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Are they offering us a new deal? Workload and stuff.

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I read the article by Nicky Morgan and Nick Clegg, ‘We’re offering every teacher a new deal,’ with interest.  First of all, I thought they’d be doing something really radical like.  Before reading further, if you’re not familiar with my thoughts on this, I would encourage you to read my Manifesto for Education, Teacher workload and well-being and my personal perspective on workload.  This post is a response, of sorts, to the article that appeared in the TES (although I did have a chuckle that the job titles written out).

Before I go much further, I am a realist. I wonder how large and important in terms of general election votes teachers actually are.  I’m looking at that as a side issue, call me naive if you like. I found the proposals interesting, I’m not a natural cynic and negativity doesn’t sit well as anyone who glances through these pages will (hopefully) find.

I welcome the idea of no changes to the inspection framework and curriculum.  But, this falls far short of a cross-party moratorium on curriculum and assessment change that is needed to stop the landscape shifting.  This constant shifting is good for those not in the trenches.  It gives them time to comment and get paid, however for those of us in schools, the change does make it difficult.  What’s more, it’s also unfair and verging on morally wrong toward children to shift the qualification when they are actually sitting it.

Of grave concern is this:

‘We won’t make changes to qualifications and curriculum while children are in the middle of a course.  If we need to override this protocol in exceptional circumstances – for example on the advice of exams regulator Ofqual – we will publish the reasons.’

So, in other words, because of the pace of reform and changes, we haven’t really got it right at all and know we will need to change it.  Clegg, remember, is the bloke who signed up to no tuition fees…..  I think that the plans lack any real commitment – is there a debate in parliament or legislation?  Labour’s voice is missing and, this close to an election, it would be interesting to know their views.  Nothing short of a total halt on change to qualifications and curriculum will make much of a difference.

Oh, and didn’t Cameron say that there’s a real terms cut to school budgets?  As we struggle to cover the cost of increases in pension contributions and National Insurance, another sure way of easing workload is to invest in more teachers.  Over staff our schools rather than force Heads to run them on a shoestring, getting the minimum number of staff needed to cover all classes.  Extra staff would reduce the number of classes taught and increase the time for (lesson essential) planning, chatting to parents and assessing work. 

Of course teachers have a role to play also.  As the lead on feedback, it staggers me at some of the misinterpretation of the policy.  I know that this is partially my bag, and I take the responsibility and blame.  I spent as much time as I can speaking to teachers and helping them navigate what’s best for children.

The third idea of sharing best practice is simply insane.  It’s an insanely good idea: sharing best practice, that, um, already exists.  Or at least existed.  Local Authority advisors were the glue that connected different teachers, and Academy Chains have people in similar situations.  I’m astonished that there is no mention of Twitter or online forums, even the TES.  Local communities and island-chains of innovation and support already exist – it’s time perhaps to ensure these are properly funded and supported rather than develop yet another online space to check. Won’t that take more time?

I welcome the idea of leadership training, as long as it has the balance of leadership and school management.  I met this week with auditors to talk over the Pupil Premium, and none of my training or experience had prepared me for that.  I was a Fast Track Teacher, a failed AST and have had a bunch of other badges.  The National College of School Leadership was thrown out, as well as other fantastic originations such as BECTA.  The answer is not another body – the proposals don’t actually include much detail of what school leaders can stop doing.

Come to think of it, why not set up a College of Teaching.  If the idea really did have Government support – wouldn’t that be mentioned?

I hope that the regulator workload surveys are conducted by an independent body, perhaps instead of data comparable to TALIS, let them actually do it.

I would have welcomed proposals to fund and make mandatory sabbaticals for teachers in order to pursue further training and ideas or an overhaul of the teaching contract and directed time budget. 

Anyhow – I’ll file this one under ‘flying pigs’ and ‘election hocus pocus’ and vote for someone else.  In the meantime, I’ll be doing the best I can to do all that I can – and continue to buy chocolate and gin for those that need it.

A new deal for every teacher? No – just some hot air without detail.  Unless it’s hiding somewhere……….

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