Week commencing 13 October, 2014

Our guest blog reviewer of the week is Emma Hardy, primary school teacher and union activist @emmaannhardy

The Hunt for a teacher’s oath
by @Surreal_Anarchy

On Sunday morning teachers reacted to Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt’s proposal for a teacher oath (see page 4). Posts on social media ranged from horror, disbelief, anger and a few voices questioning if it could be made to work. Some saw an opportunity for satire — one of my favourite oaths was to “swear to develop an iron bladder and never finish a cup of tea”. In this satirical blog, Martin Robinson highlights the tasks, worries, ridiculous workload and stresses teachers face as he invites fellow professionals to place “right hand on the school development plan and swear in the following way…”

The dangers of differentiation…and what to do about them
by @atharby

With Lord Nash arguing that teachers should use standardised plans (not differentiated to suit our classes) as a reaction to funding cuts and increased workload, it raises the question about why there is growing consensus against differentiation? I have questioned whether I have differentiated too much and who has it helped, something unheard of only a couple of years ago. Controversially, as pointed out by blogger and tweeter Tait Coles, despite the universal condemnation of standardised plans, many teachers will be downloading the same lesson plans from websites this week. Andy Tharby highlights the “differentiation dilemma”, arguing that “differentiation should be informed not by assumptions of need, but by a leap of faith. This is the place we imagine the students can get to in the future, however hard this might be for them.”

Playing politics with pupil premium
by @Jack_Marwood

In another highly detailed and well-argued blog Jack Marwood looks at the way that Ofsted has taken the pupil premium policy and “made an absolute mess of it”. His condemnation of the award holds no punches as he identifies the fact that: “£4,350,000 [is] given away to schools which have to do absolutely nothing whatsoever to be in with a shout.” The anger is tangible and makes it a must read.
“Instead of a fancy dinner, and few uncritical puff pieces in the media, the money used to pay for this daft publicity stunt could be used elsemzwhere, rewarding something which someone, somewhere has actually done to help the disadvantaged in our society. Congratulations to the schools given the money. I hope they have spent it well. But the pupil premium awards are a sad indictment of politicians playing politics with people’s lives.”

What sort of person do you want teaching your child?
by @HendryMich

This passionate blog written by a supportive parent is a rallying call for teachers to be given time to collaborate and treat teachers in the same way that we are told to treat students. The obstacles teachers face in terms of workload, accountability and hierarchical systems are recognised with a plea for equality and respect. You can’t read this blog and not feel supported.

Blinded by visions
by @oldprimaryhead

As with all of Old Primary Head’s posts, this first made me giggle and then made me think. I laughed out loud when reading the introduction where he shares an embarrassing first impression made during an induction meeting! He then goes on to demolish one of the golden calfs in primary schools, the school vision statement, to offer a realistic alternative:
“To have more children passing English and maths SAT exams than the school up the road…
To not get RI [requires improvement] in the next Ofsted…
To not lose any more children because they like the trendy new school up the road…
To have a roof that does not leak…
To not get spat at the next time I walk out on to the playground
To survive!”