Another way?

Business Plans Don’t Suck – Mind Games Do

Originally uploaded by pinkpurse

I woke up this morning and came across two Telegraph articles via @schoolduggery that, at first, look like teacher bashing.

In the first, we have some quotes from Michael Gove on the day before tougher Ofsted rules come into force with sound bites like “zero tolerance of poor teachers” and comments such about how Ofsted “will even assess how well teachers ‘articulate and mouth’ the sounds of letters” and “check payrolls to ensure the salaries of weak teachers reflects their performance”.

In another article we are told that “Those admirable goals have earned him the undying hatred of organisations and individuals who put the interests of inadequate teachers above the interests of children who need, and are entitled to expect, a decent education.”, with several comments about the introduction of performance related pay for teachers.

What worries me is not that teachers are being measured against a high standard, or that the dreaded ‘O’ (who are expected to come knocking any day) will be taking a tough stance. What worries me is all the talk of those teachers who are judged to be ‘not good enough’ being sacked or (effectively) fined. It’s the punitive aspect that scares me the most. If we were to translate that into the classroom then we would be giving punishments to students who are underachieving. We could expel those working towards an E or an F within a term instead of a year*. As it is, I find that shouting at, restricting the free time of or otherwise punishing students who aren’t flying high doesn’t have a particularly good effect. Giving them support, encouragement, engaging them, differentiating resources, etc, etc, etc. all seems to have a much more significant effect.

It is particularly worrying when you see schools drop from Good to Unsatisfactory in the course of a single Ofsted inspection, when you see an ‘Outstanding’ teacher three years on the trot suddenly labelled as ‘Satisfactory’ on the grounds of a single observation. Measuring the ‘performance’ of teachers is not as simple as timing a race or counting the profits, and in such a subjective environment we find observations and appraisals can appear more as an ordeal to be survived rather than the positive, constructive activities they are meant to be.

I’m not saying that there are no teachers out there who are sitting back and not giving the best for our students. What I am saying is that creating an atmosphere of collegiate support and positive help for those who might need it is likely to have a much more powerful and lasting effect than threatening teachers with frozen salaries or a P45.


* Just to clarify, this is a response to a comment in the first article (“Heads and governors will be able to sack the worst-performing staff in just a term – rather than a year – under new “capability” procedures.”). It is not the case that any school will expel a pupil for achieving poor grades.


3 thoughts on “Another way?

  1. True, but what about the teachers that consistently fail to “up their game”. This is the argument between the carrot and the stick. For most of us, we are motivated individuals who do the best for our students however, some are happy to skate by and the threat of the stick will work for those. It’s the idea of the student who does his homework because he know’s he’ll get detention, but he won’t do the homework for the class where he knows the teacher will never check.

    I wonder sometimes if the work i do in the class is let down by the work i do outside of the classroom to engage and excite. I work hard ot preapre lessons for class so i have time for these extra things. I also think that should ofsted come in, they will only look at the quality of my classroom provision and not the other work i do in the school and i bet they won’t say “hey, here’s a teacher doing all this extra stuff for you, bump him 2 points up the scale”

  2. On your first point, I agree. Carrot and stick is a familiar phrase*, but I’m seeing an awful lot of stick lately.

    For the second point, I think I’m too exhausted with hearing about how to prepare for Ofsted to care any more. Ultimately the things I do outside of the classroom are not done for them, they’re done for the kids and (selfishly) because I enjoy them as well.

    What frustrates me is that Ofsted’s goal is a lofty one. Check that teachers are doing a good job and make sure that the kids are getting a good education. What happens is that schools and teachers spend a long time and a lot of effort (and emotional energy) preparing for Ofsted in ways that don’t necessarily help the students but ensure that there is evidence of all the day to day things that Ofsted might not see on their flying visit.

    I’m not entirely sure what the answer is, but threatening teachers is stressful and demoralising. I don’t think that my career or salary are directly in threat right now, but it’s a continual erosion of our legal rights and our respect in the public. If kids, and parents, are convinced that there are loads of crap teachers about then it gives rise to a whole load of situations where excellent practice is denigrated by unwittingly ignorant stakeholders.

    * Although I dislike it in this context as giving extra support and training isn’t obviously a carrot

  3. Rob says:

    I think so much hinges on what is considered a “bad teacher”. I’ve never seen an Outstanding lesson (I have heard of two in my time at this school), let alone been judged to have delivered one, and the reasons never seem to relate to any benefit for the pupils. I’ve seen colleagues get Unsatisfactory for doing the right lesson at the right time in the right way, but it didn’t tick all the boxes. I get above-expected results from students most of the time, live and die by my professional integrity, kids enjoy my lessons, learn independence and make good progress – but my methods are not Ofsted-pleasing. I tend to do what works (for me and my students), not what someone says I should do without evidence to show it works.

    So I head into the new academic year more fearful for my career with a nagging doubt about whether I actually am a “Good teacher”.

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