The Workload Challenge – Everything Changes But You

letter

Dear Ms. Morgan

Thank you for your letter regarding the DfE’s response to the Workload Challenge consultation, in which you detail your response to the issues we raised, as a profession, regarding the biggest drains on our most valuable resources.  Teachers.

It is very welcome that you pledge to limit the number of changes that we can expect to a qualification mid course.  The turmoil created by the sudden alteration of a specification or the weighting of the component elements cannot be exaggerated.  No superlatives exist to do justice to the ripple effect of such changes on both teachers and learners.  The #GCSEFiasco of 2012 and the subsequent change upon change that followed created the most difficult crucible of qualification based turmoil imaginable in core subjects across the land.  We need stability in both National Curriculum and Qualification Specification.  Your pledge to commit to this is a welcome relief to those of us that live on the knife edge of an email or newspaper report detailing yet another change.  I understand fully that you were simply responding to advice from the exams regulator, Ofqual, in making the changes post 2012.  I notice in your letter however that you have stipulated you would still make changes to Specifications based on “advice from the exams regulator, Ofqual”.  So in effect; nothing changes.

Changes need time to embed, innovations need time to establish and good practice for one may not be good practice for all.  It is with welcome relief that I noted Ofsted’s commitment to not reporting “fads” in their inspection reports.  It is quite right that certain practices should be celebrated and circulated so that others can learn from them and grow their teaching and learning repertoire accordingly.  Teach Meets happen the length and breadth of Britain and are an amazing opportunity to share and collaborate.  For too long leaders have attempted to learn the tune being played by Ofsted and look for new dance moves that will fit the tune and impress the judges.  Careers have been built on an ability to choreograph a specific dance to the tune played by Ofsted then coordinate a flash mob copying the moves.  The phrase “Ofsted will be looking for” or “Ofsted will want to see” have detracted from what “learners need” for far too long.  I notice in your letter however that these best practices will be collated into some “College of Teaching” organisation.  So in effect the “fads” will continue, the tune will be played and the dances will be choreographed.  After all “The College of Teaching” says we should dance like this…  In effect; nothing changes.

We told you that tasks relating to and as a result of data were a burden and drain on teaching resources.  RaiseOnline and performance tables dictated the proformas and nature of data being collected and collated in schools.  These numbers have been crunched and reported to staff, governors and inspectors for years.  The tasks relating to this data and the complexity of the varieties of accountability measures result in massive pressures being placed on leaders and teachers in schools.  So it is with welcome relief that you pledge to establish a “data management panel” to look at how and why we collect and use data.  At the same time however the way that data is reported and shared has increased in complexity with the new performance tables being more data heavy and convoluted than ever before.  The result of this will only be that schools continue to collect, collate, analyse and report data in ever more intricate ways.  So again; nothing changes.

We have a wealth of knowledge, understanding and strategies for ensuring the very best possible outcomes for the children in our care.  Nobody enters the teaching profession for an easy ride or for the bonuses.  We have been battered professionally from pillar to post recently, and yet we proceed with a positive mental attitude that is unwavering in the face of adversity.  We act, day in day out, with a common hand on heart pledge to do what is best for our learners.  We get it that we are accountable, standards must be raised and our learners must achieve.  We get it.  Now let us get on with it.  Make one final pledge that, once the system has been tried, tweaked, tested and testified it will be left alone.  Consult widely, listen deeply and act slowly.  Then leave us to it.  We, the collaborative, qualified profession, know what we are doing.

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