Updated : Tue, 11 Mar 2014 01:23:28 GMT
Science teacher Rick Teather explains how his previous career as a salesman influences his approach to teaching â€“ and why the job is much harder in England than elsewhere in the world
Rick Teather moved from his home country, Canada, to work as a science teacher at Passmores Academy in Essex.
It started when I was about 15. I said to myself, here is my life-long goal: to not lie on my deathbed wishing that I'd done more stuff. From that moment on, my whole life has been centred around doing different things.
By the time I was 24 I had a sandwich shop, a restaurant and I was taking my first year of university all at the same time. I got great grades at university, but at the end of it I decided I'd had enough, so I got rid of everything and spent a couple of years travelling. I lived in New Zealand where I restored antique furniture, and then Australia where I sold stereo equipment. Later, I moved back to Peterborough in Canada, worked for the federal government for a while, opened my own stereo store â€“ which I had for 10 years â€“ and then became a certified financial planner.
I got to the point where I needed to try something different and I had time enough to fit one more good career in. My wife said: "Look at you, you've tutored the kids, why don't you just become a teacher?" The more I thought about it, the more I realised that I can pass on, with any luck, a lifetime of experience and understanding.
At teaching college I was, needless to say, the age of many other trainee teachers' grandfathers. When you talk about a mature student, in a lot of cases you mean someone in their 30s or 40s. I was 55. We would go through things that we had to teach in biology and I would think, when did they figure this out? Oh, this was published in 1982, no wonder I don't know it â€“ I finished university in 1977. But I've always loved being a student and learning so I immersed myself in it quite easily.
As part of my degree I did placements in local schools â€“ all of them said if they had an opening, they'd hire me in a second. But in the end, not only were there no openings, but the school boards had laid teachers off every year for the last five years. So where are the jobs? Well it turns out the jobs are in England.
My wife was born in Solihull so she had British citizenship. We thought we'd just rent our house in Canada out for a year or two and see what it's like in England. After a year teaching at a school in Dartford, we moved here permanently and I began teaching at Passmores Academy.
It's kind of common knowledge that teaching in a British school is significantly harder than it is in other places around the world. The primary difference between schools here and in Canada is in behaviour. The kids in Canada, for the most part, in the area that I was in, wouldn't try to get away with the stuff that the kids do here. There is also a difference in the level of testing â€“ here, you always have to be aware of what the kids' targets are, where they are, how to improve them and so on. In Canada, certainly you're accountable, but there's not so much of a focus on results. And we don't have anything like Ofsted.
Working in a school is very different to being in business, where I have spent most of my working life. In a way, I'm using my experience as a salesman: I'm basically selling to kids every day on learning about science and learning about life. But in business, if you're in a retail establishment, the people who are coming into your shop are there to buy something. At school, I've got a class of 30 students â€“ three of them are buying, two are thinking about buying, 10 of them don't want anything to do with you and the other 15 are saying "why am I even here?" It's a tougher call. They're not at the point where they can think, jeez I need to know this stuff to get a better job. They just don't get that.
For me, teaching isn't just about learning the curriculum â€“ it's about teaching life skills. When I was at school, I remember there was one teacher from Barbados, Mr Mings. He would says things like â€“ and you've got to remember that this was back in the 1960s â€“ "Always be ready to question the man." I love to teach that kind of thing, the type of life skills that will help young people do well. If you went up to any of the kids in my last school and asked, "What did Mr Teather teach you?", I can guarantee that everyone of them would say, "You are where you are because of the decisions you make." I would much rather have them take that away than for them to know what symbiosis means. If I can get a couple of students to get it, then I know that that's going to substantially change their life for the better.
This content is brought to you by Guardian Professional. Looking for your next role? Take a look at Guardian jobs for schools for thousands of the latest teaching, leadership and support jobs.
Publ.Date : Sun, 09 Mar 2014 07:00:00 GMT
As a new episode of My Teacher is an App airs on BBC Radio 4, Edward Lawless urges teachers to embrace digital technology in the classroom â€“ however frightening it seems
The third episode of the BBC Radio 4 series, My Teacher is an App, offered a provocative glimpse into the ways that technology is now being used to meet current educational needs. I attended the debate at The Great Hall of King's College London, where a respected panel and an energetic audience discussed the future of online technology and education.
While students in the audience didn't think it was a big deal, not all of the educators saw technology and education flowing together so smoothly. There was some anxiety in the room about what would happen to "authentic teaching", whether online learning could really offer "meaningful activity" and "true engagement", and if social media could provide "real interaction". Then, of course, there was concern about what would become of "the human element" in a virtual classroom.
These are all valid concerns, but they represent the dangerous assumption that a "different" learning environment can't preserve cherished educational priorities. I have seen online courses that are committed to promoting authentic teaching and learning, and worked with "virtual" teachers who regularly offer meaningful engagement, bringing the "human element" to their students around the world.
On the other hand, I have also seen traditional secondary and university classrooms that disregard these same priorities, with "live" teachers and lecturers capable of automating instruction, objectifying and isolating students, and reducing education to the mere transfer of content.
No matter what the conditions may be â€“ online or face-to-face â€“ the quality of the educational experience depends on the integrity of the curriculum, the teacher and the learning community.
That said, it's normal that teachers and leaders find the integration of online technology in education frightening. First of all, our generation of "digital immigrant" teachers must shift out of our comfort zone and into the world of our "digital-native" students. Second, it requires bricks-and-mortar schools to take a leap of faith into a medium that's essentially an unknown world. They have to let go of the familiar model that we hold dear â€“ not necessarily because it works so well, but because it's what we know so well â€“ to embrace an educational medium that many of us don't use, don't understand and don't trust. Third, and most importantly, it requires us to shift the power of learning from the teacher to the student; to become the facilitator for learning rather than the deliverer of knowledge and in so doing, to let students lead their own learning. That is a very disturbing prospect for many educators â€“ and parents â€“ because it's all about relinquishing control and taking risks.
But the internet is a natural part of students' lives and for many of them it has been that way since before they could walk. It's their natural environment for watching movies and TV programmes, accessing music, communicating with friends and organising their daily lives. It's not surprising that these digital natives don't consider online learning as such a risky venture. The internet already empowers our students with unprecedented educational access in ways that we could never have foreseen as teachers in training. The question is â€“ how are we teaching them to use that power?
At the close of the Radio 4 debate evening, one audience member remarked to the panel that we need to proceed with caution â€“ our students could suffer if we are too bold in adopting online learning technologies. One panellist quietly responded that our students and our future will more likely suffer because we are too timid rather than too bold.
I couldn't agree more. As teachers, our role must change to one that enables, guides, personalises and embraces digital technology as a fundamental part of student learning. The most dangerous thing we can do to our students is to keep doing what our teachers and professors did to us:
â€¢ Remain centre stage in a face-to-face classroom.
â€¢ Ensure that every lesson goes according to our educational script.
â€¢ Focus upon what we want all students to cover during a scheduled lesson rather than what each student needs to learn, when they need to learn it.
â€¢ Keep overestimating our own importance in the teaching-learning dynamic and underestimating the potential of students to learn independently and collaboratively.
â€¢ Maintain our roles as mediators of content rather than developing our students' capacities as discriminating, self-regulated learners in an open-source world.
It was good enough for us. Right?
Edward Lawless is the principal of Pamoja Education, an online provider of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme
This content is brought to you by Guardian Professional. Looking for your next role? Take a look at Guardian jobs for schools for thousands of the latest teaching, leadership and support jobs.
Publ.Date : Mon, 10 Mar 2014 20:00:00 GMT
Ofsted's Michael Cladingbowl asserts that "more children are attending good or outstanding schools now than at any other time, and Ofsted has played an important role in that" (Short visits for inspectors in Ofsted shakeup, 8 March). The implication that Ofsted makes schools better is absurd, insulting to staff and students, and completely unjustifiable. Where schools have improved, it is despite the negative, snapshot and data-driven judgments of inspectors, not because of them.
Imagine if the millions spent on inspections since Ofsted was invented in the early 90s had been spent reducing class size, improving buildings and equipment, and paying teachers a rate commensurate with the high levels of skill, expertise and dedication they display every day. The forthcoming Policy Exchange report into Ofsted's track record is to be heartily welcomed.
â€¢ That "more children are attending good or outstanding schools now than at any other time" depends on your perspective. More young people are suffering mental health problems, more young people are living unhealthy lifestyles, more teachers are dissatisfied with their lot and many employers are still saying that schools are not equipping young people with the skills they need: collaboration, creativity, communication. Until schools are allowed to focus on the needs of the whole child and Ofsted is able to look beyond raw numerical data and test scores, the jury is out on whether young people's experience of school is improving. Perhaps we should ask them.
European Forum for Freedom in Education
â€¢ Before Ofsted, one of HM Inspectorate's responsibilities was to evaluate the effects of government policy on the system as a whole. That responsibility needs to be exercised in the new dispensation. Only if it is can we be assured of Ofsted's genuine independence.
Professor Colin Richards
(Former HMI) Spark Bridge, Cumbria
â€¢ Rightwing thinktanks cannot have much confidence in free schools and academies if they are questioning whether they should be subject to Ofsted inspections, the only way we can compare standards between local authority schools and this new crop of independent state schools. Will they next propose that we have a separate charity commission to cover the financial benefits to private schools as well?
South Wonston, Winchester
â€¢ DJ Taylor's excellent article on John Carey's autobiography (The back page, Review, 8 March) exposes the frequently overlooked fact that grammar school pupils were old-fashioned meritocrats whose success was built on other children's failures. As one who attended Shene grammar (1958-66) I recall the markedly superior quality of sports, science and teaching we enjoyed compared with the other secondary state provision in SW14. I was fully aware of the fate that awaited my former primary school friends who failed the 11-plus. It was exactly this dreadful unfairness that motivated Tony Crosland to offer all children a more equal opportunity and proper share of educational funding.
Publ.Date : Mon, 10 Mar 2014 21:00:00 GMT
Former pupil of highly rated Tiffin school in London has accused a teacher of repeated abuse
One of the highest-achieving state schools in the country is among 23 secondaries and primaries where former pupils have come forward in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal to claim that they were sexually abused by teachers, the Observer can reveal.
A former pupil at Tiffin School in Kingston upon Thames, south-west London, has come forward to tell the police that he was repeatedly abused by a male teacher at the boys' school in 1975. It is understood that the alleged perpetrator of the abuse is still alive.
The scandal that erupted in 2012 over Savile has encouraged a wave of alleged victims to come forward to the police to report their own experiences as children. The Observer has learned that the Tiffin School, which recently featured in a guide to state schools in the high-society magazine Tatler, is one of four state schools where allegations of abuse have been reported to police and lawyers acting for victims in recent months. In one case, the state school â€“ not Tiffin â€“ has made a settlement on behalf of the victim which is covered by a confidentiality agreement. In another primary school, there is an ongoing police investigation.
In a recent case, at Hillside First School in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, the headteacher was dismissed when it emerged that staff had witnessed a total of 30 inappropriate incidents involving one teacher, none of which were passed on to the local authority.
The teacher Nigel Leat, 51, had received just one verbal warning about his behaviour, leaving him free to abuse children as young as six between 1996 and 2010, until a mother finally reported him to police. In June 2011, Bristol crown court heard that Leat had abused five victims, some as young as six. The judge described Leat as a "paedophile of the most sickening order" and he was jailed indefinitely.
Liz Dux, a lawyer from Slater & Gordon solicitors, who are representing alleged victims of abuse at schools across the country, said it was a myth that sexual abuse was only being uncovered at private schools as people come forward following the Savile revelations. While some leading public schools â€“ including those attended by Nick Clegg, Boris Johnson and Tony Blair â€“ face accusations of covering up abuse for decades, there is growing evidence of similar criminality in the state sector, said Dux. "There has been an explosion in the number of reported abuse cases. These are not exclusively in the private sector."
Dux, who represents about 70 alleged victims of perpetrators other than Savile, added that some schools involved were not yet aware of allegations being made about their staff. "Many of the schools we are currently investigating may not know of the allegations at the moment because, once people have contacted us, we encourage them to go straight to the police," she said. "And we don't take further action until the police have concluded their investigation and a prosecution has taken place."
Where civil claims are made against state schools, the schools are expected to compensate victims through liability insurance. In some historical cases it is understood that the institutions struggle to uncover with whom they have a policy, leaving the taxpayer to foot the bill.
A place at Tiffin School is keenly sought after, with 1,863 boys sitting their last 11-plus test competing for 160 places.
In the private sector, 18 former pupils of Ashdown House in East Sussex â€“ which was attended by London's mayor, Boris Johnson, and the Homeland star Damian Lewis â€“ have claimed that staff committed "very serious abuse" on children aged between seven and 13 during the 1970s. The Â£23,000-a-year boarding school is a feeder school for Eton and Harrow. Victims at Clegg's former preparatory school, the Â£22,000-a-year Caldicott School in Farnham Royal, Buckinghamshire, are also suing for damages.
The Chorister School in Durham, the Â£18,000-a-year prep school attended by Blair, recently settled a series of sex abuse claims. Police investigated allegations by 23 former pupils that they had been abused by Canon John Grove, headmaster from 1957 to 1978.
The Tiffin School has declined to comment; the claims are unsubstantiated.
Publ.Date : Sat, 08 Mar 2014 21:30:00 GMT
A story about school entrance exams did not include opposing opinions
The Observer headline was unequivocal: "New grammar school tests thwart 'pushy parents'" it proclaimed, over an equally forthright subheading: "Redesigned exam identifies the most able pupils, not just those from wealthy backgrounds."
The text underneath explained that Buckinghamshire grammar schools "introduced a 'tutor-proof' entrance exam last year out of concern that richer, but not necessarily brighter, children were winning places". Children were examined on a wider range of abilities, the paper said â€“ ones already being taught in the county's primary schools, rather than skills that can be mastered through home tutoring â€“ and claimed: "Provisional results indicate that a more diverse selection of pupils passed this test, and headteachers say they feel the change has made a difference."
But where were those "provisional results"? The story contained no figures. And only two headteachers were quoted. One was Philip Wayne, chairman of the Bucks Grammar Schools Association, who said he was "very confident" that the new test would make a difference, which was understandable as his association had implemented it, and the other a primary school head, introduced to the paper by Mr Wayne, who claimed the test was a success for her pupils.
And while the story acknowledged that the continuing existence of grammar schools is controversial it did not quote anyone in Buckinghamshire who might take a contrary view.
Officially, no exam statistics are available until September, after an appeals process has been completed. Bucks county council told me that the county's grammar schools are now centrally-funded academies and are their own admissions authorities; technically, the schools own the data and the council can't release them yet.
However, some simple digging would have revealed that opposition groups in the county had winkled out provisional figures from the council that suggest a different story on admissions. At Christmas, Derek Berry, a member of Wycombe Labour party, asked the council some straight questions about the total number of pupils from state schools who had passed the test and those from private and out-of-county schools who had been successful.
Extrapolated, the figures he received purport to show that between 2013 and 2014 the proportion of Bucks grammar school places going to children from local state primary schools decreased from 44% to 38%. Despite the number of applicants from state primaries increasing by nearly 300 for this year, 110 fewer children from these schools won a grammar school place.
The figures also showed the proportion of places won by pupils from Bucks private schools dropped from 21% to 15% â€“ but then 292 fewer children from these schools entered the exam. The number of places going to out-of-county children, however, rose by 336 to 1,174, giving these pupils 47% of the available grammar school places.
It would not have been difficult for the Observer to find people who question why Buckinghamshire taxpayers support grammar schools in Bucks when apparently, though this currently cannot be confirmed, more than 60% of places go to pupils from private schools or schools from outside the county.
Mr Wayne would not be drawn on these extrapolations. "I believe that the figures quoted to you and the interpretation placed upon them are inaccurate," he said. "I cannot, therefore, make an informed comment until the process is complete. The number of candidates in 2013 was larger than in previous years, partly due to the publicity surrounding the new test. This may have had an effect on test outcomes."
But what about the test itself? It was devised by a team from Durham University, led by Prof Robert Coe. Prof Coe said he would "absolutely not" claim that his test was "tutor-proof". "We use the best available research to try to minimise the impact of tutoring and broaden access to grammar schools, but we never claim it is tutor-proof," he said. He would not comment on that research or the content of the test.
Plainly, this a very much more divisive and contentious issue than the one portrayed by the headline and subheading, but we will have to wait until September to see whether those "pushy parents" really have been thwarted.
Publ.Date : Sun, 09 Mar 2014 00:05:00 GMT