Monthly Archives: August 2016

Do You Want to be a Chartered Teacher?

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Some people are very excited about the new College of Teaching and, especially, its charter. This means that by accrediting various courses and other types of professional development it will be able to award (royal) chartered teacher status and thereby cement its role at the pinnacle of conferring the new ‘outstanding’ teacher status on the most deserving.

In Scotland a Chartered Teacher Programme which began in 2003 has been abolished, the Donaldson Report stated the following reasons:

The grade of chartered teacher was created with the intention of rewarding teachers who remained in the classroom and to simultaneously provide encouragement for main grade teachers at the top of their salary scale to engage in a robust, self-funded continuous professional development programme. The design intent was to recognise and reward excellence. To encourage participation in the Chartered Teacher Scheme two routes to chartered teacher status were created; one via accredited prior learning, the other on completion of twelve modules (for each two modules completed a salary increment is awarded).

As of May 2011, 1,216 teachers have attained chartered status and a further 2,800 are currently on the programme and have gained at least one module. Entry to the accreditation route to chartered status was ended in 2008.

While we received evidence that demonstrated the commitment and professionalism of many chartered teachers, the widely held view is that the existing cohort of chartered teachers does not singularly represent the best teachers in Scotland. The reasons for this are several; the means of entry to the scheme when it was first created and the self-selection process for entry did not provide a sufficiently robust means of screening applicants; also some of our very best teachers for a variety of reasons have not embarked on the route.

Until recently, self-selection without approval of a headteacher resulted in instances of headteachers not being aware that staff in their schools had applied for chartered teacher status. This has been revised recently and headteachers must now approve applications for staff to participate in the programme – albeit that this process is still rather light touch. Absence of specific duties attached to the role of chartered teacher means that in some instances, chartered teachers are paid more to undertake the same job they have always done with no improved outcomes for children and young people.

We heard evidence that there are barriers to participation in the Chartered Teacher Scheme in the form of finance and the time available to complete the modules. Thus some dedicated classroom teachers are unable to embark on the programme of study that would result in achieving chartered teacher status because of other commitments.

Local authorities have no means of controlling the cost of the Chartered Teacher Scheme because it is essentially self-selecting. Additional salary is, in some instances, paid to staff for little tangible benefit, and indeed we heard evidence that some chartered teachers would prefer that it were not known within their schools that they had achieved the status, lest expectations would rise that they should contribute more. We also heard some evidence that the scheme is seen as mainly academic and did not sufficiently recognise good classroom practice.

The responses to the Review’s call for evidence clearly demonstrate that there are mixed feelings amongst the education community about chartered teachers. Thirty-eight per cent of respondents felt the scheme should be retained, 37% felt it should be amended and 25% felt it should be discontinued.

We are of the view that the Chartered Teacher Scheme, while laudable in its aims, has not delivered against its stated objectives. The available evidence does not show that the ‘best’ teachers have remained in the classroom rather than pursuing promoted posts – indeed promoted post holders have commented to us that theirs is a vital role and should not be equated with not wanting to teach or being inferior teachers. Furthermore, the overall contribution made to education in Scotland by chartered teachers does not represent a good investment, due mainly to the lack of any formal role post qualification.

Taking all the evidence into account, we believe that the Chartered Teacher Scheme should now be discontinued. Our view is that despite positive steps such as the introduction of the revised Standard by the GTCS and notwithstanding the excellent practice we are sure some chartered teachers bring to schools, the concept of chartered teacher has not worked successfully since it was introduced by the Teachers’ Agreement. The model by which individuals are able to enter the system without sufficient gate keeping regarding their appropriateness has damaged the credibility of the Chartered Teacher Scheme. Similarly the lack of clarity as to the role of chartered teachers has made it dif cult for both local authorities and the teachers themselves to make the most of their skills.

I am sure those involved in the setting up of the College are aware of these problems and will wish to address them as there are some clear questions that a teacher might want answers to before they commit to joining the College of Teaching:

If the existing cohort of chartered teachers does not singularly represent the best teachers in Scotland how will chartered status in England ensure that it does?

Will headteachers…  approve applications for staff to participate in the programme ? If so will Headteachers coerce staff into joining the College, if not, will there be much point in joining the college if the Headteacher doesn’t think you will achieve chartered status? If the Headteacher doesn’t want a teacher to apply for chartered status how much of their free time will a teacher have to devote to attaining chartered status?

Will there be specific duties attached to the role of chartered teacher?

If there are not specific duties will it mean that in some instances, chartered teachers are paid more to undertake the same job they have always done with no improved outcomes for children and young people?

What will be done to ensure there are no barriers to participation in the Chartered Teacher Scheme in the form of finance and the time available to complete the modules? 

How can dedicated classroom teachers [who] are unable to embark on the programme of study that would result in achieving chartered teacher status because of other commitments be sure of their future in the profession, or will they become looked down as second class teachers?

And as the overall contribution made to education in Scotland by chartered teachers does not represent a good investment, due mainly to the lack of any formal role post qualification.

What formal role, if any, will chartered teachers in England have? If so, is there any evidence that teachers want this role, if not will it be a good investment?

I look forward to seeing if any answers to these concerns are forthcoming.

 

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Results Day Failure

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37 years ago today, or thereabouts I received my results for O levels and CSEs. I collected my envelopes and went away on my own, knowing that I wouldn’t have done very well. One of the worst things about failing is being around success, good to escape it. I looked at my results, I’d achieved an O level equivalent in Maths CSE, though not achieved it in O level… I passed O levels in Physics, Geography and English Lit and failed all the others… I had 4 O levels to my name.

Misery.

I retook English Language and History the following Autumn getting an A and a B respectively and I also reinforced my D in Art.

6 O levels to my name, in two sittings. No smiling pics of me clutching certificates…

By December I had left secondary school ‘by mutual consent’ and the chip on my shoulder has accompanied me ever since.

It wasn’t exams I failed, it was school. I didn’t apply myself and the school did little to truly educate me. The school worked for some, failed others, and for many in our cohort in 1979 there were worse stories than mine, that there were also better ones points at my responsibility to see myself through. Nowadays people call this needing grit, then I was simply lazy.

Looking back I can see what the school could have done for me that would have enabled me a fair shot at passing more than I did. For myself, I could have worked, I didn’t… I was extremely cynical about my school, the schooling and the whole point. Loud, argumentative, I was probably ‘difficult to teach’, and it is this that would prove in the years to come an asset when in a round about way I found myself back in the classroom as a teacher, vowing to be the teacher I needed when I was at school.

Those who celebrate failure as a precursor to success, seem to do it with alarming self-assuredness. Whether it be Jeremy Clarkson boasting about how he didn’t need his exams to become a rich celebrity or a teacher on twitter encouraging growth mindset, it seems as if failure is a virtue; it isn’t.

For all the pictures of successful students jumping into the air with big smiles on their faces, there are many more skulking away in the background, it might be because they were taught badly, have behavioural issues, are lazy, are not academic, whatever the reason, it still hurts.

“So what,” I’d say, “I don’t care…” and I got more and more bitter…

Exam results do matter but a good education matters more. No-one dragged me through exams, which I am thankful for, but on the way no-one really spotted I could be taught well either. What to do with the kids who won’t learn unless you teach them well?

Great teaching requires a teacher to instil discipline, focus, ensure great content, a curriculum that connects, the use of argument and challenging ideas, teachers should teach pupils how to write, speak and debate, and yes, they need to be passionate about what they are teaching too…

Ultimately  the responsibility for good results should lie with the child and not the school. Teachers should make sure their pupils know this and provide them with the knowledge and the tools by which children can ensure they do their best. If a child is dragged through tests and exams they will have no idea what real failure looks like until it hits them hard when they least expect it. If a child is let down by a school they will always have someone else to blame.

At least I expected to fail.

I still do; this is no bad thing, but it doesn’t ever feel like one step nearer to success. It won’t if I can still blame the school rather than thinking about my own responsibility towards my failure.

The Importance of Debate in Schools

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Creating a culture of speech in your classroom means having everyone doing it, not simply those that are willing – do not let students ‘hide’.

Andrew Fitch,  from the book: Trivium in Practice

In a piece for the TES, Jonathan Simons, head of Education for Policy Exchange, wrote about the importance of debating:

To debate, participants must analyse complex issues of ethics, law, politics, science… it teaches rhetoric, and the ability to stand up and speak in front of an audience. It demands confidence in one’s position. It requires teamwork between speakers. It instils general knowledge. It is transformative.

Simons also points out that debating has been a central feature of our best universities for centuries. As Petrus Ramus put it in his Dialectica of Invention:

What is Dialectica ? A. DIALECTICA IS THE (sic) art of disputing well…

It is the art of dialectic, that puts questioning, reasoning, critical thinking and logic at the heart of the trivium. These are all essential attributes of a great education and to be able to do them well can help ensure that young people perform well academically and, indeed, socially.

It is not enough for schools just to teach knowledge, knowledge is the base of great thinking, but without the practice of using knowledge to challenge and rise to the occasion when challenged, an academic education falters. Argument is key to thinking well.

Andrew Fitch, the director of spoken literacy at Highbury Grove School helped coach the England schools  debating team that won this year’s world debating championships held in Stuttgart. Highbury Grove school, under the leadership of Tom Sherrington, is undergoing the process of putting trivium principles at the heart of the educational offer to their pupils.

In the book, Trivium in Practice Andrew Fitch has contributed an excellent short guide for teachers called: “Spoken Literacy and Rhetoric in the Classroom…” In his introduction he writes:

…using the three part trivium structure, I have utilised debate, in a variety of forms, to ask students to intellectually engage with relevant material through being forced to attack and defend various aspects of the knowledge that they have been given… Through argument generation and speech creation, students dialectically engage with the material, developing a familiarity with it beyond the simple stating of facts.

Debating competitions and debating societies should be a feature of all good schools. However most young people will not engage with it until debate features as a part of the everyday curriculum. By having to think clearly and defend or attack an idea, a work, or a philosophy, children will be challenged and, in turn, will understand more about the content of the curriculum and what it means to them and the society of which they are a part. I would go so far as to say by grappling with the playfulness of ideas in this way they will, in turn, become more engaged with the issues they are debating and that can only be a good thing.

 

On Independent School Education for Pupil Premium Children

 

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In this morning’s Daily Telegraph Shaun Fenton the headmaster of Reigate Grammar School writes that:

We should increase social mobility by using state funding to open access to independent schools. Independent schools should be challenged to educate even more disadvantaged young people… My proposition is that the partial state funding should be for those who qualify for the Pupil Premium.

Fenton points out that this could only ever be a small part of the educational jigsaw, I wonder if his idea could make a difference to educational disadvantage and/or social mobility? He thinks these schools will need to expand to take an increase in numbers and it is this that makes the argument interesting.

Are our ‘great’ independent schools scaleable? Have they got the staff and indeed the facilities to accept, say, twice as many pupils? Many have the grounds in which they could build… Do they have the funds necessary to subsidise what, comparatively little, money they would get from the state?

Would it increase social mobility? If it did, what does that say about our education system? Is it the quality of education or more about ‘the old school tie’? Clearly it would be something that could annoy some of the middle classes, priced out of private schools by ever higher fees, and not poor enough to qualify for these new places. Would they not also be annoyed to see the establishment to be still drawn from the same schools but involving just the super rich and the poor?

Is it the quality of school that makes the difference to social mobility or is it down to the social capital of the parents and their networks that makes the most difference? In other words are these schools truly great or are they the beneficiaries of truly ‘great’ dynastic intakes that know how the establishment works and ensure it replicates itself? Would the ‘poorer intake’ in great numbers become socially mobile or would they lack the contacts necessary to make this a possibility?

Would the pupil premium intake be chosen via academic selection? If so, who would ensure they had the pre-education to pass the common entrance exam etc?

And finally…

What would happen to one of these schools if it expanded exponentially to include a majority of pupil premium kids, say 75%, would the school be the same? Would well-to-do parents want their darling offspring to mix with the hoi-poloi especially those who have chosen the independent sector deliberately to ensure that their kids don’t mix with the poor and certainly not in such large numbers?