Gove wants to make sacking teachers easier. No-notice inspections by Ofsted. Downhills struggle continues.
MAKE SACKING EASIER
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.
NO NOTICE OFSTED INSPECTIONS
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!
STRUGGLE CONTINUES AT TOTTENHAM PRIMARY
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!