What Would Make Me Join A College Of Teaching?

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In my last, but one, post I showed how a professional organisation had in the past ended up as an enforcer for progressive education. In my most recent post, I described how my preferred option for a College of Teaching would be that no one ideological tendency could dominate and why I didn’t think evidence or research could resolve disputes between different tendencies. However, I have yet to describe what can be done practically to ensure that no particular ideology or faction dominates. In order to achieve this I think there are three key principles that must be followed:

  1. The College Of Teaching must be based around classroom teachers. And, by that, I mean people who are employed to regularly teach a class in a classroom. Not to lectures in university halls. Not to give private tuition in people’s homes or online. Not to produce teaching resources. Not to tell teachers how to teach, or otherwise coach or train them. Not to run an educational charity. Not to write educational books. Not to inspect schools. Not working for a local authority. Not working full-time for a trade union. Even retired teachers should be out. It must be exclusively for those working as a teacher (or lecturer) in a school or college, for some part of the working week. The various categories of people who are in education but not actually teaching classes are, in my experience, far more likely to be progressive ideologues than actual teachers. They also don’t need more representation than they already have.
  2. It must be dependent on classroom teachers. The GTCE had no legitimacy because it was widely suspected that most of us would have rather have kept our money. If the College Of Teaching can attract only a handful of people, then it is not doing it’s job. Worse, if it has sources of income beyond membership fees then there will be an incentive to pursue objectives related to those sources of income, rather than to respond to what its members actually want.
  3. The College Of Teaching must not be dominated by senior managers, or even aspiring senior managers. I’m aware that (particularly in primary schools) SMT may have a full teaching load and even in secondary many will teach more than a part-timer like me, and this is not a claim that SMT are not teachers. But organisations and events dominated by SMT have a very different flavour and culture to those dominated by the rank and file because of different priorities and different freedoms to act.

The following describes what I would suggest needs to be done to implement these principles. Those parts in bold are what I currently think are the minimum requirements  for creating the sort of organisation that I would want to be part of.

To ensure that the College of Teaching is based around classroom teachers, it is necessary for the entire membership of The College Of Teaching to be currently employed as teachers. No associate members, no reduced rates for the retired. While drawing the line between FE and HE is not always easy, those who teach in HE cannot be allowed to joinIf people who are employed only in university education departments, other forms of teacher training, or as consultants, can join, it’s over before we have even begun. No classroom teacher can compete with their connections and ability to organise along party lines. Some (and of course I acknowledge it is only some) of the people in this category are people who can organise letters to newspapers pushing progressive education with hundreds of signatures. The networks are there and will be used to crowd out opposing views.

As well as the members, those running it must not be divorced from teaching. Those with governing responsibilities must all be current teachers. Those with executive responsibilities must be teachers on a (time-limited) sabbatical, not outsiders. If any non-teachers are employed it must be in administrative capacity, not an executive one. Ideally anyone employed as permanent staff would be paid less than a teacher would be, so as not to attract people to leave teaching to take such a position. Similarly the organisation must not be given formal responsibilities (like teacher licensing or oath-swearing) by government. The power structures must be built around reserving the greatest influence of those closest to the classroom, which brings me to the second point about dependence on members. An organisation with income from an endowment will be a prize to be captured by a faction. Working directly with other funding organisations will also compromise independence. The only significant ongoing source of income must be from membership fees. If any outside income is needed, perhaps to start the organisation up, it should be in the form of a subsidy for membership fees, i.e. a reduction in how much teachers pay for membership, not an alternative to membership income. This may make the organisation far more modest in scale than some would like, but we really don’t need glossy magazines, or conferences in hotels, or officers with large expense accounts.

Finally, and this may be the tricky one, the organisation must not be taken over by SMT or aspiring SMT. It is there to help and represent teachers not to help manage teachers or help anyone up the career ladder. There is too much education discourse as it is where heads are treated as the voice of teachers. A big role for those who are not SMT could be one of the most important distinguishing features of the College Of Teaching. Of course, it cannot exclude SMT either, most SMT do teach, but if it is organised around the needs of SMT it will be a very different organisation and the structures should reflect that. All meetings and events must, unless there are good reasons for exceptions, be held outside of the school day. Only teachers with more than ordinary amounts of power or influence in a school can get away during the week on a regular basis and there is little point in setting up an organisation to represent those who are already powerful. Distinction should be made between involvement of SMT and non-SMT in decision-making and representation. So ballots of members should record votes from SMT members and non-SMT members separately. Positions in the organisation should be elected on separate ballots for SMT and non-SMT. This is not a minor point, or SMT-bashing, it is just an observation that there are some SMT (obviously not all) who seem to have such flexible working arrangements and great connections, that no classroom teacher could ever compete fairly against them in an election. Ending up with domination, not just by SMT, but by headteachers, is a a very real possibility and the structures of the organisation should take this into account. I would also suggest, as a further way of establishing that the organisation is not about representing the already powerful, that anybody employed by the College Of Teaching in any kind of executive role, be paid a salary similar to that of an experienced teacher, but not a manager or AST.

I should probably acknowledge this as a provisional list. I can be talked around on issues, although I’m not going to receptive to the argument that teachers cannot manage to organise without help or that a College run by headteachers would be fine. I haven’t suggested a way forward on the issue of research and evidence, despite raising the problems with it earlier, as I think that might take another blogpost some time in the future.

Finally, can I encourage everybody to go to this meeting to express their views. It would be great to have an event full of teachers trying to influence the debate. I think that even those of us who have been as cynical about a College Of Teaching as I’ve been, should at least have a shot at making it work. At the very least, I don’t doubt the sincerity of those hoping to make this work.

 


Scenes From The Battleground

Comprehensive comprehension questions

I have always had a sense of cynicism about comprehension tasks. I suppose it stems from my mistrust of textbooks. My PGCE course subtlety trained me to start from scratch every lesson. Therefore, textbooks always seemed like cheating, when they are far from it.  Likewise, comprehension tasks had always nestled in the forbidden zone of my teaching toolbox, due to their close association with text books. I might have occasionally used them in a moment of weakness, but I had always insisted that students wrote longer, lengthier pieces of responses to a task. Respond to this question. Find an example of this.

Recently, I have been playing around with comprehension tasks and… have started to really appreciate their usefulness. I take my hat off to you, if you have constantly used them as the foundation of your teaching. My previous wariness has been caused by a fear that I am practically guiding students too much in their analysis. At times, I have thought that if I gave students a comprehension task it was like me writing the whole thing for them. I always thought it as akin to an Art teacher giving a student a colour in by numbers sheet or a Music teacher giving a student a karaoke DVD.

I have been preparing some classes for the GCSE English AQA paper. On the higher paper, the questions are like mini-essays. Getting students to find the right style and approach to each question is difficult. Less able students often struggle with the vast nature of the task. The vagueness of the question doesn’t really help students to write precisely too. In fact, you need a number of different thought processes in your writing at once. One single question doesn’t help you.

Take question 2: Explain how the headline and picture are effective and how they link to the text.

Students read this question and often zoom in the word ‘effective’. The following answer becomes an experiment of how many times the word ‘effective’ can be used in a short space of paper so that the word loses all sense of its meaning. Unfortunately, the question needs more from students – some of it not even hinted at in the question. The most able of students do this without any fear, but the less able struggle. Enter the comprehension task.

1.     List three emotions the reader feels when reading the headline and subheading. (3 marks)

2.     Pick two words from the headline that the writer has chosen to interest the reader. (2 marks)

3.     Give a reason as to why the writer chose one of those words. (2 marks)

4.     Find three quotes in the text that show that the Tyrannosaurus is fearsome or something to be feared. (3 marks) 

5.      Explain why the writer chose that picture to go with the headline. (5 marks)

 

Start your writing with the sentence: The writer selected the picture to show…

6.     What do the following things in the picture show / suggest / symbolise?  (6 marks)

a.     The people

b.     Teeth

c.      Bones

Use the phrase: The —– suggests that …

7.     Explain why the writer did not use a cartoon dinosaur for the main picture. (2 marks)

8.     Pick a quote from the article that best sums up the picture. (2 marks)

9.     Explain why the quote from question 8 links to the picture. (2 marks)

10.                        What words best describe the tone of the article? Pick three words to describe the tone. (3 words)

11.                        Describe what the reader is supposed to feel / think during these three points.  (6 marks)

a.     When they see the headline and the picture

b.     When they read the text

c.      After they have read the whole text

This example refers to the exam paper about Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex. The great thing, for me, about using this with students is that I can see what aspect of the question they struggle with most. In fact, they can see where they struggle the most, because each question links to a different part they have to include in the final ‘big’ question. Usually, I give them the exam question and watch them get it wrong. Or, I give them a great example and show them what it should look like. Both are difficult for students.  

I used the above with a class recently and I found it very interesting. All the class got to question ten and then they struggled or stopped. Why? Well, they had found the idea of a newspaper having a tone difficult. Then one student piped up: What words can I use to describe the tone of a newspaper? I usually have to look at the carnage the whole class produces before deciding on what to teach out of the long list of things they all got wrong. It is like Pandora’s Box: once you start the task you are working to constantly fix everything.  This approach to the question helped me from the start to pinpoint the weaknesses and strengths. Plus, I didn’t need a silly APP grid to spot that they had issues with offering suggestions about the lack of cartoon or how the struggled to see the symbolism of people in the picture.

The next task with these comprehension questions is to turn the comprehension answers into a full exam response to the question. Students are going to turn that into a piece of writing. They have the components and now their skill is to weave them together. Or, look at how other students have weaved things together.  The comprehension task is part of the planning which necessary for students to have the meat on the bones in their writing. I am planning on using this ‘comprehension then write’ approach for essay writing on a novel. Too many times we plan the majority of writing for students. I am all too guilty of saying the following: Of course, you can plan it whatever way you want, but, if it was me I’d plan it this way. It is to be hoped that this approach allows me to direct the thinking without actually providing the content.


What is the defining moment in the novel?

What lead up to the moment?

How has the writer presented the moment in a dramatic way?

What does the writer want us to think as a result of these consequences?

At a recent conference, someone asked me about getting students to think for themselves.  All too often I have used collective planning for writing. I have shared ideas. Students have shared their own ideas. Then, students have been able to plagiarise the ideas. In fact, I think there are large swathes of students that plagiarise their way through school, because things are handed to them on a plate. And, maybe, I have been part of that problem. I am certainly going to use comprehension tasks to build original ideas and thought. If students know that they have to comprehend first, then write second, they might just build into independent thinkers. If they don’t get a point, then the questions point that out to me and I can direct my teaching.
Things to think about with comprehension questions:

·         Start with a find question first to engage students. It is usually easy and it gets the students to read the text.

·         Pepper the list of comprehension questions with several find question throughout. It provides students with several questions they can do and it avoids the usually thing of questions getting harder and harder.

·         Manipulate the question so that there isn’t a clear gradient. Think about how students will approach things. If they know things get harder, they will probably stop completely when they get to a hard question. However, the opposite is the case with very able classes. It becomes a challenge to them.

·         Start with precise question and move to general questions, so you move from concrete thinking to abstract thinking.

·         Reflect the complexity of the question in the marking and not in the position of the question in the list.

·         Allow for a general mop up question. An opportunity that allows a students to point out something else they might have found and you haven’t thought of: What else is interesting about the extract?

·         Provide opportunities for students to offer opinions.  

·         For less able students, offer example sentences or phrases to help develop their explanation.

·         For less able students, write how many sentences needed for the answer.

·         For less able students, use a PowerPoint slide for each question and help students to time their thinking and writing time.

Oh, and on a final note. Look at the answers students provide. The following is a question I used for some revision of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. To ensure students revise the book at home, the class are having a weekly reading test. A quick comprehension task based on the weekly reading at home of five chapters.

What is the first item found in the tree by the children?

Answer: two pieces of chewing gum

Incorrect answers: a toy, a marble

I have always stressed to students that they must examine the writer’s choices, but that one comprehension question has allowed me to explore the writer’s choices with the class. Two pieces of gum highlights how Boo wants to be friends with both of them. The gum relates to the mouth and it can stop people from talking. Gum is often disliked by parents so it is slightly rebellious. Look at the other items suggested by the class. Why didn’t Harper Lee select those items? They are all items that a child can play with on their own.

Talking of Harper Lee, I must plan a lesson for tomorrow.  

Thanks for reading,

Xris

Learning from my mistakes: an English teacher’s blog

RSA Essays: Licensed to Create? Incentives for improving teacher quality.

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Today, the RSA has published a collection of 10 essays on the theme of improving teacher quality and the concept of licensing.  This has been, in part, stimulated by Tristram Hunt’s policy proposals.   I was delighted to have been invited to contribute an essay and I have included mine in full below.  Interestingly, the content of these essays echoes much of the material that we discussed at the Sutton-Gates Washington Summit, which is encouraging.

The full report can be accessed via the RSA website alongside a new animation created to accompany the report.

What’s the incentive? Systems and culture in a school context.

Abstract

The article suggests that for a licensing system to be effective, it needs to create genuine incentives at the level of systems and culture.  This should apply to teachers and school leaders such that they work together to develop a strong evidence-led professional culture leading to improved learning outcomes for students.  Picking up on the idea of design – a form of creativity that suggests deliberate, planned innovation built on a foundation of research-informed professional wisdom – the article suggests a model for school-based CPD that would provide cost-effective career-long development for all teachers.

Introduction

I can imagine a time in the future when a license to teach could be highly prized as a badge of membership of an esteemed profession; a mark of quality signifying that the holder has sustained their engagement in a rigorous programme of professional learning and has the knowledge and skills required to be highly effective in securing student learning. By the same measure, a future school that proudly maintained a staff body comprised of fully licensed teachers, thereby retaining its own licensing powers, would be one with a deep culture of professional learning; a school where teachers are supported by structures that ensure they can and do engage in the process of developing their knowledge and practice on an ongoing basis and where teachers themselves are driving the system. A school leader, running a school of licensed teachers would be someone with a responsibility and commitment to develop each teacher such that their license could be continually renewed at any stage of their career; it would be an embedded aspect of their leadership role that they create and sustain the culture needed to support professional learning at the level required to meet the licensing criteria.

With that future in mind, a licensing system with the right spirit and intent could provide the necessary lever to radically improve the experience of teachers across the country in relation to their professional learning. For this to happen, teachers would need to regard the licensing process as one that guarantees their entitlement to professional learning as part and parcel of their working life rather than as a stick to beat them if they fail. Headteachers would need to understand that too. The central aspect of licensing would be the responsibility placed on Heads to set up the structures required to deliver excellent professional learning for all staff at every level in their schools; it is not merely an additional tool to help remove underperforming staff.

Systems and Culture: the elements of successful professional learning

As a Headteacher, I need to think about what needs to be in place in my school that might lead to all of my staff successfully retaining their license over time – or perhaps that might enable me to retain my own license or my school’s license. As I write this, I am about to take on a new job as Head of a secondary school and I am thinking about this question already. The question I am asking myself is this: What are the features of the school’s systems and culture that will ensure that all staff at my new school are engaged in the most effective professional learning process that there could be? That follow-up question is: What do I have to do to make that a reality?

There are three key components to the system I have in mind, each of which will be in place to some degree already but will need to be built on and developed:

  1. A research-engaged professional learning culture that embraces engagement with research as well as engagement in research.
  1. CPD structures across the school timetable and calendar that give sufficient time for effective individual and collaborative professional learning to take place.
  1. CPD content that provides the foundations for effective classroom practice based around agreed principles coupled with ongoing professional learning determined by the needs and aspirations of teams and of each teacher at every stage in their career.

I will explore each component in more detail:

  1. A research-engaged professional learning culture

There are two aspects to this. The first stage is to ensure that all teachers are engaging with research. Despite the volume of work that is done internationally, teachers are often cut-off from the discourse that emanates from educational research professionals. It doesn’t reach them. I see it as one of my key responsibilities to bridge the chasm. There are various ways to do this: I can help by funding a library of books and creating a role for one or more research champions who could lead the dissemination of contemporary or classic educational research; I can also set up a forum that invites teachers to critically evaluate specific books or pieces of research and ensure that our CPD content is evidence-informed and well-referenced. However, the most important thing is simply to set the expectation that teachers’ practice is evidence-based and that therefore they have a professional duty to engage with research related to their field.

The second stage is to engage teachers in research. These two strands are mutually reinforcing because by doing your own action research, you begin to seek out other evidence and develop a better understanding of the limits of methodology and the problems of extrapolation from one context to another. At my previous school, King Edward VI Grammar School in Chelmsford, every teacher has been involved in their own research project for several years. They select the area of study, the people they work with and the methodology and share their findings at the end of the year. The process leads to various insights but, more importantly, fosters a wider spirit of enquiry that permeates into all the discourse around improving practice. It’s my intention to introduce this model in my new school.

At KEGS we found the National Teacher Enquiry Network CPD framework very useful and, in particular found that their approach to Lesson Study was very powerful. We found that Lesson Study not only yields fascinating insights in the specific areas of exploration but also helps teachers to develop an enquiry mindset that feeds into their wider thinking.   I’d strongly recommend the NTEN framework as a means of benchmarking the quality of CPD with the Gold and Platinum levels representing a strong challenge for any school and the Bronze level, a good starting platform for establishing a research-engaged professional learning culture.

  1. CPD Structures

In practical terms, creating time for CPD to happen is a major consideration. I don’t have any specific research evidence for this but my sense is that, in general, teachers are not given enough time built into their working routines for the professional learning they need, beyond the very early career phase. We need to think beyond the model of INSET days, one-off visits from experts and short meetings tacked onto a full day of teaching. This is especially true if we want professional learning to be social and collaborative (Hargreaves and Fullan, 2012) and if we want teachers to work ‘as a team, not just in a team’ (Wiliam, 2012).

Teachers need to know that there is time built-in to their working routines for them to commit fully to a deep professional learning approach. Dylan Wiliam’s Teacher Learning Community model (Wiliam, 2012) suggests a good structure for generating routine time for professional learning. Using condensed days throughout the year, in addition to INSET days and normal staff meetings, teachers can use the TLC structure to establish routine cycles of planning and evaluation based on rigorous inputs from expert sources.   Lesson Study, whilst highly effective, is also time hungry which requires commitment from teachers and senior leaders alike. My view is that teachers benefit so much that the time is well spent, so teachers who opt into a lesson study approach will need to be given the scope to carve out the time from their teaching schedules.

More generally, it doesn’t always pay to have every minute in a teacher’s time budget pre-allocated in rigid structures. In a high functioning professional culture, teachers ought to simply have time that they use how they wish according to their own self-determined needs.

  1. CPD Content

Finally, I need to consider the content of my school’s CPD programme. We need to ensure that the foundations of effective practice are embedded as a priority. There is a body of wisdom around basic pedagogy and curriculum relevant to each subject area and about classroom management. Teachers should be sure that their subject knowledge is deep and up-to-date; they should also have opportunities to develop their skills of behaviour management long after their initial training. Doug Lemov (2012) advocates more use of practice sessions, where skills are honed before going ‘onto the field of play’ in the classroom. I see value in that, not only with behaviour management but also with questioning and subject-specific expositions of concepts.

Beyond the foundations however, the possibilities are limitless. The ultimate goal for teachers is that they have the capacity to determine their own professional learning needs and the power to then engineer the professional input they need to support it. This suggests multiple learning modes with teachers working in groups, opting into sessions, choosing from a menu of options or simply undertaking their own reading and reflection. There’s little room for one-size-fits-all full-staff training sessions in a highly functioning school.

I very much like Joe Hallgarten’s idea of teachers as designers – creating ‘a balance of analysis and intuition’ . Innovation and Creativity are words that can be barriers for some people, suggesting novelty for its own sake and perhaps insufficient respect for the body of knowledge that already exists. Design is a form of creativity that suggests deliberate, planned innovation built on a foundation of research-informed professional wisdom. I like that – and I think other teachers would too. Essentially we are designing learning programmes every day through the way we enact the curriculum, (Dylan Wiliam, 2013) so this is a helpful paradigm for engaging teachers in developing new ideas for improving their practice. It links back to the research-engaged culture. You can’t start to innovate unless you’ve covered the groundwork of what is already known.

Conclusion

Over the next few years I hope to put all of this in place in my new school. The question I have is whether a licensing system would support me in doing so.   I think it could if it gave my staff additional impetus to engage in driving the system and if it helped to brush away concerns and objections about taking time out of the school year for CPD. The criteria would need to be well-pitched in terms of the content and scale of the programme envisaged to secure re-licensing. If we felt they were too stringent such that, despite supreme efforts, we fell short – it could have a counterproductive effect. However, what seems more likely is that the criteria might end up being over-simplified – a low bar that we’d meet without doing much more CPD at all. That could risk devaluing the whole enterprise.

Clearly a balance is needed. A relatively low bar would only be problematic if we entered into this in the wrong spirit. If we’re doing a good job in generating the professional learning culture and systems I’ve described, then we should take the licensing regime comfortably in our stride. Perhaps it’s more important to think of scenarios where schools would be doing a less effective job in providing teachers with their entitlements. Here the licensing could serve to incentivise or even compel change towards adopting some of the models of good practice that will exist around the country. Schools would need to change in order to hold onto their strongest teachers who risk not securing their re-licensing if the provision is inadequate.

Overall, I feel that a licensing system delivered in the way I’ve outlined could have a very powerful effect across the country. It puts professional learning absolutely centre-stage where it belongs. Our challenge as a profession is to work with policy-makers to deliver it in the right spirit.

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References

Hallgarten, J:  From Introduction to Licensed to Create? RSA, 2014.

Hargeaves, A. and Fullan, M. (2012) Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School. Routledge.

Lemov, D. , Woolway, E. and Yezzi,K. (2012) Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better, Jossey-Bass

Wiliam, D. (2012) Leadership for Teacher Learning, Presentation to SSAT National Conference: Slides online at http://www.dylanwiliam.org/Dylan_Wiliams_website/Presentations.html SSAT Breakout, Liverpool, December 2012

Wiliam, D. (2013) Redesigning Schooling 3: Principled curriculum design. London: SSAT


headguruteacher

Lesson Observations Unchained. A New Dawn.

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This is a short reflection on the massive difference it makes when you stop grading lessons.  I’ve embarked on the process of observing all of my teachers in my new school. Wow – what a privilege that is.  So far I’ve seen 20 lessons – I saw 9 English lessons last week.  I’ve got some joyous weeks ahead of me as I work through each department in alphabetical order.  97 teachers to see; a big undertaking but an absolute joy.   This is all taking place in the context where, until this year, the school accountability systems and OfSTED gave grades for lessons.  Grading was embedded in the culture, the policies and the documentation. I feel like the liberator – it’s a massive culture shift that is long overdue.   Meanwhile, elsewhere, I know some schools are still grading lessons. Wake up people! You are Hiroo Onoda, fighting after the war has ended.

So, what difference does it make?  Here’s a sample.

The lessons are more normal. You see regular lessons. People tell me so; they fret less about putting on a show and I’m more confident that what I see is what the students get on a normal day.  There may be some tidying up but it’s not a performance.

The process encourages a stronger focus on learning than teaching.  Grading could only be about the lesson snap-shot and that led to a focus on teacher-performance during an observation. Learning is long term; without grading, the discussions are about the whole process – what goes before, what follows and how a lesson fits into a big picture.  Grading could never meaningfully capture that. Never.

The discussions are entirely different.  You can get alongside the teacher; you can work together as professionals discussing the teaching process. What’s the thinking? How do you find that works? Could you try something else? How do you manage the ability range, the behaviour system, the scheme of work, the marking workload, the assessment process…?  It’s all open for discussion, leading to a healthy exchange.  People open up; they have the confidence to be confessional about the challenges they face.  They are more receptive to suggestions for improvement and firmer messages about things that really ought to be better are easier to give.

It’s motivating. We are professionals – we can all discuss teaching and learning openly and freely.  Gone are the days of a great teacher leaving a feedback session gutted and irritated with their Good because ‘technically’ it wasn’t an Outstanding. What a load of rubbish that is/was.  It’s utterly liberating to have a professional discussion where that bit of stupidity has been removed.

I’ve had superb feedback from my staff about the discussions they are now having after lesson observations by me and our review team.  There is not the slightest suggestion that this softens the process in any way.  If anything, it helps to talk about everyone’s need for improvement because we are all in it – everyone has strengths and everyone has areas for development and we can get into the detail without the spectre of a judgement casting a shadow.

I once attended a conference session where a senior leader told us that, in his school, 85.26% of lessons were good or outstanding. Two decimal places – I kid you not. How pitifully delusional that all seems  – and how toxic; a symptom of how far we’d fallen into the accountability abyss, losing sight of our professionalism.  With a big sigh of relief, I don’t need to quantify the quality of teaching in my school to satisfy a spurious accountability measure or create the illusion of measured improvement.   What I need to do is work alongside each individual teacher to help them develop to be the most effective teacher they can be.  That’s an entirely different emphasis and, thankfully, that’s the environment I am in.

Just like Truman – we have found the wall. And there is a door in it.

truman2


headguruteacher

1,000,000 Views. Thanks A Million!

 

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Forgive this rather self-indulgent celebration.  I’m absolutely astonished that my blog has reached the million milestone and it can’t go without a bit of a stock-take.

Here are the monthly stats since I started:

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Back in May 2012, I made my first tentative steps into blogging.  My ‘Hello World’ post included the following statement of intent:

 I have decided to participate instead of simply watching from the sides.  I am planning to use this blog to share ideas about teaching and learning and to comment, less often, on educational issues in general.  As a Headteacher I have to wrestle with the challenge of creating the space for my staff to engage in professional development that is motivating and meaningful to them individually whilst also trying to achieve a sense of common purpose through collaboration and collective action.   I firmly believe that control stifles creativity and that creativity is the path to outstanding success in learning; so my job is to shield people from external pressure to the greatest extent possible to allow creativity to flourish.  

At the same time, however, I need to make sure that the best ideas for improving learning are shared and well understood and are acted upon.  There are some things that are non-negotiable and as teachers, the autonomy we relish can’t allow us to stagnate, or meander into mediocrity.  At a whole school level, there is a continuum; some teachers are more effective than others and all teachers can improve.   So, there is a tension; a line to walk between enabling people to be the best they can be and insisting that they try without stifling the creativity that they need to succeed with excessive control mechanisms, fear-factors and rigid diktats.

And then I posted this – for no good reason at all:  Kitchen Blackboard:

kitchen blacboard

Don’t ask.

Things have come along way since then.  It’s become a ‘thing’ – exceeding all expectations.  People sometimes ask me how I find the time for blogging.  I don’t really know – it’s just something that I do out of interest, to relax, to think and to engage with other people, often late at night when there’s nothing else going on. It’s more or less part of my routine now.   I marked the 1st and 2nd  Anniversaries of this blog with two posts:

headguruteacher is one year old.

headguruteacher is one year old.

The second post focused on the doors that have opened for me since I started this whole thing:

2nd Birthday Badge Blue Stripes

The second year of blogging.

The biggest blog hits seem to be those that share other people’s ideas on behaviour and marking. Other hot topics are differentiation and homework. Then there was THE monster OfSTED blog that had over 20K views in one day and now over 90K overall.  Ridiculous really.  The most recent list is here.

 

The most popular posts.

The most popular posts.

It’s always a thrill to see how many countries have been reached.  One day, someone in Iran stumbled across this blog. And Kiribati.  Perhaps looking for Kitchen Blackboard ideas?

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The one-hit wonders.

Here’s the map – nearly a full house:

The global reach of headguruteacher.

The global reach of headguruteacher.com

This year there have been a few posts that have given me huge satisfaction derived from the responses from teachers who tell me that I’ve helped them or encouraged them to keep going.  This is a crowd-pleasing round-up of the good reasons to do this great job.

There are plenty of reasons...

10 reasons to love teaching.

A simple curation of some material from key thinkers was a big summer hit:

Key ideas from different sources.

Contemporary educational ideas all my staff should know about

Recently, I’ve had two very popular posts – posts that took off quickly on the day they were published. Firstly, the ‘Silver Arrows’ post which exceeded all expectations, helped along by this infographic summary by @educatingmiss.

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10 Silver Arrows: Ideas to penetrate the armour of ingrained practice

And the other was my most recent post about not grading lessons.  I liked the Truman show image – it summed it nicely at the end.

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We’ve found the wall: Lesson observations unchained.

Amongst the million views, there are posts that are more important to me – despite not always getting too many hits. One is my Rainforest Thinking post.  It captures a lot of what is wrong with education and of what could be so much better.

From Plantation Thinking to Rainforest Thinking:  it's quite a journey

From Plantation Thinking to Rainforest Thinking: it’s quite a journey

I like to re-read this post about Awe in Great Lessons:

Awe in a balloon bursting and a simple motor spinning

Awe in a balloon bursting and a simple motor spinning

I was thrilled with the response to my post about reading books:

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Reading and Not Reading: The books I eventually read – sparking a blogsync series.

And buried amongst the education posts are some more personal ones. This very early, very short post makes me smile:

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My son’s existential realisation of the Goldilocks paradigm.

And then there is this one with various musical endeavours embedded in the post. Cue the usual tumbleweed.

Twitter provides the highest number of referrals – but it’s great when people come to my blog after reading other people’s blogs.

The referral list.

The referral list.

(This blog about the Verve has been a hit with Richard Ashcroft fans.) I also send other bloggers a few hits in return – especially @learningspy:

My top clicks.

My top clicks. (Quartus is where the Bill Rogers videos can be bought)

A big weakness of mine is failing to respond to all the comments on the blog – I try but time flies by and I just don’t get around to it.  The blogs with the most comments are here:

Top posts for comments. Sometimes the comments are better than the posts.

Top posts for comments. Sometimes the comments are better than the posts.

I can’t remotely do justice thanking all the people who have supported me in writing this blog.  There are several people who are often quick to comment or share via twitter. I’m always immensely grateful.  My favourite thing of all is when I receive an email, comment or tweet from someone who tells me that one of these posts has actually helped them in some small way.  That makes it all worthwhile.  Better still is when I get to meet those people in person.  I especially like it when one of my students, teachers or parents makes reference to the blog – it’s my way of telling them what I really think.

The bloggers I continue to look up to are David Didau, the original inspiration; John Tomsett, now a good friend and fellow Roundtable Head and Edu-Proclaimer (!) – and Alex Quigley, the brains of the edu-internet.  There are obviously countless others.  Ross McGill is a towering force as Teacher Toolkit with a commitment to the educational social media world without equal – I’m proud to have once been his line-manager all those years ago. He was always dreaming up grand schemes.

Numerous people have been super-supportive: Jill Berry, Shaun Allison, Nick Behr, Helene GaldinOShea, Alom Shaha, Dave Fawcett, Damian Benney, Dave Fawcett,  Laura McInerney, Roo Stenning, Pete Jones, Martin Burrett (ICTMagic) – among others.  Tim Taylor and Andrew Old have also reblogged my posts more than anyone else. I’m always grateful.

And I have to mention Chris Waugh – the Edutronic himself – who was the very first person to comment on my blog in a way that made me realise there was an audience out there.  Actually, it’s more than that.  It’s a community – and I’m thrilled to be part of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


headguruteacher

This much I know about…the madness of treating colleagues punitively

I have been a teacher for 26 years, a Headteacher for 11 years and, at the age of 50, this much I know about the madness of treating colleagues punitively.

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Writing sharply takes time. There is no evidence-base supporting what follows, but someone clearly took a lot of time to write this piece for the Leeds NUT bulletin. And, as Gabriel Garcia Marquez once wrote, in fiction one single fact that is true gives legitimacy to the entire work:

NUT

Being humane is a leader’s strength, not a weakness. At Huntington we try to live by our core values: RESPECT; HONESTY; KINDNESS. I don’t always look after my colleagues as well as I might, but it’s not for want of trying; indeed, recent feedback has made me double my efforts to be kind. I take staff well-being seriously for two reasons – firstly, because I treat colleagues how I would want to be treated myself and secondly because, as I articulated some years ago, our students’ futures depend upon my colleagues being healthy, happy and trusted:

Headteachers need to trust their colleagues more than ever. Seneca said, “The first step towards making people trustworthy is to trust them.” In the climate of fear which this government has so brilliantly cultivated it is too easy to threaten staff in response to being threatened oneself. Headteachers have to do the opposite. At our school we deliver over 2,000 lessons each week; I cannot teach them all, so what I have to do is develop my colleagues in a safe school environment which allows them to thrive professionally and personally.

As Crosby, Stills and Nash once sang, Love the ones you’re with…


johntomsett

Pinstriped Intervention

There’s a new swearword in schools. Sorry, I mean buzzword. Often, I get the two things confused. It is intervention. Intervention this. Intervention that. I have heard how other schools intervene. I have read what other counties are doing for intervention. In fact, I have intervened in my interest in intervention and actually blanked parts of Twitter.

Yesterday, I attended a conference and the brilliant Geoff Barton was there talking. In his talk, he mentioned about this incessant wave of invention obsession that seems to be spilling into our schools. He described it as being ‘men in pinstriped suits taking students out of lessons to discuss with them how to improve in lessons’. I have to say: I wore a pinstriped suit to that conference. Aside from the pinstriped suit comment, I think he is right. We have an obsession on meetings. We meet for this. We meet for that. We identify students for intervention in a meeting. We discuss the issues with the student in a meeting. We track the progress of the student in a meeting. We review the progress in another meeting. For good luck, we invite parents to a meeting to discuss those meetings.  

As I progress in schools, I have noticed the amount of meetings have increased. In the first few years of teaching, I only had one meeting a term and that was generally to see how things were going. Now, I have meeting after meeting. With great power comes lots of meetings. I do sympathise with headteachers. The amount of meetings they must have to deal with daily puts them closer to sainthood.

Of course, meetings are about communicating information. They can be very important, but they can also be very futile. A simple answer to the question what. Or, the solving of a problem. Mostly they simply focus on a lot of whats.

What is the problem in the subject?

What is it you need to do to improve?

What are you going to do?   

Those questions can be applied to both a general meeting in education and to a meeting with a student for intervention. Or, the questions are asked of the teacher – wrongly in most cases.

What if we spent more time on acting on things rather than discussing things? This was something Geoff alluded to. Acting rather than meeting. He has a very good point. My frustration with a lot of interventions is that they focus too much on the teacher. What has the teacher got to do to for intervention? I don’t mean to sound silly but isn’t the word teaching just another way of saying constant intervention? Yes, I think there should be a dialogue about what we can do to help improve a student, but the emphasis of intervention tends to focus heavily on how the teacher should modify their behaviour. The modifying of a student’s behaviour almost seems an afterthought.

I understand that a student’s needs are very complex and there are lots of variables to explore, consider and ponder. However, I worry that teachers are working harder for students who are working the same they did before any intervention.

So what am I doing? For each year group I have identified several students to track. Instead of meeting them I am going to do some work. I am going to request the student’s exercise book. I am going to see what story it tells me. I have faith in the teachers in my department; I know that they will have interventions in place. I will analyse the student’s work. As HOD, I want to see what the story is from the exercise books and assessment. Then, I am going to write a comment, describing my observations and what I expect the student to do. I will also put a sticker saying: ‘Big Brother is watching you!’. Maybe not that, but something along the same lines.  At the end of the term, I will request the books again and I will expect to see changes. There might be a need to meet, but that will be up to me and I will not do it for every student. A meeting is good to tell a student that we care or that we have noticed they are not pulling their weight. But, my starting and ending point will be the work they produce in their exercise books. I will be expecting to see them acting on my direction. I have intervened in a quiet and subtle way, but it is to be hoped that it is more effective than the loud and, clearly, visual for SLT approach of a meeting.

Plus, I will not be taking any students out of lessons.

I now have to organise a meeting to discuss the meeting about what to do with my pinstriped suit.

Thanks for reading,

Xris  

Learning from my mistakes: an English teacher’s blog

Making errors and spotting where the plain socks are located

Making mistakes is just a part of life. I have made mistakes and I still do make them. I put my hands up. Once, in my youth, I bought a yellow canary coloured shirt once. My ‘friends’ ridiculed me constantly the one time I unveiled the shirt as the latest fashion choice that I never wore it again. In fact, I have a complete aversion to the colour yellow now. I have been mentally scarred by the whole experience. I’d like to think it was a colour-blind phase I was going through; but it wasn’t.  At university I purchased a lime green shirt. Then, a few years ago I bought a red shirt. The reaction to the colours often makes me understand the mistake I have made. I learn my mistake after the purchase. Then, I change my whole perspective on the whole thing. What felt like a good idea at the time becomes, on a reflection, a terrible mistake. There is almost an ‘eye of the storm’ aspect to making mistakes. We don’t see them at the moment of doing it. It is only when I have left a shop with my purchase and put on the shirt and then been ridiculed by family and friends that I realise: maybe, bright yellow isn’t my colour.

Yes, this is a blog about fashion tips for men in teaching. No – although maybe that could be a possible series of blogs – I am interested about mistakes and the nature of mistakes. The clues is in the title of the blog. It is interesting how we seem to have two ends of the spectrum: students that fear speaking in a lesson or endlessly draft work to avoid making a glaring error; or, students that make a mistake every word or line and accept them as a part of life, like breathing or blinking. We, teachers, traipse a tightrope between praise and punishment. Between highlighting and correction. Between frustration and ignorance. The problem often is time. There is never enough time. This is a result of our curriculums. The emphasis on content leads us to often have a crammed curriculum with no time for dealing with the mistakes head on. What if the content of curriculums was reduced to the ten lines? And, the overall focus was on making better readers and writers?


I have seen endless blogs about proofreading, DIRT time and taxonomy of errors, but their existence highlights a need for this issue to be addressed. Does the juggernaut of the curriculum actually hinder progress? Do we spend enough time looking at the errors? Or, do we feel the need to teach new things, just to appease the god of progress? Or, are we teaching students to learn that mistakes are tolerable as long as their ideas and the content of their work is good? Maybe, our obsession with getting students to the next grade is making us neglect helping students to secure their current grade. Oh look this C/D student is using an A grade skill!

Of course, marking is at the heart of the mistake conundrum. I spot mistakes. I comment on mistakes. I get students to act on the information. I hope they learn to not make the mistake again. I mark again. I spot the mistake again. I comment …. You get the idea. As a teacher, I will think: is it me? Am I teaching them correctly? Do I need to do more? However, I think at the heart of the problem is the unwritten philosophy of teaching. New is better. Old is worse. The new teachers are often popular. The old ones fade into the background. A new concept in a subject is sexier than on old one. Look commas are dull as dishwater. They are so last year. Pathetic fallacy sounds sexy. It sounds exotic. It is sounds so fresh and clever. As it turns out, the student learns to use pathetic fallacy, but cannot use a comma correctly in a hostage situation.


I recently bumped into a student I used to teach and we had a conversation about what he is doing now. Interestingly, he is studying A-level English. I asked him: ‘Does your English teacher nag you about using quotes?’ The reply was in the affirmative. I was saddened by this response. It was great to hear that he is studying English, but the fact that he hadn’t learnt from that one constant mistake he used to make in my lessons saddens me the most. At one stage, when I was teaching the student, I wrote the word quote 50 billion times on his work to help him get the message.  A great lad, but he didn’t get it.

Is it our student’s mindset?  Or is it teachers’ mindset? Do students think that a piece of work will be good if it has great ideas and basics do not matter? What makes our students learn from their mistakes? Teachers? Students? Both?

I started making some posters for students, identifying three key things a student would do in their work at a particular grade. However, in my planning I was focusing on what students should add such as paragraphs or a variety of sentence structures. I wasn’t focusing on the basics, so I came up with this:

A* – One error in the whole piece or free from errors  

A – A few basic errors throughout the whole piece  

B – One basic error on every page

C – One mistake every few paragraphs

D – One mistake a paragraph

E    - One mistake a sentence

 

Now, I expect people would look at this list and think it is too negative. Show a student this and it focuses on the negative aspects of their writing. But, doesn’t our obsession with seeing the positive sometimes cloud our perspective on the basics? The focus on APP made this apparent. Look they have the spelling of a Level 7, but their punctuation is Level 3. Let’s give them a Level 7.  You could dress anything up to be an outstanding piece of writing, but without the basics, it cannot be an outstanding piece of writing. Rather than upselling writing, let’s look at the basics. Let’s focus on the basics. Let’s explicitly talk about the basics. Let’s make the basics the core of what we do and make the ‘lacy’ or ‘sexy’ new stuff be secondary to the basics. As long as the sexy new stuff takes priority, the old basics will drag everything down.

If only clothes shops had these lists, then I wouldn’t make so many fashion mistakes. Then again: shops want us to fail at this so we buy more from them. They are forever shoving the spangly and garish new items of clothing in our faces. But, where are the plain socks? The item of clothing you need, in this country, every day. The basics are neglected. They are hidden away. They are neglected. They probably sell more yellow shirts than socks to people like me.  

Thanks for reading,

Xris

Learning from my mistakes: an English teacher’s blog

Nevermind the Buzzcocks: Here’s Phil Diggle. Artist. Teacher. Legend

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Philip Diggle. Abstract Expressionist. Head of Art. Legend.

One of the joys of joining Highbury Grove has been getting to know the staff.  A particularly inspirational, one-of-a-kind teacher that students and parents rave about is Phil Diggle, our Head of Art.  I’ve never known an art teacher like him.  He’s a genuine artist, living his craft every day, sharing his passion, his philosophy and his work with his students; they probably don’t know quite how lucky they are.

Last weekend I went to visit his incredible exhibition in Highgate.  It’s not just the scale and energy of his work – and the thickness of the paint – that are striking; it’s his personal engagement with it all; the way he talks about it and where it all comes from.  He’s wonderfully humble; self-deprecating and modest. The work does the showing-off for him. In some style.

The Exhibition at Highgate Gallery.

The Exhibition at Highgate Gallery.

Large scale portraits.

Large scale portraits.

The paintings are 3-D.  They go beyond texture… some are inches thick.

Phil talks about the physicality of the paint.

Phil talks about the physicality of the paint. It’s beautiful.

And the things that go on in the classroom are wonderful.  So many parents and students have gone out of their way to tell me how inspiring he is.  He’s recently started a twitter account @DigglePhilip which he uses to share his work and his thoughts. ‘Notes from A Bus’ provide a regular source of joy and reflection.

Phil's tweets from his classroom. Students love the slogan backdrop.

Phil’s tweets from his classroom. Students love the slogan backdrop.

Our recent open house art day, part of The Big Draw, was a big hit. This is what you might call getting fully immersed in painting:

Phil gets stuck in.

Phil gets stuck in.

A bit of body painting using hands and feet as brushes, soon become something rather more:

Physical Art.

Physical Art.

But the Rock Star aura doesn’t end there.  Phil’s roots in the Manchester punk scene give him a special perspective on life. His brother, Steve Diggle, was and is the guitarist in The Buzzcocks.  They used to play gigs together where Steve would play ambient guitar and Phil would splash paint across the stage. I’d love to have seen that.  For me, being able to talk to Phil about Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley is amazing – two heroes of mine from the Magazine era.

The Diggle brothers in action.

The Diggle brothers in action.

Phil is the subject of this wonderful film: Philip Diggle’s Luxury.  It shows him at work in his studio at various times in his life including periods in New York and Berlin.  It’s amazing to watch him in action, fully involved in his work, creating massive abstract pieces in an intense, physical process with hundreds of paint pots and a big stick.  It also includes interviews with various art critics and Tony Wilson, a Manchester media legend from the 1980s famous for setting up Factory Records.  There are also wonderful monologues as he walks across Hampstead Heath, reflecting on art, life and nature.   He even sings a little bit of ‘Permafrost’  – which is pretty cool!

Watch the three segments here – it’s well worth it.

Philip Diggle’s Luxury Part 1

Philip Diggle’s Luxury Part 2

Philip Diggle’s Luxury Part 3

This is the final scene. Phil takes flight across the heath in a free-spirited moment.  I love this. And the final Steve Diggle track is great too.

Phil Diggle. Artist.

Phil Diggle. Artist.

I’ve written before about lessons from art lessons.  Phil is the real deal; an artist who teaches, who lives his art every day.  Outside the Box.  A true inspiration.  It’s a wonderful privilege for all of us.  (Even the site team – though they don’t always feel that way!)

 

 

 

 


headguruteacher

This much I know about…Being Mortal

I have been a teacher for 26 years, a Headteacher for 11 years and, at the age of 50, this much I know about Being Mortal.

…no matter how much success you may experience in life, your eventual story – no offence intended – will be one of failure. Your bodily organs will fail, and you’ll die.

Oliver Burkeman, The Antidote

Life is first boredom, then fear.
Whether or not we use it, it goes,
And leaves what something hidden from us chose,
And age, and then the only end of age.

Philip Larkin, Dockery and Son

 

According to Oliver Burkeman, Writing isn’t…a matter of ramming information into someone else’s brain. It’s the writer and reader, side by side, scanning the landscape. The reader wants to see; your job is to do the pointing. In my experience this has never been truer than with Atul Gawande’s new book, Being Mortal. I read it on a single flight to the USA and its impact has been profound.

In Being Mortal Gawande explores how we best manage the last phase of our lives in an age when medicine can keep us alive well beyond the point where we would naturally expire. The immeasurable hurdles we face when very old or terminally ill are examined with a clarity I have never encountered until now. It is an especially poignant book for a man with a pacemaker like me!

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We were married on 28 August 1988. The wedding reception was a blast! My wife’s octogenarian grandma, surrounded by every single member of her family, looked on as her eldest granddaughter danced all evening in celebration. Grandma went to bed that night and never woke up.

Grandma’s funeral was held in the same church where, just four days earlier, we’d been married. We cleared our own confetti from the pews. At the time it was truly terrible.

Yet, having had time to reflect over the years, we have often remarked, What better way to go? Grandma had lived over eight decades, saw her twin daughters and her first granddaughter happily married and spent her last conscious day on earth with the people she loved the most. And she didn’t suffer. But not everyone dies like that…

In the summer of 1984 I managed to secure a place at the University of York to study English. In late November I was sitting in one of Sid Bradley’s Anglo-Saxon slide show lectures when the college porter interrupted him and asked for me. There was a telephone call from home. I knew that dad was having his gall stones removed, but mother’s voice broke cancerous news.

I came home to Sussex and found dad propped up in bed. The surgeon had made an incision, took a quick look and sewed him back up again. There was nothing they could do. He was full of tumours. Dad couldn’t remember much about what was said but he knew he had about six weeks to live. He lasted ten.

It’s hard to remember exactly what happened that Christmas. Dad said he just wanted a few quiet weeks. He didn’t rage against the dying of the light; true to his character, he calmly accepted the inevitable. We bought him Christmas presents we knew he would never need. In marginal denial, I gave him a chunky woollen jumper.

We had no religion. We assumed dad would go straight to heaven, whatever that meant. A Methodist preacher popped in having heard our sad news. Mother explained our simplistic thinking about dad’s destiny; however, the preacher was unequivocal in his judgement that dad would not go to heaven as he hadn’t taken Christ into his heart. Mother was devastated; four of the last twelve weeks dad was alive she spent in hospital, having had to be sectioned.

Dad’s health declined rapidly. Once he dropped his fruit salad on the floor and proceeded to eat it off the carpet. We decided that I should return to York. He was deeply proud I’d made it to university and didn’t want his illness to affect my education.

I went back to university in the January. I don’t know why I did that now. I’ve done some pretty stupid things in my 50 years but that is one of the very few I truly regret.

Soon after I departed, dad jumped out of the bedroom window following a heroin-induced hallucination. He was admitted to the local hospital never to return home. He lasted another three weeks.

All my family except me were there the night before dad passed away. As he moved in and out of consciousness, family myth has it that he recognised my eldest brother and gave him one of his affectionate looks which said, You silly young fool! They left him asleep at 9.00 pm.

Early the next morning, on 6 February 1985, just after 1.00 am he died in a bed that was not his own, alone, aged just 57 years. I was in York, 250 miles away.

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I was twenty years old when my dad died and until the age of 32, when we had my son Joe, the worst thing had already happened to me. I think that helped form who I am. As Hamlet said, there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. It might also explain why sitting, metaphorically, side by side with Gawande, his book has impacted so powerfully upon me.

Looking back now I would have liked to have asked my dad the questions Gawande asked his terminally ill father, before dad spent the last three weeks of his life in a hospital bed:

  • What is your understanding of what is happening to you?
  • What are your fears if that should happen?
  • What are your goals if that should happen?
  • What trade-offs are you willing to make and not willing to make to try to stop what is happening to you?

My dad was a modern stoic. We were obedient passives, in awe of medical opinion. When I asked mother why dad went into hospital she said, Your father was very poorly. It was taken out of our hands. The doctor made the decision. She wasn’t angry about it; it seems there was no choice. We accepted the professionals’ decisions without challenge.

If someone had discussed my dad’s final phase of life with him – like Gawande did with his father – he may have spent his last weeks at home surrounded by his family.

I know life is too short for regrets, but, after reading Being Mortal, I find myself wondering whether, if we had just talked things through together with a little more wisdom, I might have remained at home and shared dad’s final days.

My dad’s death, and my life, could have been slightly different.

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johntomsett

Employment figures for 2014 in the UK

Employment is the most basic requirement for the development and growth of an economy and United Kingdom is not an exception in this regard. From the past few decades, the world economy is in the grip of unemployment and even the economically developed country like UK had to face the brunt of this situation. However with the arrival of the year 2014, there seems to be a lot of improvement in the employment situation of UK. In the recent report drawn by the Statistical Authority, it was found that the unemployment rate in UK has reached its all time low of 7.1%. It is pertinent to know that this rate was 7.4% in the last three months of 2013 and economists around the world had anticipated for a decline of merely 0.1% which is very low as compared to the current reports.

According to office of National Statistics(ONS), there is a fall of 167000 people who’ve been affected by unemployment in the current year. Now there are just 2.32 million people in UK that are devoid of employment. The decrease in unemployment rates in the present year even indicate that now maximum number of people in the UK are having work and are capable of supporting their families. This value even indicates the biggest ever quarterly increase in the employment levels of UK. Despite of all the predications made by labor markets around the world, today Britain is experiencing an economic revolution that certainly needs more fuelling from the government.

This rate of unemployment at 7.1% is the best so far, ever since the economy of UK has started recovering from economic depression. According to ONS, following statistics relating to employment in UK in the year 2014 have been generated so far:

  • The rate of unemployment among the active population in UK is around 7.1% in January, 2014.
  • The total number of people that have a job and are actually working comprise of the 30.15 million of the total population.
  • UK government grants certain allowances to the unemployed population and it is astonishing to know that the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s allowance in January 2014 fell by 27600 people. So now the total number of people claiming such allowance is just 1.22 million.
  • The ONS conducts employment and unemployment survey every month but compares between data of three months i.e. quarterly comparisons are made.
  • In 2014, the economy of UK experienced a major change because the employment rate jumped by 280000 points to reach the biggest quarterly high of all times to record a number of 30.15 million. An important thing to note down is that such an increase in employment was last seen in Britain in the year 1971. The employment though increased well, it was the wage growth of people that drew attention of various governmental agencies. The wage growth in UK is going flat at 0.9% from the past 5-6 months which is not even at par with the current inflation rate of 2% here. Thus much of work is required to be done in this regard and a lot of major policy changes could improve the same numbers.

    There are many learning based employment apprenticeships schemes in Birmingham available for young people (aged 16 - 19 etc) - one provider of apprenticeships (Gordon Franks)