If teachers were football managers Part 1 | @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.

There seems many similarities between the football manager and the teacher to me. To the outside world and perhaps the more cynical both may seem easy. You have longer holidays than most; your work day is short, and all you do is pick a team or just impart some knowledge on a small group of people. The reality of course is somewhat different.

The long holidays are not so long if you consider the long pre-season tours for footballers and the hours of marking and preparation for teachers. Match day for footballers hides the week’s training and time spent being drilled on how to defend set pieces, much like all the pre-lesson planning in preparation for teaching. The two areas also have probably more stats, tables, tests, graphs and comparisons than any other profession. The whole point of football is to get your team up the league table and, since the introduction of school league tables, this seems the main goal for many schools too. There is also the often over-looked fact in both professions of how many factors and people go into contributing to success. Whilst it may just be match days or exam days that these professions are judged on, to get to this point so many factors must come together.

In football, the players are the ones out on the pitch, having been tactically drilled by the long suffering manager. But behind him there are the physios to ensure they are fit, the dieticians to make sure they are eating properly, the coaching staff that have trained them, and the kit manager to ensure they are wearing the right get up among many others. The pressure on the manager though is intense. These days if the team fails the light is shone on the manager and more often than not they are sacked (a year and a half is the average life expectancy of a UK football manager). With the success of Football Manager everyone thinks that they would make the perfect manager; just sign a few cheap, young Norwegians, wait a couple of years and – boom – Premier league success is happening. This, of course, takes out the vital fact of human happiness. In reality the new signings may be homesick; they may have left families, be unable to speak the language; they may be living in a hotel or have marital problems, all of which are hidden on a Saturday when we just expect them to perform.

In exams, it is the students taking the exam but it is the teacher that has drilled them with an exam structure and laid on all of those extra revision sessions; the teaching assistants have helped coach them through; the exam officers have set up the testing; the attendance officers have ensured they are there, and the canteen staff have cooked the breakfasts. If students’ results are below par it is now the teacher that has to answer the questions. Much like football managers, the pressure and workload on teachers is pretty intense, and over half of teachers consider leaving the profession within two years of joining. Also, much like football, all Ofsted and sadly many senior leaders now see are a list of numbers, not a student. Last year one of my students had a panic attack in their final A2 exam despite countless practice drills and one student had a close relative pass away a day before the exam; what can you put in place for that?

Continued tomorrow.

The Ofsted Debate | @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.

I watched with jealousy yesterday as my twitter timeline filled with tweets that included #Michaela. For those unaware, the hashtag was related to an event at Michaela school where educationalist and teachers were debating big issues in education. It was an event I’d have loved to be at. All the debates were quite interesting but the one that has me thinking the most was the one around the abolition of Ofsted.

This is an issue I’ve seen discussed many times, (including in the green party manifesto) and I can see where arguments on both sides come from. So much so, in fact, that I actually feel the debate is being framed wrong.

We need a regulator

This is a strong theme used by all who argue against abolition. And it is certainly one that I’d full of merit. But I don’t think it stands up in the debate. I would seriously worry if we had schools which were unregulated and entirely left to their own devices, but that doesn’t mean I agree with the current model.

Ofsted makes SLT spend their time doing nonsense things to please them

This is a strange argument that I’ve seen phrased in a variety of ways over the years, but it’s not entirely accurate. Yesterday I saw it tweeted like this:


Katherine Birbalsingh (@Miss_Snuffy) was tweeting out what many perceive to be true, but as John (@johntomsett) replied, it’s not true. We’ve seen time and time again that Ofsted have spoken out against many of the practices that go on in their name (see the recent pens debacle here and here, my hatred for the word “Outstandingthis response to a guardian secret teacher and these misguided schools), so it’s wrong to keep using it to argue against them.

So what is your problem with Ofsted?

It’s the culture it engenders. The 1-4 grading system is for me, ridiculous. It seems to attempt to boil down how good a school is into a tick box exercise. It doesn’t account for the complexities each school has, it promotes game playing and encourages teaching to the test, rather than for understanding. It means certain groups of children are deemed more important because they fall around a threshold grade and they receive more help, more money, more time and more resources and that is not fair.

So what would you replace it with?

I’d like to see a system where grades were replace with a two tier system, a “fine” and a “you need urgent help to improve.”

I feel all schools can improve, and the reports should be constructive and developmental,  highlighting the strengths each school has and areas in which they need to improve.  This could lead to greater collaboration between schools as the all try to help each other move forward.

Those schools deemed to need urgent help shouldn’t be stigmatised in the way schools in special measures can be. They should receive help to get them back on track. No school has made a concious decision to fail it’s students, some have just lost their way.

We should all be working together,  with a common goal of giving all young people the best possible start. And the regulatory body should be enabling that, not ranking schools in accordance to some criteria that doesn’t even take the full picture into account.

The Arguments Against Grammar Schools Still Hold Strong | Pete Crockett

IMG_0514Pete Crockett is a Labour Party member in North Wiltshire CLP. He retired from special school headship in December 2012.  Prior to that he had worked in urban and rural comprehensives as a SENCO and spent half his career in various senior leadership roles. Even though he is retired, he still works part time.

I recently re-read John Prescott’s biography “Fighting Talk.”  Doing so it hit me just how damaging selection at eleven was.  John Prescott talks about how failing the eleven-plus “gave him a great sense of failure.”  At another point he comments:

“Grammar schools provided the classics like Julius Caesar for their pupils.  At secondary modern I had to make do with Dick Barton.”

Like John Prescott I also failed my eleven-plus.  For many of us who did so that early judgement that we were not bright enough to have academic aspirations was immensely damaging.  Self-expectations were lowered and self-esteem battered. Reading this biography it is very easy to empathise with the recurring theme that the “scarring experience” of being labelled an educational failure at eleven sticks with you for life.

Still though, the advocacy of grammar schools and selection continues. Old Etonian Boris Johnson calls the scrapping of grammar schools “a tragedy” – a view shared by many who sit on the Tory benches. Meanwhile UKIP’s Dulwich College old boy Nigel Farage advocates a grammar school in every town. Alongside this journalists in the right wing press frequently clamour for the restoration of grammar schools basing their clarion call on the myth that grammar schools were a tool for enhancing working class social mobility.  I wonder just how much time the grammar school advocates have spent trying to seek the viewpoint of those who could offer a first hand insight into the adverse impact of selection and a secondary modern education? Do they, even momentarily, reflect that maybe the reason they do not hear any counter arguments might be because most of those who had a secondary modern education lacked the remotest hope of ever moving in their social circles because of a lack of social mobility under a selective system?

Those of us who oppose selection at eleven could never have envisaged that in 2015 we would have a Secretary of State for Education approving the opening of the first new grammar school in fifty years.  We are at a point where educators with a detestation of selection in education need to start debunking the myths that have built up around grammar schools and selection at eleven.  This needs to be done because it is an argument that is currently being lost. A YouGov survey, published in The Times in November 2014 indicated that 54% of those polled said they would support new grammar schools.

The reality is that the evidence strongly favours those of us who oppose selection and grammar schools. The Sutton Trust, for example, has analysed trends in social mobility using Department for Education data. Its researchers revealed that less than 3% of grammar schools entrants are entitled to free school meals, compared to 18% in other schools operating in those areas where grammar schools exist.  They also found that in selective local authorities, 66% of children who achieve level 5 in both English and Maths at Key Stage 2 who are not eligible for free school meals go to a grammar school compared with 40% of similarly high achieving children who are eligible for free school meals. This is hardly evidence of existing areas of selection battering down those barriers to social mobility.

Of course the picture might look somewhat different if those grammar-school-educated pupils from deprived backgrounds did better in examinations than their comprehensive counterparts.  This is also not the case. Journalist Chris Cook, then at the Financial Times, used 2013 figures to investigate educational attainment.  His analysis found that children from deprived backgrounds performed worse in areas where there was selection than their peers in areas without selection.

The myth of grammar schools and selection being a tool for social mobility needs to be quashed at every opportunity. The demise of grammar schools in the 1960’s and 1970’s stemmed from a public sense that the process was damaging to too many young people. Educators who strive for greater equality now need to do everything within our collective power to remind people that these very same arguments still hold strong today.

A question about The College Of Teaching | @Nick_J_Rose

Nick MugshotNick Rose is a ‘Leading Practitioner’ for psychology and research, and teaches at a comprehensive secondary school in Hertfordshire. His blog can be found here and he occasionally tweets as @Nick_J_Rose.

The College of Teaching is looking to teachers to ‘help shape’ its direction and priorities. Whether you’re enthused by what you’ve heard about the college, or sceptical about the direction it appears to be heading, I’d encourage all teachers to pitch in and offer their honest opinion. Having completed the survey myself, I was left with many more questions than answers about what the college will actually be doing.

One question relates to the ‘aspiration’ of the college to create a new set of ‘aspirational’ standards for teachers. There are several mentions of standards in the college survey. For example, teachers are asked to rate the importance of:

“That sets its own aspirational standards and helps teachers to challenge themselves to be ever better for those they serve.”

“Professional standards. Members will be accredited against valid, portable, respected, sector-led standards; these will provide opportunities for career development, confer status and inspire respect.”

“A common code of practice that reflects aspirational standards of teaching, an evidence informed approach to practice, ethical behaviour, promotion of the profession and the best possible opportunities for learners. “

All sounds very worthy perhaps, but it left me rather wary. Accountability in teaching is already pitched way beyond the reliability of the judgements about the quality of teaching; so, I’m a bit unsettled by this heavy emphasis on creating another set of standards for teachers. After all, there are already statutory teacher standards which, for any limitations, have the great virtue of being short!

In what way will these new standards be ‘aspirational’? I can only imagine that the intention is to extend the list of things a teacher must or should do to be considered to be fulfilling professional standards. After all, reducing the number of standards which apply to teachers hardly seems very ‘aspirational’. I thought I already fulfilled a valid, portable, respected set of standards as a teacher, so why is the college implying there should be additional hoops for members to jump through in order to earn such professional ‘status’ and ‘respect’?

Another aspiration listed in the survey was a college: “That is led by teachers, enabling the profession to take responsibility for its professional destiny.” What is the anticipated model (or possible models) of the process by which these standards will be created? Surely, there is something that can be said about it? Will ordinary classroom teachers create these standards, or will it be an ‘expert group’ – perhaps using a similar process to the selection of trustees – overseeing the process? If this group comes up with standards which teachers feel are bureaucratic, burdensome or simply bonkers, will members who are classroom teachers have the power to reject any proposed addition to their standards

Who might judge whether a member has met the new set of standards created by the college? The survey mentions a ‘validated portfolio documenting professional impact’ – which sounds ominously like going through threshold again! Just who exactly will validate it? Will it be a ‘college mentor’? (Who are they? How will they be selected? Will they be serving teachers? Will they be paid? Who will train them?). How valid and reliable will those judgements be? We’ve seen how difficult it has been for the inspectorate to ensure reliability – how will the college ensure it avoids the pitfalls of making unreliable judgements of teaching?

What genuinely worries me is that in place of concrete proposals for discussion, the college appears to offer hand-waving, ‘aspirational’ rhetoric. Given how central the creation of standards appears to be for The College of Teaching, it seems reasonable to ask for some idea of the processes involved (or at least how those processes themselves will be created). Until something more substantial is offered, perhaps teachers should heed that ancient advice: caveat emptor.

Crisis? What Crisis? | @ChocoTzar

BunnyChocoTzar is a secondary headteacher, married with children, and is a lifelong Labour Party member. 

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’ve got a little bit of a teacher recruitment and retention crisis on our hands. When you listen to everyone from the Secretary of State, to ITT providers, to NQTs, to long-serving teachers, there are as many causes to this crisis as people willing to offer their opinion. Generally I pin it down to fewer graduates in the system due to the tuition fee hike, the lowering reputation of the profession, and sheer exhaustion caused by workload, changing goalposts and football-manager-type accountability.

Being a headteacher, I am often one of the last people to notice anything changing in the education landscape but even I have noticed this crisis. Therefore, I assume other headteachers and senior leaders have too and would be trying to reduce the impact of the crisis on their school.

So why am I hearing such awful accounts of how people are being treated in schools – and I do include some headteachers and senior leaders in this as well as teachers, TAs, support staff and student teachers. How does ANY of the following make staff feel valued, secure, positive and willing to stay? When the relationship between staff and their line managers are so crucial to success, are some out to make that relationship more akin to upstairs/downstairs at Downton Abbey? Why would tired, miserable, cowed staff work harder for children?

I hope these things are uncommon (and I know many people don’t moan about lovely things) but recently I have heard about…

  • An NQT locked in staffroom so the deputy headteacher could shout in her face about missing a deadline;
  • An Experienced teacher shouted at in his classroom full of children about sitting on his desk, not a chair;
  • An experienced leader reduced to tears by her line manager because she’d filled out a form properly;
  • Triple marking;
  • A female teacher being told she didn’t get short listed for a promotion because the head thought she’d be having babies soon;
  • A teacher being told he couldn’t be covered so he couldn’t go home when he felt ill – turns out he was having a heart attack;
  • A brilliant headteacher called to a meeting with governors and effectively sacked and put on gardening leave despite no discipline issue and improving results.

I wouldn’t want to stay either.

Close the borders? | @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.

My heart sank with the news that came out of Paris.  The sheer terror that the people involved were faced with. The loss of life, the domain and suffering forced onto the families of those who were killed. It’s horrifying. These were just regular folk, going about their business. Many at a rock concert enjoying the music they love, some at a football match, possibly living the dream to have scored a ticket to such a big match. Others going about their normal business. This is a tragedy of the highest proportions, made worse by the fact that it was ignited by humans. People who made a conscious choice to force that pain onto others.

After my initial sadness and horror I felt a second wave coming. That wave came with the realisation of what was going to come next. The racists were gearing up, sharpening their knives,  they saw the opportunity to ride the wave of horror and try to legitimise their own agenda. “Close the borders”, “stop letting them in”, “the refugees aren’t really suffering – they’re ISIS soldiers sent to kill us.” I’ve seen tons of sentiments along these lines and it worries me completely. Being Asian doesn’t make someone a terrorist. Being Muslim doesn’t make someone a terrorist. These attacks by ISIS and other similar groups are commonplace in the countries these refugees are fleeing from, that’s why they’re trying to escape. This is surely a sign that we need to help more. The suggestion of closed borders is a ridiculous overreaction. Not only would it stop us aiding refugees it would also stop important roles in our society being filled, such a s doctors and nurses. It would harm the economy to stop holidaymakers in. It would mean cancelling international sporting fixtures and would mean new international signings weren’t allowed.

People are also using this to perpetuate their own Islamophobia and try to impose that on others. I’m an atheist, I have many issues with things said and believed by every religion, but I don’t think that makes them all terrorists and I don’t understand how anyone can jump to that conclusion. I know many Muslims and I know they would be the first to condemn the actions in Paris.

I’ve also seen people question why the press have covered these tragic events more than the tragic events in Japan. The truth of that matter is that the tragic events in Japan are a consequence of nature. The people of the area know earthquakes are likely and are trying to live with them, looking to prevent them, predict them and minimise their damage. The loss of life is still a horrific tragedy, but everything possible was done to try and avoid it, in Paris choices were made by people that inflicted the loss of life. And that’s why the press have focused on this event more.

These acts are immoral and indefensible. We need to remember that and hope to move forward towards a world where this doesn’t happen. The way to do that isn’t through racism, it isn’t through a knee jerk reaction of closing all the borders and it isn’t through the systematic carpet bombing of Muslim countries.

Terror, Freedom and the Futility of War | @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.

Another horrendous, cowardly terror attack in a major international city; scores dead and a nation in shock. The same headline could have been in Madrid, London, New York, Istanbul, Mumbai, Nairobi, tragically it is now Paris. Leaders are ringing their hands, the hawks are sharpening the bombs and no one seems ready to learn the lessons of the past.

It all goes back to that misconceived idea, that terrible phrase, that war on terror. I am a realist and recognise that force is sometimes (hopefully when every other avenue has been exhausted) but the idea you can have a war on terror (or a war on waste for that matter) is it best poor rhetoric and at worst creating the belief that you can actually fight terror with guns, bombs and drone strikes.

Terror is an ideological struggle and will only be countered by recognising this and using the tools at our disposal to take it on face on. Yes we need to have the best intelligence to protect and counter the direct physical threat and yes if there is an obvious clear and present danger a military intervention could be justified. However the idea that bombing or invading a region with complex historical and sectarian differences complete with power vacuums, mass refugees and competing external powers, just doesn’t seem to be the right way forward. Besides we’ve tried it before and it hasn’t seemed to work.

So how do we counter the present threat? I’m just a Maths teacher but it seems to me that the first thing we do is the opposite to what these terrorists want. They want us to abandon the values that they hate and we claim to stand for. They want us to retaliate in kind to help their recruitment drive – ‘see how the infidel persecutes your fellow Muslims’. Instead let;s celebrate our freedoms let’s get out there and do what we have always done and let’s look for the most peaceful way forward. Let’s continue to offer help to those in trouble, not turn them away. Let’s move away from using dubious actions like drone strike assassinations and instead bite the bullet and open dialogue with those we may find distasteful. OK that’s the utopian stuff, now I’ll give you the tough stuff that we actually need to do, because there is a part of the world that needs sorting out.

We need to work with the Russians, the Iranians and use there and our influence to get those we are meant to be backing (whoever they are) to come to an agreement with the Assad regime and look to the Russians and Iranians to do the same with Assad. These two groups will have to recognise some kind of longer term power sharing arrangements and if they are unwilling to cooperate then we need to pull, out. Because they need stop fighting each other and focus on the ISIS threat, in such circumstances air support suddenly becomes a far more effective and legally sound proposition. It might feel distasteful to work with a dictator but we still don’t seem to understand that the alternative is no state structure with no secure governing functions, and is just a breeding ground for a constant repeat of what we’ve already seen. As Marx put it “First as tragedy, then as farce”; a farce is more tragic because it seems we have learnt nothing.

Reports – Give me just a little more time… | @68ron

image1@68ron is a teacher living and working on the south coast. He likes to think he can see educational issues from a number of different perspectives, teacher, parent, governor and (teaching) trade union officer. His 16th birthday present was a Labour Party membership card (when it still had Clause IV written on it). His greatest moment in teaching came while listening live on the ‘wireless’ to Mrs Thatcher’s defenestration while sitting in the smokers’ staff room during morning break.

I can still remember what some of my school reports said about me: ‘Ron possesses sufficient charm to ease his way through life but not his Chemistry ‘O’ level’. I can also remember pretending to be mortified (but being secretly delighted) by my French teacher’s comment: ‘Another excellent term’s work from a remarkable young man’. I had a thing about memorising irregular verbs at the age of 13 – sadly I grew out of that phase. To be fair, I don’t think I ever had a comment from my Music or Art teacher that was not either “Satisfactory” or ‘Unsatisfactory” but even at that age I knew they taught every pupil up to Year 9 and their exam classes.

Do we think that our generation of pupils will remember our reports? They sometimes feel very formulaic, I think. Many friends of mine ask me to translate their child’s school report into language they can understand. It’s not like these people are uneducated, one recent example is a GP, another friend of mine who expressed a similar lack of comprehension has a first class degree in Linguistics and Phonetics.

In my experience the problem has got worse since the abolition of levels (but it had been a real issue for many, many years). Many school reports read as if they are written not for the benefit of parents and carers, still less the pupils, but for OFSTED. It’s as if they are saying: “Look, we’re giving detailed advice about how this child can make further progress in Geography” rather than talking directly to parents and carers. Some colleagues from different schools tell me that they only ever feel they are writing proper reports when they can write freestyle about their tutor group.

I have never received any training at all in 25 years of teaching about report writing. Not at teacher training college, nor in my probationary year (as they were called in the 20th century). Odd isn’t it? I suspect that it’s not that uncommon. The problem is then made worse by the tight time frame teachers have for writing the reports. You might have a window of one or school two weeks. You not be able to write the reports at home. The pressure to stick to the deadline will be much greater than the expectation to write good quality reports. There will be a lot of generic stuff about course content and there might well be a lot of copy and paste. There might well be a lot of prose written about pupils that does not include gender-specific pronouns. I’ve even heard of parents reading reports that include the name of another child.

I think we need to have an open and honest discussion about report writing. We need first of all to find out what parents and carers really want to read in the reports. We need to have a proper amount of time to write the reports. We need some decent training. We might need to manage expectations about what can be achieved.

Why Evidence Should Matter in Education Policy | @judeenright

judeJude Enright is a Deputy Headteacher in London. Years of posting red leaflets through doors in a blue and yellow area have not dented her hope that one day this country will get a great Labour government. Still up for Portillo in 1997.

As a Labour loyalist, I saw the money coming in to schools and appreciated the additional staff who took off the burden of photocopying and exam invigilation, but I missed some of the darker mistakes made by the last Labour government. This is a classic example which I stumbled across today: an academic vilified by a Labour government with an agenda. There was also a sillier side: billions spent on National Strategies that unleashed a range of un-evidenced practices in to English classrooms. Tom Bennett’s ResearchED movement was born out of a desire to combat the sillier side of all this, with Ben Goldacre being taken seriously by a Coalition government that wanted root and branch reform.

But I worry about the Coalition, and now the Conservative government’s claiming of the territory of logic and cold hard sense, with its expensive randomised control trials (RCTs) and its absolute certainty about a range of aspects of education, such as the virtue of text books; or the value of studying Geography over RE and 19th Century British literature over 20th Century American Literature.  Of course they are evidence driven.  Until the evidence disagrees with their own views, at which point the allegations of “Blob” fly at the poor academic whose life’s work happens to be published under the wrong regime.

Labour needs to build teachers’ trust by clarifying what research will be funded, what evidence will be used and how, and mostly importantly, explaining how they will set up structures to make education policy independent of the political rulers of the day,  instead focusing on long term educational and career goals.

Both Labour and Conservative are committed to improving outcomes for those born into households with less money and connections.  But both Labour and Conservative governments have failed to find answers.  Look at the EEF’s site and findings from their RCTs.  Meanwhile it becomes more and more difficult for youngsters from some postcodes to get to the top universities.  My school, with c 44% Pupil Premium students, sent 111 young people to Russell Group universities in 2015.  But we are not an Academy, so no-one is interested to know how. Instead we are told to make teaching young people about FGM and preventing extremism our priority.  How much time and effort does Eton put into these areas I wonder?  Yet experience shows it will be their alumni who go on to determine future policy.

So a hint to a Labour regime that might need a boost in the polls.  Teachers will vote for any party that promises to stay out of our classrooms, and let us interpret and use the evidence in a way that makes a difference for the young people we teach.

Teacher retention and what could be done about it | @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 is a recruitment and retention problem in schools. Politicians have been slow in coming to that realisation (if they’re there yet), but schools have known about it for a long time. It’s no longer shortage subjects where recruitment is difficult; once you’ve finally got staff, holding on to them is the next battle.

Fewer people are taking up initial teacher training, a drop of almost 14% between 2010/11 and 2014/15 (source). Roughly 100 000 of those who undertook ITT never began teaching. For those who made it into the classroom, almost 50 000 teachers, or around 10% of the workforce, left the profession (source).

I’m not going to offer some grand solution to the problem: there isn’t one. Instead, it’s going to take a whole raft of smaller wins for schools and for teachers if the bigger crisis is to be resolved. We all know that teachers are only in the job for the pay and the holidays. The pay, which the DfE recently announced could be as high as £65k pa(!), isn’t the drawcard those outside the profession think it is. After a decade in the job, most teachers are earning somewhere in the vicinity of £40k pa. Not too shabby in the grand scheme of things, but not a reflection of the hours worked and the stress of the job. As for holidays, find me a teacher who doesn’t work at least one day per holiday (usually more), most weeknights and at least one day on the weekend, and I’ll contribute to boosting your pay to the mythical £65k.

Then there’s the issue of pay portability. With such a fractured education system across the United Kingdom, the national pay structure is a joke. Far from being recognised as the professionals they are, experienced staff have to lower their salary expectations each time they need or want to find a new school to work at. Schools, partly due to increasing budgetary pressures but mostly because they are free of the School Teachers Pay and Conditions (STPC), can pay experienced staff on the same level as NQTs and get away with it. There is research being conducted particularly into the use of capabilities procedures for women over 55, who have often taken career breaks and are seen to be too expensive. On top of to the demoralising nature of being forced out of a school where you’ve done excellent work for years, how are these women expected to find new jobs when they are at UPS3? Often they are expected to take huge pay drops and go back to mainscale. Most, if they can afford it, are choosing early retirement or seeking work outside of the profession rather than facing the humiliation of job hunting and being rejected.

I’m 33 years old and I had a conversation with my headteacher a week ago about my fear of being UPS3 without being in a position to gain the experience I’ll need to make myself attractive to other employers should I need to look elsewhere. It’s a real fear.

There are so many other issues contributing to the retention problem: workload, Ofsted, stress and mental health issues – the list goes on. To borrow a cliche, it’s going to take joined-up thinking to build the profession back to one where people aren’t feeling the need to flee.

Are there solutions? I said earlier that there are, so here’s a few suggestions:

  • Scrap the idea that employing teachers outside of STPC is an option. It needs to be compulsory for all teachers in all schools.
  • Redraft various aspects of STPC to set hard limits where there aren’t any. Build in mechanisms to check on schools who abuse this leeway and build in sanctions. For example, the STPC document notes that directed time should be limited to 1265 hours over the school year. What happens to schools who go over this? What should happen to schools who go over this?
  • Require all schools to have a staff well-being policy and make it a part of inspections. It doesn’t have to be onerous on schools (for example, restricting staff email use after 6 or 7pm), but often schools need to take the lead on well-being and remind staff that it’s acceptable to say no to things, or to have a night off.
  • Hit the reset button on Ofsted. Contrary to popular belief, Ofsted aren’t all bad, but the myths about ‘what Ofsted want’ live on in schools and are sadly reinforced by some inspectors and many school leadership teams. Perhaps Ofsted needs to go, to be replaced by some other inspection agency, if only to abolish some of the fear that goes hand in hand with the phrase ‘We’ve had the call.’
  • Fund schools in the way that they need, not based on political ideology. Squeezing school budgets means cuts to all aspects of provision for students. This includes staffing – bigger class sizes mean bigger workloads for teachers (with fewer resources) – and workload is a major factor in driving teachers away from teaching.
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, meaningful talks between the DfE, Nicky Morgan and her colleagues and the unions. The unions know which are the biggest issues that teachers face, because they’re dealing with them on a day-to-day basis. Nicky Morgan and the DfE want to drive up standards, and so do teachers. It’s the how of that process which causes the most grief. Talking to the unions (who, incidentally and contrary to popular belief, also want the best for students) can help us all get there that much quicker, and hopefully with more staff to do it.