With so much to deal with in 2016, why debate a return to 1950s education?

So my first week as the new AMiE president – and the first of the new academic year – draws to an end.

Glancing through the press this week, it’s clear that there will lots of to talk about over the coming months and I’m hoping you’ll join the debate.

I had expected at the start of the week that the papers would present a gloomy outlook – and I wasn’t wrong. With a government inevitably preoccupied by Brexit, I wondered what prime minister Theresa May, along with the education secretary she has appointed, Justine Greening, would have to say in terms of education policy. Continue reading With so much to deal with in 2016, why debate a return to 1950s education?

If you don’t have time to read our new book on teacher workload, here’s a summary

By Nansi Ellis, Assistant general secretary (policy).

It’s just how it goes: a new book comes out about teacher workload, and you’d love to read it but you haven’t got the time.

So let me summarise some key messages.

It’s true, a lot of additional workload comes from government and their crazy initiatives; some of it comes from your school leadership; but actually, (whisper it quietly) perhaps you’re also doing things you don’t need to do.

Are you spending your weekend searching for that ‘perfect’ video clip, when you’ve got one that worked fine before? Are you sitting at home planning your lessons when you know that your colleague has already taught this unit? It might feel important that your lessons are your own, but as Joe Pardoe says: everything you choose to do means you choose not to do something else. What will have the greatest impact on you and your pupils?

Continue reading If you don’t have time to read our new book on teacher workload, here’s a summary

Are students with SEND being let down? Our members say they are

ATL recently responded to the Labour Party’s review of SEND provision in England, as  part of our work on Conference resolution 43, Are SEND Students Being Let Down?

We surveyed ATL members to find out just how the SEND Code of Practice 2014 was being implemented on the ground. The results were stark.

Many educational professionals do not believe that the current arrangements for identifying and supporting learners with SEND in England work well enough: only 9% of respondents agreed with the statement ‘I believe that the current system in England enables all children with special educational needs to be supported appropriately’.

Continue reading Are students with SEND being let down? Our members say they are

How are the SATs expected standards set?

By Anne Heavey, ATL education policy adviser.

The key stage 2 test results this year look very different to results in previous years. The curriculum being assessed is different, the tests are different and the reporting of results are different. At ATL we thought you might be interested in understanding how the standard was set for each test.

As schools receive their KS2 test data back many teachers will be asking the following question: How was the expected standard set for these tests?

Continue reading How are the SATs expected standards set?

There’s no point in marking for the sake of it

Simon Rigby is an ATL rep at Fred Longworth High School in Greater Manchester.

I’ve got members of staff marking from the moment they get up on a Sunday until when they go to bed. These members have families. I became a rep in September and I wanted to get everyone together to be on the front foot fighting the workload issue.

We had a visit from the regional team, who come along to give a national perspective on workload, which is on newspaper front pages and all over Twitter.’

Continue reading There’s no point in marking for the sake of it

Striking is a potent weapon – but one of last resort

I think it is safe to say that teachers and school leaders are very cross with the Government at the moment. It takes a lot to get the profession in such an agitated state, but relentless workload, threats of forced academisation, late notice of exam specifications in secondary schools and assessment and testing chaos in primary schools adds up to a toxic mix of Government incompetence which affects the profession badly. Teachers are, for the most part, simply at the end of their collective tether. Continue reading Striking is a potent weapon – but one of last resort

Lesson planning: The good, the bad and the ugly

Emma Parker is a newly qualified primary school teacher based in Durham and an ATL district secretary.

As a supply teacher, I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to lesson planning. I have been to schools where there is no planning at all, where you are given what amounts to a Post-It note of information, or where there are 10 pages of planning notes for the day. The differences are absolutely ridiculous.

Some schools have planning that is just far too in-depth, where the lesson is broken down into what you are going to cover in five minute slots. It is so prescriptive that there is no room to adapt anything to the needs of the children and their responses. Continue reading Lesson planning: The good, the bad and the ugly

Academisation: lessons from further education

By Janet Clark, ATL Education Policy Adviser.

Those interested in how the government’s academies programme might impact the school education system in years to come should take a look at the recent history of the FE sector for some clues.

Over 20 years ago, the then Conservative government decided to make FE colleges independent corporations. Prior to this, colleges were almost all maintained and managed by the local education authority, meeting demand from individuals and employers in their local area. Continue reading Academisation: lessons from further education

Many of the changes have been relatively small, but together they add up

Patricia Graham is a learning progress manager and ATL rep at Aston Academy in Rotherham.

In my school the senior leadership team (SLT) has done a lot to address workload. At the end of last year, around the time teacher workload was highlighted in the media, our SLT consulted staff on how workload could be reduced.

Staff were asked to forward any comments that they would like considering, or any ideas on how staff workload could be reduced. Three main issues were raised: marking, assessment and behaviour, and some immediate changes were introduced at the start of the year.  The two staff briefings a week, which used to happen at 8.30am before the start of the school day, have been reduced to one. Some staff felt that the second briefing was not relevant to them as it focused on a specific group, say those teaching key stage 3. Now information is emailed.

Continue reading Many of the changes have been relatively small, but together they add up

Primary assessment is broken. So what do we want instead?

I think we can say that assessment in primary schools is broken. Many words have been written (including by ATL) about what’s gone wrong this year. The question remains, what do we want instead?

I think there are three main purposes for assessment.

  1. Teachers need to be able to find out what children know and can do, and what they misunderstand, in order to teach them the next steps in their learning.
  2. Headteachers and school governors need to be able to make sure that every child in their schools is being taught well, and to show that children are doing as well as they would do in a similar school down the road or across the country.
  3. Governments (local and national) need to know that the school system is improving, and to know where to target support and resources so that differences between areas can be narrowed.

No single assessment, however well designed, can assess everything we need to know in order to make decisions about a pupil, their teachers, their school and the national education system and policy framework. Continue reading Primary assessment is broken. So what do we want instead?