Why should teachers have to use social media as a pressure relief valve?
The TES recently reported on some research carried out by the Education Endowment Foundation in which they reached a conclusion that structured lesson observations had no impact on GCSE Maths and English results. Unsurprisingly, this led to an explosion of comments from teachers who were in complete agreement.
What struck me were the comments about how often teachers are still observed in their school. This got me thinking. I assume that teachers know their comments are now out there for their schools and headteachers to see. For example:
“I am observed 9 times a year. ALL zero notice. 6 during normal lessons and 3 during tutor time, about 25 min for each one. All it does is make me look for a clipboard every time the door opens.”
Behind The Times
Nine times a year with no notice! Could this be true? Well I just had to find out for myself. So, with a bit of digging, it wasn’t long until I knew the accused school and I’m asking the headteacher for a comment. Over a week later, still no reply or a copy of the school’s lovely observation policy.
You can sense the frustration of another teacher in her comments:
“We are observed formally 3 times a year and informally 3 times a year on top of informal drop-ins (had 3 this term already!) I hate being graded on one lesson because I don’t do the “all singing, all dancing lesson” that some people do so well and get their “outstanding” grade for. I just teach the same way that I always do (the way most teachers do when they’re not being observed) because that’s how I teach and I’m bloody good at it. In fact I’d say, it’s outstanding, but not in comparison to the other teachers that tick all the boxes in their one lesson observation. However, the headteacher doesn’t care because he wants to see unrealistic teaching expectations to tick off his bloody checklists! Look at us for what we do all year round, not based on 3 lessons! Also, invest time in us rather than checking that teachers, that have been employed by the school, can bloody teach!”
A third teacher comments:
“I’ve had one formal and three informal observations this term already out of 8 1/2 days in my classroom!”
You can read these and all the other comments here.
There is now no statutory limit to how many lesson observations can be carried out in a year, however there are some very clear recommendations from teaching unions that any good school would take note of. The NUT recommends “a maximum of three per year for all purposes, not exceeding three hours in total.” Is it any wonder teachers close their classroom doors if their jobs are at risk?
The NASUWT states, “There should be a limit of a total of three observations for all purposes. Under no circumstances shall the total time occupied by all observations exceed three hours per year and the focus and timing must be agreed in the teacher’s performance management planning statement.”
Why are teachers having to resort to Facebook and Twitter to voice their frustrations and complaints about lesson observations? There seem to be two issues arising from the comments of teachers about the TES article.
- It appears as if there is still a general lack of awareness that there is no statutory limit to the number observations allowed.
- Teachers are complaining in the background. Some using the anonymity of a social media account to voice their fierce objections. Does this mean teachers are working in a climate where they are unable to express their feelings? You only need to look at various online forums – particularly some well-known multi academy trusts where the workload culture is apparent. Some shun the concept of anonymity, but are they in danger of antagonising their employer? Are they afraid to ask their trade union to intervene on their behalf?
OfSTED recently announced that as part of the school inspection questionnaire, they planned to ask teachers what their employer was doing to reduce workload. They could take this further and look deeper in to staff wellbeing. Other factors such as the pressures of oppressive lesson observation regimes seem to be going either undiscovered, or not noted by OfSTED.
I already hear the cries about how it could be open to abuse, but we could say the same about Parent View.