Category Archives: Education

You have NOT failed

To almost half of children who ‘failed’ their SATs,

You have NOT failed; the new system has failed you. Your SATs results are not representative of what you can achieve.

Are you impressed I used a semi-colon above? Does this automatically change my writing from average to showing greater depth? As we all know, real achievement is not about using a semi-colon correctly or recognising a fronted adverbial. Lots of people can rote learn and regurgitate facts. But what lots of people can’t do is be like you, and think like you.

Real achievement is taking risks and being creative. Real achievement is having the confidence to develop your own independent thoughts. Real achievement is practising running every week and running faster than you ever have. Real achievement is putting your hand up in class when you never dared to before. Real achievement is when you were terrified of that climbing wall on school journey, but you gave it your best go anyway. Real achievement is joining in with a game in the playground although you are nervous; it is creating something you are proud of; it is understanding and enjoying something you never thought you could. Achievement is many things, but what it isn’t, is causing almost half of our children to leave school with a sinking feeling that they are not good enough.

On Tuesday, SATs results were sent to schools. Surprise, surprise, only 53% of children achieved ‘national expectations’. The old levels system has been changed to a points system, meaning that rather than getting for example a level 3 if you do not reach national expectations, you simply get a pass number (100+) or you fail. However no one knows exactly what the 100 benchmark is until every child has taken the test. The government then use the tests to work out how many points children need to get to reach what they then decide are national expectations. So if, for example, they want 47% of children to appear below average, they can do just that.

Firstly, you must know what the big plan is. You may have apparently not reached national expectations in those SATs papers, but you know that says NOTHING about you; it is to do with money and numbers and power – and not really to do with children at all. Although Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has apparently done a U-turn on her plan to turn all schools into academies, there are covert ways to make this happen, regardless. To do this, she must prove that a school is ‘failing’. To prove that a school is ‘failing’, what you do is you set unrealistic expectations for the children, make the ‘pass’ boundary really high and bing bang boom, there you have it: 47% of children don’t meet the new national expectations. With this ‘proof’, Nicksters could say, hey, let’s turn this school into an academy, because it isn’t good enough.

If a school becomes an academy, funding to local government can be cut; more power to the Education Secretary. Academies are overseen instead by private ‘charitable trusts’ linked to central government. The CEOs of these companies can be paid huge amounts to run schools, some up to £400,000 and education can become privatised. So these results are about the school, and the government, but they are NOT about YOU.

Also worth remembering is however you have done in your SATs, your teacher assessment is even more important. If you have been working hard and making progress, your teacher will know this, and that is what is really important. It is not about getting a score of 100 or doing better than others in the country; it is about knowing you are improving in yourself. You are better than you were last year; you have learned more and grown more and that is real achievement.

It is so easy to be thrown by SATs and scores and marks and data but in the end, they are just figures and of course, you are not a figure. You are a complex person with special qualities and lots to offer. You are much more than numbers on paper.

When my sister was at school, she was upset by her SATs results. She was deemed officially ‘below national expectations’. She had been diagnosed with autism and told she was not expected to ever be able to do tests like GCSEs. She struggled academically; school tests have never been easy for her. But did she let that stop her? No, she certainly did not. With lots of hard work and perseverance, not only did she sit her GCSEs but she also sat her A-levels, made it to university and graduated with a 2:1. But even if she hadn’t, it wouldn’t matter. Because she tried her best and has proven she is so much more than numbers on paper, and she has so much to offer the world. In the scheme of things, getting a ‘below national expectations’ SATs result meant nothing. All it did was spur her on to prove people wrong and achieve what people never thought her capable of achieving.

Standard Assessment Tests or Starting Academy Tools or Superfluous Avoidable Trauma, whatever you call it, in the end, they’re just tests. When you’re older, no one is going to say to you, hey, what did you get in your Year 6 SATs? SATs are no way to measure real achievement. If you want to look at real achievement, look back at all those things you have done that you never dreamed you could. Think of all those special qualities that make you you and no one else. What the world needs is not a generation of robots who can tick the boxes and get full marks on a SPAG test, but it is people with fresh ideas, and energy and creativity. People like you.



Even Gingers Deserve A Good Education

I HATE missing school. It makes me feel sick. Even sicker than the sickness that caused me to miss school in the first place. If that makes sense. Sick. And not in an s-i-k way, in a BADDDDDDD, guilt-ridden, anxious, I’m losing control and failing the kids kind of way. Will they get so far behind they can never catch up? Will I ever get all that paperwork done? Unmarked books, unfilled forms, multiplying with every moment I ignore them? Will I turn up, forget how to teach and just end up sleeping in the book corner all day?

What could be worse than missing school? Okay, lots of things; for example, kids missing out on a fair future. Which is why I’m striking today.

I am not striking because I want to earn heaps more dollar and become a million billion squillionaire although, as with most teachers, if you worked out my hourly salary, you would see it works out at below the minimum wage. I am not striking because I want an easy life, rolling around in bed all day, painting my nails and catching up on some quality telly (still haven’t seen this week’s First Dates Abroad!) And I am certainly not striking because I want to ‘harm children’s education’ (cheers for that Nicky Morgan, looks like you’re doing a pretty good job yourself).

I am striking because funding is expected to be cut by 8% per pupil by 2020.

These cuts, paired with the unnecessarily large workload are cutting at the HEART of education. If we just sit by and ignore it, we could be looking at a generation of children who have had the creativity, confidence and independence sucked out of them.

So Nicky Morgan wants to turn loads of schools into academies – but what’s the big deal?Well, if she shows a school to be ‘failing’ the new, unrealistically high government expectations, then boom – it can become run and funded by a business. It turns into an academy.

Unsurprisingly, businesses are much LESS likely to have children’s best interests at heart and much LESS likely to have experience and understanding of running a school. Plus they won’t even have any parent governors to help them understand the community’s needs. All staff can be paid differently, for instance depending on performance. So if you are teaching a particularly needy year group, with kids who perhaps don’t achieve as highly as expected – UNLUCKY. Because let’s remember: CHILDREN ARE JUST NUMBERS. HERD THEM THROUGH THE SYSTEM.

Now at the end of Year 6, instead of a SATs level, results will state whether they have hit the 100+ mark (a pass) or whether they have not. If you have scored below average, it’s official: you go into secondary school a failure.

Invaluable teaching assistants are being asked to reapply for their roles. Only as funding cuts increase, there are fewer positions available. After being pitted against their colleagues, TAs leave, without being replaced.

Same goes for art, dance and drama teachers because – let’s face it – those arty farty wishy washy subjects are just not as important as being able to use a semi-colon. Nowadays, you hit Year 5/6 and you can’t be banded as writing at a high level (‘greater depth’) if you can’t use a semi-colon. Because everyone knows depth is about semi-colons.

There is no wonder in rote learning. But of course, it’s easier to tick the boxes if children are assessed through facts they have remembered, rather than encouraged to develop confidence in experimenting with creative, independent, free thinking.

With all these good intentions in mind, I arrive at the march and am immediately handed a banner saying: ‘Invest in all our children’s future’. I notice other people holding these banners, with different children of ethnic minorities on. Obviously, I have been handed one with a ginger girl on. I mean, the resemblance is uncanny. I am proud that the NUT are looking out for gingers, that oft overlooked ethnic group, and I am even prouder to be physically representing the token minority. GINGERS FOR JUSTICE… that’s what this march is really all about.

What this march is really about, is what teaching is really about. At its core, we want the best possible opportunities for our children. Children are amazing, and complex, and full of precious qualities that can’t be ticked off on a mark scheme or converted to data.

However children are also vulnerable and of course, as a teacher, you want to foster the most nurturing, comfortable environment for them to develop their identities in. If our time is spent filling out endless data when we could be putting more energy into planning exciting lessons, what is the real benefit?  If there is not enough money to provide children with necessary resources for learning, what does this mean for the future?

The pressure is real. Under funding cuts, schools are struggling more and more to cope. If the figures aren’t right (not enough money or not good enough results) then goodbye standard government school funding – hello academy.

Is an education minister who doesn’t believe in gay marriage or in compulsory Personal Social and Health Education lessons really the best person to guide these children forward? Is turning education into a numbers game really fair?

So Mrs. Morgan, I’m sorry you felt this strike would “damage the profession’s reputation in the eyes of the public” but us taking a pay cut today, leaving our massive piles of work and coming out to strike should be taken instead as a sign of how much we care.20160705_12233820160705_121807