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A village school of 28 pupils in an Eastern County was inspected by Ofsted. One of the recommendations in the report was that the school should make more use of middle management. It could not make sense to call for more middle management in such a small school with a maximum of three staff and was possibly made by a tired inspector using a drop down menu of comments. But it was more worrying that the requirement remained unchallenged and uncorrected even when brought to the attention of the Local Authority advisers. In their fear of standing up to Ofsted, they said nothing to help the school cope with such a silly report.
Last October an urban primary school admitted a girl of Pakistani heritage into year 6. She had previously lived for four years in Poland, where she had learnt the language. She has now picked up English, and is doing well academically and socially. However, she struggles with full attendance as her journey to school relies on two bus routes. In so doing she passes three other schools that refused to admit her, because they were 'full'. Teachers told me that this has happened before in their district. Their explanation is that some schools don’t want newly arrived migrants in year 6 because of the tests! Stories like this illustrate the complex and sometimes perverse ways in which national policies impact on what happens in our schools. In particular, they point to how the pressures to raise standards through the publication of test scores and inspections can distract teachers from their instinct to do the best for all of their children.
I accepted a temporary contract at an ‘outstanding’ school. Between the interview and the start of the job I became pregnant- unplanned and unexpected. A month before the job started, at around 4 weeks pregnant I started vomiting constantly- for one month I was bed bound and couldn't eat anything but dry crackers now and again. I didn't want to let the school down so decided to start as planned. By the time of my first day I was being sick 3 or 4 times a day and was still unable to eat much. This went on for the first half term but I continued on. I took one day off in that time. Over half term I caught a cold, which then developed into bronchitis. This lasted for four months. I also had undiagnosed gestational diabetes. Despite this, I kept going at the job. I wrote schemes of work in the holidays, I took on extra exam marking of other colleagues as well as my own to help out, I planned and taught my lessons, did my marking, and worked really hard to do it all well. It was exhausting and there were times I felt I could barely stand but I really didn't want to let down my colleagues so I ploughed on. I formed good relationships with my department and got positive feedback for my schemes of work. Around 5 months into my contract the head teacher walked in during the last 5 minutes of my lesson. The projector had timed out but as it took 5 minutes to reboot it, I wrote the last task on the board. This was a very challenging and at times hostile class. They were thrown together into a newly formed class half way through the school year, they thought of themselves as the lowest set and had very little confidence in their ability. I worked very hard to build trust and gain their confidence. By this time, they would all stay in their seats, complete the tasks I set and some of the more tricky ones were doing well. I felt proud of this. The head teacher was not happy with what she saw- I'm not sure what exactly, I was never given specifics. The students were listening, they completed the task, they volunteered their ideas. She asked my head of department to tell me that none of my lessons were engaging. That was all - that none of my lessons were engaging. She didn't even have the courtesy to discuss this with me directly. I've never felt so demoralised in 15 years of teaching. I felt I had sacrificed my health, the health of my unborn child, our family life to stick at this job and do my best for absolutely no reason. She didn't even send me a thank you email or acknowledge my departure in any way when I left. I love teaching. I was an outstanding teacher for years. Since having children I haven't had a Professional Development observation teaching my subject so I don't know where I stand now but I feel that I've failed terribly.
A governor at a primary school questioned the school's new behaviour policy, which started with a stern statement in bold capital letters on how poor behaviour would not be tolerated under any circumstances and how action would be taken against perpetrators: "how does this policy reflect our school values of peace and love?" The reply was, "Oh, we have separate policy for our values".
Year 6 children, who are 10 or 11, undertake externally-marked tests in grammar, reading and maths, but the writing is teacher assessed. Schools are chosen at random to be moderated to check the teacher assessments are being made according to the criteria. The moderators agreed with all the teacher's assessments, except for the children he put forward for the highest mark as they did not find the precision they were looking for. An example of the lack of precision they gave was a missing y from the end of 'they' in an eight-page autobiography. She had made one slip, which was not a misspelling since there were numerous examples of the word correctly written in the rest of her book. Her writing is interesting, imaginative and enjoyable to read and its quality is evident when compared to writing by her peers.
A colleague in a university in the North of England was concerned about the way her university was implementing the government strategy to combat religious extremism, primarily aimed at Muslims, called Prevent. She was going to express her disquiet at a meeting of the University Senate, the collective meeting of all the staff of the University. Before she went she mentioned this intention at a departmental meeting in her Faculty. To her astonishment the head of department started to cry, saying: ‘if you do that they will close down our department!’ She did not go.
I had a meeting with my line manager as part of my appraisal. I took copious notes in order to fill in my page on the website. We agreed on everything I was going to write. After I'd done it, my line manager asked me to rewrite it using more of the target language and changing a few sections. I did this and she then sent me the same email again, asking me to change it again. I'd spent considerable time writing and then changing the document so I asked her if we could have a 5-minute meeting so that I could clarify exactly what she wanted before writing it for the third time. She refused to meet me and then sent me the same email again, this time in bold and enlarged to such a large font size that it didn't all fit on the screen. At that point, I resigned. This was the final straw.