No More Year Zero

I was surprised and honoured to receive an email on Friday inviting me to the House of Commons for the Progressive Education Network Spring Reception this Monday afternoon.

I’m bitterly disappointed that the short notice means I will not be able to attend. ūüôĀ

I came across the PEN via¬†a tweet last month. ¬†Chaired by Mike Gibbons and supported by¬†The Co-operative Group the PEN’s aims are:

Progressive Education Network aims to engage with and challenge policy makers of every political hue by bringing the voice of experience and the wisdom of leading education professionals and school leaders to the debate. How do we best build on what’s working now to develop the education system that maximises the opportunities for the success of every child?

The PEN launched last month with the release of Please no year zero, a ‘report card’ on recent reform commissioned for the launch event that argues that there is much to celebrate in the reforms and their intent since 1997 but that the next phase of continuing change needs to be driven by practitioners, government and local communities in partnership.

I agree with the vast majority of that document, it is time that education is divorced at least some way from politics. ¬†Michael Gove‘s recent policy statements worry me greatly about the future of education should the Government change this Spring. ¬†The 6 years so far of my teaching career have seen an incredible number of Government initiatives (too many for sure), some successful, some not, but it is time to evaluate these properly using the skills and knowledge of the¬†practitioners¬†and the pupils themselves. ¬†All of the major parties are happy to play for votes with populist sounding promises in education, few of which seem to be rooted in experience or evidence.

So as I cannot attend in person I will at least add my voice, yours is wanted to, PEN have a questionnaire for anyone involved in education to have their say.  Here are my responses:

What do you think has made the greatest contribution to improving standards in SCHOOLS GENERALLY in the last 10 years?

Investment pure and simple. In wages, buildings, ICT etc..

What has had the greatest impact on improving standards in YOUR OWN school or federation?

Only been there 6 months, but School Specialisms have been incredibly positive.  We are a Language College and a RAPP (Raising Attainment Partnership Programme) School.  The school has developed positively through both of these specialisms.  We have a thriving Languages Department and foster great links working on languages with our feeder primary schools.  The RAPP specialism has enabled us to share best practice with schools across the country, and farther afield, we had a visitor from New Zealand this week.

What has the investment in education in recent years enabled your school or federation to do which has contributed to raising standards?

Keep talented and ambitious outstanding teachers & support staff at the school.  Develop a site, most of which is over 80 years old, into a positive learning environment.

What strategies should be priorities for practitioners to promote to continue to improve schools and federations?

Collaboration and time to share. ¬†Through official channels such as RAPP and the SSAT to¬†unofficial¬†channels such as this blog and Twitter. ¬†But to do this on a large and positive scale teachers need time. ¬†Imagine the possibilities if we could give all teaching staff¬†20% time like Google allows it’s developers! ¬†We could see¬†Teachmeet style teacher led CPD transform teaching & learning. ¬†I realise that 20% is wishful thinking, but some reduction in new Government led initiatives would help free up teacher time.

What one piece of constructive advice would you like to give to the Government’s education team after the next election?

Reduce the influence of 5A*-C with English & Maths league tables.  They have been put on a pedestal by Government and by the Press and as such they are the single biggest driving force in schools and the single biggest hinderance to innovation and progress.

What is the greatest concern you have for the future development of your OWN school or federation?

It’s an exciting time for us as we look to the future with a potential merger and¬†new Academy so I’m full of hope. ¬†However as I’ve alluded to earlier: too much change, too much legislation, too much paperwork are my biggest concerns.

What are your thoughts on the best ways to give practitioners a real voice in education policy debates and to encourage mass participation? In your experience, what works well and what doesn’t work?

A tough one, as I don’t feel I have ever had a voice in policy debates, my invitation to this event and to¬†BectaX next week are the first time I feel my voice could have a real say. ¬†Both of these invites I think come down to this blog and to Twitter, not something the majority of educators have. ¬†Perhaps we need a more considered approach to policy driven by research into teaching & learning. ¬†Although notoriously difficult to arrange in education, evidenced based research could directly involve those on the front line.

What do you think Progressive Education Network should focus on and prioritise?

Research into what has improved teaching & learning over the last decade.  Representing the real classroom leaders on the ground, giving them a voice that is heard by Government.  Celebrating front line teaching & learning success stories.

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