This post has been inspired by @nancygedge blogging about life after levels and lessons in life but has been building up bit by bit from my experiences of the past week.
Those of you who read my blogs know I am passionate about the vulnerable and disadvantaged children who are refugees of exclusion in our primary PRU. We shelter them from rejection and strive to put them back together in a new and better way so that they can learn and grow and thrive in the world.
But what sort of world are we fitting them up for?
Here’s a miscellany of jigsaw pieces that I am struggling to make a picture with at the moment.
A few days ago I got into a lather about a blog that referred to misbehaving young children as ‘toerags’. I don’t want to go over old ground as it got me unfollowed and barred by two prominent tweeps but then, last night, I saw something which brought it all back; another prominent tweep was blogging about his choices for an award and put the so-called ‘quirkyteacher’ into his category for best new blog! How depressing that a primary head would find anything amusing or worthwhile in a blog which has an intrinsic hatred for certain children at its heart! Ah but it’s controversial….fills timelines. ..sorry but that is a poor reason to admire it (and I still say it is fake ).
At the end of August I felt very fortunate to be in a meeting with @mcladingbowl about OFSTED changes and blogged about the brave new world that he was shaping which would take pressure off teachers who were being observed. I was therefore profoundly depressed by two stories:
1. A nearby school which got ‘good’ but where one teacher was hounded by the inspector and had to be defended by the head.
2. A school where half the teachers had their lessons graded.
OFSTED inspections are not a blood sport and nor should they fly in the face of their mandate! No ‘mastery’ there then!
This week I went to observe a child in an infant class to try and give some strategies to the teacher. The school was lovely and nurturing but they struggled to cope with a small boy who had developmental problems and had tantrums like a two year old. Why do we insist on putting small square pegs into round holes they are just not ready for? No wonder exclusions are on the rise!
There were issues elsewhere this week with a junior boy who was having problems…turned out he was in a streamed writing group of……infants! Anyone still think streaming is the answer to our prayers?
Another permanent exclusion in the wings…..autistic….and a weeping mum, Auntie and grandma to console….fortunately, through their tears, they could see we offer the care and support their young one needs.
I’ ll be honest….I don’t have any answers and the world can crush and rend as much as it inspires and rewards….I just wish that there was a will from all of us to stand up to tyranny instead of merely railing against the dark. We should say a resounding ‘no’ to terms like ‘mastery’ and ‘below expectations’. We should love and care for all our children…. even the ‘toerags’…..and address all the big issues of disability and mental health and learning needs with an empathetic and positive approach….true ‘growth mindset’.
Otherwise, what alternative is there? What sort of a world are we creating? What are we doing to our kids?
This post has been prompted by Tristram Hunt’s proposal to introduce an MOT for teachers every five years.
I have produced a template based on practice in the motor industry:
When a car undergoes its check up, five areas are looked at in detail. Each area is subject to pass/fail and there is a defects/comments box to write in. So how could this translate to teachers in the classroom?
1. Interior checks:
Steering – the teacher. How does he/she run the class? Is it a smooth process with a firm hand on the wheel? Passengers (children) should be confident they are being steered in the correct direction with no jerky hard turns to the left or right throwing them off course. That would be classed as a defect.
Seating – the teacher is definitely in the driving seat and children are firmly belted into the passenger seats, all facing the front ready to be shown the way.
Doors – all close correctly in line with safeguarding and child safety locks prevent children from exiting the vehicle prematurely.
Gears – these transit pupils from first gear up to fifth as appropriate; reverse is used sparingly as we don’t want children to go backwards.
Clutch – as in clutching at straws. If this is defective it will automatically lead to a fail.
Pedals – gas pedal will be in good working order…A teacher taking his/her foot off this will be in danger of being labelled as defective. Brakes are to be used sparingly as teachers should never stop until they have reached midnight at least 7 days per week.
2. Exterior checks:
Roof – the roof must be fit for purpose in sheltering the occupants. No teacher shall ever hit it.
Windows – should be clear and never ever obscure the learning journey.
Wheels – tyres should be of the correct thickness..unlike the pupils…and under no circumstances should the wheels be in danger of coming off.
Exhaust – this shall never apply to teachers or pupils; they should be ready for teaching and learning at all times.
Suspension – this will apply to unruly pupils and negligent teachers who are not in control.
3. Under bonnet checks:
The classroom should be calm and orderly whenever the lid is lifted.
The engine of teaching and learning should be well oiled and purring along silently. There should, under no circumstances, be any coughs or splutters nor any clanking or noises which would cause alarm to an observer. Water needs replacing to ensure learners do not become dehydrated. All computerised systems should be efficient and working well to meet the needs of the children. There should be no short circuits in the electrics or OFSTED will immediately be triggered leading to a possible fail.
4. Under vehicle checks:
The undercarriage of the vehicle should be fit for purpose and be strong enough to support rather than carry passengers. There should be no trace of rust. Rustiness in teachers is to be deplored and needs removing/repairing ASAP.
These should not exceed EE recommended levels. Teacher emissions should be well within expected levels. Pupil emissions should definitely be at the lower level or risk a fail for the teacher.
If the above checks are satisfactory then teachers will be given a valid certificate which they must keep in their pigeon holes in case of scrutiny from outside agencies.
Wishing all teachers a safe, pleasant journey and remember it is better to travel hopefully than arrive…especially if HMI are waiting for you!!
The following text is the talk I gave at the RSA yesterday. It’s what I wrote and intended to say, although of course on the day I improvised and lost bits. Anyway…
“I felt honoured to be asked to speak here today – honoured and more than a little terrified. And surprised. Surprised that people would come, would want to hear what I might have to say. That’s not a plea for sympathy or reassurance – you may yet regret your decision to be here, but to borrow from Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, “I’m not in Burnley any more.”
When I was little, I remember spending hours cutting pictures out of my Mum’s catalogues of things that I imagined might feature in my future. Handsome men staring wistfully into the distance. Pretty children. Soft furnishings. I took what I knew – home and family – and I imagined…
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