Posts Tagged ‘Michael Gove’

Guess What Percentage of Teachers Considered Quitting this Year

December 22, 2013


What percentage of British teachers considered quitting their job this year?


Not even close!


Keep on going.


You’re not even trying.

How about 45?

Keep going.


Correct! According to the Teaching union NASUWT, almost half the teachers in England were considering giving their jobs away. Whilst I don’t take union figures as gospel, the survey results point to two very severe problems.

  • Teachers are not happy. Increased Government funding and standardized testing are not going to sufficiently impact student performance when the most important piece in the puzzle, the teacher, are not committed to seeing the year out. A teacher that isn’t happy is more than an impediment to learning – it is a fatal blow.
  • The latest trend in education policy is to put more pressure on teachers. Paperwork has become ridiculously onerous, constant changes to curriculum have left teachers in a tailspin, the deterioration of classroom behaviour has left many teachers suffering undue stress and assessments by government, school administration, peers, parents and even students have made teaching one of the most critiqued professions around.

My experience with teachers is that they join the profession largely from a desire to make a difference. The fact that so many enter the job with idealism and passion that becomes eroded so quickly is cause for great alarm.

From all the ideas and methodologies surfacing in education there seems to be one crucial policy area that continues to be avoided:

What policies can we put in place to support teachers rather than judge them, to assist them rather than to overwhelm and suffocate them?

If public policy doesn’t show concern for teachers, it stands to reason that many teachers wont get the job done.

Click on the link to read The Classroom Shouldn’t be a War Zone for Our Teachers

Click on the link to read Remember When Teachers Were Shown Respect? (Video)

Click on the link to read If You Think Teaching is so Easy You Should Try it for Yourself

Click on the link to read Teachers are Extremely Vulnerable to False Accusations
Click on the link to read Top 10 Ways of Dealing with Teacher Burnout

Click on the link to read Tips For Teachers for Managing Stress


Some Teachers Just Desperately Want to get Fired

January 23, 2013



Yesterday I wrote a post about a teacher unfairly on the brink of losing her job. Today I’m writing about one that probably never deserved to have one in the first place:

As an RE teacher it was her job to enlighten pupils about Christian values and the beliefs of other religions.

Instead, Catherine Reynolds encouraged her class to have lots of sex and ‘sleep around’ before marriage.

In expletive-ridden lessons, she told pupils to ‘stop bloody talking’, ‘sit on your a***’ and warned them: ‘If you don’t want to learn RE, you can p*** off’.

An investigation into her behaviour also found she posted offensive comments on her Facebook page. Following a parents evening she wrote: ‘That was the most f****** horrendous evening of my life’, and branded parents ‘retarded’.

Yesterday Reynolds, 27, was banned from the classroom for five years after Michael Gove decided she was a disgrace to the profession.

Describing her conduct as unacceptable, the Education Secretary declared it fell seriously short of that expected of a teacher and added that a disciplinary panel had struggled to identify any ‘understanding, insight or remorse’.

Reynolds taught RE at Saddleworth School near Oldham, having joined the state-run secondary as a newly-qualified teacher in 2008.

The Manchester University graduate initially showed promise, and was feted by pupils on a ‘rate my teacher’ website.

However, she got into trouble after her Facebook comments of September 2010 came to light, a report by a Teachers Agency panel found.

These included: ‘F****** retarded parents’ followed by: ‘That’s because only eejits pick RE’.

Further complaints followed in January and March 2011, the panel said.

Reynolds made numerous references to ‘sex from a personal perspective’ and told one pupil ‘not to get married because then you can’t sleep around’ and that ‘you should have sex all the time’.

In one lesson, she recounted a visit to Amsterdam in which she saw a sex show involving a horse and a woman and revealed she had been for a naked massage.

She used inappropriate language on a regular basis, the report found, including a string of swear words used to describe various people. One pupil was apparently told to ‘F*** off’.

Reynolds, who is married with a one-year-old daughter, told her class of taking a morning-after pill and of having a relationship with an older man.

She also showed pupils the tattoos on her lower back and her thigh and played them ‘inappropriate videos’.

Question: How on earth did she last this long?


Click on the link to read The Mission to Stop Teachers From Having a Sense of Humour

Click on the link to read School Instructs Students on How to Become Prostitutes

Click on the link to read Proof You Can Be Suspended for Anything

Click on the link to read The Case of a Teacher Suspended for Showing Integrity

Click on the link to read Primary School Introduces Insane No-Touching Policy

Maths is a Very Poorly Taught Subject

August 13, 2012

Out of all the subjects offered in Primary school, maths strikes me as easily the worst taught. This is for two main reasons:

1. Teachers are almost uniformly from arts and humanities backgrounds rather than maths and science backgrounds. It is staggering to compare those that went down the humanities path in late high school or in their first degree compared to those that have completed major maths units.

2. Maths is often taught in a boring, unimaginative way. Mindless worksheets and excessive reliance on rote knowledge and algorithms are the standard fare in a typical maths classroom.

What many students seem to lose from maths is the practical nature of the subject. We need maths to do the most basic activities in our lives; from counting change, organising our bedroom furniture, telling time, following a map and cooking a meal. This message does not get through to children sick to death of yet another worksheet.

It is the practical reality of maths that provides this truly underrated subject with enourmous scope for creativity. Just take a lesson I invented called “Mission Impossible Maths“, for example.

But as much as I can try to refocus educators about maths, the future looks dire. Policy makers who have invented the killer punch to authentic learning, commonly referred to as standardised testing, are more interested in grades on a formalised test than they are practical knowledge, problem solving and inquiry.

That’s why they continue to push the rote line:

A campaign group promoting maths has attacked plans to overhaul maths teaching in primary schools in England as “undeliverable”.

In a letter to the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, National Numeracy says the draft curriculum is “overloaded” and relies too much on rote learning.

The curriculum, due to come into force in 2014, expects children to know up to the 12-times table by the age of nine.

A government spokesman responded: “It is high time rigour is restored.”

National Numeracy says the plans are “seriously flawed” because they rely too much on rote learning.

The group says that rather than raising standards the new curriculum could in practice prevent pupils from developing a strong underlying understanding of mathematics or from having the confidence to apply mathematical theory to everyday problems.

Click on the link to read The Obstacle Course that is Teaching Maths

Click on the link to read Girls and Maths

Click on the link to read Putting Your Children to Sleep With Math


It isn’t that Hard to Make a “Poor” Teacher a “Good” One

July 12, 2012

There is a theory among educational circles that a struggling teacher can’t improve. This is probably true in today’s climate, but it isn’t a reflection on under-performing teachers, but rather a reflection on the total lack of support given to teachers.

A teacher’s journey begins with a pressurised, yet basically completely useless, teacher training course. This course not only fails to provide teachers with the requisite practical skills but is often taught and run by former teachers who are overjoyed at the prospect of finally being out of the classroom.

Then, if that teacher is lucky enough to score a job at a school with resources, a track record of half-decent behaviour and academic standards (because let’s face it – graduate teachers often go to the toughest schools to teach in), they are left on their own. No mentor, no support system. They are put in an environment where every teacher is in charge of their own classroom and teamwork is often non-existent.

That teacher can always break the unwritten rule and ask for help, but that would be a mistake. A graduate teacher’s first contract is usually a 12-month trial run. That teacher cannot afford to advertise their uncertainty and lack of experience. Teachers are overburdened as it is and many resent having to help an amateur when they have an ever-increasing workload to deal with. Therefore, a graduate teacher that asks for help risks not having their contract extended, thereby risking future employment.

So what do these teachers do? They learn on the job. And that’s where mistakes are made and bad habits are formed.

These bad habits sometimes make them look like “poor” teachers. Many of them are just well intentioned teachers who have never been given the support they needed.

The public are probably very supportive of new regulations that makes it harder for teachers branded “incompetent” from finding a new teaching job. I bid them to see beyond the labels and call on the system to support our teachers rather than replacing them for a newer version of the same thing:

For the first time, schools will be given legal powers to find out whether staff applying for new jobs have previously been subjected to official warnings.

Former employers will be required to disclose any disciplinary action taken against teachers over the last two years to give new schools a more comprehensive picture of their ability.

The regulations – being introduced from this September – come amid fears that too many schools allow weak teachers to leave and find new jobs rather than draw attention to their performance.

In the last decade, just 17 staff in England have been officially struck off for incompetence.

But teachers’ leaders insisted that the regulations would treat teachers “worse than criminals” and force some out of the profession altogether.

Click here to read about how I would solve the problem of the unsupported teacher.

Stripping Summer Holidays and Lengthening School Days is Not a Solution

January 14, 2012

If I wasn’t a teacher I think I would have supported Michael Gove’s push for reduced summer vacation and longer school days. Non-teachers are quick to remind us teachers that our vacation time is too long and our contact hours are just as generous. These same people wouldn’t teach if their life depended on it!

Firstly, while it is true that are holidays are long, we teachers get burnt out by the demands of our job. As much as I love teaching, towards the end of a given term, I am crawling towards the finishing line. Teaching is such a physically and emotionally charged career, it is simply impossible to envisage a 4 week annual holiday like other professions experience.

Secondly, our working hours do not stop at the end of day bell. Unlike many other professions, teachers are expected to take their work with them. From planning and marking to writing reports, teachers are forever working. This includes night, weekends and yes, holidays!

Michael Gove seems to think that quality will come with quantity. I am not so sure:

The school day could be extended and summer holidays reduced, Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said yesterday.

Under the proposals for the extended day, pupils could remain in school between 7.30am and 5.30pm and attend on Saturdays, with an extra two weeks potentially being added to school terms.

Over a five-year period, the extended hours would mean pupils gained as much as a year’s worth of extra education, allowing them to take vocational subjects in addition to their exam material.

Asked how this would affect teachers, he said: “If you love your job then there is, I think, absolutely nothing to complain about in making sure you have more of a chance to do it well.”

Mr Gove said the move would benefit “poorer children from poorer homes”, who “lose learning over the long summer holidays”.

Mr. Gove’s assertion that if teachers loved their jobs they would have nothing to complain about is quite insensitive and offensive. I love my job and do the best that I can. But I have limitations. I feel that if I was teaching in England, this proposal would burn me out earlier and more severely. I find it very sad that the Education secretary is so out of touch with teaching and the demands of a modern-day teacher.

Encouraging a Nation of Cheats

December 11, 2011

I am very much opposed to cheating in every form. Teachers are entrusted with the responsibility of imparting the lessons of integrity and honesty. It is absolutely vital that they are practising what they preach.

is right when she argues that the current narrow, test dominated view of education is bringing about dishonest behaviour. This further encourages students to continue the trend of dishonesty. This also prevents students from developing skills in persistence and motivation:

This week, the heads of the four main examination boards and officials from Ofqual, the exam regulator, are in for a testing time. They will be required to explain to MPs why some of their profession have indulged in behaviour that prompted Michael Gove, the education secretary, to call the examination system “discredited”.

The revelations of the past week have only reinforced a profound unease on the part of many that while we may be educating our children, are they actually learning anything useful (except, perhaps, that cheating definitely does not come cheap)? Useful, that is, not just for their future employment prospects, but also to equip them to become rounded human beings who desist from giving up the first time they taste failure or hit a hump on the bumpy road to maturity ?

As Mick Waters, a former director of the government’s exam regulator says: “We need to strip back to the bone and decide what education is for. There are children who learn paragraphs all day, every day, in year 11, just so they can write them one day in June.”

Sadly, stagnant teaching methods anchored in the 19th century are not in the dock this week. Instead, MPs want to learn more about examiners’ “tip offs” to teachers on which questions might or might not figure in exams; the perennial issue of dumbing down of standards and grade inflation and the extent to which the pressure of league tables on headmasters is causing them to bend the rules in ways that Mr Chips could never have envisioned.

Qualifications matter, but our neglect of other facets of learning makes us look moribund for a modern society. Better than obsessing about teaching to the test, why aren’t we probing what stokes motivation? Ask any teacher and he or she will tell you a dozen stories of bright pupils who can’t or won’t stick at it; stymied by their own lack of grit. Given that we have thousands of disengaged young people mouldering in school, why are we not more curious about the positive deviants? Those boys and girls, some with low IQs, and against all the odds, who power ahead of their brighter peers for the simple reason that they refuse to give up?

Why aren’t we telling teenagers, captive in the classroom, an alternative story? Why isn’t there a stronger challenge to a child’s belief that they have been labelled “thick” – by implication, at an early age by a well-intentioned graduate teacher, often from a distinctly different background? And to make them realise that judgment may be far from true and certainly shouldn’t mould a lifetime’s choices?

The rest of her article is well worth reading. She has nailed a major issue which our dysfunctional system has to take more seriously. After all, a system that revolves around a test can be exploited.

A system that revolves around quality education outcomes, engaging lessons, a focus on questions, inquiry and everyday, real life experiences can not be exploited so readily.


Charity Wants Us to Teach About Gambling to Our Students

December 4, 2011

There’s no limit to good causes, but at some point teachers have to put these to a side and concentrate on their main responsibility – teaching Maths, English and Science.

It’s really frustrating to be told to put the ever-packed curriculum on the backburner to teach about road safety, internet safety, sex education, fire safety and for some, gambling ed. It’s not that these causes aren’t important. On the contrary, they are very important!

It’s just that it leaves us precious little time for doing what we are evaluated to do – teach the curriculum!

Schoolchildren as young as 12 should learn about “responsible betting” to tackle problem gambling, the Government has been told.

Pupils should be taught about risk and probability, and how to gamble responsibly, in the same way they are taught about the risks of drinking alcohol and taking drugs, according to a charity that supports gambling addicts.

I’ve got a novel idea. How about we ask the parents to teach some of these skills?


Every Teacher’s Worst Nightmare Realised

September 19, 2011

I commend all students brave enough to speak out against teachers who have abused them physically or emotionally.

To those students who make up false allegations, I hope you realise what damage such a claim makes to the teacher and his/her family.  Shame on you!

I hope William Stuart’s story serves as a reminder for such misguided and selfish students to think carefully about the implications of a false allegation:

After a 23-year unblemished career as a teacher, William Stuart was arrested six months ago and accused of assaulting a 15-year-old girl in a corridor at Graham School, Scarborough.

During the court case, magistrates heard that the girl and friends had smeared an iced bun over the wall of the school canteen. Mr Stuart, an assistant head teacher, had shouted at the group to remain in the dining hall to clean up but the girl refused and began to walk away.

It was then, according to the girl’s testimony, that a “really, really angry” Mr Stuart followed her and backed her up on to coat pegs before pushing her to the floor.

Mr Stuart’s account was very different. The girl barged into him several times and threw a punch as he tried to block her path.

On Thursday it became clear whose version the magistrates believed. Mr Stuart was acquitted with the full endorsement of the bench and to cheers from the packed court. His wife, Sarah, cried tears of relief that the family’s nightmare was finally over.

Whilst we must severely punish any teacher found dealing inappropriately with students we must also do everything we can to deter students from making erroneous claims against their teachers.

Mr Stuart was just doing his job.  He did absolutely nothing wrong.  Yet for 6 months he had lost everything.

Lack of Male Teachers Not Responsible for Boys in Gangs

September 3, 2011

I think the experts have it all wrong when it comes to the lack of male teachers in Primary schools.  Sure, the male teachers currently working in the primary/elementary system are generally doing a great job, especially in teaching boys, but there are legitimate reasons why male teachers are not lining up to teach.

It was great to read a blog post by writer and educator Katharine Birbalsingh, who dispels the far-fetched assumptions made about the lack of male primary teachers :

Only 12.4 per cent of the primary school workforce is male. 27 per cent of primary schools in Britain are staffed entirely by women. And in secondary schools, only 37.5 per cent of teachers are male. In an age where some fathers have so little to do with their children, these statistics are seen to be scandalous. Clearly this must explain why some of our boys end up in gangs, why boys underachieve at GCSE in comparison to girls – a gap that widened to record level this year – and why chaos reins in our classrooms. Or does it?

Ms. Birbalsingh goes on to conclude that whilst male teachers have a positive effect on male students, the real issue is the fathers of these students.

Sure, having more men in our schools would be a good thing. And absent fathers is a bad thing. But no teacher can really ever replace a missing father. And that’s where the problem for our boys lies on the whole. What we need are families. Indeed, not too long ago, when ordinary families were more the norm, when fathers were present, male teachers hardly existed, and our boys were doing just fine. So are the schools really to blame for the underachievement of our boys? I would think not. I would think the onus is on our broken families.

My view is that the obsession for male teachers is unhealthy.  Men just don’t seem to be interested in taking up teaching.  My former classmates just assume that I fell into teaching and that my grades must have been so poor that I didn’t have much of an option.  Whilst this couldn’t be further from the truth, it does tell us a bit about the average man’s attitude to teaching – there is no interest in the profession whatsoever.  Especially teaching children under the age of 13.

And I ask you, who would you rather have teaching your son, a diligent, professional and passionate female teacher or a male teacher who reluctantly signed up because the Government were offering cash incentives too good to refuse?

I love teaching at the Primary level and wouldn’t swap my job for any other.  I know other male teachers who feel the same way.  But the reality is, men just don’t want to teach.  We can’t expect them to do something they just don’t want to do.

My school doesn’t even have a male toilets.  The male staff members of our school are forced to use the disabled toilets when they need to go.  As sad as that sounds, it’s hard to justify building a toilet in the current climate.

Soldiers Encouraged to Take Up Teaching to Improve Discipline

September 2, 2011

Are you out of your mind Michael Gove?  I understand that there are times when teachers have no choice but to physically restrain kids, but the way you have encouraged teachers to take the law into their own hands without even having to document it later is just plain lunacy.  Teachers should always be compelled to write an incident report in instances when physical restraining takes place.

But the lunacy doesn’t stop there.  An idea to encourage soldiers to take up teaching because their physically intimidating presence may improve classroom discipline is a big slap in the face of this great profession.  To even consider replacing professional teachers for glorified bodyguards says little for Michael Gove and our hope for better educational outcomes in Britain.

MICHAEL Gove yesterday told teachers to have no fear of using physical force to restrain unruly pupils as he launched a blitz on classroom chaos. It came as the Government unveiled plans to encourage soldiers to take up teaching to improve kids’ discipline. 

The Education Secretary said it was time to show disruptive kids “who’s boss” because “the rules of the game have changed”.

Under plans to bolster staff and undermine school yobs who hide behind human rights rules, teachers will no longer have to record each time they restrain a violent pupil.

Mr Gove said: “The last thing teachers need is another piece of regulation inhibiting their judgment.” He spoke of a “step-by-step” move of the “ratchet” back in teachers’ favour, adding: “We need to ensure we send a single, consistent, message that teachers are there to be respected, listened to, obeyed.

“Let me be crystal clear, if any parent now hears a school say, ‘Sorry, we can’t physically touch the students’, then that school is wrong. Plain wrong. The rules of the game have changed.”

Teaching isn’t about intimidation, it is about patience, care, dedication and insight.  Perhaps we should encourage our fine, brave soldiers to take up politics.

I hear Mr. Gove is keen to explore life as a soldier.  Perhaps a straight swap could be arranged.

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