It’s Maths Week on TES, and they are having regular Q&As with ministers – the one earlier this week with Liz Truss, (its just my opinion, so don’t shoot me!) didn’t answer any of the big questions. It felt a little hollow and a bit like going through the motions to tick a box about liaising with the teaching community. Unfortunately I have a meeting tomorrow night, when the next one is scheduled, so rather than try to put something together “on the hoof” (like I did  here) I’ve decided to post it tonight instead. Apologies to some of you, as you’ve heard some of my arguments before – I’m just passionate about teaching, I love my job – I do promise, that normal service will resume soon.

I am not political. That doesn’t mean I don’t have my opinions and views, but if “push comes to shove” I genuinely don’t feel I know enough about all the policies of the major players to be able to say hand on heart that I wholeheartedly support one particular party – this sounds odd given that I’m on my parish council (but that’s because I want to influence the future direction of our burgeoning village rather than whinge about the changes … as they say “you’ve got to be in it, to win it!”). 

Driving into work this morning I was listening to the radio, and yet another education story came on, and I had the realisation that education is being used as a political “vote winner” – its not a new thought, but I’d not been able to formulate the idea into words before now … it’s just been sort of bouncing around my head!. I know we don’t operate in isolation – with the number of voters who have school age children there is an additional motive for driving through changes. I keep saying that I actually don’t disagree with the principle reasons behind some of the changes to both KS4 and KS5 and I genuinely mean it … I value and understand the importance of good maths skills, specifically for our future generations in terms of employers needing well educated employees.

In fact some of the ways that current government bodies are going about things are quite good, if you believe the research on which it is based (more about that another time … I’m a cynic!! I can’t help it!) but what I don’t get is why the rush? OK, so we’ve known the changes were coming, but for some reason I suspect the timeline for the introduction was unachievable from the outset, but why are we ploughing on regardless? Finally, and most importantly why is no-one listening when we are saying we need more time? If we are to work with the current timelines we just don’t have a proper lead-in time to the introduction of the new GCSE.

  • By proper, I mean a reasonable amount of time to ensure that we don’t have a lost generation who get caught between the changes at different key stages … there are a group of students who will go into the new GCSE (or KS3)  never having even seen topics at KS3 (or KS2) as the new GCSE assumes certain topics are prior knowledge at KS3 (or KS2), but these students will be being taught according to the old national curriculum. This is a major concern! How would you feel if your student is going into year 9 in September?
  • By proper, I mean one in which the amount of new material being introduced was factored into teaching time. Many schools will be changing to a three year KS4 course, which means that in order to achieve a first examination date of June 2017 we have to start teaching from this Sept. According to Liz Truss “teachers will have a year to prepare” … this is just untrue – we have about 5 1/2  months. We have about 1/3 more content to teach and in order to achieve this most of us will be teaching our new year 9’s the new subject objectives from 1st September to ensure we give them the best chance of success with the new GCSE’s. Some exam boards don’t expect to have specs/sample material available until Spring 2015. Well I will have been teaching my new year 9’s for 4 months by then!
  • By proper, I mean one in which the requirement for additional teaching staff has been considered and time for any recruitment initiatives has been allowed to give them time to take effect. (1/3 extra content means more teaching time, which means more teachers required) All the stuff going on to encourage people into teaching Maths and Sciences is admirable – some will work, and some won’t – but regardless of their success/failure the fact is the additional teachers just aren’t out there. Non subject specialists will be drafted in, HOD’s will be under pressure and the ultimate worst case scenario is that the pressure and work conditions will drive more people out of teaching and the downward spiral will continue. Schools offering £100K salaries for HODs (as was the case for one school this week) are unsustainable from the schools’ perspective and that money will mean something else doesn’t get it (I’m not suggesting the person wont be worth the salary!)
  • By proper, I mean one that has been well thought out in terms of the impact and where it lies within the “bigger picture” of our schooling systems, taking into account all the other changes that are taking place. To use just one example: the new post 16 core maths is aimed at those students who gain a C, but what about those students who dislike maths and were dragged through GCSE “kicking and screaming”. Trust me, it wont take them long until they ask “why would I want to pass in year 11, if it means that I have to carry studying it at a higher level through my 6th form studies”? Why not get a D and then spend the 2 years of 6th form resitting it? This will impact on league tables, and ultimately could push schools below floor targets. The stakes are high, and even more so, if ultimately the government decide to make post-16 funding dependent upon studying such a qualification (it’s supposedly just talk at the minute, but we’ll see).

Basically we have no choice to just accept these changes – I get that – what concerns me is the impact of not getting this right is massive. I genuinely believe we risk having a lost generation, and for what? For the sake of a delay  … lets just stop and think.

I know this will have no effect, but it helps to get it off my chest! RANT OVER.