Tag Archives: Nick Clegg

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.

Public sector FGM training

One of the many pressures of teaching is to be able to identify and get the correct support for children considered ‘at risk’. One of those situations is Female Genital Mutilation. At a conference earlier this year, the Association for Teachers and Lecturers reported that teachers need more training to help them identify and protect girls at risk. Possible symptoms identified include frequent toilet trips and girls in pain.

Well 3 months later, at a London summit this week, Nick Clegg will announce a package including extra training for public sector workers in FGM. New guidance about the practice will be part of compulsory training in public sector organisations.

Advice about FGM is already issued to many staff but professional bodies have called for a different approach.

The partial or total removal of external female genitalia is illegal in the UK but the practice occurs in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Mr Clegg will tell the Girl Summit being hosted by the government and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef): “Without the right knowledge, skills and experience, people feel like they don’t have the cultural understanding and authority to even talk about this practice honestly, never mind intervene when they’re worried someone is vulnerable.”

He will say: “Female genital mutilation is one of the oldest and the most extreme ways in which societies have sought to control the lives and bodies of generations of young women and girls. We’re currently failing thousands of girls… central to tackling it are the doctors, nurses, teachers and legal professionals who need to be equipped to identify and support young women and girls at risk.”

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Controlling the lives and bodies of young women and girls through FGM has no place in modern Britain. The RCN has worked with the government on the development of training and guidance to help equip frontline staff with the skills they need to tackle this most sensitive of issues.”

Louise Silverton, director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, welcomed the government plans but said they had to be backed up with “resources and commitment” to ensure staff have access to the training.

The Free School Debacle – My take

It’s been an interesting weekend in terms of education this past weekend. Within the past couple of days, Michael Gove’s flagship policy, Free Schools have been back in the news once again.

Over the weekend, Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (who’s he?) has reported that Free Schools need tougher controls, ie only employing fully qualified teachers as opposed to the current structure when they can employ basically any Tom, Dick or Harry. Mr Clegg also doesn’t like the fact that Free Schools are not required to adhere to the national curriculum. He believes that they should follow the national curriculum so that parents can be sure that their children were receiving a high standard of education.

Well this morning the Tories, in particular Education Minister Elizabeth Truss, has hit back at Nick Clegg, outright rejecting the calls for tighter controls. Mrs Truss said: “It’s a shame some Lib Dems didn’t back Free Schools. The whole point of these schools is they have freedoms. That’s what’s helping them outperform maintained schools. On average, Free Schools are doing better … academies improve performance more rapidly.”

Ok Mrs Truss, I don’t like the fact that you are calling Academies and Free Schools the same thing. The reality is these two school systems, while they operate in a similar way, are not identical. Yes both are outside Local Authority control, do not have to adhere to the national curriculum (despite Ofsted assessing them against it), and they can employ unqualified teachers, but there is one key difference: who and how they are set up. Academies are often very high performing schools converting into an academy, or poor performing schools being ‘sponsored’ by someone on behalf of the DfE to build up support and the quality of the school. Free Schools are slightly different. Often these are set up by parent groups and are often state-funded, to which academies are not necessarily.

The other thing that bugs me about what Mrs Truss said was about Free Schools doing better. Am I the only one who thinks this is an attempt to try and make people forget about the al-Madinah Free School in Derby that was deemed inadequate by education watchdog Ofsted? This isn’t the only Free School deemed inadequate or requires improvement either. This means that even Ofsted, who largely will want to produce results which will please the government, are not necessarily that impressed by some Free Schools.

I also agree with Mr Clegg with respect to the curriculum, although with some limitations. Mr Clegg makes the point: “why do we have a national curriculum if only a handful of schools have to teach it?” He’s right in that sense, but what he’s ignoring is whether this curriculum is fit for purpose. In many respects, the national curriculum isn’t for teachers, pupils or parents. It is largely for the government to say ‘look at our education system! This is what English children can do at this age!’ What the current curriculum, and in some respects even the curriculum due to come in over the next couple of years, both primary and secondary, neglects is the ability to be creative with children’s learning.

‘Speakers for Schools’ returns!

Politicians, supermodels and sports stars will be blitzing state schools next week in the hope of passing on some of their tips for success to the next generation. This initiative marks the second anniversary of the founding of “Speakers for Schools” – set up by BBC economics editor Robert Peston as an attempt to provide young people in secondary schools across the UK with access to inspirational speakers.

The glittering array of the speakers will include Prime Minister David Cameron, his deputy Nick Clegg and Labour’s shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, from the world of politics, as well as supermodel Lily Cole, Nicholas Hytner, the executive director of the National Theatre, the former director of MI5 Eliza Manningham-Buller, ex-England rugby player Will Greenwood and Wimbledon winner Andy Murray’s mother, Judy.

The week coincides with the launch of the i’s campaign to persuade more state schools to make use of inspirational alumni to inspire the current generation of young people in our schools.

“The more confident and ambitious our young people can become, the better placed Britain will be to meet the profound economic challenges ahead,” said Mr Peston.

Andrew Law, chairman of the charity’s board of trustees, who will return to his old school, Cheadle Hulme High in Manchester, added: “Young people today face many challenges and this research shows that, while remaining optimistic about their futures, many lack the confidence to aim high and unlock their full potential.”

The week-long series of visits also coincides with the results of a survey of 15 to 18-year-olds showing there is still optimism amongst those approaching the school leaving age about their prospects for the future.

While 69% were anxious about the future and 62% were not confident about finding jobs, 83% have faith that hard work will allow them to achieve in life. In addition, seven out of ten still want to go to university.

Can you imagine what would happen if Michael Gove went on this scheme! I wonder how much he would get heckled and that’s just when he walks through the door! I would imagine most schools wouldn’t even know who Nick Clegg is so I’m curious to know what top tips he has to share: ‘I’m the leader of a party noone turns to. To succeed in politics you need to break promises about tuition fees and join forces with a party that doesn’t support any of our policies.’

I definitely don’t agree with a supermodel being involved in all of this, especially given my post yesterday about body image. Why would you want someone who is involved in the very industry that causes teenage girls to lose self-esteem doing a speech that is supposed to be inspirational about their field? I guess I’m biased though …

Sex education needs updating, says Clegg

Science teacher jobs could soon involve helping pupils learn about sex and the dangers of the internet. Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has said sex education guidance needs updating and should apply to all schools. He believes the existing guidelines are not enough to keep children safe and need to be altered to reflect the “menacing” nature of the internet.

Mr Clegg explained he has not yet convinced all the Conservative members of the coalition government that sex education needs a revamp in all English schools – including academies and free schools – but education secretary Michael Gove has said teachers will be given the required resources and trusted to get it right.

The deputy prime minister’s comments came after a 17-year-old female caller on his LBC radio phone-in warned that schoolchildren are under pressure to behave ‘like porn stars’ online and Mr Clegg agreed that the world is a “very different place” to the one of 13 years ago when the current guidance was introduced.

He also expressed concern that there are lots of schools – academies and free schools – that do not even need to follow the existing and outdated guidelines, as they do not need to teach the national curriculum.

Mr Clegg said: “The national curriculum, even though that doesn’t need to be taught by all schools, does sort of at least raise the expectations that schools should teach this.” He stressed that Mr Gove was a “perfectly intelligent bloke” and they had “compromised”.

Lucy Emmerson of the Sex Education Forum agreed with the Lib Dem leader’s sentiments and hopes that they will be reflected in the newer versions of the national curriculum, as she explained that the latest version has dropped all mention of sexual health from science and excluded naming genitalia.

Am I the only one who is thinking ‘where are the parents’ involvement in all of this?’ I can see what Mr Clegg is saying, particularly in light of recent events and because of how dangerous the internet can be to young people, but this is something I personally believe that parents should be talking to their kids about, not teachers having to teach it. I am a believer that education involves 3 parties: teacher, pupils and parents. A lot of emphasis is placed on the former 2 but not so much on the latter. What I would like to see are guidelines for parents to use to educate their kids as well as teachers.