Why do we test our children?

quote-it-is-difficult-to-get-a-man-to-understand-something-when-his-salary-depends-upon-his-upton-sinclair-27-30-36

Why do we rely on standardised tests to judge our own worth as teachers, educators, parents and students? Only by understanding why we are all complicit in a system we know to be damaging can we then together create an alternative.

How many teachers have you seen either crushed on elated on results day? Have you every asked  them why? There is a prevailing cultural belief that children will never recover from a poor set of results, a cultural belief reinforced by recent tales of failure of the eleven plus. How many teachers have you seen who looked relieved because the results their students achieved mean that they are ‘safe’ for another year. I’ve known teachers avoid staff rooms after poor results because they feel ashamed and judged by colleagues. A local head teacher committed suicide before results were made public last year. I’m quite sure that everyone reading this is already thinking of a teacher they know who has been affected in this way. We have a recruitment and retention crisis and we are losing good teachers because of this.

“Teachers who fail to prepare students for tests are often branded, ‘bad teachers’. Peers in this situation may ‘doubt their colleagues competence’, including questioning their integrity, and their colleagues allegiance to the schools mission to improve test scores” Booher-Jennings

So do standarised tests help children, are they a ‘necessary evil’? Do they inform our teaching? Is the time, energy, pressure and resources put into testing our children actually worth it. Do they tell us anything? I would argue that standardised tests only tell us which children are good at taking standardised tests.

“An unflinching faith in science suggest that student test scores are able to accurately and objectively measure student achievement and are, therefore, perhaps the only acceptable way to evaluate students, schools, and educators” William Smith

What about the impact of high stakes testing on children’s mental health and well-being?

Dr Carol Fuller, associate professor of education and assistant director of research at the University of Reading’s Institute of Education, said: “That children’s wellbeing is on the decline, particularly amongst those aged 14-15, is hardly surprising given the huge amount of stresses placed on them.

“For example, at this age we are asking them to make educational choices that will have consequences for the rest of their lives. We also live in a society that makes judgements about you based on your level of educational ‘success’, so the pressure to achieve is extraordinary as they enter this period of their lives.”

source

Do standarised tests help parents? Do they inform parental choice? If we view parents as consumers, and ignore the argument that in reality there is no parental choice for the vast majority of parents, they perhaps we think testing is necessary. Do parents choose schools on the basis of perceived academic quality or distance from home, religion, views of neighbors etc?

More than two-thirds of parents (67%) said a school’s location, easily accessible from home or work, was a crucial factor.

Asked to name the five most important qualities they wanted in a school:

  • 54% listed supportive staff
  • 39% a good inspection report
  • 38% a track record on dealing with bad behaviour and bullying
  • 36% good buildings and facilities
  • 21% good league table position

Source

What about governments? Can high stakes standardised testing be used to judge governments? As much as I love using a statistical stick to give this government a beating I don’t believe that PISA tells us anything. Do higher PISA results actually mean the government has better education polices or that they have learnt how to game the system.

PISA reasoning applauds superior test performance as a testimony for superior polices…solely attributing success in international testing is inattentive to the education effects of national history and culture.

Feniger, Lefstein, Alexander

How much do SATs cost? Schools are facing huge cuts in funding, “Secondary schools in England face the steepest cuts to funding since the 1970s, according to analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies that reveals differences in spending of nearly £20,000 per pupil during their time in the classroom.” Is high stakes standarised testing worth the money?

Request

The total annual cost of administering standard attainment tests (SATs) for key stages 1 and 2 (producing, administering, marking, moderating, delivering etc). Details from the most recent year possible and a breakdown of the costs, if available.

Release

The Standards and Testing Agency (STA) is responsible for developing and delivering the key stage 2 statutory national curriculum tests (which you refer to as SATs) tests, the key stage 1 phonics screening check as well as other non-statutory tests.

In the financial year 2012 to 2013, STA’s annual programme budget was £35.7m and the administration budget was £5.4m. The 2012 to 2013 expenditure (once signed off) will be included within STA’s annual report which will be published on the GOV.UK website. (This should be available by the end of July 2013).

The latest available expenditure details are for financial year 2011 to 2012 and the table below gives the requested breakdown. Please note that STAwas created as an executive agency of the Department for Education in October 2011 and so the expenditure is for 6 months only (ie October 2011 to March 2012).

cost_of_sat

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cost-of-administering-sats-in-primary-school

All of these costs are before the huge overhaul of primary assessment during last year, they don’t include the failed Baseline Assessment work, the dropped SPAG test after early ‘publication’ etc, it would be really interesting to see the total costs of primary assessment for 2015-16 which I wouldn’t even attempt to estimate. There is also the cost to parents as parents are choosing to invest in home tutoring, so much for our meritocracy.

Employing someone to help your child pass their 11-plus exam, or scrape a crucial “C” at Maths GCSE is today common practice for millions of middle-class parents, who consider it no more of an indulgence than a weekly trip to Pizza Express.

 

An estimated 24 per cent of pupils have used a tutor over the last year, with that figure rising to 40 per cent in London. You will struggle to get their parents to admit to it, though. “Sex and tutors – those are the two things you never hear discussed at the school gates,” says Janette Wallis, senior editor of The Good Schools Guide.

 

Yet the growth in private tutoring has caused serious concerns among many parents, teachers and even tutors, with one head teacher calling it “endemic”, and a phenomenon that risks causing social divisions just as great as private schooling.

Source

I find that the more I read about the “cultural norms” that justify our high stakes testing culture, that is dripping down through our education system to the very first year children start school, the more bewildered and angry I become. If this system of high stakes testing damages teachers, children, cannot be used to judge governmental policy and tells parents nothing why are we still doing it?

I look forward to reading your comments.

 

Winning and Losing – #Nuture1516

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way

At the end of my #Nuture1415 I predicted that the year ahead was going to be bumpy and that it was time for me for me to make decisions that would affect the rest of my life. I could never have predicted the equal measures of joy and sorrow that this year would bring, and I’m not just referring to the General Election result. But, I end this year feeling older, wiser, calmer, more certain, more content, more optimistic and more determined than I have before. My family and friends are amazing and this year I became an extremely proud and doting aunty.

 

Events of 2015:

  1. Leaving Teaching and the NUT.

I won’t go into details about this because I have already blogged about it here but I am certain I have made the right decision. As I predicted, I miss my work family terribly and I miss being with the children but it was the right time for me to move on.

My new job with the NUT is incredibly interesting and exciting, I hope to blog about it in the future. One of my favourite things in my new job is meeting new teachers, visiting different schools and making people fall in love with the NUT in the same way I did four years ago.

The NUT gave me incredible opportunities this year and I’m pleased to be able to pass them on to others. Highlights from my NUT activism this year include: being part of the NUT National Education Conference, NUT conference, organising the first NUT Labour Teachers fringe event, lobby of MPs, education question times, media interviews and meeting inspiring teachers like Jack Marwood.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Improving education for teachers and pupils is still my priority but now I approach it from a different angle and I will always believe that together we can make a difference.

So you begin, I began…

The whole work is only a drop in the ocean

But if I didn’t put one drop in, the ocean would be one drop less.

2. The Labour Party – Winning and Losing Elections

Those reading this who were not involved in campaigning for the Labour Party in May will find it impossible to understand how devastated I was by the election result. As the results came in I sat and wept and I gain no pleasure from being proved right about how awful this government is.

I can only hope that those people who claimed not to be able to see a difference between Labour and Conservative can see it now!* I’m getting a T-Shirt printed that says “I liked Labour before they were fashionable…”

Here in Hessle the local the results gave us a reason to smile through the tears. We gained Iain Billinger as a County Councillor and returned Paul Hogan to office and I was delighted to get my first taste of being an elected represented by becoming a local Town Councillor too. I genuinely enjoy being able to make a positive difference in my local community…watch this space.

IMG_1080

Cllr Paul Hogan and Cllr Iain Billinger

In September I was elected to Labour’s National Policy Forum! I am so excited about this and incredibly grateful to everyone who voted for me and even more grateful that Jeremy Corbyn has decided not to abolish it!

My campaign statement is here and I will do everything I can to fulfil my promises. I have already written to all the CLP secretaries in Yorkshire and Humber to offer a written report. If you have not heard from your CLP secretary and you would like to know more about the NPF please contact me on emmaannhardy@googlemail.com or at @emmaannhardy

YORKSHIRE AND THE HUMBER Youth Section
Results 4 to elect Results 1 to elect
BELFIELD, Nikki 7,004 Elected MOLLOY, Josh 1,107
BICKERTON, Rory 3,894 NORMAN, George 1,469 Elected
CRYER, Ann 11,920 Elected
HARDY, Emma Ann 8,854 Elected
HILL, Jayne 5,671
MCMANUS, George 7,876 Elected
SMITH, Patrick 5,323
WILKINSON, Adam 4,888

The date for the first meeting has not been confirmed but shockingly I’m going to request to be part of the education group.

3. Northern Rocks 2015

Watching these photographs makes me incredibly excited about Northern Rocks 2016. I am looking forward to meeting up with Debra Kidd next week to chat about our plans! I can’t wait! Thank you to everyone who made the day so special. Debra’s blog here is a perfect summary of the day and this from Jane makes me smile too – the thrill has not gone.

More information on Northern Rocks 2016 is available here and tickets are available here. 

4. Labour Conference and the Socialist Education Association

One door closes and another one opens, fact. Since I am no longer an activist for the NUT I have become more involved in the Socialist Education Association and earlier this year I was elected to the executive. I attended my first SEA meeting in July with the brilliant Jonny Walker and later I was elected as their Labour Conference delegate. We are hoping to be a presence at education events around the country so if you are organising something please let me know.

IMG_1546

SEA Meeting July 2015 listening to the amazing Melissa Benn

The SEA are the only education organisation officially affiliated to the Labour Party and with yearly membership fees of £25 I cannot think of a single reason why everyone reading this shouldn’t join too! (Join Here)

The Labour Party conference was an extra special adventure for me, it signalled an ending and a new beginning. (Strong Message Here) It was great to catch up with Labour MPs I admire so much and I look forward to helping Labour secure victories in the local elections in May. My conference report for the SEA is in “Education Politics.” 

If you are interested, my opinion piece for Schools Week on Jeremy Corbyn: What does his Labour leadership mean for teachers? is here, in short, “cautiously optimistic.”

So, looking ahead to 2016…my aims are:

  1. Be the best employee, mum, activist, elected representative, colleague and political campaigner I can possible be. (Figure out how to juggle!)
  2. To make a big success of Northern Rocks 2016 and my new career.
  3. Write more and with greater variety.
  4. Learn from mistakes, embrace new opportunities and remember… everything happens for a reason.

 

Note:

*Tony Blair would never have introduced The Trade Union Bill and before you disagree (actually do, because I love a political argument) I will point to the 1999 legislative changes that made Union recognition compulsory if the majority of employees were already union members, or where 40 per cent of eligible employees voted in favour.

Strike ballots were also anonymous, and it was made illegal for employers to discriminate against strikers. Employees facing a serious disciplinary matter at work, whether or not unionised, were now entitled to be accompanied by someone of their choice when brought in front of management. That assured unions a formal role in workplaces where they were still present. A new right was introduced in 2003 whereby workers could have ‘learning representatives’ to facilitate their broader training and education. ..In 2005 a Union Modernisation Fund was created, providing grants (eventually there were 67, totalling over £7 million) to unions to help them make better use of IT, improve communications, enhance activist training and so on. Both directly and indirectly, this had a widespread influence. (Source)

 

 

 

Tax Credits – Cameron’s Poll Tax (if only it was a time for celebration)

I know, I know, I’ve said before that the actions of this government would surely make them unelected in the future because surely the population would rise up against their cruel treatment. Sadly, I was wrong, but this time I think I’ll be proved right. Cutting Tax Credits will be Cameron’s political undoing, I only wish we were able to celebrate it.

For those who are unsure, this explains who can claim Tax Credits:

Britons can get them if they are either of the following:

• Aged from 16 to 24 and have a child or a qualifying disability
• Aged 25 or over, with or without children

Any single person earning less than £14,000, or couple making less than £19,000, and any applicant with children on less than £40,000 can earn tax credits. Nearly 40 per cent of working families with children in Britain rely on tax credits.

According to the Office for National Statistics, there were just under 7 million working families with dependant children in the UK last year. Of the 3.3 million in-work families receiving tax credits in 2014, 2.7 million were working families with children. (Source)

This equates to a lot of professionals who are single parents or have one income – a demographic that tends to vote.

I don’t believe that Cameron will listen to an argument based upon empathy and love for fellow human beings but I have always considered the Conservative Party politically astute. Whilst the general public might lap up treating those exposed, exploited and vilified on Channel 5 documentaries as undeserving plebs, it might not accept treating the “working poor” in the same way. After all, the “working poor” do everything “right.” In June 2015 only 40% thought cutting welfare benefits was the right thing to do.

Welfare Cuts

Regarding reforming tax credits, “41% want to restrict benefits for low-paid working people like the working tax credit and the child tax credit. 47% want these benefits protected.” (Source)

As Cameron continued to attack the very poorest and disabled with zealous gusto he didn’t have much reason for sleepless nights – they don’t vote and if they did, they would have never voted Tory. (If you want to watch a brilliant clip from the One Show when Cameron is asked “how do you sleep at night” click here) Call me cynical and jaded but there is a reason why universal benefits for pensioners remain.

In the last year, the Tories have done nothing to disguise their intention to woo elderly voters (the most likely age group to turn out). They have introduced high-value bonds for the over-65s and have pledged to maintain the “triple-lock” on the state pension, so that it increases by the rate of inflation, average earnings or 2.5 per cent, whichever is highest….The contrast between the treatment of young people (who saw tuition fees trebled, the Education Maintenance Allowance abolished and the Future Jobs Fund scrapped) and the elderly is, of course, another reminder that those who vote get rewarded. In 2010, 76 per cent of pensioners turned out, compared to 65 per cent of the total electorate and just 44 per cent of 16-24-year-olds. (The Tories woo the grey vote again)

As well as turning the general public against him, changes to tax credits will harm the Tory working class vote, as perfectly explained in this Question Time clip.

Despite my very best efforts, and a 4% swing to Labour from C2 voters (source), there are still working class Tory voters. In fact C2 voters voted for Labour and Tory equally – 32% Tory and 32% Labour. (source) When election commentators are arguing that “It was the working class, not the middle class that sunk Labour” (Source) it seems particularly short sighted of Cameron to alienate this social class group.

“Labour has accused the Government of “lies” as a clip of the Cabinet minister speaking to BBC Radio 4’s World At One in April was seized on as evidence of broken pre-election promises.” (source) The Liberal Democrats never recovered from the “tuition fees” lie, despite Clegg’s so very sincere apology, and they were decimated at the last election. Before denying that tax credits would be cut, my favourite politician Michael Gove said, “the past is the best indication of the future” – indeed. The Tories have lied and they will lie again.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02q82yj/player

When organisations like Save the Children start to point out the shocking predicted increase in child poverty surely there must be pause for thought, surely children do not count as the “undeserving poor.” Regardless of the number of babies Cameron kisses before the next election not many people are going to ignore this.

UK poverty graph

Before people start to question the definition of poverty they use, it’s worth pointing out the public’s collective acceptance of what constitutes poverty has not broadly changed over the past 50 years, “The extent to which different benchmarks for poverty are accepted by the public in 2009 were very similar to those measured in 1986 (though this does not mean underlying definitions of terms such as “things most people take for granted” have not evolved over the same time period).” (Source)

Public Definitions of poverty (1)Cameron must know that the public don’t accept Tax Credit cuts, they will punish liars and it will damage his working class vote so we can only hope that political survival will win where compassion has failed. The House of Lords have given Cameron a get out of jail free card, he could end this and appear gracious and considerate and hope that no one remembers in 2020 exactly what he was planning. As Corbyn exposed here (fast foward to 2:15) Cameron knows that people will be poorer following tax credits cuts, he just doesn’t want to admit it.

If you want to sign the petition against these changes and join in the campaigns follow this link.

All Together Now #TakeBackMRC TUC Demonstration

Reading Laura’s blog on the TUC protest last Sunday at the Conservative Party Conference evoked mixed reactions from me. (The blog is brilliant and if you haven’t read it click here now) I felt anger, concern and frustration. During the march there was good feeling and camaraderie but how much of this was influenced by the feeling of “all of us together” against “them” is difficult to tell.

Where this march differed was perhaps the marked feeling of a true and clear “enemy.” As I walked passed the Conservative conference I could see men in sharp suits looking down on to the protesters and I was shocked by my strong feelings of anger and resentment.  How dare “they” look down on “us” in that way. The huge metal barrier that was in front of the venue only compounded this feeling and reminded me of this scene from Jason and the Argonauts where the gods sitting high above play with the people down below for their own gains and entertainment.

Clash of the titans

Sitting on the coach on the long journey home gave me time to reflect on these feelings and attempt to rationalise them but as I type this I can feel those feelings return. It is difficult to see the cuts that this government are imposing as anything other than the actions of a government completely out of touch with ordinary people. Like many other people, I will be hit by the cuts to tax credits in April and knowing that at the same time inheritance tax has been cut does not make me sympathetic to the government line of “necessity.”

“The Conservatives’ cuts to tax credits will impact over 3 million families across Britain facing an average loss of over £1,000,” Mr Corbyn said.

“The changes amount to introducing a work penalty into the tax credit system from a government intent on punishing the people of this country for a crisis they did not cause. “

The respected Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank said earlier today that George Osborne’s deepest cuts to tax credits and benefits were aimed at people who have jobs.” (Source)

As each speakers at the rally pointed out “we are the many.” Let us not reach the situation when “the many” believe that there is no hope and that they have nothing to lose.

Democracy-Quotes1

Together we must unite to create a truly mass movement (to join the Labour Party click here) then those those in the gilded cages standing and looking down from above will have no choice but to listen to us and act.  EmilysQuotes.Com-afraid-fear-raise-voice-honesty-truth-compassion-injustice-lying-greed-people-world-change-earth-amazing-great-inspirational-motivational-morality-encouraging-William-Faulkner

Why I’m standing for #Labour’s National Policy Forum (#NPF)

I am motivated by a genuine desire to improve our country for everyone. That is why I am so active in the National Union of Teachers, why I became a teacher and why I became involved in the Labour Party. For those who follow me on twitter, you may be already aware that my “political awakening” following the election of the Coalition government has resulted in me leaving teaching at the end of the year.

If we are not the party that helps everyone then no one will. If we don’t listen and don’t connect with ‘ordinary people’ then we face defeat again.

I am not frightened of being called a Socialist. Last time I checked, the back of my Labour membership card said, “The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone.”

If you vote for me then this is what I will champion and campaign for:

We need to reconnect with people who were Labour voters.

When I was helping with the electoral campaign one of the things that worried me were the number of people who had been Labour voters and were now voting for other political parties. I’m not going into a deep electoral analysis but we are the party of compassion, we are the party of equality, we are the party that will benefit everyone. We should have everyone who is not part of the 1% voting for us. If they didn’t, we need to know why and we need to act on this.

We need to increase investment in education

It can sound like a cliche to say that education is the route out of poverty, but that does not make it false. We should be campaigning in the streets about the cuts to school budgets. Cramming more children into classrooms that are unfit to work in should be something we vanquished years ago. It is appalling that our schools still have asbestos in them and that the NUT had to run a campaign to get the government to publish their report on this. All of our children deserve a quality education, all deserve qualified teachers and decent school buildings. All our children deserve the opportunities for experiences like music lessons, museum visits and sport coaches. How many children miss out on all these experiences because school budgets have been cut? This is a national disgrace.

We need to maintain and protect our trade union link

Why do some in the Labour Party treat our trade unions like an embarrassing relative? Someone you admit to being associated with but seem keen to distance yourself from? We should be proud of our trade union link! What is a trade union but a collection of workers uniting together to fight for rights and decent treatment in their workplace! We should be celebrating our links with the trade unions.

I believe that strong trade unions are essential to every workplace. They are the legitimate way to represent workers and ensure that the balance of power between workers and managers is maintained in a fair and co-operative way . I wonder, would we need to fight the current battles for adults to be given a living wage and for excessive management bonuses to be capped if we had strong unions in every organisation? Would the gap between the highest and lowest earners be as vast if trade unions in our country were stronger? Would such gross inequity happen and, worse still, be tolerated?

We need a strong public sector

There is no doubt in my mind that having a strong public sector benefits everyone. Privatisation is not, nor has it ever been, the answer. Unless the answer you are seeking is profits for private companies. Arguably, we should look at nationalising things, not breaking more up to sell off to Tory friends.

Communicate with members

If elected, I would visit CLPs, keep members up to date with what was happening and ensure greater transparency in Labour policy making. Labour Party members are the Labour Party and their voice must be heard. The NPF should be a forum for putting the aims and aspirations of the membership into policy of the party rather than the NPF being a sifting and filtering process for the leadership of the party, whoever they may be.

As a member of the NPF I would reassert these principles in the Labour Party.

Emma Ann Hardy

Emma Ann Hardy. Hull West and Hessle CLP. Membership number A223758 emmaannhardy@googlemail.com

If you want to read articles I have written on issue like, supporting the strikes, a critique of Green Party education policy, a vision for education follow the links or click here.

Thank you to those who have endorsed me already.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Please can you also support:

  • Ann Cryer A223758,
  • Patrick Smith L1182669,
  • George McManus A703130
  • Young Labour Candidate George Norman L1223836

To read more about me follow this link.

Northern Rocks #NRocks, why I’m leaving teaching and why you should never be kind…

Yesterday at Northern Rocks was an amazing day. A huge success. It surpassed everything I thought it could be. Thank you, thank you, thank you. There was so much love in the room, kindness and people were so lovely to me throughout the day. As Debra has already mentioned, there was a huge team behind us and I can’t thank everyone enough.

Images from Jane Hewitt @janeh271

Images from Jane Hewitt @janeh271

CHcspkmWsAA1Nna

Image from Jane Hewitt @janeh271

The only thing that ever breaks me is kindness. I can deal with anger, upset, rudeness, heartlessness, animosity, being ignored,…meh, it just brings out my feisty side but shit, don’t be kind when I’m feeling wobbly. When my TA sees I’m looking wobbly we orchestrate arguments by her suggesting that it’s a good thing the Tories won the election… she knows never to be kind. Special thanks to those people who were so wonderful yesterday.

The kindness from people at Northern Rocks was incredible and the thanks afterwards and lovely posts, tweets and blogs threatened at times to reduce me to a blubbering wreck. Dancing at the end with my wonderful friend Susie (not yet on twitter) was the perfect lift I needed and disproved my theory that it was impossible for me to admire David Cameron even more than I already did. (If you’re reading this, please make a youtube playlist!)

One thing that I have remained true to throughout my life, is that I don’t do anything by half. If I set to achieve something I want it to be the best. If I decide things need to change then I change everything.

At the end of this academic year I’m leaving teaching, going to work full time and me and my girls will have to adjust to that… Never teaching again brings a lump to my throat and the idea of leaving my wonderful work family (I have a work husband, work mother, work father and a sister!) makes me want to weep. To say I will miss them all fails to accurately describe how sad it makes me feel. But, I am certain that I am doing the right thing.

I never thought I would ever leave teaching. Rewind five six years and my ambitions were to go into school management; I’d joined a running club and of course had become involved in its organisation and promotion…  As I have mentioned before, the Coalition government politicised me and returned to me the person I was at eighteen. When faced with damaging changes to my country how could I not get involved as much as possible and give whatever I could to Labour and the NUT?

As with everything in life, when you look back you can usually trace change back to one moment. It was during an NUT meeting at my school over the reduction of our intake from ninety to sixty. As I sat there chatting to the division secretary he happened to mention that there was a march in London (March Against The Cuts) and that the union would provide transport for people wanting to go. I found myself saying yes.

Image from the Guardian

Image from the Guardian

Going on that march reawakened the political me, the part that I’d mislaid after becoming a teacher, mother, wife. I absolutely loved it. Following this I started attending NUT meetings. During one meeting they asked for volunteers to lobby parliament. I said yes. I met Alan Johnson, then rejoined the Labour Party and started volunteering for my local branch. The rest, as they say, is history.

You may have already guessed where I’m going, but I’m leaving teaching to work for the NUT. My commitment to the NUT is unfaltering and my fundamental belief that trade unions are an essential vehicle to bring about fairness and social change could never be stronger. By working with the NUT, and giving them everything I have, I believe I can help bring about change more than I could by continuing to work in the classroom. It will probably come as a surprise to people that I have opted for a ‘civil servant’ role rather than a ‘political’ one in the NUT but of course I have my beloved Labour Party to satisfy my political side.

Some of the Hessle Labour members

Some of the Hessle Labour members

It turns out that I never had to choose. I can have both the NUT and Labour Party but I can’t also have teaching. My attempt to do all of these resulted in establishing the NUT Labour Teachers group. However, following the local election I’m now a Hessle Town councillor for the Labour Party and I’m also on the executive for the Socialist Education Association. Having so many ‘jobs’ was too hard and I couldn’t be satisfied with not being excellent at any one of them.

So Northern Rocks was amazing, but it was also a reminder of all the changes I am going through. Teaching is an amazing profession and I will continue to champion the role of teachers.

stand-up-for-education

With my new hat on, I will be coming to a school near you soon.

#VoteLabour #JoinTheNUT always.

Thoughts on Ofsted meeting with @HarfordSean (#Reunion)

On Tuesday I was delighted to be invited to the “Death Star” to have a meeting with lots of other fab teachers I both admire and like (apologies for our noisy #reunion in the reception!) I found out:

  • @EducationBear still makes me giggle,
  • @theprimaryhead likes to pass notes in class,
  • @heymissmith’s articulation of her principles about education never fails to impress,
  • Debra Kidd is simply brilliant,
  • @cherrylkd and @mishwood1 are incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about SEN,
  • @oldprimaryhead1 ruffles his hair and makes it stand on end when he is thinking, and he is on the shortlist of heads I’d love to work for.
  • @imagineinquiry I could still listen to for hours

Oh and I found out stuff about Ofsted too. (For detailed transcripts of what was said see @theprimaryhead , @oldprimaryhead1, @debrakidd, @imagineinquiry, @cherrylkd,)

Having met Sean Harford before, when he came to Hull to meet teachers, I knew he would listen carefully and act if he thought it necessary.  I believe that Sean is trying to do his best to reform Ofsted, make it more transparent, more reliable and fairer and ultimately I think he means well and is a nice person (I confess I was a little swayed by the delicious donuts!) The way Sean is engaging and listening to the profession is to be admired.

Personally, I don’t want to get rid of Ofsted because the alternative system relying solely on data would make teachers suffer even more but that doesn’t mean that I don’t think Ofsted could and should be better.

Most of the areas discussed have been covered by the other bloggers so I won’t repeat it. But there were areas that concerned me:

Making judgments “Without fear or favour.”

On paper how could you disagree with this? The idea of Ofsted as a soulless body, mercilessly and robotically judging teachers and schools is fair, right? Why should Ofsted care or consider the fact that a headteacher has only been in post for a few months? That a RI judgement will result in retention and recruitment difficulties and thus exacerbate the difficulties the school is already facing? That the data has been influenced by a significant number of children leaving/starting the school during the academic year? That the local area has increasing child poverty? That the school has a SEN unit attached that “brings down” the RAISE online results? That the teachers are being treated badly, turnover is high and the management can at best be described as “bullying” but the results are great…

You see I don’t believe that anyone is heartless, yes, not even Ofsted. Or maybe I just don’t want to believe that people can make decisions and not care or consider the consequences or impact. I was told recently that “nice people don’t get anywhere” and at the time I dismissed it and argued that they do, now I question if they were right. Are we really reaching a situation where to be a successful head you have to be a merciless bully? “Bring them in, burn them up, cast them off.”

There was a glimmer of hope when Sean mentioned the Outstanding criteria would include things on teachers having ownership of their CPD – more of this please! I’ve argued before that Ofsted should look at teacher wellbeing, they should look at the data on retention of staff, at working hours, at Work Life balance policies, at exit interviews and at sickness rates.

It would be unfair of me not to mention the brilliant work Sean has done with the Myth busters document which can have a positive impact in schools where you have either a sympathetic headteacher or strong trade union presence (big love NUT!)

But, to treat schools fairly Ofsted shouldn’t treat schools all the same. You cannot have “no excuses” because everything has a context. They cannot have “hard and fast” rules that every inspector must obey. As the consequences of failing an inspection are only set to grow then so does the need for humanity.

I think Ofsted is having an identity crisis at the moment, what is it for? To help schools improve or to judge and walk away. I’d argue that Ofsted should be about school improvement.

But what would I know? I’m a bleeding heart, lefty, trade union supporting, Guardian reading, infant teacher. I don’t think I could look a headteacher in the eye, knowing that they were doing their best to improve a school, that they hadn’t been their very long and tell them they were RI. Then go home to sleep knowing that headteacher would lose their job, the school would face a forced academy conversion and both teachers and pupils would suffer…