Is the Recruitment Process Flawed?

The key factor in any school’s recruitment process should be that you want to replace leaving staff with new staff who are better. This allows a school to gradually improve the provision available to students and create better outcomes for all.

Before I begin to unpick how schools can improve the recruitment process it is important for me to put my comments into context. If your context is different (I’m sure a lot of yours will be) it does not mean that this blog is not applicable as I believe that there is still vast improvements to be made in all recruitment processes within education. The process used by the vast majority of schools are outdated and follow the premise of doing hats always been done.

I work in a large international school in Thailand that caters for students from 2 years old up to 18 years of age. Staff are hired initially on 2 year contracts and are then offered 1 year extensions annually beyond this. This comes with a certain level of insecurity as some staff tend to move from school to school every 2 years. It does however mean that the market for international teachers is an accessible place with both transient teachers looking to move from one international school to another and teachers from Britain looking to escape what I’m sure many would describe as pretty detrimental working conditions for most at the moment (forgive me if that’s not the case for you).

The main premise of this blog is ‘if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got’. Recruitment procedures are outdated and are causing schools to hire staff who are not exceptional teachers, causing students to progress at a slower rate in classrooms and senior leaders to spend more, money time and energy developing staff’s ability to deliver consistently good or outstanding lessons.

Every school has a proportion (normally around 10%) of their staff who are deemed to ‘need improvement’ in order to deliver suitably challenging lessons to students. Senior leaders spend huge amounts of money and time supporting these members of staff and very often the end product of these supportive measures is the teacher moving on to another school or career.

“Unfortunately some experts suggest that up to 90% of training doesn’t cause a sustained improvement in performance or change behavior because it’s neither well designed nor well delivered” (Work Rules, Laszlo Bock, 2015)

At this moment I’d like to stress that I am not in favour of ‘moving staff on’ who are under performing, but I believe that if school’s put students at the centre of the decision making process then at time this is unavoidable.

This brings us to recruiting staff to replace those who are leaving due to poor performance or those who are moving to advance their career (let’s be honest, these are the only two reasons why staff should leave- if a member of staff is taking a sideways step and they are a valued member of staff then the school should find a way to make them stay).

Going back to my first statement: Schools should always replace leaving staff with better teachers.

So how do we do this? In my opinion, not using the traditional model!

In my current school the process goes something like this:

2017-07-31 12_34_41-Recruitment Blog - Word.png

Initially this seems like a perfectly suitable process where unsuitable candidates are filtered out and then senior leaders chose the best of the best.

However, research suggests that the likelihood of hiring an exceptional employee through conducting just one interview is just 14%. Adding a work sample test such as teaching a lesson whilst being observed or analyzing assessment data and suggesting suitable interventions increases this to 29%, but these are still not great odds of hiring someone exceptional and let’s be honest; why would you be looking to hire someone who’s not truly exceptional?

I believe that by remodeling the current processes schools could significantly increase the chances of hiring exceptional teachers. Below is my suggestion of how a more effective recruitment process could work:2017-07-31 12_38_41-Recruitment Blog - Word.png

2017-07-31 12_39_03-Recruitment Blog - Word.png

Whilst this may be a long winded process it’s statistically proven to improve a school’s chances of hiring an exceptional teacher. Where candidates participate in cognitive and behavioral interviewing likelihood of employing an exceptional teacher can increase to 56% and a follow up interview with a Headteacher adds 25% confidence rating to a decision ensuring that any interview bias from department staff or Assistant Heads is overcome.

The proposed interviewing system will increase the time it takes to employ a new member of staff, however it will significantly decrease the amount of time (and money) spent supporting staff who ‘Need Improvement’ as it hugely increases the odds of hiring exceptional staff.

Thank you for reading- all feedback on these ideas would be hugely appreciated.

This blog has been written using information obtained from “Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google” Laszlo Bock, 2015.

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Planning and Assessing for National Curriculum 2014

With just 7 months until National Curriculum 2014 needs to be implemented by all schools (unless you work at a brave Academy, who design and run their own curriculum) the planning process is well and truly underway. As a Head of Department (PE) I have begun the process of reading the new programme of study and thinking about how my current curriculum map, schemes of work and especially the assessment procedures need to be reviewed and refined to meet the needs of the curriculum. In this blog I will share some of my thought process about these changes and outline how I believe a curriculum should be adapted to suit the needs of the learners following the 2014 National Curriculum.

Be warned I will be using PE specific examples in the curriculum planning section, but I will try to keep the assessment section as ‘unsubject specific’ as possible!

Planning

The Key Stage 3 National Curriculum for PE states that pupils should taught to:

  • use a range of tactics and strategies to overcome opponents in direct competition through team and individual games [for example,           badminton, basketball, cricket, football, hockey, netball, rounders, rugby and tennis]
  • develop their technique and improve their performance in other competitive sports [for example, athletics and gymnastics]
  • perform dances using advanced dance techniques in a range of dance styles and forms
  • take part in outdoor and adventurous activities which present intellectual and physical challenges and be encouraged to work in a team, building on trust and developing skills to solve problems, either individually or as a group
  • analyse their performances compared to previous ones and demonstrate improvement to achieve their personal best
  • take part in competitive sports and activities outside school through community links or sports clubs

Below is a copy of the Key Stage 3 Curriculum Map used in my department from January-July 2014. This has been designed with Curriculum 2014 in mind and I believe that once the September-December terms have been incorporated including Rugby, Health Related Fitness, Netball and Basketball/Handball that it will achieve all but one aspect of the programme of study.

KS3

I agree with the programme of study that pupil’s should experience a wide range of sports and activities. A local school who I meet with regularly have adapted their Curriculum Map so that pupils follow either an individual sports pathway (Badminton, Tennis, Health Related Fitness, etc) OR a team sports pathway (Football, Rugby, Rounders, etc), For me, this limits the experiences available to learners and builds quite a dangerous fixed mindset about what they can and can’t achieve in sport, i.e. pupils will believe that they can only do well in activities where they work alone.

I believe that the curriculum that I have designed aims to offer enough breadth and depth to create an holistic programme of study, where pupils are challenged in a wide range of activities. In the summer term I have created an option block where pupils can chose which summer sports they study. This was a recommendation from members of my department who were concerned that due to the lack of time in summer term pupils may not have the opportunity to study sports in enough depth to make suitable levels of progress. For me, this serves another purpose: it creates an opportunity for pupils to make decisions about their own performance. It gives them the freedom to either target an activity where they feel that additional lessons would help them improve, either due to perceived under performance or if a pupil feels that they can excel in a particular activity.

This idea of pupils selecting particular activities continues through the key stage 4 programme of study, where pupils select a new activity every 4 weeks. We have begun trialling this and so far it has had a good level of success in increasing pupil engagement, which is a traditionally difficult time for PE departments with disengagement becoming an increasing challenge (ages 14-16 are the main time when pupils tend to drop out of sport).

Alternative activities such as boxercise and Sports Leaders Level 1 are offered to encourage pupils to “continue to take part regularly in competitive sports and activities outside school through community links or sports clubs” (National Curriculum 2014).

KS4

The one area where these curriculum map’s don’t cover is “take part in outdoor and adventurous activities which present intellectual and physical challenges and be encouraged to work in a team, building on trust and developing skills to solve problems, either individually or as a group” (National Curriculum 2014). The main reason for the admission of this aspect  of the curriculum is time and space.

With so many other aspects of the curriculum to cover it would be very difficult to incorporate this into the curriculum as a stand alone topic. The other issue is the lack of space and facilities to deliver this to a suitable standard. Without specialist equipment such as trim trails schools will find this aspect of the National Curriculum extremely difficult to deliver effectively.

At the start of year 7 our pupils complete 2 team building and settling in days where these sort of activities are used to develop team building, trust and problem solving skills. In order to progress these aspects of learning to a suitable standard we have attempted to incorporate these sort of skills into other schemes of work, i.e. problem solving when looking at tactics in Football and team work when creating partner routines in Gymnastics.

Assessing

One of the most contentious issues in National Curriculum 2014 is the scrapping of assessment level descriptors, which have now been replaced with a statement to say what pupils should be able to achieve by the end of a Key Stage.

I believe that this is a great moment for all teachers! We can all finally move away from describing a pupil as a 4b or a 6c and start looking at them as an individual again. I have stated in past blogs such as “Developing a Growth Mindset Culture in the Classroom” that I believe that effort is the key to success. One of the key aspects of teaching should be creating pupils with growth mindsets who can understand that talent and ability aren’t god given gifts, but the outcome of hard work and practice. As a baby no one is more talented than anyone else, we are just a product of our environment and excel in the things that we practice and enjoy.

Many schools are waiting patiently for more guidance on how the government would like them to assess without levels the education system waits in limbo trying to guess Mr Gove’s next move (or insightful comment on education!). This makes suggesting any assessment procedure a tentative process, but I will try and outline how I believe that pupils should be assessed using the National Curriculum Assessment Statement.

Linking back to what I have previously said about effort I believe that the start of any assessment should be the pupil’s self assessing their effort levels over the past topic. This can form the basis of a dialogue between the student and the teacher over the coming weeks (and years). Once pupils understand the link between (sustained) effort and success they will achieve their potential.

How often do we hear teachers saying that pupils can achieve a C in their GCSE’s if they work really hard? How often do you hear a pupil say that they’d be happy with a C because that’s what the teacher believes they are capable of achieving? This is wrong! Teachers need to understand that with enough intrinsic motivation and effort that pupil’s in our school can all achieve well beyond the limiting and cautious targets we set them. If a pupil works hard they will achieve their potential. They don’t need to know that they are currently working at a 5b, they just need feedback based on effort in lesson. If they think they are working their hardest and the teacher agrees then they will achieve their best.

So where does the assessment statement from National Curriculum 2014 come into my plan for assessment? It should form the basis of target setting by the pupil. Once they have self assessed their effort (the teacher should have no input into this because we cannot categorically say that that pupil has/hasn’t worked their hardest) they then need to identify the aspects of the statement that they can/cannot currently perform consistently. This can form the basis for a target setting process that can be revisited at the end of every scheme of work. This process can then be used in the ongoing dialogue between teacher and pupil in the next topic.

Assessing under the new curriculum is a challenge for us all and we will definitely not perfect the techniques used straight away, but I believe that linking self assessed effort levels with target setting from the assessment statement will create an assessment procedure that produces pupils with a growth mindset, who understand the link between hard work and effective target setting to achieve their goals.

How are you planning on delivering and assessing the National Curriculum 2014? Let me know by tweeting @mikeharrowell or leaving a comment below.

Thanks for reading!

The Problem with Student Voice

Following a recent twitter discussion with another education user, who was adamant that pupils should have a big say in how they are taught, I have decided to explore my perception of the role student voice has to play in a school.

I am a strong believer in students learning to learn at an early stage. Pupils should understand different ways of revising and learning information, especially as the education system becomes more exam driven, however I have an issue when this crosses over to pupils telling teachers how to teach and deciding what’s best for them.

If you cast your mind back to when you were at school and ask yourself the question “how often did my teachers involve me in planning?” The chances are your response will be very little because the idea that students should be empowered in this way is a relatively new concept often driven by Ofsted’s view that pupils should be a bigger part  of their school community. There seems to have been a recent trend towards getting pupils to observe teaching, asking the ‘student council’ or ‘student body’ (or whatever name your school chooses for this group of pupils who meet and discuss school business) what they want to improve about their school, finding out from pupils how they prefer to learn and so on and so forth. For me this is a dangerous path to go down because if I cast my mind back to when I was at school I had no idea what was best for me- I was indecisive, I was inconsistent, I was emotion driven, I was a child and most importantly I had no training in education so I didn’t understand the concept of how to maximise learning.

I would compare this concept of student voice to a football manager listening to the fans or players of the club on how they wanted training and match day tactics to be set up. They are valid opinion and there is always a benefit to listening to the stakeholders in any organisation, but would Jose Mourinho adapt his masterplan to suit the desires of other. No he definitely wouldn’t! Why? Because he has coaching qualifications and experience that tell him that he knows best.

I wouldn’t go to a gym and tell the personal trainer how to train me, I would put my faith in the trained expert and listen to his guidance and advice and this should be the same in schools. Every teacher should gauge the response of their pupils in their formal or informal reflection on their lesson. We’ve all taught a lesson where the pupils have failed to engage because the methods we’ve used haven’t suited the needs of the learners and we’ve all walked away, reviewed what we did and planned to improve our practice. This is the feedback we want from pupils- the day to day informal feedback that we’ve been trained to use to inform planning in a cyclical, evaluative process.

If too much choice is given to the pupils we create an environment where pupils develop a fixed mindset about learning and believe that they can only learn in one way or that learning can only happen when the lesson is fun. Unfortunately in life they will have to adapt the way they learn to suit different contexts, whether that be university or work placed training. As a teacher I have a responsibility to ensure that my learners understand that there are different ways of learning and they need to be flexible and adapt to change.

I am not saying for a minute that student’s views about education aren’t important or that we should ignore them, but we are trained professionals with years of training and experience. As a teacher you know best, that’s what you are paid to do! Teachers need to observe learners and make decisions based on response and outcome, but it isn’t productive to solely follow the opinions of pupils who have no formal training in education and whose minds are still developing.

If you have any comments or opinions on this topic please tweet me @mikeharrowell or comment below

Things Will Get Worse Before They Get Better

Over the past 6 months I experienced my first teaching ‘slump’. Lessons weren’t going how I wanted them to, behaviour issues were getting away from me, I had mental blocks trying to plan lessons and most importantly I was getting angry with myself, unable to comprehend what was happening to me. This slump coincided with a move to a new school, making me question whether I’d spent too long at my previous school and become institutionalised in some way.

The slump ended 2 months ago and since then my lessons have been better than ever, planning is flowing and I feel in control again. The turning point came when I finally realised the reason for this slump and the answer was simpler than I ever could have thought- I was in a learning dip!

A learning dip occurs when we begin a new challenge (for me it was starting at a new school) and we have to take on a lot of new information and have to adapt our performance to account for this process. It’s a theory that we see in full flow everyday as teachers, but rarely recognise or acknowledge. The easiest example for me to give is the high jump. Pupils are initially taught the scissor kick and this works well for them until the bar hits a certain height, they must then remodel their technique into the Fosbury Flop. Initially results drop and the pupil gets frustrated (without teacher guidance they normally revert back to the scissor kick because this is where they experienced a relative level of success), but eventually, with time and practice, they learn to use the Fosbury Flop and their ability rises exponentially.

Once I’d realised what had happened to me I was determined to come through the learning dip. I’m going to share the steps I went through in order to survive the learning dip and come out the other end a better teacher.

The diagram below illustrates a typical learning dip:

                       

1. Allow for the dip

The first step was for me to stop getting frustrated and just accept that I was in a learning dip. This involved a lot of faith in the process (and hope that I’d diagnosed the problem properly!) and a genuine acceptance that once I was through it I would be a better teacher.

2. Acknowledge that things will take longer

By nature I am an impatient person, maybe influenced by the current impatient climate of education in the UK! One of the things I had to accept was that planning, data analysis, adapting the curriculum maps, etc would take longer and would involve mistakes that I would need to review and correct. This is a similar process to the one pupils go through when they are learning creative writing in English- the write a draft, which normally takes them a relatively long time, they get a partner to read their work and feedback to them and they keep adapting until they feel confident using this newly acquired skill.

3. Remind yourself that a learning dip isn’t a reflection on competency

There were times when I thought that I’d pressed the self destruct button on my teaching career by accepting a new job in a new school. Was I good enough to run a bigger department in a higher achieving school? Was I able to teach to a different cohort of pupils with the same passion and ability as I had before? Was I cut out for teaching? These are all questions that ran though my head (causing sleepless nights on the odd occasion!).

The answer to these is yes- I was ready for these challenges and I am (hopefully) able to achieve these things, but I had to keep reminding myself that a learning dip happens for a reason and that the benefits would be worth the stress and worry.

4. Focus on one thing at a time

One of the problems I had was that I was adapting my teaching to a new environment- different pupils, different expectations, different processes, meanwhile trying to get used to being Head of Department in a much bigger department in a new school. This was beginning to become overwhelming when I was trying to figure out all the things that weren’t happening how I wanted them to.

I decided to focus on one aspect of my teaching each week. I began with reviewing my resources and how I differentiated, then onto the pace of my lessons and so on until one by one these things began to come together and produce some really meaningful learning experiences for the pupils.

5. Celebrate when your performance begins to improve

My celebration was a simple affair- sitting on my sofa after a greatly improved week at school with a cup of tea and a smug feeling that I’d survived my learning dip! Feel free to celebrate however you want (maybe a bit more of a rock and roll fashion than me!) – it’s important to recognise the end of the process!

Moving forward I feel that this was a defining moment in my teaching career- the first (and definitely not the last!!) learning dip. I’d survived it and now feel more confident doing my job than ever.

@mikeharrowell

Developing a Growth Mindset Culture in the Classroom

 

I would describe myself as one of life’s ‘tryers’. I’ve never been a person who got top grades, or went to county level when playing sport and I definitely wasn’t one of the best teachers at University, but when things get tough I’ll work hard and (normally) get results. I’ve always had this pedagogy through teacher training and into my career. This approach to learning is called ‘Growth Mind Set’.

The difference between a person with a fixed mind set and a growth mind set can be seen in the diagram below:

dweck_mindset

In this blog I am going to share with you I’ve tried to develop growth mind set teaching into my everyday practice.

1. Praise the Process, Not the Outcome

Being a PE teacher I see pupils trying and failing to achieve things on a daily basis- that’s one of the wonderful things with my subject: failure is visible so teachers can see it straight away and support. Pupils need to be taught that failure is a good thing and we need to develop a culture in our classrooms where pupils feel comfortable failing. 

If a task is set at the correct level of challenge then 50% of pupils should fail at it. That’s potentially a lot of failure for pupils to deal with everyday, but as a school and as a classroom practitioner, we need to support that failure and show pupils the link between failure and learning. (For more on this topic follow @Alastair_Arnott on Twitter- Author of the fantastic book ‘Positive Failure’)

The overall outcome of the process is what pupils are eventually judged on through assessments, but pupils need to understand that the process they go through to understand a new concept is just as important (if not more important) as getting it right.

In my teaching I have been attempting to only give pupils feedback on how they attempt to achieve a skill or understand a concept, not the overall outcome they achieve. This has had a huge impact on the resilience the pupils show when they are confronted with a challenge that is beyond their current skill set.

2. Intelligence (and Ability) is Not a Fixed Trait

Throughout my childhood my older brother was described as ‘the academic one’ and I was ‘the sporty one’. From then on I have always assumed that some people are ‘engineered’ to be academic, some sporty, some people are naturally more inclined to speak a language or play an instrument. This is absolute nonsense. Any of the pupils in our classes can achieve an A* if they are given purposeful teaching over a long enough period of time and have an intrinsic motivation to succeed. (If you don’t believe me please read ‘Bounce’ by Matthew Syed or any one of the many books published by Carol Dweck)

The challenge I have set myself in my classes is making the pupils realise this. I work in a Modern Comprehensive in a Grammar School system- at the age of 11 the pupils are told that they are ‘not intelligent enough’ to go to a different school. This is a massively damaging label to put on a prepubescent child and one that can affect their development for years to come.

My department have recently gone about getting pupils to look at inspirational sports stars who have had to overcome barriers in their life to achieve against the odds and pick a role model for their class. This is helping pupils see that talent and intelligence isn’t something that someone is born with, but something that they have to work to develop.

It’s important not to let pupils label each other as ‘intelligent’ or ‘thick’ because they’re not. They are just at different stages of the learning process. As teachers we need to provide scaffolding to support pupils who struggle with certain things, but nothing is unachievable if pupils are given the correct level of support and understand that they can achieve if they work hard enough at anything.

3. Effort= Success

Following on from my previous point, pupils need to understand the link between effort and success. Every class has a pupil who just understands things- it seems effortless to everyone else around them. There will come a time when that pupil will struggle and if they don’t understand the link between effort and success they will quit at the first hurdle. The aim for me was to get the pupils to understand that the best response to failure is increased effort. Practise doesn’t make perfect, but it does make permanent.

This is one of the reasons that I fully agree with getting rid of attainment levels in Key Stage 3. Pupils don’t need to know what level they are achieving, they just need detailed and effective feedback on how hard they are working, or attitude to learning if you will.

In recent studies people who were given financial reward for achieving successful IQ Test scores scored higher, on average, than those who weren’t offered an incentive. To a certain extent IQ tests measure effort and desire, not intelligence, and school examinations and assessments are exactly the same.

Grades can have a detrimental effect on pupil’s motivation to learn, both those who think theirs is unattainable and those who exceed theirs, but effort is an achievable target for every pupil. If they work their hardest they will achieve their potential- they don’t need a number and letter to guide them in how hard they should be working.

4. Pupil’s Intrinsic Motivation is the Key Variable

My desire to become a better Footballer as a child was what made me better at Football than my ‘academic’ older brother. That is the only difference between my (small) success in this and my brother’s total lack of ability in this sport.

Pupils who want to succeed and have an intrinsic motivation to overcome barriers and do well in your subject will be the successful ones. You can probably list a dozen pupils you’ve taught who are good examples of this principle!

Lessons, especially in Key Stage 3, should look to engage and enthuse pupils about your subject. If they do this then they will develop increased knowledge and improved skills as they move into and through Key Stage 4. Our challenge as teachers in Key Stage 3 is how we get pupils to love our subject and enjoy learning.

By adopting these four approaches in my planning and teaching I want to develop pupils who have a growth mind set. Pupil’s whose response to a challenge is to work harder and who actively seek challenge, not crumble when confronted with failure. I believe that it’s this attitude, and not grades, that gives pupils to best chance of succeeding in life.

Thanks for taking the time to read!

If you have any questions or feedback on this blog please send them to @MikeHarrowell

Assessment and Personalised Learning in GCSE in 5 Easy Steps

If you teach GCSE PE and you’re anything like me by this point you are more nervous about next summer’s exams than the pupils currently are. The first round of predicted grades have gone in and you’re having to justify pupil’s current levels of progress and suggest who might not get their target grade in 6 months time.

During the past 7 years of teaching I’ve had a year 11 GCSE PE class for 5 of these. I’ve had chance to gradually refine how I support these pupils in the lead up to the exams and now, for the first time, I think I have a relatively effective system.

In my first year of doing this I taught the syllabus through to moderation day and then spent 6 weeks revising 2 years of information, which went at such a pace it left most of the class frantic and panicking. The next group I got I began revising topics towards the end of year 10, which was equally as ineffective as they weren’t stressed enough- a year is a long time in a child’s eyes and they thought they had plenty of time to ‘catch up’.

Through trial and error I think I’ve found a good system for identifying underperformance and supporting learning throughout the course.

Step 1

All pupils are given a realistic target grade. Don’t just accept FFT (Fisher Family Trust) or other fancy ways of predicting Key Stage 4 results, use a combination of practical grades (average of best 4 normally works well as it translates to GCSE performance) and computer generated target grades to ‘argue’ realistic grades for your pupils.

Step 2

Translate these into theory target grades. Use last years grade boundaries in the GCSE Marksheet to calculate what percentage the pupil must get on the theory paper(s) to reach at least their target grade. This is important as it will form the basis of all end of topic exams.

Step 3

After every end of topic test get pupils to write on the top corner of their exam how long they spent revising for the test.

Step 4

Produce the following documents and display them somewhere prominent where the GCSE pupils will see them regularly

– Grade and Revision Table– shows a comparison to the percentage they got on the exam and how long they spent revising (don’t worry if they got 95%, but only spent 5 minutes revising!)

Grade and Revision Table

– Progress Table- shows the percentage achieved against the percentage required to achieve their target grade. Red= underachieved by 10% or more, Amber= Underachieved by less than 10% and Green= Achieved on target or above.

Progress Table Example

– Revision Surgery Dates- display a day of the next week when pupils can come to an allocated class room and revise specific topics with teacher support. Pupils don’t have to attend every day. Once they’ve checked through their exam paper (an important part of this process!) then they decide which lunchtime surgery sessions they need to attend. It’s personalised to them and based on their independent analysis of their exam paper.

 

 

 

Step 5

Once pupils have re sat the test you’re then in a position to review learning and target set ready for closer to the exams. I have recently started using an adapted version of PiXL’s PLC’s (Personalised Learning Checklist) that our school have started using in Key Stage 5 (see below)

PLC Example

 

Using this pupils can go back through their end of topic test judge what they did well on (Green) what they have a limited understanding of (Amber) and where they lost significant marks (Red).

Remember earlier I said “don’t worry if they got 95% on it and only revised for 5 minutes”? A few years ago I would have told a pupil that they weren’t taking revision seriously enough if they only revised for 5 minutes. I’d say things like “you won’t do that in the real exam!”. Actually, fair play to them! If it’s a topic they understand, do well on and tick mostly green boxes on their PLC’s then we’ve established that this shouldn’t be a huge area of focus for their revision leading up to their final exam(s).

This shouldn’t replace the revision sessions or any other intervention that you want to run in the stressful run ups to the final exam(s), but it will reduce the amount of ‘fire fighting’ you have to do in the January to April run up to GCSE exams.

This method isn’t fool proof and it won’t get a pupil from an E to a C, but what it can do it give pupil’s realistic targets throughout the two years they study GCSEs. It supports the pupil on an on going basis and not just when their performance is beyond help and it can make them accountable for their own learning and revision and help them prioritise revision closer to the final exam(s).

Teaching…is it about numbers or people?

If I said I went into teaching to change lives I’d be lying! I went into teaching because I enjoy standing in front of people and it looked like a fun job. It wasn’t until I actually started teaching as an NQT that I realised the huge sense of satisfaction you get when you can visibly see that you’re making a difference! From then on teaching became about this.

One of the main reasons I became a Head of Department four and a half years ago is because it was a position where I thought I could make more of an impact. I am passionate about curriculum planning and teaching and learning because these two things are the biggest contributing factors to a pupils education (in my humble opinion).

I guess as you become more experienced in teaching, naturally, you become more cynical as well. Every NQT thinks they can change the world one class of pupils at a time and by the end of the first term they realise that it will be a miracle if they can make it through to Easter just saving themselves. As you go through teaching things become less and less shocking, whether that be poor behaviour or school based politics.

As someone who’s only been teaching six and a half years I don’t really know what it’s like to teach outside of a recession. Every year budgets get tighter, teachers leave and aren’t replaced and the expectations of what ‘above and beyond’ duties you should be doing increase. Whilst becoming more and more cynical I have seen my budget reduced significantly over the past few years and the freedom within my role reduce at almost the same rate.

I am in teaching to change lives. I believe that pupils being engaged with sport and Physical Education can change their lives (it did for me!) so I am struggling to come to terms with the constant fixation of many schools to be driven by numbers and not pupils!

If you hold a paid responsibility you will have met the term ‘cost effective’ over the past few years. This refers to whether it’s worthwhile to the schools finances and dreaded headline figures to run a course or to send a teacher on a much needed CPD opportunity. It seems to me that schools have become so driven to save money and find cheaper ways of doing things, whilst putting more pressure on staff to deliver higher grades and ‘improved outcomes’.

Almost everyone I know who teaches Key Stage 5 at their school has a minimum quota of how many pupils have to enrol on a course for it to run. This is ridiculous!! Now I am not naïve enough to say that a course should run with a one to one ratio and I understand that staff are the most expensive resource in any school, but what happened to doing the right thing for every child. When I qualified from university the one motto that had been branded into my brain was ‘every child matters’, unfortunately this is no longer the case- every pound matters, every percentage on headline figures matters, the children come a very distant third place!

If 4 pupils want to study an A-Level in Physical Education then it is worth running the course because that opens an opportunity for those 4 pupils that may improve their quality of life in the long term. Too many schools are designing a one size fits all style curriculum normally padded out with BTEC options because less able pupils can get a Pass and more able pupils can get a Distinction. Forget what doors this will close for those pupils in the future they’ll most likely get 100% Pass rate and it’ll save the school money because you can just allocate one teacher to a class of 25 pupils!

As previously stated I am not naïve, nor am I an idealist. I understand economics, I understand common sense (I think!), but I don’t understand making decisions that ruin pupils futures- that’s not why any of us got into education. Schools need to return to doing what is right for every child and not just what will keep the bursar happy. A curriculum should be wide and varied because pupils are diverse people, who have different interests and different preferences. One size doesn’t fit all, it lets most down.

Unfortunately all I can see happening over the next few years are schools increasing class sizes (especially as Key Stage 5) and narrowing the curriculum to maximise headline figures without increasing operating costs. When will we get back to doing what is right for every child we teach?!

Any comments on this post please tweet me at @mikeharrowell