Corporal Punishment

CORPORAL PUNISHMENT2

Corporal: from the Latin corpus meaning body: Specifically in this case, the human body.

Punishment: A penalty inflicted as retribution for an offense.

Corporal Punishment : A physical penalty inflicted on a human body inflicted as retribution for an offense.

This practice was outlawed in UK state schools in 1986 and in private schools this practice was still legal as late as 2003 in Northern Ireland. Corporal punishment involved a fully grown adult using various implements to cause ‘actual bodily harm‘ to a child.  I use my language carefully here. Causing deliberate injury to anybody is covered in law by, section 47 Offences against the Person Act of 1861.   This means that rationale human beings at the time, decided to create an exclusion in law that meant it was OK, to injure a child but not treat an adult in the same way.

As late as 1986 teachers, entrusted with the safety of the nations children, were allowed, by law, to hit them with sticks.  Some teachers would have exercised this right, as late as 2003 in Northern Irish private schools.  If you were born in 1986 you would be roughly 30 years old right now, That means teachers in our state schools as young as 52, may have been actively involved, in administering corporal punishment, or as I prefer, assaulting children with sticks.
CORPORAL PUNISHMENT

@commaficionado asked the great god twitter the above question and I have to say I was shocked by the result.  This was back in middle of December and I did try to write immediately about it but I could not.  Every time I sat down at the keyboard I felt immense anger.  I tried on a number of occasions to write about this subject but I just couldn’t find the language. 13% of teachers who voted in the poll would support a reintroduction of hitting children with sticks. 

More digging around suggested as many as 50% of practicing teachers, at the time of the ban on corporal punishment, thought that without the sanction of the cane, school discipline would swiftly descend into a vision of Dantes inferno. It would spark the end of days, the entire UK would descend into mad dystopia, children of the corn on crack.  Daily burning of teachers would occur in the playground and the queen would have to instigate martial law, the army would be sent to wipe out an entire generation of children, who couldn’t possibly have any moral compass due to not having been either hit by a stick, or watched others hit by sticks.

It did not.

From conversations with parents, friends and colleagues at the time the transition went by with little impact, largely most schools had stopped doing this anyway, all my schools included from 1972 to 1988 ish. Crazy to think, ‘I know,’ but beating children with sticks did not really help them to behave. Who would have thought it?

Onto the point of this blog.  If you are in anyway sensitive to those who would advocate hitting children, or indeed support hitting children yourself, even by parents, you have been warned.

13% of practicing teachers on twitter is a tiny proportion of the UK’s teachers and those of whom usually demonstrate a desire to be at the forefront of education.  13%, means that at least 154 of the UK’s most forward thinking teachers are walking round schools, tutting to themselves and wanting to be able to either assault a kid with a stick or watch with glee, as someone else hits a kid with a stick.

Without wanting to extrapolate spurious findings from this entirely amateur methodology and so open this matter up to entirely valid criticism, I will focus my attention on those who have openly stated that hitting a kid with a stick is fine.

To the 154 of you that definitely said yes, this is for you, if you found your way here and agree with corporal punishment this is for you too.

You disgust me, in my opinion you disgrace the profession and have no right to participate in education. The desire to physically assault a child marks you out as a person of extreme stupidity, extreme cruelty or extreme depravity, all of which preclude you from teaching. This is no false Trichotomy or straw man, this is not subject to clever twisting of words, or logical proposals, or semantics, this is not dissmisable as mendacity or meant to be pulled apart grammatically or syntactically. This is clear. Hitting a child and leaving a mark is actual bodily harm if you did it to an adult? It’s a crime, if you threaten an adult with it? It’s a crime.  If you believe that assault laws should not apply to children you are psychologically flawed.  If you justify this opinion to yourself you are weak and pathetic but you do not get my sympathy, that is saved for those smaller than you, those you would openly, physically assault.  If you think deeply about this and come up still thinking it’s justified, you should clear your desk and leave teaching.  Go and work in an abattoir surrounded by death, blood and animal shit, a job that is far more suited to people like you. You make my skin crawl.

In 1986 the state led teaching profession made a decision to outlaw a practice that was both ineffective and cruel.  50% of staff could not see the light.  What current punishment methods do we use will be viewed as equally ineffective and cruel in the future? Or even next week?…..

 

 

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Corporal Punishment

Having a Crap job is OK, except…..

 

CRAP JOBSOne of the ‘happiest’ people I know is a school cleaner. He’s uneducated, never been abroad, has less than functional literacy, and just about knows enough Maths to ensure he doesn’t get too badly ripped off.  When he goes out for a meal (twice a year), he always goes to the same place and orders the same thing.  He watches the same things on television week after week, he works two jobs every day and so does his wife.  They do not aspire for anything more they don’t like reading or surprises, but they seem happy.
This is my vision of hell.  I cannot imagine a worse, more mundane existence.  To me they are not living, this makes me really angry if I let it.  I can think of hundreds of mean things to say to him, I tease him about it occasionally and laugh about it with other more enlightened colleagues, such as the caretaker, who earns less money on paper because he has only one job and then ‘jobs it around’ to get the extra’s.  The caretaker, whom could be considered in a similar income bracket leads a far different life in my opinion.  He almost never watches television, reads extensively, forages for wild food often and spends almost every weekend with his wife walking and camping.

With similar levels of education and life choices both have made dramatically different decisions which have resulted in them being in broadly the same financial position, but dramatically different levels of intelligence and in my opinion, quality of life. But who made me the judge?

Both of these people have equal rights to life and equal rights to a standard of living, that they broadly choose for themselves.  If they were desperately unhappy with their lot they both have the ability to make some changes for the better and do you know why? Both were able to buy a home when house prices were at a level that allowed people with *’crap’ jobs to buy a house.  They own homes because a mortgage was a sensible proportion of their income and after sensible careers they paid off the homes early.  Now their wages just need to provide food and heat and entertainment they need way less to live as opposed to anybody new needing an extra £600 a month for rent.

*(The use of crap job is in no way meant to be taken personally it’s jobs perceived as crap by people that perceive things that way)

My classroom is filled with children who will never have the same choices unless there is a drastic change to the status quo. The reason? They will never have the same chances or choices, because they will never own their own home.  They will need at least £1000 pcm to meet the basic costs of renting and the bills, this will leave them nothing for savings and no chance of meeting the requirements for a mortgage deposit. Some will have help of course but many will not. This is deliberate policy, ever since Thatcher sold the social housing stock and successive governments failed to replenish it.  Housing prices have been creeping up ever since. If you doubt that just ask yourself the question, who does actually benefit, from high mortgages?

This means that all of a sudden having a ‘crap’ job is not OK, in fact education feels more important now than it ever has before, so everybody has to pass everything and if they don’t? As a teacher one management tactic is to make you feel guilty for destroying the life chances of every one of those children, who absolutely has to pass GCSE Maths and English and Prog 8 and whatever other nonsense is deemed the required standard for life, the magical golden ticket for the next phase of education. Even those new to the profession on NQT’s salary many of whom are kept there by nefarious management tactics, that delay them from getting onto the next salary point, are just above the national real living wage. Never mind having a ‘crap’ job, as a single person, even having what were historically, ‘good jobs’ are now only just about managing.

As time progresses wealth inequality increases, property prices are increasing, technological advances increase productivity and decrease the amount of blue collar work available.  In turn this increases wealth inequality and makes good jobs less and less obtainable. More and more wealth is concentrated into the hands of fewer and fewer people.  Businesses demand higher levels of education, which reduce the amount they have to spend training their people. Capitalism wins at the cost of the population. Productivity rises with less and less people involved, this is widely recognised as the hollowing out of the workforce.

So education responds, but not in the way it should in my opinion. Now every child is encouraged to get a ‘degree’, any degree. Children have to stay in some form of education until 18. A political move to address the rising issue of NEET’s. A sticking plaster which absolutely ignores the elephant in the room.

THESE KIDS NEED JOBS AND HOMES!

Edutwitter responds with the logic that ‘If kids know more they will get better jobs, so lets make kids know more’.  People become puritanical in the quest for the best way to educate these youngsters, to give them the best chance possible all the while ignoring the fact that the system is broken. We make kids know more in the most effective way possible of course!  Rows, direct instruction, drill, test, silence, strong behaviour systems, waste not one second of school time, favour the teacher, the teacher knows best. Gratitude, obedience, lanyards of shame, exclusions, off rolling, accountability, differentiation, uniforms, equipment, setting, streaming, phonics, CPD, Books, inspectors, monitoring, book looks, learning walks, group work, discovery, blah blah blah ad infinitum. All become weapons in the war to be the best god damn teacher it’s possible to be.  Those who disagree are castigated for daring to question the evangelical.  Disagree and expect weeks of trawling through unintelligible research papers, locked behind paywalls to be tarred with a brush of TRAD or PROG insults fly, histrionics around abuse and claims made against professional teachers.  Anyone with a handle on edu research builds a giant Ivory tower inside a greenhouse and then starts lobbing rocks, snarking at the unenlightened irrespective of what side they sit.

But there is one truth, even if every one of these kids got 10 a* or flipping 8’s or whatever it is in England, there will still be a huge proportion of them, that end up in crap jobs because crap jobs are all that’s left, because no matter how clever these kids are, the jobs are finite. You have all heard the jokes right?

You have committed the grave tactical blunder of acquiring enough university credits to graduate. So now you’re leaving University and embarking on the greatest adventure – and the biggest challenge – of your young lives: moving back in with your parents.

That is how this system is set up to work right now.  The rich get richer the poor get poorer and at the moment? the middle lie for the rich. They perpetuate the trickle down economic myth, because although a tiny proportion of it trickles down, a far greater proportion trickles off into the ether to be stored in tax havens by the richest 1%.

So, the system is broken, it’s getting worse.  The cost of living is increasing, and wages are static.  The shift required to move the status of ‘crap’ job back to the point where ‘crap’ job can buy a house is far too great.  No amount of knowledge is going to help. You can’t eat knowledge, knowledge will not keep you warm. For the majority knowledge will not buy them a house.

The focus is wrong IMO, we should be saying actually it is OK, not to have a great job, in fact why do some of us feel it’s OK to vilify those people that are happy cleaning, or working on a checkout, why are we not fighting for those people to be able to do those jobs with dignity? Why is it OK to look down your nose at people, who you perceive haven’t tried as hard, or who just don’t care about knowing stuff in the same way as you do? Why is it OK to look down your nose at someone who says ‘University is not for me? I like digging holes’. Why oh why are we insisting that every child studies a narrow range of academic subjects.  Subjects deemed academic by those who studied them in a bygone era of privilege, with memoirs of old ‘Cuthbert the cane who took no messing and never did me any harm’.  It is the worst kind of puritanical nonsense. Why are we subsidising huge corporations like the supermarkets who pay their staff less than the living wage so that the taxpayers have to pick up the slack through in work benefits? Spending billions of pounds a year on housing benefit, which directly benefits those who were FORTUNATE enough to be born before housing became a commodity instead of a right?  Follow the money.

The idea that new free schools and academies, which just ‘happen’ to support a stealth privatisation agenda and are broadly conservative and authoritarian in their political ideology and just happen to be being promoted by people with a broadly conservative and authoritarian viewpoint and they just happen to deliver education with a zero-tolerance approach, are going to deliver amazing individuals. People who are better than anything we have seen before, a working-class panacea of poor point Dexters, who’s singular mission will be revolutionising the UK, is utter nonsense.  Some will of course be successful but it’s far more likely that they will be absorbed into the status quo, swiftly sneering at their old school pals, who just can’t have worked hard as they did and they will simply look down their noses at them as they demand a triple caramel macchiato.

It’s broadly and fairly effectively argued IMO, that the rise of a progressive education system has damaged the opportunities of successive generations of the population for the last fifty years.  However, agreeing with this, does not automatically require you to fully subscribe to every element of the current rise of traditional teaching fueled by Gove et al. Neither does it demand an all-out attack on progressive methods, if you accept that the system is not right.  For example, in my subject Design and Technology traditional methods could never work without significant elements of discovery learning alongside.  I can teach a child how to draw basic elements and then I can give them products to draw, but I can never teach them how to apply that base knowledge to what is, intrinsically, a creative process. I can teach them the properties of materials and the short comings of manufacturing methods, but they will never understand these things, until they try themselves and fail. Then you see the penny drop ahhhh….. I know why they make things like that now, it’s because….. This level of understanding is rare in both KS4 and KS5 education, but it happens to people in practical apprenticeships and ‘jobs’ every single day. In the pure traditional educational model, it doesn’t happen as often because subjects like DT, art, drama and many others do not conform to the staid, linear acquisition and application of increasingly complex knowledge and therefore have no perceived value by those who are convinced that trad is the only way (some trad schools do not offerD&T at all).  How do you learn to write beautifully? by reading beautiful writing of course, and prey, how does one solve beautiful equations? ahhh by studying methods in books…. But how does one plane a door so it clicks shut perfectly with minimal effort? ahhh by reading a book on planing of cours….. Erm no actually by wrecking several doors and planes and skinning your knuckles multiple times or watching and being guided one to one by a true craftsman over a predetermined quality apprenticeship by a registered craftsman.

At the same time I equally feel that teaching generic skills is just as problematic. It’s nonsense, you can’t learn how to be good at ‘skills’.  Skills are learned by practicing acquired knowledge, without prior knowledge it’s stupid to say skill is improving. There are legions of parasitic consultants cuing up, professing to have the answers, locked and loaded with heady 60’s and 70’s narcotic hangovers of bygone times of sticking it to the man whilst all the time not realising that they have become the man. Not been in a classroom for the last five years? Take your crap and sling your hook, things are changing fast you’re not relevant anymore.  Neither is the idea that we can look to the rest of the world for answers, none of those other countries is anything like the UK the answers don’t lie there either.

Like many complex systems the most cost-effective answer must pragmatically lie in the middle, I am sure the middle exists, there must be great schools which successfully provide amazing opportunities for the most gifted young people with a rich deep approach to knowledge challenge every child in every subject, whilst simultaneously supporting those at the other end of the spectrum.  If this could be bottled and exported then no doubt the snake oil salesmen would make a fortune the world would be fixed, and we could all sail off into the sunset but that, of course, is patently ridiculous.

The real solution I reckon is far simpler.  Get rid of league tables. Remove OFSTEDSTYN. Give teachers a pay-rise. Give teachers more PPA time. Stop micro managing and employing data miners to justify to bean counters. Accept that vocational education is equally valuable. Stop harping on about pedagogy and accept that holistically, a rounded education involves not passing everything and not liking every subject.  Embrace the arts, support technology, stop meddling, leave the flipping exams the same, change the specs only when new stuff comes in, scrap multiple examination boards for the same subjects.  Accept that there is room for DI, for drilling for some subjects, but equally there is room for circle work and for progressive approaches for certain things decided by professionals trained to make those decisions. Scrap the current tiered education system, close down the private schools and reintegrate the academies and free schools back into a new reformed streamlined LEA system which supports schools not screws them over and let’s aim, not for increased social mobility, or a cost-effective education, let’s set the goal as true equity.  An equal opportunity to a high-quality education irrespective of age phase or demographic.

The pedagogy is not the enemy and neither are the teachers it’s the broken system that’s writing off a generation and the accountability that’s killing teaching, it isn’t about how much calculus they know, or if they can chant Invictus, or if they can problem solve in a group, whilst demonstrating growth mindset in a mini plenary in multiple learning styles.  We need a generation ready to change the world not a bunch of automatons ready to perpetuate the status quo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having a Crap job is OK, except…..

Restorative Snake Oil.

SNAKE OIL

This is written from a secondary school perspective.

WARNING SNAKE OIL ALERT!

Restorative practice in schools helps pupils resolve conflict, build trust and prevent harm.

The first thing to note is that this approach makes the assumption that schools don’t do most of this already.  This is absolute nonsense, most schools do this stuff day in day out. Why? Because humans have done this stuff since the beginning of time.  It is not a wholesale change to how you work, or is it a revolutionary way to manage behaviour. Boiled down to it’s basic component it can be summed up in one sentence.

Making students face up to the fact that their actions impact others.

It looks like this:

1.Teacher : What happened here?
2.Johnny : Nuffin It’s her innit?
3.Sinead : Piss off you called me a Slag?
4.Teacher : Johnny is that true?
5.Johnny : Yeah well she is a fuckin slag
6.Sinead : No I aint…
7.Teacher : Ahem enough of that language now!  Both of you sit there for a minute.
8.Teacher : Now you have both calmed down a little, Johnny why did you call her a slag?
9.Johnny : She was laughing at me.
10.Sinead : NO I weren’t
11.Teacher : Sinead enough! let me deal with this please. Johnny laughing is OK, calling someone a slag isn’t. It makes people feel bad Johnny
12.Johnny : So, don’t care…
13.Teacher : Ok so how do you think Sinead’s Dad would feel if he heard you say that?
14.Johnny : Be angry Miss.

15.Teacher : Yes he would, how about Sinead? How does she feel?

16.Johnny : Bad Miss….
17.Teacher : Ok now Johnny I know you are not really a horrible person and perhaps you are having a bad day, how can we sort this out?
18.Johnny : Sorry Sinead  offers hand.
19.Sinead : Reluctantly sorry for laughing.
20.Teacher : Right I hope this is the end of this and we make sure we are nice in the future?

21.Sinead & Johnny : Yes Miss
22.Teacher : You can both come back at lunch and help me tidy my room because I don’t like hearing young people use that kind of language and I care too much about you to let you get away with that.
23.Sinead & Johnny : Yes Miss

24.The two skip in to Miss’s room at lunch everything is perfect and they all have a laugh whilst sorting out the teachers colored pencils.

Now obviously this is a major caricature and this example is a neat and tidy and in reality it often doesn’t go like this at all.  Also often the incident is of a far greater severity than simple name calling, but the basic premise remains exactly the same.  It’s how human adults have managed conflict between children for a long time. This conversation is based on the main tenets of Restorative Practice which follow this pattern.

  1. What has happened?
  2. What were you thinking at the time? (Class teacher and child)
  3. Who has been affected by the actions?
  4. How have they been affected?
  5. What needs to be done now to make things right?
  6. How can we do things differently in the future?

Now your snake oil salesman will package this up as something new, that is going to revolutionise your school, it won’t.  If your school has huge problems with behaviour it is not going to be down to your teachers not understanding restorative practice, it will be down to consistency and demographic. This is where RJ/RP falls down.  All the explanations I will outline here are from personal experience in the last six months as our school has attempted to transition to this approach, whilst I might alter certain details and have used a little creative license in linking them to the above conversation. (names sex etc) to maintain anonymity you may take them as true.

Point 2. A very common response is the child in question will point blank refuse to acknowledge that the incident happened.  Johnny will lie and lie and lie. He will refuse to admit that he called Sinead a slag no matter what. Because Johnny knows that if he does this it’s very unlikely that the school will be able to be consistent.  He knows already that it is his word against hers and that if he stays stubborn, eventually Miss will have to leave it, he knows she has a class coming and doesn’t have the time.
This is about consistency, and in reality what happens most of the time is Miss will say to Sinead oh ignore him or some other placation.

Point 3. Sinead has a melt down starts screaming at Johnny, who in turn bursts out laughing.  Sinead runs out of the class slamming the door leaving Miss and Johnny.
The teacher more often than not will have a conversation about ‘not winding people up’  but Johnny knows this is being done almost tongue in cheek.  That reaction is worth pretending to Miss that he gives a shit.  If Miss chooses to follow this up now Sinead has acted in a way that will require significant time to intervene and carry our a consistent approach, in response to her behaviour.  She has sworn in front of a teacher and slammed a door which can easily be construed as vandalism.  It is unlikely that the teacher will have time to able to sort this properly and at best will most likely catch up with Sinead later or the matter will be reported to an internal relationships or behaviour team.

Point 4 : Sinead has surreptitiously phoned her Dad and has put the phone on the desk on speaker phone.  Her Dad can hear the whole conversation. At point 5. Dad joins in screaming blue murder and shouts he is on his way down to the school to ‘batter’ Johnny who panics and runs out of the class.  Sinead laughs, Teacher panics internally but speaks to Dad.  Both him and Sinead are in stitches.  Dad says he was only kidding and he is sick of the school doing nothing about his kid being called a slag by Johnny.  (this really happened).
Would love to see how other schools would unpick this by the way!  At ours it was escalated to the HT who invited Dad in for a chat. Make of that what you will.

Point 11.  Johnny has a melt down and starts hyperventilating, he begins muttering incoherent sentences about his Mum who has cancer and how Sinead is taking the piss out of this, he gets more and more upset Sinead starts to scream and picks up a chair shouting LIAR LIAR she throws a chair across the classroom and then runs out screaming.  Johnny starts throwing everything he can reach, the table goes the chairs go a window breaks. Both Johnny and Sinead were back in the same class the following day.

Point 24.  Neither kid shows up at lunch.  The school has no mechanism to make this happen other than the class Teacher.  This although the least stressful is perhaps the most important factor of all.  You can argue that every other incident has happened as a direct result of this step being the sole responsibility of the classroom teacher.

Every single incident can be put down to the following factors.
Lack of consitency
Lack of Time
Lack of robust system to ensure Restorative practice

In schools where behaviour is good, it’s usually good because the systems in place require the students to take responsibility for their own behaviour when they are in school.  This is achieved because the adults apply the system with ruthless consistency. There are consequences for misbehavior EVERY SINGLE TIME! The consequences are worse than the pleasure achieved by breaking the rules, be they difficult conversations with adults or mind numbingly boring detentions.  Those consequences vary of course and as such those regimes may be called Draconian or namby pamby (and that is a whole other debate), dependent on where you sit on the scale but without a doubt you will see consistency as the true driving force behind any successful approach.

Teachers be very wary of any approach that does not have consistency as it’s absolute umbrella.

Question your management on how they are going to facilitate consistency.

Ensure your Union makes your Head Teacher carry out a workload impact assessment on any changes to policy.

Explore the system that’s proposed to ensure that those all important restorative chats can take place.

Do not agree to anything that is not subject to review and change.

Behavior is too important to allow the latest government sticking plaster to further harm our children’s education.

 

Restorative Snake Oil.

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.


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!