What are your teaching hopes for the year ahead?
Every year I write a letter to Father Christmas…
Inside, I write down my wishlist for the teaching profession, reflecting on what I had hoped for the year before and if any of my wishes became true.
Along comes a pandemic!
I can see slowly how some things are starting to change. In 2019 I wished that teacher workload in England got better – new research suggested that it did – then along comes a pandemic and puts us back to square one! I also hoped that marking policies removed any frequency and compliance on the part of the teacher, as well as a reduction in mindless meetings for meeting sake!
More and more schools I work with tell me that they are doing these things better.
I also wished for experienced teachers to be better respected, research inform practice to become the norm, and for mental health conversations (for teachers too) to be front and centre. We’ve probably had a mixed success rate at those suggestions, but there is some progress. on the latter two…
Pedagogy and politics don’t mix…
Last year after the chaos of English education, my pedagogical wishes became more political. In terms of teachers working throughout the pandemic, I hoped that the media stopped using divisive language. I also put in a wish for a future education secretary of state, and although that came true, I had hoped that they would have some teaching experience.
Last week, I apologised to my Twitter followers for always having a rant about Ofsted. I’ve also set out my thoughts on the future of Ofsted in some detail, which does not include abolishing them. No matter what they do, I cannot see how they claim to be a ‘force for good’ after a year of sexual harassment claims, failing to tackle off-rolling in reports and ‘dillydallying’ throughout COVID-19.
Finally, in my last wish from last year, I had hoped that all teachers would be given more allocated time during the working day to mark and plan lessons. Over the last year, we have seen the early career framework get off to a tricky start, as well as some large organisations (e.g. Teach First) calling for funding to reduce teachers’ timetables in schools serving disadvantaged communities.
Whilst I agree with this, it puts a sticky plaster over the real issue that all teachers suffer from a heavy workload and that all teachers need to be given more time. For those teachers who have worked in a disadvantaged school, they will also know that much of their free time is consumed by other events outside the classroom…
Forever the optimist, and with the global pandemic in mind, here are my hopes and dreams for the teaching profession for the year ahead.
1. End the digital divide
My first wish is a bold hope. Despite living in a first world country where extortionate amounts of cash can be found at any given moment, we still live with 9 per cent of UK households without a broadband connection.
On things that would really make a difference, for example, funding disadvantaged pupils free school meals during a pandemic, cash is much harder to find.
I would like to see plans put in place for all students to be given a laptop device. They shouldn’t be down to parents to provide because of their financial affluence, or a school’s equipment policy insisting that a child arrives at secondary school with a device, or even that I am a disadvantaged pupil and I am automatically provided with one.
In a technological era, and given we have just experienced lockdown learning, at a cost of £100-200 per device, we need to think about providing 8.9 million pupils with a laptop for learning.
2. Reward teachers…
Teacher starting salaries in England are not £30,000. For any education secretary to gain the respect of a profession they represent, we need them to know the specifics and be truthful/accurate with the media and general public.
Of course, just providing people with a handout isn’t so straightforward. As Nadeem Zahawi wrote (on the last day of the Autumn term in 2021) that the “Government must balance the need to ensure fair pay for public sector workers with protecting funding for frontline services and ensuring affordability for taxpayers.”
3. Make schools safe!
I really struggled with the logic that we don’t need to vaccinate our pupils and others calling for masks to be removed from public spaces in schools.
If pupils are clearly susceptible to the virus and transmit COVID-19 to the older generation, this should have been one of the first things that we did to keep our economy and schools open.
Alongside putting anyone and everyone who works in a school at risk, without adequate ventilation and asking them simply to open the windows is just incompetence (amongst endless other demands).
There is money available to make all schools safe. It’s a matter of who wants to make it a priority, the ethics required, and the perspectives held by the people who can make these decisions.
For now, these are the three key things I’d like Santa Claus to leave under everyone’s Christmas tree…