All posts by markmelaney

About markmelaney

Student Primary School Teacher - 3rd Year Undergraduate.

Getting to work on teacher’s workload – Ministers’ Measures

One of the many factors that has been the caused of incessant and frequent striking by members of the teaching profession as well as other educators leaving the profession for other careers has been the high level of workload. For a long time under Michael Gove, this was seen as ‘excuses’ more than anything else, so the news that this current Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and Deputy Leader Nick Clegg are looking at ways to improve it has got to be music to the ears of those who are still left in the profession.

So what are these ‘decisive measures’ that the two politicians announced? Well they include;

  1. Commitments by Ofsted to not change their handbook or framework during the academic year, unless absolutely necessary
  2. Giving schools more notice of significant curriculum changes, and not making any changes to qualifications during the academic year, unless urgently required
  3. Carrying out a large robust survey in 2016 and then every two years in order to track teachers’ workload.

These announcements come after results from a Workload Challenge survey released by the Department of Education, of which around 44,000 (the vast majority of teachers) responded to. They cited excessive amounts of time spent recording data and dealing with bureaucracy as factors which contributed to “unnecessary” or “unproductive” workloads. Other reasons included unrealistic deadlines and excessive marking – with some saying they marked up to 120 books a day.

Ms Morgan said the changes would tackle the root causes of excessive workloads. “It is no secret that we have made some very important changes in schools – changes that we know have increased the pressure on many teachers,” she said. “We know there is no quick fix but we hope the commitments we have outlined today will support and empower the profession, and free up teachers to focus on what matters most in their jobs.”

If only that were true. It is believed by many that this isn’t enough. The National Union of Teachers said teachers would be “bitterly disappointed” by the measures.

“At a time when the number of teachers leaving this proud profession is at a 10-year high, this announcement on workload is simply insufficient,” said general secretary Christine Blower. She said the government should immediately tackle its “out-of-control accountability system”, which had “Ofsted at its centre”.

The dreaded Ofsted again. It is no secret that the very name brings a shudder to many members of our profession, and with that shudder comes the feeling of needing to do extra work to prevent yourself from showing a bad light. I’ve worked in schools where inspections are going on and have seen even experienced teachers in a panic.

HM Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said Ofsted was working to “dispel some of the myths that may have led to unnecessary workloads”. “It is very important that schools maintain a sense of proportion when preparing for an Ofsted inspection,” he said. “If they are devoting their energies to getting things right for pupils, then an Ofsted inspection will take care of itself.”

I personally welcome the announcement, it’s at least a step in the right direction, but if progress is judged on speed of movement, this is more like a pigeon-toe step than a sprint. Hopefully there are many more to come soon and maybe, just maybe, the profession might be given a bit of a morale boost.

Waging War on Mediocrity – The Education Plans

So, just in case people didn’t know, there’s an election coming up, and all the politicians we’ve all come to love or completely despise (yes looking at you here Mr Gove) all come up with their remarkable promises that pretty much every single time they don’t stick to (take the Lib Dems and university tuition fees).

So what’s been happening this time round? Well Mr Cameron promises that in a Conservative government, there will be no cuts to the schools budget in cash terms. He also promised that he would provide an additional £7bn for places for the rising number of pupils due to the baby boom we’ve had over the past few years. Well on the face of it, that sounds all rather nice, yay no cuts. But wait … hang on a minute. He said ‘in cash terms’, which means that it doesn’t increase in line with inflation, so in ‘real terms’ what he’s actually saying is that he is actually cutting the schools budget.

Another promise that came up concerned schools becoming academies. This was initially a Labour ideal but the Tories have brought it on further. Mr Cameron says he is ‘waging war on the mediocrity of our schools’ and he believes academies are the solution. What I find interesting about this is that Tristram Hunt, the Shadow Education Secretary, who represents the party that started this whole academy process off, suggested that this isn’t the only solution. Say what you like about academies, but for me there is genuinely not enough evidence to suggest that academies have been an effective way to solve our education issues. What Mr Cameron wants to do is make more schools that aren’t rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted become academies in a bid to improve standards. But how reliable are Ofsted’s judgements? We constantly hear them come under fire from all directions from teachers to parents and unions. I personally have been a pupil and taught in several schools rated from what is now ‘requires improvement’ to ‘outstanding’ and in some cases have not seen a difference in ones that require improvement and outstanding schools, so begs the question of why the inconsistency. There are also schools out there, such as schools that specialise in SEN, where the progress targets are not so easy to meet.

Talking of Tristram Hunt and Labour, they also came under fire today with a pledge that has leaked out with regards to the tuition fees. I took a bit of a swipe in my intro at the Lib Dems putting the cost up to £9000 per year, well Labour want to do something about this by reducing the fees down to £6000 per year. Once again this sounds really good and will certainly ease the cost of higher education. However, if you work out the costings of all of that, it works out that over the next Parliament, Labour would have to find somewhere in the region of £12bn to pay for it, so the burning question in my mind is ‘how do you propose to pay for that?’ We all know the common answers: increase taxes, cut spending in other areas, or do a Gordon Brown and go on a borrowing binge. Why not get a loan of £12bn from Wonga? Not like we have a high national debt right?

I’ll be honest, what I’m getting from all of this is that we’re not going to see anything particularly positive with regards to our beloved education anytime soon no matter who we elect into our next Parliament. All the more reason for me to not really want to vote for anyone because noone is able to make a positive difference.

Mental Health a concern once again

One of the most striking topics to hit the news so far in the beginning of this new year is concerning mental health among our young people. In fact over the past couple of days it has been quite overwhelming.

Yesterday, BBC Newsbeat released an article about the number of children who are self-harming is increasingly significantly, some 20% rise in the number of 10-19 year olds admitted to hospital in the past year alone. The NHS figures show a number in the region of 29,000 admissions.

Teaching Unions have been quick to point to government cuts in spending on local services, which is leaving schools with much less access to expert medical help in comparison to previous years. While this may be true, there is plenty more to this story

Dr Max Davie, a spokesperson for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), says feeling pressured at school, or by friends, family and the media can all play their part in why young people self-harm. He states, ‘We have to remember that people self-harm because they’re in psychological distress that’s so severe that they prefer physical harm or physical pain to their psychological state. So the real question is why are more young people experiencing unbearable psychological distress? They are often isolated and if that isolation is extended to their own families that can be very serious and damaging. There aren’t enough services. If they reach out and talk about their problems there is often no-one there who is able to listen who is able to address their issues”

Caroline Kolek, a secondary school teacher and spokesperson for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “My experience in schools and talking to colleagues is that we are seeing a rise in self-harm, predominantly among girls but also among boys as well. My reaction to those figures is disappointment really. We recognise anxiety and depression is on the rise among young people. Unfortunately there is a correlation between the figures and a decrease in funding for mental health services – we’ve lost our emotional wellbeing workers who used to come into schools, we’ve lost youth workers and there is certainly a massive underfunding in mental health services for young people so many aren’t getting the support, and their families, aren’t getting the support they need. We schools really don’t have the support we had four or five years ago.”

One of the factors that I have seen crop up a lot is that of social media. More and more young people are accessing facebook and, despite the legal age to join facebook being 13, increasing numbers of children younger than that are also appearing, in fact, I’ve even heard children as young as 7 saying they have an account there. Now that has it’s own questions attached to it, but that is a massive opportunity for people to abuse behind the comfort of a computer screen, which can cause even more pyschological harm. Should we allow young people to communicate via social media, certainly in the way that they use it? I mean I for example use my Facebook and Twitter predominantly for promoting here or sharing interesting education stuff I find, others choose to use it to post pictures of themselves (these so-called ‘selfies’) or like Katie Hopkins, to stir up controversy for attention.

So what are the government planning on doing? Well Care Minister Normal Lamb had this statement: ‘Self-harm is a sign of serious emotional distress and it is crucial that young people get the help they need. I’ve brought together a team of specialists to look at how we can improve care – including in our schools – and we are investing £150m over the next five years to help young people deal with issues like self-harm and eating disorders.’

As someone who is not much older than some of these kids, I certainly can vouch for how much stress school can put on. I’ve asked the question of ‘do we put too much pressure on our children?’ a couple of times before, and I generally think we do. I mean look how many tests these children do every year. It seems to be the way we’re moving, and we all know how some children cannot cope with exam pressures. It’s not just exams either, it’s the general school life. I went to a highly rated grammar school and at times it felt like the pressure mounted all the time because of the expectations that were put on us. For those who make it, it’s a great success for the schools, but for those who are struggling, we can see what might happen.

Happy New Year all!

So it’s that time of year again, the start of a new year, where we look forward to the new stuff and wave bye bye to the previous year.

2014 was not a year that I can say was the kindest to me, with some real difficult times in real life affecting me in ways which I could never have imagine. It has meant that I should have graduated last July, but instead it will be this July, but I’m not going to let that get me down, my motivation and love of education hasn’t change and will not ever change.

I have a lot of people to thank for getting me through 2014, so forgive me if I go off on a rant.

The first people I have to thank are the colleagues and friends I have at uni. Without them always being there to cheer me up when things were getting down, I might have given up chasing my dream and my passion. Part of me feels guilty about not being the person I am capable of being but they all stood by me.

It’s not just friends at uni either. I am fortunate enough to friends all over the world through things I’ve done and communities I’m a part of. These people give up time for me and call me on skype and do everything to keep me going no matter how hard times are. I’d like to think I’m able to do the same for them to, which makes for the great network of friends I’ve got.

The next people to thank are my family. I mean I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am now, so close to being a fully qualified teacher if I didn’t have a supportive family, and people that I can turn to and know I will feel better after talking to them. I mean they’ve known me for 22 years now, I think they have it pretty weighed off don’t you think?

The last people I have to thank are all of you, those who take the time to read my blog. I’m often surprised at how many times I check my twitter feed and get private messages on there giving me encouragement and saying they’re enjoying my content, as well as some interesting debates that have been started up as a result. Without this I wouldn’t be doing this blog. I mean I know I’ve been a little slack the last couple of months having had a lot going on but I promise I will post more often now, and I hope you all continue to enjoy what I write.

I’m hoping this year is a very special year for everyone. I’m really hoping to graduate this year and become an NQT and continue to make full use of my love of education. I’m looking forward to so many memories being created and will be able to cherish them for the rest of my life.

Thanks everyone again for the continued support. I know everyone says this, but I have some of the best friends in the world and I can’t be grateful enough for that.

Look forward to more stuff coming soon!

It’s Christmas!! But what is it really?

It’s the time of the year when the kids get excited for presents under the Christmas tree, cards being sent by the truck load, maybe (although unlikely in the UK) even some snow falling, carols being sung and even some parties. But is this really what Christmas is? What has startled me over the few years of my teaching career so far is that the meaning is lost on children.

Now I will point out that I am not religious here, so if I make any mistakes in here and someone who can either add to this or correct it by all means do, but this is what I was taught at school.

Christmas is the time of Jesus’s birth, and the sign of God showing His great love for the world. Shepherds, wise men, and angels all shared in the excitement of knowing about this great event. They knew this was no ordinary baby. The prophets had told of His coming hundreds of years before. The star stopped over Bethlehem just to mark the way for those who were looking for this special child.

It’s a time to celebrate that through Jesus, we are all God’s children. Through Adam and Eve we have inherited the nature of sin which needs to be removed. Jesus died on the cross for each and every one of our sins, and if we truly believe that, then God can enter our hearts and forgive and cleanse us of our sins.

However, Christmas is not a time of joy for everyone. There are those who may not be home for Christmas for various reasons, whether they be serving in the military overseas, suffering from illness in hospital, or even sadly no longer with us. This year there has been the added impact of the Ebola outbreak in countries in West Africa, which has had suspected cases all over the world. There are also families who are living in poverty all over the world, for whom the thought of tucking into a roast turkey dinner or giving/receiving a present is but a distant dream, a far cry from the reality that they face. So while we may be fortunate to be able to celebrate Christmas in the various ways that we do, spare a thought to those who aren’t so privileged.

I hope everyone who reads this has a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year! I’m going to do what I haven’t done in a while and finish this with a song called O Come All Ye Faithful, performed by one of my favourite artists PelleK. Enjoy!

How attitudes to Halloween have changed

So it’s almost back to school time for all of the nation’s children after the half term break and Halloween celebrations, and it’s that time where teachers always ask their students what they did for Halloween.

When I was a kid many moons ago now, kids used to dress up in all kinds of spooky costumes and (along with their parents) used to go trick or treating round their neighbours houses, mostly with their neighbours’ permission first (wouldn’t want to be begging people you don’t know for sweets now would you?). Then there would usually be some kind of party where all these spooky monsters get together and have a good time. The adults tend to go a bit overboard but it’s all in good fun.

Well, a lot of that seems to have changed as technology has advanced. These days kids aren’t so keen on Halloween. I’ve asked kids that I’ve taught in the past what they did for Halloween and more and more often the response I hear is ‘I played on my xbox one or playstation 4.’ It is interesting to note that they were playing games that involved killing zombies (I would like to add that these children were primary age).

What I think disappoints me most about Halloween is how little children, and in some cases adults, know about what Halloween really is in celebration of. It is believed that Halloween is a pagan rite dating back to a pre-Christian festival. Actually it really has nothing to do with Paganism at all. In fact Halloween is actually a Christian festival. Halloween in fact falls on the day before the Feast of All Saints or ‘All Hallows’ on November 1st, hence Halloween is known as All Hallows Even (which was contracted into Hallowe’en). It didn’t use to be November 1st mind, it was moved there by Pope Gregory III to fall in line with the completion of the All Saints Chapel in Rome.

The feast itself spread from France quickly across the rest of Europe in 998, but what is interesting is that the abbot of a powerful monastery there added a celebration on November 2nd, where it became customary to bang pots and pans to remind those who went to hell that they weren’t forgotten, as it is well noted that they were often left out of celebrations as it was predominantly those who went to heaven or purgatory that were celebrated.

This doesn’t of course explain why we dress up in such costumes as we all see today. Well we have the French in the 14th and 15th centuries and British colonies in America around the 1700s to thank for that. One of the most well known events to hit Medieval Europe including France was the Black Death, destroying vast numbers of the population. This caught the attention of the Catholics which gave rises to Masses on All Souls Day, and artistic representations were devised to remind everyone of their mortality. These artistic representations became known as ‘Dance Macabre’ which translates from French as ‘Dance of Death’ and shows the Devil leading all kinds of people from popes, kings and knights to lepers and peasants into the tomb. The French dressed up in the garb of various states of life, but this was on All Souls Day, not Halloween which the Irish had, they didn’t dress up. This became a British tradition when the French and British colonies in America started to intermarry.

Trick or Treating however was not one of these events that became famous. That was where the British colonies rather unwittingly added to celebrations. This actually came from the foiled effects of the Gundpowder Plot on November 5th 1905. When Guy Fawkes was captured and arrested, in the penal periods, bands of revelers would put on masks and visit local Catholics in the dead of night demanding beer or cakes for their celebration. It’s become somewhat kid friendly since but the process is still the same as we know today, albeit it was moved to October 31st to join the Halloween celebrations.

The most recent addition to the celebrations came in the 1800s: witches. They actually were added in by the greeting cards industry when they tried to get in on the Halloween act, which of course didn’t really work out as we don’t really see them nowadays. The witches still stayed though.

The biggest mistake however comes from ill-informed informists who thought that Halloween was Pagan in origin, and that is what we know as the jack-o-lantern. The pagans did use to carve out vegetables to make lamps as part of Celtic harvest festival, but guess what folks? It wasn’t even pumpkins, it was turnips they used to carve out. So not only was it a mistake in origin, they didn’t even get the vegetable right.

So for all those who don’t know why Halloween is celebrated, I hope that I’ve cleared a few things up a bit.

So what is allowed and what isn’t when it comes to ‘authorised absence’?

I’ve written about this before and it evoked quite an interesting discussion both on here, through my colleagues and friends on Facebook and on Twitter about what should and shouldn’t be allowed as an authorised absence and whether people should be paying these fines introduced under the new government regulations.

Well head teachers’ union NAHT have now released some guidelines that have been drawn up over what is and isn’t allowed, which has allegedly received the backing of current Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.

Funerals, weddings and religious events will count as acceptable “exceptional circumstances” but cheaper holidays will not be “a good enough reason”.

Writing in the Sunday Times, Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the current system had caused confusion among heads. He said the new guidance would also permit time off to see parents returning from duty with the armed forces, and for children with disabilities or special needs who are suffering a family crisis.

Until September 2013, heads in England could grant up to 10 days’ leave a year for family holidays in “special circumstances”. But now head teachers can grant absence outside school holidays only in “exceptional circumstances”. Mr Hobby said: “The trouble is, we have no consistent definition of an ‘exceptional circumstance’. This has led to confusion and a sense of unfairness. Two-thirds of the heads we surveyed found this guidance problematic.”

He said the NAHT guidelines would help identify an “event whose timing cannot be controlled and which are great emotional significance to the families involved”. But Mr Hobby said pupils should not be given “extended leave” either side of an event.

He said there had been 60,000 fines handed out to parents for removing children without approval and not all were holidaymakers.

Last week, the Local Government Association said the new rules do not recognise the complexities of family life and head teachers should be allowed to take a “common-sense approach” to term time holidays. Mr Hobby said: “So what about allowing holidays in term time simply because of the cost? I’m afraid these just don’t fit the bill. It’s not a good enough reason to damage an education. You cannot easily make up the lost learning at home, and falling behind in class can put children at a permanent disadvantage. Those who work in schools share your pain. Many are parents themselves and pay these prices, too. We must tackle this. The government should work with the holiday industry to find a way through.”

Local authorities are obliged to instigate fines and enforce legal proceedings on behalf of schools in cases of unauthorised absences. Parents who take children out of school during term-time can receive automatic penalty notices of £60 per child. This rises to £120 if not paid within 21 days. Parents who fail to pay could face prosecution and a maximum fine of £2,500 or a jail sentence of up to three months.

So, it’s clearer now, under family circumstances such as weddings, bereavements and religious events are fine, but taking children out of school just for a cheaper holiday is a no go. So if you want to take your child on holiday, then pay the price for it, like you would for anything else such as food or housing or cars, which don’t just come around for free. Honestly I find it frustrating, people have often said to me ‘oh but look at the experiences they can have in these places and what they can learn.’ My response to that is ‘Yeah, and is that really why they’re going on holiday?’ to which the simple answer is no.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t take your children on holiday, but what I’m saying is don’t bargain with your children’s education just to cut the cost down. You might say ‘well i’ll take the risk and refuse to pay the fine’, but look at the consequences of that. You would have to pay probably more than the saving you made compared to going on holiday out of term time, and face a jail sentence and a criminal record. Is it really worth it? For me, no it isn’t. I mean sure, I’m 22 and don’t have children of my own, but I am of the mindset that if you want something, you pay the money for it. If you can’t afford it, well you don’t get it, simple as that.

GCSEs and the Erosion of the Education System

GCSEs, considered some of the most important exams of your life, but are they really inspiring confidence in our education system? In the past few years since this government has taken power, the overall average of those obtaining five ‘good’ GCSEs has been on the decline. In fact this year only 52.6% of those taking their GCSEs got the expected results, which is a significant drop on the 59.2% last year.

Now it’s very easy for the government to make the excuse: ‘Well we’ve changed the way that these results are calculated so that only those taking their first attempt at GCSEs are counting under this statistic.’ OK fine, we’ll work out the statistics using last year’s system and still the results show around 56%, which is still a significant collapse on last year’s results.

As if these results alone aren’t eroding the credibility of these exams. Well guess what guys? That’s not the end of the matter. It recently came out that this time round there have been a record number of successful challenges to marks of GCSE and A level papers. The number of appeals made in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have doubled in the past three years. So not only are results tumbling, but people aren’t even marking these papers correctly? Who’s marking these papers, Joe Bloggs from round the corner? (apologies to anyone called Joe Bloggs who might be reading my blog)

Despite the drop, the education secretary, Nicky Morgan, welcomed this year’s results, saying: “I am delighted to see more and more young people taking the high-quality subjects that will properly prepare them for life in modern Britain. With record numbers taking science at GCSE and maths now the most popular subject at A-level our plan for education has finally reversed the decline in key academic subjects.”

The government introduced the changes after a review by Prof Alison Wolf, who found too many schools were entering pupils for GCSEs multiple times or relying on poor-quality vocational courses to inflate grades.

Schools whose results this year take them below a baseline target of 40% of pupils gaining less than five good grades could be closed or taken over by an academy chain.

At A-level this year, 11.6% of sixth-formers gained three A* or A grades, down from 12.5% last year. Boys did better than girls with 12.3% getting three A*-A grades, compared with 11.1% of girls.

Commenting on the GCSE figures, the ASCL general secretary, Brian Lightman, said: “Our qualifications system must be trusted. This year the opposite is happening. We are seeing a worrying drop in confidence in exams. We know there has been a massive increase in appeals. The statistical manipulation of results has led to a lack of predictability that few can make sense of. Students and teachers are struggling to understand this year’s results. We believe the most disadvantaged students have been hit hardest. This cannot be in anyone’s interest.”

ASCL president Peter Kent, who is head of Lawrence Sheriff school in Rugby, added: “We want a rigorous approach, but change needs to be introduced in a way that does not destabilise the system and unfairly disadvantage young people. We are working with the government to make sure we understand the factors that have contributed to the problems this year. Above all, it must not be allowed to happen again.”

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “We believe the fall in GCSE English A*-C grades is due to the removal of the speaking and listening element from the grade, and the likelihood that disadvantaged students struggled to get at least a C due to the shift to end of course exams. We have serious concerns about the government’s plans for GCSEs from 2015. Ofqual’s decision to return to an over-reliance on testing through final exams at the end of two years, which will assess only a small part of pupils’ achievements, and its drive to promote a narrow academic curriculum disadvantages young people and ignores the skills and attributes they need to live fulfilled personal and professional lives. Changes to what’s assessed in exams, along with uncertainty about the quality of marking, is turning the exams system into a lottery for young people. It also makes it extremely unfair for schools to fall under the government’s minimum performance standards based on potentially unreliable grades. We know there has been a massive increase in appeals and that this has dented public confidence in the exams system. Government changes to the system in the future will mean that confidence is further eroded.”

The schools minister Nick Gibb said the figures should “inspire confidence” in the examination system which would provide a more accurate picture of standards. He said: “You might think it odd for an education minister to extol the virtues of a drop in the national pass rate of those achieving the benchmark number of GCSE passes.” But, writing in the Daily Telegraph, Gibb added that the country needed “to be sure that the qualifications which young people study are of the highest possible quality, and that they work for young people, not politicians”.

I have to say it depresses me that in the 25 years or so we have had GCSEs we are still having problems with exams not being marked correctly, grades being challenged on a record level basis, and more and more people are failing to meet 5 A*-C grades, including in Maths and English. We are letting young people out of our education system without the basic skills they need to enter the wider world and survive. How this can inspire any confidence in the credibility in our education system goes beyond me. For me this is further proof that education doesn’t belong with the politicians, it belongs with the teachers and other education professionals who commited their lives to educating generations of young people for years to come. I personally think it’s about high time these politicians get in touch with society, and not lining their pockets.

Charge of the Teach Brigade

With elections not too far away now, and important issues and pledges being made thick and fast in a mad rush to persuade voters, it is little surprise to see an education pledge appearing from the Tories, who in many respects are looking to move beyond just talking about Europe and immigration.

Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged that he will create an elite squad of high quality teachers in what he calls a National Teaching Service to go into what are described as ‘failing schools’, of which there are estimated to be around 500. These people will also be given the power to remove the schools’ leadership if it is deemed necessary. In order to do this, Mr Cameron says that he will be consulting a team of of ‘experts’ to help develop such a package.

It is the first initiative Cameron has undertaken with the new education secretary, Nicky Morgan, drafted into the cabinet to replace the unpopular Michael Gove. Morgan said that it had become necessary to “go further” and target schools where she said “failure has become ingrained”. She added: “We will not tolerate failure, and where we find it we will use tried and trusted interventions to turn things around in the interests of young people everywhere.”

The regional commissioners were largely developed by Gove as he realised the rapid extension of city academies meant the department for education was directly responsible for the oversight of thousands of academy and free schools in what was rapidly becoming an act of unwieldy centralisation.

Under the new model, the commissioners will be able to order immediate personnel changes to governing bodies, introduce standard punishment tariffs for bad behaviour, and bring in behaviour experts to implement new policies on classroom discipline, school uniform standards and homework. They would also have powers to make “immediate personnel changes to the governing body to improve the calibre of leadership and ensure they have the skills they need to improve”. Ofsted has largely been left to rate schools, but there was no systematic means of improving schools’ performance. It is not yet clear how the new commissioners would work with the under-fire Ofsted under the Conservative plans.

Last week it emerged that Gove had discussed how to remove Sir Michael Wilshaw as chief inspector of schools, but he responded on Friday, vowing to carry on in his position and claiming that he was a victim of “smear campaigns”.

The former education secretary David Blunkett, in a report in May to the current shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, had proposed a new, more democratic, middle-tier body to oversee improvement of local schools led by a new local Directors of School Standards. The proposal was largely modelled on the successful London Challenge responsible for improving school standards in the capital. Hunt, just back from studying the widely praised Singapore education system, added:“Ministers are now trying to play catch-up but the public will see that it is this government’s damaging schools policy that has failed pupils.”

So basically, Cameron’s idea is a Salvation Army of Teaching. Who are these so-called high quality teachers and what makes them stand out? If our education system is supposed to be of high quality, shouldn’t all of our teachers be qualified to be in this particular group? How is it going to feel if you have been consistently praised as an outstanding teacher for years on end, only to not even be considered for such a position? Am I the only one who thinks this has the potential for damaging the already battered and bruised morale of most of the teaching profession? If that happens, then there will be more and more people trying to leave the profession instead of joining it. We have a shortage enough, why make the situation worse? Ofsted are already under fire, so do we really want another mini Ofsted as well? I remain to be convinced of 1) how this is going to work and 2) where it fits into an already awkward system.

Tablets the new TV’s in our children’s bedrooms?

Can anyone else remember the old times when we used to talk about children having TV’s in their rooms and how that could provide a distraction to our children’s learning habits as they would be more inclined to play on a games console or watch their favourite TV shows than do their homework?

Well we have some good news, and some bad news, depending on where you stand on such debates as ‘should a child have a TV or computer in their own room?’ The good news is that the percentage of children who have a TV in their room has dropped 20% from 66% to 46% in the last 5 years. This could be in part due to the recent baby boom we’ve had so there are more children in the world, and maybe even this next statistic, the bad news. Ofcom now suggest that as much as 1 in 3 children now have their own tablet, some of which now watch TV on. Children even as young as 3 or 4 years old have their own tablet (around 11% of them)

So children are getting tablets now. Ok so what are they using for? Well it’s estimated around 6 in 10 of these children use a tablet at home, in which increasing numbers of children are using tablets to access the internet, play games and watch video clips in the years before starting school.

Ofcom said: “The popularity of the tablet could be contributing to the declining number of children with a TV set in their bedroom.”

The trends are highlighted in Ofcom’s Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report 2014. The report reveals that 54% of children aged eight to 11 and three-quarters of 12 to 15-year-olds have three or more digital, media or communications devices of their own.

The survey also shows nearly all parents are taking steps to manage risks when their children use the internet. Popular methods include parents supervising children online (84%), talking to children about the risks and how to manage them (78%) and setting rules about internet use and access (82%). More than half of parents also use technological tools to manage the risks, Ofcom says.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, the PR man has done a fantastic job convincing us all that we should embrace all this technology, but call me old fashioned but is there really a need for internet everywhere we go? Do we need to be spending masses of money on getting these technologies for our children? What happened to the days where kids used to do a wonderful thing called ‘exercise’. Kids these days are more interested in their playstations or xboxes or tablets or other handheld consoles. This may be part of the reason why we see children lacking in the fine motor skills to be confident in their own bodies, which we strive to teach during our PE lessons (if you’re in a school where PE isn’t marginalised in the first place). I apologise to all those passionate technology fans out there, but being brutally honest, technology is great, but there is no substitute for getting out there and using your body to learn about the world, rather than telling your ipad or your iphone to look something up on Google. Where I’m sat, technology will make us lazier, rather than better. Having had conversations with kids in both primary and secondary schools in my time in the profession, it is really saddening to me that when you ask a child what they’re doing or have done over the weekend, the response ‘played games on my (insert console here)’ has become all too common.