Education round-up 14/1/12

Gove wants to make sacking teachers easier. No-notice inspections by Ofsted. Downhills struggle continues.

Submitted by Choccy on January 14, 2012

Following on from last week where Gove started 2012, the way he ended 2011 by continuing to piss all over schools, education workers, and teachers in particular with his revolting comments about academy opposition, he now has classroom teachers firmly in his sights.

This man, who has never been a teacher, wants to make it easier for heads to sack teachers. Why? Because he think the faults of the education system lie with individual teachers, rather than structurally or systemically. How does he plan to do this? More performance management (ie justifying your job to bosses) and accelerated 'capability' mechanisms.

When managers identify 'weak' teachers, they previously had to initiate a 24-week period where that teacher's 'faults' are identified and supposed to be worked through. The plans now are to reduce it to about 9 weeks.

His claim that we have the 'best generation of teachers ever', while being a baseless assertion, clashes with the notion that we have a massive problem of 'underperformance' in schools. And yet, he wants teachers further under the kosh.

I have witnessed such mechanisms previously being used by vindictive managers to bully teachers, get rid of 'expensive' older staff, and so-called 'trouble-makers'. It goes without saying that he hasn't a clue what he's talking about. Unions are right to point out that this is a 'bully's charter'.

Christine Blower of NUT said: "The changes to the appraisal and capability policies will rightly be seen byteachers as an attack on their professionalism and will anger and depress them in equal measure." While NASUWT's Chris Keates reckons the plans are "yet another depressingly predictable announcement from a Government seemingly intent on destroying the teaching profession and state-education... the draconian measures announced today are totally unnecessary. There is no evidence which demonstrates that there are problems with the current system."

Keates is actually accurate to say that this style of management is straight out of The Apprentice, managers "want to be able to walk into classrooms and say 'You're Fired'."

Both unions say they will oppose the plans, but I'm not holding my breath. Opposition will only work when rank and file teachers say 'NO'. When we refuse to be bullied, collectively. The normalisation of the invasive abusive practices is particularly insidious, and I worry that many of my colleagues have internalised the logic of these sorts of measures. The bosses union, NAHT, apparently welcomes that draconian measures.

I have seen the real-world effects of this kind of bullying, invasive practice, and seen bright, motivated teachers reduced to shells, some quitting teaching altogether.

Performance management is nothing but hoop-jumping, and breeds the sort of sycophantic, uncritical careerists that stifle and destroy real education. Perfect for the sort of education that capitalism demands. - a competitive, ruthless, utilitarian process of rolling out workplace fodder while keeping eduction workers on their toes.

Long gone are the days, as if they ever existed, of teaching being perceived as a 'cushy' profession, with 'jobs for life'. Gove, Wilshaw and their ilk are stripping education to its bones, de-skilling teachers and forcing them to be in perpetual fear for their jobs.

In 2010, NASUWT found that found that the "current teaching climate results in high levels of stress, physiological problems and poor physical health...[and] increasing pressure from the accountability regime, coupled with the pace of Government innovation and reform was leading to increased incidence of mental ill-health and breakdowns. Work-related stress, workplace bullying and exhaustion were commonly cited issues where teachers and school leaders had experienced serious mental health issues."

The new measures are disgusting in that respect, given that the Office for National Statistics reports that instances "of suicide among teachers are now 30-40% higher than the national average".

Gove is hellbent on destroying education. He claims he wants to improve it of course, all the while overseeing, alongside Nick Gibbs, a 13% cut in school funding over the next four years

Aside from his contempt for education workers, he is obviously completely clueless about students. This is a man who so misjudged his audiences in schools that he almost bored to death a bunch of south London kids recently. (cheers wojtek for the link)

He also thinks that 'community' languages like Turkish and Urdu shouldn't count as proper GCSEs (as judged by those he thinks merit inclusion in the E-bacc), but Latin should. It's no surprise that in my few years of teaching the only pupils I met studying Turkish and Urdu were working class children of immigrants (at most 3rd generation) in east London, and I've never met anyone who has studied Latin in the last 30 years, because generally speaking only posh schools do it.

If the unions and classroom teachers don't fight Gove and Wilshaw while they continue to kick us wall-to-wall, I will personally offer them a fight, in a ring, with a ref like, 'gentlemanly' like, like the 'olden days'. Even two on one. Yous choose the discipline, boxing, wrestling, whatever, i'll be there. I'll pay my own train-fare lads, BIG SOCIETY and all.

The judge, jury, executioner of schools, Her Majesty's Inspectors now plan to have 'no-notice inspections' instead of the two-day notice schools used to get.

I have been through Ofsted twice. It is awful. Staff are under an obscene amount of pressure. Schools trip over themselves to get anything above 'satisfactory'. Because, remember, 'satisfactory' is unsatisfactory. 'Unsatisfactory' is also unsatisfactory. While 'good' and 'outstanding' are both fine.

The effect of this will be that education workers will be under constant pressure because 'the visit' could come 'at any time' so we have to be 'ready'. Good luck retaining teachers!

In slightly less-pessimistic news, Downhills Primary in Tottenham, north London, is continuing to fight the plans to force conversion to academy status. BBC reported this week that 400 turned up to protests against the conversion, with staff, students, parents, governors and the local community opposed to the forced privatisation (by another name) of their school.

They are currently pursuing a judicial review, but if previous struggles are a sign, the opposition will only be successful through active collective opposition rather than relying on legal decisions. The inspiring example of Bournville School, where teachers threatened joint union action with the support of parents and successfuly beat plans to convert to an academy, shows that direct action yields results that matter.

Good luck to all those in struggle at Downhills!



12 years 5 months ago

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Submitted by Croy on January 15, 2012

Bang on Choccy. Hopefully I will be posting something today about this issue and something related to it. Will only be a quick one mind. Got resits that Im busy not revising for.


12 years 5 months ago

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Submitted by flaneur on January 15, 2012

Gove was on a morning program being grilled and he had a right 'mare. They were asking him why there'd be disruptive pupils in class, and he said it's because teachers aren't disciplining enough therefore they're responsible. Even the presenters thought that was barmy. The man is a cock.

working class …

12 years 5 months ago

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Submitted by working class … on January 15, 2012

Just watched Michael Gove on the BBC being interviewed by Andrew Neil. He was asked about academies and resistance by parents and teachers. He responded by saying that resistance was generally by "Old Trot's, looking for a fight".

Chilli Sauce

12 years 5 months ago

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Submitted by Chilli Sauce on January 15, 2012

'Nother good blog, Choccy.

jef costello

12 years 5 months ago

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Submitted by jef costello on January 15, 2012

Glad to see my old primary school making the headlines.
The arbitrary targets they are setting now are ridiculous (more so than before) and the push to academies is so obviously an attack on teachers' conditions (and the concept of an education system) that it is almost surreal. I honestly can't see how, aside from a few obviously untrue mottos anyone can come even close to justifying these policies on any grounds.


12 years 5 months ago

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Submitted by Steven. on January 16, 2012

Yeah, another good blog entry.

What makes this all worse is that a leaked letter from Gove the other day showed him saying that while slashing school budgets, the government should buy the Queen a £60 million new yacht for her diamond jubilee! How much of a wanker that man is hard to put into words.


12 years 5 months ago

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Submitted by Choccy on January 16, 2012

Mate, I am lost for fucking words with each passing interview I read of him or Wilshaw.


12 years 5 months ago

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Submitted by Ed on January 16, 2012

Yo Choccy, in future do you reckon you could attach pictures to your blog posts? Coz if you don't then the pictures don't show when we push them out over social media (even if we add them afterwards) and generally articles without pictures don't get shared as much..

Chilli Sauce

12 years 5 months ago

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Submitted by Chilli Sauce on January 17, 2012

What. A. Cock.

Ofsted plans to scrap 'satisfactory' label for schools

Education watchdog Ofsted wants to toughen the language of inspections in England - changing the "satisfactory" rating to "requires improvement".

Ofsted's chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, wants to send a message that "satisfactory" is now unsatisfactory and that more schools should be pushing for the higher rating of "good".

This is the latest attempt to improve schools which are seen as "coasting".

The National Union of Teachers criticised such labels as "insulting".

But Prime Minister David Cameron said: "This is not some small bureaucratic change. It marks a massive shift in attitude. I don't want the word 'satisfactory' to exist in our education system. 'Just good enough' is frankly not good enough."

Sir Michael wants to see more schools progressing beyond the current category of "satisfactory", with the change in description intended to emphasise that these schools need to make improvements.

At present, inspectors can judge schools to be "inadequate", "satisfactory", "good" or "outstanding". Subject to consultation, the satisfactory grade will become "requires improvement".
'Coasting' schools

Schools will only be allowed to stay at the "requires improvement" level for three years - and there will be earlier re-inspections, after 12 to 18 months rather than three years, says Ofsted.

Sir Michael was speaking ahead of a Downing Street summit on so-called "coasting" schools - where performance, often in well-off areas, is not necessarily inadequate but has failed to impress.

"There are too many coasting schools not providing an acceptable standard of education," says Sir Michael.

"Of particular concern are the 3,000 schools educating a million children that have been 'satisfactory' two inspections in a row.

"This is not good enough. That is why I am determined to look again at the judgements we award, not only so we are accurately reporting what we see, but so that those schools that most need help are identified and can properly begin the process of improvement.

"I make no apology for making even greater demands of an education system which has to respond with greater urgency to increasingly difficult and competitive economic circumstances."

Prime Minister David Cameron, who is hosting the summit, said: "To those who say that this will alienate some schools, I say we've got to stop making excuses and start doing what is best for our children: demanding excellence and confronting complacency wherever we find it."

But teachers' unions criticised the changes - with the NUT claiming that the re-labelled category would be used as a way of pressuring more schools into becoming academies.

"First we had 'underperforming' schools, now we have 'coasting' schools. Labelling schools in this way is derogatory and insulting to pupils, teachers, school leaders and governors," said NUT leader, Christine Blower.

"The government's real agenda behind this change is of course inventing yet another category of schools that it will then seek to force into academy status."

Chris Keates, head of the NASUWT teachers' union, attacked the proposals as "another crude ruse to enable the secretary of state to push more schools into the hands of profit making, private companies".

"The seemingly tough talk we have heard from the government today, may have popular appeal but the reality is that it has nothing to do with raising standards," she said.

"Instead, it is about ratcheting up pressure on schools, without providing the support and resources they need to assist them in securing further improvements.

"This announcement will encourage a culture of vicious management practices within schools which will have a profoundly negative effect on the workforce and children and young people alike."

Labour's shadow education secretary, Stephen Twigg, said coasting schools "need more than just a new label" and criticised the removal of routine inspections of outstanding schools.

"Outstanding schools can quickly slip back, so this measure could undermine confidence in the system and mean parents only get out of date information."