A broken man in a broken system?

I’m walking uphill being turned around and round
Secret in motion when my feet are on the ground
We are broken

Broken – Tears for Fears

At the weekend I posted what has been my most liked tweet of all time:

Having had some time off ill this week I’ve been leisurely reading the replies and responses and I seem to have hit a rich vein of people who agree with the sentiment.

At a time when teacher workload is under the microscope is it prudent for SLT to be looking at the structure of school in a different way?  Let us take the way we analyse data as a starting point.  If you use a standardised reading test in your school then you probably have access to a website to analyse the results.  However, you mark the papers according to the marking guide and you know the children.  What extra information does putting the data into a spreadsheet really give you, other than comparing you to everyone else who has entered their data?  Herein lies the problem,  school leaders and governors like a graph, especially one that can show them children making progress over time.  The trouble is that this data is meaningless without context – simply giving a graph to a room full of nodding governors is not enough.  So we have to do gap analysis,  question level analysis and the like.  All time consuming for a profession that knows children, knows how they learn and, in particular, knows the children in front of them at that time.

So how do we stop this?  Firstly we need to engender a culture of trust in our classroom teachers.  We need to trust them to make correct judgements and allow them opportunity to justify them, not just through a graph or a spreadsheet.  We need to have conversations in school, between the classroom teacher and the leadership team, to ensure that we do trust the judgement, not to make numbers up to suit our ASP colours.  We need to ensure that we are enabling classroom teachers to do their best by not having archaic marking systems where it take longer to mark the work than it took the children to write it.  We must stop the culture of “evidencing” everything in the classroom – Verbal Feedback is the biggest example here.  If we trust the classroom teacher then we trust that feedback is given in the most appropriate way to each and every child.

A lot of discussion has happened around workload since Damian Hind’s speech at the ACSL conference but I think we need to look in detail at one particular part:

A core part of our approach has been to hand power back to headteachers, because we know you are the ones best placed to make the right decisions for your schools.

Damian Hinds – Sec of State for Education [emphasis by author]

With this in mind it is time for school leaders to tackle the workload issue head on.  If you are looking to introduce something new then the first question surely must be “How does this impact workload?”.  If it has a negative impact then we need to look to remove something else.  Can time be used more effectively in school to reduce marking workload?  Do teachers have to sit in while you take assembly or could that time be used in a more effective way (my school does some interventions in that time).

Ultimately we have to find ways to work smarter, not harder.  Pumping data into a spreadsheet to tell us what we already know is not smart…


3 thoughts on “A broken man in a broken system?

  1. Hi Colin – would love to talk to you about a new BBC Bitesize campaign all about Transition from primary to secondary school. Will you drop me an email? Kate


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s