Well here I am trying out something new and at 50 something that’s not always easy. So forgive me if this first Blog is clumsy!
I had the worst time in my teaching career last year. It was quite honestly like having the rug pulled from under my feet. It felt like any other September, any other September in a year which Ofsted was due anyway. With a new Head in place, things were moving forwards, consistency in marking was finally looking possible and in Literacy (my subject) the picture was not irretrievably awful. In fact, the introduction of outdoor learning had contributed to real progress and engagement for the disengaged children in my previous class. I was riding high and looking forward to another good year.
Then we had to implement the new criteria for lesson observations. In which every child had to make ‘rapid and sustained progress’ in every lesson. My first lesson observation was carried out by the Head and the local ‘Superhead’ in the interests of validating our Head’s judgements. I confidently planned a maths lesson outdoors introducing measuring length to my Year 3 class. I wanted to see if they could choose the appropriate equipment to measure with. I thought the lesson had gone rather well, the children explored all the available equipment, chose appropriately after a few mishaps and all managed to achieve the learning objective. My only mistake was not moving the children on to develop accuracy in measuring in the 5 minutes I had left before the plenary session, in which I explored the need to measure accurately for the next lesson. My lesson received a ‘requires improvement’ judgement. I was devastated. I am part of SLT and my lesson was RI.
That was the start of a downward spiral. I had to deliver similar judgements to other colleagues and it was awful. Morale began to suffer, people began to feel hunted. In January came Ofsted. They could see we were a good school, but the data didn’t support this. They observed many lessons, mine among others was judged to be RI. In my case, not enough differentiation was the problem in my 15 minute spelling activity, prior to the main lesson which was not observed. The school received a ‘requires improvement’ judgement. Morale nosedived.
My next lesson observation was a total disaster. I knew it was awful but couldn’t stop myself continuing the lesson, my confidence was gone. The Head was sympathetic and agreed to another observation. This time all the children made progress and achieved the learning objective, some made greater than expected progress, but the more able children could have made more progress. Another RI judgement. By now I was ready to resign. As a member of SLT, on UPS3, I now needed to be outstanding, at least good, but definitely not RI. Other teachers managed to get ‘good’ judgements, or ‘good enough’ as they are now known in our school but many previously outstanding teachers were still being judged as RI. Morale was now at rock bottom. A school with mostly good, some outstanding and a couple of satisfactory teachers, was now a school with mostly RI and some good and a couple of outstanding teachers. This was after the two ‘satisfactory’ teachers had left the school and been replaced with NQTs.
By Easter, I had had enough. I explored the possibility of taking on a part time contract in order to lose UPS status but this was not possible. I achieved UPS3 through my contribution to whole school development and sustained impact on children’s progress across the school. Now I felt like it was being used to get me out of teaching. (Not by my Head, by DFE) This was (is) a worrying trend across the profession, experience is being driven out by using unrealistic expectations in order to reduce the pay bill, in my opinion. However, a chance conversation with a colleague from a different school made me stop and think. What progress had the children made since September? I knew it was good so I went to find the evidence to prove it. In fact their progress was better than good. Now I began to feel in control again. Now I was using the data for me. Spelling progress in my class was outstanding as was reading. Maths progress was good and writing was better than expected. By the end of the year progress in all areas was good or outstanding.
So I ended the year not on a high, but at least on an even keel. I felt more in control of my destiny there is no way the children could have made that progress if my teaching was less than good. This year, when lesson observations happen, I will be ready!