An end to ‘radical reform’ in education? | @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.

And so it begins again. Another school year – my 22nd, for the record – and another massive structural change plan for education. According to the reports on Radio 4 this morning (well, it is my 22nd year in teaching and so you can forgive me for living the middle-age, middle-class dream) this is the most radical reform of schooling for half a century. I confess to giving a hollow laugh as I negotiated the journey to work. Whether it was the emphasis on ‘reform’ or the emphasis on ‘radical’ that caused my sarcastic snicker I’m not quite sure.

Once upon a time radical reform was a generational concept. In the post-war era it was the tripartite system of the 40s, the comprehensivisation of the 60s, the marketisation of the 80s and then the academisation of the 00s. But then something happened to politicians, starting under the Blair era and continuing ever since: continuity within governments was sacrificed on the altar of the seen-to-be-doing-something-radical intra-governmental-change mindset.

It’s a mindset that largely plays out in structural reform, but one that is also mirrored in reforms to external assessment and accountability mechanisms too. And so we find ourselves in the midst of changes for new and untried curricula feeding into new and untried examinations to inform new and untried RAISEonline data packages to provide ammunition for new and untried inspection mechanisms that are evaluated by new and untried commissioners within education to sweep schools into new and untried multi-academy trusts that will use new and untried methodologies to raise the attainment levels of the children who are meant to be at the heart of the whole new and untried system. Oh, and to top it all off, all of this needs to be done within the finances of a not even yet new and untried funding system (should the government ever get around to completing their consultation on the matter).

And all the while, a deeply resilient profession plays on as best it can like the band on board the Titanic. The lifeboats fill as the lifeblood drains out. At one end of the scale Headteachers are being retired and fired in greater numbers than they are being hired. At the other targets for new entrants to the profession are undershot whilst those who are recruited are attritioned out in massive numbers. And the squeezed middle, be they curriculum and pastoral leaders or the old classroom hands who unsexily keep the whole show on the road, find themselves with increasing class sizes and increasing contact time (but barely increasing pay packets for almost a decade now) as the never-ending race-to-the-bottom austerity agenda continues to bite individuals and institutions in equal measure.

So, forgive me for the negativity about the ‘radical reform’ of re-grammarisation and my hollow laugh at the end of what is supposed to be the honeymoon period of the school year. And forgive me for wondering, yet again, where Labour is in this debate, other than in vague and generalised opposition to the plans put forward by others.

In apology, let me finish with some positivity (all of this is, after all, set against the backdrop of the loveliest late summer sunshine I can remember in my 22nd September as a teacher) and a suggestion for the shadow education secretary. Call this government out on its botched reforms of the middle tier, on its botched approach to teacher recruitment and on its botched approaches to accountability that have the whole profession running in fear into the arms of questionable ethical practices with both teachers and students.

And when the media asks what you would do instead of free schools, grammar schools, mass academisation and Regional Schools Commissioners, tell them that you would instigate a Royal Commission to bring together the best and the brightest of the profession, of academics and of whoever else has a stake in the long-term inter-generational stability of our vital education system. Tell them that this commission would be empowered to look under every stone to seek out the best and the worst of what we already do.  Tell them that it would cut across party lines but that all parties would commit to carrying out its recommendations and to setting a twenty year moratorium on future change. Tell them that education is too important to remain in the field of play as little more than a political football and that you will end the game-playing that seems to have replaced real politics. Go on – I dare you, with every ounce of my 21 and a bit years of experience – tell them that.

The Annual Shaming of Parents | @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.

The culture that surrounds education and schooling in the UK is so dominated by social class it is really quite extraordinary. We know from research that the biggest factors in success at school are family background, parental support for education and aspiration.

Grammar schools (seen as ‘aspirational’) had the hallmark of the smart school uniform; independent schools traditionally have distinctive uniform. These smart and distinctive uniforms are supported by parents who want a statement of their aspiration for their children. This is why those of us establishing the first academies introduced smart uniform – something which is now common across the system. Insisting on proper smart uniform has now become one of the first things a headteacher does when embarking upon school improvement and transformation. It is about making a statement to parents that we expect them to support the education of their children and to share our aspirations for their children’s academic performance. It is also about making a statement to young people: you put on a uniform and you wear it with pride to make a statement about your aspiration for yourself.

There are a very small number of exceptions to what I am going on to say (I acknowledge the middle-class, ‘hippy-ish’ ‘my child is a free spirit and should be allowed to wear what they want’ parents) but the overwhelming majority of parents who want to fight a school’s uniform policy are exposing their lack of aspiration for their children’s success or their lack of parental control over their children. And everybody knows this.

I am embarrassed at the annual shaming of parents self-identifying as an obstacle to their children’s success by defending their right to wear ‘skinny’ trousers / trainers / piercings / short skirts etc. In our class-ridden culture people watch the way they watched the parents passing fish and chips through the school fence as their children didn’t like healthy school meals; they watch the way they watch Jeremy Kyle; they watch in incredulity and with a pity which is highly judgemental.

I hate seeing this: I hate seeing the under-aspirational demonised instead of educated and supported. Above all I hate the media collusion in this – in allowing those who want ‘to be on the telly’ to expose themselves allowing other parents to tut, feel smug and justified in their prejudices. It doesn’t help anyone and only serves to reinforce just how class-based our education system is. This year, witnessing these unedifying school gates arguments against a backdrop of news reports about reintroducing grammar schools just makes me want to weep.

Last Week’s Posts on @LabourTeachers (Week Ending 11th September 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

The flocks | @Lisa7Pettifer

Small blue birds, jaunty animations in a simplistic design, bobbed around outside the windows like bubbles blown at a child’s birthday party. Occasionally, one bumped into the glass, made no sound, and burst into a shower of tiny red hearts. Flocks of forty, fifty, even sixty were commonplace. Sometimes they circled in signature flocks, as if ready to swoop if Jo left the house.

Monday

Those who can, mentor | @rhsp27

As a former vicar and now NQT, I’m often noting the similarities between my old and new professions. Common to both is the issue of how to engage and inspire your listeners; the importance of keeping abreast of the latest developments in theory and practice; the inevitable stresses and strains that have to be coped with, work-life balance; and the time off that is too-often cluttered with work things that have to be done and can’t wait. And both teachers and clergy will testify to the ever-present threat of personal and professional burn-out.

Tuesday

Why I still will not go gentle into that good night of a disintegrating Europe Part 1 | Andrew James

Andrew has been reflecting on how Britain’s involvement in the EU affected his life.

In 1996, my wife, Stefi, and I,  returned to the UK to work in a series of short-term posts in international schools in the west country. At this time, there was a huge influx of international students into these schools, which were struggling to cope with the impact of the lower levels of English of the incoming students. We needed to provide intensive, fast-track courses in English for them, in order that they could integrate more quickly into the mainstream schools. As they were a long way from home, they also needed twenty-four-hour care, which we provided as houseparents.

Wednesday

Why I still will not go gentle into that good night of a disintegrating Europe Part 2 | Andrew James

Andrew has been reflecting on how Britain’s involvement in the EU affected his life.

In 2005, it was Gordon Brown, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, who came to our rescue as an ‘immigrant’ family. The system of tax credits that he introduced gave us the breathing space we needed to get back on our feet. In Canterbury, there was plenty of hourly paid teaching and training work for English language consultants, but few full-time permanent contracts on offer in the private sector. In the state system, there was plenty of supply teaching, but few permanent jobs for someone with my experience. After working with international business people and students on short courses, I eventually found a full-time role as a teacher of English and Humanities at IGCSE and International Baccalaureate Diploma levels, and of Cambridge IELTS. Eventually, both of us got full-time permanent posts, so that we were able to pay off our tax credits.

Thursday

The return of the debate about grammar schools should be a wake up call for us all | @MikeBerkoff

I come from a background in education that pre-disposes me against Grammar Schools but the point of this blog is not ideological but about evidence based arguments. The government is once again returning to suggesting an expansion of Grammar Schools. This is in fact a long standing ambition for many Conservatives. I specifically say ‘many’ rather than ‘all’ because there are those in that party who have a long standing familiarity with education and have some commitment to the comprehensive system.

Friday

Uniforms | @srcav

Uniforms are part and parcel of school life for the vast majority of us. They are often quite arbitrary and they differ from school to school. They are something that, for some reason, never stop being discussed.

Uniforms | @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.

Uniforms are part and parcel of school life for the vast majority of us. They are often quite arbitrary and they differ from school to school. They are something that, for some reason, never stop being discussed.

They can be expensive,  I’ve recently seen these costs as a parent for the first time and I understand them. But they aren’t a great deal more than other clothes.

So why is it they have hit the news again?

Well that’s because a school crackdown has caused outrage, as usual. What I imagine has happened is that the school has either brought in a new uniform requirement or, the more likely scenario, the school has decided to ensure that students follow the uniform policy. It seems like basic common sense to me. If a school has a uniform policy, it should be enforced. If you attend a school with a uniform policy you should follow that policy. If your child attends a school with a uniform policy you should ensure they are following said policy.

It’s strange, I’ve worked in many jobs which have had many different dress codes. Some simple uniforms (a pub branded t shirt); some full uniforms (a branded suit and tie); some strict dress codes (suit and tie), and some more lax (shirt and tie). I’ve never thought to try and get round it.

I have, however, heard every excuse under the sun from students.

Following uniform policies is important. It’s the opening gambit. If you have a uniform policy and don’t enforce it you are saying to the world “our policies mean nothing” and inviting students to break the behaviour policy, the attendance policy etc. etc. etc.

The return of the debate about grammar schools should be a wake up call for us all | @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.

I come from a background in education that pre-disposes me against Grammar Schools but the point of this blog is not ideological but about evidence based arguments. The government is once again returning to suggesting an expansion of Grammar Schools. This is in fact a long standing ambition for many Conservatives. I specifically say ‘many’ rather than ‘all’ because there are those in that party who have a long standing familiarity with education and have some commitment to the comprehensive system.

Some history is valuable. The system of Grammars, Secondary Moderns and Technical schools came about in the post war period. Technical schools did not catch on though. The theories underpinning the split relied to some extent on early twentieth century educational psychology. Cyril Burt in particular was a theorist whose ideas were very influential. There is a great deal written about Burt and his methodology but that is for another time. It would be incorrect to characterise the introduction of the system as some kind of conspiracy as there were genuine beliefs in reform. That this system fitted well with Conservative ideas lead to its swift introduction. Many Labour people in education have and had then a radically different approach which we now call comprehensive education. Let us pay compliments to earlier generations of Labour education activists for the superb work carried out over decades to advance the life chances of generations via school, special, further, adult and higher education. We all benefit from their work to this day.

Be under no illusion the life chances of millions have been severely limited by the Grammar school system. If an area has grammar schools the other schools become de facto secondary moderns no matter what they are called. In my own school days my secondary modern was actively discouraged by the local Conservative authority from running O and A levels. They carried on regardless. A number of us somehow got qualifications (based unfortunately on a limited curriculum). Many I knew gave up and left education as soon as they could. I hope some of them got a second chance through Further Education as I did partly myself but others just walked into dead end jobs. Splitting people at eleven or thirteen in some cases is severely damaging to a person’s outlook. Others, who went to the local grammar, did not always get the best education either. Some found themselves in “forcing factories” and might not be deemed to be worthy of the attention that could have changed their lives. I remember being told how in at least one grammar school all examination results were posted to all students. However you did everyone was told about it.

No system will be beyond criticism. Our comprehensives and other schools must always be in the game of raising standards. Grammars will never address this. It is an organised way of promoting a small proportion of the population without facing the wider needs overall.

Can the government plans be defeated? I think yes. Despite what we are told the basic fairness of comprehensive school system is popular when it succeeds. Our education cannot be sacrificed on either the alter of right wing elitism or pseudo left wing social engineering. Labour politics at its best has always been practical and aimed at dealing with real world problems. Let us not be quiet in promoting the advances that have been achieved over the decades. Slogans are no substitute for well reasoned arguments and of course winning elections.

Why I still will not go gentle into that good night of a disintegrating Europe Part 2 | Andrew James

IMG_0143Andrew James is a teacher and teacher-trainer in Hungary, having worked at a variety of schools and colleges in Wales, Northern England, the Midlands, West Country and Kent. He has been a Head of Humanities, History and English as a Foreign Language in the UK. He has also worked for Devon County Council, the Hungarian Ministry of Education and University Education Departments in Hungary, including EU-funded projects.

Andrew has been reflecting on how Britain’s involvement in the EU affected his life.

In 2005, it was Gordon Brown, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, who came to our rescue as an ‘immigrant’ family. The system of tax credits that he introduced gave us the breathing space we needed to get back on our feet. In Canterbury, there was plenty of hourly paid teaching and training work for English language consultants, but few full-time permanent contracts on offer in the private sector. In the state system, there was plenty of supply teaching, but few permanent jobs for someone with my experience. After working with international business people and students on short courses, I eventually found a full-time role as a teacher of English and Humanities at IGCSE and International Baccalaureate Diploma levels, and of Cambridge IELTS. Eventually, both of us got full-time permanent posts, so that we were able to pay off our tax credits.

Having returned to Hungary in 2011, it worries me now that, under the new rules being considered for migrants from the EU, we would no longer have the same immediate access to the in-work benefit system were we to return to full-time residence in the UK.  When the UK eventually leaves the EU, our position could be even worse, since we would have to join a queue of migrants, including expats seeking to return. Re-entry might no longer be an automatic right. Equally, if we choose to stay in Hungary, as a non-EU national, I might be subject to a whole barrage of medical tests and bureaucratic procedures once required of expatriate Brits. My status as the spouse of a Hungarian citizen might not give me the right to work in Hungary, so I would become dependent on my wife’s income in order to prove that I was not a burden on the Hungarian tax-payer.

My eldest son gained a place at the University of Warwick in 2009 to study German and French with International Relations, and our moving back to Hungary in 2011 did not affect his status as a ‘home’ student. All his costs and fees remained the same, since we were only moving within the EU. Of course, now the UK has voted to leave the EU, this will no doubt change for families in our position, as non-UK residents will have to pay the same full-cost fees as other international students, and they will have no access to the student loan system available to resident students. This will affect our second son, should he wish to attend a British University in five years’ time. We would need to be resident in the UK to be able to afford for him to go. Also, in his third year, our eldest was able to take advantage of the Erasmus Programme to live in Germany and teach English in a German school. This benefited his German-language skills enormously, as well as preparing him to teach in a mixed-ability context in a gesamschule (comprehensive).

Of course, when the UK leaves the EU, there will be no funds forthcoming from EU coffers to continue these remarkable opportunities. We were also hoping that the creation of a new university in Kecskemet, built partly with EU funds, will attract many British-based students to come and study here for a semester or two on Erasmus scholarships. All these possibilities will be wiped out by ‘Brexit’. These programmes will no longer be there to add value to the education of students from the UK. Above all, I am proud that my son has followed me into the state system in England, especially since he is a teacher of Modern Foreign Languages, sharing skills which are vital to the future success of the UK economy and to trade within the EU and the world. Now that the EU is beginning to work in these ways for the benefit of all its citizens, we cannot understand why so many of the English and Welsh have voted to throw away these opportunities for their young people. They have decided to abandon these life-changing chances in exchange for a blinkered, narrow view of Britain’s future best interests. This is why I, for one, will continue to rage against the dying of the Light across the European continent.

Why I still will not go gentle into that good night of a disintegrating Europe Part 1 | Andrew James

IMG_0143Andrew James is a teacher and teacher-trainer in Hungary, having worked at a variety of schools and colleges in Wales, Northern England, the Midlands, West Country and Kent. He has been a Head of Humanities, History and English as a Foreign Language in the UK. He has also worked for Devon County Council, the Hungarian Ministry of Education and University Education Departments in Hungary, including EU-funded projects.

Andrew has been reflecting on how Britain’s involvement in the EU affected his life.

In 1996, my wife, Stefi, and I,  returned to the UK to work in a series of short-term posts in international schools in the west country. At this time, there was a huge influx of international students into these schools, which were struggling to cope with the impact of the lower levels of English of the incoming students. We needed to provide intensive, fast-track courses in English for them, in order that they could integrate more quickly into the mainstream schools. As they were a long way from home, they also needed twenty-four-hour care, which we provided as houseparents.

However, as Stefi was a Hungarian-qualified secondary teacher and a ‘non-native-speaker’ of English, she was continually discriminated against when she applied for teaching jobs. It is now more difficult for schools in Britain to discriminate against ‘non-natives’, due largely to shared employment rights and standardized linguistic and professional qualifications across the EU. It wasn’t until 1998, when we moved to the Quaker School in Somerset that we eventually managed to combine all these roles effectively.

As the Cold War ended and the Hungarian people redefined their country’s place in the global community, joining NATO in 1999, it also began the process of reintegrating itself into a new, unified Europe. The road back to Europe culminated on 1 May, 2004, when Hungary joined the European Union as a full member along with Poland and the Czech Republic. As a family, we had decided not to put ourselves through the costly, bureaucratic process of acquiring each other’s nationality, since any rights which we did not already have through marriage were simply not worth it. Stefi had, since our marriage, had the right to live and work permanently in the UK, as I had in Hungary. Now we decided to live and work in a ‘neutral’ country where we would both have to learn a new language. We were offered roles as houseparents at an International School in the south of France, and moved all our possessions and our two boys into this new adventure.

Our decision was almost as spontaneous as our decision to marry, but it didn’t bring the same lasting success. One of the reasons for this was that the French government had decided to apply derogation (to opt out) of the accession treaty requirements, so that it would not have to provide equal and unlimited access to its jobs market for potential Polish, Czech and Hungarian immigrants. Our employers told us that since they could not prove that Stefi’s role was unique and could not be done by a French national, they would have to discharge her. Since we had accepted our jobs as a couple, this made both jobs untenable. With the help of US and British colleagues, we fought this on the basis that Stefi was entitled through marriage to the same rights she had enjoyed in the UK. We won our case eventually, though we were nearly bankrupted and back in the UK by that time. One positive outcome was that our eldest son (aged 15) was fluent in French on our return, and so was able to gain a place at a grammar school in Kent.

We found it wholly ironic that, having effectively been forced, however spuriously, to leave France due to its opting out from EU treaties, when we returned to the UK, we found that many Poles and Hungarians were arriving without any restrictions, to work in market-gardening, retail and hospitality. The UK government did not, by contrast, exercise its right of derogation, the very reason why it has faced such pressure over immigration during the past decade, a key issue in the recent referendum. The negative impact of this core issue on the question of the UK’s membership of the EU, wherever we stand on that issue, was entirely foreseeable and avoidable. That decision was what led to the growth of UKIP, adding to the core of Euroscepticism within the Tory Party, to create the demand for a referendum, a demand which David Cameron felt he could not deny.

 

Those who can, mentor | @rhsp27

Richard is a (very) newly qualified primary teacher after  twenty years in the Anglican ministry and a party member of 3 years standing.

As a former vicar and now NQT, I’m often noting the similarities between my old and new professions. Common to both is the issue of how to engage and inspire your listeners; the importance of keeping abreast of the latest developments in theory and practice; the inevitable stresses and strains that have to be coped with, work-life balance; and the time off that is too-often cluttered with work things that have to be done and can’t wait. And both teachers and clergy will testify to the ever-present threat of personal and professional burn-out.

As a trainee, though, one other resonance from my former way of life struck me whilst on teaching practice. And that was the vulnerability that a trainee often experiences when they embark on ‘The Course’. This can be manifested in the sense of being ‘de-skilled’ and many mature entrants into the Church and Teacher Training feel it. Past qualifications rarely count for much, nor do previous work or life experience – there are certainly few formal credits to be gained for the former as far as Initial Teacher Training is concerned – though, I have to say, the situation is marginally better in ministerial training. But the greatest area where this sense of de-skilling is perhaps most keenly felt, comes at the time when the fledgling teacher or minister, is sent on a placement to learn on the job, so to speak. The idea is the same, conceptually, in both professions: give the trainee some ‘real-life’ experience of the profession, allow them to take limited charge, enable them to learn from mistakes and even, find out from first hand, whether this really is the vocation that they should be following. And in both professions also, there is something of the lottery factor at work in whether or not the placement process is a worthwhile experience. In this regard, I’m not saying that for a placement to be a beneficial that it should be an unmitigated success in personal achievements. Far from it. The most negative experiences in my life, both as a trainee minister and as a trainee teacher have yielded some priceless learning experiences. But in order for this to be the case, it’s essential that the trainee, in either context, is matched up with a practitioner who has been trained to mentor, is interested in mentoring, has the time and commitment to the mentoring task and is him or herself, the best role model or advertisement there can be for the profession: not a Saint, by any means, but not cynical, still enthusiastic and still enthused by the work that they are doing.

My work in the Church (and as a trainer of ministers in a Theological College) gave me ample exposure to trainees who too frequently had been placed in parishes where the mentor regarded them as a hindrance or a lackey or as something to be endured as a necessary step up on the ecclesiastical promotion ladder (‘preferment’, it was termed). I was a bit taken aback, though, to find that similar dynamics could be at work in the world of teacher training. At this start of the academic year, my mind is on those trainee teachers whose early introduction to the profession may be blighted by the bad luck of a placement with an inadequate mentor (I was very fortunate, I have to say). Excellent mentoring in all professional training should not be a lottery. Perfect standardisation is never going to be possible: teachers and mentors are human, thank God; but all trainees should at least, have the right to parity of experience on their training placements, comparable with parity of basic terms and conditions that all members of the profession expect when they start work. The placement process, somehow, I suspect, needs some systemic attention to make it a less uneven experience. But in the meantime, there’s a lot that can be done, by the people on the ground, who can really make or break this period of professional formation. Labour teachers, above all, might be expected to be mindful of the importance of equality of opportunity, the level playing field and the like. Those who are called to the task of mentoring trainees, should be ready to give them a fair crack of the whip (perhaps an unfortunate metaphor this!), at all times; the occasional pat on the back, sometimes; and the indifferent discouragement of a cold shoulder?

Well, if you can’t answer ‘never’, to that, then please, please, leave the task to others who can.

The flocks | @Lisa7Pettifer

Lisa pic@Lisa7Pettifer  is a teacher of English, Head of Professional Development, SLE and Labour Party member from Cumbria.

Small blue birds, jaunty animations in a simplistic design, bobbed around outside the windows like bubbles blown at a child’s birthday party. Occasionally, one bumped into the glass, made no sound, and burst into a shower of tiny red hearts. Flocks of forty, fifty, even sixty were commonplace. Sometimes they circled in signature flocks, as if ready to swoop if Jo left the house.

Most of the time, their call was a short, monosyllabic announcement, an irregular pulse nonetheless a sign of invisible life surrounding Jo wherever she went. “Heart” they called, an almost apologetic utterance. “Heart, heart, heart”, they chorused, accompanying her thoughts and words and opinions.

As the summer came to a close, the calls grew both in number and in the length of the outbursts. Often, they repeated and mimicked Jo’s voice over and over, sometimes hundreds or thousands of times. Each time a new voice emerged, another little blue bird joined the flock, circling, whirling, wheeling, whorling.

“Heart, heart, heart, heart”, they rained down like hailstones on the roof of the conservatory as Jo slid her finger away from her on the smooth face of her phone. Almost absentmindedly, she tapped out a comment, a call of her own, in response to an ethereal voice. Within a second, the sky darkened with an increase in the number of sapphire and cornflower flecks. Echoes of her own words fluttered with every wing beat; reiterations danced through the branches of the silver birches on the sunny side of the west garden.

Jo glanced around her, drew a breath and her eyes widened, adjusting to a changed field of vision. She noticed the little blue birds crowding round, heard their calls and their replies to one another. Soon, though, her gaze fell again to her phone. Her fingertips played the flattened square tiles, giving a shape to a new thought and sending out a new call of her own.

Each time Jo calls once, the birds arrive. Some hover at a distance, friendly and smiling and meek, never seeking to offend or criticise. Many dive bomb, little beaky faces in twisted frowns, and leave their mess everywhere, a reminder of their disagreement or disapproval. Others develop a questioning call, eager to gain a reaction. And still more chirrup incessantly, delighted with their own song.

Such is the fate of J K Rowling when tweeting about the Labour leadership election.

Last Week’s Posts on @LabourTeachers (Week Ending 3rd September 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 as soon as possible.

Sunday

Blair’s Mantra – More Radical Than It Seemed… | @rhsp27

It’s that time of the year again, rather lovely in many ways: the cusp between the end of the old and the start of a new. It has all the elements that are the key components in any convincing drama. We see it on national news programmes, in the regional accounts, and in the local press. The highs are covered more than the lows, of course, but even so, the ‘almost made its’ or the ‘pipped at the post’ are still newsworthy. I’m talking about Results Day, the August days that are dreaded, endured and eagerly awaited alike, by so many people. Individuals are naturally, the focus of these days, success or not. For behind the gilded attainments or the mediocre outcomes, there are real people whose personal lives are profoundly affected by these national assessments of their academic worth. Teachers, students, parents and carers – are all central players in the G.C.S.E. awards.

Monday

QTLS and Professional Accreditation in FE | @DebLFisher

I have taught in FE for five years but was unable to undertake professional training for the first few years due to timetable issue. Having final finished my Diploma in Education and Training I am now looking at the next stage of registering with the Society of Education and Training and working towards my QTLS, the FE equivalent of QTS. The uncertainly and lack of money in the sector makes the prospect of job cuts seem increasingly likely. Gaining QTLS and moving into the compulsory school sector is thus looking like a real possibility I may end up exploring. QTLS is not compulsory in FE, and training standards have been subject to repeated changes by successive governments in a move towards increased “professionalism”. However, this is very much an imposed vision and not one adopted in consultation with those working in the sector.

Tuesday

The College Of Teaching | @JulesDaulby

It has recently been announced that Dame Alison Peacock is to be the CEO of a newly formed College of Teachers (CoT).

I was delighted by this appointment; my educational philosophy is aligned with the ‘Beyond Levels’ approach Peacock advocates and she has the backing of many teachers. Dame Alison Peacock has the influence and gravitas that the College needs to become successful.

Wednesday

Flying in the face of reality | @GeogNewHoD

I am sure we can all think of a student who simply does not seem to want to accept facts or will completely ignore the inevitable consequences of actions. They perhaps insist that their viewpoint is correct and contrive to find all sorts of evidence to the contrary. They persist in behaving in a way that will always lead to negative consequences regardless of what they are told. Sometimes it seems like self-destruction, and as teachers we tend to want to intervene.

Thursday

If… | @danielharvey9

For the purpose of this post,  I will try to consider what educational policies Labour should be focusing on and in what areas perhaps they could exploit government weakness. I would politely suggest that to those who want to be leaders, that the quality of leadership be judged on how well they carry the fight to the government and their ability to establish a narrative that sticks to current political media coverage.

Friday

A Teacher’s tale of life between Ruritania and Fairyland | Andrew James

I wonder, I wonder,
If anyone knows,
Who lives at the heart,
Of the velvety rose?
Is it a goblin, or is it an elf?
Or is it the Queen of the fairies herself?