“There comes a point when we need to stop just pulling people out of the river; we need to go upstream and find out why they are falling in.”
The second HTRT Summit was held on Friday; looking across the river to the Houses of Parliament. This is a summary of my opening remarks. It’s an attempt to describe the point from which we started the day’s discussions.
Rob Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee, joined us for the morning session. The Committee are currently undertaking a review of the quality of Alternative Provision and the recent significant increase in the number of pupils attending. When you go upstream you find the pernicious accountability system and unethical behaviour of a few Trusts/schools are feeding this increase in numbers. The most vulnerable and disadvantaged children lose out. To change this at source, we need to rethink accountability measures and put off rolled pupils back onto a school’s roll. If there is allowance made for statistical outliers in performance measures which are also contextualised and multi-year you will effectively stem the movement of pupils out of mainstream.
Our current steroid driven accountability system, out of sync with many other nations’ systems, is driving the excessive workload adversely affecting the profession. So far we’ve had workload working groups, a poster and now Ofsted are inspecting workload; the irony of the latter was not lost on people in the room. The singular response seems to centre around flexible working. Go upstream and you see systemic and systematic change is required to make teaching a “full time job you can do in a reasonable number of hours”. Then flexible working becomes a genuine choice for some people rather than working five days but only being paid for four. This is the only way some teachers can find to spend the weekend with their family.
Without deep rooted changes to accountability then teacher numbers won’t reach the levels we require; the crisis is being fuelled by insufficient retention and recruitment. Whilst not untrue, ministers stating we have record numbers of teachers in our schools is unhelpful; it’s a half truth. The 3,900 increase in primary school teachers has occurred whilst 166.000 more primary children have entered our schools; that’s a teacher:pupil ratio of 1:42 which adds to the workload. The systems response so far is: to have confusing multiple routes into the profession; £30,000 bursaries for some trainees (with no requirement to actually teach after training) and no bursaries for others; poor career structure and variable quality CPD. However, if you go upstream there is a consultation out on a revised Qualified Teacher Status which needs linking to Initial Teacher Training and an early years’ career plan. In short, the first five years of a teacher’s career needs a clear, sequential and supportive structure that welcomes graduates into the classroom and gives them the opportunity to become increasingly skilful as a teacher. Many more experienced teachers, if given the time, would welcome the opportunity to work with those new to the profession. None of this can be done on the cheap.
The issue of funding won’t go away. If ministers want to continue stating that funding will increase from £41 billion to £43 billion then add in that there will be another one million pupils in schools between 2015 and 2025. Voters won’t be impressed if they think they’ve been misled. The National Funding Formula will only work if there is sufficient funding available in the first place. Poorly evaluated bidding schemes and personal fads don’t help. Go upstream and look at putting all the available funds into core school budgets.
So today, “we don’t need permission; there is much we can do”. As a group we have a collective wisdom rooted in our everyday experience of school life. Let’s use it to make a difference.
(Thanks to Heather for the Desmond Tutu quote and Vivienne for the phrasing around flexible working)
Tagged: HTRT Summit