adults” can too. Some of what they said was challenging but it was listened to respectfully and debated; unacceptable concepts were challenged and explained.

Surely we are also capable of doing this, no matter how worried or alienated we feel. Some of what the Leave campaign has said is racist and filled with hatred; many Leave voters fear immigration. Yet, we cannot ignore these issues and these groups of people just because what they say is distasteful to the liberal membership and leadership of the party. We have seen that telling people what they must believe and how they should vote just leads to more alienation. We need to engage, talk and challenge. The Labour Party’s greatest triumph was the unity after the war which saw the introduction of the welfare state and creation of a united Europe. If this could be debated and achieved this in the midst of the worst period of modern history, surely we can debate this issue sensibly. Yes, at this moment the future seems scary to many of us. Yes, many of us feel sad. Yes, fear and discrimination seems to have won. But we need to unite because together we can achieve more than we can achieve alone. Who knows what hidden talents and opportunities may emerge unless we give everyone an equal chance to thrive by supporting the needs of all. Do we want to remain like the young Helen Keller locked into a dark void, or do we want to work together and work out exactly what we can achieve together? At the moment only fear is winning and that is that is the saddest outcome of all.

Alone we can do so little: Part 1 | @DebLFisher

DebbieDebbie has been a member of the Labour Party since her eighteenth birthday. She teaches history at a general FE institute. She believes passionately in the importance of everyone having the opportunity to develop and thrive and that education is key to this.

This post was written before today’s Shadow Cabinet resignations.

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”. Helen Keller

This much quoted comment by Helen Keller is, according to Herrmann in her 1998 biography of Keller, part of her stage routine from 1920 to 1924 when she performed a scripted dialogue about her life. Keller is famous in America as the girl who became deaf and blind in early childhood and was unable to communicate with the world around her. That was until her teacher Anne Sullivan Macy managed to teach her to associated the words she spelled using the deafblind alphabet into her hand with real world objects and sensations. Through the help of her teacher and others, Keller went on to study at Radcliffe College and to became a political activist, writer and lecturer. Without the help of other Keller would have remained locked in her world of darkness.

So what has Helen Keller, an American activist, to do with English politics? There is no ignoring the fact that we are a nation divided by region, age, poverty and education over the EU debate. Both sides have used scare tactics and fear has been the only winner. Within less than 24 hours the political parties have begun to fight over who is to blame. It would seem leaders on both sides of campaign expected the remain side to win and had not made any plans for an exit strategy.

In a period of unprecedented change and certainty we need to unite and work for the best possible outcome of all British citizens, whether we agree with the decision or not. We can sit back and analysis with cool heads what went right or wrong later when we have gotten over the shock. Discussion and expressions of shock are okay, many of us are shocked and worried for the future. But having a tantrum will not achieve anything. Facing the future together, united, is the only way we will prevent the right wing conservatives from dominating politics and making even more disastrous decisions than they already have since 2010.

I did not vote personally for Corbyn but I was willing to see how he did. I spent the day the result was declared in London was Labour friends who did support him, I was happy to enjoy and join in their celebration and hope for the future. He has been neither the great disaster or saviour that each side of the party predicted. Personally, I do not find him new and radical, I find him slightly boring and old fashion. But calling for a vote of no confidence at this stage will achieve nothing. He is a principled idealist who is able to inspire many and who has proved a steady leader since his election. Potentially our greatest leader, Clement Attlee, was regarded as a boring man, the party tried to oust him in 1945 but he proved to be a pragmatic and idealist leader who oversaw the introduction of the NHS and welfare state. As the democratically elected labour leader we must give Corbyn our support and a fair opportunity to prove what he can do.

The arguments put forward by the members of the PLP backing the vote of no confidence show just out of touch with many traditional Labour members they are. Corbyn did not fail to deliver a strong Labour vote for remain because he did not promote it strongly enough. Many traditional Labour supporters voted to leave because they feel they have been neglected, alienated and ignored for the past decade or more by the leadership of the Labour Party. The truth, as much as we may hate to face it, is that the Labour Party has always been a broad church. It has always composed of a membership ranging from liberal intellectuals to those campaigning for workers’ rights but who have always been socially conservative. The liberal intellectuals have come to dominate the leadership and PLP of the party and they have failed to listen to traditional members. Many traditional Labour communities have never recovered from the loss of the traditional industries, they are fearful of immigration and feel ignored and alienated. For many this was a protest vote. To have campaigned more forcibly for a remain vote would have potentially alienated these traditional supporters further.

Continued tomorrow

Last Week’s Posts on @LabourTeachers (Week Ending 25th June 2016)

Here’s last week’s posts.  If you are a Labour supporting teacher and you’d like to write something for us, please get in touch.

Sunday

Stand up for your employment rights | @FlyMyGeekFlag

The NUT’s ballot for action in relation the recent White Paper: Educational Excellence Everywhere closes on Wednesday. Papers need to be received by first post that morning if they are to be counted. If you haven’t yet returned your ballot, please consider the following.

Monday

Education and the Australian Election | @greg_ashman

On July 2nd, Australians will go to the polls for a general election. At the time of writing, the two major parties are tied in opinion polling with a hint that the incumbent Liberal-National Coalition (roughly equivalent to Britain’s Conservative Party) still have an advantage in key marginals.

Tuesday

Exam Marking, Huh! What is it good for? | @sencotoday

It is that time of year again when colleagues across the school are going out on Standardisation Meetings for examinations.  Those who are doing it online are moaning about internet connections and those that are going to a moderation centre are talking about how good lunch was.  Then they begin to talk about the work load, the late nights and the early mornings.  At this point, you are wondering why people put themselves through this.  Is it just the money?

Wednesday

Am I the only teacher mad enough to be returning to the UK? | @helen_close

Earlier this year, the headlines were all about the ‘brain drain’ taking place in teaching. Michael Wilshaw warned us that more people were leaving the UK each year than were training to become teachers. As the year has gone on, warnings about a shrinking profession have continued – The Guardian informed us that nearly half of England’s teachers plan to leave the profession in the next five years. The TES survey showed that three-quarters of teachers are thinking of quitting, and the ATL reported that four out of ten teachers quit within a year of qualifying.

Thursday

The SEND Reforms | @JulesDaulby

The SEND reforms have cost half a billion pounds. This has predominantly been about changing paperwork from a Statement of Educational Needs to an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

Friday

Oh Britain, what have you done? | @FlyMyGeekFlag

I am so very angry, and so very disappointed at this referendum result. I’m not angry at the people who voted Leave. I’m quite certain a large proportion of those people made an educated decision and I respect their democratic right to do so. I’m really, really angry at those who ran the Leave campaign and who capitalised on people’s fear and who encouraged a xenophobic view of the world. I’m also really angry and disappointed that the Remain campaign just didn’t do enough to counter the claims being made throughout the run up to the referendum.

 

Oh Britain, what have you done? | @FlyMyGeekFlag

flymygeekflag profile picSarah Bedwell is an Aussie teaching English and other things in the north west of England. She loves using technology in new ways to engage and excite learning, though she does believe in pedagogy before technology. Sarah is currently the ‘Lead Learner for Using New Technologies to Enhance Teaching and Learning’ – otherwise known as an eLearning Coordinator.

I am so very angry, and so very disappointed at this referendum result. I’m not angry at the people who voted Leave. I’m quite certain a large proportion of those people made an educated decision and I respect their democratic right to do so. I’m really, really angry at those who ran the Leave campaign and who capitalised on people’s fear and who encouraged a xenophobic view of the world. I’m also really angry and disappointed that the Remain campaign just didn’t do enough to counter the claims being made throughout the run up to the referendum.

The result of this referendum have left me shaking my head. Boris Johnson has said that this decision does not mean that the UK will be anything less than outward-looking. Really? With a crashing pound, a massive emphasis on migration and little else and something of a rudderless government and opposition, there seems to be little choice but to look inwards for the foreseeable future. Within hours of the result being declared, Nigel Farage had backflipped, u-turned or whatever the appropriate phrase of the day is, on the most headline-grabbing promise of the Leave campaign: that the money spent on contributions to the EU would go to the NHS. There’s claims from the Leave campaign that, actually, despite what they harped on about for weeks, leaving the EU won’t really impact immigration. Why didn’t the Remain campaign pursue this more strongly and persistently during the campaign? I know there were token arguments against, but even watching the debate at Wembley the other night, their arguments against the Leave side were more about ‘Project Fear’ than about using cold, hard facts to convince the electorate.

I’m an immigrant. I make no excuses and I make no apologies for that. I came to the UK in 2007 from Australia. I have a British passport as I have dual citizenship – my father was born here and his/my family still live here. I still speak with an Australian accent and I still think with an Australian slant on things.

I’ve had a lot of conversations today about the referendum result with both staff and students. The students have been really quite brilliant about it, wondering what this means for the country and for their futures, and in some cases wondering if that means I’ll be sent back to Australia and being a little bit concerned by that. We’ve also spent a lot of time discussing democracy. I may not like the result that we got, but I respect the fact that it came about by a democratic process with an extraordinary turnout. If the decision had been left to the politicians – who, lets face it, don’t always have the desires of their constituents at heart – we’d be arguing that the process was undemocratic.

What really disappoints me is that the result means that there are more questions than answers, and yet more fear. A quick scroll through my Twitter feed this morning highlighted several things, the biggest of which is the uncertainty that now plagues migrants already in the UK. From the primary teacher with Polish students who were in tears at the thought of being sent away from the life they know, to the British man worried that his European partner would eventually be deported as she doesn’t have British citizenship, these are real fears, however unfounded or however much time may pass before such decisions are made.

As an immigrant myself, it worries me that the clear message being sent by this result is that I’m no longer welcome here. I don’t mean by my friends and colleagues, but by the community I live in and the community I work in – both of those voted roughly 2:1 to leave the EU. I’ve encountered racism here before. I was once blocked in by some EDL protestors and ranted at for some time about immigrants needing to be deported (not their vocabulary choices but this is not the place for the kind of language they used). It worries me that things will get worse for me and for the children I teach who don’t look or sound ‘British’. It worries me that we are potentially facing a future with Boris Johnson, Michael Gove or even Nigel Farage (who could defect to the Conservatives seeing as UKIP is now somewhat defunct) as Prime Minister. If you think that’s unlikely, I have two things to say: Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump. It worries me that there is no clear plan to move us forward; that with the financial markets crashing and the far right parties across Europe and probably the rest of the world celebrating our decision, that things are going to get a whole lot worse before there’s any seed of hope of things getting better.

The SEND Reforms | @JulesDaulby

unknownJules Daulby is a Literacy and Language Co-ordinator in a comprehensive in Dorset.  As part of her role, she leads a specialist Speech and Language base, an alternative curriculum for students who follow ASDAN instead of a GCSE option and is responsible for whole school literacy.  

The SEND reforms have cost half a billion pounds. This has predominantly been about changing paperwork from a Statement of Educational Needs to an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

The reform has also increased the age a student is under legal educational protection; it is now 0-25 years old.  The latter years are only if a young person remains in education however, alternatively the EHCP collapses and should it be required, adult services take over.

What have these changes meant to me?

The paperwork is longer for an EHC plan. The annual reviews are longer, yet less formal. I’ve done a two day Person Centred Review (PCR) course to be able to chair these reviews.  They’re more dynamic and student led but take up to two hours.

The SEN caseworkers are now called something else. We have skeleton Educational Psychology support as they’re too busy working with FE colleges (something which was not done before).

What changes has it meant to my students?

Their EHC plan will follow them to college or sixth form. They are more involved in the annual review.

What changes has it meant to parents?

They now come to a PCR instead of an annual review – there’s less paperwork at the meeting and more talking and post-its (a positive thing in my opinion). Their child keeps the EHC plan while they remain in college – this can be reassuring. Some have chosen to accept money from the LA for transport to bring their child in themselves instead of using county paid taxis. Some are aware of a personal budget but aren’t quite sure what it means or what they can use it for.  A source tells me that nationally only 6 in a hundred young people with an EHCP are claiming a Personal Budget.  This doesn’t surprise me at all and few really know what they can and can’t pay for.

What changes has it meant to the LA?

They had two consultants come in. The SEN caseworkers (now called something else) are transferring the statements to EHC plans.  They seem busier than ever before but are doing a sterling job. Some of the EPs have gone private and are working for MATs (multi academy trusts); others are too busy to come into school but are doing their best under the circumstances. I don’t know how much national structural change usually costs, but to me, for half a billion pounds, I’d want more for my money.

Am I the only teacher mad enough to be returning to the UK? | @helen_close

helenHelen is a primary teacher in her second year of teaching abroad, soon to return to the UK. Her interests are in mentoring and coaching staff and pupils, technology use in the classroom, and the creative curriculum.

Earlier this year, the headlines were all about the ‘brain drain’ taking place in teaching. Michael Wilshaw warned us that more people were leaving the UK each year than were training to become teachers. As the year has gone on, warnings about a shrinking profession have continued – The Guardian informed us that nearly half of England’s teachers plan to leave the profession in the next five years. The TES survey showed that three-quarters of teachers are thinking of quitting, and the ATL reported that four out of ten teachers quit within a year of qualifying.

Damning statistics. Despite responses from the government that there are more teachers in schools than ever before, it’s hard to argue with the fact that the sheer number of people leaving the chalkface is going to negatively impact education in the UK – and many would say there are already enough disastrous changes happening in the education sector as it is.

Two years ago, I was part of the statistic of teachers who were considering leaving. After a successful and enjoyable PGCE, I had a hellish NQT year – Ofsted inspections, workload, support issues and a difficult, large class with complex needs all made for a highly stressful year. I wondered if I could cope with this term after term, year after year. However, teaching was what I wanted to do. When I was in the classroom, actually working with the children, I had a great time. Leaving the profession was not the right choice for me – but leaving the country was. I was sold on more relaxed inspections, higher, tax-free pay, smaller class sizes, free periods to get marking done. Off I went on a two-year contract to teach in Egypt, hoping that it would reignite my love of the job and take away some of the stresses that had affected me in the UK.

Two years on, it’s worked. I’ve had an amazing time – I’ve had time to actually teach, to plan excellent lessons, to explore avenues of enquiry the kids have expressed an interest in. Yes, data has still been important – but the pressure to make every child make progress, regardless of who they are, has become far less. I’ve rediscovered what brought me into teaching in the first place.

It’s time for me to come home. I’ve missed my family, my friends – even, at times, the weather. I’m ready to end my extended jaunt abroad and go and start real life back at home. But while I read all the statistics about teachers leaving to teach abroad, or leaving full stop, I wonder what the numbers are for teachers returning to the UK. I wonder how many, having experienced the freedom, income and lifestyle of living abroad, make the decision to go back and work in the broken system that is UK education. I look at my colleagues in my current school; there are a few who are heading back along with me, but the vast majority of leavers are off to other international systems. Many have worked abroad for many years – most will continue to do so for all of their working lives.

What can be done in the UK to compete with these growing international schools? Can anything the UK provides really compare to the experience of teaching abroad? And is coming back and re-joining the UK system the worst decision possible? Perhaps. But I’m willing to give it a try, because at the moment, the UK needs all the good teachers it can get.

Sources:

Exam Marking, Huh! What is it good for? | @sencotoday

FB_IMG_1455044019064-1@sencotoday has been a SENCo in a large secondary school for the last six years.  He began his career as an English Teacher and has since completed numerous jobs within schools.

Absolutely Everything!

It is that time of year again when colleagues across the school are going out on Standardisation Meetings for examinations.  Those who are doing it online are moaning about internet connections and those that are going to a moderation centre are talking about how good lunch was.  Then they begin to talk about the work load, the late nights and the early mornings.  At this point, you are wondering why people put themselves through this.  Is it just the money?

Well, the money comes in handy – of course it does.  A lot of my colleagues use it to pay towards holidays, days out with their kids etc.  But there is so much more to exam marking than that!

I have marked for about ten years with three different Awarding Bodies.  I can honestly say that marking has been the best CPD I have had.  The clear and deep understanding about the exam paper, the mark scheme, the marking methods and the mind of an examiner are crucial in teaching the students in your classes.  As we work through a time of great change in the educational landscape, with all KS2 Tests, GCSEs and A Levels changing, understanding the assessment objectives, mark schemes and the way that examinations are constructed has never been more important.

It begins with the small niggles.  Most scripts are now marked online and have been scanned from the original script.  Making sure that the students in your class do not write over the lines at the side of the page, to making sure that handwriting is clear and legible.  These may seem obvious, but for an examiner they make life really difficult!

Understanding the “Command Words” and the way that they influence the question is another massive aspect of being an examiner.  It gives you a clear insight into how questions are assembled and the way that words and phrases are used that you can then pass onto your students.  It can give you a lot of experience when you are writing questions to set for timed assessments and practice.

As you mark from a range of centres, you can clearly see so many different teaching styles coming through in the students’ work.  You can see where the focus of teaching has been, the techniques that they students have been taught in terms of exam technique and, in some subjects, it can give you very different ideas about texts and sources.  You can find so many ideas that you would never have thought of which can all filter into your thinking and teaching, real “Oh” moments!  Different perspectives give you different ideas and teaching methods which you can share with your students.

Exam marking is a fantastic way to get a deeper understanding of the requirements of your syllabus and your examination paper.  It allows you to mark timed assessments and mock exams using a clear examiners eye and makes sure that your data is as accurate as it can be.  This then leads to clearer intervention planning and increased outcomes for students.  It benefits your class, your department and your school.  It also gives you a clear focus for your day to day marking.  You begin to see where students practice can be improved and you can give concise feedback on the ways that students can improve and the ways that students can respond to these areas – the real key to marking!

For all of us who are SENCOs, it also gives us a clear idea of what Access Arrangements are needed.  I have had numerous members of teaching staff approach me and tell me that X needs a scribe or a laptop due to his handwriting.  You can then look and make an informed decision (is it as bad as some of the handwriting I have seen?  The answer is usually “No”).  It gives us a basis for normal way of working as we begin to identify students who require this kind of support earlier in the school – as per JCQ good practice.

Happy marking!