Immersive Lessons

The summer term is a tough one, I am quickly discovering. Previously quiet classes are getting rowdy, whilst testing classes are being all the more testing. They can taste the summer holidays (as can I) on the other end of a ludicrously long term. It’s only been two weeks and I am already struggling. As a result of this difficult period, I have spent some time over the past couple of days reflecting on what I have done well this year and what my most successful lessons have been. I came to the conclusion that my most engaging lessons have been what my mentor has branded ‘immersive lessons’; lessons where I turn the classroom into something else for a lesson. It sounds juvenile, but I have seen teenage boys squirm in delight! I thought that I would share some of these style lessons that have been successful.

Dickensian London: 

To engage my bottom set year 8s and teach them the context of Dickens’ writing, I turned the classroom into a Dickensian London crime scene! As students walked in, I have a newspaper headline and a picture of two boys. The class had to describe the boys to make a police description. They then went on an “Investigation” to find out what might have happened to Jack and James, the missing boys. We looked at disease, the Workhouse, the street crime world that young boys got sucked into (Fagin’s world). At the end of the lesson, they had to release a statement, evaluating what they thought was the most likely to have happened to the boys, based on what they discovered. Not only was it fun and engaging, but the students then understood the context in which Dickens was writing, and some of the key issues he touches upon in his work.

Hunger Games: 

This was probably my favourite lesson to teach all year. We had just finished reading The Hunger Games, so as a treat, I turned the classroom into Panem… IT. WAS. AWESOME! They entered to the theme tune and were divided into Districts. On each table, there were the names of the people in the groups. I selected a tribute from each District and the group then had to write a persuasive speech to convince me not to send their tribute to the Games. I said the rules had changed, and if their words were convincing enough, they could keep their tribute. They had to use information they provided about their District to personalise each speech. The trick with this lesson was the finer details – to silence the class I did the three finger salute, and at the end of the lesson I put the Districts into a randomiser to select who would read their speech (disguised lack of time with ‘odds’!). I had never seen that class so engaged; they were brimming with excitement!

Superheroes: The trial of Batman

The superheroes scheme of work had to be upgrade for my top set, so I thought what better way than through debate. So I decided to put Batman on trial. I set the class up in groups and they had to be prosecution and defence. I then created a Confidential evidence sheet and each team had to take information from it to adapt to suit their purpose. They then engaged in a (silent, with this class!) debate where they presented their ideas using linking phrases to add, build and challenge. To consolidate their learning, they had to come up with a ‘closing statement’, summarising their findings. I will admit, this lesson could have been executed a lot better (I had a stinking cold, mind!) but I have learnt from my mistakes and I will take that forward.

On reflection, these have been the most successful lessons I have taught all year. I felt re-inspired to turn my classroom into ‘The Boardroom’ last week and set my students an Apprentice style challenge to use their language to adapt to different audiences. I gave them a random object and a random target audience, and they had to convince that audience to buy the product. One pair got a Minnie Mouse calculator and ‘Professional Adults’ as their audience; the results were highly amusing.

It is so easy to get bogged down by a few bad lessons and start to feel like a bad teacher (cue teary breakdown in the toilets). I have realised how important it is to reflect on successes and adapt successful lesson styles to keep lessons fresh and engaging. As I approach the end of my training year (only 2 more obs to go!), I will do this increasingly – probably through this blog if you are interested in hearing about it!

PSHE and the importance of pupil wellbeing

This week, I was lucky enough to be asked to speak at a conference. The conference was entitled ‘Healthy and effective learners: the contribution of Initial Teacher Training’. I was asked to speak at the beginning of the day to discuss my experience in school, my experience of PSHE training and to give some examples of how PSHE affects my day-to-day life as a teacher. It got a fairly good reaction from the crowd of people, so I thought that I would share it on here and see what sort of reaction I get. I have always known how important pupil health and wellbeing was, but this day really opened by eyes to the fact that wellbeing and attainment are two sides of the same coin. I will endeavour to share more about the day when I get a moment to write it all up; I would like to do the important topic justice and not write it up in a less zombie-like state. So for those interested, here it what I had to say on the matter:

Last week, I was teaching a lesson on using persuasive devices to create an effective argument. To try to enthuse this particularly large and disengaged class, I decided to use the ago old topic of boys v girls. I hoped that this would make for a lively and insightful discussion. Instead, the majority of the boys in the class actually opted to argue that girls were the better gender. When I asked them why, they gave me a few reasons, including that girls can cook and clean. I believe example highlights just how important it is that PSHE is a part of every day teaching.

Ardent feminist that I am, I of course challenged these students, and when pushed for further reasons, they also added that they thought girls were more intelligent and less distracted, which lead to an interesting discussion about their own learning styles and perceptions of themselves. This was a conversation I hadn’t planned for when devising the lesson but had potential to lead to opportunistic discussions on broader personal, social and health issues.

This leads me on to talk about my own experience of teaching so far. I am a school direct trainee English teacher, which means that I am based in one school for the majority of the year. The school that I teach in is an outstanding school and has a high percentage of pupil premium students situated in one of the more deprived areas of Southampton. The students are lively, bright and not afraid to tell you exactly how it is.

My experience so far has been challenging at times, but very positive. I was a cover supervisor before starting this course and because of my experience, I was lucky enough to be entrusted with some of my own classes from the first day. As an English teacher, I see these students nearly every day, so we have developed a strong working relationship. I know their strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, learning styles. I think it is a privilege to be able to work and interact with these interesting individuals every day. The best part of the job is definitely seeing that moment when a struggling student finally gets it. The next day, they may have forgotten it again, but for that moment there is nothing better!

There have been times where I have felt my own health and wellbeing has suffered as a result of teaching. I’ve been sat bleary eyed at 11:30 at night trawling the internet for the right youtube clip to engage my bottom set. I’ve had a student scream obscenities at me because I wasn’t helping her enough and actually storm out of not just the classroom, but the school. I’ve also had one awful moment where my SEN nurture class were so out of control I turned to the TA and said ‘just get someone, anyone!’ It is moments like these that have really affected my own physical, emotional and social health.

I leave most days feeling physically and emotionally exhausted, only to have to stay up late marking or planning for the next day. At the beginning of this term, I set myself a personal target of doing one thing a day for myself that was for my physical or emotional wellbeing or both! This may sound small but even that is sometimes a challenge. Sometimes this is to go to the gym, or to my yoga or dance class, sometimes this is to go and see a friend for coffee or to read a bit of my book before bed. I always try to have one day of the weekend to myself, but for example, last weekend I had an assignment and a formal observation to complete by Monday. So I worked through the majority of the weekend. It’s a tough year and I keep being told that it will get easier. Until you start this year, you can’t understand how much it can take over your life. It is so easy to just keep working non-stop as there is always something more that could be done but it’s important to also look after yourself as well as doing your best for the students you teach. I make a to-do list every night and from that list, I highlight the things I absolutely MUST do tomorrow, and what can wait until later. I find this helps me to prioritise and not get weighed down with all the different tasks.

In terms of the teacher training course itself, it has been extremely comprehensive. My training is split between the lead alliance school and the university and the course is structured really well. Every other Friday I attend University and the other Friday is with the alliance school. With the lead alliance school, most of the time is focused on general pedagogical strategies as the group of trainees are from mixed subjects. At university, we divide our time between specialist curriculum sessions, assignment sessions and other specialist days, such as the Health Day or the upcoming CPD day.

Things that have been helpful to me in terms of training and PSHE have been behaviour management sessions that have focused on why different types of behaviour occur. Also, I learnt a lot on my primary placement, particularly observing the bond between the students and their teachers. It helped me to understand the needs of the younger ks3 students. Also, I am completing an assignment on how low ability classes interact during group work, which has challenged me to think about strategies to help them socialise and stay on task. I think everything we have done in training has somehow linked to holistically supporting pupils and therefore to PSHE.

In contrast things that have sometimes been less useful in terms of PSHE have been the constant reference to the OFSTED criteria. I once got feedback from a lesson that could not be outstanding because one student did not make progress, despite my best efforts. This particular student has autism and was being evicted from his home that week. There seems to be little room for manoeuver in terms of considering some of the wider personal, social and health issues students may have when it comes to the phrase ‘all students must make rapid and sustained progress’

One thing that barely crossed my mind as I was applying for teacher training was how important and how much of a role health education would play in my day to day teaching life. There is not a day that has passed that I haven’t encountered a health related issue with my students, whether that is a personal problem, social issue, physical or mental health or something outside of school.

For example, I have a student in my year 7 class who has severe OCD. Some days he will be fine in my lessons and others he can’t make it through the door without tearing up and having to wash his hands. All of this is made worse by the fact I don’t have a permanent classroom, so he has no consistency. I’ve been in contact with the school nurse and his parents but there is no miracle cure, we just take each lesson as it comes. Trying different strategies has been such a learning curve for me; I now keep baby wipes in my teacher tin to wipe the table before he arrives. Learning about his condition from him, the nurse and his parents has been a form of health training in itself. This is possibly an extreme example, but situations like this are not uncommon. Many students come with their own individual health issue of some kind and I think it is vital that trainee teachers understand the right ways to react, the right people to refer to and the right things to say to the students themselves.

It is also important to know these things when it comes to social health, such as bullying. I had a student disclose to me that he was being subjected to awful, relentless bullying that had been going on for years. The hardest thing that I found was having to see him in so much distress and to then not really being able to do anything about it at that moment because there was no evidence as it was often very subtle. The bullies obviously point blank denied it. He had also erased all evidence on cyber bullying because he couldn’t bear to look at it. I had no idea how to deal with this, but I went to my mentor and started the ball rolling, informing pastoral leaders and calling home. I think just talking to me about it helped him. I think it is important that all schools tell trainees explicitly what their procedure is for cases of bullying and that trainees know what they need to do as it is easy to get caught up with the moment and find yourself at a loss of how to act.

I mentioned the Health Day that the University of Southampton hosted for their trainee teachers. This was an interesting and insightful day that gave me a new perspective on how PSHE is an integral part of every day life. Up until this day, I hadn’t fully understood what SMSC meant; it was just a box on my lesson plan I would absent-mindedly fill in. After an interesting session on this, I discovered that actually, SMSC is incorporated into nearly every aspect of my teaching. When I was teaching The Boy in Striped Pajamas, for example, every time we discussed the context of the book or how Shmuel might be feeling, I was actually questioning and developing the students’ moral perspectives and also their cultural understanding of that point in history. Whenever I plan group work into my lessons, which is frequently, this is contributing towards the students’ social development. This does not change the way that I teach, but by being aware of the wider implications of my teaching, I feel, has made me a more well rounded teacher.

Another session I found useful was the School Aged Public Health. This was a session that gave an overview of public health in schools in the Southampton area. There were only a handful of us in this session as others had opted to attend yoga or pilates, which I would add is an excellent option for looking after teachers’ own wellbeing. I found the Public Health session particularly engaging due to the location of the school I work in. I discovered that the area of my school not only had the highest poverty rates in Southampton, but also had the highest rates of childhood obesity AND those underweight.

Although I was aware of the deprivation surrounding the school, I was still shocked by these figures. As a teacher, I cannot explicitly do anything to change these figures. But there are some things that I think teachers can do. I model healthy eating habits – if I am on duty I will eat a cereal bar or an orange. I also challenge the students about the unhealthy food that I see they are eating. I saw one of my students eating a birthday cake for her breakfast. It was not her birthday. She is severely underweight and her diet is so poor, it is no wonder she has horrendous ADHD. I now communicate with her tutor if I see her eating sugary treats in the morning and she confiscates them during tutor time. She is also having regular meetings with the school nurse and has been referred to the doctor for weight monitoring.

The Health day was extremely helpful, interesting and comprehensive. It communicated the importance of PSHE to all teachers from a perspective that I had not considered before. I also think that my school have been very good at training me in how to teach PSHE, how to deal with health related issues that might occur and what procedures to follow. I would stress to all trainees to not overlook the importance of health education because it is an integral and inevitable part of the job.

My hopes for the near future are to pass my training year, hopefully as an outstanding teacher, and to have a successful start to my NQT year. I am really looking forward to having my own tutor group next year as it will be a great way for me to put my training and experience into practice. I would also like to take on some responsibility for teaching PSHE at my school and I have volunteered to plan some of the PSHE sessions for extended tutor time.

The Health day and also preparing for this talk as inspired me to look in more detail at the curriculum requirements for PSHE teaching in schools, so I would like my school to benefit from this. As a result of the Health day I have been inspired to work for my PSHE certificate that I hope to receive at the end of the year. Further into the future, I would like to spend some time teaching abroad to get a view of how different cultures teach their students. I am torn between wanting to be a Head of Department or becoming a pastoral leader. I am open to all routes, I am just looking to experience as much as possible in the world of teaching.

Primary Placement Excitement

Another term has come and gone (side note, I survived AND enjoyed teaching Shakespeare for the first time) and the holidays are over. But I have something else exciting in store for me…a week long primary placement. Alright, not actually a week as I had to attend an INSET day today, but I am excited none the less. I have already had my induction day there and even from that snapshot, I know there is a lot to learn from my ks2 colleagues.

The school I am going to is a key feeder school into the secondary school that I work at. It is very small, only about 50 students in year 6 divided into two classes. No wonder those poor tiny year 7s spend their first week at secondary school looking like rabbits in headlights. I observed all day in year 6 and found that the whole approach to teaching is very teacher centred. It is easy to see why us secondary school teachers can find year 7s a bit needy. They sit on the carpet at their teacher’s feet and stare up at them in admiration, like sheep gathering around a shepherd.

I mean that in no way as a criticism, in fact, I liked it. All the students had a whiteboard and were engaged with a task, but there was something about gathering around that broke the teacher/student divide and made for a more dynamic learning environment. Just getting students out of their seat for a while breaks up the lesson and made them much more engaged. Not to mention the teacher could keep a closer eye on those students whose minds have a tendency to wander.

Although I mentioned that primary seems very teacher centred, I observed some good strategies to encourage independent learning from the teacher. Students would try to show her their work and she responded by asking ‘Is what you are about to show me the best possible version of what you are doing?’; 9 times out of 10 they said no, would be referred back to the success criteria and would return back to their seats. The most able students in the class were permitted to go outside of the class to work and given the freedom to write without the formulaic plan the teacher had made: instant and easy differentiation. I don’t think it would work all the time, but for writing poetry those students needed the freedom to express themselves without restraint. I also noticed that guided learning was smoothly integrated into the lesson. The teacher picked an ability group to work with and the rest of the students worked independently. Obviously, there was a teaching assistant present and I was there too (which they were very excited about, made me feel like a bit of a celebrity! One student even said I looked like Elsa from Frozen – life made!) but it was obvious that all the students knew they would get their turn with the teacher at the table, so they shouldn’t bother her as others got theirs. And I observed all this in just one day.

I can learn a lot from this about improving my students’ capabilities as independent learners. As a trainee teacher, it is so tempting to panda to the needs of your students and answer every question they have because you want them to understand. I am learning now that I need to take a step back and to not feel panicked that I am an awful teacher when a student doesn’t understand or get al flustered when students are bombarding me with questions or trailing me around to show me their work. They are clearly capable of being independent learners; they do it in primary school! I need to develop more strategies that encourage independence in students and I will definitely be using more guided learning when I return to my school.

Another thing I will be looking out for in the next week is how effective the transition is. I already noticed that we missed a trick because the school implemented marking feedback symbols that are so similar but just slightly different from the system we use at my school. What a seamless transition it could have been for all those teachers who spend hours marking only for their symbols or correction to be ignored. I am hoping to pick up some of the vocabulary that primary teachers use, particularly for teaching SPaG and sentence structure. My top set year 7’s can reel off grammar and know how to explain what a complex sentence is and write one; why can’t year 9s? These things are taught in our lessons (albeit less frequently) but somehow students seem to forgetting information that is second nature to them in primary school. Perhaps if I can use the same language of learning that the primary school teachers use, students will make the connections between what they learnt then and what they learn in secondary school. Just an idea – I’ll let you know how it goes!

Finally, I will be asking the primary school about how they intend to approach the new ‘no levels’ way of assessment. We had an INSET day on it today and I am interested to know how primary schools are approaching it. Without a consistent system across the schools, will it be chaotic or liberating? I digress, something for another blog post I think. My Head of Department has asked me to show them our first draft model and to see what they think of it, so I potentially have a very important job! I could be forging the links that will make for a smooth and effective transition in a time of uncertainty. No pressure! However, I do think this could be a really smart move that benefits the students. I will let you know how the conversation goes.

I think it is so important as a secondary school teacher to understand what type of teaching takes place in a primary school. It is one of the things that attracted me to this School Direct programme. I will blog again at the end of the week to report any findings.

End of Half Term 1: The Journey so far…

When I created this blog, I vowed that I would write an update every other week. That, evidently, is not that case. So let me update you. I am no longer a simple cover teacher, walking into lessons, taking abuse, forcing kids to do work we all know is of little value. I am a proper, official teacher (in training). And it is wonderful! Knowing that I have full responsibility for my students’ learning is both scary and exhilarating. Although I have been extremely challenged, I have loved every (well, nearly every) minute of it. Here is a brief summary of the good, the bad and the ugly this term:

The good…

My Training Course

Being on a School Direct course is amazing. I have been so supported, with an amazing alliance, host school, university and mentor. I couldn’t ask for anything more. They have even entrusted me to take on some of my own classes from the beginning, so I have really hit the ground running. And the training days have been (mostly) useful. We had a chunk of training over about 4 weeks, 2 days in school and 3 days in training. Although at the time I was itching to get into the classroom, when I reflect on it now I see how valuable those days really were. Unlike some other in-vogue training schemes that are floating about at the moment, I wasn’t thrown into the classroom and told to sink or swim. I have, however, heard a few horror stories from other School Direct-ers on my uni course, so my advice would be to really research the schools before interviewing.

My classes ❤

I didn’t realise that I could get so attached to a group of children so quickly. I absolutely adore the classes I teach, which makes me want to plan and teach better lessons for them, which benefits them and me. And I am fiercely protective of them – if any English teacher (other than me of course) says a bad word about them, I want to jump to their defence. I have learnt so much from them in just 8 weeks. Here’s some of the things they have taught me…

  • Most of the time with planning, less is more. I have spent hours staring at blank lesson plans, only to come up with overly elaborate lessons that the kids just tear to shreds.
  •  Get to know each students’ baseline, particularly with SPaG. I have taught lessons that I thought had gone really well, only to look at their books and see that I had pitched way, way too high.
  • When is it time to say enough is enough? When is the right time to remove kids from the class? I am still struggling with this. Sometimes I ask after a lesson and one teacher will say ‘oh yeh he should have gone out’ and another will say, ‘you did the right thing keeping him in class.’ It’s tricky because, although I want to be consistent, each individual case is different. It’s a minefield.


Whilst my timetable is still relatively light, I have thrown myself into extra-curricular at my school. I have helped at the school play rehearsals and also co-run a book club, which is surprisingly popular. I have found it extremely beneficial to get to know students outside of the classroom. Even if I don’t teach them, you still hear around the corridor ‘Ah that Miss, she’s alright you know’. It’s been a great corridor-cred booster. I also think dressing up as Super Girl on open evening score me big brownie points with both teachers and students.

The bad…

Teacher guilt

It’s a Saturday. I’m out with my friends/family/partner having a lovely time. But wait. All I can think about is the lessons I have to plan for Monday, or the books that need marking, or the data sheet that needs filling, or the homework that needs scoring ahhhhhhhh! MUST RUSH HOME AND DO IT NOW. I truly believe this kind of guilt is exclusive to teaching. How is it that I can feel guilty for not working on a day when I am not at work? I’m hoping this feeling will eventually subside to mild nagging as opposed to all consuming.

The ugly…

The underlying competition

Ugly is perhaps a bit strong, and I didn’t quite know how to phrase this part, but let me try to explain. There is a underlying competitive element that exists utterly unspoken amongst groups of trainees. Every week when we meet, people seem to want to have had the best week, or the worst week, or the most naughty class or the best lesson observation. Not everyone is guilty of this, but those who are seem to be the most vocal. Sometimes when I come away from training days, I feel negative or like I’m not doing well enough, even though I am proud of what I have achieved this term. It’s natural to want to talk about teaching with other teachers, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of someone else’s confidence. Hopefully, as the year progresses, this will subside.

When I read this back, my ‘ugly’ is really a minor thing. And I can put up with the ‘bad’ because I am hoping that will sort itself out as I work out my work-life balance. The good things far, far outweigh the bad. Roll on next term!

The Inspiring Mr Drew

For a teacher about to start training, Mr Drew’s School for Boys was incredibly eye-opening. It’s not often you get to hear children speaking so openly about their behaviour and what they think of themselves. Some stand-out moments for me were ‘I can achieve being naughty’ and ‘I’m a problem child’. The first demonstrates what little confidence these boys have in themselves, whilst the second shows what happens to a child if they are constantly told they are difficult. They start to believe that they are and therefore they have a name to live up to. It was incredible to see the change in the boys after just one episode and how much positive reinforcement helped them.

And Mr Drew, what a guy! I can only hope that one day I have the ability to get students to calm down and reflect on their behaviour the same way that he can. He demonstrated the patience of a saint. I also thought the English/Drama teacher was great, and the perfect example of how one day you can feel like the worst teacher in the world, and the next you can be sky high after a great lesson. What I took away from the show was the importance of being positive and of piling on praise for good behaviour and of recognising when is the right time to leave bad behaviour and address it outside of the situation.

But in the reality of the classroom, something I am recognising every day is that behaviour management is a skill that is difficult to learn. I am currently working as a cover supervisor, teaching a few timetabled lessons to help prepare me for my training year. It’s a great opportunity but it is not without it’s challenges. Students don’t perceive you as important, and they often see you as being there because their other teacher has let them down. It is a struggle to get and maintain the attention of a class, especially when the cover tasks are no where near as engaging as their normal lessons.

During my short time in a school, I’ve come across boys like the ones in Mr Drew’s summer school regularly, as I’m sure many, if not all, teachers have. Attention-seeking, challenging and above all disruptive. They do not have the chance to go to summer school and reflect and change their behaviour and, unless they are given this sort of attention, things are unlikely to go well for them. I went to school this morning full of ideas about being really positive and winning over the naughty kids. But within the first lesson, despite my efforts of bargaining with reward points, I sent a student out the class, meaning I’d become yet another teacher to label them a ‘problem child’, in yet another lesson they had been thrown out of. As a inexperienced teacher, I find it hard to decide when a child’s behaviour warrants removal from a class. I know this is something I will learn, and I’ve already made some progress, but I can’t help feeling that slight pang of failure when behaviour gets out of control. Luckily, I work in a wonderful school with a great support system, and asking for help with a difficult child is never an issue. Gradually, I know this sense of failure will subsided.

I really hope that Mr Drew’s series is the start of many other opportunities being made available. I know it isn’t the end of the series yet, but I heard him talking on The One Show today and he said that all the boys are doing better. The knock on effect in our society would be huge; fewer exclusions, reduced crime rates and fewer prison sentences. I know most schools have alternative provisions in place for challenging students, but the idea of including the whole family in the process is what makes this idea unique, and, in my opinion, more likely to be successful.

I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the series from Mr Drew. In particular, I am interested to see how he deals with the parents, and to understanding more about how home life affects a child’s behaviour. Might even pick up a few tips for when I do my first parents evening! And maybe, if I watch closely enough, I will pick up his child-whispering ways through osmosis.

Teaching: Is there an Attraction?

I am a new, young teacher about to start my training to become a Secondary English teacher. I am currently a cover supervisor and am starting my training in September. The main purpose of this blog is to put forward my observations and reflections about what I see in the world of teaching. So far, I am but a novice; standing with my foot in the door but yet to immerse myself fully. What I do know, however, is that teaching is tough. It’s such a multi-faceted job with so many different elements. Teachers perform a daily juggling act of marking, planning, pastoral care, data, extra-curricular and so much more, as well as teaching young minds. But apparently, this is not enough.

What I have observed from the school I have been working in is that teachers are being pushed harder than ever. They are being stretched thiner and thiner; to their very limits. And now the government want more from them.  This was the reason for the recent NUT strike. It seems to me that with every new policy that come spewing out of Gove’s mouth, there are less and less reasons to become a teacher. What is there to attract new graduates into the profession?

1) Long working hours – The teachers at my school work incredibly hard. And now Gove is suggesting that they work longer hours for little to no extra pay? After a measly 1% pay rise this year? That just doesn’t add up. No student will benefit from being taught by a teacher suffering with exhaustion, striving to meet the never-ending deadlines and targets being set.

2) Extension of pension age – 68?! If teachers are expected to work at the pace and under the pressure they are put under now, they won’t make it to 68. And if you decided to drop down to part time hours as the year pass by, your pension will not be matched. So it’s either work until you drop, or struggle when you retire. It’s a lose-lose situation.

3) Performance Related Pay: Now this is an area I have picked up information about mainly from conversations with my colleagues. From what I understand, the rules have been kept deliberately vague so that each school can decide for themselves how to differentiate between who gets a pay rise and who doesn’t. With no overriding regulations on this, teachers are left vulnerable. If it is based on lesson observations, what if you are observed with your most badly behaved class, whilst someone else is observed with their best? If it is based on meeting GCSE targets, what if you get given a bottom set, all of whom have been set unrealistic targets? I’m all for having high aspirations, but there are always going to be students who don’t meet their targets. I have heard of a student who is predicted a B grade, but has been entered into a foundation level paper, the highest attainable grade being a C.  Some things are just out of our hands. PRP is just another way of adding pressure to teachers and many of the factors that could be deciding factors in it could be out of teachers control.

These are just a few of my still inexpert opinions, and until I start my training, I feel I have just scratched the surface. What does seem evident to anyone is that the workload is going up and the pay is not. With each of these gruelling policies, Gove is wiping out reasons to become a teacher and to stay a teacher. A recent study revealed that, on average, people stay in the profession for five years. With policies like these being introduced, I doubt whether many will stay more than five minutes.

It goes without saying that the main reason for becoming a teacher is the students. Working with and inspiring young people is great, and for me, outweighs all the negative aspects. I’m sure there are many others like me who feel the same. However, watching some of the news coverage of the strike, one teacher raised an interesting point. She said (to paraphrase) ‘Even my lovely kids and my wonderful school can’t outweigh the negative impact these policies are having on the profession.’

Michael Gove wants top graduates in education. He wants the best for state schools. He wants the best teachers possible to inspire the minds of tomorrow. To attract graduates who want to make teaching their long term career, he needs to look long and hard at the policies he is proposing, and the impact it will have not only on teachers, but on the students.