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?

Make one change

Chris Baldwin is head of collaborative learning at William Allitt School in Derbyshire and an ATL rep.

There’s so much that’s not cool at the moment in teaching. A lot in education revolves around numbers and data, which creates a lot of work and drives creativity out.

When I became a rep in September, I began to see just how much colleagues take work home with them. It’s not just the marking, there’s the emotional baggage too. As teachers we just don’t know what’s coming next and that creates fear. Worry that maybe what we are doing is wrong can take hold, turn into insecurity, and then we spend time on tasks that aren’t necessary.

Continue reading Make one change

Millions have been wasted on failed baseline. It’s time to listen to ATL members

Last week, education secretary Nicky Morgan appeared before the Education Select Committee to defend some of the controversial proposals in the white paper, Educational Excellence Everywhere.

She refuted the accusation that the new assessment arrangements for key stage 1 and key stage 2 were “shambolic” (although she conceded that leaking the KS1 SPaG test online was “extremely regrettable”).

ATL members would disagree.  We have received a large volume of correspondence from parents, teachers and primary school leaders in recent months, expressing deep concerns that the new assessments are too demanding, too narrow and are setting children and teachers up to fail. The chaotic implementation of the new system is only making things worse. Continue reading Millions have been wasted on failed baseline. It’s time to listen to ATL members

The 2011-16 political mandate: how did they do?

As the devolved political mandate 2011-16 comes to a close, what has been achieved? Overall, the Assembly passed 67 pieces of legislation and 5 private members bills, few of them notable, and survived several existential challenges.

The Executive can be proud to have mitigated, to some degree, savage welfare cuts. The boast of creating 40,000 new jobs is another achievement. Buffeted by budget cuts, welfare reform, flag protests, parading issues, the unresolved “past” and paramilitary murder and gangsterism, the 2013 Haas talks and the two rounds of Stormont House negotiations left the institutions still standing.

The public view may be less kind, seeing Stormont as unimaginative, lacking core purpose, its politicians, SPADS and ample support staff wallowing in state funded largesse. So how did we do in education?

Continue reading The 2011-16 political mandate: how did they do?

Did Nick Gibb tell teachers to teach to the test?

By Anne Heavey, Education Policy Adviser at ATL.

Last Monday ATL welcomed School’s Minister Nick Gibb to our annual conference. He agreed to take part in a question and answer session with Gerard Kelly. This was a very interesting and enjoyable session, and Nick Gibb should be commended for being a good sport, I fully recommend watching the entire interview if you have time.

Continue reading Did Nick Gibb tell teachers to teach to the test?