Showing posts from May, 2017

All Quiet on the Western Fronted Adverbial

There has been a rise in 'Teacher speak' over the last few years, especially since the 2014 National Curriculum. Vocabulary that most teachers wouldn't have heard of, let alone taught to children has suddenly become part of day-to-day patois. Phrases like 'past participle' and 'fronted adverbial' are chanted by teachers and pupils alike, referring to language techniques that they may well have used, but never needed to name previously. Sometimes my wife looks at me like I'm speaking another language when I casually slip in words like the 'subjunctive' over dinner (as you do), and even though both of us studied English at A Level and both have degrees, neither of us knew this terminology before the current craze. The National Curriculum, and the subsequent changes to SATs and writing assessments, placed a large emphasis on pupils' knowledge of this terminology, rather than them simply having an understanding of how to use them. Various li

SunSAT Boulevard

Sorry, the pun is horrific, I know. I've missed the last few day's blogs due to practice SATs in my Year 5 class (see it affects the rest of us too, if not half as much as our Year 6 colleagues). There's been a pall over the whole school this week. SATs week is almost like a collective holding of breath. Younger children only hear of SATs as a dark whisper, floating down from higher up school. Year 4s and 5s feel the tension more palpably, especially my class who sit next door and hear horror stories from their Year 6 friends. This year I've mirrored our Practice SATs with the Year 6 SATs, to give my class a flavour of what goes on. Sitting a test is a skill, they have found. Some of my more able children have struggled, not because they couldn't access the questions or answer them, but rather because they aren't used to working to time, answering deliberately confusing questions, or working completely without support. Testing is not just about what the chi

Fear and Testing in Las Vegas

Today marked the start of SATs fever. Nervous Year 6s ate breakfast gloomily whilst their teachers woke drenched in cold sweat, tired from a night of nightmares, "There were no pencils in the whole school, and I only had 29 papers!". Why do we do this to ourselves? Why does this time of year cause such stress and anxiety? They are just tests after all. They aren't even that valuable, at least GCSEs stay with you for life. I proudly type 'Drama GCSE A*' on every job application. I sat SATs and can't for the life of me remember what I got. The results are maligned by Secondary Schools, replaced as quickly as possible by internal testing. They only long-lasting damage...I mean impact... is on the School itself. Teachers fearing for their jobs, fearing for a lack of job mobility, Schools fearing the dreaded Ofsted call. The words 'a dip in results' never carried such dread. We need assessments. We need to know where are kids are up to, and schools mu

Love In The Time Of Twitterspats

Oh Twitter, you strange beast. I've been using Twitter properly for the past 18 months. In that time I feel like my eyes have been opened to a whole new world (cue Disney Song). My teaching has improved vastly, and I feel connected to Educators from around the world. I've attended conferences, spoken at a TeachMeet, and met so many wonderful people. The positives of using Twitter as an Educator are endless: the people, the resources, the ideas, the sounding boards. However, it does remind me of a School Playground at times. Recently I've become more and more aware of groups of Educators who constantly fall out with each other, pick sides and generally cause a fuss. Frankly, they should know better. Twitter is open for anyone to see, and no pseudonym is foolproof. I always advise my pupils that they shouldn't post anything on Social Media that they wouldn't want their Grandma to see, and the same advice would go for adults too. There have been times when I'm

SATs Wars

Today's BlogADayMay Blog is a short one. After writing a Blog about Wellbeing, I'd rather be spending today with my children than sat at my Laptop. My title today is tenuous as best, but has been inspired by the repeated furore around Abi Elphinstone's messages regarding the SATs Grammar Test. This time last year, Children's author Abi Elphinstone posted this photograph:  It earned a lot of praise from stressed parents and children. The message seemed positive: doing poorly in SATs tests wouldn't be the end of the world as successful authors rely more on ideas and passion than knowing the names of grammatical rules and word types. As a teacher I wholeheartedly agree with her sentiment: Grammar is important but the emphasis on Knowledge isn't. Children need to know how to use language, they do not need to be able to identify it. However at the time, and this year as the Photograph has been re-posted as part of a newspaper article, certain members of the Ed

The Importance of (Well)Being Earnest

#BlogADayMay Day 5: May 5th Yesterday's blog (The Day the Teachers Quit) was about teacher retention and recruitment. Today's blog leads neatly on from that. 'Wellbeing' is a word that has been bandied around for a while with regard to Teaching as a profession. It stems from the issues I discussed yesterday- mainly that teaching is a stressful job. I imagine it has always been so, taking 30 young minds and guiding them (sometimes unwillingly) towards educational enlightenment is stressful. However, when you add the current climate in teaching in our country, Stressful isn't a strong enough word. No-one, even the DfE, can argue that our profession isn't in a crisis. Teacher numbers are dropping, numbers of trainees are dropping, numbers of pupils are rocketing. We are heading for a meltdown. The Government's response over the past 7 years of my career seems to have been to make the job harder. Every new idea,  modified curriculum or change to assessme

The Day the Teachers Quit #BlogADayMay May 4th

After running a poll on Twitter, this was the most popular 'Book Title Rip-off'. To be honest, I'm not surprised. In October the Guardian reported that the fragrant Nick Gibb had released data showing that of the 21,400 teachers who began teaching in 2010, 30% had left the profession by 2015. Of that number 10% left within the first year. On top of losing recently qualified staff, the DfE have also failed to meet their targets for Recruitment to ITT, with only 89% of places filled. On top of having too few trainee teachers to plug the gap, the Government has forecast the need to provide over 1,000,000 more places in our country's schools over the next decade. Too few trainee Teachers, NQTs and RQTs leaving in droves, Pupil numbers rocketing: doesn't sound great. Nobody can control the rise in pupil numbers, but there are reasons for the lack of new teachers, and the loss of current ones. Nearly every reason stems from the mis-management of our Profession by

To Kill a Mocksted BlogADayMay May 3rd

The name of this Blog fell into my lap. To summarise the book: A tticus Finch is a lawyer in Maycomb, a racially divided Alabama town in the early 1930s. Finch agrees to defend a young black man who is falsely accused of raping a white woman. Many of the townspeople try to get Atticus to pull out of the trial, but he decides to go ahead.  An unnecessary, unfair trial. Sound familiar? A Mocksted is when School leaders employ an outside agency to run a 'practice' Ofsted in order to prepare Staff for the real event. Sounds wonderful! Ofsted investigations themselves are difficult, stressful and have questionable benefit for the school. Having a pretend Ofsted investigation is, frankly, barmy. I've heard of schools where they regularly have these Mock investigations.  Not only are you putting Staff through a stressful day which is essentially playacting, it's also more time taken away from actual teaching. Teachers have to plan, teach, mark, assess work for every lesso

War and Peas

#BlogADayMay May 2nd War and Peas Whenever I tell someone I am a teacher, their first question is 'What do you teach?'. I don't know whether they just assume I'm a Secondary Teacher. I always laugh. My answer: 'I teach everything, I'm a Primary Teacher'. One of the best things about Primary Teaching in particular is that every day is completely different. Not only do the children provide the potential for any carefully-planned lesson to go off-course, but the opportunity to teach different lessons each day ensures that boredom is non-existent. As a Primary Teacher I teach a whole range of Subjects, but as the pastoral professional for 30 children 5 days a week, I spend time sorting emotional issues, tying shoes, sharing running jokes. The multi-faceted nature of Primary Teaching is best explained through the analogy of the good old School Hall. A teacher needs to play many roles and sometimes those roles are conflicting. In most Schools, the Hall is th

Who Let The Progs Out? #BlogADayMay May 1st

Who Let The Progs Out? During May I intend to write a short Blog each day ( #BlogADayMay) about Education issues. I’m going to try to link their titles to Books, just for a bit of fun. Today’s article is about a hot topic. The Progressive/Constructivist vs Traditional Teacher debate has been raging (again) for the past few years, with both sides using the medium of Twitter to air their grievances. I don’t claim to know enough about the debate to present my view. When researching the debate, it seems to have been rumbling on for decades without any resolution either way. As I said, without spending time researching the debate, I cannot comment on either side. However, as a bystander, there a number of issues I have with the debate itself. Firstly, if you surveyed teachers across the country and asked their views on Trad vs Prog they would probably look confused. Before I accessed Twitter I had never even encountered this argument. It doesn’t strike me as an important disc