Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

I’m still here…

I had my funny five minutes and threatened to slam the door on twitter… A couple of people gave a damn (thank you) and I got over it. My reason for my tantrum will be better explained in Number Four on my list.

I thought rather than do a Nurture/Nature thing I’d explore some of last year’s repeating themes.

SATs

Yeah, this hasn’t gone away at all DFE, despite your PR masterclass last summer.  I will say, once again, I am all for the testing of knowledge to improve teaching and learning and I believe in the fair and equitable accountability of our education system.

SATs have nothing to do with these.

They are a game we play each and every year. Only the most naïve (or people detached from schools) would believe they are a fair and reliable source of school performance nationally… and yet we keep playing this charade? SATs as a system are utterly broken. The high stakes accountability making some feel that cheating is a better option than facing the future, gaming, hot-housing, narrow test only curriculum’s… This year I have seen more heads walk out of education than at any point in 22 years. You ask them why. The stresses of unchecked accountability… and SATs are number one on their list, even when they go for other reasons it is SATs that are cited as the catalyst. Those that are still in post, we know what we need to do… Make sure that of all the priorities it is SATs we get right (Please don’t confuse this with quality teaching and learning). In the meantime, we just need to second guess a top secret 1700 page marking document… A team of highly trained ninja teachers are breaking in the DFE headquarters as I write… Expect a leak – or just wait for the DFE to do it.

The right thing to do is stand up and say this. We want primary education to be about Reading, Writing and Mathematics… Just say it! At least we can get rid of all the other stuff you want… like a broad and balanced curriculum.

Recruitment and Retention

Sometimes, when I write I think of someone who would utterly argue against what I am trying to say. I try to imagine their arguments. I’d love to think what they would say about this subject. It’s the fault of bloggers? We have created a toxic environment in which the people who do the job try to become martyrs to the cause due to political objectives, like in the NHS? The worst thing about blogging about education is it’s so damn political… No matter how hard you try.

There is a real problem in recruiting and retaining teachers. On the floor, in the classroom… they are just not there in the numbers we need. This is particularly the case in rural areas. I remember the days of looking through 30 or 40 teacher applications for one post. I now hope for one application for a post. How has that happened? There is tumbleweed in education town and a sense that a career in teaching is not a good move (despite those lovely adverts).

I think much is to do with the next area of concern.

Wellbeing

Education is suffering a crisis of wellbeing. This is clearly how many in the profession feel. Now, helpful non-teachers can tell us to buck-up and shut-up; in fact fellow educational professions can as well. That everyone has it tough right now. Maybe they are right… if teachers and (head teachers) began to take the positive pills on a daily basis – wrote positive narratives – would this change things? As I have said, teacher wellbeing rests with school leaders and the profession. Therefore, if school leaders could just cheer up and get on with doing the, ‘best job in the world’, wouldn’t we all just be happier?

I think much of the wellbeing crisis comes from confused narratives. Everyone has something to say about education. Sometimes you just can’t process the number of things you HAVE to do that it becomes overwhelming… sometimes you get lost. I liken it to the number of emails I get daily offering solutions to what Ofsted wants… There’s real business to be made out of education and business is GOOD when fear is riding high. Social media is the perfect forum for spreading this.

The Solution? Turn off!

Which may have more to do with why @therprimaryhead and I are seriously thinking that it is time to step back from Twitter… just turn off and get on with the most important thing – the day to day job.

Obviously, as a blogger I see the irony in all this.

Unity

Twitter can feel like you are part of the new pioneers or, the spawn of Satan selling Hitler posters to children. There is no doubt that tribes have been created via edu-twitter. There are people I have met through this medium that I count as friends and look forward to meeting up with. Twitter has also made enemies of people. It shows up the great divides in education and the medium of 280 characters is NEVER suitable at bridging that gap. I have met many of the people on twitter I disagree with… I have always walked away with more respect for them after a personal meeting. But, let us be clear, twitter is not about winners or losers. I thought it was a place where I could come across a varied gathering of ideas and resources for reflection and borrowing… a library say. Libraries have clear rules, they are pleasant places to be… they feel good to be in. The library of twitter can feel like a bare knuckle fight in the middle of a fragile frozen lake, with your feet weighted and bound.

I suggest we find ways of having more varied educational gatherings in 2018. They’ll either enlighten us, or resemble Brighton Beach, 1964. We have more to gain than lose… surely?

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Finance

One of the hardest things I have done in education was cut the budget by over £200,000. The implications are huge and it has taken two years to deal with the impact this has on the whole school community. The current insecurity around funding stops strategic planning in its tracks and therefore how do you run your school effectively? We have done much to stabilise our budget, but decisions need to be made about future funding and investment in to our schools.  All I currently see is more uncertainty and smokescreen.

Whatever 2018 brings I will continue to lead my school with pride, compassion and ambition.

Happy New Year, Education!

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