Ofsted and a political agenda

I have a mate who has taught at a FE College in the area for approaching 25 years. He is an excellent teacher who knows his subject- History extremely well. In fact it’s a subject of some annoyance to him that he has to spend a great deal of time addressing large gaps in the knowledge of the students such as pointing out where Germany is on a map before he can run a class on the First World War. He told me the other day that he is expecting the College to fail its inspection. One factor in the apparent down grading of the number of students leaving as a consequence of EMA being removed a consequence of coalition policy and little to do with any systemic failing in the college. Continue reading

Who would want to be a teacher?

I met up with an old friend last night in Leek for a pint. He teaches in a primary school in the West Midlands and has being teaching for 25 years in the same school. He yearns for the day that he can retire as teaching is having an impact on his mental health. A few years ago he broke down in the classroom and was off work with depression. Recently the school failed its Ofsted and fear that his mental well being is in decline re surfaced. He told me about the failings of the Head at his school who has allowed things to slide. It seems one of the factors in the failing was the toxic reports that the parents gave on the head. He tells me of the impossible demands of the parents who are quick to criticise but slow to offer any support themselves either to their off spring or generally to the school. Over the years the social composition of the school has changed with the middle class element voting with their feet. The school draws from a large council estate. The kids the boys especially spend much of their free time on computers, sometimes several hours into late in the night and arrive dog tired at school. By 10 am many of them have their heads down on the desk, as they are exhausted. He gave the class of 31 an exercise on South Africa and only three had bothered to do it. The range of abilities of the kids is also very wide ranging from kids who can give all the Prime Numbers up to 100 and others who do not know what the next number after 99 is. Disruption is an increasing problem in the school although not in his class. He is the only male in the school “apart from the rabbit in class 2″. His colleagues can only talk about teaching and the X Factor. He increasingly finds them and the job a chore. Then of course there is Ofsted, which has increased its failure rate from 3% to 10% so that more schools fall into the net. He is scathing about Ofsted and on a previous visit characterised the inspectorate as ” as middle class, middle aged women from Herefordshire” who knowledge of the problems of a Black Country school in a social priority area are sketchy at least.

I have another friend who I have also known since the 70s. She teaches in a High School in the City, which is in special measures. Again it is in a troubled area of the City. She works something like 70 to 80 hours a week. She seems to have no time of her own. Work pressure is crushing and again her health is affected. The Head Teacher piles more and more work on her and her life is spent in writing reports often at very short notice.

A third friend teaches at a FE College. He has worked their since the 80s and again is finding the increasing demands of his job testing. The manager who has never taught and has come from industry is a bully and there have been arguments and threats. There are minor victories when he informed the manager of spelling and grammatical mistakes in one of the frequent missives from the manager.

If these accounts are typical of the experience of teaching in the opening years of the 21st Century then who would want to teach?

I am a qualified teacher and I did teach again in 2005 in a local FE College. I had been some years out of the game but I was shocked by a number of things that I witnessed. It seemed that the A level students I was teaching German History to seemed to lack any initiative or drive. What surprised me was that some of them were destined to go to some prestigious Universities like Bristol, Durham and Leeds. I set them an exercise on the domestic and foreign policy of Kaiser Wilhelm. I gave them the website, lists of source material, extracts from books and other information that would help them each to give 5-minute presentations on subjects like Wilhelmite expansion in Africa. No one did the exercise although I believed that the ability to present information would hold him or her in good stead throughout their working lives. Anyway no one did it. Again in writing reports I was told to eschew the truth and write only positive things about the students even though I wanted to write words like ” lazy” and “oaf” in the reports. I feared that we were producing students who were incapable of independent thought or action. Friends who work in Higher Education confirm the lamentable state of students who arrive at Universities. Maths students who don’t know what “factorise” means, etc.

Last year the NUT produced a report on the mental health of teachers. It catalogued the increasing workload being placed on teachers. Half of teachers were considering leaving the profession citing work demands, lack of support and poor pupil behaviour as being factors. The HSE also found that Teaching was one of the most stressful occupations.

Unmanageable workload, violence, excessive monitoring, disruptive pupils, constant change and workplace bullying were common factors which is leading to a haemorrhaging of teachers from the profession and for those who remain an increased likelihood of mental harm as experienced by my friend.

With another burst of reform promised by the new Government it looks like we will be in for a bumpy ride.

BNP teacher ban ‘is considered’

Source: BBC

A possible ban on teachers in England from being members of the British National Party is under consideration, a government spokesman has confirmed.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families says ministers are investigating a ban.

But the profession’s watchdog, the General Teaching Council, has said membership of a legal party cannot be seen as “unprofessional conduct”.

A BNP spokesman said moves for such a ban were “naked intimidation”.

There have been calls from teachers’ unions for a ban on teachers belonging to the BNP.

The NASUWT teachers’ union argues that belonging to the party is incompatible with “respecting ethnic, cultural and religious diversity”.

It says a ban could follow the example of serving police officers who are not allowed to be BNP members – and says that such an exclusion could be achieved through an amendment to teachers’ contracts.

The DCSF has now confirmed reports that ministers are exploring the possibility of introducing a ban for teachers – but without giving any further details of how or when such a ban might be introduced.

But suggestions that teachers could be “struck off” for membership of the BNP have been rejected by the teachers’ regulatory body in England – the General Teaching Council for England.

“The clear legal advice we have received is that membership of any lawful political party per se cannot amount to unacceptable professional conduct, nor can it of itself bar someone from registration with the GTC,” says the teaching council.

A spokesman for the BNP said that moves towards preventing teachers from BNP membership were an attempt to “corrupt the democratic process”.

The party had proved its popular appeal in recent elections, said the spokesman, and a ban on BNP membership for teachers would be a “vindictive” and “totalitarian” response.

“People have different opinions, but they can leave their politics outside of the classroom.”

It was unfair that such proposed restrictions would not apply to extreme left-wing teachers, the party’s spokesman argued.