I am not the greatest fan of the European Union – and while it has achieved an initial aim of avoiding war between its member states there isn’t a huge amount more that recommends it. It is an organisation in need of dramatic reform and, yet, UK departure would be catastrophic for all those who yearn for a fairer and more equal society.
In years gone by when it came to trade the British Empire was one of the greatest historical trading organisations known to humanity – although humanity had little to do with it and it was only great if you were in the UK and in a position to exploit varied Crown Colonies around the planet. One of the key arguments for leaving the modern world’s most powerful trading bloc – the European Union (providing economies of massive scale, continent wide job opportunities, freedom of movement and collective legislation that supports workers’ rights and human rights) – is that we could somehow resurrect ancient trading partnership around the globe. There is absolutely no basis for this and even if possible there is no evidence that the deals brokered would be sufficient to make up for the loss of jobs, loss of rights and negation of current economies of scale. Rather than being a big fish in a big pool we’d become a small fish in a massive pool – for no particular advantage.
The EU is, without doubt, a bloated bureaucratic chimera and there is a logic to rejecting a seemingly alien legislative body which appears unwieldy in process and decidedly undemocratic at times. Yet this body, representing 300 million people, has been a powerful check and brake on a Tory party determined to roll back the state, crush trade unions, cut taxes for the rich, privatise public services such as care, health and education and persecute the poor, as well as those suffering from physical and mental health conditions
While a reforming Labour Government is hoped for in 2020 (or earlier as the current Conservative regime collapses into in-fighting and civil war) British history has a tradition of near perpetual Tory administrations attempting to undo any progressive legislation passed by more enlightened governments in brief interludes to the electorate’s Tory default mode. Many see hope in a potential Jeremy Corbyn led Government – and I share their optimism – but without the EU to defend our rights future unfettered Tory Government, in 2025 or 2030, would simply undo the changes and continue the roll back started by Margaret Thatcher and continued by Cameron … and appalling though Cameron is a NO vote will herald his demise and the rise of Johnson or Gove as Prime-minister – installed before the end ofthe year. The point is – the EU can maintain workers’ rights in a way that the UK can no longer do alone. …… and as for “undemocratic” EU – we, in the UK, have a completely unelected Head of State and an unelected Second Chamber … so please let’s not pursue that one.
Obviously there is the purely Nationalistic (sometimes even racist or xenophobic) argument which seeks to close borders and hanker back to great days of Empire which never really existed. This UKIP/far-right Tory argument, as supported by Farage, Gove, IDS and Grayling (not Boris as he really hasn’t got a f*cking clue and wants a vote to leave so we can re-negotiate to stay!!!) is fatuous. Movement of labour in the EU has benefitted the UK, especially in the health service, and opened up opportunities for over 2 million Brits working across the continent.Working together with our EU partners – sharing information and intelligence combats terrorism and crime. We, as a nation, are safer in than out.
The power of global brands, multi-national corporations and TTIP …. especially TTIP …. are obviously a huge concern – but will a UK out of the EU not still be dominated by global brands, multi-national corporations and subject to TTIP? There is absolutely no evidence that that wouldn’t be the case and offers no support to an out vote. I guess a few big companies may move HQs out of the UK with a resultant loss of jobs – but that’s as far as it goes.
So while not a slavish adherent of the EU (certainly not supporting Blair/Mandelson arguments … ever) remaining in appears to be the lesser of two evils. Remember in May 2016 50% of those who voted voted Tory/UKIP – there’s no people’s revolution on the horizon and a right-wing knee jerk rejection of the EU – with unfettered Toryism unleashed – is dangerous to democracy and hard fought for rights in the UK.
In a recent survey CARE came out top of the list for the things that students want from their teachers. In my 15 years as a Head of Year (1992-2007) Care for Students’ well-being was always Number 1 on my list of priorities … even when Heads began to tell me that I was “fighting crocodiles when the job is to cross the bridge” I continued to care. And all of a sudden Heads of Year were no more – replaced by “Progress Leaders” and “Directors of Learning” – whose job it is to cross that bridge giving no heed to anything below it. Is anyone really surprised – with teachers being forced to “teach to the test” that students are crying out for a bit of care and there has been a massive rise in Mental Health issues for young people in England?
Teachers need to take back ownership of schools – push out the test driven culture. Teachers need time to care again. It’s time for the National Union of Teachers to come out fighting. We need to demand recognition of the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions’ Document in every school once more and it is vital that the new STPCD makes it illegal for SLT’s to misinterpret Ofsted directives – legally cutting back on: Workload; Data Analysis; Data Related Targets for teachers and students; Target/Data led education; Weekend and/or Holiday lessons; After School/Lunchtime Intervention Groups; Excessive Observation and Monitoring; Book Scrutinies; Oppressive Marking and Feedback Policies; An Explicit Ban on a Expectation of Written Planning, as well as Planning Submission; A Ban on Teachers being Forced to teach to Prescribed Lesson Plans and a Ban on Overly Detailed Schemes of Work. (That’s not an exhaustive list – but a start).
Most members of Senior Leadership Teams are good people (genuinely vindictive bastards are few) but under untold stress and pressure from Ofsted, Local Authorities and Academy Chains they are sucked into a vortex of oppressive monitoring, scrutiny, target setting and evaluation – under-written by data and financial constraint leading to capability procedures which force out more and more relatively expensive and non-slavishly-compliant middle-aged teachers.
We are in the midst of a national re-running of Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment – with SLTs in the role of the prison officers and teachers the meek and scared inmates. Too much power is being exerted and abused. Too many teachers are being bullied into submission and/or early-retirement or career change. Schools are currently haemorrhaging staff – young and old – at an unsustainable rate … with 50,000 teachers leaving the profession in the last year – yet nothing changes.
Put Student and Teacher Welfare back at the centre of Education. Stop Teaching to the Test. Take Back Our Classrooms and Schools.
We must fight the GERM – the Global Education Reform Movement – led by big business, profiteers and the whims of industry – must be defeated as it sweeps around the world. Teachers are being purposely deskilled. The GERM wants functional operatives to feed Pearsons’ and Murdoch’s digital Schemes of Work and prescribed learning – creating compliant, unquestioning workers for the future – subservient to their bosses and fearful of the organised trade unions that are, in actuality, their only hope of salvation.
Teachers MUST begin the fightback – and the fightback must start NOW before it’s too late and the privatisation of education becomes a permanent reality.
One United Teachers’ Union – One United Teachers’ Voice (with or without NASUWT) – NOW.
For many years teachers have lived with Observations – some supportive, some critical, some unreasonable. The arrival of Ofsted changed the stakes as many SLTs sought to mirror the more abrasive and critical style of Ofsted intrusion. More recently, though, the goalposts have moved again with the alarming linking of Appraisal and Performance Management – taking the outcomes of Observations to new career-shattering levels.
Such is the degree of negative enforcement now that young teachers are leaving in their droves (40% within 5 years of qualifying) and older teachers are jumping ship rather than be pushed into stressful, humiliating and undeserved Capability Procedures.
This whole process is based around “triangulation” – the cross referencing of Observation outcomes, Book Scrutinies and Data Analysis. Accepting that Observations can be a lottery of perception and that book scrutinies can be as random as picking straws it is the Data that can prove to be a teacher’s ultimate undoing even if the first two corners of the triangle can be squared. Schools and Academies striving for rapid progress will set outrageous “aspirational” targets for students based on KS2 results. A level 5 in English at the age of 11 dictates a grade A in History at the age of 16. A level 3 in Maths at the age of 11 dictates a grade C in Geography at the age of 16. There is no scientific or statistical logic to these targets (often 90% – 100% pass rates at A*-C) but should the unwary teacher fail to keep a student on track for these heady goals they can fail observations and appraisal due to “Progress Over Time”.
Only with excessive interventions, overly detailed marking, micro-managed planning, endless data analysis and a huge degree of luck can utterly exhausted teachers survive. The current Performance Management systems that are crushing us are unrealistic and unsustainable – action needs to be taken to avoid the latest generation of teachers deserting the profession before they are 30 and our most experienced colleagues being shown the door in their mid-50s shattered and dejected.
Obviously there is no logic to that Daily Mail style argument – of course teachers want to raise standards (How many teachers do you know who don’t want their pupils to get the highest grades possible?) but the manner in which these “standards” are measured are mad and Gove’s assault on teachers HAS to be fought.
Teachers are to be judged on DATA and TARGETS but, to be blunt, most of the targets are complete bollocks!!! If a child gets a Level 5 in English he/she HAS to get a Grade A GCSE in History by the age of 16. What is that based on? NOTHING! If a child gets a level 3 in Science at the age of 11 he/she HAS to get at least a grade C GCSE by the end of Year 11 – Why? No one knows!!! Of course the teacher rightly plays a big part in this but factors like Attendance, Attitude, Interest of Parents, Home Life and how many lessons they get taught per week are irrelevant!!!! If the pupil does not meet the target – however ridiculous – the teacher fails. This failure can lead to pay cut, capability and dismissal … and all because the data and targets were unscientific and inaccurate in the first place.
The quality of a Teacher is judged by OBSERVATION – a teacher can be graded 1) Outstanding; 2) Good; 3) Needs Improvement (formerly satisfactory) and 4) Inadequate. The problem is that the criteria for these observations are completely unscientific and purely the opinion of the observer. There is no right of appeal and if you get two 3s or 4s in a row you can be placed on Capability and dismissed within weeks. How potentially corrupt is this system? Well – I’ve done the training and could, without difficulty, fail ANY lesson, anywhere, if I chose!!!! Why might a school choose to do this? Because young teachers cost about £24,000 per year and experienced ones can earn £40,000+ …. surprise surprise lots of middle-aged teachers (especially women) are failing observations, losing their jobs and being replaced by younger colleagues. But won’t these young colleagues one-day be getting £40,000 too? No – because Gove has stopped pay progression (see previous post) and most teachers will find performance related pay makes it IMPOSSIBLE to succeed.
THAT is why teachers are STRIKING on Thursday 27 June in a series of rolling strikes. Gove won’t negotiate – he says the path is fixed – ALL other means have been explored and tried – the NUT and NASUWT (85% of teachers) can take no more. FIGHT GOVE – SUPPORT THE STRIKE.
This is merely a test blog – and not really a blog at all. Just sussing this platform and deciding whether it is an appropriate vehicle for my procrastinations.
Only time will tell.
Watch this space.