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.

The graph which doesn’t fit the narratives | @oldandrewuk

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

On Twitter yesterday, I found an updated version of my favourite political graph. Here it is:

left-right 2016

It shows how voters have (on average) have placed the party leaders on the left-right spectrum in the last 13 years.

The first reason I find it really useful is because it is a common political trick for people to reframe the spectrum to fit their own narrative. Often people do this by putting themselves and their heroes as close to the centre as they can get away with, and then claiming that those they have now shifted to the edges of the graph are extreme. Given that there can never be a purely objective application of labels, if the labels “left” and “right” are to mean anything, they need to be consistent with how they are generally used, and a graph showing how the electorate use them is a good first step towards that. Of course, people still have the option of appealing to a wider perspective – a greater period of history or countries other than the UK – but at least if we can start here we can spot when somebody is arguing that everyone else in the UK electorate is marching out of step.

The second lesson I draw from this graph is that either positioning on the left-right spectrum has not been that important,  or if it is then the message is not good for Labour. Every election has been won by the party (out of the main 2 parties) that was closest to a position in the centre right. It is a fair estimate that the same would apply if the graph could be extended back another 25 years. This is bad news for Labour; we have less freedom to leave the centre than the Tories do. Of course, positioning is probably not the be all and end all of winning elections, but our recent history as a party has been to elect leaders more on the basis of positioning than competence or electability, so it really does matter if the position we pursue is not one that will help us win.

The third lesson I draw from the graph is that the belief that “all politicians are the same” is either not as widely held as people often claim, or is  not related to the ideology of left and right. Tony Blair may be seen as the most right-wing Labour leader, and may even have been seen as just right of centre and to the right of the public, but at no point in this period (beginning in the year of the Iraq war) did he ever occupy the same territory in the public mind as the Tory leaders. Even more importantly, at a time when people are still claiming Labour lost in 2010 and 2015 for being “too close” or “the same” as the Tories, the graph shows us that actually the parties were seen as much further apart at those times than they were when Labour won in 2005. The public saw both Brown and Miliband as a move to the left from the New Labour era, not a continuation, despite that being quite a common narrative in debates in the party.

The fourth lesson I draw from the graph is that from Miliband to Corbyn is not some clean break with a rightwing past. It is the latest (and probably last) in a series of  jumps to the left that Labour has made in the last 10 years, and not noticeably a much bigger one. The step from Miliband to Corbyn is not obviously greater than the step from Brown to Miliband or Blair to Brown. I should probably be reassured that this implies that, if leader at the next general election, Corbyn’s left-wing position probably won’t lead him to do that much worse than Miliband. But at the same time, if positioning is important, it seems unlikely that he, or for that matter Owen Smith if he continues to ape Corbyn on policy, can expect to do that much better than Miliband. Both will be seen as more of the same: a leader way to the left of the public.

Of course, if Labour is lucky then positioning is not as important as the graph might indicate. It may well be the case that a leader can win from a position as left-wing as Brown, or even Miliband. However, if this is true, such a leader is going to need to score highly on the other things that make somebody electable: competence; communication skills; decision-making; leadership, and being part of an effective team. I hope that as we all vote in the leadership election, we back the candidate who most clearly shows those qualities. Voting for a candidate just because they are most clearly in a place on the political spectrum that gives no electoral advantage, is just another way to keep the Tories in power.

Forty-eight and fifty-two | @dl_robin

Two groups of dienes counting apparatus sit on a low table in front of you. The first group, includes four lots of ten and eight single unit counters (They’re all Remain-yellow). The next group has five lots of ten and two single unit counters (They’re Brexit-blue…).

If you asked any primary aged child they could accurately tell you which group was larger and expand on that to tell you the numerical difference between the two groups.

If you swapped out the dienes blocks for sweets and asked a class of primary children whether they would prefer the fifty-two to share together or the forty-eight, the answer would be unanimous: the fifty-two.

The stretched metaphor above alludes to the current situation that the Labour Party faces. We’re staring at two groups of voters and we’ve chosen to share the smaller group. Please don’t misunderstand, I voted to remain and I’m aware that Labour policy is pro-Europe – but its causing a crisis in traditional Labour heartlands.

This problem is made worse by Labour leadership hopeful Owen Smith who if elected has promised to ‘hold a second referendum on leaving the EU’. This is not an appealing option to the 52% of voters who voted to leave the EU, voters that if Labour is to form a government in the next general election need to win over.

Despite the pro-Brexit feeling across the country Jeremy Corbyn is criticised widely for being ‘lukewarm’ on the EU. Indeed he gave it a rating of ‘about seven and a half’ on a late-night tv show -if that was water temperature it would be tepid. These criticisms stem from the fact he refused to share a platform with David Cameron (remember that guy?) for the Remain campaign and that he has put himself above party policy by not being active enough in putting forward the pro-EU views of the Labour party.

Corbyn is known for his eurosceptic views, see here for a more in-depth analysis. Conversely does this mean that Jeremy Corbyn is more in-touch with the wider electorate than Owen Smith? Wouldn’t Corbyn’s own stance a begrudging recognition that despite its failings the EU does indeed benefit us win back some pro-Brexit votes with a little persuasion?

All I know is I’d rather share the forty-eight sweets immediately whilst leaving the door open to have a swipe at some of the fifty-two as well.

Hero worship and certainties makes a comeback | @MikeBerkoff

IMG_20150721_173141Mike Berkoff began his career in 1974, teaching in a comprehensive for three years. He was a lecturer/course organiser in Further Education for twenty three years and a senior manager in Adult Education for nine years. His main teaching was in mathematics and computer science. He is now happily retired.

For centuries individuals such as religious leaders and kings have somehow managed to hold sway over vast numbers of people. Some individuals were regarded with total obedience in certain populations. This observance at different times and in different places have certain characteristics that seem common.

It is noteworthy that often hereditary is a major part in the acceptance of such unquestioning devotion. Subjugation based on religious grounds is a bit more complicated but exhibits many of the same features as kingship. I am sure there are historians out there who can give a full and learned account of this phenomenon, so let us move on to more recent times in our ‘enlightened’ era.

Listening recently to an account of the upbringing of someone during Mao’s Cultural Revolution a theme that appeared was the total unquestioning devotion to ‘the great leader’. It mattered little that pronouncements contradicting previous statements were made. No error was possible from Mao. Of course such things have been evident in others such as Hitler, Stalin and now Kim Jong-Un. In our times in the West we had better not get too complacent. The cult of the leader seems pretty common these days. Across Europe various demagogues and populists are very much on the rise. In the US Donald Trump has a slavish following and the blessed Jeremy can do no wrong for some in our party. The messages differ but the similarities in style are very common. These include appealing to those who have lost out in the changes to our societies and economies. The demagogue will always present a set of simple solutions to complicated problems. Often these ‘solutions’ are barely more than slogans. A relationship with facts often seems pretty tenuous. Previous ‘truths’ are dispensed with and earlier statements can be claimed as ‘out of context’ or even they were not made at all. For the totally dedicated follower all this is accepted and the ‘debate’ just goes on. In other words reality is considered subservient to the needs of the leader and his/her group. Behind the great leaders are often groups of highly motivated individuals who act as a form of Praetorian Guard. Interestingly these inner circles often come from very privileged backgrounds. Opponents, especially from within the same milieu, will be denounced as traitors or closet members of opposing factions or parties. So it goes on. If this is familiar to our own party situation that is no accident. I do not claim that Corbyn supporters are the same as Trump’s or various crack pot European movements, what I do say is that there is way of operating politically that is common.

Of course it will be pretty obvious that I am supporting Owen Smith in the current contest but I would be the last to claim him as beyond criticism. That of course is one of my points. If we see the people we follow as faulted individuals with strong and weak traits then perhaps we can maintain a critical and realistic view of their actions.

Has education a part to play in our reaction to politics? This is a difficult one. Let us be honest and recognise that a prescribed set of beliefs delivered in curricula across the education system would be a bit of an abomination. Pointing to various writers over the centuries who have commentated is no bad thing but in this a plurality of opinions is essential. There are a few past writers I seem to return to to get a breath of fresh air. David Hume I do find hard going but his underlying scepticism is healthy. George Orwell of course is an important writer for anyone brought up in the British democratic tradition and for a view of the absurdity of modern life Franz Kafka is a fine example of what a crazy world we all inhabit. I would always expect there to be plenty of others that can be sighted who puncture the pompous certainties we are presented with these days. Any suggestions are welcome.

Finally a (rather old) joke.

After another speech by the leader a policeman says to a passer by:

“Well what did you think of the statements just given?”

The passer by replies “I think exactly the same as you.”

“In that case I arrest you for demeaning the value of our beloved hero.”

Last Week’s Posts on @LabourTeachers (Week Ending 20th August 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

Back to School Shopping List: Pens, Pencils, iPads? | @FlyMyGeekFlag

Before we even broke up for the Summer the back to school sales were in full swing in supermarkets and department stores across the land. I used to love the back to school shop: new pens, new notebooks and folders – all that promise and possibility for the year to come. I hated back to school shoe shopping when I was in primary school though, as my mother made me wear heavy black leather lace ups when all of the other girls got to wear sandals in the hot weather. It was so unfair! These days, the back to school shop is not as simple as pens, notebooks and shoes, as more and more schools seek to implement 1:1 device policies without the ability to fund them for themselves.

Monday

Can You Help @Labourteachers?

Apologies that this post should have appeared last night. We seem to be having one of our periodic shortages of posts, and as a result things are running a bit late.

Having spent some time thinking of what to write about, it ocurred to me that the most obvious thing is to write a post begging for more help with this blog.

All the people volunteering to write posts do an excellent job keeping the show on the road, and we have just about managed a post a day for almost a year and a half, but it is a struggle at times.

Tuesday

How Labour lost the debate on education | @jon_brunskill

One winter evening in 2013, a bright young man called Rory Gribbell was sat at his laptop, assessing his options for life after university. And Rory sure had options. His CV boasted fluency in French, a master’s degree in mathematics from the university of Durham, alongside international sports caps. Rory had his pick of the best graduate schemes on offer; he could make his fortune in the city, work for a top law firm or rise through the management consultancy ranks at whichever conglomerate took his fancy.

Wednesday

Leadership – It’s under the Spotlight | @sencotoday

We are at the start of what promises to be a magnificent season of Premier League football.  With Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola moving into the two Manchester clubs, there are two of the best managers in the world in England and the press are reminding us at every possible opportunity!

Thursday

Process and Rulebooks – the refuge of scoundrels | @RosMcM

I shouldn’t have done it but I did – I watched Corbyn and Smith on a morning TV show – for a woman in her 50s with high blood pressure this wasn’t a sensible decision!

Friday

The farce continues | @srcav

What a farce. Firstly, we have some members of the PLP deciding to challenge the leader – an easy process on a democratic party, get enough nominations and lodge the challenge. However, that wasn’t the route they took. Instead they started a prolonged period of what can only be described as bullying. One imagines because they felt they wouldn’t win a leadership election with the current leader in the ballot.

The farce continues | @srcav

cavStephen Cavadino is a maths teacher (and fanatic) from Leeds. He is a member of the Labour party. You can read of his musings on maths, teaching and life at cavmaths.wordpress.com . When he isn’t teaching; writing about, or doing maths he spends the majority of his time with his family, watching rugby (both codes) and playing guitar.

What a farce. Firstly, we have some members of the PLP deciding to challenge the leader – an easy process on a democratic party, get enough nominations and lodge the challenge. However, that wasn’t the route they took. Instead they started a prolonged period of what can only be described as bullying. One imagines because they felt they wouldn’t win a leadership election with the current leader in the ballot.

When that didn’t work the papers were lodged, and the challenge formalised. But then it was accompanied by a legal challenge to keep the leader off the ballot. That also failed.

Then the cut of date was announced. 12th January. I’m not against a cut of date in principle, but both sides were urging people to sign up to vote. Hundreds of thousands of people did.  The website stated that all members could vote. People were rightly annoyed. Especially when they were told they could buy a vote for 25 quid. Many still paid up.

Then we had another legal challenge and the cut off date overturned. What happens then? Those members who paid for a vote, do they get 2 votes or a refund? Either way more legal challenges seem likely. This may have been averted by the appeal, but who knows if this appeal will stand?

Then we have the candidate who launched the bid being jettisoned by her supporters for another.

This week in a televised debate the leader failed to recognise two TV presenters from a photo. This was on the BBC and was reported as news by many edit outlets. I’ll let that sink it. A publicly owned broadcaster decided to ask candidates in a labour leadership debate to identify celebrities and this is seen as news!!! How does this affect ones ability to govern?

The whole process has been a joke and has hit the party majorly in the polls. The members of the PLP who kicked this off claimed their reason was that Corbyn made the party unelectable – a fact we’ll never be able to test now as whether he was or wasn’t this process has certainly made the party look less electable than before, and as such can be argued by the leader as the reason behind losing the next election if that does happen.

Enough is enough. Once the votes come in we need to unite behind whoever is leader and get on with providing an effective opposition. We need to stop petty bickering and we need to set out our rules more clearly so next time their is a contest we all know the score and we don’t get caught up in this nonsense surrounding legal challenges.

Process and Rulebooks – the refuge of scoundrels | @RosMcM

JpegAfter 31 years of teaching, 15 of them as firstly Headteacher, then Principal, and latterly as Executive Principal and CEO of an Academy Trust, Ros is now working independently in the sector.

I shouldn’t have done it but I did – I watched Corbyn and Smith on a morning TV show – for a woman in her 50s with high blood pressure this wasn’t a sensible decision!

When Corbyn was asked about anti-semitism in the party he resorted to the process and the rules in the party for dealing with this. I’m afraid that doesn’t wash when he was seen to be chatting and smiling with the guy who had made one of our Jewish MPs leave the meeting in tears. What it reminded me of is the headteacher who claims there is no problem with bullying in the school because they have a very clear anti-bullying policy.

Throughout my years as a senior leader I have observed that the heads and the schools who obsess about the systems and processes for dealing with everything, and hold this much higher than nurturing relationships and culture, do not run happy ships. Of course processes and rules are needed (particularly when things go wrong) but they do not construct the relationships which mean people are respected, valued and happy. You cannot have a policy which demands that people smile at each other, notice when a colleague is distressed and go that extra mile for each other.

Schools that have great culture and climate to work in have leaders who obsess about the quality of relationships, who understand that merely following due process is nowhere near enough and who role model the relationships they wish to see. These leaders do not run their schools through a series of ticklists and they understand that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’.

I was a member of the Labour Party in the ‘70s and ‘80s and I remember how the hard left clung to process and rulebook to prevent proper debate and they are doing it again. I now have little doubt that they will seize control of the party, but it will condemn us to years of opposition and irrelevance. Sadly Owen Smith has decided to get onto their territory which is just stupid.

I despaired this week at Owen Smith’s NHS plan – his emphasis was on process for delivery not outcome. The Labour Party needs to understand that what the people need is great outcomes from the public services regardless of how we deliver this. When we need treatment if the most efficient way to deliver the best treatment is in partnership with the private sector then that is what is required.

The Labour Party is sick at the moment. It is sick partly because leaders at all levels are more concerned with process than outcome. In developing policy the party must move away from the arguments of the last century and focus on the outcomes not the process.

But the real sickness currently is that the leader is either completely unaware of the culture and climate that has been created as a result of his inability to lead, or worse he is aware but is using that last refuge of the scoundrel in claiming he is merely following process and rules.

Leadership – It’s under the Spotlight | @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.

We are at the start of what promises to be a magnificent season of Premier League football.  With Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola moving into the two Manchester clubs, there are two of the best managers in the world in England and the press are reminding us at every possible opportunity!

As a SENCo who will be developing in a Senior Leadership position in September, I have been reading and watching a lot about Management – and being a football fan, I have been looking at some of the best managers and analysing how a winning mentality can correspond to a school environment.

Pep Guardiola has said this week that his first job at Manchester City was to work with the players to ensure that; “each of my players {..} be a good teammate – this is the most important quality.”  This approach needs to be clear within a school.  Every day, we need to find ways to support each other, support our staff and support our students.  Talking about team work is easy – there is always the dreaded question at an interview, but Guardiola has taken this thinking to a new level: “We are here to help Manchester City to become a better club over the coming years”.  This is what senior staff need to strive at within a school environment.  We are here to work for the school, to make teaching and learning better and to ensure that we pull together for the school; this is what ultimately benefits the students.  By each teacher taking responsibility for their lessons, we all add to the school, to its reputation and to its effectiveness for everyone involved.  Middle and senior leaders need to support their staff to deliver this and to ensure that they are clearly aware of what the priorities are and the ways that all staff need to deliver these.  The key message here is communication.  Here a coaching model can work to support teachers in Teaching and Learning; ideas can be clearly shared and teaching and learning can be discussed.  A coaching model is excellent and equally beneficial for both the mentee and the coach.

If Guardiola is seen as the best manager in the world at the moment, then Ferguson can be seen as one of the greatest managers ever.  His book ‘Leadership’ has the simple blurb: “My job was to make everyone understand that the impossible was possible. That is the difference between leadership and management.”  Again, the focus here is communication, but how do we ensure that we lead without managing?  Middle leaders need to be empowered to lead their departments and support their staff; the job of the Senior Leadership Team then becomes to support middle leaders to make decisions that develop their staff, their departments and their students.  This makes the Line Management Process much easier; it allows senior staff and middle leaders to discuss issues, brainstorm ideas and develop a solution focussed approach.  Middle Leaders are the best placed people to lead their departments; they know them and work within them every day; by giving them the power to lead, we give teaching staff power – they are able to influence the way that the department is run and the priorities it faces.  Ferguson based his managerial career on this idea – empowerment by achieving the impossible; I am sure that the Manchester United fans have missed this idea over the last few years.

When Jose Mourhino was at Chelsea (for the second time) he was clear that he was never happy.  He said that he was never happy, even when he has won a title; and I am sure that he is still the same!  He always wants more.  He always wants to achieve at a higher level.  This is what we should strive for every day, in our classrooms, in our schools and in our jobs.  Mourhino makes his players want more – to never rest on their laurels.  OfSTED have been in – great, but where do we go next?  How do we improve?  How do we develop?  Schools are areas where being at the top of your game is key.  Development is at the heart of what we do with students, it must be at the heart of leadership and school development.  The winning mentality of Mourinho needs to be understood at all levels of a school, and Senior Staff need to direct schools in this way.

GCSE Results are released soon and, like the Premier League Table, we will celebrate for a short while and then it is back to the business of development.  I want my Senior Career to be filled with these moments – the celebrations and the forward planning.  This year, I want all four cups…

How Labour lost the debate on education | @jon_brunskill

BrunskillJon Brunskill is the Head of Year Two at an all-though school in London. He tweets @jon_brunskill and writes for the TES and Teach Primary.

One winter evening in 2013, a bright young man called Rory Gribbell was sat at his laptop, assessing his options for life after university. And Rory sure had options. His CV boasted fluency in French, a master’s degree in mathematics from the university of Durham, alongside international sports caps. Rory had his pick of the best graduate schemes on offer; he could make his fortune in the city, work for a top law firm or rise through the management consultancy ranks at whichever conglomerate took his fancy.

But he did not opt for prestige, mega-bucks or high-rise glory. You see, Rory was politically left-leaning, and was disturbed by the social injustices he saw around him, particularly in the education system. So he applied for Teach First, and shipped out to work in a disadvantaged school in Southampton.

Fast forward three years, and Gribbell has just been appointed as the new ‘Teacher in Residence’ at the Department for Education. He’s responsible for, amongst other things, writing Nick Gibb’s speeches and advising on policy. Angela Rayner, labour’s shadow Secretary of State for Education, responded by denouncing Gribbell as one of Gibb’s ‘right-wing mates’, called his appointment an abuse of public money and demanded a full investigation.

She went on to suggest that Gibb should instead appoint “a headteacher from a secondary state school in a deprived area and find out about the real problems facing schools.” This is an odd statement, given that Gribbell works in a secondary state school in a deprived area. And if you want to know about the real problems in schools, the classroom teacher, not SLT, is probably the best person to ask.

But all of this misses the bigger point. Given that just nine months ago, Gribbell was a card-carrying member of the Labour party, shouldn’t Rayner really be asking herself, “Just how did we lose this promising young teacher to the ideology of the Conservative party?” And he’s not the first to go. Last year self-professed leftie James Theobald wrote a controversial but powerful article in defence of Gove, and his attempt to reconcile this position with his left leaning sentiments.

Gribbell and Theobald, angry with the interminable inequality that permeates education and wider society, should be the vanguard of Labour’s educational vision. Their beliefs chime in unison with the party that fought for the working class of Britain, for the children who underachieve at school and whose life chances are quashed as a result.

So just how did the Tories’ educational message coax these bright lights from Labour’s educational plan? There are probably two reasons. First, although Gove did a horrible job at ‘bringing the profession along with him’ he was relentless in his crusade to provide every child with the sort of education that children from private schools receive. For some, it is elitist to provide all children with a diet of Shakespeare and Schopenhauer, of Chaucer and Tchaikovsky. But others, persuaded by Professor E D Hirsch, argue that it’s in fact elitist not to. The powerful knowledge provided by studying culturally significant figures and events of our past should not belong only to those who already have abundant social and cultural advantage.

The second reason is revealed when we ask just what Labour is offering in response. This was the exact question a friend put to me as we discussed politics and education over drinks a few weeks ago. I’d been outlining the recent reforms and changing landscape of education in England, and he interrupted me to ask, “So that’s what the government have been doing, but what’s Labour’s education policy?”

I paused for a good few seconds before realising that I had absolutely no idea. Later, I tweeted about the exchange, and received a reply from none other than the shadow Secretary of State for Education, Angela Rayner MP. She tweeted that Labour “had tons of good policy”, and that I should “email her” to get them. I found this disappointing. One of the key differences between Labour and the Conservatives at the moment is that, like them or not, everyone knows exactly what the Tories key vision is and what their plan is to achieve it. Balance the books; austerity. Take low earners out of taxation; raise minimum taxable allowance. Less dependence on government; welfare reform. Clear, snappy, authoritative.

Rayner’s response that educational policy can’t be done ‘in 140 characters’ shows either a lack of policy altogether, or policy that is too diffuse to be communicable in a concise and engaging message, which is more or less the job of a government minister. Rather than being impossible, it is exactly what successful politicians do. An axiomatic slogan, conveying an inspirational and rousing principle, that’s what wins votes, hearts and minds. I was disgusted with the ‘£350m a week to the EU, let’s spend it on the NHS instead’ banner, but you can fit it in a tweet and it certainly worked for the Leave campaign.

So somewhat dryly, I replied: “Are your policies only available upon request, by email?’ to which I Rayner responded with a link to yourbritain.org.uk, a website that asks you for your policy ideas. My jaw hit the ground. I sighed a deep sigh, shook my head, and reluctantly began writing this article.

Labour did not lose the debate on education because their ideas are wrong; that would be too generous. They don’t have any ideas to start with. To borrow the acerbic retort of theoretical physicist Wolfgang Pauli, Labour’s education policy is “not only not right, it’s not even wrong.” A blank sheet of paper can’t be wrong, and a “Well what do you think?” is not a policy position. If Labour are to inspire and enthuse the next Gribbell or Theobald, they have a lot of work to do.

Can You Help @Labourteachers?

Apologies that this post should have appeared last night. We seem to be having one of our periodic shortages of posts, and as a result things are running a bit late.

Having spent some time thinking of what to write about, it ocurred to me that the most obvious thing is to write a post begging for more help with this blog.

All the people volunteering to write posts do an excellent job keeping the show on the road, and we have just about managed a post a day for almost a year and a half, but it is a struggle at times.

In particular, a lot of people have left the Labour Party, or active involvement in the party, in the past year. For all the talk of Labour’s massively increased membership, there is precious little sign of it in terms of contributions to Labour Teachers. As the party has become more divided, there has been decreasing interest in contributing a site that remains open to all Labour supporting teachers, regardless of what wing of the party they are on. It may also be that as we require our writers to be Labour supporters rather than members, the plummeting level of support for Labour in the country is a better measure of our potential pool of contributors than the size of the party membership. On top of that a number of contributors have left teaching (although in most cases people have moved to exciting new jobs in education, rather than leaving because they have had enough).

So, I will ask again for the following:

  • If you are a Labour supporting teacher, could you write for us? The details are here and we try to publish everything we get that fits the basic criteria of being roughly 700 words from a Labour supporting teacher that has not been published elsewhere.
  • We have a schedule of regular contributors. Would you like to be added to it? It can be as few as one post every 2 months. It makes a huge difference if people can blog to a deadline, as our biggest problem is the huge variation in the quantity of posts. Some weeks I have enough posts for the next 5 days, some weeks I’m having to ask around every day or write my own posts just to keep things going.
  • If you are a scheduled contributor and you have missed a deadline recently, can you please get something to us as soon as possible? Most of the time being a few days late makes very little difference, but some weeks we have relatively few scheduled contributors, and if everyone misses their deadline in the same week it creates an immediate emergency.

Finally, Labour Teachers is hosted on a paid for server. The current funding for this is due to run out at the end of the year. Obviously, we could move the blog to somewhere where it will be paid for by advertising. Alternatively, we could seek to raise money to keep it where it is (the advantage being that we’d keep the current URL and all the statistics). Any suggestions about what to do would be gratefully received.

Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Back to School Shopping List: Pens, Pencils, iPads? | @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.

Before we even broke up for the Summer the back to school sales were in full swing in supermarkets and department stores across the land. I used to love the back to school shop: new pens, new notebooks and folders – all that promise and possibility for the year to come. I hated back to school shoe shopping when I was in primary school though, as my mother made me wear heavy black leather lace ups when all of the other girls got to wear sandals in the hot weather. It was so unfair! These days, the back to school shop is not as simple as pens, notebooks and shoes, as more and more schools seek to implement 1:1 device policies without the ability to fund them for themselves.

As a teacher, one of the most frustrating things that I have to deal with is students showing up to class without the necessary equipment. I don’t mean a pencil case full of a variety of coloured pens, pencils, protractors, rulers, erasers etc – though I wouldn’t be unhappy if they did. Too many times each day students rock up without a single writing implement and expect one to be just given to them. Now, I’m not intending to stir up the usual twitch-hunt over this – each side of the debate have their own reasons to believe why we should or should not simply give them out. But frankly, if students can’t be bothered to locate or hang on to a pen, then the idea of them turning up to lessons with iPads that are intact and with any kind of charge on them doesn’t look promising.

Those who know me know that I’m an advocate of technology in the classroom. Those who know me well know that I’m not an advocate of technology in the classroom at all costs. It worries me that schools still seem to be buying wholesale into the notion that iPads are a magic solution to raising standards, and have an expectation that all students will have one despite being unable to provide them themselves. I have never been a fan of Apple given their closed door approach to things, unlike Android which allows for a variety of brands to use their operating system, thus bringing the costs down for users. This rigid and unyielding approach from Apple might bring some security relief to nervy network managers, but it makes the devices often prohibitively expensive for many parents.

There’s also the problem with the devices then not being used to their full potential – or even half of their potential – because time for training and updating that training is not prioritised by schools. That’s training for students as well as staff. I know of several schools in my local area who jumped on the iPad bandwagon, all but forcing parents to pay out for the devices themselves, which are then rarely, if ever, used in the classroom. I know of plenty of teachers who use them well in their lessons, but it’s not a whole school approach if it’s only happening one lesson per day or three lessons per week. Parents are rightfully angry at having to pay out huge sums of money for them to be an entertainment device that rarely leaves their bag during the school day.

Rather than seeing schools invest precious funds into subsidising 1:1 schemes, I’d rather see them invest in a class set or two of (preferably Android) devices first, to test the waters and see how effective they may be. How many leadership courses talk about how to implement change effectively, by starting small, bringing enthusiastic staff on board, and then gradually rolling things out? Why do schools see 1:1 roll outs so differently? Keep the tech investment small, keep the time investment big, and look for hard data about improvement before strong arming parents into paying for a device that they might otherwise never use in a classroom.