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.

It’s the hope that kills you | @kevbartle

SubstandardFullSizeRender (1)Keven Bartle is the Headteacher of Canons High School in Edgware, NW London, which is a Teaching School as part of the Canons Park Alliance. He is a lifelong Labour supporter from one of the few remaining bastions of Labour support, the North East. He tweets as @kevbartle, blogs here and does so in very much a personal capacity.

What does it mean to be a Labour Teacher?  It’s a thought I’ve had many times since I started writing posts for this blog, and I’m not sure I’m any nearer to the answer having written so many of them than I was when I wrote my first.

At its simplest level I guess it means that I’m a teacher who votes for the Labour Party and is a member of that organisation. But what does that actually mean in terms of the coherence of this blog when the Labour Party is, and always has been, a very broad church?  I’ve no doubt that less than half of what I write – let alone what I think – would tally with the writings or thoughts of other contributors. So that can’t be it.

At a slightly more complex level it could mean that we are teachers who share in the vision of the Labour Party, but the broad church I mentioned means that there is a varied and conflicting clergy.  From Corbynistas to Blairites, all those in between and all those to the left or right, Labourism has always been a struggle between socialism and social democracy at best and been riven by internecine squabbles at worst. There is no unifying Clause 4 in the modern Labour Party. So that can’t be it.

At a still more complex level it could (should) indicate that we are teachers who support the Labour Party position on education, but does anyone really have a clue what that is now, what it has been recently, what it will be in 2020 or even what it was after 1997?  I know what it tends to be against, but I never much enjoyed being part of an opposition that had no idea what it would do once in control of the levers of power. I guess that’s why I’m a Headteacher. So, no, that can’t be it either.

Truth be told, I’m not really sure what being a Labour Teacher means to me anymore, other than being someone who happens to be a teacher and happens to have a background that causes me to instinctively feel that the Labour Party will always serve the things that I value about life generally – and the education system of which I am a part – better than any other political party.

The trouble is that such a position is relativistic, and relativism doesn’t warm the cockles of one’s heart when it comes to submitting another of these posts. I can bang on like the best of them when it comes to diagnosing the ills of society at large and the threats to schools at a smaller scale resulting from six years of Liberal and Conservative policies, but what’s the point when there is nothing tangible coming from the Labour Party that I can pull apart with my bare hands and examine with my Labour Teacher conscience?

I understood that the Miliband camp would always favour quiet opposition and slow-pedalling of the electoral cycle. In some senses I could even forgive it that because that was what it said on the tin. What I can’t understand is why the same is true now that Corbyn is in charge. That wasn’t the script we were expecting the opposition front bench actors to play out. And, yes, I know that it’s still been less than a year since Corbyn swept to power. And, no, I didn’t expect a rash of policy pronouncements with almost four years left until the next election.

But what I’m really struggling with, and what makes me wonder how many more of these posts as a Labour Teacher I have left in me, is why there isn’t the beginnings of a coherent narrative for education starting to emerge. Quite simply, I’m bored of writing posts that include the lines “what the Labour Party need to do is…” when all I can really think of to finish the sentence is “…say something, do something, believe in something!!!”

I started this post by asking what it means to be a Labour Teacher. Dispiritingly, I have no idea any more. Perhaps, in common with being a Sunderland supporter, it means nothing more than hoping for something (anything) better than what we’ve seen in recent years. And that’s not really any kind of hope at all.

Why I’m a reluctant “Remain” voter | @oldandrewuk

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

I was a sixth former studying economics on “Black Wednesday” when Britain fell out of the ERM. This meant that before it happened I learnt all about how exchange rates worked and precisely why they could not be fixed over the long term in large and divergent economies. I remember coming home from school and looking up exchange rates on teletext (remember that?) to see if the pound had collapsed yet. Eventually it did, and the Tories’ reputation on the economy with it.

A few years later, the creation of the Euro was the next economic master plan of the EU. Again, some pretty basic economics showed how it would not work as planned, and Gordon Brown’s greatest legacy will probably be his reluctance to join the Euro even when it was most fashionable. And, again, the subsequent history confirmed what the economics showed.

As well as seeing these attempts at economic integration fail, I’ve also become aware of how much waste and corruption is a part of the EU. Spending seems almost unconstrained in Europe, with money spent by the EU on promoting the EU seeming to be particularly unjustified.

For these reasons, I’ve always been a Euro-sceptic in the literal, rather than the rabid, right-wing sense. I don’t think the EU is an essential institution and if it can’t be reformed we should, of course, consider leaving.

So why am I going to vote “Remain”?

Well, it’s really about leadership. Whatever else it would mean, leaving the EU would be a huge dislocation in our economy. We do not know what terms of trade we’ll end up with or how long it would take to resolve those issues. I don’t believe that leaving the EU would necessarily be a huge economic disaster, but I think that in order to leave without massive economic problems, we’d need a well thought-out plan for what to do next and to have already carried out substantial negotiations with our trading partners for what would happen next. And we haven’t.

The referendum is not about adopting a serious plan for leaving, it’s about civil war in the Tory party. We literally do not know what would happen if we’d left. Would Cameron resign? Would the right of the Tory party take over? Would our former partners take revenge on us?

I think governments should offer referendums when they have a plan to change our constitution and need the approval of the public. A referendum where the government supports the status quo is no referendum at all. A major change in the constitutional status quo does not just need a referendum, it needs leadership. It cannot be forced on an unwilling government without creating great uncertainty. This referendum, like the one on electoral reform, shows Cameron’s weakness. He’ll gamble on the public saying “no”, because he’s too weak to.

By the way, I realise that almost all of the Labour Teachers posts on the EU referendum have been by reluctant remain voters. If you are a Labour supporting teacher with a different viewpoint, please get in touch if you could write a blogpost for us. Thanks.

The Limits of Accountability or How My Job Has Made Me Ill for Most of the Year! | @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.

As we drift into the exam season I have finally given in to having some time off work. I have been ill with flu/stress/virus/chronic fatigue for about 3 weeks, but dragged myself into work as I just simply felt that a) I wasn’t that ill (I was capable of performing the functions of the job and then collapse at the end of the day) b) it is simply too critical a time of year and without the time in the classroom with me driving them, too many of my lower sixth were at risk of underperforming.

I’m probably deluded on both those fronts but let me explain why as a Head of Mathematics I have come to this place.

Last year we had some pretty poor results. Yes, our cohort is weaker than national cohort (around 10% less A* maths GCSE students on our course with 10% more B grade students) but even so they were below par. What to do? Well this year we have thrown the kitchen sink at them. I’ve avoided putting constant exam pressure but instead focussed on feedback, resources to support independent study and regular low stakes assessment with dedicated reflection time to deal with errors. I can say hand on heart no students this year should be able to say they don’t know what they need to do. We have online resources, drop in support, twitter help feed, revision guides, knowledge mats, notes etc., etc.

But here’s the thing; around 60% of the students have taken advantage of these resources, or have come in with a really strong understanding to begin with and have built on it., however the other 40% have to some extent done – well let’s be blunt here – next to bugger all. For many the last few days before the first exam was the first time they have engaged in any kind of independent study other than the homework that we have extracted from them like getting blood from a stone.

Now being honest, I probably would have fitted somewhere in that 40% when I was doing A levels, but I would also have been horrified if my results were used to reflect anything other than my own efforts.

This is where the stress has come from over this year. Being accountable for the actions of so many young people for whom I have virtually no direct influence over, once they leave the classroom. No amount of monitoring; following disciplinary systems; sending letters home; having quiet chats in the corridor, or even inspirational teaching (not mine of course) has budged any more than a handful of these students. If anything a few others seem to have lurched into their camp.

The typification of this came when after being mythered by students and staff about recommending a publication to help with revision, I decided to purchase a set of workbooks to sell on to the students. Selling at a discounted price of £7 for two guides, out of a cohort of nearly 300 at the start of study leave we had sold a grand total of 48 sets. I’m still hoping that the 250 students who did not buy a set are so confident and well prepared that it would simply be superfluous to their needs.

To conclude this moan/rant/insightful observation, we need to talk about accountability. I will be castigated or praised in autumn effectively on whether or not 30 or so of these students managed to get their act together at the end. That’s worth 10% and can take me 5% towards sainthood or 5% towards hell. Moreover my own professional development and career progression depends on this, as I have been told that both opportunities to pursue a regional role (requiring some recompensed lieu time) and to be paid comparatively to other Heads of Maths with some remission would depend on the bargaining power gained by good results.

So why have I been ill? Stress! What is stressful? Being accountable for something you cannot directly affect. Yet this seems to be the world of modern education, where you a lauded or lambasted for the efforts of adolescents. My advice to succeed – if you can, be very selective about which kids you teach! I’m thinking of teaching Latin next year, I hear only really motivated and clever kids chose to study that!

Five educational cliches which can undermine an argument | @JulesDaulby

unknownJules Daulby is an advisory teacher for SENSS (SEN Specialist Service) in Dorset. Originally a Secondary English and Drama teacher, she has also taught in Further Education, Higher Education and for Parent Partnership.

1.  Interpretative dance – a really good way to make something which you disagree with look a bit silly. You can do this with anything. A teacher may think mental health should be taken seriously; just say, “oh right, I suppose you think the curriculum should be delivered in the form of interpretative dance do you?’

2. Claim teachers’ concerns are hysterical and emotional them trump them with the superior ‘if you want to be taken seriously you should  (fill in some snotty fact about research and facts here). Warning; the idea that little children cry over tests is a myth – a secondary school teacher told me.

3. Criticise teachers for making statements which cannot be supported with evidence then use an old figure which is now irrelevant  or a dated piece of research which has since been disproven e.g. 90% of primary teachers still use multi-cueing, taken from a 10 year old survey of 50 teachers which asked a leading question such as ‘do you only ever use Systematic Synthetic Phonics in the classroom?’ When the proven ‘mixed ability is best’ research is quoted, whistle and ignore; or if pushed, respond with ‘it might work but it’s too hard for teachers’.

4. Conflate teachers who use new ideas with a lack of discipline in the classroom. This is a great one; when someone suggests an idea you think seems ‘a bit too modern’ use phrases such as ‘children running wild’ or ‘the usual chaos in state schools’.

5. If all else fails go with the ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ phrase.  This is the best way to undermine anything: group work, showing  DVDs, role play, drama, art, cooking, playing, mixed ability, anything really. Claim you are the one who will close the gap on these poor, deprived children with tough love (obviously leave out the fact you went to private school and have no intention of sending your own kids to state schools).

Term time holidays | @Bigkid4

board-812129_1280@Bigkid4 has taught maths well for 13 years. Prior to that he taught maths badly for about 5. Although his support for Labour waned while Labour was in government, he is now keen to support Labour’s efforts to remove the Tories from office.

After term time holidays were in the news I gave some thought to how I feel about term time holidays. I have concluded that with some caveats I don’t care if kids go on holiday during term time.

The main caveat is that their holiday cannot create significant extra work for me. It would be great if parents taking kids on holiday during term time consider the following.

  1. It’s their responsibility to inform me that they will be absent and ask me what they will be missing. I will then give them links to video clips and worksheets covering the material. If they do not do this then I will not help them catch up.
  2. What we cover after their holiday will probably build on the content they missed. If they have not bothered to learn it no allowances will be made for that. They will be expected to do as much work as anyone else as well as anyone else and will get detention if they do not. This can be considered me helping them to catch up rather than a detention…
  3. I have no interest in a conversation about how much they will learn from their holiday or how they will learn more from spending a week in the Seychelles than they would in school. Please spare me.
  4. I have even less interest in a conversation about the merits and value of the curriculum. I don’t care whether or not you have used quadratic equations in “real life”. Please spare me.
  5. If you do feel the need to go on at great length about how irrelevant the curriculum is or how little your child would probably learn were they to be in school rather than on holiday then don’t expect me to be in the mood to do you any favours afterwards.
  6. I don’t make the rules on this. No teacher does. The government changed the guidance allowing Headteachers to authorise term time holidays in 2013. If you have a problem with the rules please don’t tell me or any other employee of the school. Take it up with Nicky Morgan.
  7. In my lessons the pupils learn every lesson. They do a full, proper maths lesson right up until the last day of term. It’s not all videos and fun lessons for the last week in my department so please don’t suggest it is.

As far as I’m concerned the bottom line is simple. If any parent wants to take their child on holiday during term time they can do so with my blessing provided they accept the consequences of doing so. What they cannot do is demand that I facilitate their holiday by working harder. I will not spend less time with my family or give the other pupils I teach a worse education than they would otherwise get as a result of any pupil’s holiday.

Sadly in my experience this is all too often the expectation. Lots of pupils are just “ill” for the  days they are on holiday. They don’t find out what they are going to be missing. They don’t do the catching up. When they come back they are behind. This impacts on their work and behaviour. This necessitates more teacher time going to them and as a result of that other pupils get less.

Of course there are pupils who do all the right things and learn the content they have missed. Not enough of them in my opinion but a significant minority. We cannot however set the rules and expectations based on the behaviour of a minority of people that do the right things.

A number of times parents have argued with me about whether or not they child should have detention for lack of work or poor behaviour on the grounds that they didn’t understand the lesson because of what they missed while they were on holiday. While I could argue that not understanding some of the content is not a reason for a lack of effort and certainly is not a reason for poor behaviour I have found that such arguments are often fruitless. The parents are also partly right. It isn’t entirely their child’s fault. The child didn’t choose to miss lessons. Presumably it wasn’t the child that organised the holiday. They did however choose, knowing they were going to be missing lessons, to do nothing about it.

It’s my belief that knowingly and deliberately taking teacher time away from their classmates who need it unnecessarily, for any reason, is a selfish act. To do so as the result of going on holiday is pretty indefensible.

There’s a hole in my bucket | @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.

There’s plenty of research about that shows that labelling students does more harm than good. Despite this, we seem to be finding ourselves more and more ways to label them – although we’ve switched to calling them ‘baskets’ or ‘buckets’. Pupil premium, free school meals, ever 6, EBacc, EAL, AGT, labels based on gender, ethnicity, special needs, ability – the list is ever increasing.

There’s some purpose in a few of those labels. For instance, being able to put labels on students with special needs has funding implications. The same is true of pupil premium. But when does labelling students go beyond categorisation and become something else entirely? What about those students who don’t fit our labels?

Take, for instance, a white girl. They often achieve higher results than other groups when based on gender and ethnicity (white boys, Asian Heritage girls, etc). At my school they’re not a focus group. A white girl who doesn’t have special needs and isn’t on free school meals or who isn’t a pupil premium child escapes further attention. If she’s not an EBacc student, does she simply fall through the cracks? Even more so if she’s a quiet student who doesn’t draw attention in lessons because she’s misbehaving?

We talk a lot about closing the gap for pupil premium students. This is a justifiable approach to bring up the results of what are sometimes our lowest attaining students. I’ve seen plenty of emails, articles and blogs about the need to provide extra for these students to bring their progress up to that of their non-pupil premium classmates. I received an email which included this recently:

“All things being equal, even with excellent high quality first wave teaching, pupil premium students are at a disadvantage in the classroom and will perform/ make progress/ learn – at a slower pace/ lower level compared to non pupil premium students.”

It’s not untrue, but the resources linked to it were for providing extra for some students, but not all. Are these labels actually causing something of a two-tier system in our classrooms, instead of driving us towards equal progress and attainment? There’s less emphasis these days on the reporting of 5 A*-C/EM, and more on three levels of progress across the board. The progress 8 figure means that we have to push our best and brightest as hard as we can, as their progress 8 figures are generally lower when they have less space to move – if their expected progress grade is an 8 or a 9, they can’t get higher progress 8 figures than a student predicted a 4 who gets a 6. It’s perhaps understandable that we put so much emphasis on the lower end of our attainment spectrum, but in too many cases that comes at a cost to the higher end.

Why do we spend so much time drilling down the data in order to affix labels to our students? I won’t go so far as to risk the wrath of Andrew Old by suggesting that we ‘educate the whole child’, but I do believe that in practice many teachers ignore the labels given to their students and simply teach the children in front of them. If a student is struggling with a concept or skill, we don’t tend to check their labels or which basket they’re in before deciding what help to provide them with or how much. We don’t check to their socio-economic status or decide if one struggling pupil should get more help than another. We just get on with teaching our students.

Maybe it’s the external accountability that leads schools – or at least, the management teams in schools – to put our students into buckets or baskets. Maybe that’s necessary, or maybe it’s a misconception that the DfE and Ofsted and whoever else cares about these things wants and as a consequence so much time and effort is put into labelling children and providing detailed reports on their progress. Either way, it’s happening, and it’s probably more unnecessary than it’s made out to be. I don’t know all of the labels of the 200 or so students that I teach. Who does? Despite that, or perhaps in spite of it, I teach the children in front of me and they make progress.

Posts for the Week Ending 20th May 2016 on @LabourTeachers

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. We urgently need more posts, thanks.

Sunday

The DfE Workload Protocol – a review | @MichaelT1979

It’s a little over a year now since the DfE published its “protocol for changes to accountability, curriculum and qualifications”. The document was pulled together as part of the department’s response to the Workload Challenge that drew over 40,000 responses from teachers, and intended to set out how the DfE would change its practices to help reduce (or at least, not increase) teachers’ workloads.

Monday

Educating the Whole Child | @JulesDaulby

Today I had two reminders of educating the whole child and how, by doing this, one sees various parts of said child.

Tuesday

Forget “Nasty Zac” – the dog whistle was blown from Downing Street | @doktordunc

A lot has been made of Zac Goldsmith’s Lynton Crosby, “nasty party” campaign for London Mayor with its air of Islamophobia; a campaign that sought to divide the city not unite it. The campaign drew plenty of criticism of Tories (mostly after the polls had closed) with Sayeeda Warsi, Steve Hilton, Ken Clarke, Andrew Boff and others all saying that it had damaged the party, especially with Muslims but across the board too, with Hilton saying that “the nasty party” image was back.

Wednesday

Labour Teachers needs you more than ever | @oldandrewuk

About a month ago I wrote a post desperately appealing for more blogs. I observed that we’d had similar difficulties a year before; this half term seems to be the toughest.

Thursday

“You’d never know they were tuition fees…” | @ruthyie

I had a rare and precious free evening and was going to sew up the electronic configuration-fabric summer dress that has been cut out for a year, when I saw the call for Labour Teachers posts. I must have been feeling carefree, because my mind turned to HE rather than our beleaguered secondary sector.

Friday

The Five Worst Education Clichés | @oldandrewuk

George Orwell, in Politics And The English Language, described how a stock phrase, or cliché, could stifle thought. Sentiments that seem disreputable, if clearly expressed, will instead be expressed obscurely and in familiar, over-used phrases.

The Five Worst Education Clichés | @oldandrewuk

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

George Orwell, in Politics And The English Language, described how a stock phrase, or cliché, could stifle thought. Sentiments that seem disreputable, if clearly expressed, will instead be expressed obscurely and in familiar, over-used phrases.

“As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse.”

If I had to identify the phrases used in education that do most to obscure the clear expression of ideas, I would pick the following:

1) “regurgitating facts”. This cliché has become such a crutch for those who oppose testing that I’ve seen it used twice in the same Guardian letters page. But as unpleasant as it sounds, it means little more than “recalling knowledge”. You could argue that the word “facts” indicates a particularly disjointed or atomised form of knowledge, but in practice it would be hard to distinguish between information recalled as facts and that recalled in any other form. Regurgitation might seem to suggest that the recalled knowledge is in some way undigested, but how do we “digest” knowledge other than by recalling it?

2) “a political football”. Education, properly understood, involves consideration of what is worth learning. This is a  philosophical argument, and one where its conclusions will determine the spending of billions of pounds of public money. This is necessarily and obviously political. To put the power to make such ideological judgements outside of democratic control, seems immediately tyrannical. And that’s where this cliché comes in. Public discourse involving those who have been elected to office and are subject to public scrutiny, is dismissed as a game by those who would see less democracy in education and more bureaucracy and control by unaccountable vested interests.

3)  “exam factories”. Another cliché used to argue against academic education and testing. Rather than arguing over what forms of assessment work, or are necessary, we have this dismissal of exams and the implication is that to actually find out objectively, and on a large scale, what is being learnt in schools requires an artificial and mechanical process. While exam systems can be bureaucratic and unhelpful, only in education would objectivity and efficiency be feared. Though the greatest irony here is that, in many respects, the alternatives to exams might seem more like factory work. Anyone involved in the “manufacture” of coursework might see the irony here. Those recommending subjective teacher assessment as an alternative to exams are surely only imitating the “performance management” culture of many private companies, including those that run factories.

4) “educating the whole child”. An odd phrase, given that I have never met a teacher that sought only to educate parts of a child. In practice, of course, it is not the child that is to be treated as a whole, but their life. If you want to extend the scope of education beyond the academic, into therapy, social work, entertainment, preaching and parenting, then this cliché can be used to suggest all aspects of a child’s life fall in the domain of teachers. If you have any faith in parents or a wider community; any belief learning is so important that there should be a profession dedicated to helping children with this above all else, or if you are simply concerned about the intrusion of the state into family life and leisure, then you can, as a teacher, happily develop the whole child’s intellect without feeling you are only doing part of your job.

5) ”one size fits all”. We tend to assume that, at least as a default, human beings should have equal rights and equal entitlements. Therefore, if children are to be treated differently, we would hope to justify it by demonstrating that the outcomes might still be equal or, if that’s not the case, by demonstrating that inequality is justified in pursuit of another aim. The “one size fits all” cliché, beloved both of right wing advocates of selection and left wing opponents of an academic tradition, seeks to reverse this principle. Suddenly those who support equal rights and equal entitlements for all children are expected to explain why they are ignoring differences between children, rather than those who support inequality demonstrating that the differences they perceive justify different and/or unequal treatment.

My challenge to anyone who feels inclined to use any of these phrases in education discussion is to try to express the same idea in your own words. If you find that this makes your argument fall apart, or your opinion seem less plausible, then take this as an indicator that it is time to reconsider.

“You’d never know they were tuition fees…” | @ruthyie

R Smith@ruthyie is a Physics and Chemistry teacher in Oxfordshire and a member of Witney CLP.

Overheard c1998, “You’d never know they were tuition fees…”

I had a rare and precious free evening and was going to sew up the electronic configuration-fabric summer dress that has been cut out for a year, when I saw the call for Labour Teachers posts. I must have been feeling carefree, because my mind turned to HE rather than our beleaguered secondary sector.

As a Y12 tutor, I provide advice on universities and routes to employment. I often cite that I was in the first cohort to be charged £1000 tuition fees, 1998. Back then, a girl from my sixth form college held out on payment in protest almost all year. I saw how my parents, who had saved to help us with maintenance, now had to shell out for three siblings on 4-year courses. It’s a foisted-on debt; not worth counting or rushing to pay off. But was it for tuition?

At Oxford, it soon became apparent that not all lecturers were any good at speaking, let alone teaching. I remember filling in a feedback form that called for one particular lecturer – easy on the eye, reassuring northern accent, left-handed so we could see the board – to deliver them all. It was easy to say ‘so much for the tuition fees’. The lie was in in the name, though. The cost of providing a university course transcends mere ‘tuition’ – for example, libraries and subscriptions and any services not obviously in the capital funding pot. These ‘fees’ have always been funding shaved off that given from the government to the institutions.

The HEFCE’s Funding Guide charts how the government’s payments to undergraduate courses have decreased from 2010 alone as fees have increased to £9000 (p18) (NB increase in funds is due to projected increase in student numbers):
HEFCE chart
The basic situation now is that no extra funding is allocated for pen/paper/waste-paper basket degrees, and the payments per student for studio, laboratory and clinical courses are significantly smaller than their 2009 levels:

Band 2009 £ per student 2015 £ per student
A clinical 15 788 10 000
B laboratory 6 710 1 500
C1 technical, art, archeology 5 131 250
C2 language labs, field work etc 5 131 0
D classroom-based 3 947 0

from https://www.shef.ac.uk/finance/staff-information/howfinanceworks/higher_education/calculate_grants and http://www.hefce.ac.uk/media/HEFCE,2014/Content/Pubs/2015/201504/2015_04.pdf p19

When fees went from £6000 to £9000, the government basically took well over £3000 off every undergraduate degree yet led students to believe they were buying more.

That, according to the HE white paper, “Success as a Knowledge Economy”, universities are somehow supposed to improve the quality of their teaching so that ‘taxpayers’ get value for money in this tight climate is somewhat rich. It is admirable to improve quality of teaching, but it should be for its own end, not for ‘value for money’. University courses have delivered priceless education for centuries.

The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) to be set up will involve a panel including employers and students. Student satisfaction surveys already skew the various ‘Top 100’ lists of institutions and the white paper states that there is no current evidence about the quality of teaching (point 9, p43). In the 2017/18 academic year, will universities be measured by the TEF against a raft of opinions about teaching quality, contact time and readiness for the workplace? Where is the value of academic learning and time spent reading and thinking for oneself? I shiver when I consider the feedback forms I filled in!

My second gripe is the complete absence, in the white paper, of the link between quality of research in an institution and quality of teaching. Being taught by those at the forefront of research should contribute a weighting in the TEF. Research Excellence is well-established.

This white paper seriously needs to revisit the purpose of higher education. Clue: the word ‘Market’ should not appear.

There is a consultation of the construction of the TEF, open till 12 July.

Don’t let the word ‘technical’ put you off – it wants input on:

  • how the TEF will assess teaching excellence;
  • the criteria that will define teaching excellence;
  • how judgements about excellence will be made, including the evidence base and use of core metrics;
  • how TEF outcomes will be communicated.

Labour Teachers needs you more than ever | @oldandrewuk

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

About a month ago I wrote a post desperately appealing for more blogs. I observed that we’d had similar difficulties a year before; this half term seems to be the toughest.

However, what I’d forgotten is that a year ago there was a general election which, perhaps not surprisingly, prompted a lot of posts and political activity. This year, the lull in posts for the half term after the Easter holidays has just continued. I have reduced the number of posts per week from 7 to 6, by using Saturday’s slot for a round-up of the week’s posts, but still we are struggling from day to day.

Obviously, if this continues we can just reduce the number of posts further. However, I suspect things might pick up soon, as primary teachers recover from the SATs, year 11s leave and half-term starts. So there’s a fair chance we can keep going without a further reduction in posts, if we just get through the next week and a half.

So here’s the pitch: Labour Teachers exists to provide a forum for Labour supporting teachers. There is no editorial line other than that and we encourage debate and we try not to turn down any posts at all. The only real guidance on content is that posts should be of interest to Labour supporting teachers, which means they don’t always have to be about education, and they don’t always have to be overtly political. We would like to get as many Labour supporting teachers taking part as possible, so if you have something to say, please get in touch.

We also run a schedule that gives people a regular slot. Please get in touch if you’d like to write for us every month or every two months.

If you are stuck for what to post about,  the Queen’s Speech today springs to mind. But also it would be interesting to hear your views about how to vote in the referendum on the EU. I believe there have been changes today in who is running Scottish education, and it would be great to get in touch with some Scottish Labour Teachers. I don’t think we have published anything on the recent education white paper that wasn’t about the proposals for academies, so anything about that would be great. Recently there’s been debate online between teachers about whether teachers should use social media anonymously or not and about whether schools should make use of permanent exclusions, feel free to add your views on this site.

Anyway, if you are a Labour supporting teacher we hope to hear from you. Further details of how to contribute can be found here. Also, if you can share this post with anyone you know who is a Labour supporting teacher, that would also be appreciated.

Thank you.