This post started as a comment on Chris Betcher’s blog post “Be better”. As I began to write, I realised I had a lot to say so it’s ended up as a post here on Teacher Technologies. Please read Chris’ post and the comments he received for some context.
Having come from England, what Chris is describing is one of the most difficult things I’ve had to come to terms with as an Expat Teacher. In England every teacher is observed by measurable, national standards, at least once a year and are graded accordingly. The school they work in keeps a record of the grades they have been given and the measures they have taken to assist those who are struggling and to share the best practice of those who excel. The information they gather is used to differentiate in the same way we do in the classroom. Stronger teachers work with weaker ones (etc) to help improve practice.
Every 3 years schools are then inspected by an independent, national body to ensure that they are working at a nationally approved and measured standard. The grades they have given to teachers are checked and moderated and the whole school is inspected. As a result of this and our National Curriculum, the whole country is able to work together to improve standards by sharing and networking.The curriculum is not restrictive (as is the popular misconception of the Aussies I speak to) It has developed since 1989 so that its focus is skills not content and teachers have the freedom to be creative, innovative and inspiring with what they are given.
Unfortunately, the system I’ve entered here doesn’t measure its teachers or its schools. It doesn’t have a national standard that is assessed so that we can measure our progress. (although the NPSfT are an important step) To be honest, when I left England, I thought that, that would be great – OFSTED (the inspection team) can be a very stressful experience. However, 2 years on, I find it daunting and I have to say upsetting that there are teachers who feel they are entitled to say.. “but i’m retiring in X years so I’m not going to learn that”, that there are teachers around who are not engaging kids but giving them text books and telling them to turn to page 145…almost every lesson. And… even more sadly… that there are amazing teachers out there who do teach in an inspirational way who are never given the opportunity to be assessed against any standard and be recognised as the excellent practitioners they are.
When I lived and worked in England I hated the inspection system and the observations… now I understand how they made me the teacher I am today. They made me check what I was doing, strive to improve, learn new things, take risks, experiment and have fun learning.
Kynan, if you’re looking for a standard to measure teachers by then perhaps you should have a look at how the UK do it? It’s not perfect but it’s consistent, measured and pretty fair. It means that, as a teacher, you know how you measure up to every person in your profession. Although, there are obviously no ranked lists that we can access and judge, we do know whether we were deemed as satisfactory, good or outstanding.
We don’t have ‘Teacher Registration Boards’ but we do have probation years (NQT years) – and if you don’t pass them… you have to go back to uni and study again… We do have procedures for placing poorly performing teachers (measured by the national system) in situations where they can get support and help and, if nothing changes, they can be asked to leave (although it’s not easy to get to that point).
It’s not perfect but it’s pretty much what Chris describes here and… to be honest… i miss it. That four corners episode actually made me feel a bit sad that what we were seeing there isn’t common place in all schools. They’re doing a great job and I’d love to work in any one of the schools featured. No matter what their budget (there were a lot of tweets about how Knox were doing what they did because they were loaded – In my opinion that’s RUBBISH), they are inspiring teachers to be reflective practitioners, to continue to learn and want to achieve. If a school can’t do that for their staff, how well placed are they to do it for their students?
In my view it is about leadership, management and expectation. As teachers, we know that if you raise expectations, students usually meet them…. Do we expect the same thing of ourselves?
If you’re curious about what happens in an observation or you’d like to see an observation sheet from the UK then you might like to look at this blog post I wrote.
- You: Ofsted chief: scrapping ‘satisfactory’ rating will focus headteachers’ minds (guardian.co.uk)
- Teachers Don’t Plan Lessons so Why Should I? (teachertechnologies.com)