Friday, 13 January 2012

A very good reason to be a 'retired' teacher!

This morning's headline on the BBC News website gave me yet another good reason why I am more than pleased to be a 'retired' teacher.

I know that if I had remained in the teaching profession, I would have been one of the teachers who would have been under threat of being sacked as a result the proposed changes. I know because my last 'appraisal' judged me to be 'satisfactory' ... and 'satisfactory' is no longer good enough.

To be honest there are teachers working in UK schools that are just not up to the job, but the proposed changes will not solve the problem because the whole appraisal process is – in my opinion – flawed. Teachers are not 'appraised' in a consistent manner, nor are the standards of appraisal valid ones. For example I know of a teacher whose teaching was 'appraised' by an external consultant who observed a thirty minute section of a lesson ... and the judgement was that the teaching and learning were 'satisfactory' ... which in the current educational 'newspeak' means that it was not good enough. (The norm is now expected to be 'excellent')

That teacher was subject to a 'competency' procedure without any further 'appraisal' being made by a third party to ensure that the original 'appraisal' was valid or correct. Under the proposed changes that teacher could be removed from their post within a term if they do not 'improve' sufficiently to achieve an 'excellent' grading on their next 'appraisal'. Such a process does not seem to accord with the principles of natural justice ... especially when the external consultant's ability to make the initial judgement may in itself never have been subject to any form of appraisal!

In my case my lesson was observed for about thirty minutes and judged to be 'satisfactory'. I was told that had it been an Ofsted observation, I would have failed ... but that the observer knew that overall I was getting the best out of my students, and that what I had to do when Ofsted came in was 'to play the game' (i.e. not teach in my usual way – which I knew worked very effectively – but to teach so that I would pass the lesson appraisal). My problem was that I was just too honest, and refused to 'play the game' because I saw it as immoral, dishonest, and in the long run it would not help my students to achieve their best.

(If you are wondering how the observer who appraised me as 'satisfactory' knew I was getting the best out of my students, the answer is simple; over the course of a year the grades achieved by my students showed steady upward progress and all those who completed the course achieved better than their predicted grades.)

So when I read that headline this morning I was glad that I am now a 'retired' teacher and no longer 'active' ... and can spend time playing some real games!


  1. I groaned when I saw this on the news this morning. My wife is about to go back into teaching after a 7 year break to bring up our daughter (yes, I know terribly old fashioned!). In her first three years as a teacher she had to face OFSTEAD inspections three times (because she changed school and was unlucky) and they were by and far and away the most stressful experience in her working career.

    She felt her authority in the classroom was being undermined in front of her students. Worse still was the general perception amongst teachers that positive observations are downplayed / undervalued while negative criticisms are pounced upon and now appear to form the basis of a potential sacking! At best these assessments could be described as 'adversarial' and at worst downright hostile.

    High stress, long hours, poor remuneration and the high probability of non-constructive criticism leading to the premature end of a career. How in hell to the government expect to recruit new teachers into a profession that is increasingly seen as a risky career path?

    Sorry, rant over, but I fear for the future of education in this country more than at any time in the last thirty years.

  2. Lee Hadley,

    I totally agree with what you have written about the adversarial nature of the appraisal process ... and of the possible effects of this on the education system. The problem is that we do not see the results of changes to the educational system until ten, twenty, thirty, or even forty years after the event ... by which time it is too late to do anything.

    If I were a cynic I might link the changes to the appraisal system to the current problems regarding the public sector pensions 'crisis'. A possible 'stick' to beat teachers into accepting a smaller 'carrot'?

    All the best (and, if you don't mind, especially to your wife),


  3. Trouble is "punishment" headlines are a much better sound-bite than pragmatic improvements

  4. Geordie an Exiled FoG,

    How very true!

    All the best,


  5. This procedure reminds me very much of the one I had in my last job for performance appraisal. I can go into detail if you want, but it will get ranty. Suffice to say, it involves either significant luck or psychic abilities.

  6. Arquinsiel,

    'Significant luck or psychic abilities' ... sounds just about right!

    The way in which Ofsted-style lesson appraisals were done often seemed to be too 'by the book' and not 'by guess and by God' (i.e. relying upon experience, intuition and faith).

    All the best,



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