Why I Will strike and support my Union

The NASUWT and NUT are striking “to defend teachers and the education service against government attacks which include:

  1. pay
  2. pensions
  3. workload pressures
  4. conditions
  5. inspections
  6. job security”

That is a pretty big list. I am a union member in a region due to go out on 17/1/0/13. In a brief response to this list I would say:

  1. We are in times of austerity. I would not consider this a reason to be striking at the moment
  2. The amount of money that all of us are losing because of changes to pensions is huge. We should definitely be making a strong stand on this. the loss of a day’s pay is nothing compared to how much we will all be losing over the following decades. Get on your union website and fill in their spreadsheets if you haven’t already to see how much you stand to lose
  3. Please see previous posts of mine on this
  4. Those academies and their ‘open 51 weeks of the year’ scare me. We should be ensuring our conditions are not damaged through the “academisation” of schools. We cannot work any harder or longer. No one who has not taught a full day in any KS1-5 school does not know how draining it is.
  5. OFSTED is an awful system but i wouldn’t strike about it (for an excellent insight into what to do with OFSTED, see Tom Bennett’s article in the TES)
  6. Fortunately I have seen little evidence of this happening in the schools in my local area. So i feel unable to comment on this issue.

Add those together and I support the action of the 2 unions and will be taking action this month and after half term if necessary as well. If we don’t take action then the government will know they can treat us how they like in the future and who know where that could lead

However there is a stronger and vitally more important reason I shall be striking.

I am a member of the union. The union has taken a legal and democratic vote and the decision was clearly to strike. IT IS MY DUTY AS A UNION MEMBER TO SUPPORT THIS. If I don’t stand with my union how can I reasonably expect them to take action on my behalf? When I had a horrible and baseless and stupid and possibly career ending accusation made against me, it was my union who sent along a legal representative to meetings and assured me over and over again that they would assist me. MY UNION SUPPORTS ME SO I SUPPORT THEM. We have to act together. Even if I had voted against striking, because the union as a whole had voted for it, I would still join them in walking out.

The philosophy of unions has been unfashionable ever since the 1970s when press and government attacks on them were so successful. To stand up for and stand up with your fellow human being is seen as a laughable and even naive action to take. I disagree. To take action for the common and greater good is exactly the sort of things I want both my pupils to grow up doing and the society I live in to be like. If you don’t think in that way then I cannot understand why you pay your union fees.

“I kept the faith and I kept voting
Not for the iron fist but for the helping hand
For theirs is a land with a wall around it
And mine is a faith in my fellow man.”

Michael Gove is Correct, Absolutely Correct

When Maths and English students have been endlessly pulled out of other classes to to extra revision sessions , when SLT talk about Key Marginals ,when pupils have been forced to sit 2 different syllabus for English, when they have had to endless re-sits for maths we have always been told it is all for the benefit of the individual students and not at all all about improving the school’s 5 A*-C (including English and Maths) or lining someone’s CV with positive looking statistics.

But now Michael Gove wants only the first attempt at a GCSE by a pupil to count toward the whole school’s figures and their position on the league tables and the leader of the ASCL says “It is grossly unfair to make changes like this when courses are already under way.”. Instead of cheering the lifting of endless exams from the shoulders of 15 year olds, Brian Lightman, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders seems to be complaining that schools have been caught cheating the system. And by moaning in such a way it becomes abundantly clear that all that force feeding and cramming was never really for the students’ benefit after all.

and what do you know? I am agreeing for the very first time with the Secretary of State for Education, The Right Honourable Michael Gove and agreeing wholeheartedly

Education for Sale

I remember the days when the local paper would run a 4 page pull out advertising feature on private schools in the area. You could peruse which one had photos showing the most wholesome looking 10-year-old violin players or the happiest looking 13 year olds in boaters smiling out at you. And with each ad was the date of their open day. “Give us a few thousand every term and we will protect your offspring from having to mix with pupils who didn’t have their mild dyslexia certified by a private consultant.” was the unspoken deal.


You could easily understand why St Blazer-on-the-Wold prep school had to advertise; they were a business, they needed more bums on seats, they weren’t protected by the cushion of an LEA. It was business folks. What else did you expect?


But slowly and surely with the cushion withdrawn and Head Teachers wanting to prove themselves both on the OFSTED report as well as with numbers on roll, more and more emphasis is being put on state schools and their marketing arm “Best results ever” hangs the banner over the reception block at the front of school”. The Deputy head is desperately trying to contact the picture editor on the erstwhile local rag. He wants to ensure the picture that goes into the GCSE exam result article isn’t the one that includes the boy who dyed his hair purple. Local demographics are closely studied to see how future numbers might be rising or, heaven forbid, falling.


While inside school meetings, the Head is talking about our “competitor” schools and cursing that the comprehensive on the edge of town has managed to lift up its pass rate to within a few percentage points of his own. He stands up in front of the staff and talks about key marginals, before having to explain to confused teachers this is the new term for C/D borderlines. “Aren’t we supposed to be moving away from focusing on such a niche group?” asks the Head of Science. “If bloody New Suburbs Academy can get 68%, then so can we. And if we don’t push the D kids then parents will choose the other school, not us and all your jobs will be on the line.”


So, once more, the majority of pupils are ignored in favour of whole school figures. And extra cash is spent on flashier display cabinets, lighting and paintwork in reception, rather than on anything for a classroom. Two of the smoother skinned and slimmer y10 female pupils are called out of lessons when the professional photographer comes round (“Do you play the viola? No? Ah well could you hold one anyway and stand under that chestnut tree while I take the shots? There’s a dear”) And the local paper gleefully rubs its hands as more of the academy budget is siphoned off to pay for a half page spread in the local state schools 4 page pull out advertising feature.

The best 10 online “Surviving technology in the classroom” lists

10) 5 phrases to use to fool your tutor group you actually know what snapchat is

9) The first 10 places you should look for your ipad charger

8) 10 ways to spot a pupil texting in your lesson

7) How to follow an auction on eBay without your classes noticing you are doing so

6) The best 5 excuses to use when the new head of IT suggests one of your classes could pilot the new pupil blogging project in school

5) The 5 most effective searches to use on TES resources to find a lesson plan at the last minute

4) The best scrabble cheat websites to help you beat the Head of English at Words HD

3) 10 different ways to injure a colleague who keeps insisting that twitter is the best CPD you will ever have (These work on any irritating evangelicals)

2) The 5 strongest legal reasons why possession of the IT suite is 9/10 of the law and will always win over someone who has booked but is late turning up with their class.

1) The 10 best worksheets to use when the bloody computers don’t work AGAIN

New GCSE Curriculum Proposals

There is a lot about at the moment on today’s new GCSE curriculum proposals. Controlled assessment is going, modular exams are going. Well thank heaven for that. I was beginning to wonder if my own GCSE classes were really just a child minding service for KS4 pupils when they weren’t actually revising for another module of their maths GCSE or preparing for their English Controlled Assessment.

There is going to be more rigour apparently. Well I am not sure what rigour is, but I have a sneaky feeling it is one of those words used to brow beat teachers, because everything was more rigorous in the ‘good’ old days.

Grading will be from 1-8 instead of A* to G. Well, that appears to be THE SAME THING. Only I know the members of my SLT who will know why this is being changed; it will make number crunching and data studying much more easy. “Ooh look this school’s pupils who are predicted 3s achieved on average a score of 3.125 which 0.097 down on last year. SEND IN THE INSPECTORS -SOMETHING IS WRONG”.  So apart from the continuation of turning my pupils into little numbers on some DfE computer screen, there is nothing really new there.

The pass mark is being pushed higher. Personally, I take that as a compliment to the teaching profession of England. “You are all doing so well that we need to make it a bit trickier and therefore are making it harder for your pupils to do well.” Now that would be okay if a) that was actually being said, instead of the “exams are getting easier….” that we usually get and b) if it wasn’t totally unfair on pupils taking exams in 4 years time who will be getting lower grades than their slightly elder peers. So that when they go for a job in the future and are competing against them, they will be at a completely unfair disadvantage.

Finally, there is one point that hasn’t received much comment. Only 9 subjects are undergoing this change. so a pupil may look at choosing chemistry or art and say “CHEMISTRY WILL BE SO MUCH HARDER, I AM GOING FOR ART” and perish the thought, but there may even be some head teachers who encourage pupils to do this very thing, so that their school appears to be doing better down the road.

So as a conclusion, there is nothing new in all this and no change of direction. We just need to wait until the syllabi come out and choose the best one for you and your pupils. We will need to readjust, rewrite schemes of work and lesson plans, buy new books, spend money on exam board courses. Pearson and all those companies will be laughing all the way to the bank….. guess where Mr. Gove may be taking a non executive director, part time well remunerated type position when he leaves politics?


Some tips from the staff room on how to be a great Head Teacher

I have never been, nor do I desire to be a Headteacher. There are so many attributes that you need for this job that I have either not got, nor  do I want to learn. I couldn’t take the angry parents, badly behaved pupils and grumpy staff all day long. All those meetings. The responsibility. The serious face you have to wear most of the working day. The job title is wrong  – you are not a Head Teacher, because you don’t teach anymore. what’s the point of getting into education and then not being in the classroom?

But I have worked under a few headteachers over my career so far and I know what doesn’t work. So what I offer here is the opposite of that. I have learnt from their mistakes. Unfortunately I am still learning from them.

  1. All that pressure you are under from OFSTED? Filter out as much of it as you can, so that you and your SLT can deal with it. Don’t tell your staff, how they should be doing something BECAUSE OFSTED WILL WANT IT. That is not why any of your teachers teach. It will piss them off.
  2. That 3 day a year compassionate leave? Don’t let them know you count up how many are being taken. I can count on 2 fingers all the staff I know who have taken advantage of compassionate leave. If you give someone the time off because their family life demands it, you will be paid back 10 fold over the rest of the tenure at your school
  3. After school meetings and parents evenings? Don’t scrimp on the biscuits and tea. What percentage of the school’s annual budget would it cost to provide these necessities once a week to all staff?
  4. Your union reps are a huge resource. Give them 30 mins a week off timetable, schedule a regular meeting and I promise you staff/HT communication will improve dramatically
  5. The staff room at lunch and break times? stay out – apart from end of term farewells and the like. Its not that staff don’t like you, its that they need to unwind and have a good moan and they cannot do that if you pop your head around the door to see someone a few times a week.
  6. Dont allow your new SLT to start a new strategy until the previous good idea is settled in. Change is good but only if you allow the schemes to have a proper effect.
  7. Now being a head teacher is an often thankless task, but don’t forget what it is like being a teacher. Don’t begin to believe that their job is easy compared to yours, don’t forget how draining a full day in the classroom in front of 30 of the demanding blighters is, don’t forget how much teachers want to get it perfectly right each lesson BUT NEVER DO SO, don’t forget about the non existence of breathing space in your day and the lack of control you have over when you can STEP OFF THE HURTLING HAMSTER WHEEL to make a cup of tea or go to the loo, but most of all don’t forget how no one tells a teacher what a good job they are doing, how no pupil will leave a classroom and say “thank you, I really learnt well in your class Miss”, how no parent will ever ring up just to say how pleased they are with the progress their child is making in your class, how OFSTED only want to find fault and how even the best teachers with a great lesson plan can find it all falling about around their ears for no fathomable reason. And as a result of all this not forgetting, take time in your day to support, praise and thank your teachers for the effort and sacrifice they are making every day in your school to find better and better ways for their pupils to learn. For if you don’t say well done chances are no one else will. And if you do say well done it will mean so much and your teacher will go home with a smile on their face and come in the next day and even better teacher. That 30 seconds of praise will be the best investment in school improvement you make all year.

And you will notice that I didn’t use the adjective “outstanding” in the title as that word has been so discredited in UK education now

Teacher Struggling….

Does anyone know? I don’t think so. I am pretty sure I keep up that convincing smile and practiced joviality throughout the day. If I do feel particularly overburdened, there is a small office no one goes; where I pretend to be doing some last minute marking at lunchtime. It’s easier in there because sometimes gets too tiring to retain vigilance about my outer appearance.

I don’t want anyone to know that I am finding it difficult, that this job is beating me down, that the criticism I get from my managers is squeezing the life out of me, that the low exam results my class appear to be heading for this summer is a permanent dull heavy fog over my life. I don’t want anyone to be aware that I can’t sleep after 4 or 5 in the morning because as soon as a sliver of consciousness slips into my head, a thought of the work I have to do that day piggy-backs in with it. After that instant, my mind has to pick and poke at the thought and Bang! I am awake for the day.
If my peers knew, a distance would develop between us. Casual friendships would become stilted. Conversations and eye contact would be avoided in the staff room or passing in the corridor. You wouldn’t really want to ask “How are you?” because you wouldn’t know what to do with my response.
If my managers knew then they would have a permanent personality weakness to hold against me in their minds. Sure, it wouldn’t be written down like that…. Certainly, the school adheres to a policy of mainintaing a work-life balance that ensures teachers’ lives do not become flooded  thoughts of their job. Definitely, they would want to support me. But, under all that, unwritten to avoid accusations of discrimination and blotting the copy on their “Caring school ethos underpinned by Christian values”, SLT would see me as a weak link, one they would need to look to replace. If I cannot cope with the bar at the level it is, how am I going to keep up when it gets raised again (as it does every year) in September? No, if I have to have a day off to protect my mind from the surrounding, ever encroaching pressures of work, I would tell them I had been sick or had a small fever or something. I wouldn’t admit to being mentally ill, even in this minor way. That would be the end of my career in their eyes.
I know that it isn’t other people’s fault though. I know the only way to really solve this is not pills from my GP or for my peers and managers to change their attitude. I know that the answer lies within me. I know I have the potential to help heal myself. I know that the effort and skills need to come from me. I am sorry I am lying to you all. But at the moment I don’t really know what my next step should be. Maybe I will get a moment when my mind is clearer and I can see a possible solution. But not soon I fear; I do not  yet have the courage to take that first step.
So for the while, I will keep on pretending, masking and hiding; I will find refuge in chocolate and wine, until I find the inner courage to say this out loud.

Teaching pupils to Become Apprentice candidates


Of course they are a bunch of over opinionated TV friendly, beyond-self- parody suited young adults. But are schools responsible for producing such people? What do these people want to achieve above all else? It’s success and money and a deal with Lord sugar. What do pupils get told is important? Success in exams so you can get a well paid job and a bigger chance to hang out with famous and wealthy people.

You tell me what the difference is

Things that make me happy about teaching

Pupils, always the children

Planning a good lesson

Marking work when you can see they have both understood and engaged with what you have taught

Being asked a question you cannot answer by one of your class (even better if it is connected to what you are teaching at the time)

Planning together with another teacher

When other staff are all talking about someone who is playing up in their lessons and I have never even heard of him

Talking to my tutor group before the bell goes for morning registration

My tutor group winning something (sport or anything else)

When old pupils come back to tell me how they are doing

Getting a  smile from a pupil (or even better a group of pupils) outside of school

People choosing to do my subject at GCSE or A’Level whom i enjoy teaching

A 6th form pupil who turns out to be a fantastic person after having been a complete ar5e for most of y8-11

Finding the perfect resource, video task, plenary, lesson powerpoint or even whole lesson plan online so that I save myself an hour or two’s work

When a meeting is cancelled


Seeing a younger teacher I helped in the early career make progress and get promotion

Thanks from parents

Thanks from pupils

Recognition from my manager(s) – and not just that email or whole staff announcement “Well done to all those involved in Oliver! I appreciate the extra hours you put in etc etc”)

Getting a homework in on time and complete from someone who never even brings their book to class let alone does any work outside of my lesson