Policy review: are schools facing an autumn of discontent?

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This post is published on The Guardian Teacher Network Blog, here on Monday 20th August.

Prepare for a bumpy ride this autumn as the government rolls out yet more changes for teachers and school leaders alike. Have teachers got a rough ride ahead?

As I write, we are currently lingering between the end of the the Olympics and the start of the Paralympics 2012. For the vast majority of us, we seem to be filled with euphoric pride following Team GB’s performances, but now shocked by the sudden cold turkey sensation following the closing ceremony.

Over the past few days, to compensate the loss, I have viewed countless Mo Farah postures and reruns of Usain Bolt’s 100m sprint in brick-by-brick reconstructions. When feeling occasionally serious, I’ve read all references to education and the decisions politicians make to continue funding (or not) and how sport and PE in school can make a difference to the next generation of Olympians.

However, putting current affairs abruptly aside, have we been ignoring the chalk face?

Now, I know it’s the summer holidays and like anyone, I should be sunning myself on some far-off exotic shore and taking a moment to switch off, but instead this summer, I am at home in London enjoying life with our son following his second operation. Deciding not to jet off has allowed me to pause for reflection and take each day very slowly. I’ve never had a more relaxing break, but despite the niceties, one issue has been niggling away at the back of my mind and I’ve have been left wondering how on earth I will go about informing staff about all the latest Department for Education changes for September 2012.

I write this particular post because I often read and research what is going on in our field; I am expecting an autumn of discontent within the education sector. I suspect the pensions debate will continue as many of us will start to really understand our payslips and notice a difference, but as the 1 September looms, there are changes that are due to kick-start and we all must take note.

As a school, we have already adapted, consulted, modified and rewritten our practices, but I still feel apprehensive. How will our staff feel? I would imagine many schools will sense the same and will continue to do so until we all settle into the new procedures and collaborate once more.

As an example, for the past 12 years, I have been involved with supporting all pathways and new teachers into school. This September, what I will not communicate to newbies, is that over the past two months I have been dissatisfied. The goalposts have shifted again and discontent may prevail until we readjust.

Not only has Gove suddenly scrapped the requirement for anyone to have QTS in order to work within an academy and free school, but the new Teacher Standards come into force in a few weeks time for all teachers (part B only). Are you up to date?

I am also left with a dilemma. I currently work in an academy and although we can adopt national policy, we are free to do what we will.

So, if you are also wondering what is going on, allow me to share with you some key DfE messages you may have missed.

• DfE announces schools can hire staff without QTS.

• Performance Management and Capability procedures are reviewed. Performance management will now be called Appraisal.

• A possible pay reform by the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) for all teachers. You must read Michael Gove’s letter to Dame Patricia Hodgson (chair of STRB) and make sure you check out his handwriting at the end of the letter.

• Teachers who qualified in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States of America will be recognised with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) without being required to undertake any further training or assessment.

Further education teachers who have Qualified Teacher, Learning and Skills status (QTLS) will be recognised as QTS without being required to undertake any further training or assessment.

• The Register of Teachers ceases to exist; there is no longer a requirement for teachers to register or pay a registration fee. Instead, employers can check a teacher’s status through the Teaching Agency’s online service.

• A new National Curriculum for English, maths and science is launched for primary schools and will be implemented in September 2014.

• Parental consent needed for school biometrics – this will be put into place in September 2013.

And announcements that come into action from 1 September 2012:

• New Teacher Standards for us all (part B only) with some extremely important myths and facts that you must read.

• All external examinations in two-year GCSE courses starting in September will have to be taken at the end of the course (summer 2014). Students will not be able to sit individual modules before the end of the course.

• Ofsted Common Inspection Framework changes again.

New arrangements and guidance on induction for newly qualified teachers come into effect. This includes enabling more types of schools and colleges to offer induction, including PRUs.

• New exclusion rules and guidance come into effect which will change the system for reviewing permanent exclusion decisions and revoke the duty to hold a reintegration interview following certain fixed period exclusions.

• Maintained schools are no longer required to produce an annual prospectus or curriculum policy, but must provide key information online instead.

• Schools must publish online information about how they have used the pupil premium.

• The new statutory key stage 2 test of grammar, punctuation and spelling made available on the Department’s website (Dec 2012).

• Take note of this useful DfE timeline with forthcoming changes for all types of schools.

After all of that I am still pondering my academy dilemma.

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