Posted in teaching, Uncategorized

Beating funding cuts: decreasing workload and boosting morale

There is so much work and preparation that goes into being a teacher – as a school leader, you see what your teachers have to offer on a daily basis – their relationships with pupils and families, their commitments toward improving their practice, and the teamwork they demonstrate with their colleagues.

According to data released by the Office for National Statistics, the suicide rate of primary school teachers in England is nearly double the national average. Figures reveal that, between 2011 and 2015, the risk of suicide among primary and nursery school teachers was 42 percent higher than that of the broader population of England.

The startling figures have been published amid warnings that increasing pressures in the profession have made teaching “one of the most highly stressed occupations in the country today”, with a number of former and current teachers reporting that unmanageable workloads have impacted negatively on their mental health.

It is vital that you have a comprehensive, whole-school approach to mental health and emotional wellbeing, to ensure that staff and pupils are happy and safe. The link between low morale and poor teacher retention is well documented, and can severely impact on pupil behaviour and attainment.

You may not be able to shield staff from the uncertainty created by continual government reforms and budget restraints, but you can introduce low-cost and easy-to-implement strategies. Continue reading “Beating funding cuts: decreasing workload and boosting morale”

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Posted in curriculum, education, exams, leadership, learning, National Curriculum, teaching, Uncategorized

Gaming the system?

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Image credit: 24dash.com

Recent analysis of the average point scores of pupils’ key stage 4 exam results from 2015, has revealed “staggering” differences between the results that pupils achieved in GCSE qualifications compared to the results from non-GCSE courses. Continue reading “Gaming the system?”

Posted in charity events, curriculum, education, learning, opinion, Primary, school leadership, teaching

Teaching finance in primary schools to halt rising consumer debt

This week’s blog has been brought to you by national debt advice and education charity, Debt Advice Foundation.

A recent report by the Bank of England revealed that consumers are even more reliant on credit than ever, as the rate of consumer borrowing has risen to its highest level since 2006. Continue reading “Teaching finance in primary schools to halt rising consumer debt”

Posted in leadership, school leadership, teaching

The hidden costs of ‘superheads’

Back in 1996, when Tony Blair was leading the Labour party, he made a speech pledging to position successful headteachers in local failing schools, painting a picture of  ‘superheads’ akin to superheroes, swooping in to rescue failing schools.[1]

In 2013, Nick Clegg voiced his desire to introduce a nationwide ‘champions league’ of superheads with attractive financial incentives, and in 2015 the Conservative government actioned its new programme, introducing superheads into ‘coasting’ schools.[2] [3] Continue reading “The hidden costs of ‘superheads’”

Posted in academy conversion, education, leadership, opinion, policy, Primary, school business management, school governance, school leadership, schools, Secondary, teaching, Uncategorized

Thinking of starting, joining or expanding an MAT?

This week’s blog comes from our expert contributor, Veale Wasbrough Vizards (VWV), on the subject of MAT formation.

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Those readers who have recently seen presentations by the Schools Commissioner Frank Green, will know that the current political focus is firmly placed on school collaboration and the expansion of the multi-academy trust (MAT) model. This follows on from the clear messages contained in the Education and Adoption Bill. Continue reading “Thinking of starting, joining or expanding an MAT?”

Posted in Assessment, Primary, Secondary, teaching

Assessment for learning (AfL) techniques

AfL is as important now as ever, particularly as schools are being urged to develop their own assessment strategies. AfL, a form of formative assessment, doesn’t rely on testing or quizzes (although they can be used). So what kind of techniques can be used to assess learning day-to-day?

‘ICAN!’ statements

TheSchoolBus ‘ICAN!’ statements lay out exactly what needs to be learned throughout the year. Designed to be pasted into the front of an exercise book, these simple templates, available for the core subjects at key stages one and two, allow pupils to take charge of their own learning, while giving teachers an insight into how they are managing with the material.

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Learning journals

Reflective journals aren’t just for teachers! A learning journal can develop children into independent learners, able to own their learning journey. As a form of active learning, learning journals can increase a pupil’s interest levels, and help them to remember more as they write down what they have learned in their own words.

Peer and self-assessment

Peer and self-assessment form a vital part of AfL. Techniques which include an element of peer or self-assessment encourage pupils to think carefully about parts of the lesson they have not understood. Pupils learn to identify their own strengths and weaknesses, and are often more receptive to constructive criticism from their peers than from their teacher.

Assessing pupil progress (APP)

APP involves teachers periodically assessing examples of work, using set guidelines, giving them a profile of their students’ achievements across subjects. Evidence could include short or extended pieces of writing, information from different areas of the curriculum, and annotated text, or visual organisers like storyboards, oral work, self-assessment, and observation.

Guided reading

Guided reading is an approach which gives teachers an opportunity to teach reading to pupils who are struggling. Sessions are differentiated to the needs of various cohorts, and individual levels of achievement.

Guided reading involves small groups (no more than seven), all working at a similar level of achievement. Pupils must have their own copy of the text that is being read, in order to encourage independent reading. The text should be something that none of the pupils have read before, to reinforce and extend taught strategies.

This represents just a brief insight into AfL, there are a myriad of different strategies and techniques that can be used to assess learning, with or without a test!

Posted in education, Primary, teaching

Why Diversity Should be Taught in all Primary Schools

Children are not born racist, sexist or homophobic; this is a fact I state in every training session and staff meeting. Young people learn negative behaviours very early on from outside influences, therefore it is our job, as educators, to ensure that ALL of these discriminatory views are challenged and eradicated.  This will enable us to create a safe space for everyone in our school community and to ensure LGBT+ students and teachers are not bullied or discriminated against in or out of school.

When I started LGBT+ inclusive work 10 years ago, I quickly realised that my students were not the root of this problem; it was us, the adults, the teachers who were simply not referencing LGBT+ people, families and history within the curriculum. No sooner had I talked about famous LGBT+ people when hands went up to tell me about LGBT+ members in their families. This is one of the reasons I founded Educate & Celebrate, an organisation that challenges homophobia, biphobia and transphobia to make all schools LGBT+ friendly.

Our ‘PRIDE in Primary Education’ resources give students the opportunity to critique current political and social issues through the use of illustrated books, YouTube links, videos, songs, downloadable Mp3’s and other accessible youth currencies. This stimulates the link between popular culture, young people’s part in society and also empowers them to create ‘a society which reacts angrily to any case of injustice and promptly sets them about correcting it’  (Bauman, 2001). Our intention is to give our young people permission to join us on the journey to institutional change where recognition of discrimination through race, disabilities, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and beliefs is encouraged.

The key for us when developing our teaching resources is to guarantee ease of accessibility for both teachers and students by tapping into existing frameworks and eradicating the myth that we are teaching ‘gay’ lessons.

To clarify, there is no such thing as a ‘gay lesson’, only an ‘inclusive’ one.

Using existing primary school frameworks, we ensure student-centred responses to our curriculum developments, one being in the form of comprehension tasks, such as those for the book ‘Tango Makes Three’. The story is of two male penguins in a New York Zoo who hatch an egg and raise their baby penguin ‘Tango’. Responses from children included, ‘I like the book because it tells you that your parents don’t just have to be male or female’. Some respondents did not comment on the LGBT content at all, ‘I predict that when Mr. Gramzey thinks Tango is old enough to live in the wild, he will set him free’. For me, this is the utopia; a classroom, a school, a community, a world where it is a non-issue to read a book about different families and not have to justify the existence of LGBT+ people.

The primary Headteacher at Anderton Park School said: I was shocked to hear that a lovely story, Tango Makes Three, about a family of penguins with two fathers has been banned in so many countries around the world, this is not the world I want these children to grow up in so I am proud to be part of this project.”
Other headteachers have lined up to highlight the positive impact of using our resources. The Headteacher of Welford Primary school said: “Ensuring a harmonious community within a school doesn’t happen easily” and “differences exist and we don’t shy away from recognising those differences.”

The Tiverton Primary Headteacher says that our primary resources are already helping in her very diverse school community where there are over 30 different ethnicities and 25 different languages spoken: “How children build and maintain positive relationships with others underpins all of the work we do across our wide and varied curriculum.”

Recently, we have received criticism arguing that primary schools are not the right environment for LGBT+ inclusive work, however these accusations and misconceptions only prove the continued need for further education in our schools and communities about LGBT+ people, especially with regard to the Equality Act 2010 and Ofsted section 5 briefing criteria which all schools must adhere to.

“Queering the educational system requires that the curriculum, policies and practices of schools are inclusive of all individuals and their experiences.” (Russell B. Toomey, 2012). These experiences must include those who trail blaze for social justice and those who, through an inclusive education system, are empowered to have a voice. Educate & Celebrate wholeheartedly advocate the need for LGBT+ inclusive resources in primary schools and are delighted to hear that social justice is being achieved when the positive impact was highlighted in a recent Ofsted inspection at Allens Croft Primary School, February 2015:

Pupils in Year 5 demonstrated the fine impact of the school’s approach to inclusion and community values through their discussions about the book ‘My Princess Boy’ and the concept of unconditional friendship. Pupils showed true empathy in the ways they talked, for example, about the importance of people having an ‘open heart and being beautiful.’ As one pupil said, “We are all human, we are all unique.”

Bauman, K. T. (2001). Conversations with Zygmunt Bauman. Wiley, 2001.

Russell B. Toomey, J. K. (2012). Heteronormativity, school climates, and perceived safety for gender nonconforming peers. Journal of Adolescence, 35(1), Pages 187–196.