Not more of the same, but different and better please!

sitting-donkey

Gove’s latest attack on the teaching profession is to insist on shorter holidays and longer teaching days. Pause for a second and you will hear a very long and weary sigh emitted  from the entire teaching profession. A vision of a fatigued old donkey pulling a cart full of rocks up a hill comes to mind. Then its ignorant owner piles on yet more bags, whips it and asks it to break into a trot. The owner is bemused, for the donkey doesn’t go faster at all, instead it collapses into an exhausted heap.

As a profession we cannot allow this man to bring such baseless and ill-informed ideas to the table. There is NO EVIDENCE that more teaching will raise standards. However, there is LOTS OF EVIDENCE that better teaching will. And better teaching comes when teachers are supported and the profession highly respected by government.

Contrary to Gove’s idea, here is the evidence that shorter holidays, longer teaching days, and exhausted pupils and teachers does not lead to academic success:

 Finland is one of the most successful countries in the world at educating its children.
 Children start school at 7 years old.
 Teacher training is 5 years – all teachers begin their career at Masters level.
 Teaching is a highly respected profession, on a par with doctors and lawyers.
 Holidays are longer than in the UK.
 Teaching days are shorter than in the UK.
 Children are usually taught in mixed ability classes.
 Private schools aren’t allowed, paying for schooling is illegal (the Tory party won’t like that).
 There is far less disparity between school performances.
 Schools have a flexible, less prescriptive curriculum.
 Finland is at the top of the table for time spent in school against academic success. Their system works.
 They also have a much fairer society where socio-economic differences aren’t supported and maintained by a skewed school system which is favoured by privileged people like Gove himself.

Why would anyone in their right mind want to align our school system with a country like Korea where children do as much as thirteen hours study a day? Korea  has a very low teaching hours to academic success ratio –it’s 24th out of 30 countries. This means that while it might be high on the overall league table for academic success, it has a very inefficient system and the lives of its young children are in effect blighted by hours and hours of unnecessary schooling. In truth, they don’t have a childhood!
Why doesn’t Gove listen to the people who have studied this and can show him the evidence like Dylan Willam or John Hattie. I will just shout it out very loudly in case he is actually listening for a change:
TEACHING WON’T IMPROVE WITH MORE OF THE SAME. INSTEAD TRY DIFFERENT AND BETTER AND ABOVE ALL, USE EVIDENCE TO INFORM YOUR DECISIONS!

Under attack…again

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Oh dear, Gove’s at it again, teacher bashing is his natural pastime it seems.

Now he wants to take all our class room teaching assistants away because one report says that they aren’t value for money. Typically, this is another instance of Gove picking up a piece of paper and immediately jumping up and down with a new idea without taking the time to think a little deeper or ask anyone who might know a little more about it. Education deserves more than this; our children deserve more time and thought going into the decisions made about their learning.

What Mr Gove has missed is the qualitative aspect here that would stare most intelligent people in the face. He has jumped on a small fact, like he so often does, and rode it like a wave crashing onto the increasingly turbulent shores of education. The fact is that, yes, if teaching assistants are sat at the back of a class filing paper and washing paint pots then they are not value for money. However, this has not happened, nor would be allowed to happen, in my school, nor a single school I know for as far back as I can remember. Surprisingly, head teachers don’t want to spend money on people who don’t effect learning; indeed, they want value for money just like any leader would.

If Gove took the time to investigate the positive effect TAs can have on learning, then put forward a proposal to ensure all TAs are employed on this basis, this would be insightful and effective. Believe me, teaching assistants who are managed well and know how to effect learning make a massive difference.

The fact is, that since special schools have all been closed down and mainstream class rooms must facilitate any number of children with special needs, while at the same time local authorities are providing less and less funding for assistance for these children, the class room is not the same anymore. A teacher can not teach 30 children effectively with on average 10% of them being special needs or unable to work independently like their peers. No matter what any manipulated statistics tell you, ask any teacher in a state school, this is the reality.

Teachers have a responsibility to direct and coach teaching assistants so that they are effective and cause learning and progression in each lesson. Teachers want this themselves and most actively seek it. Those teachers who sit back and allow TAs to file and clean up in lesson times, are failing the children they teach as much as Gove is; however, I don’t know any teachers like this. I do know that if you take teaching assistants away, children will suffer and learning will decline. Teachers will be unable to cope with yet another set of pressures and they will leave.

What aspect of teaching Gove attacks next is anyone’s guess, but it’s looking more and more likely that teaching will become a profession people stay in for three to five years,  burn out and leave. This will be his legacy.