Educational Idealism @Mroberts90Matt

Recently, as has been commented on, EduTwitter seems to have been rocked with graceless mud-slinging and overloaded accusations from both sides of the debate. The Michaela Academy has caused massive verbal rants, cruel insults (from both sides) and elongated Twitter conversations. Seriously, I actually spent 20 minutes reading through one of them, captivated at how…pointless…the debate was and then realised I had wasted 20 minutes of my life.
(By the way, I say pointless not because there was nothing to be debated – rather that hundreds of tweets were casted and nothing really changed, just a negative tone on my Twitter feed).

Despite this raging issue, which as I write this still is ongoing, there are issues in education which everyone seems to agree with. So why is everyone using their efforts to engage in discussions which are having no impact other than to cause divide and paint others in the negative light. It is clear that those within Michaela feel there has been a hate campaign and that others feel that their methods go against their personal views. I have my views, yet I am not going to comment on who and which side I am in agreement with – there’s enough practitioners doing that very well.

I want to focus on those issues which have popped up alongside the Michaela debate that are either ongoing or that are changing. Unfortunately, it seems that these issues that everyone agrees with are more difficult to overcome or never seem to have an easy answer. I call these ‘Educational Ideals’ because we all know that there must be a better way – it just seems that right now there isn’t a clear way forward. However, if all educators unite their efforts to these, then positive change will happen. I will list a few examples here:

  1. Ending the SATs Anxiety

Here I am not calling for an end to SATs. They are necessary. I personally feel that we can  keep schools accountable by measuring the progress of pupils. However it is the way that these tests and results are used that are the issue. High-stakes testing is causing a strain on schools, staff and children and this negative source will have an impact. We can agree that the anxiety caused by SATs is unsustainable – what can teachers do to raise their voices and end this anxiety?

2. Reducing the Ofsted Workload

Here I am not calling for an end to Ofsted. They are necessary. I personally feel that we can keep schools accountable by ensuring there is a good level standard of teaching and learning going on in schools and they are maintaining educational excellence with outstanding leadership. However it is the way that these inspections and visits are conducted and prepared for that is the issue. High-stakes monitoring is causing a strain on schools and staff and this negative source will have an impact. We can agree that the fear caused by Ofsted inspections is unsustainable – what can teachers do to raise their voices and end this fear?

Fortunately teachers have been heard on this matter. Ofsted, however this has been done, have heard the outcries and they are starting to make more proactive steps to try and reduce the workload created by their visits. Ofsted produced a document a couple of years ago which outlined myths which unfortunately a number of schools still haven’t taken into consideration: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-inspection-handbook-from-september-2015/ofsted-inspections-mythbusting

As recently as the 18th January, Sean Harford posted a blog outlining again some myths about safeguarding in Ofsted inspections to try and make expectations clear and consistent. https://educationinspection.blog.gov.uk/2017/01/18/keeping-children-safe-in-education-and-ofsteds-role/

Of course some schools may be reluctant to listen to these assurances by Ofsted themselves in case they receive an inspector who still expects something that has been debunked. That’s when we can refer to these documents from Ofsted. We must spread this to all schools so all staff can be relieved of unnecessary burdens.

3. Ending the Marking Madness

Here I am not calling for an end to marking (…or do I mean feedback – that’s a whole other debate). It is necessary. I personally feel that we must  keep children aware of their learning by feeding back effectively on the learning they have recorded. However it is the way that this marking is monitored and in what format it is expected that is the problem. High-volume marking (in amount and expectation) is causing a strain on schools and staff and this negative source will have an impact on well-being if not managed. We can agree that the fatigue caused by marking is unsustainable – what can teachers do to raise their voices and end this fatigue?

Again, this is something which has had a recent development! Ofsted – in the updated myth-busting document mentioned earlier – have made it clear that they have no specific expectation on the quantity of marking. They state:
“Ofsted recognises that marking and feedback to pupils, both written and oral, are important aspects of assessment. However, Ofsted does not expect to see any specific frequency, type or volume of marking and feedback; these are for the school to decide through its assessment policy. Marking and feedback should be consistent with that policy, which may cater for different subjects and different age groups of pupils in different ways, in order to be effective and efficient in promoting learning.

Perfect news right? The days of complex colour coding and dialogue between teacher and pupil written endlessly in books are gone right? Ofsted have done their part and made it clear what they do and don’t expect – but again, not all schools will know/take this on board for fear they will be inspected by an inspector that will expect it. As such, their marking policy may not be reducing teacher’s workloads. And because of the statement highlighted in bold (Marking and feedback should be consistent with that policy) whether you like it or not – if your school has a ridiculous marking policy, you will be expected by Ofsted to mark ridiculously!

So what is the answer? If your school is still implementing ineffective, workload-inducing marking policies then speak out. Say something to the SLT, show the Ofsted document and present a new strategy that will still fit in Ofsted guidelines but reduce workload.

Use our Teacher Voice

As educationalists we can make these ideals happen – but instead of throwing comments and causing divides, we must raise our voices on what really matters. Positive change is happening – let’s shout about it so ALL hear this and prevent any negative changes in the future.

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