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VERY concerned about the way things are done in my primary school

Discussion in 'Primary' started by jondabell, Jan 22, 2012.

  1. jondabell

    jondabell New commenter

    Hi,
    I want some honest advice on exactly how bad the practice is that I am about to describe. I'm torn whether or not to inform my union about this as it is making my job impossible and affecting my home life and personal health.
    OK, so I work in a primary school in Year 5. I'm fairly new to the school, but I'm not new to teaching. I've got 13 years under my belt in three other schools. I've never seen anything like this.
    The school boost Year 6's in Literacy and Maths ready for their SATS. The boosting starts tomorrow. But instead of setting up booster groups after school, or using available staff to divide the Year 6's into groups, they go about it in an insane way. Every class teacher from Y3 to Y5 comes out of their own timetabled maths lessons every day of the week and takes a small group of Year 6s. That teacher's own class are left with a TA who delivers work left by the class teacher. This arrangement exists every day from now until the start of SATs week, so in effect 4 months!! In other words, the Y3, Y4 and Y5 teachers do not teach their own children maths at all for four months. TAs do it instead.
    To further add to the lunacy, the entire school has been put on a programme called Read Write Inc, which is a very good intervention programme for raising literacy standards. However, we are not using it as an intervention - we are using it as a whole school programme. It has REPLACED literacy. Some groups are taught by teachers, some groups by TAs. We're talking 180 kids here. So I now teach 6 of my own Year 5 class their Literacy.... the other 20 are spread far and wide throughout school, doing who knows what with TAs and teachers at various levels. None of these groups were formed via teacher assessment... every group was based on how the kids performed on a three minute Read Write Inc initial assessment form. So I have some bright kids in a poor group because they flunked the inital assessment, and some struggling kids in too high a group because they can read sounds (even though they can't spell or write for toffee!!!!)
    The head says if we're concerned we don't see enough of our kids, we should drop PE and Topic and nicey-nice things in the afternoons and do EXTRA Literacy and Maths, in order to have an idea where they are at.
    And, to top it all off, due to poor SATs results last year we have to send some data to the authority every MONTH to show the rate of Maths and Literacy progress of every child. If a class seems to be making slow progress, the teacher is held accountable and could be brought up on a "capability" charge if standards aren't good enough.... yep, even though we don't teach our own classes.
    This angers me and eats me up every minute of every day, and it's ruining my life. Can a school be run like this??? Lots of people are grumbling but no-one has the balls to sort it, so I'm finding out just how far off acceptable this is before I take the plunge and bring the union guns in.
     
  2. Anonymous

    Anonymous New commenter

    What do the parents think? A class is entitled to be taught by a qualified teacher. I would be very unhappy if this was happening in my son's school. Progress does not happen on a month by month basis. All this boosting does not endear the school to next year's secondary school.
    Personally I think the children get a bad enough time at school with half of it being maths and English. You need to work as a staff or .... whistle blow to someone. You could get a friendly parent to complain to OFSTED. Then it would be the head carrying the can.
     
  3. jondabell

    jondabell New commenter

    It was mentioned that this new Read Write Inc business would get "explained" to the parents in a whole school forum. Never happened. They don't even know about the maths either. There are two parents that are TAs in the school and they come to me all the time expressing how worried and let down they are by it, but they daren't say anything in case they lose their job or get harshly dealt with. The head is a bit of a tyrannosaur!!!
    It sucks. I'm under the impression it is very illegal. Where's the enjoyment? Where's the professionalism? Where's the broad and balanced curriculum?
     
  4. I don't understand though. Surely if years 3,4 and 5 were taught well then there'd be less need for boosting in year 6? As a year 6 teacher myself, the idea of this system is awful to me- it just means that next year's cohort will be well behind and even more in need of boosting and so the cycle will continue...
     
  5. ROSIEGIRL

    ROSIEGIRL Senior commenter

    It does indeed sound a nightmare and a very ineffective and unsettling way of dealing with poor results. I'm not sure what you can do about it - maybe you could encourage your 2 TA parents to try and spread the word and share their concerns with other parents. If a large number of parents approached the head, and/or governors with their concerns it might help.
    I would also have a chat with your union - as you say, the progress of a large proportion of your class is out of your hands and this may impact upon your performance management.
    As pixieperson says, all this systen will achieve is to perpetuate the poor results.
     
  6. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    It doesn't sound great, and the way they have assessed and placed children for RWI does not sound as though they have even used the 3 minute placement test correctly. There are several different "packages" from RWI. If your school is using RWI phonics (as opposed to the spelling and comprehension packages) which is really aimed in the main at foundation and KS1, then there is something truly odd if you have a lot of years 3 to 5 going to the RWI groups- you either have the vast majority of children in KS2 not having yet achieved 2a/3c (which sounds appalling) or they are completely misusing the scheme.
    There is a new thing on the OFSTED website called Parentview or something like that, where parents can give a one-off bit of feedback on their school - it can prompt an earlier inspection or focus the next inspection on the areas of concern, if appropriate.

    Why not get hold of the RWI teacher handbooks, have a chat with the head and see why he / she is doing it his / her own rather stragne way (if indeed that is the case) and if not get the TAs to use parentview? Who is the RWI manager? The way the scheme works, any teacher or TA who thinks a child is in the wrong group should be able to refer this to the RWI manager and get the child moved group pretty pronto if appropriate. If you read the RWI placement tests you'll see that the good readers should be able to get through it even if they didn't grow up on RWI or synthetic phonics. The RWI spelling programme for KS2 would then give them an missed phonics grounding that they need to be good spellers, as I understand it.
    Has your school had the training?

     
  7. jondabell

    jondabell New commenter

    Hi mystery10,
    We were told by the head that we were going to start something called Read Write Inc. We were told this in early November, with a planned start date of January. We were told to use the placement assessment on every child in school from Year 1 to Year 6 and given the A-J sounds sheet to do this. We were told that a teacher must carry out the placement test, not a TA.
    At the beginning of December we had a two-day training course on Read Write Inc. The training lady went through the spelling and comprehension packages, using ditties, speed sounds, Fred sounds, etc. etc. Our head and RWI manager sat down after the training and looked at how the kids had performed on the placement assessment. They decided anyone who cleared the sheet without making a single mistake would have normal Literacy lessons with the Year 6 teacher. So, there are a mixture of kids (about 20) having Literacy with the Y6 teacher... some Y4s, some Y5s, some Y6s, etc. Any kids who made two or mistakes on the A-J placement grid are now grouped according to where they made that mistake. So if they made errors on Section F, for example, they're grouped with all the other kids who made errors in Section F. So there are groups that contain Y2s, Y3s, Y4s, Y5s and Y6s all in the same group!!!!!! The worst bit is that all prior assessment was ignored, and furthermore this idea has REPLACED Literacy completely... it is not run as an intervention or an Early Years "good start" programme... it IS the new Literacy in our school.
    We're doomed!
     
  8. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Who was the trainer - were they from RWI? Did the head go to the training? Do you have the teachers' handbook?
    That is so wrong; it shows that the head cannot read the instructions even!! That is not what the placement assessment grid says. Now it's made me wonder if that is what our school does as my DD1 always ended up in crazy groups, but at least she was in year 1 and 2 at the time, not years 3, 4, 5, 6.
    Have you discussed this with the literacy co-ordinator, the head, the governor in charge of this curriculum area? You could just play it naive and say you don't understand how they have used the placement grid. As class teacher can't you reassess your children correctly and have them moved back into your literacy lesson? Then maybe you should misassess the maths so that everyone needs boosting by the teacher, rather than minding by the TAs?
    You are between a rock and a hard place. As a parent I would be expecting you as class teacher to do something about this if it were happening to my children, not just to stand by the madness. What do the other teachers think? You can't be meeting the teaching standards for the children in your class if you just stand by on this one. But then as the head is your manager and responsible for lots of aspects of your career it is difficult ........
    As a class teacher can't you set up a meeting with parents to tell them about RWI? Show them the materials their children are using "May I play Miss Jay" etc etc. You must have got some level 4 readers on this!!! Maybe they will then complain and save you a job. Better still, get the head to come along to your RWI presentation!! I'm sure you can do it more tactfully than I am suggesting but there has to be a way round this.
    It really does sound as though your head is missing a good few IQ points.
     
  9. I think this is shocking. I know everyone feels they must need to 'work the system' due to the (albeit improving) assessment procedures in yr 6, however it seems everyone is having to pull together for the yr sixes due to the (what can only be considered as) inadequate teaching lower down the school. Sorry for the brackets overuse! Does the HT not recognise the skill-set amongst the teachers to ensure they do their jobs, hence ensuring children make steady progress throughout the whole of their school life?
    We carry out boosters, but these are often offered by teachers (mostly SLT) and we get paid for the extra time and work. I enjoy these boosters, as you see the children improve drastically from the 1:1, however it also pleases me that this time spent is also worthwhile for the next holiday with my partner. Work/life balance anyone? Madness!
     
  10. jondabell

    jondabell New commenter

    I am the original poster. Can I just emphasise that the teacher lower down in school is pretty good overall. The problem is that the teacher can taken out of their own classes for a preposterously long time to carry out these booster session. Around four months, in fact. Every day. So the TAs are left to deliver the teaching in the meantime. Over the course of Key Stage, that's almost a year in maths being taught by TAs in total. This is where the inadequacy lies. It siimply creates a vicious circle wherein the need for excessive boosting never ends.
     
  11. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Can I ask what the expected outcome of the "booster" programme is?
    Are the children borderline 4s being pushed to average or is the school pushing for lots of 5s/
     
  12. Thanks for your swift response :) just wondered though, why it is that so much booster work has to be done, clearly disrupting many teachers if the teacher further down the school is good? I totally understand that progress varies and that other out-of-school issues can have a huge impact, but this is only generally in a very small number of cases? Or is it the head having too many L5 expectations? My booster groups are personally for borderline 3a to 4c to get them a secure level 4.
     
  13. Benbamboo

    Benbamboo Occasional commenter

    This whole situation sounds pretty wrong if I'm honest. I have no experience with RWI (nor have I heard of it before) so I can't judge the implementation. But to not teach my own class for English and maths, the two subjects that carry most weight, scrutiny and importance, invalidates the whole purpose of having my own class.
    Putting the English aside, the maths situation baffles me. Small group work is fine, booster groups are fine, but doing so at the expense of 3 other year groups makes no sense. Better to put the quality teaching in all through the school than panic in the last 4 months. Additionally, how can teacher assessmes be reliable if so much maths teaching has been missed by the teacher?
    One other question: You mention the head teacher but no other staff. Is there a management structure in your school where other members of SMT may be more approachable with concerns who could speak to the HT on a higher level? Was this approach a team decision orpushed throughsolely by the head?
     
  14. jondabell

    jondabell New commenter

    The head and the deputy head are old friends in and out of work; they spend more time locked up in the head's room plotting than I care to mention. It's like a SPECTRE meeting in there, I sometimes think. No 1 and No. 2 (sorry if this James Bond analogy doesn't mean anything to you!)
    It's become very much an "us against them" situation - virtually the entire staff hate what's happening, but the two that matter keep insisting its in place now and must be seen through to the (bitter?) end. I've decided to quit anyway... just deciding whether to go at Easter or Summer.
     
  15. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Did you get the RWI training, or any other synthetic phonics training while you were at this school? If not, why don't you try and get it before you leave?
    I think from what you say that they are not implementing RWI phonics or RWI freshstart correctly, as I and others have said it is intended for readers up to 2a/3c, and the way you have described that they are using the placement assessment is not per the instructions. Presumably as a teacher in an RWI school you have access to the RWI teachers' handbooks for the RWI packages your school has purchased, and to the lesson plans.
    If a child is in the wrong group, and they are following the prescriptive lesson plans for RWI, they ain't gonna learn much (anything even). I have experienced this problem with RWI implementation at points at my own children's school with both of mine (not the same school don't worry!!). Some schools seem to think they can do a better job than the scheme designers - and clearly some schools could and some schools can't - yours and mine fall into the can't category, but there's no sensible discussion to be had about it as a parent (and worryingly at yours, not as a teacher either!!).
    As for the maths, it doesn't sound too impressive either, unless of course your TAs are good at teaching maths or at delivering a programme that has been pre-planned for them. Your view is that this is unlikely - particularly as the TAs themselves don't sound happy with the situation wth their parent hat on.
    Just maybe though you wouldn't be happy with the situation even if the RWI were being implemented wonderfully and the mad maths method was wondrous too. If you want "full control" over your class's destiny, which many primary teachers enjoy as part and parcel of the job, this kind of arrangement just isn't for you and you will prefer a school where the "traditional" primary class teacher role applies for the whole teaching day (unless you don't like teaching P.E. [​IMG]). Anyhow, good luck in your hunt for something more rewarding, it does sound like a sensible course of action.
     
  16. lardylady

    lardylady Star commenter

    What about the children in Y3, 4 and 5 who are being fobbed off with a TA 'teaching' them Maths for 4 months? No wonder that attainment is so low by the time they get to Y6. They won't have been taught properly for half the academic year.
     
  17. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Small groups will only make a tremendous difference if the teacher is taking the benefit of the small group in the methods used and material covered. If the teachers at this school have their hands tied and something crazy to follow (as it would appear they would have at the mo with the half-baked RWI implementation) the benefits may not be reaped.
     
  18. Does this also mean you have to plan twice OP? Once for your class to be delivered by the TA and once for your group? Who marks the work? Sounds like you're much better off out of there asap!
     
  19. jondabell

    jondabell New commenter

    Yes, I plan for the TA and to some extent plan for my own Y6 booster group. The TA plan is pretty onerous and detailed; the plan I do for the Y6 group is more of a quick outline, just enough for me to be happy with what I'm doing in the lesson.
    Things have develoepd since I first started this post actually. Midweek, last week, the whole staff went to what i can only describe as the most unfriendly and unporfessional staff meeting I've ever been to in thirteen years. The head had a huge and very nasty moan at all the teaching staff, claiming that we're in a tough situation together and must pull together as a team. She forbade any sympathy towards TAs who have been raising concerns to her about the set-up; and also brushed aside the Y3, Y4 and Y5 teacher's concerns about progress and results in their year groups. She said Y6 have got to do well in order for the school to survive this year. Otherwise it's Academy time. She then went on to confess that she will lose her job if the results are poor this year. BUT, just as I was about to feel a tinge of sympathy for her, she then made the Y3, Y4 and Y5 teachers set half-termly targets for the rest of the academic year and admitted that some bigwig or other from the authority wants to see whole school progress half-term by half-term. In other words, the Y3, Y4 and Y5 teachers will also have to meet unrealistic pupil progress targets despite not being with their classes for core subjects most of the time. Seems to me we've signed our names against the impossible, and have put ourselves in the firing line instead of her!!!
    I have prepared a letter of resignation and will be handing it in this week. The **** will hit the fan, and I'm certain she will take this news in an angry, personal and unprofessional manner. But what the hey!
     
  20. I have not read the whole thread, just the opening page and am appalled at this practice. As someone else said, the system in place will only serve to slow progress in following years. Can the SLT not see that?! And what are the LA doing if they have approved such practice? Bemused.
    You have my sympathies and I totally understand why you are jumping ship. Not a bad choice at all in my opinion. Good luck for the future.
     

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