What are the origins of this site?
I am a Primary School teacher. The background to this website represents a personal journey wherein my belief in the English education system has been gradually eroded. Below are a number of key events on this journey that have helped to create this outlook.
- 2000AD – My first task at the start of my PGCE was to observe a school for two weeks. This school was being inspected by Ofsted. One teacher was told by an inspector that the ‘mental and oral’ starter to her maths lesson was a minute and a half too long. I listened to the teachers describing the inspectors as ‘unsuccessful teachers’ and ‘overpaid’.
- During my PGCE Year I found a book in the university library that outlined recent changes in the British Education system. I was particularly struck by the fact that the National Curriculum came into being in 1988 with practically no consultation of the people who actually work in education (in fact 20,000 responses from a consultation in 1987 were simply ignored)
- At the end of my PGCE I had to go and sit an exam at a computer. It was to make sure that I could do basic arithmetic and that I could write in full sentences. I wondered about this as I have got lots of GCSEs, 3 A levels, a Degree and by then a PGCE. Is this the system’s way of telling me that it doesn’t trust itself?
- At the start of my career a number of older teachers warned me about the constant changes and new ‘initiatives’. It was clear they found these endless shifts in focus irritating, even exasperating.
- I found the Literacy Hour in its prescribed form particularly difficult to deliver. The expectation of a little bit of word level work and then a next part that may be unrelated just never did work for me. I began to realise that I was not developing my own style as a teacher. The challenge was to fit the expectations of a prescribed system.
- Two years into my career I was observed teaching a Maths lesson. I was heavily penalised because one pupil – out of 25 – had not been sufficiently challenged by the activity. This simple point was considered grounds enough to rate the entire lesson, and by extension all my teaching, as ‘unsatisfactory’. The way this judgement was delivered was terribly demoralising. For some time I felt like stopping teaching. After a few weeks I had a realisation: The job is about the teacher and the taught, an inspector’s judgement is of no further interest to me since a negative reaction can be based on such minor details.
- A few years later and a change of management led to a whole crop of equally bogus judgements. At this point I realised that it would be petty and unproductive and, most importantly, unenlightening to vent my anger and frustration at the individuals concerned. The time had come for this educator to get educated about education. And so I bought a pile of books and began my own informal ‘bedtime reading’ MA (see ‘Educate Yourself: a short reading list’ at the top of this blog)
- At a meeting about Assessing Pupil Progress (APP) very recently I was struck by the attitudes of the other eight teachers present. These were not hard-bitten old-school veterans but young twenty-something teachers. They were all inclined towards not taking APP too seriously as “it will probably change to something else in 2 or 3 years time so why bother?”
- On inspecting websites like the TES and others I noticed that there are a lot of disgruntled teachers out there. Blogs refer to absurd inspection regimes, senior management openly fiddling with books and results to secure approval from Ofsted, the constant changing of expectations (or ‘moving the goalposts’), time-consuming record-keeping (or ‘excessive paperwork’) and a good deal else besides. However there is rarely any sense of context to all this grumbling. This website is intended to provide that context. There are historical reasons and political decisions that help us understand why we have our current situation.
Through understanding we seek to transform