Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Comments on the "Teachers need to be Industry Specialists, they don't need to be a Qualified Teacher....."

And the battle now is on....

In one corner the PGCE QTS Degree Qualified Teacher, the other an "Industrial Specialist"

Firstly lets get down to facts.

  • Being a "teacher" is not all subject knowledge. Teaching is about progression, diversification and being able to project knowledge to students, all of whom are individuals with different learning styles, abilities and motivation.
  • Teaching is also being a designer of lessons and schemes of work which although sounds like the re-invention of the wheel, means that every time a syllabus is changed, your lessons need to reflect that.
  • A teacher needs to understand how to mark and give appropriate feedback.
  • A teacher needs to be technologically savvy to understand and use technology in a useful appropriate way.
  • Many teachers have come from Industrial backgrounds and have experience of the "big wide world".
  • A teacher needs to provide a safe forum for the students in his/her care
  • A teacher needs to understand child protection and safeguarding
  • A teacher needs basic first aid skills
  • A teacher needs to have the patience of more than a saint.
  • A teacher needs to have some understanding of physical and mental disabilities of those individual students.
And of course....
  • That teacher needs to jump through hoops depending on the Senior Management of the school
  • That teacher needs to attend meetings with curriculum, pastoral and parents. Mainly after school, with some meetings being meetings about meetings
  • That teacher needs to keep up with the changes of the subject matter
  • That teacher may have to use holiday times taking students away on UK or even Global trips.
So you see its more than just having the knowledge. I am a great believer in using "Industrial Specialists" to give talks or presentations to a class, but to suggest that they are as good as, or even sometimes better than a Qualified Teacher is just plain stupid.

As I have always stated:

"Think its easy being a teacher? 

Walk in a teachers shoes for an Academic Year and you will soon see!

Monday, 22 August 2016

New Year and New Start?

The count down has begun! 

In a few weeks the new Year 7's will be pouring into schools, some excited, some scared, some confident and some feeling like they own the place. 

In an ideal world all those students will be appearing in school uniform, neatly pressed and clean with a full set of pens, pencils and an open enquiring mind. In this world, all the students will be kind and compassionate to each other, be polite and well mannered. No bullying and no name calling and no leaving children to stand alone at breaks.

But we don't live in this ideal world. Schools throughout the country will offer totally different learning experiences. Some schools with unqualified teachers, some schools with no clear ethos on behaviour and discipline, some schools who have handpicked their students, some schools where its more about behaviour control and some brilliant schools. 

So how do you know that your child is going to have a positive learning experience?

Firstly a quick tale. I remember teaching in a school that quite frankly was scary. The students basically marauded like pack animals, others running in and out classrooms and the uniform was a joke. In one class I had two students who were polite, clean and both told me about how they were frightened at school. One of them told me that their parents believed that they should go to any school and that they would somehow be a big fish in a small pond. How wrong they were and how much I wanted to contact the parents and ask them if they genuinely cared about their children's education.

Anyway on a more positive note, here is a quick checklist! 

And although you may feel that some items are not important believe me it makes so much difference to behaviour and learning.

  • The school has a strict uniform policy
  • You have been invited into the school and have been given information relating to homework, discipline procedures and home/school agreement.
  • If your child has special needs, you have been approached by the Primary AND Secondary School to ensure support is in place at the START of the term.
  • That you can meet the SENCO - The Special Needs person in charge! - and discuss your child before they start.
  • That you know of the Head of Year and the team, with appropriate email and phone numbers.
  • The school runs various clubs and activities outside of teaching hours.
  • When meeting the staff, they appear approachable and friendly.
  • They have a strict bullying and harassment policy.
  • Make sure you attend all the preschool meetings, you need to know as much as your child does before starting.
  • Remember that it is a massive leap from students spending time with one or two teachers, to "travelling" from class to class to see different teachers. Expect that it will take some weeks before they settle in and they will arrived exhausted for the first few weeks.
  • Make sure you keep an eye on homework. Get involved! Help your child organise when they do homework and have an appropriate place to complete it. (Even though I personally don't agree with homework!)
  • And finally? Read the start of my blog on who to contact if a problem occurs!
And relax.......in another 5 years you will be thinking about Colleges......

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Technology & Using IPads in schools - Shucks!

Oh dear.

One of my favourite ever schools, I have just found out that all students are expected to "buy" a school I Pad.

I was dismayed to hear this.

Firstly, what about those students not in a family position to be able to afford such a thing? What about those students who do not have a safe place to keep them? Why oh why should teachers need students to have such a thing?

I am not disputing that there are some fantastic educational apps and that students can work, be tested and submit work via them. And that it reduces paper. But what is stopping the teachers having a supply of class I Pads that can be used for a particular lesson?

We seem to be moving away from the pen and paper skill... and lets just stay focused for the moment. 

Are all exams done on a computer? No. 
Do students still need to know how to write? Yes. 
Has ICT as a subject been diminished to the point that students are not taught exclusively in ICT lessons about Internet Safety? Yes.
Are main exams still pen and paper. Yes.
In the workplace will students use I Pads for work? Certainly more No than Yes.
Are Universities equipped to students using I Pads? No. (If anything Universities are still lagging behind when it comes to using technology.)
Are we seeing the end of textbooks? Yes.

So why should we expect students to use and carry these things around?

And another matter and this is a true story. A mother friend of mines daughter accidentally damaged her I Pad. She had been told that all the I Pads were insured. What she was not told was that there was a £50 excess which she had to pay. (And no it wasn't in the small print either!)

I am not suggesting that we should not embrace technology, what I am saying is that the Current Governments thinking on Computer Science and the dismantling of the ICT Curriculum does not play hand in hand with the use of I Pads.

I await a few years down the line when employers are stating yet again that we are not equipping students for a world of work.

I am truly dismayed.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Academy. The Strange New Government Invention

So what is an Academy?

Academies are state funded schools, funded by Central Government and moved away from the local authority. (And moved away from the expertise and local knowledge that the authorities had)

Although the day to day remains the same with a Head or Principal they are overseen by charitable bodies called "Academy Trusts" and could even by part of an academy chain. They have more freedom over the curriculum and don't need to follow hard fought teachers pay and conditions. Head Teachers may be paid on "bums on seats" so for some the larger the school the better.

And of course it starts off with money. They receive "conversion" costs and more money per student. It can "buy in" services that used to be provided by the local authorities.

So in a nutshell it's about privatising the Educational System. 

And the facts and fiction:
  • Students do not perform better in an Academy
  • Schools become less accountable as they are out of local authority control
  • Teachers potentially may be told that they may not join a union
  • Teachers may be paid less and the pay scales not recognised
  • Academies have a high rate of student exclusions 
  • Academies funded by narrow interest groups could choose to teach, for example creationism over biology
  • It may be that certain students are granted admission
  • A "teacher" may not have formal teaching qualifications in an Academy
And "Free Schools?" - Read on McDuff.....

Monday, 22 February 2016

How to Develop the UK Education System - If only they would listen to Teachers

We must surely build an education system that does the following:

1.    Creates opportunities for all students
2.    Reduces class sizes to allow teachers to be able to concentrate on all, rather than on those who are 'behaving'
3.    Consider reducing school hours. Consider moving hours, to take in later mornings, and longer afternoons.
4.    ASK the children and students, what do they want?
5.    Bring in more parent control. Allowing parents to come into lessons, and have more of a say in what discipline is used. (For example a parent may indicate that lines have no impact, but a Friday night detention would!)
6.    Move away from traditional classrooms, bring in more independent work, allow students and children to actively learn, and gain independence instead of being in a spoon fed mentality.
7.    Have School councils in every school that can present information to Governors rather than the Head.
8.    Feed the children! More compulsory breakfast clubs, more drinking water, and please someone invent a water bottle that will not spill. Or can be squirted!
9.    Examinations in cold dank sports halls? Have every teacher teach at least one lesson a fortnight in the areas that will be used for formal examinations. That does such wonderful things to shatter the fear that many students have during examinations.
10. Have music in schools.  Give teachers time to prepare brilliant lessons. Give them the time and resources to create proper learning opportunities within lessons. Use Teaching Assistants in every classroom. Another adult in the room can be instrumental into ensuring that ALL the children learn.

So much could be done. We need to ensure that all children have every opportunity. Get rid of the negative formality. Please someone listen!

And the saddest thing I have seen? A Year 7 student. He couldn't read or write, and he was sent out of every lesson. (In my time I have come across a few children coming into mainstream schooling from Primary School, unable to read or write. Why?!) Something in his eyes showed failure. If only someone had caught him at Primary School. If only someone had him on a one to one basis. His behaviour was pretty bad. But who could blame him? The answer? He was going to be sent to a Special School. He had no disabilities, physically or mentally, but somehow he had been missed. 

A school failure. 

Someone was to blame, and I do not at all think any blame should have been left with him.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

How Students Think & What Should be Done

Working within inner city schools really opens your eyes. As a teacher, you can spend your time babysitting, crown controlling, and getting completely stressed. Yet, within every nuisance class is always a section of students that want to work, yet you spend time dealing with the trouble makers. In a correct environment you do not have trouble makers. If the troublesome aspect was removed from a classroom, the level of learning would boom. It’s all very well saying that you should have behaviour management, it’s all very well saying that in an all singing and dancing classroom, children do not want to misbehave.

Different schools have different policies. One of the most successful was a school that operated a backup system, where senior members of staff toured the full school every lesson, picking out pains in the neck, and either removing them into a specialist isolation unit, or giving them a dressing down. That and the fact that the senior teachers were seen at the school gates, every break and dinner time had the effect that bad behaviour would not be tolerated.

Other schools have a system that a troublesome child can be spoken to by a more senior teacher. And eventually the talks get higher up the system and the children end up in a PRU. That's a Pupil Referral Unit in English! 

So you have a child that may end up in a school that is known as being troublesome. The media can sensationalize the goings on in a school, but it is not to say that an inner city school will necessarily be troublesome. A lot goes on with how you feel about a school, and what your intuition tells you! 

But what do the children say? In conversations with children, from 11 to 16 years, it does seem that the ones that have the major problems, are the ones with parents who do not support a school, and will openly tell their sweetie that school is not important, or that teachers are stupid. Discipline at home is another 'teller' the more rampant the child, the less home discipline is shown.

It is hard to listen to 13 years old saying that they can't wait for the weekend, so they can get mortal. Some even come into school with massive hangovers. Others in full evening make-up, no school equipment and haircuts that their parents know is unacceptable. Yet, amongst these children, most are well dressed in full uniform. But with a massive teenage chip on their shoulders. 

School for some is a complete waste of time, or at least that is what the children say! I'm bored with school. It’s too long, it should be less than five days, and the moans go on and on. Or is it moaning, and are we failing some children?

I worked for a year at a Further Education College, and one of my teaching classes was a group of older students over 21 years of age. They were on an Access course, and the successful students could use this qualification to gain University access. A mixture of students, some from abroad, some who had worked from leaving school, and some that had become parents. Some that quite clearly had been let down by the school system. It was meeting these students that opened my eyes to the current school system. The first assignment completed, I sat in the staff room with tears pouring down my eyes as I read and marked the assignments. The quality of the work in front of me was more than I could have ever expected. Extremely well written, well researched and with that panache that showed deep understanding. Two of these students are now graduates. They had no formal qualifications and had left school at 16 with nothing to show for all their supposed education.

When I had mentioned this to various Heads of Secondary schools the general consensus was that it was totally the student’s faults for not taking the opportunities offered to them. But what opportunities? In this case I knew that the students had attended what I would call a challenging school. They themselves admitted that they were not perfect students but that the teachers had considered them failures at an early age. As I had proved to them, this was not the case. So how many students left that school with the obvious potential to move successfully into University education? These questions seemed to have been brushed aside, and my own gut feeling is that we have many adults with the potential but not the opportunity to succeed as these students did.

Making a Happy Teacher - And Parents Rules!

Leaving the school during lunchtimes and breaks? Different schools have different policies, but if they have a no out policy during school hours, please remind your child that teachers sometimes leave the premises and can spot children from miles away, out of school. We can be so evil sometimes! Mind you, it is so funny when you do spot a victim, and drive past so slowly, giving the evils, then of course you report it, the child denies it,

So all fails, and your child has a detention. Make sure that you have been given at least 24 hours’ notice, and that your child should have given you some sort of correspondence relating to the reason why the detention has been given. (So don't fall for the “Oh I was late home, because Mr. So and So gave me a detention.”) If it is true, then you need to see the school immediately! Apart from the nasty 10 minutes after the bell, where we do not have to give notice, you have a right to be notified.  We hope that you will ground your child for the next year, is the reason why. Well maybe not that long, but......!!!

Academic stuff? Any teacher worth his or hers salt will be impressed by effort and actually trying. The “I can't do it” scenario when the child can't be even bothered to try, is another ball breaker. (Ooops, excuse my language!) No teacher minds being asked to explain again, if, and only if, the child has been attentive and listened to the original information. And why is it that some children cannot follow written instructions? You write it out from A to Z, and still some children will not bother to read it, and immediately state, “Oh it's too hard, I can't do it!” (Another arghhh!!)  Instil in your child that they should try, getting it wrong, is better than doing nothing, at least the child will highlight that they have really not understood it, rather than not being bothered!

So I promise you one thing. Follow those steps, and I can almost guarantee, unless the teacher is a real case, that you will receive praise come Parents Evenings. Now that's another thing! Although different schools run different systems for parents and carers, there will be some evening where you can discuss your child, and you should receive at least one yearly report. Not seen it? Not heard about it? Asked your little darling, and they look blankly at you? Contact the school! You may just have found out that your child is a complete nightmare and is trying to avoid you finding out!  Oh and attendance? Please make every effort to attend. We on the whole are more than happy to re-arrange to see you at a more suitable time!

Planners or diaries too. Virtually every school I have worked in, has a diary of sorts that the child can write a lesson timetable and any homework that is due. Most schools expect it to be signed at home every week... I have seen so many faked signatures that I can only smile as I am writing this! Why? Because we can write in planners if your baby has been misbehaving, or has forgotten homework. So check, please! And if you have a forgetful child, ask them to let you know when they need a PE kit, or any equipment, including cookery ingredients. Another annoyance is children who forget these!

So have I been too hard? Am I expecting the impossible? Well no, actually. With the deepest respect dear parent/carer I have come across so many children who behave just like the above, and it is lovely!

But that does not mean that we run away from a challenge! And we, or at least some teachers, enjoy a difference of opinion, or in fact a child who asks questions. That tells us that the child is listening, and is interested.

But my final point or points is no one likes a bully.  That's you as a Parent or Carer as well as your child.  And racism. Even if you have opinions that could be deemed as racist, we know that young people copy the opinions of their elders. So not only are we disgusted with the child, we are disgusted with you too. So don't share them with your child!

So there we have it! A happy teacher is a productive teacher!