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.

Last Week’s Posts on @LabourTeachers (Week Ending 30th July 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

Everything I learned about school, I learned from Star Trek | @joirritableowl

One of the joys of the summer holidays is the time to catch up on a bit of telly. One of my favourites as a child and even many decades later is Star Trek. Watching again now, I’m struck by how much it influenced my moral compass.

Monday

I’m a Labour Party member get me out of here! | @Trudgeteacher

What is to be done? My head is spinning, I am torn in about twenty different ways but above all I am angry. I am angry at Jeremy Corbyn; his stubborn stupidness that has allowed things in the PLP to get to the stage where 180 MPs no confidence in him. I am angry with the PLP and its inability to manage the situation and to effectively communicate what is going wrong and to appear credible in offering a strong alternative (I recognise that we are just not good at disloyalty). I am angry at activists on both sides accusing each other of extreme positions and describing each other as trots or tories. I’m angry at the extremists on both sides who seem to think that The Labour party is something for them to try and takeover and control. Most of all I’m angry that a tory government that has followed one disastrous policy after another has been able to get away with it for so long.

Tuesday

Words that used to mean something | @oldandrewuk

Not so long ago I wrote about The Five Worst Education Clichés, stock phrases that were used in educational debates to avoid thinking. I’ve been thinking about whether there is a political equivalent, and realised that while there are many clichés in politics, it is often individual words that are used to frustrate debate in politics. In particular, on the left, words that once meant something are used so much, and so indiscriminately, that they cease to have any meaning except as a way of signalling allegiance.

Wednesday

Sort of a Labour Teacher | @Bottoms_bray

The thing labour moderates don’t get is that I am not “other”, the invader, the danger. I am a lifelong socialist who has at times, been active within the Labour Party but was disillusioned by New Labour revisionism which gained momentum (pardon the childish pun) way before Blairism. In fact, Kinnock’s speech to conference when warring on “Militant Tendency” was his best, and most destructive (you know the one….”and ends with the grotesque spectacle of a Labour council, a LABOUR council hiring taxis to scurry around handing out redundancy notices to its own workforce”).

Thursday

The grammar school thing | @JulesDaulby

There are two types of Labour voters in education it appears – the traditionalists and the progressives.

It’s interesting and I’ve often wondered what the differences really are. Core knowledge  compared to critical pedagogy is the most concrete I can find. Recently I even found a correlation between smooth orange juice and traditionalists with bits in orange juice and progressives.

Friday

What does Democracy Mean? | @GeogNewHoD

We have to teach about British values in schools. Democracy is normally the first things that springs to mind. But the last month has highlighted that our democracy is complicated at best and questionable at worst.

What does Democracy Mean? | @GeogNewHoD

IMG_0879Matt Collinson is a Labour Party supporter and has been teaching for four years, most recently in London, and is about to become Head of Department. 

We have to teach about British values in schools. Democracy is normally the first things that springs to mind. But the last month has highlighted that our democracy is complicated at best and questionable at worst.

Let’s start with Brexit. The decision of 18 million people, a majority of the votes cast, has had some devastating economic impacts on the British economy in the short term: plunging currency and losing our AAA credit rating and many more. But 2/3 of the total population did not vote for any of that. Obviously this means we need to teach young people the importance of voting every single time but it harder to use as an advert for British democracy.

My school ran a mock referendum. 79% voted to REMAIN. Rightly in my view, pupils were not only aghast but also incredulous that they were going to grow up and start looking for jobs in a post-Brexit UK that they had opposed. Teaching about British values but then saying that these values don’t extend to our under-18 population does not do much to encourage young people to see themselves as citizens.

Let’s turn to the political turmoil that has followed the Brexit vote: a Prime Minister resigns and a new one in post within a month; a Leader of the Opposition facing a leadership election; and UKIP and the Greens looking for new leaders.

This raises more issues with British Democracy, many of which are hard to teach young people about. First, that we don’t vote for a Prime Minister. But, whilst that is the systems and every election this is reiterated, many people very much do cast their vote based on who they want to be Prime Minister. It means that there is a big disjuncture between the de jure constitution and the de facto reality of what some people put their cross down for, however misguided that may be. Ultimately, if someone thinks they are voting for a particular Prime Minister then that is what they made their decision on and it’s then understandable that they may be upset when the Prime Minister changes without them having a say. Perhaps this shows that we need to improve education on the issue.

So then who does get to vote for the new leaders? It turned out Theresa May has become Prime Minister on the support of a hundred or so MPs. This can be explained as above. Yet when we discuss the election of the Labour leader we fall into more troubled ground. Who gets to vote has obviously been thrown into the limelight by the decision to prevent people who recently joined Labour from voting. But that is still a debate about a few hundred thousand Labour Members. 180 MPs voted to say they had no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn. These MPs can be seen as just 180 individuals. These MPs also have a job that relies on them winning a plurality of votes in their constituencies, a much larger mandate and who may have a good sense of what the people in their constituencies think. Obviously one could question that this is why they voted against Corbyn but the point here is their ‘democratic’ credibility in doing so.

For a final thought, let’s compare the Green Party leadership vote to Labour’s for a second. The Greens are proud of their internal democratic system. Their leadership, direction and policies are determined by a very small membership. Yet of course the Green party has one MP. The Labour Party wants to win a majority, which will mean winning at least 35% of votes. This raises a massive question: should the views of the Labour members who like Corbyn be what determines the leadership if it puts off the wider electorate, as the polls suggests it is doing, just because they are members of the party or should the electability of the party in order to represent a larger proportion of the population be given a greater say?

Turning back to the class: So kids! British democracy is something we should be proud of and you should take full part. But its imperfections are there for all to see.

The grammar school thing | @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.

There are two types of Labour voters in education it appears – the traditionalists and the progressives.

It’s interesting and I’ve often wondered what the differences really are. Core knowledge  compared to critical pedagogy is the most concrete I can find. Recently I even found a correlation between smooth orange juice and traditionalists with bits in orange juice and progressives.

But I have found something we all generally agree on (I think). That the return of grammar schools is a crap idea.

As a secondary modern girl,  I want to tell you what it was like from the inside:

  • There was snogging, smoking, scuffles and swearing.
  • There were CSEs up to Year 11 and only O’levels in the sixth form.
  • There was childcare, touch typing and biology (no physics or chemistry).
  • There was no drama.
  • There were low aspirations (no talk of university at all).
  • Three of my tutor group were from the local foster home (that’s three in one tutor group not in the whole school).
  • One of my friends lived in a mouldy, dank, basement flat with her 20 year old sister – her Mum had died when she was 10.

I’m in contact with some of these students now and a few of us went to university once we were older; once we realised we weren’t stupid, once we met grammar school kids and realised we were very similar.

And that’s the point here; for the majority in the average part of the bell-curve there were more similarities than differences. Some went to grammar and some went to secondary moderns. What made the biggest difference was whether you were middle class or not, whether you’d had tutoring to pass the 11 plus or parents who appealed when you were a borderline case. Another factor was whether you were September or summer born and even whether you were female (it was easier to get into grammar as a boy).

Make no bones about it though; the differences in ability between the highest half of a secondary modern and the lowest half of a grammar school might have been negligible but the effects of different schools on life choices and self-belief were massive.

I urge all Labour voters, progressive and traditionalists, Corbynites or Oweneezes to campaign against the return of grammar schools.  Comprehensives give all children a fair chance to succeed not just the chosen few.

Sort of a Labour Teacher | @Bottoms_bray

Rude Mechanical, has taught for more than 30 years in state comprehensive schools in ‘less affluent’ parts of the North of England. A full-time classroom teacher, he tweets as @Bottoms_bray. Previously he has posted in “Floating Voters” week, but has been voting Labour recently.

The thing labour moderates don’t get is that I am not “other”, the invader, the danger. I am a lifelong socialist who has at times, been active within the Labour Party but was disillusioned by New Labour revisionism which gained momentum (pardon the childish pun) way before Blairism. In fact, Kinnock’s speech to conference when warring on “Militant Tendency” was his best, and most destructive (you know the one….”and ends with the grotesque spectacle of a Labour council, a LABOUR council hiring taxis to scurry around handing out redundancy notices to its own workforce”).

I desperately want to support Labour, but not at the expense of painting myself pale blue. I am not a member of any other group or organisation and, yes, I support the agenda of Corbyn and McDonnell in many ways. I have voted Labour since their election and been pleased with their words and deeds that I have noticed over the past months. Unusually for a man of the left I am a ‘remainer’, but when Corbyn was elected I was overjoyed to find that I was not as rare a political creature as I had believed. In the North where I have been born, bred and worked “man and boy” the Labour Party has fallen foul of UKIP which like an insipid analogy of national socialism in ’30s Germany has taken hold in our Working Class to lead them into xenophobia and ‘Little Englandism’: The Labour Party have been pre-occupied with the Middle Class and the Midlands. Left-wing policies could counter this erosion through Nationalism that has proved fatal in Scotland. The hundreds of thousands of Corbyn supporters could form the core of a new activism to persuade, campaign and  change minds to return to democratic socialism.

The Westminster revolt is what renders Labour unelectable, not Corbyn, not the Left. The predictable and persistent attempts by the Labour right particularly the PLP has been the destruction of Labour and the socialist agenda twice now in my political life. The undemocratic and incompetent way in which they have tried to unseat the Leader demonstrates the lie to their charge that Corbyn is the impediment; it is their Westminster agenda that has failed to convince around the country. If Jeremy Corbyn has led them badly then that was an internal PLP discussion and debate to be had and resolved because it doesn’t look the same to us.

I haven’t joined or paid 25 pieces of silver to shore up the party. In my last post I said that I would like to see more support within the membership (because I knew that there would be mostly hostility within the PLP before their recent nonsense) I await to see if there is. If not, my vote will count elsewhere if there is then I will return. Willing to work WITH moderates for social justice but equally willing to watch the SDP ship founder once again whilst flirting with Farran.

I hope and expect that by the Autumn I will again be a real Labour Teacher, but if not then this is goodbye and good luck!

Words that used to mean something | @oldandrewuk

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

Not so long ago I wrote about The Five Worst Education Clichés, stock phrases that were used in educational debates to avoid thinking. I’ve been thinking about whether there is a political equivalent, and realised that while there are many clichés in politics, it is often individual words that are used to frustrate debate in politics. In particular, on the left, words that once meant something are used so much, and so indiscriminately, that they cease to have any meaning except as a way of signalling allegiance.

Here are four words that once meant something and are now used to dismiss opposing views.

Neo-Liberal

Once upon a time this referred to a clear political movement. Those thinkers on the right who, inspired by classical liberalism, wanted to move publicly owned assets to the private sector, cut public spending, introduce market mechanism into public services and deregulate markets would happily describe themselves as “neo-liberal”. It would be easy to draw a line from figures such as Hayek, Von Mises and Milton Friedman, to certain think tanks and finally to the governments of Margaret Thatcher.

Now it might be the case that after the 1980s, it ceased to mean somebody who wished to implement particular policies, and came to mean those who didn’t wish to turn the clock back to the 1970s, but somewhere along the line it began to be used to describe almost any resistance to nationalisation, regulation or bureaucracy. Just the other day I was told I was a neo-liberal because I didn’t want the school I work in taken over by the local authority. “Neo-liberal” has been used to describe the last Labour government, despite the introduction of the minimum wage and increased public spending. It’s been several years since I heard of anyone describe themselves as a “neo-liberal”; it has become a word only used to dismiss other people’s views without actually addressing the content.

Blairite

This used to mean somebody who was loyal to, or inspired by, Tony Blair. Often it was used to distinguish between Blairites and Brownites (i.e. those loyal to Gordon Brown). However, after 2010, the meaning drifted to encompass anyone on the right of the Labour Party, and then, after 2015, to include anyone not on the far left of the Labour Party.

Blairites, as identified from social media, now include:

Illegal

Once upon a time, something would be said to be illegal if it broke the law. Somewhere along the line it became the standard criticism of any act of force in the world that one doesn’t like. For some, it is now almost an item of faith now that the Iraq War was illegal or even a war crime. Yet nobody seems quite able to explain how. The war was voted for by parliament, the sovereign law making body of the UK, so it cannot have been against UK law. International law is a bit of a mess, but none of the crimes (e.g. genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes) that the ICC at the Hague can prosecute were committed by the UK government as far as anyone knows. Nobody is being prosecuted, no law is known to have been broken and there is no court with any obvious jurisdiction over the issue which, after 14 years, is a matter of history. Multiple inquiries have failed to provide any evidence that the law was broken. We now have the irony that potentially devastating criticism of the conduct of the war made by the Chilcot Inquiry seems like exoneration, because as harsh as the Chilcot Report is, it cannot even begin to match the revenge fantasies of those who so ardently wish the Iraq War had been illegal.

Austerity

This word seemed to fit when the Tories, while still in opposition, put forward the idea that, even while the UK was still in recession, there should be cuts in government spending. Even that use of the word becomes tricky, as public spending continued to grow after the Tories were elected. Now the word is used in any number of ways. Any cut in spending is described as austerity, even where it reflects reduced need or an absolute shortage of funds. For instance, Trotskyists groups claim that Labour councillors who refuse to set an illegal budget are supporting austerity. Any attempt to reduce borrowing, even on good Keynesian grounds, is now called austerity rather than, say, prudence. But most bizarrely of all, politicians and parties are labelled pro-austerity or anti-austerity almost completely regardless of what they promise to spend. Apparently in 2015, the SNP were anti-austerity and Labour were pro-austerity, despite almost identical spending plans. Now it is being used in internal Labour politics, with people seriously claiming that only Jeremy Corbyn is against austerity, unlike his predecessors who noticeably lost elections, at least in part, because the public saw them as spendthrift. “Austerity” is a word people use to write a narrative about those who are heartless, and those who are generous with public money, but nobody really has a clue what it now means in terms of actual spending.

I’m a Labour Party member get me out of here! | @Trudgeteacher

KBiw6yDeAlex is a head of maths at a sixth form college. He is also an ATL rep and Constituency exec member; both roles he claims to perform badly due to the more important parts of his life: job, children, fiancee, and faffing around on the internet.

What is to be done? My head is spinning, I am torn in about twenty different ways but above all I am angry. I am angry at Jeremy Corbyn; his stubborn stupidness that has allowed things in the PLP to get to the stage where 180 MPs no confidence in him. I am angry with the PLP and its inability to manage the situation and to effectively communicate what is going wrong and to appear credible in offering a strong alternative (I recognise that we are just not good at disloyalty). I am angry at activists on both sides accusing each other of extreme positions and describing each other as trots or tories. I’m angry at the extremists on both sides who seem to think that The Labour party is something for them to try and takeover and control. Most of all I’m angry that a tory government that has followed one disastrous policy after another has been able to get away with it for so long.

Is it too much to ask for a credible, popular, left of centre political party? An effective opposition and potential future government? I am really torn about the leadership. We simply cannot ignore the positive growth in membership under Corbyn, the problem is (ironically?) is that rather than being about support of a broad set of left wing values, it has become focussed on an individual person. Corbyn talks about a social movement and yet the unifying element seems to be support for him, if we took Corbyn out of the equation but held onto all the aspirations, many of these supporters would drift away (and I’ve had this response when I’ve asked what people would do if he lost but someone with the same aspirations replaced him). This is really frustrating since in reality most of his aspirations are ones which have always been at the core of the Labour party!

So what is going on? In this period of political turmoil with people railing against the establishment and empty political slogans and distrust of those at the top (and I share so many of those frustrations), we are turning to the very things that have led us here. Putting our faith in individuals as avatars, wanting to believe the rhetoric without seeing any plan of how we will achieve the goals of rhetoric. Blind tribalism, polarisation and a failure to engage reasonable debate and ultimately compromising to take another step closer to the ultimate goal.

At the same time we do see an establishment unable to respond, so trapped in willing to compromise at the cost of values until it no longer knows where the line lies. Wrapped up in a failing strategy of clinging on to the diminishing returns of a diminishing segment of the electorate and too afraid to speak simply and directly, in case a hostile media turns and twists it. Confused by a political/media environment in which conviction, belief and simplicity trumps (has there ever been a more appropriate word) knowledge, expertise and dare I use the word evidence. The response as we have seen with the contortions over rules and regulations over the leadership race has been to try and restrict and screen the potential chaos. But the genie is out of the bottle. The challenge is not to try and get it back in, but to recognise that not ignore these facts.

What is to be done? We cannot go back, to fix things we really do not what to start from where we are, but here we are nonetheless. The PLP shot the bolt, they failed to recognise the mood of the wider membership and thought Corbyn’s lacklustre performance during the referendum was enough ‘failure’ to galvanise enough of the electorate. Unfortunately they mistook their own horror, and horror shared by many of their contacts at grass roots for horror amongst the many party members who recently joined, or who pay their subs but remain unengaged in CLPs. They were listening to Labour voters more than Labour members.

As a consequence the leadership elections has to be played as part of a longer term strategy. Much rests on Smith, whether he can deliver a conciliatory campaign in which those who have become disaffected in the PLP can claw back the mantel that Corbyn currently wears and show that covers most of those who represent us in Parliament. In many ways this campaign could be about what unites us, especially if as the ‘rebel’ MPs claim this is about questions over effective leadership and not values. On the other side Corbyn needs to recognise that he needs to add meat to his aspirations or else he is danger of turning them into banal platitudes. He has to recognise that competency has to be a criteria for being part of the leadership team rather than simply signing up to what feels like a ‘old boys network’ at the top. We can not succeed as we are. He is wrong to try and make the Labour Party a social movement, our political system will leave the Party forever on the fringes of power if we follow that route, but equally we are not a party for powers sake, (like the tories), the Labour Party has always been a compromise and it can thrive again, by being allied and encouraging those social movements which match its values, but without being taken over as hostages to them. Social movements are always led by a small part of the population, those who have the passion or whom are worst affected, the majority of the population generally follow the mood at a much slower pace. As such progressive electoral politics requires a connecting of these two facts, appealing to a potentially reluctant majority, while being connected to a movement with a vision and energy to transform. The Labour Party have successfully done this in the past and can do it again.

However at the moment if this leadership campaign descends into factional name calling and further polarisation we will see an almost perpetual Conservative government and many more years in the wilderness, irrespective of whether the party comes out of this period in one piece or divided. So my final plea, to all members of the party is:

STOP THE BICKERING.

Bring this conflict back to a debate. Create an outcome in which there are no losers, by which I mean the winner recognises that the other side has genuine concerns which HAVE to be considered and incorporated into whatever happens next. Don’t give oxygen to the extremists on either side; by not responding in kind and finding those on the other side with whom you could work with whatever the count comes in at.

Everything I learned about school, I learned from Star Trek | @joirritableowl

jogartonJo Garton is a primary headteacher and has been for eight years. In a former life she was a Labour local councillor for five years, chair of the education committee and a parliamentary candidate.

One of the joys of the summer holidays is the time to catch up on a bit of telly. One of my favourites as a child and even many decades later is Star Trek. Watching again now, I’m struck by how much it influenced my moral compass.

Star Trek always was inclusive. Martin Luther King urged Nichelle Nicols to stick with her role as Uhura because she provided a vital black role model in sixties America. The original Star Trek was ground breaking in its multi-racial crew. Post Brexit many of us have experienced a rise in racist graffiti and attitudes. But we live in a multi-racial society and we have to hold true to our ethical core and fight the bigots. In fact maybe we need to go further? Are our staff rooms as diverse as the bridge of the Starship Enterprise was fifty years ago?

In the first episode of The Next Generation Captain Picard confesses to his deputy that he needs some help at an element of the job, which is his weakness. Ironically enough, his weakness is that he isn’t very good with children. As teachers, we all have weaknesses, but we have to look at the people around us to help. In primaries we have to teach everything, so getting together with colleagues can rectify our weaknesses. I’m shockingly bad at timetables, but fortunately my deputy is brilliant at them!

The prime directive in every series of Star Trek is not to interfere. This is the one that causes most soul searching in Star Trek and it is certainly the same for me. As the designated safeguarding lead I desperately want to interfere. I want to yell at women in child protection meeting, “for goodness sake, you can do better than this awful partner who treats you and your children so badly!” I have been pretty close. I want to look after them, pop round with a bag of ready meals in a crisis. But I know that we have to have boundaries and that the ship must move on, so I mustn’t interfere; I mustn’t get too close. It is incredibly difficult and often wakes me at three in the morning.

Finally in the pilot of Voyager, the female captain (surely all female head teachers love Janeway?) has to make a decision. Her options are destroy the only way home for her and her crew, or leave a vulnerable people prey to a ruthless and morally corrupt oppressor. Every time another email arrives from the DFE I feel like Janeway. How can I protect vulnerable children, and sometimes staff,from another ruthless and morally corrupt policy initiative? How many of us felt like that when we got the email, last week, telling us that the interim assessment framework was going to use another cohort of children as lab rats? It feels to me that the journey back to a Labour government will be just as long and hard as Voyager’s journey from the Delta Quadrant back to earth. However bad it feels, let’s be like Janeway and see if we can work out a way to get there.

Last Week’s Posts on @LabourTeachers (Week Ending 23rd July 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

What The Labour Party can learn from Bill Shorten | @greg_ashman

Halfway through their last term in government, the centre-right Liberal-National Coalition government in Australia ditched its leader, Tony Abbott.  Abbot had become increasingly unpopular. The media ran with his personal qualities and choices such as his decision to award a knighthood to Prince Phillip – roundly derided from even within his own party – and his awful, cringe-making public comments such as when he threatened to ‘shirt-front’ Vladimir Putin. Yet there was a policy angle. The 2014 budget was a complete disaster. It was ostensibly an attempt to get the public accounts back on track and reduce the deficit but the opposition Australian Labor Party were able to paint it as an inequitable. Instead of taxing the rich by, for instance, removing some of the tax breaks on large pension pots, the coalition had chosen to introduce measures such as the GP co-payment and the deregulation of university tuition fees.

Monday

Loss of Empathy | @MikeBerkoff

This week the NEC put an embargo on branches holding meetings (with a very few exceptions). We are told that this may have been an attempt to calm down the rather febrile atmosphere in some parts of the party. I understand that, but the effect in my constituency Labour party (with more than 4500 members) was to force the cancellation of our AGM. Our party officers had put in a huge effort and were told on the morning of the ruling to call the meeting off. I extend my sympathies to all those who had worked so hard and were naturally upset.

Tuesday

Don’t forget to live! | @joirritableowl

We are all a blend of different faces. What defines us, on this blog, is that we are educators and we are part of the very broad church of Labour. A church that currently stretches from Jeremy Corbyn to Tony Blair- but who knows how long that will last? Teacher and Labour is the point where the circles of our venn diagrams intersect.

Wednesday

The Great Supply Agency Rort | @FlyMyGeekFlag

There’s something that I found out a few weeks ago that’s been churning around in my brain. Something that absolutely shocked me, even when logically I shouldn’t have been shocked at all. No, it’s not that we have a new chair of Ofsted, Secretary of State for Education or even Shadow SoS (we do have one, right? I’m genuinely not sure as I write that). It’s that an NQT is legitimately the single most expensive member of staff in the school, outside of the Senior Leadership Team.

Thursday

Multi Academy Trusts and new aspirant teachers | @HessleLabour

Recently I was sat with four bright young Teach First teachers, their mentors and my Executive Principal. Beforehand the notes I scribbled covered a positive message telling them they are about the enter the best profession there is, how they will change lives and how there will be good days and bad days, the usual, and wholly true, script.

Friday

The all staff email | @ashleypearce84

For a teacher my age (early 30s), it’s hard to imagine a school functioning without the ability to email. But it did happen. Schools ran perfectly well for many many years without the constant contact (or distraction, depending on your view) of the email. Now I know you could say that about a lot of things; schools functioned without the internet but few would say that internet use at schools hasn’t enhanced how schools run. Have emails done the same? I have a few issues with the constant email contact culture in schools. Firstly it’s the merging of teaching with an office job. It isn’t. The more time spent in front of a screen is less time spent in front of eager young learners; this must be wrong. How often do you hear “Did you get my email?”. Err, well no actually. I was teaching a year 9 class. The disdain sometimes exuded when you haven’t had the chance to read an email between the hours of 9am-3pm is palpable. The bigger question is surely sometimes, why haven’t you been teaching, marking or preparing instead of emailing all day?

The all staff email | @ashleypearce84

AshleyAshley Pearce is a secondary school economics teacher in a comprehensive school just outside of Reading.  Last year he was elected as a councillor for the Labour party for an area in South Reading.  He is also a Reading FC fan and keen reader of educational literature.

For a teacher my age (early 30s), it’s hard to imagine a school functioning without the ability to email. But it did happen. Schools ran perfectly well for many many years without the constant contact (or distraction, depending on your view) of the email. Now I know you could say that about a lot of things; schools functioned without the internet but few would say that internet use at schools hasn’t enhanced how schools run. Have emails done the same? I have a few issues with the constant email contact culture in schools. Firstly it’s the merging of teaching with an office job. It isn’t. The more time spent in front of a screen is less time spent in front of eager young learners; this must be wrong. How often do you hear “Did you get my email?”. Err, well no actually. I was teaching a year 9 class. The disdain sometimes exuded when you haven’t had the chance to read an email between the hours of 9am-3pm is palpable. The bigger question is surely sometimes, why haven’t you been teaching, marking or preparing instead of emailing all day?

My email recently stopped working recently as I had over 1000 unread emails. Many would see this as ridiculous. I should be reading these. I take that point on board, but it also had absolutely no impact on those kids that come through my classroom door every day. Teachers are just people, and people have very poor filters on what they believe others care about. Just because something is important to you, doesn’t mean it is to others. If I start talking to almost literally anyone else on earth about the planning applications committee meeting I was in last night, aside from those in the room, eyes would glaze over. So I don’t. This is where the all staff email first comes up. If I were to put a figure on the sometimes near 100 emails that ping into my inbox some days, I’d say 5% were relevant to me (and maybe even fewer of interest). Below are some genuine examples of email titles/subjects from just the last few weeks:

  • “Could you take a crate of glasses home and wash them, please?”. I was going to follow up with “and if anyone feels like doing a bit of laundry for me I’d appreciate it”.
  • “Missing drama class”. I got the impression that a bunch of 12 year olds with white faces were wondering around the school undertaking interpretative mime.
  • “WWF-£36 per animal”. I’m not sure why wrestlers are buying up any animals…..
  • “Missing shoes”. With just the addition of a question mark this email heading could have been the start of an emotional Sports Direct advert.
  • “Please can I remind everyone that has promised me cups, saucers, Mike jugs, sugar bowls, trays etc that I require them tomorrow”. Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase being on a promise.
  • “Lettuces for sale”. I don’t need to parody that one any further.

I think my point here is that people have actually forgotten how emails are meant to work. In the social media age people now use emails as if they’d use Facebook and they should be very different things. Emails should have a point, sounds obvious but go through your emails and see how many adhere to this. People should think before sending emails: Do all recipients need it? Is this the most appropriate communication method? And will it help solve the issue?

For schools I would recommend the following to help cut down on teachers workload where emails are concerned:

  • Ban all staff emails. Unless really extreme circumstances, these really are not needed.
  • Create alternative communication methods. Staff noticeboards (physical and electronic) can take the flak of most social events and the like that emails should be free of.

Multi Academy Trusts and new aspirant teachers | @HessleLabour

IMG_0001Chay Bell has been a member of the Labour party for 30 years and has served as a local Councillor, He currently works as an Associate Principal in Hull

Recently I was sat with four bright young Teach First teachers, their mentors and my Executive Principal. Beforehand the notes I scribbled covered a positive message telling them they are about the enter the best profession there is, how they will change lives and how there will be good days and bad days, the usual, and wholly true, script.

The Head started with an explanation of our Multi Academy Trust, its history and growth; how our school fits into this structure and the benefits it brought to us. Upon request for questions, one of the trainees asked questions about other parts of the school, where these parts of the MAT or were these parts of our school, what did each acronym stand for?

Then, it struck me.  When I started teaching in 1994 I worked for a school that was part of Lancashire LEA. Yes, there were a few Grant Maintained schools around and ever fewer City Technology Colleges.  By and large you worked for an LEA. For these teachers Academisation has added another dimension of choices for them as they embark on their careers:  Should I work for an LEA school and if so might they convert to an Academy?  Will my school join a chain of schools?  Should I work for a large Academy chain, what will the ethos of the chain be and where do I sit with that ethos? The Academy chain you choose defines your pay structure, your freedom over curriculum choices and has to potential to make or break your career.

Perhaps they will not wrestle with these choices, perhaps they will take the best job they can and get on with it, like I did over twenty years ago, regardless of the structure, which surrounds them.  But for an education world, which has fragmented in the last decade in terms of governance structures, it brings more challenges to a batch of new recruits who will have plenty to challenge them already.