Sitting here the day after the Northern Rocks conference, I realise that it is possible to be both exhausted and exhilarated.
The weekend has left me in a more optimistic mood about the power the profession has to unite and force progress. In this age of austerity, the challenges our students are facing have never been greater and nor has the need for united action to ensure everyone gets the support and help they need.
Our conference began on Saturday with a speech from Chris Kilkenny, a man who grew up in poverty in Edinburgh. His speech has stayed with me; that nagging sense of injustice and unfairness that I feel when I read or see increasing numbers of harsh, unforgiving behaviour policy has become louder.
“I was now starting to find school hard. Not academically as I was smart enough, but my ability to concentrate was being affected, I had so many things on my mind 24/7 – how would my mum be when I got home? Were my brothers OK in their foster placement? Who would be waiting for me at the gates after school? I was starting to struggle in classes and get into trouble for being disruptive. Yet still nobody would ask how I felt or if I was OK.
“To them I was just a disruptive student.”
With this call for help at the end of this blog, I ask you, can we ever give up on children? “If you come across a young person who is struggling or is acting out, always remember; they might be down but, with your help, THEY ARE NEVER OUT!”
During a conference debate on Saturday the phonics test was used as an example of a specific test for a very specific thing, a child’s ability to decode words. In this blog the author argues that it is merely a test of a child’s age. In a time where schools face crushing funding cuts, we should be challenging and questioning the money, emphasis and time spent on such a test.
“It turns out that August-born children are twice as likely to fail as September-born. In fact, a third of children born in August are being failed, when they are simply not old enough … the pass rate worsens gradually by month of birth, from the oldest to the youngest. Overall, the data suggests that a third of the children who fail would have passed if they had been born in September.”
With all the problems in education, should we be concerned that the new chief inspector Amanda Spielman has never taught? During a Northern Rocks debate, most panellists expressed concern that she did not have an educational background. “To be honest, I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not,” says this blog. “Sir Michael Wilshaw, the outgoing chief inspector, had extensive experience as a teacher and headteacher (40-plus and 20-plus respectively) but he wasn’t exactly the teachers’ champion.” What do you think?
In this blog Debra recounts the birth of Northern Rocks, “In the autumn of 2013, Emma and I were having a Twitter chat.
‘Did you go to Southampton today?’ she asked
‘I couldn’t – it’s so far and I’ve already been to two events in London this year. We should do something in the north.’
‘Let’s do it!’ she said. And Northern Rocks was born.”
I was a part-time infant teacher and Debra was teaching in a secondary school. Northern Rocks happened because of the support and encouragement shown by the wider teaching community. Because of that support, of people giving up their time free, it happened again this year.
“If there’s one thing I want people to take from Northern Rocks, it is to replace any feeling of defeat and resignation with a feeling of collective power. “It’s a reminder that teaching is first and foremost, an altruistic profession, full to the brim of people trying to build a better world.”