Saturday period 3 – Creating a silk purse from a pig’s ear of curriculum change

The old story goes of the man who asks the way to Liverpool and the bystander says, ‘if you want to get to Liverpool mate I wouldn’t start here.’It’s how I feel about curriculum design or lack of it, with the changes to A Levels. BTecs and GCSEs. At the last major revision of A Level in 2000 at least stuff hanged for everyone at the same time, but this time we have the proverbial ‘pig’s ear’. Some ALevels have changed and their AS count for less and need doing at the end of two years even if done after one. But hey shiny new Year 12 students it’s not all your subjects. So schools and colleges grapple with – shall we just do three now, shall we forget the AS for all, for some etc. Meanwhile some subjects have changed at GCSE, well two to be precise Maths and English who will see new grading of 9 to 1.Yes but reporting for the present y10 comes soon – we need to explain that carefully to pupils and to parents, oh and we aren’t really sure what really will happen to the grades. ( Check out the Ofqual postcards -they help)

INSET and training back in 1999 allowed all staff to look at their subjects, advise SLT, think about the best way ahead for the students and discuss together the best way to make decisions. So as I stare at this pig’s ear not of my making I am looking to create a silk purse from this. The big structural stuff is out of our hands but there are still important decisions to make about which courses for the best

Simplistic_Refined_11. Don’t pick for grades. We don’t know about the grades but we do know ofqual take charge.  Boards subjects apparently achieving higher numbers of A and A* isn’t “easier” it’s about the profile of those taking the subject with that board. At A Level the highest number of A* and A are from Maths – it doesn’t mean Maths is easy or your heads of sixth form recommend everyone does Maths as it’s the best way to get an A.

2 Look at content. Carefully examine the content, does it suit your pupils, does it suit your teachers. How does it compare to past content. My guess in most subjects is that its much the same – Science subjects especially but there are twists – do you like them. In Chemistry if we have a chunk of nanotechnology do we welcome that or not? In some subjects this may not be the case so do you welcome the content or gasp in horror. Think about delivering content by all your teachers and across all the abilities.

Autumnal fruits

Autumnal fruits

3 Look at assessment. It’s not the standard of specimen papers etc it’s the style, the type of questions. The assessment model should test the content but look carefully and think about your pupils. All the pupils the brightest and the weakest who will be studying. In the end, assessment models deliver the fruits, or not.

 

 

 

4 Look forward and backwards. How does this course prepare your pupils for what they do next. if this is KS4 how does it prepare well for Btec or A Level and then beyond into the worlds of work and further study. downloadLook back at your KS3 courses. Of course these may yet need a tweak but if you love the content and outcomes of your KS3 then how well does this dovetail. This is a bit more pig’s ear than silk purse at the moment as you are changing GCSE but not KS3 -however the decisions you make at KS4 will stay for several years and no one likes a change of spec-worth a careful think. To some extent the definitions of KS3 4 and 5 are artificial – think like that to help you decide. AND don’t forget the added complexities of post 16 funding as some BTec are weighted in different ways. [Paul Hanks @The_Data_Adonis is worth following at the least and worth contacting for advice on funding issues post 16 too.]


imageimage5 Resources
. It would be naive to ignore your bank of resources or the resources on offer from the Boards. I guess this means a default starter being the spec you study now. However your job is to teach, help the pupils  learn and a massive desire to inspire. Do those results or your creative juices excite you – do they make you want to teach this tomorrow?

6 People You probably aren’t making this decision on your own , you have to bring other staff in your dept along with you. So check the dept view, check the other networks you are in; maybe professional groups like the ASE or local networks or teaching alliances. Also think about using twitter; you can create a list and add those other ‘history teachers’ to it and get chatting. Perhaps you attend teachmeets and ask trusted people what they are choosing and why. Remember it’s your call so don’t decide because someone with 2400 followers says so, just pick a few brains and move from the foggy grey to a black and white conclusion.

Patron Saint of lost causes - St Jude

Patron Saint of lost causes – St Jude

Finally then jot down your reasons. Get ready to share with the dept with SLT, the Headteacher and possibly governors. You need two or three reasons why you chose them and two or three why rejecting the others. In fact not just for the dept for your conscience and for the pupils to be rocked and rolled.

In the end whatever “others” do to us as teachers, we must use the tools we have to do the very best for the children and young people we teach, and do you know what? We usually do.

part 3 – from NQT to RQT

This is a bit new, even to me, the term RQT presumably a “Recently Qualified Teacher ( as opposed to retired, or rare, reformed, regular, revolutionary , and hopefully not yet a regretfully ..this could go on.

So with a full year (or maybe two) under the belt, what now?

1 Improve your teaching

You should be confident by now that you can sort out basic issues with learners. Like behaviour and background disruption. these are never going to go away but the mistakes of PGCE/training and even the odd error of judgment last year are put behind. By all means read, research, listen and then try new things but the basics of classroom craft should be learnt. Now ask yourself ” is there a better way to teach X or Y”. Relentlessly try to improve your teaching.

2 Improve the lot of learnerspareto_principle_improve

You have many resources, you might have a Y11 class following  their Y10 time with you and therefore new content but a majority will have been taught once. Get those reflective planners at the ready and where you put *** Must improve this if I ever do it again then…improve it. Oh you didn’t do that annotation, shame! Still revisit and re-edit and talk to experienced staff. You have tried one activity in the classroom to help learners on this unit/topic, so what else might work? Really work out what works in your classroom for different groups: SEND Gand T, PP, EAL after all you know the acronyms and know the children so sort out even better learning experiences for them. You are the true professional now…nearly.

Oh and another important matter, you have taught some of these youngsters before. You know their family a bit but you know them well, you know what they find hard or easy; a richer information than any data number – so really rock and roll in pushing their learning. It will not be easier, if anything it’s harder but it’s much much more effective teaching.

3 Keep even better records

Plan, annotate, add resourceIMG_2499s and spend a bit of time searching for new ones. Talk more with staff and pick their brains. think and plan ahead, ask around, join twitter or the TES forums and networks, get to a teachmeet. Hey throw that weight around and move from good to great!

 

 

4 Share

You felt like you were the end of the queue, and you were but you aint no more, so share your idesparkleras of what worked too. Do that in department meetings, tutor team meetings and mostly just in conversations in the staffroom. build some self confidence as a teacher professional in helping others. I had a great RQT colleague a few years ago and she showed me some new resources and ideas….yep teach the old dogs in school, new tricks.

5 Volunteer

You might have a label RQT but most pupils think you are a wise, experienced and knowledgeable member of staff. SO get stuck into some new things this year, take on a bit of responsibility that you are genuinely interested in. it could be extra curricular, sport drama music. It could be within the dept, there is plenty to do: use of data, work with EAL or SEND pupils. help with the planning of a new GCSE or a new  A Level. It might be within the pastoral work? are their seeds of your first promotion in getting to know much more about…..x, then get on with it.

6 Stimulation

The last two years had pressure now it’s you as an autonomous teacher ploughing ahead in the fields to plant in the minds of enthusiasm sat before you. What challenges do you need for yourself? Which classes have had a bit of a raw deal from you? tackle them. Check out the teacher standards, identify your weakest three areas and sort them.

7 TransparencyimageAll of us feel there were things we just about got away with, what were yours and what do you need to do about them? Did you not prepare for a parents evening but fortunately they were mainly pleasant. Did you let a pupil off but they didn’t bring any extra issues? Did the head ask for something and you forgot but heck so did she? What things must you do better?

8 Challengechallenge

Teachers can be professionally socialised by their schools. You have probably been in the same school for a this year and NQT year. There were things surprised you – the Y7 data collection came very early, you wondered why but obviously kept your mouth shut last year. Maybe you jot down a few questions like this to help improve the school. Share with an experienced colleague or even the SLT link you know best. Dont be afraid for a asking a sensible challenging question. there may be a good sensible answer but you might just have asked a really good one.

8 Keep talking

talk-clipart-RTAk5EqTLThe PGCE or training courses (remember them) have structures to support and help and encourage you. So too, NQT year BUT now you have made it to RQT and they all disappear. No more meetings about you it all becomes informal ( save number 9 below). So please keep talking to those you have found helpful or found as critical friends.

 

 

9 Performance Management

You now come under the appraisal umbrella. Chat to others about how it works, read the school documents. Do not see it as a threat, just find out what others do, prepare for you first meeting with an appraiser, who will hopefully know you well. Maybe look at what I said in 6 above and ask for some extra training in an area, or try and spend a lesson observing someone to fit the direction of travel you have set. Oh you haven’t set a direction? Shame cos in the rough and tumble of teaching if you don’t choose, the winds will blow you around.
storm

Sunday period 4 – *Packing the Head’s briefcase

picture

 

 

 

Like many a teacher and many a headteacher I packed my bag as part of my rituals on a Sunday afternoon. Then started my thinking of the week ahead. Here is a light hearted list but with a hefty dose of truth.

1. A proper fountain pen and proper ink
IMG_1891Heads sign a lot of documents, contracts, policies, orders, cheques. Be prepared. there are also letters, lots of them but the best are my own letters. I often wrote to thank people for their work or contribution, if I was a banker of course that would be a £ cash  bonus but this is the public sector, people had to make do with a letter. However a letter with an additional hand written note from the head is good. We don’t receive many letters these days in a world of text, twitter and email so a letter or a postcard from the head should stand out. When I left one student thanked me saying “Sir, I have 7 letters from you…..all pinned on my wall.”

2. Chocolates, biscuits and fruit
Lots ofimage people in a school are very busy and don’t have time to look after themselves; late lunches, no breakfast. Rushed. We need to get better routines but in the odd crisis, the head’s stock of biscuits and fresh fruit on the table helps. Hey it helped me the number of times a meeting overran, or a conversation of 2 minutes becomes 20 and it was hardly fair to say, sorry I need my lunch. Top up on good quality fruit, nuts, biscuits and why not – chocs.

331fc590baf0d26198ce7f5646e590ec                             Swisss JAD (989)

3. Batteries

BullshitButton-mainI had a few things in my office needing batteries but the one which ran out most was my “B*ll**it” detector. A legacy from the previous headteacher almost worn out with detecting. Not just meetings in my office or elsewhere, it was sometimes pupils and parents, occasionally colleagues and officials and most often twas me. It is good to listen more, think more and say less. Whatever you decide to do make sure you have a cr*p detector, and have it switched on permanently.

4. A set of clean clothes
There are long days, not always a 3.30 pm escape as you know, it’s a normal school day then meetings then plays, or shows or parents meetings and a change of clothes helps freshen up. But I have also discovered other occasions like when our y 6 transition day on the Anglo Saxons saw me demonstrating the stocks and surprisingly needed cleaner and drier clothes after the event. At my school we needed a new umbrella – a split site school and trying to still see our children onto their buses at the end of the day – when just a few times it…..pours

5. Tip top organised briefcase .
No one ever helps teachers understand their paperwork, not even my NPQH; it’s a bit of an unspoken task we are all expected to manage, maybe no one knows how to do it. My colleagues always urge to read any document just once. This is often difficult for a scientist like me. I liked to ponder and think but that took far too much time, so get a system, get a new system, get advice and make life as comfortable as possible. Believe me decisions come in thick and fast, some are simple and straightforward and often made by others – so the head gets left with those complex and difficult ones, but that’s the job. I never had a PA, I did use our office staff to help me hugely but I liked to keep myself organised – others can judge.

6. Diary
I had a diary, paper and electronic, I knew what I was doing but I tried to add reflections and also use it as a reminder of the bigger picture. The days can be full of operational stuff, and interruptions so a chance to stand back and re-engage the bigger picture needs noting. the person who stops you in the tracks and makes you think – get that in a notebook/diary. Capture if not for now, for later.IMG_2499

7. Tissues
Yes there have been a few tears. not too many from me but some from the other members of the community. Staff under pressures, pupils under pressures and parents. Even some difficult conversations with parents can end in tears. My tissue box was a part of offering hope ( see blog) There was no deliberate attempt to get tears but they happen and need dealing with in order 1) tissues 2) hope 3) solutions. A simple fact of dealing with families and a reminder schools are communities NOT businesses.

8. Photographs

img_4031img_4032-1img_4033-1

 

 

 

 

What do you decorate your office with? Timetables, DfE updates on curriculum changes, teacher standards, rotas? I had one small notice board and the rest of my four walls were covered in photographs of school – activities, opportunities, pupils learning, studying, working chatting, playing. Pupils in classrooms, on the yard, playing sport, performing drama and music. Teachers, TAs, secretaries, groups. I regulalry renewed a few but I loved those photos and when bogged down in some policy or reading a long-winded update from the LA or DfE I reminded myself of what schools are all about. I actually think no data in school should ever appear just as a cross or a point on a graph they should all have a photograph of that little person.

cropped-groups-tr1.jpg





9. Any presentations or papers for the week ahead.
One thing I learned if there was a talk to do, an assembly to give, an important meeting to lead, it must be done by Sunday evening.  There is unlikely to be any other time in the week save a chance to check and edit. No time to write so get that done and in the briefcase.

10 Fresh cover work.
I hated covers, actually I grew to love them. They did interrupt me in whatever I was doing – but hang on that was a me me me type cry. I loved covers, they reminded me of the job staff do day in, day out and children’s experience day in day out. They gave me a chance to talk to pupils and hear from them, to see their books and hey to teach them. Even my weakest subject ( not telling) I am prepared. ( PS had a copy of “Stig”, I carried him with me for all my early years and if there was no work, we read a bit of Stig – nostalgia isnt what it used to be.)stig

In fact with that number 10 job done , am I prepared  for anything………oh hang on

 

 

 

 

 

11. Hope – my bag was full of hope , but it needed topping up fairly often.Road-Sign-with-Hope-and-SkyIMG_8725

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feel free to add in a reply the most important item in your packing for the new term, or tweet them back and I’ll add them here:

Some Questions

Q1 What are the important items in your bag to do the job properly?

Q2 What stuff is there and worried about but unnecessary?

Q3 Any advice for an NQT briefcase/bag ? a new middle leader’s briefcase? or even for an old SLT member’s briefcase?


and for those working in a church school:

Matthew 26:19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared…

Matthew 3:3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”

2 Timothy 4:2  Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction

You might like to read other posts from my timetable of teaching – each is set out from lesson in the school week, before or after school or at the weekends, appropriate to the time of day. I have also started a  class lists or “set lists” which was to answer the questions: “why be a teacher?”or “why have other responsibilities in a school?” Shortly I am starting a new area about progress from one role or experience in teaching to another with hints and tips about successfully moving on in the job and your teaching career.

7YBA Teacher in Nottingham (Set 7YBA Tn)

I wrote this post because it seems to be getting more and more difficult to get teachers and School Leaders and other staff who work in schools. It is difficult especially in City areas and in Coastal ones. So I had a think aboutRobin-Hood-Statue what there is to like about a career working in Education in Nottingham:

 

 

You can also check out this website which has some brilliant links and advertises posts in local schools. If you still need persuading please check this video with local secondary and Primary teachers AND Nottingham University Vice Chancellor Professor Sir David Greenaway.

 

1.It’s a great City There are good shopping facilities – including a John Lewis , House of Fraser and a huge number of independent shops in two large City Centre areas, the Victoria Centre and the Broadmarsh centre. People travel for miles to visit the shopping centres.

Victoria Centre shopping

Newstead-Abbey_620

Newstead Abbey

 

 

 

 

 

There are great sporting links, two football teams with history, Nottingham Forest and Notts County but also the Panthers Ice Hockey team and the International Cricket ground at Trent bridge. Not to mention Holme Pierrepont the home of many watersports. There are Cultural and Arts Centres, two theatres, the Nottingham Contemporary arts centre. Like most Cities we have many historical links, not least with the oldest public house, underground caves, even a mansion we call Nottingham Castle, Byron’s home at Newstead Abbey etc. The City centre is a thriving place but we have places to escape to such as Clumber Park and Sherwood Forest and you might even see batman at Wollaton Hall, or at the least hit a festival there. I wont mention the clubs and bars though! If you can get out further afield we are on the edge of the Derbyshire Dales and  National Park as well as Chatsworth house to the West or by going South into North Leicestershire countryside. There are many villages and market towns around the County and it’s not far to the likes of Lincoln and York.

Mind we do know how to party, come along to Goose Fair in October and try it out – should be there next year, its been here for over 600, can’t see it stopping yet
robin-hood-statue-castle-gatehouse-20051349191366_1

wollaton-hall-aka-wayne-manor-in-the-batman-movie-the-dark-knight-rises-952566657

2. Transport and housing. Nottingham is in a great spot in the UK being so central. Easy to get to the main M1 ( 3 major routs out of the City) or to the A1. The train station has recently had a massive upgrade and trains to London take about 1hr 45 minutes. The bus system locally is very good and we have a very efficient tram system too. East Midlands Airport is about 30 minutes drive away. Oh and a canal and a big river with cruise boats and rowing clubs. Housing is also available and reasonably priced because of the large student population.

trent-bridge-2

Trent Bridge

tram_7

Tram in Market Square




 

 

 

3 We are actually very good at Education. Most young people know about the high reputation, in fact the world class reputation of the two Universities at Nottingham and Nottingham Trent. These organisations also host Education Departments and the National College for Teaching and Learning is based on the Jubilee Campus. So this is where many prospective teachers start their careers as PGCE Students but remember this also gives great opportunities to ongoing CPD for teachers and other Career opportunities. There are also significant teaching school and teaching school alliances.( Like the LEAD Urban alliance and Transform). They are fairly new but they are all working on programmes to attract young people to work in schools and then support them whatever stage of career, from NQT, RQT, Middle Leaders, SLE’s etc You might benefit from a programme but in due course be contributing to the programmes. Then there are large FE Colleges, with more opportunities to move career into working with the post school sector. Check out NCN, and Castle College.

jubilee

 

4. Schools Despite what you might think, or read or have heard, Nottingham schools are pretty good, some are outstanding, some are good and others are getting to good. Check their web sites and if you are thinking of a job here then go and visit.The staff are very committed to improving the lives of local children and working in a City or Urban environment isn’t without its challenges and rewards. There are 16 different types of Secondary schools mostly academies, some sponsored some are MATs. There are 6 special schools and these have a considerable reputation for their work for SEND children. There are 7 Independent schools some are small and the two main City schools are the boys and girls high schools (although the boys goes mixed this September). there are about 80 Primary schools. Within each of those schools is a massive amount of wisdom and experience. In my school for example the leadership team have worked at the school over 120 years between them and longer if we add in time spent in City schools. Nearly all the City secondaries and many of the primaries are in very new buildings as they were part of the labour governments BSF programme (Building schools for the future). the City Council has always had a big commitment to Education and whilst not really controlling academies, they have a target to have every child in a good or outstanding school. they also work hard with the local business community to ensure jobs and apprenticeships and a clear progression route after school.

5. Progression. Hey we do this well, for teachers and for pupils. We have a very low NEET ( not in Education Employment or Training) figures in the UK. So something is working well, and there is commitment to helping young people follow their dreams into jobs, apprenticeships, or further their education. We laso have a lot of clver and successful initiatives to help widen participation locally from Nottingham University and NTU which involves our pupils but also families. We also see the journey being made by many professionals in our schools, so we might have someone volunteer for a project as an older pupils who goes off to University and then returns and does some teaching assistant work, and eventually get a formal training as a TA or maybe as a teacher. Once bitten by the “working in Nottingham City schools” bug it can be hard to escape.

6 Other services There are other agencies linked to schools of course and in Nottingham they work closely together, again teachers can move their careers into these other areas. this includes social services, children’s’ services, the local NHS. Also Nottingham Futures ( careers service)  and their initiatives such as  Aspire. Then there are organisations which pop up in any City to help with Outdoor Education, to help with Music and Sport as well as Duke of Edinburgh, Youth Parliament and so on. So our children get lots and lots of opportunities. There are also many community links, these can work very well in City areas but be less obvious than in rural ones. Local Churches and mosques and other religious groups support education. The voluntary sector is huge and not only do they support schools they also offer opportunities for our young people to serve in their work helping in everything from foodbanks, to the homeless.

7. Great Pupils and great teachers and support staff. Almost all schools say they have great pupils and the City has many many. Of course in a City area there can be issues of bad behaviour and low aspiration and that makes the job a challenge but it is often a minority and therefore the majority can be encouraged, can be motivated and can be taught successfully and will get qualifications. in fact just the sort of result you hope for as you contemplate a career in education. But these pupils need you, they need keen enthusiastic teachers. In fact you will also be working with some great teachers, school leaders and educationalists. There are many many fantastic support staff too, who are also committed to the local community and the City. All those in senior positions are passionate about schools and young people – come and join us and commit yourself to working with us, we’ll support you and you won’t regret it,

brian_clough_statue_forest_by_mlt1-d2z4l9n

Even ol “big head” would love to see you working in Nottingham

Famous Locals:

  • Robin Hood – entrepeneur, thief, potential film star
  • William Booth – founder of the Salvation Army
  • Jesse Boot – founder of the Pharmaceutical Co Boots;
  • Brian Clough – football manager;
  • Sir Peter Mansfield – Nobel Prizewinner and inventor of the MRI Scanner
  • Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean – Ice dancers – oh yes we have a great ice rink!
  • Sir Frank Bowden – Raleigh bicycles
  • John Player – cigarettes
  • D H Lawrence – literature
  • Lord Byron –  literature
  • Alan Sillitoe – novelist
  • Sir Paul Smith – fashion
  • Dr Stewart Adams – discoverer and inventor of Ibuprofen ( Brufen, Nurofen)
  • Frederick Gibson Garton WHO? – inventor of Brown Sauce HP
  • Edgar Hooley WHO – inventor of tarmac
  • John Peake Knight WHO? – inventor of the traffic light ( gas powered!)
  • Harold Larwood – bodyline test series 1932 -33
  • Thomas Hawksley – civil engineer famed for ensuring safe water supplies in the 19th C
  • Albert Ball – First World War pilot and winner of VIctoria Cross
  • Stella Rimmington first female head of MI5
  • Samuel Fox – Quaker abolitionist and founder of Nottingham Building Society
  • Doug Scott – mountaineer
  • Ken Clark; Ed Balls; Geoff Hoon – recent political figures
  • Oh and Harold Shipman!
  • COULD it be you on here?

 

 

 

 

 

Friday period 0 – “Hope” in the head’s office

web-Balloon-girlAs a new head back in January I chose a theme for 2015. We are a church school and the previous head had been at the school 28 years as a deputy then as a head. He often told the children he “loved” them and they genuinely agreed. SO I long pondered on faith, hope and love BUT decided on…..

hope for a number of reasons but three compellingly convinced me:

1) I genuinely believe we need all need hope, and I ordered a copy of the Banksy shown here -well a copy not the original, for the office. “There is always hope” I wanted it up on the wall to point to and present for anyone who came my way be they upset, coping with tough stuff or on the edge of bad stuff. A daily reminder that we all need someone to have hope for us, in us and standing with us. A parent, a friend, a teacher can and perhaps must bring some hope in an age where we continue to worry over the health, especially the mental health and well being of each other.

2) This happened – I had taken a Y13 class a few years ago and it was the day all teachers so love when mocks are handed back. Their scripts were pretty bad. In those days I just went through he paper, we discussed exam technique BUT frankly they just didn’t know enough, understand enough and then applying tha weak gasp in a new situation as Salters’ demanded was impossible. I think few scored very well overall , some scraped an E or a D. There was me their committed energetic Chemistry teacher ( who had clearly taught them well) and their was me as Head of Sixth form having written great references as I did believe in them –  did they not see how they had done the proverbial ( let me down let their families down let the school down BUT worst of all let themselves down). Wow was I let down and wow did they get both barrels and although I was as nice as I could be and didn’t pick on individuals I made the points any reader knows well in the post mock debriefs. The class packed away and as the last Y13 left I just said “Are you OK with all that?” “Yes Sir” she said but her face told a different story full of angst and worry. “Go on ” I said “something is troubling you.” “well yes Sir – however bad it gets and you were dead right to tell us this was bad, you can carry on if you have hope, if you think someone still believes in you. ” She smiled and left. It was a critical moment, after that whenever I needed to deliver the same news (ie annually!) it was  a case of “you have a problem what can we do about it”.

3) When  I did my NPQH I have written elsewhere it wasn’t much help buntitledut I came across the writing of Alan Flintham. if you are a leader and have not read his book you should. “Reservoirs of Hope” The case is simple but profound. Heads and their offices should be places of hope, reservoirs of hope BUT what if the reservoir runs dry – what causes it to run dry and what can we do to ensure our own hope is “topped up”. That’s a gross oversimplification but read it and tell me if it isn’t full of wisdom from his time as a headteacher – yes as a headteacher not an inspector or advisor but sitting in that same office offering hope – and seeking ways to top it up.

If you are in a church school:

Hebrews 6:18, 19 that we can take hold of the hope set before us and may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

Isaiah 40:31   but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Psalm 71:14    As for me, I will always have hope;

No Questions this week a few quotes:

To live without Hope is to cease to live.         Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.  Helen Keller

Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more; Love more, and all good things will be yours. Swedish Proverb

Iconic image of the 2008 Presidential campaign by Shepard Fairey,

Iconic image of the 2008 Presidential campaign by Shepard Fairey,

Walk on, through the wind
Walk on, through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone

 

You might like to read other posts from my timetable of teaching – each is set out from lesson in the school week, before or after school or at the weekends, appropriate to the time of day. I have also started a  class lists or “set lists” which was to answer the questions: “why be a teacher?”or “why have other responsibilities in a school?” Shortly I am starting a new area about progress from one role or experience in teaching to another with hints and tips about successfully moving on in the job and your teaching career.

Monday period 3 – Qualified Teachers – What exactly do we mean by qualified?

There has been much discussion about qualified teachers and unqualified teachers in schools. Let me start off by saying I am qualified I have a degree in chemistry from a reasonable RG University (at the start of the river Thames)  and I could probably be a Masters but I never paid my £15. I have a PGCE and I did my NPQH. So I am I qualified I think.

untitled

So does that mean I’m a good chemist? I hope so or at least I was.

Am I a good teacher? I’d like to think so.

Am I a good  headteacher?Well that remains to be seen.

  • There is a distinction between a qualification and the practice and ongoing CPD or training so I was glad to do my PGCE before I got started as a full-time teacher. However it didn’t prepare me for every eventuality. By the time I finished my first year I knew that I could survive in a classroom, I could manage behaviour and yes I could teach pupils some things if not most, but some parts of my subject I could not teach very well. In my second year I taught some things again and inevitably they were a bit better but it was in my third year where I really thought I could do with doing my PGCE again. There were some aspects of Chemistry and some children I just couldn’t manage to teach.

graduation-caps-in-airI hadn’t taught these topics or children successfully  in the first year or the second or third time and I faced up to “I really don’t think the class are going to be able to get this topic and I don’t know what to do about it” – and there was no internet, blogs or twitter.

During my NPQH I quite enjoyed the reading and research it was good to revisit and understand some proper educational research however during the whole of my time I didn’t meet a practising secondary headteacher ( save my own) only a lot of aspiring headteachers. There were aspects of headship I was worried about such as the competency regulations or managing budgets weren’t really touched upon but more than that. I was looking for some inspiration some passionate headteacher who would tell me that the job was better than the job that I was doing, a job which I thoroughly enjoyed .image

Well we aren’t strictly qualified for many things we have to do in school:

  • I have had to do pastoral work in areas that I’m a little uncertain about and whilst quite experienced now (=old) so I have seen most things but in my early days I worried about some of the sessions I had to lead on relationships/news and sone questions were bounced away.
  • Sometimes I had to cover lessons in fact I think I probably covered every subject I’m not really qualified for every subject so some of those cover lessons were not very good. My favourite cover lesson was an English lesson, I went in and the work set was carry on reading the novel. the pupils duly took out copies oftake a copy of the Wolves of Willoughby Chase. imageI sat down to do some marking I looked up all the class was staring at me, what was the matter. One boy said we don’t really read the book on our own. My next suggestion was to read around the class. “Why don’t we start with you Robert you can start reading.” Nothing happened. “OK ” I say so I started reading a little bit of the book with a view to asking them to carry time in due course – “No! Sir, you have to do all the accents.” This polite young teacher “Oh shut up and read quietly!”
  • Sometimes I’ve taught other subjects which for me includes Biology – I have no qualification in Biology. At my school (all boys ) we didn’t do O-Level Biology! Ok so I’ve read it up but it’s just not the same, I’ve no idea how important basics are in fact unsure what basics are. I’m a little better at Physics but when we had a shortage of ICT staff and I taught that I was literally two lessons ahead of my Y8 class. I have an ability to kill interest in any other subject – compared to what I genuinely feel I can do in Chemistry. It’s now 2015 and a long long time since I did my PGCE, so I do hope and so do my pupils- that I have moved on since 1981, after all I only had chalk, blackboard, and a delightful banda machine and a few textbooks – no IWB No internet, mind no data, no microchemistry and little contact with other teachers.image 2(3)
  • Sometimes I’ve spotted a gap in my lessons of a pupil’s literacy knowledge or maths skills; maybe these are not done in the other subjects  or maybe they are done badly maybe not understood or more likely finding it difficult to apply the ideas in a different room with a different teacher. I’m not a qualified mathematician but I sure can teach the Maths my way to help my Chemists. ( Something very important in the new world where we have 20% Maths in Chemistry BOO)
  • Most of my career I’ve been a “head a sixth form” and over some 20 years and many a time I’ve said to myself I think I’ve seen every scrape a post16 person gets into, then just before I finish that sentence a situation will present itself which I’ve probably never had to cope with . No qualifications help but experience, some little wisdom and a good instinct is what we rely on.

So it is more than just qualifications, but dont get me wrong  I’m a headteacher and I want qualified people – those with a subject they love and a passion for young people.

My best teachers were my Mum and Dad they had no formal qualifications and at home we had very few books or resources, I have blogged elsewhere about going to the library weekly with my Dad. So my parents fostered curiosity, integrity, discipline, character, diligence. They set high aims and ambitions – I wish I knew how. They seemed to produce a son interested in Chemistry and Science yet they had no scientific background at all. How? Well I suspect that was about partnership my parents and their attitudes and my teachers with their “expertise”. My classes at school all had 32 boys in – the same 32 every day every year but at home it was just me and Mum and Dad and their questions and interest in me. That made them very special teachers – we can all learn from people like that.

Mr Dexter at the RSC EIC 50th. School chemistry over 50 years

Mr Dexter at the RSC EIC 50th. School chemistry over 50 years

Questions

Q1 As it is obviour we cannot be prepared for every eventuality in a school, do we rely too much on “qualifications” ?

Q2 Are qualifications overrated? The most highly qualified person might not be the best teacher, let alone be able to communicate with the pupil who finds the subject very challenging.

Q3 Design the qualifications necessary for the job? – or get proper investment in CPD?

For those in a Church school

Daniel 1:3,4: Then the king ordered his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.

Hebrews 5:12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!

Proverbs 5:13 I would not obey my teachers or turn my ear to my instructors.

 

You might like to read other posts from my timetable of teaching – each is set out from lesson in the school week, before or after school or at the weekends, appropriate to the time of day. I have also started a  class lists or “set lists” which was to answer the questions: “why be a teacher?”or “why have other responsibilities in a school?” Shortly I am starting a new area about progress from one role or experience in teaching to another with hints and tips about successfully moving on in the job and your teaching career.

Saturday Period 2 – A Conference? Really? What use is that?

imageSo, what is so good about conferences. When you have a stack of work to do and a family and heck there is all that stuff on work life balance, why oh why attend a conference in London Thought I might try to justify this to myself as I return home from ASCL 2015 or #ascl2015 as we tweeters say!

1) Networking – well with so many people this felt fairly tricky. However by nature you meet people, at meal times, over coffee and in sessions. I like to somehow benchmark my own thinking on topics. So as an example when I was at a session on Ofsted, did I know:

  • “most” of what we were hearing?
  • do I understand and comprehend it any better?
  • what does it mean to me and my school or staff or pupils?
  • am I clearer what we have to do next?

That is less easy when the sessions come thick and fast. So in the informal conversations with the colleagues i just looked out; are their worries mine, are my concerns and therefore my energies pointing the right way?

2) Inspiration. I do love conferences when a speaker you havent heard about shows up and blows you away. The session by Dr Vicky Phillips was like this. Forget about taking notes, forget about nuance and what it might mean for the work we do, just be reminded exactly why you came into the job. BE inspired again to go back and make a difference to children’s lives.  This session did that for me. Then there was the inner chimp. I’ve come across this at a bit of a distance but the talk from Professor Steve Peters was just so uplifting, funny, clever, and made the points so well. This made me want to consider what that all might mean for my school and me and children and so on but it also cheered my spirit. It reminded me what great people there are out there – and if I am honest, it’s probably another book to buy an not read through a lack of you know what.

3) Focus. As a relatively new head but quite a long-in-the-tooth school leader I still struggle to ensure that someone has the big vision, when you are busy with the needs of children, teachers, support staff, and…… ( I really don’t want to make a list starting with Ofsted, Governors because it reminds me of all the responsibilities) So having read the ASCL documents on their ideas which I tend to read over on a Friday evening with a nodding head ( Oh OK yes and a glass of wine). So to hear two ASCL people bring the whole thing to life and begin to capture their vision and therefore hone my own gave me a focus. staring at the slogan “Trust to transform”. It also helped me reflect a little and therefore adjust my own thinking and vision. Actually I think I could have called those sessions ” more inspiration but with a massive dose of common sense”

image4) Confirmation. This may not be the right word but the session by Sir Michael Barber was good-humoured, and insightful and gave hints of life in the midst of government. It is so refreshing when you learn something knew – Well I never knew that about Anthony Blunt! But it was also clever it showed ASCL how it might actually help government and how leaders might influence very positively. It showed their ideas in the blueprint are doable, in fact he said Congratulations to ASCL ( his words n ot mine) on the work they were doing. But there were nuances which also rang true for example his points about “getting routines right” in government apply to us in schools. Much of our work day-to-day isn’t clever or smart it is routine, it is a system working. Schools are complex organisations and so routines we have such as those concerning communications need to be dependable, reliable and proven to work and not changed every five minutes. You can find a copy of “Leading the Way:Blueprint for a Self-Improving System” here.

5) Political. Any conference with three political party leaders in Education speaking just prior to a General Election must be political. we heard from Hunt for Labour, Laws for Liberal Democrats and Morgan for Conservatives ( Morgan of course being SoS for Education). I missed one but I am not sure I missed much. They tell their audiences stuff which felt to me in my cynical way electioneering so my parody ” we love teachers, we love schools we love heads and we appreciate what you do” I think every politician I have hard at such a conference says ‘we have the best generation of……’ Proof of pudding and all that though – are they listening to us? Nicky Morgan made an important point at the start of her speech along the lines that everyone you meet has a view about education ( probably because they have been through it or are in it) and no two people seem to agree. WHilst that is true I still think some of the people in the room today know a great deal about Education rather than because I once went to school I am an expert” we all have lots of views on lots of matters – try a google search for Clarkson! It did cross my mind there was a lot of very expensive people in the room and most are highly professional and deserve ( collectively if not individually) to be heard, listened to carefully and consulted. It would be naive to think those of us who work day by day year by year with children do not want the very best for them. I will judge this after the election, when we will see if the concerns expressed over these few days on serious matters like school budgets are answered in the black and white and not the vagaries of politicspeak ” there is no silver bullet etc”

6) Practicality. I guess we school leaders are practical people so a round of sessions on performance management, Ofsted, the new A Level and many others hands over sound advice and ideas. Once agin they allow a leader to think where they stand in the discussions and maybe adjust priorities or resources. I have thought a few times that a revolutionary reaction to many of the policy changes isnt helpful, in fact even my favoured evolutionary change may not be right ( albeit better or less worse than revolutionary). However a conference gives chance to have a think again.

7) The crowd and me. Well there were a lot of people in most of the meetings 800 -1200, they applauded stuff I applauded and when they laughed or muttered so did I. I have to think if that means I followed the crowd but I suppose It offers reassurance in the complex world I often feel I inhabit. I went with a colleague this year and this allowed lots of conversation about our school, and I really enjoyed that opportunity. Some supportive conversations, some challenging ones, much agreement with direction, some definite confirmation and some ‘Oh hang on’ moments. Also the definite start of a plan for this, a shelve the ideas on that. A chance to visit the exhibition together and pick up information on relevent topics and aspects of school improvement or on stuff you just hadn’t thought of in the daily hurly burly.

I don’t think organisers can plan to promise to deliver any of these outcomes and the infamous feedback sheets or these days feedback on the app probably don’t cover some matters here. So this school leader just says thank you for all that organising, inspiring, confirming, challenging and supporting – kind of glad you are there, no actually I’m very glad and gladerrer I was able to join you.

imageQuestions

Q1 What did you gain most from this conference if you were there?

Q2 Why do you go to such Conferences?

Q3 What is the best bit of going to conferences?

You can read the speeches and catch up on presentations here.

Going up and down - with various stops on the way!

Goig up, going down with various stops in between! Hmmmm

Nice hotel but soent a lot of time waiting for or in, one of these 🙂

Friday period 3 – Secondary schools – trust, thank and love your Primaries

As a new head I have been reminded of that infamous Donald Rumsfeld quote. Slightly misquoting him: “There are aspects about being a headteacher which I think I know about: teaching, learning, assessment, results, data, behaviour, systems, child protection etc Then there are some aspects I know I do not know so much about, for me these include primary transition, special needs, curriculum planning, budgets and HR. Then of course I have found things I never knew I was supposed to know about like counterterrorism, energy status, injections. Fortunately I have really good people around me helping me, as well as my own mentor. I decided to include in my first term a visit to the primaries associated with our school and meet the children and staff without being a nuisance. I already knew my primary head colleagues in our Trust were good people from previous meetings with them but what a privilege to see them in action in their own schools. It was also special for me to find many ex-students now teaching or being TA’s in those schools. Wonderful to see young people who we had helped through the sixth form with progress into HE and UCAS decisions and A Level stress who got into their chosen courses and now were proving to be great primary staff.

When I was a head of sixth form it was obvious to me that we benefited post 16 from all the work staff (including me!) had put into the pupils in KS3 and KS4 – not just their learning but also their attitude and behaviours. Why had I never thought about that in the same manner when considering our primaries. So here are some reasons why I love our primaries:

1.Managing Change. imageThere may be different sorts of change in Primary schools but they are still having to work hard on stuff like ‘life without levels’, like SEND. Whilst I know they don’t get so much PP time I had overlooked staff are not necessarily part of big teams for support, help and sharing. They may do so with other schools but it is still time consuming and like us they are all committed to delivery in the classroom. This means it can feel lonely managing change – but they get on with it!

2.The bread and butter work imageThe basic are no different, teaching, learning, behaviour, attendance, etc The pressures might be a little different (Ok so no difficult teenagers) but I had forgotten the issues as my own children are now grown up and they have to cope with the usual ups and downs of life but meeting issues of ill parents, or bereavement perhaps for the first time. I’ve not written much about our buildings, just to say we lost our bsf and have had very little capital investment but done our best to look after the site even with a road in between. However these might fade to be less significant compared to some of the issues with little people and their facilities. So often I was reminded of my favourite quote from a colleague. Better to be a good school in poor buildings than be a ……

3. Know your children. In our primaries the heads seem to know all the children, the children so look up to them and are so pleased when the head notices their progress which they do often.Well hang on I have the same aim, I try to ask pupils how they are getting on but looking again at my intro I have people to help me with budgets, HR, cover. They have help and they might be smaller but I was still impressed they keep such a high priority on the learning going on. They are also fairly expert in everything – I’m quite good at science and reasonable at maths and ICT and a few other areas but a bit clueless on others like Art ( despite my efforts) – back in the KS2 arena they seem to know everything. I was reminded just how great are great primary teachers.

image

4.The work. I saw so many enthusiastic children and teachers and all working really hard, I was literally blown away by what I saw going on and by what was in the books and indeed the marking and feedback. My previous admiration of the primary teacher moved up a few notches. I met some Year 0 children searching for photos on the computer, copying and pasting, I started by being impressed and then was a bit scared about what they will be like by age 11 when we get to see them in a secondary.

image5. The ethos. If reader you have seen my blog about Chinese heads visit they kept asking me how we got the school ethos over to the children, a question I continue to think about and wrestle with answering. Well here was something to help my thinking – it starts in Primary. This might be because we are faith schools in a RC MAT and so the ethos of an RC school is fairly clearly defined, we have priests who work with us all, we even share our chaplains. Whether it’s that or something else I can see just how much we benefit from the way our primaries are bringing up their children.

So here I am bowing down to the empire of the Primary sector, the Kings and Queens and the foot soldiers and saying thank you for all you do. It confirmed for me the best reasons about academisation was working even more closely together with the primaries to serve our community. A community where the little people I met asked me if I knew their older brother or sister at “your school” – some I did but some I didn’t; a confession none of those heroic heads would be ignorant about. A community where many of the primary staff went to our secondary or have children at our secondary or worship in our parish communities. I so thank you for allowing me a glimpse into your world, thanks for all you do, keep it up. You have helped me with my vision, I hope we can continue to work together over transition and in the future I suspect we might find ourselves working even more closely together. In every sense we really are in this together!

image

Here is a challenge- work with a feeder primary organise teacher visits maybe half a day – see their job; planning, teaching, marking, assessing, feedback see how little people tick. Then swop, and let them see you. Have some time discussing with each other what you find out about the job. I bet it leads to school improvement – bet!

Questions

Q1 What ways can we help each other without any patronising or unnecessary attitudes?

Q2 What ways might we improve transition, especially with the issues around admissions?

Q3 Closer ways to work together for primaries and secondaries in the future?

For those in Church schools

Ephesians 6:2-4 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honour your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth”. Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

1 Peter 2:17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God and honour the emperor.

Acts 24:3 Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude.

Ephesians 4:16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

 

You might like to read other posts from my timetable of teaching – each is set out from lesson in the school week, before or after school or at the weekends, appropriate to the time of day. I have also started a  class lists or “set lists” which was to answer the questions: “why be a teacher?”or “why have other responsibilities in a school?” Shortly I am starting a new area about progress from one role or experience in teaching to another with hints and tips about successfully moving on in the job and your teaching career.

Tuesday period 6 – “How was school today John?”

image

This is my Mother who sadly passed away in March 2016 having just turned 96. I am very proud of her, and although she was a little more frail in her final days, she was as sharp and good humoured as I can ever remember. I spoke to her every day, and our conversation had a reliability about it. She always asked me ‘how was school today?” it’s a question I have heard from aged about 5 to 18, and it re emerged as I started my PGCE back in the 1980’s. It’s a genuine question about me, about the day, about the children I teach and the colleagues I work with. In some ways it epitomises my Mum and perhaps a good parent. It didn’t end there, at tea time, oh No. Any spellings or vocab was tested to destruction, my books were looked at, not checked just read with a genuine interest, delight and conversation. Of course as a very little person I was read to, and listened to with glee, with enthusiasm and with endless patience. She did of course have to tell me off occasionally but I’m sure for every harsh word were a hundred of encouragement and hope. She was the eternal optimist and there was always bags of encouragement to me and my friends: ‘never mind pick yourself up, there is always hope’ there spoke a survivor of the Coventry Blitz.

image

As a young teacher I was a little scared about parents’ evenings, I had all my facts and wondered what I might be asked. I soon found and continue to find most parents want to know the same things wrapped up in many a question, it boils down to: how their child is progressing, how well they are doing ( just compared to where I think they should be) if their child is trying and what they as a parent can do to help – I need my Mum there to tell them! Over many years of such evenings and other meetings with parents I think this is what most conversations distil out at. Of course for some they really do want to know “what they can do” with something of an air of despair – perhaps about behaviour, or effort or attitude. Then there are a few who just want to have a go at the school, if not me personally but very few.image

Once I had got over my fears of meeting parents I moved into the rather arrogant place of wanting to tell some parents just what to do! I still hear some teachers say ” wait until I see the parents of ‘ ‘ and I’ll certainly let them know what their child is like and what discipline is necessary. I rarely hear this from teachers who have their own children. Once I got one of my own to bring up I understood how tricky, how tiring and yet rewarding and challenging is the whole parenting thing.
I have a little theory that many children behave better at school than they do at home and we might work on the assumption that the smaller indiscretions or bad habits in school, the more that will be on show at home. This means parents, often without the backup of a big organisation ( no tutor to refer to, no head of year, no SLT, no green referral system no access to sims) their tasks are even more difficult.

imageI am a strong believer in the vital link between pupil, parent and teacher. I am also keen on the support of the wider community, it’s one of the best bits of working in a faith school. However it just isn’t easy bringing up children, even now with my two grown up I keep thinking I’m glad not to be doing that bit again, especially in this generation ’twas ever thus’. However schools must work closely with parents, we must communicate sensibly with them. We have lots of data and lots of jargon – some of it we find confusing. Think of the word ‘target’ we might wrestle with ‘predicted’, ‘actual’, ‘FFT’ (which one again oh D) in school I do hope staff are clear but we need to keep it simple for parents. This goes against some of my other blogs where I argue a complex organisation like a school should not be summed up in a word or a number. Our reporting must be simple BUT not just data never ever just numbers – ‘oh she is secure level 3′ perish the day. I think it’s why parents get fairly incensed when they sense teachers use phrases from a bank of sentences on reports. I think they understand it must be difficult writing 30 or 60 reports etc but they really want to know we care, that we know their child and we can show that to them in an annual report and at a parents’ evening or if we bump into them

I realise there is another post here about dealing with awkward parents (awkward in being unsupportive and awkward in being helicopter parents) but I’m considering the majority, those who want to see their children do well and genuinely trust the school. They really want their child to succeed, discover their interests for themselves turn from children into young adults. They probably know there will be a few bumps in the journey, they will probably take their child’s view more often than we would like ( it’s our job to help show them there are 2 sides). It’s also worth reminding ourselves how intimidating school can be for some parents, especially if the school has had to have ‘a word’ with them about behaviour – already scared to come up to the school, they now expect an evening of ear bashing and don’t come.image

Key to me is the relationships built up with parents from the year 6 welcome evening to Year 11 or Year 13. Formal stuff like parents evenings, letters, emails, web stories, local media stories, imageand informal at the school show, or on the touch-line for sport or after the concert. In fact I think it even goes beyond Y11 (Y13) beyond that. We should ‘keep in touch’ not formally but as opportunity arises, a kind of ‘once a X school parent and pupil, always a part of the community’

imageEx pupils and parents are the future parents and grandparents, maybe the future teachers, or support staff, or governors, or political leaders. That’s why community is important, and ethos and expectations. Year 6 welcome gets easier when a majority “know” what a school stands for, and expects of their children and of them. They might want help too on bringing their children up – help with e-safety on substance abuse, on bullying etc. A headteacher visit from Brazil recently told me he had school part 1 and school part 2 where parents went to school in the evening for basic skills ; literacy, numeracy, IT etc I know we are beyond that but the school commitment to parents was a vital part of the role.

Our recent visitors from China wanted to know how we communicated our ethos into our children and I found it difficult to explain – we just do! In thinking of an answer I realised again the importance of considering the parents and carers and remembering they too have bothers, concerns and stuff happening in their lives. I’m not saying we compromise behaviour because of what happens at home but we need to consider it, support, help and educate.

Parents please engage, schools can help, pupils can grow in confidence. Last words to my Mum “How was school today John?”

I first wrote this on a Friday in February 2015 and sadly on Saturday night/Sunday morning my Mum fell in her flat and broke her hip. We spent most of the day being wonderfully looked after by the NHS – thank you Queens Medical Centre. After an ambulance ride, A and E, assessment and onto a ward, they decided to get her a new hip ASAP. So by Monday lunchtime she was with the surgeon and by the evening she had a new hip and was sitting up in bed chatting away, drinking tea and guess what? Yep she straight asked me “how was school today?” 🙂

Some questions to consider

Q1 Do young staff need specific training in speaking with parents’?

Q2 What do the most effective schools do to engage parents who are scared of school, hate school or are not so interested in their child’s education?

Q3 Do parent teachers make better teachers?


 

If you work in a church school:

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Colossians 3:20  Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

Exodus 20:12  Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

Proverbs 6:20 keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.

 

You might like to read other posts from my timetable of teaching – each is set out from lesson in the school week, before or after school or at the weekends, appropriate to the time of day. I have also started a  class lists or “set lists” which was to answer the questions: “why be a teacher?”or “why have other responsibilities in a school?” Shortly I am starting a new area about progress from one role or experience in teaching to another with hints and tips about successfully moving on in the job and your teaching career.

Tuesday period 1 – Chinese Principals arrive

China 2This last week we hosted 10 Chinese Principals, two interpreters and a facilitator from the National College and University of Nottingham, International team. I would be interested what other SLT, Heads and teachers make of these sorts of visits. All the way from Guangdong they arrived to spend about a month in England with some tourism and much work together on leadership and five days of school visits in three schools, one of these was two days with us.

For me one week into headship is was a genuine privilege to show the school and work out how to do that. In fact as a deputy I always considered it an honour if anyone wanted to come and visit the school, we have had other overseas visitors but of course other school teams, business people and even the odd MP and councillor. I have also enjoyed my own visits to other schools – after all we are all lifelong learners.

They started with a tour of school accompanied by 6 ‘little people’ from school council in pairs with a translator and 3 adults – I was so proud of our Y8 children who returned dutifully with the visitors spot on time, and with big smiles – they had enjoyed showing off their school and answering questions. They then observed lessons in a number of subjects, frankly ones that can manage 10 visitors plus two interpreters plus two of our own mandarin speaker helpers ( who were wonderful – aren’t children jus so able to rise to the occasion). I also arranged it to be Maths and Science (my prejudice, we do these quite well) and also creative areas: Design and Art and also Modern Languages (which we also do well!) Colleagues were very accommodating in fact so were their departments, it’s not really easy being observed as visitors come around, chat with you and children and take a few photos in fact a lot of photos.

China 3I also arranged a few talks which I thought might be interesting: about our school and my (new) vision and after some basic stats, some narrative about the best parts and some guesses at the worst (only done a week remember), some budgets some accountability stuff some stuff about what I think is important and some which bother me about the future. They also heard about our pastoral work and how we teach English and the role of a middle leader. We finished with discussion between them and 5 staff. There really wasn’t enough time to answer their questions perhaps some were too hard – ‘how do you show an ethos to your pupils and help them learn to appreciate it?’

China 8They brought gifts,, some beautiful China cups through to beautiful handmade pennants and even pupils work. Which meant more photos. This showed me how much they honoured the occasion and I was particularly struck when I introduced a colleague who had taught for 30 years they applauded very warmly in their acknowledgment for him as a teacher, clearly for them he had to be recognised and very well honoured, such respect I think even he was surprised. I think we can learn something there.

 

So what did we find out:

  • They get moved around their provinces, they don’t have a jobs market. They work hard and they retire at 55 on full pay, pay isn’t so high as here by a long way ( equivalent to about £20,000 -£25,000) but they are held in great respect in their communities and by others. They have very high status and are  well looked after’ they told me, for example if they find themselves ill. Teachers teach about half a week timetable the rest dedicated to marking and prep. Wow!
  • One Principal commented on the support given to the children in school. He liked our work with SEND, EAL pupils and with any behavioural issues one to one. He felt support was much stronger. He said our management was ‘stronger and straightforward’ particularly with ‘ naughty’ children. This surprised me but there appear to be pressures on them ( much like here) from all sorts of angles too. Their worries matched some of ours, they were worried about inclusion, they were worried about some patterns in behaviour and wondered if we had rare occasion when parents were not so supportive!
  • They quizzed me long about accountability, who was I responsible to? Well my list was long ( children/parents/staff/governors Diocese, Ofsted) until essentially it rests with governors. I think they felt we were under more pressure than them overall , but I don’t know.
  • Their schools are often very large , our visitor’s schools ranged from 3000 to about 5000 pupils. One with 4000 pupils, said our professionalism was different and he found the atmosphere in our lessons alive and exciting. In essence they enjoyed those creative and practical activities we use in learning. They seemed to note we were looking out to engage all pupils in our lesson. He said the teaching was more practical and inspirational ” something we want to learn from” I was blown away by that.
  • Some still kept asking me how we got our ethos into our pupils and had an extra hour with our assistant head who is head of RE ( worth a reminder we are an RC school ). They are Principals and they have ‘heads’ under them responsible for progress etc too but I couldn’t tell if Pastoral work was part of the core job.
  • They also asked us about multicultural aspects which was of interest, in a City like Nottingham lots of our pupils don’t have English as first language of course, I think that made them think a little.
  • I mentioned staff recruitment, they wondered how we hung onto out best teachers. In China one principal told me if he had 10 vacancies in his school there would likely be 800+ people to choose from.

Overall they came to learn, and to honour us, which they definitely managed to do. I wished we had had more time for me to find out more but it was their visit to us. From our point of view we have all learned things too, but three things really struck me:

1 Their honour, respect, and pride in their profession and in us too, shown to me and my colleagues as well as our children. It was almost tangible and amazing to watch their faces hanging on almost our every word.

2 Whatever I read about Chinese schools and Maths and standards and PISA number 1 etc they aren’t too different in the questions they ask and the systems they develop and the ambitions they all have, their worries and their commitments

3 In the end their interest was in the children in their care, their learning progress and even their morals – so despite the cultural journey and 5000 miles, not that too much different

Here is a link to the story in our  Local Newspaper  Nottingham Post.

Some Questions

Q1 What do you see as the value of such visits to your school?

Q2 Can we learn from other cultures as much as we can learn from schools in the UK, be they similar or with better outcomes?

Q3 Do we have more in common than what we have as differences?

 

For those in a Church school

Acts 28:7   There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days.

Hebrews 13:2   Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

3 John 1:8   We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.

Proverbs 29:18    Where there is no vision, the people perish: but whoever keeps the law, will be happy.