Saturday, 6 May 2017

Awesome Teachers and Excessive Britishness


One of the most trusted professions being told what to do by one of the least trusted.
The author, John Connolly, has me pondering my place in his four   stages of adulthood: confusion, anger, complacency and grumpiness Unsure where to stick, I have come across a general election. Although an act of parliament stated that we can't have one for another 3 years and the incumbent prime minister repeatedly said that there wouldn't be one, here we jolly well go.
I intend to write in praise and awe of the teachers I meet every day in my state comprehensive school in Ware. I am hopeful that they are typical of the wonders teachers do around the country, although, perhaps,  my lot are particularly talented, committed and worthy.
Whatever successive, careerist secretaries of state throw at us, many, many teachers will combat government indifference to helping children be safe, happy and successful. The teachers will continue to inspire excitement in learning, inquisitiveness and a love of books and music, engender friendships that will last a lifetime, help plant ambition and nurture greatness. Our teachers will be remembered long after hedge fund managers, lawyers and newspaper editors.
I have no need to re-tread the funding crisis in schools, the perilous state of teacher recruitment, the mad impulsive curriculum, 10 year olds with exam stress or any other educational issues. No-one mentions these in May 2017.
Most football clubs now have a chant that, at Spurs goes, “We’ve got Ali, Dele Alli. I just don’t think you understand…” Well, as a nation, we’ve got Teresa May and I could make it scan if there weren’t more important considerations.
It’s Tuesday evening. I'm not sure but I think our PM just declared war. In Churchillian tones, she broadcast to the nation. Foreign politicians are out to destroy the livelihoods of ordinary British working families. If we don't vote for her in the general election the foreign governments will act as if there are 27 of them and one of us. If we do vote for her then her strong and stable leadership will force the 27 into some sort of cowardly retreat and we will be safe. I wonder if she hummed The Damnbusters theme when the microphone turned off.
Its only right than in times of attack by foreign powers that we stop objecting to the £3billion of cuts in state education over the next 5 years and the parliamentary, Cross Party Education Committee should rescind its statement that government thinking on school finances is “delusional.” Now is the time for increased hate attacks and excessive britishness.
Parliament has been suspended so that we can vote for strong and stable leadership, also giving us the opportunity to address  the teacher shortage.

Gideon Oliver Osborne, heir to his family's Baronetry of Ballentaylor and Ballylemon, better known as Former Chancellor George Osborne is to be paid £650,000 a year to advise the US fund manager, Blackrock. In the Commons register of interests, he disclosed that he would work 48 days a year, whilst being an elected MP.

He has already earned close to £800,000 for speeches made to banks and other firms since leaving office in July, but still serving as an MP

He has now taken on the job as part time editor of the London Evening Standard on a secret salary “up to £400,000” according to The Daily Mail on 6th May, still taking his MP’s £70,000.

Can he fit in a bit of teaching?

As our government acts on “The British people have spoken!” and possibly, “Two world wars and one World Cup!” it fell to a Finnish  Finance Minister to speak britishness and sense. Alec Stubb quoted Millwall FC supporters, “Everyone hates us and we don’t care,” as a poor opening salvo for Theresa May to use in EU exit negotiations.

Conservative estimates are that the UK will pay a divorce settlement of at least  £50 billion.  However Boris and Nigel promised we will be saving £350 million a week when we leave. I know this is all on its way to the NHS because I saw Boris standing alongside the sloganized bus. When George gets his job teaching Maths to 12 year olds he can do the real life sums. We could use the weekly saving to pay off the settlement by Thursday afternoon of the 142nd week.

Forget the NHS for a bit longer.

Back to admiring teaches with an attack of the memories, courtesy of ASCL General Secretary, Geoff Barton and his former school.
                                                King Edward VI School

Rules for staff in 1550
  • They shall abstain from dicing, gaming and tippling. They must not keep their family on the premises. Women like deadly plagues shall be kept at a distance. The masters shall not be excessively harsh or severe or weakly prone to indulgence.
  • They shall teach a little at a time, with plenty of examples. They shall never advance to fresh subjects ... until the earlier ones are thoroughly understood.
  • The teachers shall appoint two boys called censors to note offences. The teachers shall secretly appoint a third boy to watch the other two and report to the master any offences overlooked or not noticed.

School rules for the boys in 1550
  • Those who cannot read and write shall be excluded. They must learn elsewhere the arts of reading and writing.
  • No boy shall come to school with unkempt hair, unwashed hands or dirty shoes or boots, torn or untidy clothes. Any boy misbehaving himself either in Church or any other public place shall be flogged.
  • They shall speak Latin in school. Truants, idlers and dullards shall be expelled by the High Master after a year's trial. Every boy shall have at hand, ink, paper, knife (used to sharpen a quill pen), pens and books. When they have need to write the boys shall use their knees as a table.
  • The whole of the scholars (100) shall be assembled in the morning at 6 o'clock and at 1 o'clock. They shall go home to dinner at eleven and to supper at five. There shall be five classes, under two masters in two rooms, the older boys looking after classes when the masters were not teaching them. School shall finish at 3pm on Saturdays and half holydays.
Some walk among us who would celebrate such a forward to the past scenario.
An OECD annual report has revealed that teachers in England and Scotland typically work longer hours teaching more pupils than teachers in most other developed countries and have experienced an above-average decline in pay since 2005.

The report also revealed that teachers' pay in England has experienced an above average decline since 2005 while teachers in other OECD countries who also witnessed a recession (Poland, Germany, the United States and Australia) saw their pay increase.

Teachers' unions have complained that an excessive workload is deterring people from staying in teaching – while uncompetitive salaries make recruitment to the profession a challenge.

A spokesman for the DfE commented: "Great teachers are at the heart of this government's commitment to delivering educational excellence everywhere.

"This is why we are not only tackling excessive teacher workload but have also given head teachers the freedom to pay good teachers more, meaning the best teachers can access greater rewards earlier in their careers."

It’s my fault, then.y don't worry about impartiality when reporting on Nationalist's demo's twnright hostile to patriots and the true Brit's.
Except when the awful Katy Hopkins is provoking outrage, I quite like LBC. Whenever teacher pay is mentioned someone always phones to claim that they are self- employed, work 18 hour days, 7 days a week, have no holidays and no pension…..

And seem to suggest that teachers should aspire to such conditions.
Teachers either do badly or well in pay comparisons depending on your admiration of crane drivers.
42. Rail construction and maintenance operatives - £35,781

43. Business, research and administrative professionals - £35,545

44. Crane drivers - £35,458

45. Journalists, newspaper and periodical editors - £34,639

46. Engineering technicians - £34,355

47. Chartered architectural technologists - £33,651

48. Business sales executives- £33,432

49. Secondary education teaching professionals - £32,524

(Cosmopolitan 16th March 2017)

Teachers do have a contributory pension scheme. Their contributions have been increased, benefits reduced.

The Retail Price Index is the measure of cost-of-living and I hope the table shows that it has risen by 9.6% between 2011 and 2016

Annual %


JC has been a Head of Department for 15 years.  Here are her pay details.

August 2011
August 2016
Gross pay
Deductions        1016.06
Net Pay


Whilst the rpi shows a 9.6% increase in prices JC’s take home pay has gone down.

So, to be sorrowful, anguished  or agonised as we stumble into a politically backward, anglocentric isolationism of excessive britishness?  Searching for the soul of our peoples, I look at our teachers and their work with our future and I am comforted and inspired.


Dennis O’Sullivan
6th May 2017


Wednesday, 22 March 2017


Dear Parents \ Carers

As you will have heard in the news, schools across the country are facing financial crisis. We are writing to ask you to support your child’s education by emailing your MP about this.

The government says that education funding has been protected from the austerity cuts and that there is more money being spent than ever before. However, the reality is that while there is more funding set aside for education, this is because there are far more school aged children nationally. This hides the fact that the amount schools have to spend on each student has fallen dramatically.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies warns that by 2020 funding per student will have been cut in real terms by 6.5% for schools.

The funding we receive for each student is being reduced in real terms because the costs schools have to meet have risen. The increased costs are government imposed and beyond schools’ control. For example, there has been an annual 1% pay rise for teachers each year and employer contributions to staff pensions and national insurance have gone up significantly. There has been no extra funding to help schools meet these extra costs.

State schools cannot raise their fees to meet the rising costs, as independent schools would do. Our only option is to make efficiencies. However, staffing costs are typically around 80% of our total expenditure. So the only way we can make savings of the size we need to is by cutting jobs and increasing class sizes.

At a time when the curriculum and qualifications are changing radically, schools cannot afford to buy the new textbooks and resources they need. Many schools have slashed their budgets for repairs and maintenance and this will lead to our school buildings deteriorating. There will be less money to support students with mental health problems at a time when this is an increasing problem.

If introduced, a proposed new National Funding Formula will make things even worse for Hertfordshire schools, giving them an even smaller share of the national allocation of money for education.

Headteachers are not a militant group but even in affluent areas such as Sussex, Surrey, Essex and Hertfordshire, we are warning of an education system that will implode. Across the country Headteachers are united in saying that we cannot run our schools on this level of funding. Headteachers are usually publicly optimistic; we quietly get on with making the best of whatever situation we are given. However, none of us can make the cuts we are going to have to make without serious consequences for our students. Many secondary schools will have to cut £200,000 - £300,000 from the budgets – the equivalent of losing 6 or more teachers.

Now we are raising the alarm and asking you to explain to your MPs how desperate the situation is. Please support us in trying to protect your children’s education by emailing your MP at the relevant email address below* stating that you are a constituent and giving your address and telephone number, as this is required in order for the MP to reply. We suggest you ask them the following question.

‘I am one of your constituents and my address is:

My telephone number is:

Why won’t the government give schools the money they need to cover the substantially increased costs that have been imposed on them?’

Yours sincerely

*Hertford and Stortford: Mark Prisk MP.

North East Hertfordshire: Sir Oliver Heald MP.

Stevenage: Stephen McPartland MP.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Wouldn’t it be funny if headteachers marched on parliament

Wouldn’t it be funny if headteachers marched on parliament. 

Perhaps carrying Father Ted’s placards demanding, “Down with this sort of thing.” 

In the UK I voted Remain but backed Brexit to win. In the USA I would have voted for just about anyone rather than Donald Trump but I took “new customer” odds of 16-1 on his victory. I was convinced that white working class people in Europe and America feel abandoned by politicians. The system has failed them, they’re not, “Just About Managing.” They are increasingly disenfranchised and angry. 

The good news about Brexit is that politics is in such a mess that schools have been recently spared the constant meddlings of the latest career building Education Secretary. The bad news is that the government is patronising us with “Brexit means Brexit” doublespeak whilst our public services are crumbling. 

Am I alone in finding it rather unnerving that Jeremy Hunt has said it is bad that A&E waiting times are lengthening? He is after all, Secretary of State for Health since 2012. 

I suggest that headteachers are voting Trump-like and Brexit -like whilst maintaining our middle class educated status – and comfortable lifestyles . We have elected Geoff Barton as our general secretary, against our union leadership’s advice. 

There is a recruitment crisis (There are more teachers than ever before – DfE) as pupil numbers soar: “The pupil population is currently expected to rise by 450,000 from 6.45 million in 2016 to 6.9 million in 2020” (Institute for Fiscal Studies 21-10-15) 

Teachers take-home pay has been reduced year on year for the last 7 years (Schools are free to pay teachers more says the DfE.) With cuts in school budgets how can schools cover any pay rise? 

4 out of 10 academies are in deficit and the rest are heading there (We have maintained real terms money to schools - DfE ) whilst grants have been cut and government- determined cost rises leave a school like mine with an extra £300,000 to find this year. And I can’t put prices up. 

Are we really to be abused by government language? Guess the single one word they removed from the “National Fair Funding Formula.” 

The curriculum is a Gove-inspired return to Victorian times. A doublespeak notion that kids learn more if the content is too difficult and telling 47% of 11 year olds they have failed is somehow a good thing. 

But we all know all this: the many headteachers who left their jobs this year knew it. A colleague who has his stopwatch counting the seconds to retirement knows it. In this – the Armageddon Year of state education – a “good” North London school had three applicants for their vacant headship, and only two turned up on the day. 

The ASCL – the secondary heads’ union of choice usually chooses its new General Secretary according to an etiquette ensuring unopposed candidates. ASCL has now had its leadership’s chosen candidate opposed for the first time. And beaten. 

The new man is no raging leftie. He is a midlands comprehensive school headteacher, sometime “advisor” to the government and a writer on literacy. 

I hope it was Max Weber who wrote that the central task of a bureaucracy is to protect itself. 

I think myunion’s bureaucracy has suffered from the broadening of its membership. Including Independent schools, free schools, multi academy trusts and business managers in an already conservative school leaders’ association has led to a frustrating and destructive inertia. The ASCL “call to action” email this week suggested we write to MPs about the dire state of school finances. 

As if our MPs care. 

Personally. I think they have been bored by my airing concerns about an inappropriate school curriculum, politely waiting for me to shut up. 

Two years ago 31 Hertfordshire heads lobbied our 5 Tory MPs in the House of Commons. We gave them our financial facts and they said “Secretary of State Morgan says you have plenty of money.” 

This was before Trump’s “alternative facts.” 

Everyone agrees that our costs have risen by around 7.5%. That’s close to £10 million across those 31 schools. 

DfE advice seems to be that we can save that by bulk buying toilet paper. Not by sacking teachers, employing unqualified (cheap) staff, cutting subjects like music, drama and geology, closing school libraries and ending support for children with special needs. The Institute for Fiscal Studies: “ … we forecast that school spending per pupil is likely to fall by around 8% in real terms.” (IFS October 2015) 

In West Sussex, Oxfordshire, North Somerset and no doubt an increasing number of areas around England, headteacher groups are vocally opposing government cuts to education, the decimation of SEN provision and increasing grammar school selection. 

We were assured that Mrs May’s sop to UKIP voters would address the tiny numbers of “disadvantaged” children in existing grammar schools and was about offering all parents a choice of good schools. 

In a search for elegant language to describe how we are once again being disrespected and misled I came up with this: 

Lies are Lies. 

It was revealed on Wednesday that ministers had invited grammar school leaders to apply for £150m for new selective school places. Existing grammar schools left their meeting with education ministers Justine Greening and Nick Gibb smugly briefing that new grammars will not need to worry about kids on free school meals and will be able to select the top 10%. 

Out of touch, conceited politicians in awe of outdated and failed old tory ideas divert money from children’s needs. Frightened civil servants in the DfE collude to lead us back to the 1950s. 

They have told MPs that "throughout our campaign school leaders have sought to be 'relentlessly reasonable'; now we are simply furious". 

I see the vote for a new General Secretary of the ASCL as a Network (the film featuring Faye Dunaway and Peter Finch ) parallel. Open your windows and shout into the night – “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.” By the way, watch Finch’s stunning 101 second performance on Youtube. 

Good luck, Geoff Barton. I hope you can lead us into more meaningful opposition to the deliberate destruction of our children’s education. I hope the ASCL council realise why we voted. 

I’ve got my marching boots ready. 

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Time For A Change

After 41 blogs where I have ranted about the government drive to show ordinary kids that they are as good as worthless; 80,000 words suggesting, demanding and crying out for headteachers and political opposition parties to stand up for comprehensive education, I stopped writing.

I have nothing left to add.

A friend of our comprehensive secondary school said I should say it all again.

We have a staffing shortage across the system – Oh no we don’t (DfE)

We have seen our budgets cut and many of us are heading towards redundancies, larger classes, fewer subject choices and deficit budgets (MPs and DfE: There’s lots of money)

Close your eyes and ears and pretend we will not see a mass exodus of school leaders in 2017.

Under AOB at my union’s information conference in 2015 I said that the new curriculum, including tougher exams, end of coursework and bigger subject content will fail the majority of the young people in my school. I was met with polite silence from the leadership.

When I said that junior school kids are being driven away from creativity, teamwork, problem solving and personal resilience by the obsession with SATs and that this is a bad thing, some people waited for me to shut up.

I have been an ASCL member for 19 years. Our previous General Secretary, Brian Lightman, was kind enough to engage in debate with me – in person and by email. I respected Brian as he kept telling me that the politicians were listening to the ASCL, even though we have watched their attacks on state education. They did not listen, Brian, but a million thanks for your work.

My local ASCL rep has written to us explaining why we should consider voting for a sitting ASCL Council member. I propose doing nothing of the sort.

If there is to be a change in policy to secure a brilliant education for our children, one where they are individuals with their own talents to be developed, a system where state schools are recognised for the amazing successes already achieved and the opportunity to achieve even more, where teachers are esteemed and admired for the fantastic commitment to learning, achievement and fairness, if we are to be optimistic about our children’s future, it is time for a change. It is time for courageous union leadership. The ASCL Council nomination for General Secretary has never been a headteacher, has been a civil servant and is a consultant. He has experience of for-profit education provision, is now with an academy chain and probably ideally placed to understand the government’s priorities.

I have just discovered that Geoff Barton is standing for the position of ASCL General Secretary. I have watched his work for many years, I have borrowed from his school’s website, I have read his stuff on literacy and I have listened to him speak at PIXL conferences. I am sure he is not as oppositional or militant as me and he may not thank me for my support. However, I think we should all look at what he stands for (Google is a start) and hope he is the sort of leader that will commit to the membership and times changing for the better.

Dennis O’Sullivan (Headteacher)

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Grammar Schools Promote Inequality and Injustice

Post 1945, working class children left school at 14 and went into unskilled jobs and apprenticeships . In the new secondary modern schools working class children were destined for working class jobs. They sat few if any exams and school expectations were low. Grammar schools educated a quarter of our 12 year olds – depending on availability - and these children were destined for jobs in offices. The privately educated were our MPs, doctors, lawyers and senior civil servants. Everyone knew their place.

Unless we reopen the factories, shipyards and mines secondary modern schooling will not provide the skilled workforce we require, unless Sports Direct and McDonalds take over more workplaces.

Apparently (they got consultants in for this) if you select the kids doing best at tests at age 11 and put them in one school, that school will have the highest achievers in GCSE tables five years later. Stunning. Apparently, it is also hotter near the Equator.

All schools should be good schools. We have the best teachers ever and more parents are happy with their child’s school than ever before. Government claim “parent choice” as their goal – well you can’t have selection and parent choice.

Here’s an email I received on Wednesday: ”Do you only accept children who live in your area? I live in X and there is one school I like but both my children are below average and worried they will fail the entry test.”

From the parents of her friends to my Year 6 granddaughter, “You should go to school P rather than the excellent local school S because you’re academic.”

Meanwhile 12 miles away, “We wanted her to go to school H but it is too academic for her,”

Half way between the two, “The Headteacher told me that if my daughter’s reading age was one iota below her chronological age she cannot come here, it is not fair on my staff.”

We have schools, Ofsted “outstanding” schools, which claim they are, “not good with special educational needs.” School M made its TAs redundant and then claimed to be unable to admit kids with SEN due to lack of staff.

In a colleague’s primary school one parent confronted the head with, “I do not want him doing these art things. Just make sure he can pass the entry test to school D.”

Welcome to Hertfordshire, where each year the county proclaims Watford Girls Grammar School as a top comprehensive, alongside Watford Boys Grammar . They must be great schools: the head of one was made a dame and the other is a schools commissioner…..fancy that.

Mrs May is keen for Faith Schools to select all their kids on the basis of religion. Has she tried getting a non-believing family into a Jewish or Catholic school where the admission criteria starts with attendance at a particular place of worship and then to siblings? In encouraging division amongst the population and in promoting isolation amongst our minorities Mrs May is an ideal candidate for a visit from the Prevent people.

She is keen on new parent-sponsored single faith grammar free schools. Well, seeing as parents are not opening free schools but faith organisations predominate, she knows this is not going to happen. Perhaps somewhere like Leeds can have a Muslim Grammar School, a Jewish Grammar School, Hindu, CoE and Catholic grammar schools alongside a non denominational boys grammar, and a girls grammar nearby. Imagine the school run in Leeds.

Mrs May wants all schools to have, “an element of selection.” If grammar schools select the brightest are other schools to select the dimmest?

Her supporters say introducing more selective grammar schools is not going back to the days of selective grammar schools. Oh,my!

They say that the selection of the most academic 11 year olds will not create secondary modern schools and certainly not “sink schools” where expectations of exam success are non existent. Yes it will.

Grammar schools must be good because their students do well in exams, therefore we need loads of grammar schools. In fact, if these are the best schools let’s make all schools grammar schools.

What we could do is select all the academically able kids and put them in schools with thatched roofs. Then, when they achieve their good GCSEs we can call for the impositioin of thatched roofs throughout the country.

May pretends that children will move between the selective schools according to individual student progress, as if there is no limit on how many kids you can fit in a classroom.

Apparently, lots of parents who are in select, expensive catchment areas fear the imposition of grammar schools. But, Mrs May says, new grammar schools will not be forced on areas that don’t want them. Can we do the same with capital punishment ? Maybe impose it in Scotland only?

The chief inspector of schools says the pro grammar school argument is “Tosh and nonsense” and just about all the evidence points to grammar schools increasing social inequality. But what did we expect from a government which has introduced tests at 11, 16 and 18 designed to fail more students. 47% of English 12 year olds are classed as failures by their performance in tests -perhaps we could stamp this on an appropriate part of their anatomy, so they don’t forget their failings.

Each day I watch the girls come off the train from outside the catchment area of the oversubscribed selective/non selective school P and I wonder how they got places.

We don’t have to worry about the 11+, in Bishops Stortford 3 of the 4 secondary schools have Saturday morning entry tests and all claim to be comprehensives. I know of five schools that select up to 10% of their intake on aptitude for music or languages. Howzat!

Theresa May is right about selection by house price – you can get a 3 bedroomed semi for £500,000 in the catchment area of one of our highly praised schools. The children of educated, midlle class parents score highly on their primary school tests, usually with private tutor support. Of course, Ofsted say they are outstanding. Ofsted claimed my nephew’s white, middle class, catholic school with lower than average frees school meals, EAL students and SEN kids was, “highly inclusive,” and “outstanding.”

One of my part time staff coaches 18 boys from one school; money helps.

Of three agreed housing projects: School A is in an area of architectural splendour and the project had “no affordable housing.” School B has 145 houses planned and “no affordable housing.” Hertfordshire – one of the biggest in the country makes sure that its entirely Conservative MPs are not troubled by social integration.

Disgraceful Gove started the drive to put working class kids back in their place. Mindlessly, vacuous Morgan continued the slide and now the unsuspecting puppet Greening will be charged with driving even more teachers into other jobs, more children ringing Helpline in despair over their grades and more families accepting that education and British society is not for the likes of them.

Mrs May says that new grammar schools will have to accept poorer children. Does this mean that the 163 existing grammar schools don’t already pursue this sort of social justice? According to the Sutton Trust, in selective school areas 3% of the children in grammar schools were on free school meals. In the same locality18% of non grammar school children received free school meals.

The education system can encourage social equality. Rather than taking a small proportion of bright poor kids and sticking them in grudgingly benevolent grammar schools lets put massive resourcing into the schools in poorer areas. Get the best teachers with higher salaries and subsidised housing and create the infrastructure and local economy to employ the high achieving youngsters.

Watch them shine.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Whilst politicians cheat and deceive half our kids are failures

Supermum Leadsome and the adulterer Boris decided being ‘leavers’ was advantageous to their ambitions and manipulated the electorate. That the good people of Sunderland and Grimsby weighed up the likelihood of a fall in stock exchange values against the promise of £350 million a week for the NHS is admirable. The immediate 42% increase in race hate crimes is no-one’s fault.(BBC 08-07-16)

The sneaky duplicitous Gove says it is his, “privilege to serve,” but loyalty to Shaggy Boris was a step too far. I hope his love of classical education will comfort him as he descends Dante’s Hell, through those levels reserved for the greedy, the fraudulent and finally settling for eternity with the most treacherous. He may well meet 172 Labour MPs down there.

The politicians’ lack of care, understanding or interest ensures that teachers bore, alienate and fail our kids in homage to a romantic past, an education ideal that never existed. We witnessed dishonest, opportunistic slogan chanting in the referendum where they seduced the electorate they despise, only to reject within moments of victory their own promises on the NHS and immigration.

That hundreds of thousands of children are being falsely labelled failures matters not one jot compared to MP’s thirst for self-promotion.

Dodgy Dave, never tires of telling us about his blessed family, and tearfully used his affection for his dad as the reason he lied to parliament. If your underpants are too tight stop wriggling.

Last week one of Gove’s dwindling underlings, Pointless Morgan, tried desperately to explain that telling 47% of the country’s 11 year olds they had failed the new version of the 3Rs was nothing to worry about.

It is deliberate policy to instil failure into the majority of children and to identify the schools they attend as unworthy. It does take us nearer to the Tory dream of grammar schools – the good old days before working class families got uppity and their kids found ambition in schools that valued their achievements.

The first part of the failure game was to test the children at age 5 so that schools’ performance could be judged by progress at age 7. Incompetent officials discovered that their three measures were incompatible and the tests had to be abandoned. Amusingly, headteachers had been busy finding the hardest tests for 5 year olds, so that the children would score hardly anything and the school could show tremendous progress later on.

How long before teachers have to literally get into bed with pregnant mums to chant subordinate adverbial clauses at embryos?

Now we have tests at age 7, giving children three separate marks out of 100. The DfE has said it’s OK for schools not to pass the results to children or their parents. Well, what are they for, then? Here’s a test question for 7 year olds that some found ambiguous:

“There were some people on atrain.
19 people got off at the 1st stop.
17 people get on the train.
Now there are 63 people on the train.
How many people were on the train to begin with?”

(The answer: comes from x-19+17=63; so X=65.)

Recently Morgan decided there would no longer be parent places on school governing bodies, relegating them to tea making at school bazaars. Did the DfE officials – the experts – advise ministers that this might alienate parents who some of us see as vital to the success of the education process. Or is this a “jobsworth” situation

We do not need a knowledge based curriculum with an exam system designed to fail more kids. We do need a skills based education where children discover, discuss and decide, alone and in groups, in writing and orally, using ICT programs to present their solutions, able to evaluate and target their own success.

Tests at age 7 and 11 are taken by children who have spent months preparing, revising and relearning material solely relevant to the tests. The rest of what should be a creative, stimulating curriculum of discovery and mastery is cast aside because the tests are used to batter the primary schools.

We heard of previously happy children driven to tears of frustration and self-harming fear of failure by the mind numbing repetition of practising for the tests. The schools are blamed and dammed. Morgan told headteachers at a conference in May that she expected many more schools would see fewer pupils hitting expected scores. However she said the results would be “manipulated” to ensure the number of failing schools would be in the hundreds, not thousands.

Publicly' shamelessly and with no sense of irony the Secretary of State for Education announced that she will fiddle the results.

Weary teachers giggled when Gove told the Commons Select Committee that, “all schools must be above average.” Chancellor Osborne could not do a times table sum and Education minister Gibb failed a test question for 11 year olds. Nicky Morgan to refused to answer test questions. “…there will be one where I get it wrong and that's the one that everyone's going to be focused on.” (Daily Mirror 13-1-16) All the ministers were worried they would make mistakes if put under test conditions.

I've written books on English language. I reckon I can write to be understood, or wrap in camouflage and metaphor when the desire for obscurity appeals. Can I do the 11 year olds’ grammar test? How much use have we had for ‘determiners?’ Here’s guidance on how to teach them:

“The class may participate in a discussion about which words are determiners; for example, a child may be given the phrase 'happy girl' and suggest that the word 'happy' is a determiner. Class discussion could then lead to the teacher explaining that 'happy' is in fact an adjective.” (

Teacher assessments, coursework, resits, oral exams and controlled assessments have been abandoned because some kids in Shanghai take lots of tests. So we will test children against national standards at age 5, 7, 11, 14, 16 and 18 to emulate societies that we do not wish to mirror. Morgan says that the harder the test, the more they have learned. Thus we have GCSE Maths, now with A Level content so that it is inaccessible to around 50% of students. .

Back in 1980, Biology teachers at Little Ilford School set an exam where 3.5% was, “a really good mark.” What was the point? Then Biology, Chemistry and Physics teachers started to compete for kids to choose their subject. 98% became a fairly common score. Where was the learning?

There is a relationship between students, their parents and their teachers which praises effort, encourages progress built on self- belief, great teaching and respect, showing students what they can achieve by working hard. Show them that there’s no point in trying and things are going to get tough in our schools.

It's hard not to feel sorry for the civil servants working in the DfE. Those with principles fled into other jobs. Think for a moment of those who had to remain because of mortgages, access to stationery and their dreams of pensions and possibly a mention in the queen’s honours list for time serving. As they scurry around pleasuring the ministers, carrying out any number of contradictory tasks and producing nonsense like our assessment system remember that the bright ones left. Those with experience and understanding of state education left years ago. Gove told his senior staff I don't want your advice I want you to put in place what I say.

Out of DfE staff bonuses last year, the top civil servants received up to £17,500.((Schools Week 05-07-16) Do they still get luncheon vouchers?

Perhaps the DfE is full of Trotskyist cadres waiting for things to get so bad that they can step forward as the new leadership of an education revolution after which we will be freed to be creative, inspirational and sane.

Or will they mindlessly do exactly as they are told and excuse their compliance with, “I was just following orders?” Where did I hear that before?

Little more than a production line worker alienated from the product of his labour, the DfE officials are plodding along, “Yes Gove, Yes Gibbs, Yes Morgan,” as an alternative to unemployment.

In the last few days we have watched the parliamentary debate on Arts Education, where 12 MPs and Nick Gibb responded to hundreds of thousands of us in petitions. He dismissed the facts and that’s the end of debate. Such is democracy now. I wonder how heavy is the hand of history on Iraq-War Blair’s unaccountable shoulders this week.

Despite appeasing Tory MPs by publicly abandoning forced academisation Morgan was advised that Local Authorities will be forced to academies all schools due to a lack of money to keep open primaries. Dissembling is nothing but lies.

Stupidly, and he must know it, minister Gibb said that market forces will drive up teachers’ pay at a time when schools have deficit budgets .Let’s hope he’s been thoroughly tested; spouting nonsense might be contagious.

And if he or the Morgan-Gove folk think that I am going to make 50% of our kids waste their precious learning time on cramming, again, for the insult that is resit SATs on their first term at secondary school….

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

The Last Thing That Teachers Need Is A Politician With Vision - As Tory education policy unravels, we can but hope

Jeremy Hunt employs the negotiating psychology of putting fingers in both ears and chanting La, La, La at the junior doctors in the dispute over imposed new contracts. I would be saddened to hear that he picked this up in his schooldays at Charterhouse (current fees £35,529) as my understanding is that such schools are tip top on their “soft skills” of people management, team building and problem solving. The numbers from abroad - an admittedly large place – are rising and 38.5% of the students whose parents live abroad travel from China and Hong Kong to study in our private schools. (Independent Schools Council 2016)They come from education systems we are told we must emulate. In the words of Michael Gove, Oxford educated like Hunt, Osborne , Cameron, Johnson and Morgan, “Yada, yada, yada.” Unlike doctors and teachers Cameron and his crew remain unburdened by integrity.

Listening to Nicky Morgan is painful and sometimes confusing as, for example, when she explained the Chancellor’s overnight reversal on cuts to Disability allowances saying that the Budget cuts were merely a “suggestion” (BBC Question Time March 2016). More worrying was her latest chilling performance :” As secretary of state, people expect me to set out my vision for the education system.” (BBC Question Time April 2016). Schools Minister, Nick Gibb used the “vision” thing three times in a minute on “Daily Politics” last week. Vision is a powerful word and spinning it at will presents a veneer of goodness and insight, unique and perhaps spectacular.

The result of our last General Election (24,3% of registered voters voted Conservative)) is that the Conservative Party claim a mandate to carry out all their manifesto promises. The academisation of all state schools was not in that manifesto. Nicky Morgan claims it as her unique vision. The Chancellor tried to hide his poor maths , announcing in his March 2016 budget the forced academisation of 17,000 schools. Last week, Cameron and Gibb proclaimed it as a no-surrender policy. Then this week we have the novel compromise, in response to vehement opposition from parents, teachers, councils and MPs, that the way to end the powers of the elected Local Authorities is to get those LAs to run multi academy trusts. All this might seem to be hurried, illogical and ill thought out but it was precisely the advice given by the Gove/Gibb created Policy Exchange Think Tank in September 2014.

Whose vision?

I have no desire or need for politicians’ vision or their “passion” and I want them to shut up and get on with their job: supporting teachers in their schools as they continue to provide what is generally wonderful teaching. “Let’s spend a billion pounds on changing school ownership,” is ideology in practice and evident waste. I want them to manage an education system based on evidence rather than their passionate visions. A scheme is not a vision.

Nicky’s vision has the consistency of a plate of overcooked spaghetti hastily discarded by the deposed Michael Gove who is currently busily vying with Boris and Dodgy Dave for the Enoch Powell role in politics.

Here’s a sign of hope for the future: The government ‘s dictat on academisation is looking foolish and the opposition to it has been powerful and immense. Three teacher unions have offered possible strike action to oppose this fag-packet policy and, ironically, been told to keep politics out of education.

Can we all do some more opposing, please.

Schools struggle to find suitable recruits in all subjects, bar P.E. Having a choice of candidates is now quite rare and we are considering abolishing the need to be a mammal as a qualification to teach science. There are lots of statistics around:

18,000 teachers left schools in the UK to teach abroad in international schools in 2014. (SchoolsWeek 24-09-15) 17,001 student teachers joined UK PGCE courses.

Nearly 50,000 teachers quit the profession in the last year – the highest number since records began (Sky News 26-02-16)

38% of teachers left by the end of their first year. (Guardian 31-03-2015)

53% of teachers are thinking of resigning within 2 years (Guardian 04-10-15)

The government’s target for recruitment has not been met in any of the last 4 years and we are short 3,400 teacher trainees in 2016 (ASCL)

Many headteachers are looking to leave their jobs.

Ministers are in talks about funding a new school-leadership college that would parachute graduates fresh out of university into headteacher, deputy and assistant headteacher positions after just two years of training. The college is the brainchild of three of education’s most high-profile figures: Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw (surely part of the problem) Sir Anthony Seldon, former master of the expensively private Wellington College and now vice chancellor of the UK’s only private university; and free-school pioneer Toby Young, whose school has had 3 headteachers in 4 years. (TES 22-04-2016)

Headship is, after all, an unskilled job.

At least the glaringly obvious crisis in teacher retention is acknowledged.

There are various reasons why teachers leave teaching and workload is a major headache, trying to meet the expectations of Ofsted and school managers at the same time as preparing excellent lessons. In response to 20,394 teachers substantive statements, Morgan set up three working groups on planning, marking and data management. I’m sure we told them to take a joined-up sort of holistic approach but they must have thought there was too much work for one group.

Each individual group agreed that workload was problematic and each concluded that school leaders ought to do something about that. It’s almost like they talked to each other.

We have masses of government data and simultaneous initiatives in every aspect of education, often last minute and sometimes retrospective. We can be dammed and sacked according to annually stiffened new Ofsted inspection criteria.

The working parties could have said, “Let schools implement the last 100 government demands and initiatives before new policies are announced, possibly with a little more consultation and planning.”

I think we all know that using on-line resources and electronic marking would strip away hours of tedium. Could we have a vision of this from the DfE, please.

We know that schools can be driven by fear of Ofsted. Look at what is said in a 2016 Ofsted Report on a school they judged as “Good”. The report is typical and explains why teachers work so hard outside the lesson:

Teachers do not always use the information they hold on students’ prior achievement to plan interesting activities that are of the right level of difficulty for all groups. This has limited the progress of some students over time, particularly in science.

Sometimes, students continue to make mistakes because feedback on their work does not make clear how they can improve, or because they are not given the opportunity to make the changes needed.

In response to the workload reports, Ofsted’s chief inspector, Michael Wilshaw, says, “It is very important that schools maintain a sense of proportion when preparing for an Ofsted inspection. If they are devoting their energies to getting things right for pupils, then an Ofsted inspection will take care of itself.”

Oh yeah, that’s all right then.

I want to thank Geoff Barton for permission to use his school’s job description – is it still like this, Geoff?

King Edward VI Rules for staff in 1550

They shall abstain from dicing, gaming and tippling. They must not keep their family on the premises. Women like deadly plagues shall be kept at a distance. The masters shall not be excessively harsh or severe or weakly prone to indulgence. They shall teach a little at a time, with plenty of examples. They shall never advance to fresh subjects ... until the earlier ones are thoroughly understood. The teachers shall appoint two boys called censors to note offences. The teachers shall secretly appoint a third boy to watch the other two and report to the master any offences overlooked or not noticed. Shouting, quarrelling, noise, thieving, lying coarse language and the impertinence of boys leaving their proper places shall be repressed by the teacher. When it is thought fit to allow some relaxation to unbend the mind and sharpen the wits the boys shall amuse themselves in decent sports such as running races, the use of the javelin or archery. They shall not play dice, knucks (knuckle bones) or chuck farthing (tossing coins). These games are unworthy of a well bred youth. The privilege of recreation shall only be allowed on Thursdays and only then if the weather is fine and the work of the scholars justifies it. It’s a little different in 2016 and perhaps my themes of workload, academisation and teacher recruitment combine to reside in the Harris academy chain.

More than 1,000 teachers have left schools in the Harris Federation over the past three academic years. The data shows 465 teachers leaving Harris schools in 2014-15, 422 in 2013-14 and 375 in 2012-13. Latest DfE data records that Harris schools employed 1,116 teachers as of 2013-14. Harris reject the claim that this shows an annual teacher turnover of about 30%. (Guardian 30-10=2015)

The government respect the OECD and tell us we must perform at least as well as the best schools in the world. Here’s some help from them

An OECD annual report has revealed that teachers in England taught for roughly one hundred hours longer than the average for OECD countries.

The average UK primary teacher to pupil ratio is 1:21 (6 pupils above the OECD average) and the average secondary teacher to pupil ratio is 1:18 (5 pupils above average). (BBC News 25-11-2015)

UK teachers’ pay has declined in real terms from 2005 to 2015

A DfE spokesman responded, “Great teachers are at the heart of this government’s commitment to delivering educational excellence everywhere”

I told you there was hope.