Why Are We Doing This?

Reading time: 3

Jack Gulston

Jack writes for the Teacher Toolkit site from a primary perspective and is in his third year of teaching. He worked as a teaching assistant in a special needs school for 3 years before going on to complete his education degree. He is currently teaching...
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Will this education initiative really benefit my pupils?

In my very short teaching career I am already at my wits end with new initiatives being brought in by our school: running a themed week at the start of every second term, meeting performance management targets, endless monitoring and delivering high quality pink and green marking in at least 60 books every evening.

I have begun to ask myself “Why Are We Doing This?”, then I thought, “I wonder if the senior management team at my school also think this? Here are examples of some of the new initiatives in my school, that make me wonder – do they really improve the learning experience for my pupils?

Classroom monitors

My school enjoys monitoring. In fact my school is monitoring crazy! These are things that are currently monitored by my school at least once a term:

  • My planning folder
  • My SEN folder
  • My literacy books
  • My numeracy books
  • My science books
  • My SPAG books
  • My french books
  • My RE books
  • My topic books
  • My guided reading books

… and I’m monitored on the time I enter and leave the building! This one is a joke, however, I wouldn’t put it past them.

The title of this blog is ‘Why Are We Doing This?’ and this really came home to me when I was pulled up on my planning folder not being up to scratch for a particular reason (the irony of this is, our school is going paperless, but we still have to print out all of our plans for the term, even though they are on the shared network, where SLT can access them anywhere).

Reality check

In our folders, we have pictures of all of the children in our class with their names underneath. On the following page, the children’s information is in a table with their names – so for example, their name, whether they are free school meal, EAL, SEN, and any medical allergies.

When getting feedback for my failed planning folder – my phase leader said, “You have failed to transfer the children’s information to UNDERNEATH their photo.” Please keep in mind that this information is on the next page next to their name. So a quick flick of the page and the information is there ready to see and use. The information is there already. Why duplicate it and waste my time for a needless exercise?

I couldn’t quite believe it. Here I am, working 12/13 hour days getting told I require improvement because I didn’t write the children’s vital information underneath their photo, even though it was on the page. That’s when it sunk in. Schools now have no idea what they are asking their staff to do and I genuinely think we are losing touch with reality. Why do I have to write the same information on two pages? Who is that benefiting? Is it benefiting the children? I really don’t think so. Let’s not forget why we are in schools in the first place – to teach children, to help shape their futures and give them different paths to help them succeed in whatever way they wish to take. Will copying the information benefit them? No!

Why bother?

School’s need to be thinking of ‘why?’ Every time school leaders decide to pass on a new idea to their staff, I implore that they ask themselves: ‘Why are we doing this?’ Is it for accountability? Is it for endless paperwork? If the is “because it will genuinely benefit the learning experience for the children”, then excellent!

If the answer is, “well, we need to ensure you are doing your job properly because we don’t trust you”, then what was the point of employing us in the first place! I am fed up with being asked to give up my time when I know deep down it won’t benefit anyone. You will end up with burnt out teachers, looking for easy ways to teach rather than the best way to teach.

Last year, our school changed our guided reading round a whole 180 degrees to make it ‘more engaging, less paper heavy, more hands-on, more interactive and more mixed ability’. Now, my phase leader has decided to stop using the new way without even asking any of the teachers who were thoroughly enjoying the new way if they wanted to change. So why bring in a completely new initiative for teachers to get their head round to change it completely once again?

What’s the point?

I really do enjoy teaching and spending time with the children and with other members of teaching staff, but I really am becoming disillusioned with the teacher my school is asking me to become. Is it like this in other schools? Do your SMT ask themselves “why?” before bringing out new ideas and who will it affect most?

Will it affect the children in a positive way? Excellent let’s do it! Will it leave teachers even more exasperated? Then scrap it.

6 thoughts on “Why Are We Doing This?

  1. It sounds a lot like whoever is implementing these schemes hasn’t got a handle on IT at all. Speaking as an FE IT teacher / programmer I could write a program that would extract student needs / profile information from your central system and have it automatically add the data to the printouts would take an hour tops. It sounds like they already have a bodged solution in place given that the photos already print out.

    You’re right it’s a total waste of YOUR time. Memory aids are supposed to save time!

  2. All this garbage is for administrators and politicians to use to prove they are doing something useful. Of course, it has nothing to do with actually helping students learn, but they don’t really care about that. I’ve been teaching for 25 years and now I have to have my grades moderated not once, but twice. For no particular reason other than to satisfy a bureaucracy that doesn’t understand what we do.

  3. Learning is a lifetime joy. So, why ‘force’ our children to learn about ‘stuff’ they have absolutely no interest in? It simply will not go in and sooooo much time is wasted. Too many children leave school ‘fed up’ of learning. Retain the ‘magic’ for learning in schools and the rest will take care of itself…!

  4. Really poor SLT here. Shame on them for creating such a culture in their school that truly is of no benefit in the short or long term. Look for a new job.

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