Requires Improvement


Time travel is regularly a topic of discussion in our house. Is it possible? If it is, where would you go and what would you do? Does it actually require a TARDIS? Would knowing what the future holds affect your decisions today? How? 

On Wednesday 6th May I accepted a job offer to be the Assistant Headteacher of a diverse and vibrant community school in East London. The school currently Requires Improvement (capital R capital I.) Whilst this was exactly the sort of challenge I had been looking for it was still quite a daunting prospect, however I felt confident that I had the energy, ideas and enthusiasm required to be part of the leadership team of this particular school.


On Thursday 7th May 36.9% of the electorate voted for their local Conservative MP in the General Election. This was enough to get 331 seats – a slight but very real majority. Like many others, I stared in disbelief at the Exit Poll figures and prayed they were incorrect. (They were incorrect: The Conservative Party did even better than the Exit Poll had predicted.)

The Exit Poll moment will become one of those “Where Were You When…” events that appear on our timelines like the moment you heard a plane had hit the World Trade Centre or that Zayn Malik had left One Direction. I digress. I went to bed at 5am with the dulcet tones of Dimbleby rattling around in my head and election figures burned onto my retinas. I got up 2 hours later to find my partner chain drinking coffee and staring into the middle distance. The Conservative Party had won a 12 seat majority. 
There were a number of reasons why Labour failed to inspire confidence in large groups of the population and very few of them were to do with a bacon sandwich. If you’re really interested you can read more on this here.

I know several good, kind-hearted people that voted for this Government. It is not helpful to make judgments about these people (although admittedly I felt very different on Friday 8th May having only had 2 hours sleep.) I know people dependent on housing benefit who voted Conservative despite the promised cuts to benefits, people living in social housing that voted for them, despite the bedroom tax, and public sector workers that voted for them despite cuts in funding and resources that have made their working lives near impossible. 
The job I am about to embark on now has much higher stakes.Ofsted have to grade my new school as Good in their next inspection. If they don’t then there will be a battle to fight academisation and jobs will be on the line. Obviously Governments should be working to improve schools however it is worth considering alternative models for doing this as opposed to simply applying further pressure. Schools need genuine support, resources and, most important of all, time to improve. 

I am a Coalition Teacher. I accepted my first job three weeks after Michael Gove was appointed Education Secretary. At that point I had very few political opinions other than Iraq War = bad, Tony Blair = mental and Tories = no. I had voted for the party that I believed would benefit me as a student (any guesses?) I don’t vote like that any more. I vote for the party that I think has the strongest offer for everyone, particularly those who are vulnerable.


At the time I had no real grasp on how the way the country voted would affect the job that I did. I knew teaching would be difficult, I didn’t expect it to get harder each year. I knew it would be long hours but I expected to be spending those hours preparing resources and working to improve my lessons not inputting data, writing documents and plans for improvement that would then sit at the back of cupboards. I originally planned to stay in teaching my entire working life and now I don’t think that’s a sustainable plan. When I first started teaching I genuinely believed I could defend children and improve their life chances and I was happy to work 13 hours a day 6 days a week to do so. I now no longer believe it is possible in the current climate. Schools cannot equip children with the skills they actually need to lead successful, happy lives because they are instead drilling them to answer enough test questions correctly for the school to avoid academisation. Our education system Requires drastic Improvement but, more often than not, it isn’t the fault of the people working in the schools (honest.)

Until September I will remain a class teacher in an Outstanding school. Ofsted are not due until 2019 or later yet still teaching today remains more difficult than it has ever been. From the focus on data, rather than children, the endless next step marking, regular observations, weekly book scrutiny and the media undermining us at every move – it is little wonder that two fifths of NQTs are quitting within their first five years. 
I am incredibly concerned about the future of our schools. This blog will focus on the Government’s impact on Education. That is not say the effect on Education will be more severe than the 12 billion pounds worth of benefit cuts, the retraction of The Human Rights act or the dismantling of the NHS. I just want to write about what I witness first hand. It is very, very easy to point out the problems or be negative about any change so I will try and keep this blog as balanced as possible and, whenever possible, present alternative options that challenge the Government’s agenda.   

We have no control over the newspapers and I don’t think for a second the blog of one teacher is enough to even to begin to cut through the barrage of negative press working against us but it’s a start. Who knows? Maybe in time things will change under the current government, if not there are only 1,803 days until the next election…

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