The Importance of Teaching

The Importance of Teaching – this is the name the Government chose for the White Paper underpinning the Education Bill.

Teaching is a popular profession for many graduates. The number of graduates completing PGCE’s has steadily risen over the last few years. It is a role that people find exciting, challenging and extremely stimulating. It is a profession where we are able to move people forward in their aspirations and assist their learning. Education does sometimes get too much bad press and the papers gloss over the successes and achievements that teaching has bought to so many thousands of pupils and students.

Unfortunately, I was sad to read that the number of teacher training places at universities and colleges is to be cut by one fifth. The Coalition wants more teachers to learn their skills on the job in schools rather than in training colleges. Now I agree that we should have more on the job training – it’s where I learnt my skills and it was where I did most of my learning– but fewer teachers and training opportunities? Universities and teaching colleges offer fantastic teaching expertise and facilities that should be further funded. 

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is also taking an axe to the bursary packages currently enjoyed by trainees. I received £6,000 for a year of training for my PGCE. Without this funding I would have been unable to have trained as a teacher. Being a student is expensive and even more so today. Travel, accommodation and food is not cheap. Funding has gone for subjects such as English, history, geography and art.

Instead, those who want to train as physics, chemistry, engineering and maths teachers will receive bursaries of £9,000 a year. Trainees who want to be biology, general science or foreign language teachers will receive £6,000 a year. This maybe in response to subject demand but I am sure we will need teachers in english, history, geography and art in the future and these cuts maybe putting off hundreds of potential brilliant teachers.

Michael Gove has also outlined plans to only accept trainee teachers with 2.2 degree or above. Yes, we do need qualified teachers with good knowledge but isn’t the ability to teach and inspire important too? There are thousands of teachers who are fantastic at their job, inspiring and motivating everyday but may not necessary have a 2.2 or above. I think Michael Gove has got his agenda wrong on this point. What degree you hold should not define or hold you back from teaching.

I do agree that we need competent, dedicated and enthusiastic teachers in our schools. But, we must work together and I just wished the Government had involved more teachers in their decisions.

As Batman once said, ‘it isn’t what you say that defines you but what you do’ (Batman Begins, 2005).

Global Giants

I had a lovely email from Steve Brace, Head of Education at the Royal Geographical Society, last week. He had found my blog and wrote a lovely email to me. I did very much his comment about geography at my school; ‘how heartening it is to see how well geography is doing at Gillingham School.’

Steve wrote about the Chartered Geographer (CGeog) accreditation offered by the RGS. I have read bits and pieces of this accreditation in the past, but it wasn’t till Steve got in contact that I did further reading about it.

The RGS website states the  ‘Chartered Geographer (CGeog) is the only internationally recognised professional accreditation for those with competence, experience and professionalism in the use of geographical knowledge, understanding and skills in the workplace.’What are the benefits of being a Chartered Geographer?

  • Recognition
  • Personal Development
  • Chartered Geographer
  • Benefits to Employers and
  • Fellowship (FRGS) of a Prestigious Learned Society

As Alan Parkinson says, ‘the CGeog is a qualification which spurs you on to improve your own professional development, and maintain the curiosity about the subject. Teachers should also be learners, and the CGeog provides a framework for that process, as well as recognition when it is achieved.’

With this in mind, I have decided that I will apply for the accreditation this year. It sounds a worthwhile professional accreditation that recognises our hard work as teachers fits perfectly with my CPD. Thanks Steve, my application is coming your way. Fingers cross I get it!

Tricks of the trade

Today I have an article printed in Sec-Ed. Sec-Ed is the UK’s only free national education paper that is sent to every school every week. I am a massive fan of this paper and love to read the stories and articles that appear every week. I have been lucky to have had some articles printed by Sec-Ed over the last two years. The article was based on the idea of ‘what tools does a teacher need?’ This was quite tricky as we all have different ideas but I hope you get the idea!

I really enjoy sharing ideas with other practitioners and learning a new technique or way of doing something. Sometimes we are left to our own devices and perhaps we should be talking and sharing resources more often.

The main tools I focused on were;

  • Blogs
  • Working as a team
  • Thinking outside the box
  • Enjoy your lessons
  • Assessment for Learning (Afl)
  • Reflective teaching

The full article can be accessed here. I hope you enjoy the read! Many thanks to Pete Henshaw, Editor of Sec-Ed, once again for printing my article – cheers!

Assessing Your Subject Area

This week myself and the geography department have been looking at how effective we are as teachers, as a department and ways of moving forward. This is not always easy to do but a very important part of our role as teachers. It is vital that as practitioners we are reflective and build upon our strengths and areas for development. Every teacher is different and all add something to a school.

This week we have used Stoll and Fink’s analysis upon our department. It was originally used as a tool to look at whole school development but many practitioners are using it for subject areas.

Using the diagram above and the explanations below you have to try to judge your department/school on where you think you are. We tried to look at individual key stages as well.

Moving

  • Boosts student progress and achievement.
  • People work together and respond to change.
  • People know where they are going and have the will and the skill to get there.

Cruising Subject Area

  • Appear to have many of the qualities of an effective subject area.
  • Pupils achieve despite the teaching.
  • The people are responding well to change.

Strolling Subject Area

  • Neither particularly effective or ineffective.
  • Move at an adequate pace to cope with change.
  • Have ill-defined aims.
  • Conflict sometimes inhibits progress.

Struggling Subject Area

  • Ineffective and know it.
  • Expend energy trying to improve but results in “thrashing about”
  • They are willing to try anything and will ultimately succeed.

Sinking Subject Area

  • Staff are isolated.
  • There is an unwillingness to change either through ignorance or apathy.
  • There is a blame culture.
  • Student achievement is poor and failing.

It is not an easy task and you have to be very honest as a department. It is an ideal tool especially with self-evaluation high on the list of things Ofsted look at. It also gives you and your department to start thinking about what areas you might need to develop over the coming months or year. As a Head of Department it has made me realise where we need to go as a department and what our priorities are for the year ahead.

Raising Your Game – Improving Your Subject Area

Last week I attended a course run by ASCL Management and Professional Services in London. The course focused upon what subject leaders can do to improve the quality of teaching and learning in their subject area. It provided a coherent insight and practical approach to improving the performance of colleagues, which will help raise the pupils’ achievement in your department.

The aims and objectives of the day were:

  • to help improve learning and teaching in your subject area
  • to become familair with improvement strategies
  • to help integrate the improvment process
  • to understand ‘what effective teaching and learning looks like’
  • to develop skills to carry out effective lesson observations
  • to develop the skills of giving effective feedback and resolving conflict

The course was run by Geoff Barton, Headteacher at King Edward VI School in Suffolk and Peter Richards, a qualified SIP, teaching consultant and former Headteacher.

I found the course a great success and found both Geoff and Peter realists as professional teachers. They knew the rhetroric of being a successful subject leader and the reality. They were able to explain things very clearly and efficiently. The key question they kept referring to was; ‘Would you be happy for your child to be taught in the classroom?’. This was a brilliant way to question whether we were doing the right thing within our own subject areas.

It was clear by the end of the day that the five most important skills a great subject leader needs to develop were;

  • being visible,
  • optimistic,
  • working hard,
  • hungry for success
  • and resilient.

I could not argue with their thoughts and feeling throughout the day and found them brilliant speakers. It was an excellent course where I came away knowing more than before I went in. Both Geoff and Peter did try to link the course to Ofsted and what they were looking for as inspectors. For more information regarding the course please go to the ASCL website or Geoff Barton’s website.