Boris Johnson Is A Very Clever Man

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We all exaggerate in interviews. Whether it’s claiming that your worst trait is your perfectionism when actually it’s your lack of punctuality or taking sole credit for a team effort. It’s what makes internal interviews harder – you can’t bullshit. The interviewers already know it wasn’t you who introduced that new initiative and that you leave slightly too early at the end of the day for their liking. So you have to feel sorry for Boris Johnson- he’s currently in the middle of the most important interview he’ll ever have and it’s internal. You see Boris Johnson wants to be Prime Minister.

Boris has decided the best way to become Prime Minister is to try and get people to vote to leave the EU in the Referendum. Boris Johnson is a very clever man. Boris knows that lots of members of the Conservative Party want out of the EU and he hopes that by campaigning for Brexit those members will vote for him. Boris’ friend David is campaigning to Remain in the EU and Boris knows he needs to oppose the Prime Minister to have a chance of becoming the Prime Minister. Boris Johnson does not care whether we are members of the EU. Boris Johnson cares about being Prime Minister.

Boris Johnson is a very clever man. He knows that a lot of people who want to leave the EU want to do so because they believe it will reduce immigration. Boris knows that people who are scared of immigrants will be reassured by a well-spoken man in a suit confirming that they are right to be scared of immigrants. He knows that people who are scared of immigrants want a well-spoken man in a suit to confirm that immigrants ARE causing the hospital waiting times and the lack of school places. Boris Johnson knows that immigration is not the reason for hospital waiting times or the lack of school places. He also knows that most people will have forgotten about that time in 2013 when he claimed to be the “only British politician who will admit to being pro-immigration“. Boris was born in New York. His Grandfather was Turkish and his Grandmother was Swiss. Boris Johnson does not care about immigration. Boris Johnson cares about being Prime Minister.
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Boris Johnson is a very clever man. He knows the things that he has to say to make people vote for him. In his speech yesterday Boris Johnson tried to distance himself from the “Fat Cats” on the Remain side. Boris tried to present himself as a regular, normal-sized cat. Boris Johnson doesn’t care about fat cats. He also doesn’t care about thin cats. And he really doesn’t care about poor cats or stray cats.

Boris Johnson cares about being Prime Minister.

 

Sorry, Nicky, I’m out.

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Dear Nicky Morgan,

Please accept this as written notice of my resignation from my role as Assistant Head and class teacher. It is with a heavy heart that I write you this letter. I know you’ve struggled to listen to and understand teachers in the past so I’m going to try and make this as clear as possible. In the six short years I have been teaching your party has destroyed the Education system. Obliterated it. Ruined it. It is broken.

The first thing I learnt when I started teaching in 2010 is that teaching is bloody hard work. It’s a 60 hour week only half of which is spent doing the actual teaching. It eats into the rest of your life both mentally and physically. If it’s not exercise books and resources taking over your lounge and kitchen table it’s worrying about results or about little Ahmed’s home life keeping you awake at 2am. I’ve never minded this. I’ve always been happy to give my life over to teaching as I believed it to be such a noble cause. Besides we’re not the only profession who work long hours. What I didn’t realise back in 2010 is that the job would get harder each year.

First you introduced the phonics check. I was in Year 1 that year and continued teaching phonics to the best of my ability. I didn’t spend much time teaching children to differentiate between real words and “non-words” because I was focused on, you know, teaching them to read. I sat and watched child after child fail that ridiculous “screening” because they read the word “strom” as “storm”. The following year I taught to the test. We spent weeks practising “words” and “non words” and sure enough our results soared.

My second year brought with it the changes to the Ofsted framework and the obsession with data began. Oh the sodding data game! The game that refuses to acknowledge how long a child has spoken English or whether or not they have books or even food at home. The data game changed things. Attainment in Maths and English was no longer just important, it would almost entirely decide the judgement made about your school. Oh and whilst we’re on the judgements “Satisfactory” was no longer satisfactory – it was the far more sinister sounding: “Requires Improvement.”

From then on things began to unravel at an alarming rate. The threat of forced academisation hung over each set of SATs results and the floor targets continued to rise. Gove cut the calculator paper (because calculators are cheating) and introduced SPaG. Grammar was no longer for writing – it was for grammar. Around the same time he also froze teachers’ pay and doubled the contributions we would have to make to our pensions. Teachers were suddenly worse off than they had been the previous year and under more pressure than ever before.

So teaching became harder still and life in schools started to change. There were new hoops to jump through and somehow we just about managed to get through them. It meant sacrificing everything that wasn’t SPaG, English or Maths but we did it – we learnt how to play the game. Outside of the safety of our schools though there was a bigger game being played – one that we had no chance of winning: the status of the teaching profession was being eroded away. There was the incessant name calling and smears in the media from “the blob” to “the enemies of promise” and, of course, “soft bigots” with “low expectations”. You drip fed the message: teachers were not to be trusted and it worked: the public stopped trusting us.

As bleak as it sounds, those years look like a golden age compared to what we have to deal with now.

I was delighted when Gove went. I knew there was every chance he’d be replaced by someone equally awful but I couldn’t imagine things getting worse. I figured the Tories were done playing with Education and they’d move on to something else. I was so wrong .


This year brought with it our greatest challenge to date – the new assessments. For most of the year we were completely in the dark. We had no idea what form the tests would take and how they would be scored (we’re still not entirely sure on the latter.) There was also the introduction of the SPaG test for 7-year-olds (which was sadly scrapped because of your own department’s incompetence.) The criteria for assessing writing has changed dramatically.  Gone is the best fit approach and what has replaced it is an arbitrary list of criteria of the things children should be able to do – some of which are grammatical rules that your department have made up . Year 6 were tested on their ability to read long words and remember the names of different tenses. Whatever foundation subjects were still being taught have had to be shelved in favour of lesson after lesson on the past progressive tense.

In some ways I don’t feel like a teacher at all any more. I prepare children for tests and, if I’m honest, I do it quite well. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of as it’s not as if I’ve provided my class with any transferable, real life skills during the process. They’ve not enjoyed it, I’ve not enjoyed it but we’ve done it: and one thing my children know how to do is answer test questions. They’ve written raps about how to answer test questions, they’ve practised test questions at home and test questions in school, they’ve had extra tuition to help them understand the test questions. They can do test questions – they just haven’t had time to do anything else.

At the same time you’ve cut school budgets to pieces. This one hasn’t been widely reported yet but it will be over the next 18 months. I know of 3 head teachers who are considering having their own class next year as they can’t afford to replace the teachers that are leaving. Most schools I know have already cut back on support staff (read: made valuable, hard-working teaching assistants redundant.) And this is just the start of it. I suppose the only thing schools should be grateful for is that you introduced performance related pay and, with the leap in National Expectations, there will be fewer teachers getting their pay rise this September.

In many ways I’m one of the lucky ones – I work for two smart Head Teachers in a school with an SLT who genuinely care about teacher workload. Meaningless box ticking exercises are kept to a minimum and meetings are kept brief. We only have INSET on average every other week and book scrutiny/monitoring is only carried out once a term. Demands on teachers’ time are kept to a minimum but there is very little we can do to protect teachers from the unreasonable expectations being put on them by your Government, the threat of no-notice Ofsted inspections and, of course, the ever increasing risk of academisation.

I know I’m not alone in feeling like this. A recent survey found that nearly 50% of teachers are considering leaving in the next 5 years. Just within my own family my fiance, my sister and my sister-in-law have all quit the profession in the last 12 weeks. Rather than address this issue you’ve decided to allow schools to recruit unqualified teachers to fill the gaps. The final nail in the profession’s coffin. I don’t want to stop teaching. I love teaching but I have no interest in being part of this game any more.

Worse than being a teacher in this system is being a child at the mercy of it and to them I say this: we tried our best to fight these changes: we rallied, we went on strike, we campaigned and made as much noise as we could. I’m sorry it didn’t work and I’m sorry that I’m not strong enough to keep working in this system but as I’ve told many of you many times: when someone is being mean to you – you ask them to stop. If they continue to be mean you walk away. It is now time for me to walk away. I’ll keep up the fight though.

Maybe in time things will change and, when that time comes, I can come back to the job I loved but until then sorry Nicky – I’m out.

Yours Sincerely,

Zoe

P.S: One last thing – if you do end up losing your job over your shambolic running of the Education System – make sure they don’t replace you with Boris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Perfect Chief Inspector

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This week applications opened for the new Chief Inspector of HMCI. If you’re interested you, and you’re not like Michael Wilshaw, you can apply here. I can’t help but think if we were more creative in our recruitment methods we might have greater success. So I’ve taken a leaf out of Jane and Michael Banks’ book (yes, the children from Mary Poppins) and I’ve written a short song…

Wanted: A chief inspector

If you want this choice position
Have a cheery disposition
Good ideas, a good sport
Work well, with all sorts.

You must be kind, you must be clever
And in time you should endeavour
To take on the government, give us hope
Help the teachers cope.

Never be mad or cruel,
Never forget the pressure put on schools.
Respect the teaching profession,
And end this data obsession.

If you will judge and intimidate us
Continue to undermine our status
We won’t teach your curriculum
Or play your games,
We’ll leave our jobs
For sunnier plains
Good luck, new chief!
All the best,
One more thing,
(Scrap these ridiculous tests.)

2015 – Who Runs The World? (Girls)

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Despite not being Liz Kendall’s biggest fan, I practically whooped with joy when I read that she’d told a Daily Mail journalist to fuck off for asking about her weight. 2015 was a big year in politics and particularly for women. 2015 was the year that saw Turkey and Saudi Arabia elect record number of female politicians, Hilary Clinton have resounding success in the Presidential debates and The Sun finally succumb to the “No More Page 3” campaign. We’ll quietly ignore the pink bus; it turns out that a vehicle reminiscent to something Barbie might drive is not the way to turn women onto politics.

Now, I understand it’s Boxing Day so in between eating leftovers and watching “Space Jam” no one’s up for reading anything too heavy. For that reason I’ll stick to the much loved list format for this one. So – happy Boxing Day: 9 times women won politics.

1. Corbyn’s Cabinet

Yes, he should have appointed Angela Eagle as his chancellor, but that aside, with the final headcount standing at 16 women and 15 men this is still the first women heavy Shadow cabinet we’ve seen. Although I still think the press missed a trick by not referring to it as The Corbynet…

2. Stella Creasy and the Tampon Tax

There are a number of reasons to love Stella Creasy her but her best moment of the year for me was her argument against the Tampon Tax (and forcing MP Bill Cash to say the word “tampon”)

3. Abby Tomlinson

I make no secret of my admiration of Abby. This year she shot to fame after creating #milifandom to try and counteract the unfair media portrayal of Ed Miliband. Since then Abby’s shown she is a force to be reckoned – she took on the Murdoch press for hounding her extended family and (my favourite ever moment) she stood up to bullying from the ever delightful Louise Mensch.  This is just the start of things to come for Miss Tomlinson; I’m certain we’ll be hearing about her for years to come. Is it too soon to start #Abbyfandom?

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This girl bloody rocks.

4. Kezia Dugdale

Although the rest of the UK may have voted for a sausage fest of a Labour party Scotland elected Kezia Dudale as the new leader of the Scottish Labour Party. Well done Scotland.

5. Nicola Sturgeon

Whilst we’re on the subject of Scotland, you can’t review the year in politics without mentioning “The Most Dangerous Women In Britain.” Whatever you think of her politics there is no denying that Nicola Sturgeon lead an impressive campaign in the run up to the Election. Straight talking, quick witted and feisty as hell Sturgeon made herself the selfie Queen of Scotland, lead her party to a stonking victory winning 56 out of a possible 59 seats and topped the Women’s Hour 2015 Power List.

6. Jess Phillips

Jess Phillips MP hit the headlines a number of times this year. The most controversial incident was when she responded to the suggestion men’s issues should be debated in parliament on International Men’s Day (as there are few opportunities to discuss issues important to men) with:

When I’ve got parity, when women in these buildings have parity, you can have your debate. And that will take an awfully long time”
Whether or not you agree with her, Phillips was unfairly trolled with threats of violence and rape after this incident. Initially she reacted the same way most human beings would: by avoiding the internet but then came back fighting and showed women around the world how to deal with trolls: by promptly reporting and shaming their disgusting behaviour. Excellent work.

7. Mhaira Black

Mhaira Black, the youngest MP elected to the House of Commons, gave a killer maiden speech attacking the Conservative’s austerity programme, “I am the only 20 year  old in the UK that the Chancellor is prepared to help with housing.”

8. Saudi Arabia

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Not famed for their equality agenda, Saudia Arabia took a big leap forward this year by allowing women to vote for the first time ever. 130,000 women registered to vote which falls massively short of the 1.35m men that registered but in a country where women aren’t allowed to drive, this is progress.

 

9. Angela Merkel

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In the face of harsh criticism, Merkel stood firm on her policy to not limit the number of refugees that could enter Germany even though it meant standing alone. This year Germany have welcomed over 250,000 refugees which is over 12 times the number Britain has pledged to take in the next 5 years. Her response to critics that say she is compromising the security of Germany and stretching their resources too thinly? ” Wir schaffen das.”  We will cope.

What did you learn at Primary school?

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Those of you that follow me on social media, or work with me, or are taught by me, or have passed me on the street this week will know: I WENT TO QUESTION TIME! I was in the same room as Dimbleby!

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As if that wasn’t exciting enough the Man on the Piccadilly Line got picked to ask his question. The chances of this are so slim as the audience of 100 each submit 2 questions. Out of these 200 questions they choose just 6 and normally only have enough time to get through 4 or 5. His question was:

“Is the Government turning our schools into joyless exam factories?”

If you’re interested in what the Question Time panel had to say about this you can watch it here (54:58) He wrote the question following the announcement that the government wants to introduce tests at the end of KS1. This has confused a lot of people because children are already assessed at the end of KS1. They take tests and the teacher looks at all of their work from the year and then, using the information from the test and the class work, the teacher decides on a level. The new tests will be marked externally and the mark the child gets on the test will be the level they are given for the year – which is how it works with the end of KS2 assessments.

Much to our excitement, the question sparked debate on Twitter. Toby Young and Michael Rosen debated until the small hours and the conversation continued in our staff rooms the next day. Most teachers seemed to agree tests are a very useful way of assessing children’s understanding. The problem is when test scores become a stick to beat teachers and schools with. When schools are judged entirely on their test scores they HAVE to spend a disproportionate amount of time preparing for those tests. In some schools an average Year 6 day looks like this: Maths, English, Guided Reading and SPaG. It isn’t the fault of the teachers. It is the ever increasing pressure on schools to get higher and higher results year after year. As a result, most Primary schools are  sending pupils to Secondary school with good maths and English results but sadly they are becoming increasingly “switched off” from learning.

I sometimes look at my own class. They have such small worlds – some of them have never ventured out of Ilford. Last week I postponed a Guided Reading lesson to spend some time convincing a boy in my class that Turkey was a real country. Even when I showed him the map, photographs of Turkey and got two children to tell him what life in Turkey is like he didn’t seem convinced. Another day in the middle of an English lesson a girl said to me: “You’re a Christian because you’re English isn’t it Miss?” So we spent some time unpacking why she thought that. My class desperately need life experiences. Most of them don’t really understand why they’re at school at all. For so many of them school is a place they are dropped off at in the morning and collected from 6 hours later.  Every day needs to be fun and centred around learning through play and I do as much of that as I can.  At the end of this year they will take the new KS1 tests which will include a SPaG test. The results will be published, Ofsted will look at them and if they aren’t high enough there is every chance my school could become academised. It isn’t the testing I’m against it’s the fact that schools have to spend so much time teaching for the test they don’t have time to teach other, equally important, skills.

I started thinking back to my own Primary school education. I loved my Primary school. It’s the reason I became a teacher myself. Yes we did tests and maths and English but the experiences that have stayed with me were rarely those lessons. Here are my stand out memories:

  • In Year 5 we made a huge model of Smaug out of chicken wire. It was so big we had to move it in the playground to work on it. We spent days slapping on inches of paper mache and waiting impatiently for it to dry. After that there was days of painting and adding detail. It was amazing!
  • In Year 6 we made a Victorian street out of cereal boxes – I remember spending days adding detail to my Victorian house and the pride I felt when it was put on the wall.
  • I remember making toys out of junk model materials in Year 3. My friend Holly made a pair of shoes for our teacher using string and yoghurt pots. I remember our teacher doing a catwalk style walk for us. Interestingly, Holly is now a fashion designer.
  • I was in Year 5 when that song “I Believe I can Fly” by R Kelly was released and there was a teacher in my school who HATED it. So my class teacher taught us the song and we practised it every day for a week. Then one afternoon to perform it for this teacher just to wind her up.
  • I met my best friend Lizzie when made jelly together in Year 2. We’d also been in the same class in Year 1 but we hadn’t decided to be friends then.
  • In Reception we had a dentists’ chair in our classroom. Just because. We also had a Ghostbusters Art Gallery for all of our work that we opened to the public. I think I was a guide.
  • In Year 6 on hot days we’d go outside and read in the field under the trees. A couple of times our teacher bought us ice lollies.
  • In Year 4 Thursdays was our TV room day. We’d go to the TV room and watch Look and Read. It felt like it went on for a whole afternoon but I think it was probably 10 minutes. Geordie Racer anyone?
  • My Year 6 teacher gave me my love of poetry. We read the Lady of Shallot and drew pictures of her stuck in her tower.
  • The plays and assemblies. We had a big musical performance every year and a Christmas play as well as concerts and full class assemblies. In Reception the highlight of our class assembly was kicking down a large lego Berlin wall.
  • I was in the netball team. We never won anything if I remember correctly. I remember one day when, after losing 5 games in a row and our teachers took pity bought us Freddos.
  • Quiet reading – every day. 20 minutes of just reading for pleasure. Not writing about reading, answering questions about reading just reading. It was my favourite part of the day.
The more testing, the more pressure on schools, the more other subjects and experiences get “squeezed out”.
Finally, I think the biggest problem with these tests just aren’t equipping children with the skills they need for working in the 21st Century. Employers moan that young people are leaving school without “workplace” skills. Yes, you need a good grasp of maths, reading and writing but you also need to be able to find creative solutions to problems, to read people, to communicate well, to manage your time, to meet deadlines, to work well with others, show empathy etc… These are just some of the skills you need to succeed at work. At the moment schools have to spend their time jumping through hoops and working towards these tests that the “whole child” is being forgotten. Some school’s are better at fighting it than others and are insisting that their pupils become inquisitive, thoughtful, happy individuals as well as get Level 4s.
I was discussing this with a teacher friend on Friday night. She’s the sort of teacher you never forget. Her classroom is a magical, fun place full of fairy doors and bourbon biscuits. We were talking about how we manage the pressure for Maths and English results whilst at the same time teaching our pupils to be happy, well adjusted members of society. She tells her class, “if you learn nothing else in my class this year you will learn how to listen and how to get along with others.”
I’m not saying Maths and English shouldn’t be a priority in schools, nor am I suggesting that we should all build large chicken wire models of dragons every day but do I worry that we will end up with a generation of children who can perform very well in tests but will be switched off from learning in adult life.