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One primary teacher's open letter to the government: 'The standards expected are now untenable'

Discussion in 'Education news' started by TES_Rosaline, Feb 24, 2016.

  1. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    I would be surprised if any came from homes where no English was spoken or heard. Again, English is not Physics.

    When did they ever? That today is not a yesterday which nobody can recall is no kind of an excuse for not having expectations of teachers and of students.

    Yes, we can. How do you suppose Constructivism became such a plague? We can tell people how to teach and if some won't or can't follow direction, in Primary or in Secondary - if they find the required standards 'untenable' - then they should step aside for people more willing and more capable than they.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2016
  2. caroline5604

    caroline5604 New commenter

    Agree with all bar the assumption that those taking GCSEs, A Levels, degrees etc will all have a vague notion of what raw score will equate to which grade etc. Our current Yr 12 are sitting new spec AS exams in May with no guidance at all from the exam board about this. I know it varies year on year with UMS conversion, but we have no history to go on, refer to, or use as estimates. We, and they, are similarly in the dark.
  3. loopylala1

    loopylala1 New commenter

    If SATs resits are taken in year 7, will secondary school teachers be expected to prepare the children for them?

    What will happen if children still don't pass or is this highly unlikely to be the case?

    I ask because my DC has dyslexia which presents issues with written maths problems and spelling.
  4. whitestag

    whitestag Senior commenter

    No, you can't.
    You need to appreciate that academic development is not everything at primary. Yes, the majority of children in future years may be able to rise to tougher standards, but for some, the nurturing and replacement parenting that is put into place during their primary years leads to acceleration in academic achievement further down the line. Yes, they are a minority, but we can't ignore their needs. We are not a selective education system in the state sector.
    I really don't think that anyone in primary thinks this.
  5. dancerinthedark

    dancerinthedark New commenter

    If children don't take the SATs in Year 6 (I'm thinking of homeschooling for this year) do they then have to resit them in Year 7. What about kids who have come from abroad etc who've not been brainwashed with all this gumf? Will secondary schools have to teach them it all - on top of the Year 7 curriculum?
  6. eb428_cam

    eb428_cam New commenter

    I identified myself in this letter - or rather, I nearly did. I applied for teacher training two years ago, and was ready to start but ended up studying for a Masters degree instead. I am now relieved that I did not train. Since completing my Masters, I have worked in a number of schools (primary, secondary and SEN). Everything that I have seen has taught me that being a Teaching Assistant is a better option for me than being a teacher.

    The point at which I first realised that some of the knowledge children were expected to have gained was ridiculous was the point at which I sat in a Year 5 classroom, unable to help the children with identifying which of the many different types of 'writing to persuade' they were handling. I should point out that I am an intelligent person. I achieved 11 A*s for GCSEs, 5 As at A Level (before A*s were introduced - although it would have been 5 A*s if an A* is >90%), a degree from Cambridge and a Masters degree with Distinction from London. As well as working in schools, I have worked in the civil service with a high degree of responsibility for a recent graduate. At no point in the course of my education or my few years of work experience have I needed to know or use the terminology expected of the Year 5 class in which I was assisting.

    As well as the fact that I was able to relate to the ludicrous demands that are now being placed on our children, I also found it easy to relate to the demands placed on the teachers. Until recently, I was keen to train as a teacher. I thought it was a job that I could be good at, and that was worthwhile (far more so than the far better paid positions that many of my university friends fulfil in the City). Talking to teachers over the last few months has completely disabused me of that idea. I spoke to teachers who arrived in school at 7am and left at about 8pm. During that time, they simply did not stop working. I can think of few professions which are so chronically undervalued and underpaid as teaching. The teachers I spoke to were depressed and even on the verge of some sort of contained hysteria when I asked them about the changes to the curriculum, and how these changes would affect their lesson planning, their delivery of lessons, their marking, their expectations for the children, and their expectations of their own quality of teaching. I presume that some of these changes are being brought in with the view of improving the quality of our young people's education - but how can this be done when the teachers are confused about what they must do, and simply too exhausted to do the work properly? Our teachers are generally excellent at teaching, but introducing irrelevant or inappropriate guidelines is incredibly unhelpful. Like our junior doctors, they would be far more efficient with less interference from this government, and with far more rest in their weekly schedules.

    My decision not to go into teacher training has been made solely on the basis of my experience of working and volunteering in schools over the last few months. I had almost fully completed my application for teacher training, and now I am relieved that I never submitted it.

    Instead, I work as a TA. I do what a teacher should do: I work directly with the children. I help them with every aspect of their learning. I see results, both instantly and over time. I help to build a child's confidence, and I explain things which they had never understood before. I make sure that they keep up with the work, and I make allowances and adjustments when children with SEN status are in need. I look after the children; I care about their wellbeing as well as their academic performance. I have time to laugh and have a chat with them in the corridor. I have time to notice if they aren't feeling well, or if they're struggling more than usual, or if they're worried about something, or sometimes if they are having an exceptionally good day. I support them and I can see their progress - not because I know what 'level' they are at, or because I can see that they have made an improvement on a baseline score which was, itself, arbitrary. I see their progress because I can get to know them; because I can see the speed at which they work as well as the final product, or the extent to which they need assistance to complete a task. I see their progress because I have the time to know what their 'normal' is. I see their progress because I am looking at the most basic level of what they achieve: have they written the date neatly? Have they written the learning objectives? Were they able to calculate sums without assistance? Did they complete the experiment safely? Were they confident in discussing their views? I don't need to know what percentage score they would gain in a test, or where they would fit into a scale drawn up by people whose own education was so long ago that they have forgotten what it is like (or never experienced what it is like) to be in a modern school.

    The tragedy is that I know more about these students' progress than their teachers: sure, their teachers have the results. They have a range of scores. They know what they should be working towards - but they simply don't have time to know the student. What good is knowing a bunch of assessment criteria when you don't know your students? It isn't that teachers don't want to or don't try to - there simply isn't the time for them to get to know all of their students as well as they need to, because they are so busy filling in endless reports, forms, plans, evaluations and assessments.

    I consider myself incredibly lucky to have a job where I can make a material difference every minute that I am working. I also consider myself incredibly lucky that I do not have to answer to Ofsted, Senior Management, an LEA or any other authority as to why an individual student is not achieving the standard expected by an external, detached and frankly delusional official. The teacher is there to document everything that is done in lessons. My job is to make the students better at their work and happier in themselves. I wonder at what point this ceased to be the teacher's job.
  7. JessicaRabbit1

    JessicaRabbit1 Senior commenter


    I am leaving teaching at the end of this year and hope to move to becoming a TA, for exactly the same reasons as you've described. I really hope that whilst the salary drop will be huge, the sense of job satisfaction will more than make up for it. I can't wait.
  8. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    Yes, we can. Where people are paid for work then they must work at the direction of their employers.

    I appreciate that academic development is not everything at Primary. I don't expect you to have read all of my posts but I have previously described the role of the Primary teacher as ridiculously important. Where they go ridiculously wrong is assuming that academic development and social & emotional development are disjoint so that it is the role of teachers to replace parents and that several years of classroom cuddles are necessary precursors to reading, writing & arithmetic.

    If a Primary teacher is qualified to judge that a child's social and emotional development is retarding their academic progress, because they are not being parented correctly according to the rigorous model in which they are presumably qualified to assess, then this teacher should refer that child's family to Social Services. If instead Primary teachers take loco parentis literally then they are making several rods for their own backs and - more importantly - are depriving children of their opportunities to mature and to be safe at home.

    If you believe that then you haven't read the OP letter nor the responses lauding it.
  9. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    TA hubris. We love that around here.
    Flere-Imsaho likes this.
  10. spanboy

    spanboy Occasional commenter

    What a TOTAL, TOTAL mess this government are making of education! I'm glad I now teach abroad, where some common sense still prevails.

    It would be interesting, as an experiment, for state schools to go back to how they were in the 60s and 70s. I remember my teachers not being bogged down with ludicrous, meaningless admin. tasks and CONSTANT assessment; they had the time to TEACH and really get to know their students. It's worth a try - it can't be any worse than what's happening now!
  11. lunarita

    lunarita Senior commenter

    I think the paragraph about children's mental health and wellbeing is probably wasted.

    I doubt Nicky Morgan cares about children at all, other than as a means to progressing her own career. I've known HTs like that.
    dancerinthedark likes this.
  12. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    But you put the blame in the wrong place.

    Labour imposed a lot of this nonsense (with the best of intentions). Old Ofsted enforced them and invented more of their own.

    This government has actually taken steps to remove a great deal of this. Ofsted really don't want to see lesson plans, really don't want to see 'triple marking', really don't want 'teacher talk' limited to 10 minutes per lesson, really don't want 'independent learning' every lesson.

    Headteachers haven't bothered to keep up with this. They're the ones demanding 'levels', they're the ones imposing 'learning walks' and shed loads of pointless metrics onto staff.

    No one in government or Ofsted is saying kids must be edutained with 15 different activities per lesson.

    That's all coming from local management.
    TEA2111 likes this.
  13. JosieWhitehead

    JosieWhitehead Star commenter

    In the article, I quote the following: "However, the new grammar curriculum is forcing teachers to develop a didactic style, teaching by rote terminology such as "subordinating conjunctions", "subjunctive form", "passive", "modal" and "cohesion" to name but a few." I feel that having to learn these terms is ridiculous for primary school children. Most adults don't know them. I have to say that English was one of the important subjects I taught for more than 30 years before retiring and we never had to teach all this. It would be just fantastic if children were taught well to read and would just enjoy picking up their books and reading them for pleasure.
    TEA2111 likes this.
  14. Jeremyinspain

    Jeremyinspain Occasional commenter

    laura5j likes this.
  15. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    I would agree that it is not succinct but I don't think you can class it as an "appeal not to teach English". Instead, it attempts to point out that the new testing requirements hinder rather than help the teaching of English. Grammar teaching needs to be embedded in the use language not tested by multiple choice which tests the names of grammatical terms.
    poltergeist likes this.
  16. englishtt06

    englishtt06 Occasional commenter

    Although Oftsed claim not to care about triple marking, when I had Ofsted last January, all the lead inspector wanted to see was response to feedback from students. We had it (not consistenly at that point), but the inspection team were obsessed with it. So, am not sure why they say this requirement isn't coming from them?
  17. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    The response to feedback is in the next piece of work and in the bloody exam results. The response to feedback is the learning and the improvement and the progress. What response to feedback is not is a dutiful few lines in a jotter in pink bloody pen.
    poltergeist likes this.
  18. lostbloke

    lostbloke New commenter

    I wish I could suggest directly to M.Wilshaw that if OFSTED made one of their measuring sticks, that of staff turn over in an establishment, then many issues could be solved.
    If staff are happy, they stay put. If staff are happy, students are happy. Happy students learn.
    So schools which pressurise and victimise hard working staff are the system failing, not the teachers. How can management of a school be deemed good if their staff are half new each September?? Make this a measure! Hold leadership accountable why so many staff are quitting. Surely the voice of the many outweigh the voice of one?! Richard Branson has it right: look after your staff and your staff will look after your customers. Schools that staff leave have deeper ingrained issues to solve that isn't the fault of the general teaching staff.
  19. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    if they can understand it or even know what half of the grammatical terms are referring to!
  20. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    Great post. in my 3 form entry primary school, i have been on contract for a year and a half. Come May when one of the colleagues, who joined when I did, goes on maternity leave; will be the longest serving classroom teacher in the school.

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