The Welsh baccalaureate, What is it?

boom.

In this piece I make the argument that the Welsh baccalaureate is damaging the educational opportunities of tens of thousands of Welsh children.  It is specific to Wales but I urge teachers across the UK to look at this as well.  I make three central points and would welcome explicit refutation on any of them.

1. Welsh Bacc is designed to increase ’employability’ I argue that this should not be the purpose of education and therefore a flagship qualification that takes up to 10% of the entirety of KS4 teaching time should not have this as its goal.
2.Welsh Bacc is designed to prepare learners for ‘jobs that don’t exist yet’ and that this approach has been challenged very successfully as a poor goal for education.
3. Welsh Bacc being 100% coursework and backed by the government as a school KPI from 2018  is open to manipulation in an era of increased accountability.

I could have adopted the approach of breaking and  attempting to dissect the specification fine by line. This, however would make for fairly boring reading.  I urge any teachers especially those who may have any influence to spend some time reading the specification which can be found here.

1. The single biggest problem I have with Welsh baccalaureate qualification lies in it’s purpose. The WJEC, the government and in part the industry backers actively support the qualifications aim. The aim of the qualification is to increase the candidates ’employability’. This reduces the aim of education to a simplistic function, a single aim of preparation for work. I fundamentally disagree, in the strongest of terms with this idea. Education is far more important than that. There is little point disagreeing with this, it is a question that has dogged thinkers since Socrates and will no doubt still be discussed when the human race finally destroys itself.

2. I also have serious reservations about any ‘new’ qualification that purports to support the idea that somehow a traditional education based on subject knowledge does not prepare people adequately for ‘future jobs’.  This is an argument that has been made many times and far more eloquently and erudite than I could manage, read this from Greg Ashman or.
this from Martin Robinson.  The Welsh Bacc actively promotes itself as a qualification designed to meet both of these aims.

3. The Welsh government are aggressively pursuing the qualification in the strongest terms, this is despite the qualification coming under fire from teachers and students ever since its inception.  The government have made it an indicator of a schools performance from 2018 and will be actively comparing schools, based on the results that schools achieve at KS4.  In my opinion this is an insidious tactic purposefully designed to counter the argument that ‘schools are forced to offer the qualification’. The wider political ramifications of why the Welsh government want this is a separate debate.

The qualification is 100% course work. Like it or not anyone who has been involved with education for any period of time knows what happens with qualifications like this. It works like this.
HT : “have you completed your progress review for you year 11 welsh bacc classs?”

Teacher: “Yes did it last week boss”.

HT : “OH it’s just that you have said here that 7 of the kids haven’t got C’s?”

Teacher : “yes that’s correct, kid a) has 20% attendance, Kid b) has reading age of 9, Kid c,d,e Just sit in the lessons and do nothing I have tried and tried but they just won’t complete the work. Kid f) Misses 50% of the lessons because they go to a literacy intervention every week and Kid g) Has some very complex SEN needs.

HT : “Ahhh hahah Yes there are some tricky characters in there….. But what can you do about it?”
Teacher : “Ummm I have already provided all the interventions in line with the policy, I have phoned home and sent letters I have sent their names to the SLT mentor’s. But these kids are just not responding.”
HT : “Hmmm But you do realise that these seven kids make the difference for the whole school don’t you, so what can you really do about it?”

If you fancy a more detailed read about this specific effect you can read about it here, I have dubbed it the “What are you doing about it?” effect.  But to cut a longer story short what inevitably happens in some schools, is that the classroom teacher or the Welsh Bacc coordinator, is pressurised into making the required evidence appear despite this being against the rules.

I have seen colleagues managed out through capability because they have refused to capitulate. I have seen schools take kids off timetable for a week and sit them with an LSA who dictates exactly what must be typed and the child robotically types out what is being said. I have even seen teachers fabricating entire samples. To deny this happens is folly, and accepting it as a truth, does not mean that you are somehow making it happen either, nor that you are doing that yourself or that you agree in any way shape or form.  It is just indicative of what happens in regimes of accountability.  Please be clear here I am not attacking qualifications that have coursework, my personal feelings are hugely in favor of project based approaches. After all, work in the world is project work (and a nifty by product of education is it gives kids knowledge to make them better workers).  But to try to deny that in an era and environment of increased accountability, that all schools will be adverse to cheating is ridiculous.

The Welsh Bacc is sucking valuable time and energy from what should be a rich subject specific curriculum and is replacing it with a haphazard collection of poorly understood, undefined skills delivered by overworked, ill prepared and stressed out teachers, some of whom can see through the transparency but are wholly unable to make their voices heard. It has been designed in conjunction with corporate interests with the sole purpose of preparing students for a world of work that does not exist in some of the poorest wards in Europe. The argument of how best to prepare students for work has raged my entire life, a constant flimflam of apprenticeships, YTS and prep for work that goes right back to the slave trade.  Ask yourself what has remained constant throughout all of that time? Knowledge that’s what.

Time in school is exceptionally valuable, we have a small window of opportunity in order to light a flame of life long learning inside our students.  I argue that in KS4 we owe our students a rich diet of knowledge delivered by subject experts who have passion for the subject they studied for three years in university, all whom share a true belief that their subject is the difference. That the love of a subject will transform a students life.

I feel the need to also add that my opinions on the qualification bear no resemblance to my classroom practice.  I act with consummate professionalism and teach every aspect of what I am asked to with my best available effort.  This is not about me, this is about a qualification which does not have students best interests at it’s heart in my opinion.  So if all you have to offer is unfounded allegations and Ad hominem attacks then I politely ask that you go forth and multiply.

If any one would like to challenge any of the central points I have made that is fantastic. I am always up for changing my mind and welcome reasoned debate.  I would love for you to change my mind on this because at the moment, in my opinion, tens of thousands of kids are having their education harmed by the governments blind faith in this flagship qualification.


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The Welsh baccalaureate, What is it?

The problem with the debate on inclusion…

 

463

463.

That was how many pieces of paper that were in the file that finally resulted in the child being permanently excluded.

3 Years.

Was how long it took for the process to be completed.

1 Violent Sexual assault.

Was the required event that broke the camels back and finally triggered permanent exclusion.

The excluded child in question had forced a year seven boy to perform fellatio on him, at knife point, whilst his younger cousin watched.

Staff had raised issues with this child from the first day, the e-mail chain makes for some frightening reading. He arrived from primary school with a thick file that wasn’t shared widely. His life had been shocking. There are no excuses from society on what had happened to that child. He was a victim for sure.

The School was under pressure not to exclude due to a poor inspection report.

These are facts.

Reducing them to points in some imaginary ideological debate based popularity contest, on a social media platform is irresponsible and ignores the gravity of this issue.

Because of a systemic failure to treat a damaged child with the correct provision, another child was sexually abused at knife point, in a public safe space. Do not forget that until that child commited the final abuse there was no single incident deemed ‘serious enough’ to exclude him.

Exclusions should not be carried out without thought, there must however be something schools can do to protect other children. Provision for damaged kids is woefully inadequate but when they express violent and abnormal sexual tendencies they should be diverted to specialist services fast.

The fact those services are inadequate is a political issue and if you support a political movement, that does not recognise this then you should make some proper inquiries directed towards your elected representative.

To make minimising exclusions a KPI directly puts other equally deserving kids at unnecessary risk.

The debate is not whether we should exclude kids but how do we ensure that schools are not stigmatised for doing so.

Schools that exclude for reasons other than staff or pupil safety should hang their heads in shame.

 

The problem with the debate on inclusion…

The Tear.

backpack

 

SLANT!  The rivers of knowledge poured in daily; smarter, faster, brighter, synapses firing deep knowledge, connections made, academic subjects assimilated beneath a cognitive force de jour.

SKET! Leave me alone you horrible bitch, Emotions explode, red mist thick and fast endorphin crushes fear, hands fly, hair pulled down, knee fires up, claret spills, fat red blossoms on blue Modena flooring.

Silence envelopes, confident safe strides, eyes front, brain engaged and ready for the next 59 minutes. Maths is the favorite.  Smooth logical, neat lines, working shown, ticks expertly applied with pride, green ink, graceful, symmetrical, practiced 10/10! SLANT!

Blood flow stemmed, cool calm, isolation, nothing but blue felt partitions. A word search, french words, satisfying patterns, safe for now. Boredom creeping, small hand ticks round, it’s almost time.  Art after lunch, a ray of light sears through gloom.

BRRRRRRING! Silence. Confidence chin up, head high, thanks prepared ready.  Food on tray, easy, no choice, always good, nourishing, everything a growing kid needs.  No room for fussiness. Topic “There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.” Discuss. Tray away silence, fresh air quick walk meaningless chatter, feels like time wasted.

Metal on metal scrape, just one upright moves twenty degrees clockwise. Slips through a galvanized gap. Just enough room, bag catches a small tear.  Sprint, breathless, he is already there.  Long hair, blue eyes, pools of emotion. Laughing, the harsh smoke fills lungs, warmth spreads colours heightened. Time to go, late already, can’t miss art.

Head high, walking fast, home soon, hi Mum, no time, book to read, great thanks!  “OK Mum I will, yes I know work, Yes It is hard for you MUM, bye”!  Calm and peace, reading.  The words flow, reading done. Maths next, swift expert logic, the learning from the day consolidated, now sleep, ready for the next day of knowledge acquisition. This is the way to a university degree.

BING! Elevator arrives, acrid stench cloying. BING! The trudge, dark corridor, key fits, stale air floods into the corridor. Hi Mum, no answer.  Empty bottle, hand hangs down, filthy toweling dressing gown reveals naked thigh, sickness rises. Yale lock clicks, BING! the streets are cold but not cloying the air comes into the lungs it is cold, but clean.

RING! Alarm clock, cereal, teeth brushed.  The door clicks. “Hi Mum”, tired eyes betray a hard shift, three deaths, arms aching from prolonged pointless CPR, nothing to show for hours of physical toil, nobody saved. “Bye Mum” CLUNK the door, a tear threatens to drop down hollowed cheek, tired just tired, Stiff upper lip, the British way.

Golden shards slice through concrete and glass monoliths, the light paints constantly morphing masterpieces as the city wakes, cold and tired but joyful. Head high, an idea forms, misery turns to inspiration, Art today.

A quarter of the view is spoiled, Three quarters cream with bold type, the author describes a beautiful sunrise, words paint the picture, annoying bright light from the offending quarter spoil the image. The book rises.

Adrenalin injects, faster, brighter, synapses firing, foot slams onto the brake. The behemoth skids.

Adrenalin injects, faster, brighter, synapses firing action without thought, palms on polyester shoulders, shoving hard.  Stones and tiny diamonds of windscreens past, penetrate skin, grazing soft flesh, soon beads of claret. SCREEECH THUD!

A backpack flies breaking golden shards of light on its journey and slumps onto the curb. A tiny tear betrays the owner.

The Tear.

Workload a reality check. The definition of reasonable and you do deserve a life!

workload blank

Reasonable definition

There are some common responses I get when suggesting measures to reduce workload either in real life or in the twitter sphere , it seems teachers are hell bent on self destruction via unrealistic expectations of what is achievable in the constraints of finite time.  The following list contains a few gems but by is by no means exhaustive:

I CAN DO WHAT I LIKE

WHAT RIGHT HAVE YOU GOT TO TELL ME WHAT TO DO?

IT IS MY CLASSROOM

IT IS MY LIFE

THOSE KIDS NEED ME

YOU DO WHAT YOU WANT, LEAVE ME TO DO WHAT I WANT

BUT IT ONLY TAKES A MINUTE

IT WORKS FOR ME

I RESERVE THE RIGHT TO DO WHAT I WANT IN MY OWN TIME

Then in come the flood of passive aggressive likes and put downs from blind cheerleaders for the cause, without the will or wherewithal to think for themselves, gratuitously liking the “powerful” message that also happens to be the orchestrator of their demise.  It’s generally a well followed teacher whom seemingly devotes 25 hours a day to teaching the bejeesus out of everything. They are akin to the plastic beauties on Instagram who spend hours, like farming, pathetic images of their lunch dinner and tea that incarcerate their followers in mind prisons of unworthiness. You know who they are, the ones who post pictures of exam catch up sessions on a Sunday afternoon in some nightmare plastic fast food joint.  I’m sure you have seen the tweets that follow.
‘You go girl’

‘yeah your students must love you so much’

‘wow your so dedicated’

‘Hun you are the best’

greening botI often think have you/they ever questioned that the lack of debate, might be down to workload? In reality I bet half of those tweeters are tweeting from bed exhausted at the attempt to keep up with the seemingly superhuman Teacher who might even be a cunningly designed BOT, the brain child of an evil Govian doppelganger, hiding out in the office of the education secretary.   Why are you/they so unprepared to enter reasoned discussion? What fuels the desperation to light the fuses on the twin cannons of workload?
There are Teachers out there shamelessly boasting about how teaching is their life and how every day of their holidays has been spent laminating or assembling displays and classrooms, of which the level of complexity would shame the natural history museum, or have Micheal Eavis scurrying of to redesign the glasto pyramid stage . They Tweet at midnight, images of piles of books triple marked and assembled back in classroom order, ready to be transported back to school the following day in a hessian bag for life. #markingdone #stillgot20minssleep.

NQT’s who have just left uni and have no life, other than the ideological indoctrination of the youth, on a one handed mission to save the world, surviving on cracker bread and Kilner jars of overnight oats. Wages just barely covering the outgoings, overpriced rents in areas ‘better’ than they can afford, in flats worse than they are worth, using extra blankets instead of heating.  Those still living at home with all the comforts and benefits, saving every penny whilst chanting the mantra, “Yes Headteacher no headteacher 3 IKEA blue bags of bags of marking full headteacher”.

Some have families, children of their own, whom they willfully ignore, caring more about the yoot’s triple turbo double highlighted deep marked scribblings, which just “HAD to be done at midnight”, to satisfy the latest marking initiative, their own children struggling to read a bedtime story to themselves, left orphaned by the job.

One specific tweet which especially twanged my heart twines states that two teachers whom live together, kissed each other on the morning of the first day of term and said ‘see you at Christmas’!  I know this was a joke but…… It was a joke right…….oh it wasn’t a joke…… Part of me is not sure…..

Let me just lay out my position before we go any further;

I believe that reducing your workload will improve your quality of life

As a result of the improvement in your quality of life your teaching will improve

Improved teaching will improve outcomes

Improved outcomes will impact *Educational Equity

Educational equity is why I teach

You can dispute my position if you like and I am happy to add, or amend it in any sensible way, in fact I would positively encourage such other models that sum up your own motivations in such a simple way. To deny teaching has an extensive workload is surely folly and I would happily take on anyone who says anything to the contrary, so in the face of a workload issue,  pragmatism calls upon us to examine the facts.

In the standard teachers pay and conditions document, it states that directed time is 1265 hours a year. This is the time you get paid for. This is what your wages are based on. BUT…… There is a caveat paragraph 51.7 states:

51.7. In addition to the hours a teacher is required to be available for work under paragraph 51.5 or 51.6, a teacher must work such reasonable additional hours as may be necessary to enable the effective discharge of the teacher’s professional duties, including in particular planning and preparing courses and lessons; and assessing, monitoring, recording and reporting on the learning needs, progress and achievements of assigned pupils.

Now this passage hinges on two key words ‘reasonable’ and ‘effective’ and its the misappropriation and misuse of these two words that SLT exploit ruthlessly, to guilt trip you into doing UNREASONABLE amounts of additional hours.

REASONABLE by  definition Is being fair and sensible.  So my question to you is what does reasonable look like?  1265 divide by 39 equals 32.44,  That is how many hours the government, the trust, the MAT,  the ‘anybody’ who employs you on the teaching contract pays you for. That is fact. That is how much you are worth to those who will decide your pay. That is how many hours it is estimated takes to discharge your professional duties ‘effectively’. So how many extra hours are reasonable? Lets make this simple.

1 hour is equal to 3.1% of your contracted working week (rounded from 3.08).

So if you arrive habitually early (like I do), at 7:50 hrs every day that is 5 extra hours a week or 15.4% over and above your contracted hours.  That, I would say, is reasonable.

So then I work every lunchtime of my own volition.  I run catch up and fun sessions to increase the love of my subject and grab a coffee and  if I remember, a butty on the fly.  Lunchtime is 50 minutes a day so that is another 4.17 Hours per week, multiply that by 3.08 and I get another 12.8%  so now I am at 28.2% over and above my contracted hours that, in my world, is still reasonable.

sumOk, so I absolutely refuse to take non voluntary school work home, (this doesn’t include work for extra curricular competitions that I invest bags of time in), So I make a decision to stay in school for at least an hour extra every day, on average four days a week, so now we have another 12.3%  So lets tot tot that up. Give or take a bit that is 40% over and above the hours that I am paid and contracted to do.  I would argue that at this point it is starting to become unreasonable.  Do not take my word for it.  Ask friends and family see how many other occupations do 40% over and above their contracted hours for nothing (apart from junior doctors it’s not many) . I am arguing here that 40% is where you should draw the line. That 40% is reasonable, let that sink in.

I can Imagine the conversation. With the ‘Boss’

Boss: Ahh PP glad to catch you, why have you not completed the latest progress review?

MOI: Sorry chief no time, Ill prioritise it for first thing tomorrow?

Boss: Ermmm you can access little Sims from home now you know, Deadline is today…

MOI: Yes thanks for that but I don’t work at home.  It will be done before 9am tomorrow.

Boss: Erm I would point out that I can ask you to do extra hours so you can discharge your  professional duties?

MOI: Yes I am fully aware of my contractual obligations that’s why I do on average 40% over and above my contract every week and have done for all the years I have worked here, is 40% not enough? I can quite happily show you my diary if you like?

Boss: Oh erm, well I suppose erm….

MOI: Would you like to see my diary?  Is 40% not enough?

Boss: Er… Ummmm..

MOI: Sorry what was that?  I can let my union know if you like and they could perhaps work load impact assess the schools marking and feedback policy, in fact that is a great idea don’t you think? It hasn’t been done since I came here and maybe with all the new initiatives there might be some old stuff that could go and make all our…..

Boss : Yes PP tomorrow is fine great to catch up with you see you at briefing…..

There are infinite versions of this conversation by the way and in my experience,  no where near enough teachers are confident enough to stand their ground like this, even though they may doing in excess of 40% over their contractual obligation.  Seven years is a long time to experience a year on year real term wage cut, this is a cold hard fact of teaching today. The decision makers for seven years have decided you are not worth inflation.  Think about that. It is personal.

hours

Reasonable means fair and sensible. 40% over your contracted hours is excessive but achievable in my opinion.  Every extra hour you work is 3.08% over your contracted hours, as an experiment log your additional hours. If you have the cojones then log those hours and use that information as Kevlar pants and seek out those tough conversations with mealy mouthed managers and obsequious schmaltzy SLT generals.  Instead of just fouling up the staff room with your pathetic mewlings, I see you! I overhear you every day, moaning and not doing, would you recommend that to your learners?  If you really want to know the full legalities on this and get the exact legal position, you can start by looking at the working time directive of 1998, which you can find here. If you are working more than forty eight hours on a regular basis your employer is breaking the law.

Effective.

from the STPCD effective discharge of the teacher’s professional duties.

Now if because of outlandish and unachievable school policies, especially those concerned with marking and feedback,  you cannot carry out your professional duties in the 32.44 hour plus 40% (substitute your %) reasonable additional hours that you choose to do, Then THAT IS NOT YOUR FAULT! Say it again please out loud. IT IS NOT MY FAULT.  Your management team needs to provide a framework which is achievable and the way you do this, is by insisting that all the staff at school are aware of and expect that a workload impact assessment is carried out on all existing and any changes to school policies. This can be found here, on page 24 of the NASUWT and NUT’s National Action Instructions Phase 5.

The overarching message is measure what you are doing and then STOP doing so much extra.  Stop undermining all of your colleagues who may not be able to do as much extra. accept that if you do extra it sets a precedent.  Send a clear message to your managers that says you are serious about workload and let them know how much time you are working. Get unionised and read up on the action short of strike start taking control of the situation, remember the government thinks that you are not worthy of inflation.

You are a mighty professional pedagogue that roars with knowledge and learning, you have the power to shape minds,  you have the power to build the next generation! How are you going to do that do that in a climate of fear and one upmanship? Your knowledge is not best used spending hours upon hours, writing reams of comments in multi colours to satisfy no one, other than your senior managers, who are only asking you to do it out of fear. They shamelessly drive staff into the grave to cover their own backsidesbaboon from the impending decent of OFSTED/ESTYN, a flawed club filled with failed heads and unqualified middle class fops.  If you buy into the brave new world, fueled by social media and like farming, if you follow super human teachers desperate to paint you as lazy and uncaring with passive aggression and and un researched braggadocio, because the amount of laminating you do isn’t enough to choke the life out of an Amazonian baboons lungs.  If this is you, you are destined to burn out and then fade away,  to join that 30+% that leave the best job in the world because it has the worst managers in the world . If you keep giving your precious time for free, before long it will be expected in even more quantities than it is now.

timeThe reality is time is all you have, we work for units of free time, not finances,  you are mighty, not meek nor mild mannered so say NO,  shout loudly “I will not be an instrument of the government, I will not capitulate to the whims of the failed heads that populate OFSTED and ESTYN. take your plethora of consultants, who have no idea what it’s like to be in a classroom and insert them where the sun doesn’t shine. I am not a slave to a spreadsheet on some careerists laptop.   I am a mighty teacher and I am taking back the career I love, I will teach those kids my way and I do deserve a life!

*this used to read social mobility but I changed my mind after several discussions on twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Workload a reality check. The definition of reasonable and you do deserve a life!

Liars, Backstabbers and Empire builders.

I was late to teaching and I have experienced a diverse range of workplaces.  Of all the industries I have worked in I can categorically state that teaching has shown me some of the worst elements of human kind and none of it from the students.  This is a tale of mystery and intrigue, but most of all a shameful episode that should curl the toes of any manager and leader out there.   Based on a true story, how much you believe is up to you……

Picture the scene, a normal day at lunch,  I am running a club,  the room full of kids that want to be doing extra curricular.  The heads PA comes in to my room (without a knock) and hands me an envelope.  The envelope contains an invitation (we all know it’s a demand right?).  Please attend a meeting at the end of the day during directed time.  No context, a neutral emissary, you know it’s not going to be good.   Anyone who has been in this position will know the feeling you get.   A barren gnawing in the pit of your stomach, your mind races as you desperately try to mentally prepare yourself for what might be to come.  Two full hours of teaching to go, brain racing, what could it be……….. “SIR!”
Back in the room. Tick tock, tick tock time seems to have stopped. You deliver terrible lessons on some kind of zombie autopilot, until finally, the bell rings.

KNOCK KNOCK.  Muffled “come in”.

Now at this point, like a film,  I am going to segue off to provide some character back story and to build tension……

Our current commander in chief was parachuted in at the demise of a former superior and came on the ticket of “Dynamic leader”, following a hasty sacking of the predecessor on dodgy financial grounds.  A marked improvement in results was delivered swiftly, driven by introducing a load of BTEC’s and pressuring staff to ensure that coursework was, “Yannow WINK WINK NUDGE NUDGE”,  failure was not an option.

This peaked and staff facing burn out started tWMFWo need a little more than dynamism.  As faith waned, dynamism should transition to strategic planning, it did not.   On Strategy our supreme leader was found weighed measured and left wanting. The seams began to split, El Supremos’s visibility was waning in fact you would be more likely to spot a Red Crested Tree Rat on the corridors.  The preferred management style transmogrified into covert sneakiness,  largely perpetrated by mawkish SLT generals, who slithered up the corridors, with nuggets of poorly planned new initiatives to be drip fed to middle managers and then implemented at lightning speed. This before anyone could say NASUWT or NUT or ATL, let alone email or work load impact assessment .GRIMA

Enter the ultimate pantomime villain DUM DUM DUM DAHHHHHHHH!   OFSTED.  The call sent the school into a spiraling Tizwaz of utter chaos.  The night before “OFSTED” arrived, mawkish general number one (I shall call him Gríma Wormtongue) decided, or was instructed, to change not one, but five separate school policies, non of which had been work load impact assessed.  Further chaos ensued,  as the inspectors began their work, the staff team were in disarray and the students knew it.   At the end of the inspection and by some stroke of luck (or Grima’s shenanigans), the SLT team managed to scrape through with an Adequate judgment against their performance measures and this was presented back to the staff team as a victory with the caveat that we were “all managers of teaching and learning”.

I watched horrified, as the head presented Wormtounge with a gift, for……. wait for it………….. Setting up a spurious meeting between non specialist teachers teaching outside of their subjects and subject specialists,  to prove that non-specialists get supported (they don’t) by specialists.  I think it is important to clarify this so you can contexulise the level of duplicity that El supremo and Grima are capable of.

1.OFSTED leveled a complaint through a mid inspection feedback session that the school does not provide adequate meeting (any) time for teachers, teaching outside of their specialism.
2. Grima disputed this and then organised a spurious last minute meeting (via a whatsap group), to prove that the school does provide adequate meeting time (it doesn’t).
3. The head publicly thanked Grima in front of the staff team with a gift  for creating a web of lies that fooled the inspectorate and no doubt, prevented an accurate judgement.

KNOCK KNOCK.  Muffled “come in”.

Sit down please.
El supremo proceeded to tell me that there had been a parental complaint with regards to how I had dealt with one of my students.  Then there was quiet. After a short period of time I asked if there would be some further details provided, the conversation went something like this;

El Supremo : “Well I thought you might be able to shed some light on it”

Moi : “You have the complaint if you give me some details I might be able to shed some light”

El Supremo : ” Well it happened last week”

Moi : “Yes a lot of things happened last week”

El Stupido : “It was in your main subject”

Moi : “Yes that is what I teach most of the time….”

El Shortsighted : “It was with year 9”

Moi : “With respect I am sure you did not bring me down here to play guessing games do you think you could shed some light on what it is I am supposed to have done?”

El Stumblingo : “Well we think it happened last Thursday”

Moi : “Look whilst I appreciate this is difficult, unless you tell me what’s going on I’m going to terminate this meeting”

El Simpleminded then proceeded to bumble around the issue, which struck me as very odd, on a number of occasions,  I asked to see the letter of complaint, which it later transpired, had been emailed to someone way above El Sneakios pay grade.  The letter was not forthcoming.   To cut a very long story short, the following things came out of the meeting.

1. It was alleged that I had singled out a child and “forced” them to write something “in front of the class” and that the learner in question had felt “disparaged”.

2. A full investigation including staff and learner interviews would be conducted.

3. The investigating member of SLT would be Grima Wormtounge.

So being fairly old, fairly wise and luckily, fairly paranoid,  I jumped into action.  I ran straight from the meeting and started to put together a case file, this by the way is the single most important piece of advice I can give to anyone else who may be faced with the horrible situation of an investigation.  I grabbed the learner in questions book (I will refer to the learner as Child A) and made a color photocopy of every page, I took screen shots with time and date stamps from SIMS, printed everything that I could find on child A, behavior info, attendance, staff reports, notes, progress reports.  I checked every departmental memo and every piece of internal mail.  I checked the SEN and SENDCO registers.  I searched through three years of emails and created a redacted list of every email I had received, that mentioned child A.  As I am sure you can imagine child A had a history that was less than favorable (for reasons of anonymity I will not expand),  having been on the wrong side of the tracks since day one.  I suggest you draw upon your experience and think of the most troublesome child you have encountered, multiply this by two and you might be half way there.

I left no stone upturned.  My case file was completed my Kevlar undies pulled up as high as I could muster, I contacted the upper echelons of the Union and waited with baited breath.

Two weeks went by as Grima slithered round school on a foul mission, two weeks of worry and sleepless nights on my part.  Whilst I was VERY confident in my own actions it was the actions of the duplicitous that kept me awake.  Despite exceptional and speedy advice from a thoroughly experienced and professional Unionista, a nagging doubt that I was being stitched up just wouldn’t depart.

The meeting for me to give evidence for the investigation, was finally announced and with my case file intact and my most confident mask on, I entered the room with my Unionista.  Grima lurked opposite me and proceeded to direct questions,  Unionista stepped in and countered practically everything that was said as incorrect or not appropriate or nuanced,  you get the picture.  I explicitly refuted every single allegation and provided evidence from my case file to prove beyond doubt, that what child A,  had told parents, did not happen in any universe and especially not the one we presently occupy.

Grima was not happy,  Wormtounge’s hand was about to be played.   You see unbeknown to you,  Unionista and I had already figured out the game plan.  Through other channels,  it had been discovered that the complaint leveled at me was actually a tiny part of a vast and damning complaining email directed at SEN provision at a whole school level.  I was just a small redacted paragraph at the end of a huge letter of complaint.  Me and Unionista knew that El Sneakyswine and Wormtounge were looking for scapegoats.  You see if they could get me to admit to failings in the differentiation in my lessons, they could then use me and others, as a sacrificial lamb to appease the parent of child A.  This would have played out like this……..

Dear Blah….

Thanks for your complaint we have investigated the points you have raised and a number of staff have been sent for training lalalalala

Yours sincerely

El Shyster

you know how this works right?

Except I was ready,  there was no way that I was going to be the stooge in this situation,  not because I was being cantankerous (I am) nor because I was not prepared to take one for the school (I probably would, if asked nicely), but because of the way they had gone about things.  I was dug in like a Alabama tick and determined to get my meal.  Grima moved the questions towards the suggestion that I hadn’t provided sufficient opportunities for differentiation during the course of the lessons, Unionista gave me a knowing look,  GW sleazily moved the questions towards school policy and then I could not believe what happened next!

aceLike some kind of card counting cheat at a Vegas black jack table, Grima pulled out what should have been theAce card,   Grima’s tongue flicked across teeth in anticipation and then shamelessly dropped an IEP (individual education plan) for child A right in front of me.  Almost unable to contain the excitement GW asked

“have you read this?”
“have you seen the part where it says ‘not to be asked to write in front of others’?”

In one of those rare and precious moments of pure unadulterated karma, the situation then unfolded at break neck speed.  Quick as a flash I pulled out the relevant screen shots from my carefully prepared file.  Screen shots of devastating effectiveness screenshots that proved beyond all doubt that the IEP for child A had been added to SIMS that very morning,  screenshots that proved the author, the creator of the IEP was none other than Grima Wormtounge, screenshots that dated the IEP the previous evening, screenshots that categorically proved the level of lies that Grima and El Supercheatio were prepared to go to.   Screenshots that vindicated me and incriminated them.

I countered,

“No I haven’t read it, because you only put it on the system this morning.”

Wormtounges face collapsed, fear flashed in eyes, lip quivered.

“Why did you try to make it look like I wasn’t reading IEP’s?” I asked.

Unionista steps in, this time to save Wormtounge, “I think we are done here”.  We left the room leaving Wormtounge shell shocked.

What would have happened,  if I hadn’t maintained my focus,  If i would not have remained on guard? If I hadn’t checked every morning to see if the details had been changed?  That meeting may have gone in a totally different direction.  What happens next time do you think that they know how negatively that has impacted not just my relationship with management but also the others?

Even in the worst cases scenario the allegation against me was unfounded and even if it had been proven, then it was at a low level of seriousness, but I take my record very seriously.  In an environment of fear and lying like the one created by El Rubbisho and GW, one thing will lead to another, they are in the firing line and they will throw anyone they can under the bus if it makes them look good in the short term, dangerous times.  I cannot forgive the level of treachery and duplicity that was exercised in order to prevent a difficult conversation with a parent and leave me carrying the can for their inability to manage the SEN provision at school,  who knows the depths that they will sink to for self preservation.

 

 

 

 

 

Liars, Backstabbers and Empire builders.

THE PROBLEM WITH NEW DISPLAYS

parapetThe crushing realisation is upon us. First weeks, then days and finally hours, the six weeks is nearly up!

Something odd is happening on #edutwitter, akin to a number of social media oddities which in my world,  I see as faux pas.  My old Mum ‘gawd bless her’, recently got Facebook.  So over the past month or so, she has became slightly more proficient at posting and sharing content.  This has lead to me giving her some guidance on some of the conventions;

“Mum,  no one wants to see your dinner”

“Mum that post could be viewed as offensive”

“Mum no one likes their timeline filled with game requests”

I’m sure you can picture the scene.

On #edutwitter one of the things I perceive as faux pas, is the sharing of “new displays“;

Look at my new book corner

Look at my new working wall (despite the kids having done no work)

Look how much better than you I am

Look at my cut out coloured paper

Look how shiny my laminating is

Look at how dedicated I am

Look how I care more than you

crunchI’m sure for the second time, you get the picture.  Now why is this a problem? Aside from the not unsubstantial arguments that displays have little, or in some cases a negative impact on learning, or that they take up a disproportionate amount of time, that could be used for other more productive tasks. Or the argument that they actually discourage learners from memorising things, but never mind all those silly researchy things that are so unpopular in education.  There is actually another reason why teacher created displays grind my gears.

Allow me to elucidate. At the risk of sounding miserable, negative, unprofessional or wait for it……… uncaring (getting this in before you do).  It’s a problem because we are now entering the seventh year of a 1% pay rise which when you consider inflation, is effectively a pay cut. It’s a problem because year on year there is more work added and nothing taken away, it’s a problem because sleazy back sliding managers with no people skills are covertly massaging expectations beyond unmanageable, it’s a problem because the culture in many schools is about blame and OFSTED/ESTYN appeasement,  it’s a problem because three of the best and most senior teachers I have had the fortune to call colleagues have been forced from their jobs, by ineffective managers and a lack of will to fight, it’s a problem because two of my colleagues from the previous year are now dead from heart attacks,  seemingly only kept alive, by the sheer adrenaline, caused by pressure and unmanageable workload.
It is a problem because teaching, is facing unprecedented challenges and teachers know this, but continue to work themselves quite literally, to death.  Displays are a specific problem but oddly a really powerful way you can fight back. kitchner

It’s easy you see, anyone can put up a display.  It does not require a degree or QTS or any kind of special teaching powers,  if your management require you to put up displays, tell them you refuse and politely request that they employ someone to do it.  If you desperately want a new display, do the rest of us a favour and tell your management to hire someone to do it for you and then direct them from the side.  “SHOCK HORROR, WHAT? Refuse to do as I am told”? I hear your anguished cry! Well yes actually, tell them, because believe it or not the action short of strike action from the two largest teaching unions supports this and will support YOU in refusing.

You can find the guidance by clicking here . I get so very angry and worked up by teachers who do the things that are precluded by the action short of strike action. Many of your older colleagues and in some circumstances, even yourselves, fought hard through strikes, for the pay and conditions contained in the burgundy book and it protects us all.  Every single month at paycheck time, the government sticks two fingers in your face and says “YOU ARE NOT WORTH INFLATION”.  Every time you do something that is precluded by the action short of strike action you are supporting those two fingers. Every time you act in compliance, you are telling the rest of the profession that they are not worth it.  If there is one thing that school managers have managed to perfect, it is the ability to tap into teachers guilt complex.  The guilt is destroying the lives of thousands of professionals.

You might be OK at your school, you might be one of the lucky ones. Thousands are not, every time you go over and above on managements terms,  you are making it harder and harder for the entire profession.  Solidarity is required to make leaders think.  Until heads start feeling the pressure from their staff below,  NOTHING will change. Until those cosy little chats at the buffets in hotels up and down the country involve heads ruminating, on how effectively staff are effecting the immensely powerful action short of strike action , the idea of industrial action is nothing more than an exercise in futility.

To me it is not just a display,  it is a statement. It says you don’t have the confidence to stand by your colleagues,  it’s a statement that denigrates the profession and it’s an acceptance, that in line with the governments logic, you believe you are worth less than inflation.  But after all who the hell am I?  Just a provoked pedagogue….

THE PROBLEM WITH NEW DISPLAYS