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Sunday, 20 September 2015 18:54

Why are teachers leaving the profession? Kent on Sunday Article - September 2015

Teaching is one of the most important professions in the country, as we place the futures of our children in the hands of our teachers. Good teachers enable young people to achieve their full academic and career potential, also developing their interests, and preparing them as citizens to play a full part in our society.

However, state school teaching is facing a crisis as Department for Education figures show that almost 50,000 teachers left the profession in the 12 months to November 2013 – the latest year for which figures are available. This is an increase of 25 per cent over four years and represents around one in twelve of the number of full time teachers. Almost 4 in 10 leave the profession within a year of qualifying, a rate which has almost tripled in six years. A recent survey by the Association of School and College Leaders found that more than two-thirds of secondary school head teachers and deputies in England are considering taking early retirement with most blaming an excessive workload. The survey also showed that few deputy and assistant heads wanted to step up to become head teachers with only 25% are considering such a promotion. Another report records that one in four academy heads left post in 2014.

This article explores some of the reasons for this exodus, pointing critically to government policy and practices in some schools.....

However, it should be remembered that the overwhelming majority of teachers are still carrying out a job or vocation they are should be proud of, working in good schools that nurture and value their staff.

The figures will also include those teachers who have retired, including early retirements brought about for the reasons identified below.

 

Half the teaching staff have left and been replaced. The headteachers continue in part-time acting capacities. One of them is also headteacher of a school in London, and one is an educational consultant”.
Kent Primary Academy, OFSTED 2014.
Headteachers
There is a shortage of good people coming forward to become headteachers, with over 1000 heads and senior school staff leaving teaching before retirement age every year according to the NAHT.  The increasingly rapid turnover is covered in a variety of ways. These include: Federations, whereby one headteacher may take over a number of schools; Academy Groups that can group a number of schools together under one ‘Superhead’ but which are also able to move headteachers from school to school without difficulty; long or short-term acting headteachers, sometimes turning into a series of appointments going on for years; or parachuting in Local Authority employed consultants on fixed terms.
“Since the inspection the previous headteacher has left. A new executive headteacher was put in place. Two heads of school were also appointed. There have been a large number of changes to the staff since the inspection. Fifteen members of staff have left the academy, including four out of the six newly qualified teachers who started at the beginning of the academic year. Fifteen new members of staff have joined”.
   Kent Primary Academy, OFSTED 2014

 

The Question
Why is it all happening? Certainly, there is rightly more pressure to get rid of inadequate teachers who will make up a proportion of the numbers. However, workload, undue pressure, failure to support or offer appropriate training, budgetary cuts, disillusionment, and the loss of esteem and respect in which the profession is held, all play their part as described below.
 
The children
However, first and foremost, there is an enormous potential cost to children and their futures if there is not a stable teaching team in place in a school.

One of the consequences of this loss of teachers, especially in primary schools, is the number of temporary teachers of varying quality needed to plug gaps. Each year I talk to a large number of primary school families, mainly those looking for school appeals; but others looking for a change of school often for this precise reason. In both cases, I am horrified by the experiences of some who will talk about up to ten different supply and temporary teachers for their child in the school year. There are also those who experience the rapid procession of temporary headteachers, after the permanent head has left the school. Sometimes this happens because the headteacher was removed because of low standards, but temporary cover does not improve matters.

I also talk with parents who have done their research to choose their primary school, and have chosen one with a good headteacher and good record. Then the headteacher leaves, staff don’t like the change of regime, there is a large turnover and the whole school changes in character. Unfortunately, this happens too often, there is no way of predicting it and you will find a number of the more extreme examples on my website www.kentadvice.co.uk.

In secondary schools, the use of temporary or supply staff can destroy a student’s chances of success in an important qualification if they are not carefully selected, or good teachers are simply not available. Vocational subjects are being run down as government targets focus relentlessly on academic subjects, leading to possible redundancy for those teachers whose speciality no longer fits. 

“Since the last monitoring inspection six of the seven teachers are new. Currently one teacher is on sick leave and the class is being taught by a supply teacher. Further changes will take place at the end of term. The previous executive headteacher, head of school and pastoral support worker left at the end of the academic year. In September a new executive headteacher was appointed to lead the school for three days a week for one year”. 
Kent Primary School, OFSTED 2014

 

Inadequacy
One of the problems that bedevilled the profession for many years was the difficulty of removing teachers who were failing their pupils. This has changed considerably in recent years and schools are much more ready to use competency procedures to begin the process, and in some cases pressure the teacher to leave. I look at this in more detail below.
 
Workload
Too often we read snide comments in the press and on social media of the long summer holidays. However, these comments are rarely balanced by reference to the long hours worked at home in the evenings preparing lessons and marking work, the weekends sacrificed to the same, or the extra-curricular activity still undertaken by many teachers out of commitment to the children in their charge, but unpaid and diminishing as pressures and lack of appreciation of its value increase.
 
“The school has suffered from high staff turnover over a protracted period of time. At the start of this academic year approximately half of the teaching staff are new and of these, half are newly qualified teachers”.
Kent Primary School, OFSTED 2014

 

Pressure
Most of the pressure has government at its source, as the drive to improve the measure of academic performance is relentless.

The person most at risk is the headteacher, once in a secure position, but now extremely vulnerable to losing their post. KCC has seen its Primary Key Stage 2  performance improve rapidly over the past three years, the County Council itself under government pressure to improve standards, coinciding with a purge of headteachers deemed not up to the job. There is a similar purge in Medway, but without the results to justify it. Good news for Kent schools in terms of performance, but at what cost, not taking into account what has happened to those heads dumped often after a previously successful career.

"The current acting headteacher took on this role in January 2014. Her previous role of deputy headteacher has been taken up, in an acting capacity, by the assistant headteacher. There has also been a high number of staff changes in recent time. This has involved both teachers and support staff".
Medway Primary School, OFSTED 2014

 

Bullying
The future of the school is at stake if the school fails to deliver through OFSTED or assessment success, so pressure on the headteacher to deliver through his or her teachers is intense. In some schools, this can become bullying and if you look at some of the cases on my website www.kentadvice.co.uk this becomes apparent. Examples of alleged bullying are often disguised by those in charge as ‘demanding higher standards for the good of the children’.

Training

The third issue is lack of proper training, with some newly qualified teachers being thrown in at the deep end, because there is lack of time, resources or will to offer proper support. This then becomes sink or swim and I am sure contributes heavily to the four in ten who leave in that first year. Schools are increasingly under financial pressure in spite of propaganda to the converse, and some, especially some academy groups, put pressure on older teachers to go or go early, and replace them with much cheaper staff at the beginning of their career. Again, it is easier to winnow these newly qualified teachers out by a process that becomes almost one of attrition. As with other issues, I strongly believe that the majority of schools provide good practice and offer a favourable environment in which to develop new teachers. One key ongoing training issue is that of Special Education Needs, as the range of SEN challenges a teacher has to cope with in their classroom expands. One wonders how many have been taught to manage children with autism or ADHD, to give two examples of the many that may have to be faced in a single class, but still be expected to deliver.

"There has been a large number of new staff joining the academy this year, following a re-structuring in the summer".
Kent Secondary Academy OFSTED 2014
 
Finance
Budgetary cuts are certainly squeezing the teaching profession, with the average teacher salary in academies below that in maintained schools, often to balance the higher salaries of leadership teams. A more serious example lies in school sixth forms where there is no government commitment to hold budgets and funding has fallen rapidly. This is seeing schools with larger sixth forms having to cut minority subjects, often foreign languages. Some non-selective schools will be looking closely at whether they can afford a sixth form at all, as it is increasingly subsidised by reduing funding for the main school students. Other methods to save money include reducing the number of examination subjects each student can follow and increasing class sizes. Each of these examples put pressure on schools to make teachers redundant or increase their workload further, many seeking a new life elsewhere. How the private schools must be rubbing their hands.
 
The public image of teaching
At least nurses and doctors faced with similar issues can comfort themselves with the public respect for their professions. Sadly, this country appears to have an astonishingly low opinion of its teachers and the teaching profession compared to other countries both in the developed and developing worlds and so we are starting to get what we as a country (but not the children) deserve. Picture the teacher with a vocation to teach who comes home from a day’s hard work under the pressures described above, too often encountering parents who don’t value education or the work of the school. He or she meets friends who don’t hold their work in regard and enjoy a better work life balance, then sees and reads in the media with monotonous regularity the blame attached to  their profession, if indeed it is still a profession, for so many of the ills of society. Can we seriously be surprised if so many choose to look for a better life elsewhere?

What can we do about the situation as individuals? Quite simply, next time someone rubbishes the teaching profession in your hearing stand up to them and tell them how important and valued state school teachers are. Next time you meet a teacher, tell them the same. It could catch on!

Last modified on Sunday, 20 September 2015 19:49

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  • Provisional GCSE Results for Medway 2017

    Last year the long established 5 A*-C GCSE league table including English and maths was scrapped, being replaced by two new assessments, Progress 8 and Attainment 8. Both these are measured by an arcane formula combining results in eight curriculum subjects to produce numbers whose meaning and spread is very difficult to comprehend, but enable schools to be placed in an order. Government has made amendments to further reflect policy, which has the unintended effect in Kent and Medway of further rewarding the top performing grammar schools and diminishing those with a higher proportion with lower abilities.  

    These Provisional results are issued at this time to enable families to be better informed when making secondary school choices. Last year a number of schools saw a small improvement in results in the final version to be published  in January.Unfortunately, once again, there has been such little publicity given to them that most families are not even aware of their existence. 

    The key measure is Progress 8 (full table here) which looks at progress from the end of primary school to the end of Year 11, comparing pupils to others nationally, who begin from the same starting point, with Medway above average at 0.04, against a National average of -0.03. Victory Academy is the only non-selective school to split the six grammars at the top, with Greenacre next.   

    Attainment 8 (full table here) simply measures what it says, with Medway just below the National average of  46 at 45.5, although there is a variety of other statistics to choose from to suit your case. 

    Further information below, including the performance of individual schools, and a look at another measure, the English Baccalaureate ......


    Progress 8
    The key measure is Progress 8 (full table here) which looks at progress from the end of primary school to the end of Year 11, comparing pupils to others nationally, who begin from the same starting point, with Medway above average at 0.05, against a National average of -0.03. There is a single floor standard which schools are expected to achieve, of -0.5, and all secondary schools have exceeded this. Both measures have had their methodology changed to suit government priorities and the new grading system for English and maths. As a result, numbers are not directly comparable, but grammar schools appear to have been further advantaged.  
     
    Schools are divided into a number of groups: well above average; above average; average; below average; and well below average and below floor level. Schools placed in the last category can expect government intervention.
     
    Grammar Schools
    I am not sure that in Medway, with the grammar schools dominating the top of the table, this proves they necessarily offer better teaching; rather, there is a strong element of – ‘brighter pupils can be stretched further’.

    The table is led by Rochester Grammar, the only Medway school to score 'Well above Average' for progress from Key Stage 2 to GCSE.  Chatham Grammar Girls is only making average progress.

    Grammar School Progress 8
    Scores for 2017
    School Score
    Well Above Average 
     Rochester Grammar 0.89 
    Sir Joseph Williamson's 0.85
    Above Average
     Holcombe Grammar 0.49
    Fort Pitt Grammar

    0.42

    Rainham Mark Grammar 0.24
    Average
    Chatham Grammar Girls 0.02
     
    Non-Selective Schools
    Government classifies  schools into groups, with just Victory Academy achieving 'above average' level, with all schools but Medway UTC achieving the floor standard. It is difficult to asses the UTCs poor performance as this is its first GCSE Year, and recruiting in Year 11, the Progress 8 could be regarded as down in part to the student's previous schools. All are volunteers, with no requirement for technology aptitude or interest. However, it appears that the UTC has not re-vitalised their education. 
     
    Non-Selective Progress 8
    Scores for 2017
     School  Score School  Score 
    Above Average   Robert Napier
    -0.09
     Victory Academy  0.32  Howard School  -0.12
     Average 
    Brompton Academy -0.13 
    Greenacre 0 Below Average  
    Thomas Aveling

    0

    Strood Academy -0.27
     Rainham Girls -0.02 Walderslade Girls  -0.34
    Hundred of Hoo -0.04 Well Below Average 
    and below Floor Level of -0.5
    St John Fisher Catholic  -0.06 Medway UTC -0.9
     
    Attainment  8
    Here, scores come out looking somewhat like a GCSE league table, but flattened at the top, far fewer schools with lower ability children have reached the score of 40 than last year, when I made a working comparison with the floor level of the previous Floor Level of 40% of a school's pupils achieving 5 GCSE A-Cs.
     
    Grammar Schools 
    Not surprisingly, here the grammar schools sweep the table completely. 
     
    Grammar School Attainment 8 Scores for 2016
    School Score
     Rochester Grammar 70.8 
    Sir Joseph Williamson's  69.7
     Rainham Mark Grammar 63.9
    Holcombe Grammar 62.2
    Fort Pitt Grammar 60.5
    Chatham Grammar Girls 57.1
     
    Non-Selective Schools 
    The popularity or otherwise of Non-Selective schools is heavily polarised, with Brompton Academy one of the most oversubscribed in the whole of Kent and Medway. It is followed at some length by Thomas Aveling, Strood Academy and the Howard School. At the other end are three schools with a large number of vacancies, Robert Napier, Victory Academy and St John Fisher. The last two named, as well as having below average progress grades, are below the 40 points mark. However, this data suggests that Robert Napier is at long last on the turn for the good.  Walderslade Girls appears to be struggling, with the headteacher having moved on.  
      
    Non-Selective Attainment 8
    Scores for 2016
     School  Score School  Score 
    Rainham Girls  42.5  St John Fisher 37.9
    Hundred of Hoo 41.3 Brompton Academy 37.4
    Thomas Aveling 40.8 Strood Academy
    37.3
    Greenacre 40.2 Walderslade Girls 35.6
    Howard School 39.6 Robert Napier 35.2
    Victory Academy 38.2 Medway UTC 29.5
     
    English Baccalaureate
    This is a third measure towards which the government was trying to nudge schools, by measuring the percentage of pupils achieving a Grade C or better in five specific subject areas: English, maths, a science, a language, and history or geography. It is designed to encourage schools towards more academic subjects and away from those thought intellectually easier, which government considers is an easy way to score, although Progress 8 and Attainment 8 already go some way towards that.
     
    Rochester Grammar School is unsurprisingly at the top of the lists, with 90% of its pupils passing the required subjects. It is followed by Sir Joseph Williamson with 82% and then Rainham Mark with 53%. All three schools have seen a fall in percentages, although I am not sure what this means, except that perhaps schools are seeing it as less important than when it was introduced. Top non-selective school is Rainham School for Girls with 20%, followed by Hundred of Hoo with 14%. At the bottom are the Robert Napier and Victory Academy with no students meeting this standard. 
    Written on Monday, 16 October 2017 16:29 Be the first to comment! Read 28 times
  • Provisional GCSE Results for Kent 2017

    Update on Simon Langton  Boys below

    Medway Outcomes here

    This is the second year of the new GCSE assessments for measuring schools performance, Progress 8 and Attainment 8, which replace the long established 5 A*-C GCSE league table including English and maths. Both these are measured by an arcane formula combining results in eight curriculum subjects to produce numbers whose meaning and spread is very difficult to comprehend, but enable schools to be placed in an order. 

    The key measure is Progress 8 (full table here) which looks at progress from the end of primary school to the end of Year 11, comparing pupils to others nationally, who begin from the same starting point, and is rightly given priority in measuring performance.  Under this measure, Kent is slightly below the National Average of -0.03, at -0.11.

    Meopham 2

    Attainment 8 (full table here) simply measures what it says, with Kent exactly equalling the National score of 46 ranked 60th out of all Local Authorities, although there is a variety of other statistics provided to choose from to suit your case. Both measures have had their methodology changed to suit government priorities and the new grading system for English and maths. As a result, numbers are not directly comparable.  

    Headlines: the Grammar School progress table is no longer the sole preserve of West Kent and super-selectives with four girls' schools  invading the top eight. Highworth, Invicta, Folkestone Girls' and Maidstone Girls have joined Tonbridge, TWGGS, and Dartford Girls', leaving Dartford as the only boys school. Both Oakwood Park and Chatham and Clarendon come below the national average, along with one provisional result for a school which failed for technical reasons, as explained below.   

    Top non-selective school is Bennett Memorial, one of six church schools in the top ten, the top three ever present also including St Simon Stock and St Gregory's. All these three are wholly selective on religious grounds, and at the top also in attainment. For the second consecutive year there are remarkable performances by Meopham School and Orchards Academy, neither of which have the built in advantages of other top performers. As last year eight schools were below the government floor level with well-below average progress  facing government intervention, five the same as last year. 

    Five of the top six grammar schools on attainment are unsurprisingly super-selective in West and North West Kent - along with Tunbridge Wells Girls'. These are the same schools as in 2016, balanced by five boys and one mixed grammar at the foot.  The Non-selective table is led by three church schools, Bennett Memorial leading the way above two grammar schools. Five non-selective schools are at the foot of both Progress and Attainment Tables.

    Orchards 1

    Further information below. including the performance of individual schools......

    Read more...
    Written on Saturday, 14 October 2017 18:11 2 comments Read 263 times
  • Kent Test Results 2017: Initial outcomes

    I now have initial information regarding the Medway Test, happily provided promptly, posted here.

    Kent Test results have now been published with the pass mark the same as last year. An automatic pass has again been awarded to candidates scoring 106 on each of the three sections - English; maths and reasoning – along with an aggregate score across the three sections of 320. This total will again be around 21% of the total age cohort across the county, with further details to follow as I receive them.

    An additional number of children will have been found to be of grammar school standard through what is called the Headteacher Assessment, usually around 6% of the total. You will find full details of the whole Kent Test process here. Overall, these two processes last year yielded passes for 26% of Kent children in the age cohort.  

    One important and welcome change is that KCC are now making individual test scores available to parents who registered online from 5 p.m., so there will no longer be the anxious wait or chasing up of primary schools for results of previous years.

    As last year, I  shall be publishing a second article later when I receive more data from KCC. 

    You will find initial figures released by KCC below, together with further information and ways I can support you. I find that the information articles on the website (RHS of this and every page) with links below, answer the majority of questions I receive. 

    As usual there are hysterical and grossly misleading headlines in some online newspapers about the shortage of grammar school places, which have whipped up a torrent of unnecessary fears on some of the more neurotic online forums (often driven by out of county families). Although KCC cannot guarantee every Kent child who has passed, a place in a Kent grammar school (not necessarily of their choice), there have been no reported cases in recent years of Kent children not getting in who are looking for a place, although a few have had to go to appeal. Further thoughts below. 

    Read more...
    Written on Wednesday, 11 October 2017 17:23 4 comments Read 1514 times
  • Medway Test Results 2017

     I am rarely caught out completely by admission matters, but events at the two Chatham grammar schools for entry in September 2017 have completely amazed me. These are compounded by the Medway Test results this year, when the built in bias towards girls’ success has completely vanished, as explained below.

    The Medway Test outcomes, in summary, have seen 23% of the Medway cohort this year found suitable for grammar school before Reviews take place, which is exactly on target as in 2016. However, the annual gender differential stretching back for years, which saw 25% of girls passing the test as against 21% of boys in 2016, has disappeared, with 23% of both boys and girls passing for admission in 2018.

    Both Chatham grammar schools have been suffering from a shortage of pupils in recent years: in 2015, Chatham Girls admitted just 93 pupils with a planned admission number of 142; and Holcombe Grammar (previously Chatham Boys) 106, PAN 120. This September Chatham Girls has admitted over 180 pupils, Holcombe over 150.

    The main reason for this dramatic surge in numbers is the influx of London children who, uniquely in Medway are grammar qualified for the two Chatham’s by virtue of success in the Kent Test. For September 2018 entry, there were 659 out of county passes, including 263 from London Boroughs (the largest number as always were the 381 from Kent).

    So, what do these remarkable outcomes offer for 2018 entry? Some thoughts below, together with further analysis of Medway Test results. You will find further information on the Review process and its implications for appeals, here, which will answer most queries.

    Read more...
    Written on Wednesday, 11 October 2017 19:36 1 comment Read 399 times
  • Unlawful Grammar School Admissions: Holcombe (Medway); Maidstone Girls; and Invicta

    The DfE has now ruled, as I forecast in my article entitled ‘Shame on Holcombe Grammar School and Medway Council’, that actions such as those of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT) in placing pupils registered with Holcombe Grammar School at another school for their education are unlawful.  This illegality has been supported by Medway Council in yet another failure by them.

    As a result, the pupils are now being placed back at Holcombe, but not until Term Two, although they have known of the decision for over a week already and could surely have been moved much earlier if the pupils’ interests were any sort of priority.

    Chatham Boys 3

     

    This is the third such case relating to school admissions locally in less than a year, where the DFE, and in one case the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO), has ruled the schools’ practices unlawful; but sadly the arrogance of these institutions has seen no semblance of apology from any. It is clear that the extent of accountability only covers ensuring that wrongdoing no longer happens to other children, and damages confidence in the large majority of reputable schools.

    This article focuses primarily on events at Holcombe/Invicta Academy, but also looks at Maidstone Grammar School for Girls’ response to the LGO finding of their unlawful actions, and consequences of the Invicta/St Olave’s scandal. 

    Read more...
    Written on Saturday, 14 October 2017 12:38 Be the first to comment! Read 212 times
  • Medway Council Fails the Medway Test Yet Again

    Update: From around 10 p.m. Monday, emails from Simon Harrington (Student Services Manager, Medway Council), informing parents whether child (no name) has passed the Medway Test or not, but no scores. Closing date for Review is next Monday, 19th October, so day lost in short time scale. At least he is trying!

    Following the 2016 Medway Test debacle, when wrong scores were sent out to some families whose children had taken the Medway Test, there is tremendous frustration this year, as the online system is failing to work at the time of writing (9 p.m., 9th October), results supposed to be available from 4 p.m.

    The Medway Council Twitter account offered a typically useless response, at 4.14 p.m, after which everyone appears to have gone home:

    “We're experiencing technical difficulties with our telephone lines. Apologies for any inconvenience caused”

     

    Naturally no mention of the online service not working. Who do they think they will fool!

    Update, 8 p.m from Medway Council:  

    We know that sometimes there is a delay through service providers but please be assured they have all been sent.

     

    How unfortunate that all the service providers in the system had a delay of at least two hours!

    At present the Council appears to have provided no further information, although I understand that the pass mark this year is 495, and that results have been sent in the post, hopefully to arrive tomorrow, Tuesday. You may find that your child’s headteacher is willing to divulge the score earlier tomorrow.

    As with last year’s failure, I would have thought it worthwhile deploying an officer after 5 p.m. to solve the problem, but ‘Serving You’ clearly does not extend to this.

    Medway Council Logo 

    Those not caught up in this situation may be unable to comprehend the angst caused to families who have been waiting anxiously for outcomes that may decide their children’s future education path, but I can assure them it is very real, and unfortunately typical of Medway Council’s incompetence.

    Read more...
    Written on Monday, 09 October 2017 21:09 1 comment Read 432 times