Sunday, 24 April 2016

A Year 6 Teacher's Vows

 I do solemnly declare that I, your year 6 teacher, shall not pressurise you, my year 6 pupils, during the run up to the SATs. From this day forward, until lunchtime on May 12th, and indeed thereafter, I shall not subject you to emotional torture and shall protect you (to the best of my ability) from the ills of Key Stage 2 testing.

I promise that I will strive to keep you stimulated and engaged, even as together we learn the difference between coordinating and subordinating conjunctions. I will be a good teacher, for better, for worse, and I shall not continually mention that the SATs are coming up. Instead I will endeavour to prepare you for the rest of your lives until we are parted by the spring bank holiday, and eventually the six weeks holiday.

I pledge that I will respect, trust, help, and care for you, remembering that after all, you are fragile people with real emotions. I will persevere with you, in sickness and in health, not only to secure for you academic success but emotional wellbeing, social ability and general well-roundedness.

And when July comes, I promise to reassure you, in joy and in sorrow, that I, your year 6 teacher, believe that you, my year 6 pupils, really do have qualities that the test could not test. I will be your champion, reminding you that you have the capacity to succeed in a myriad of different ways as you express your own unique personalities and skill-sets. And as the last day of school rolls around, and we are rent asunder, I will wave you off, confident that your sanity and happiness remains intact as you look forward to blissful weeks of summer.

This is my solemn vow.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Dear Parents Of Our Primary School Children

Dear Parents Of Our Primary School Children,

You may have read of the crisis that the teachers of your children are in the midst of. You've probably heard that teachers are leaving classrooms in droves, that the workload is impossible and that funding is being cut left, right and centre. You might even have come across heartbreaking 'Why I'm Leaving Teaching' articles. And no doubt you've worried about the impact on your children. Forced academisation, teacher shortages and increasing pupil numbers all sound terrible, too. The number of schools being rated poorly under the constantly-evolving expectations sounds scary, especially when you know your child's school is one of them.

You'll be aware of the new standards that this year your children will be tested on at the end of Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2. You might have seen reports that even scholars struggle to answer some of the questions in the Year 6 Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar test and you feel downhearted, to say the least. The fact that no-one even knows what the expected 'level' for your child is since levels were abolished confuses you.

I know that anxiety abounds at school gates up and down this land. The teachers of your children appear not to be coping, and it looks like your children won't either.

Well most of what you've heard is true; the situation is dire. However, you must take heart: whilst the government announce ever-changing educational policies and budget cuts there is a vast army of teachers determined to make every moment count for your child. 

These teachers turn up for work early and leave late (no, it really isn't a 9 to 5). Then they work at home. And at the weekends (and yes, I know we aren't the only ones).  And they strive to make your child's learning enjoyable and engaging. And they pore over data, analysing it to work out what your child's next step is so that learning can be personalised.

And chances are your child's teacher does the same. Because for every teacher who leaves, there are many who stay for the sake of the children. And because they love the job and want to make a difference. It is sad that there are many teachers leaving, but there are many staying, too. Your child's teacher is probably doing all they can to help your child to make progress; many teachers will be going above-and-beyond what is required of them to try to make this happen.

And those same teachers will be greeting your children with a smile every morning, enquiring how they are, and genuinely caring about them. They'll be the one who picks them up in the playground after a nasty fall. They make your child laugh. They become your child's best teacher ever (until next year). They are a comforting constant in the changing scenes of life - someone your child confides in. They're the teacher your child gets excited (and then incredibly shy) about seeing in the supermarket on a weekend. They're the one they call 'Mum' or 'Dad' by accident, much to the delight of their friends (who've all done it too).

And it's these teachers who soldier on regardless of the latest government initiative. It is they who take a dry curriculum and inject it with life and infectious personality. They're the ones guiding your child through the run-up to their SATs, walking the fine line between building and destroying confidence. Ensuring that they're not just teaching a list of grammar objectives but providing a fun and relevant context, disguising the fact that they're even learning lots of (probably) useless terminology. They are determined not to let your child be brought down by the way in which our leaders are dismantling our once-proud education system - these teachers bear the weight of this, adamant that your child won't feel the squeeze at all. 

Parent - it is times like these when your child's teacher needs your support. Think about it: for every teacher there are around 60 adults who could stand up and make some noise about the plight of your children. There are over 24,000 primary schools in the UK and if there are an average of 10 teachers in each school that's 240,000 primary school teachers. Multiply that by 60 and you've got over 14 million parents or primary-aged children who could voice important opinions about your children and their future - 20 % of the UK's population. And that's without doting grandparents getting in on the action.

You may feel powerless but this needs to start from the ground up, from a grassroots level. Speak positively about education - it is the future of your child. Share success stories via social media. Say thank you to your child's teacher. Ask them how you can help. Give them a gift. Offer your support in anyway you can. Write to your MP. Get up-to-date with education policy - that's not just the realm of politicians and teachers; you have an important role to play in your child's education. It has got to the point where, for the sake of your children, teachers need you in their corner: that teacher who we spoke of before is being maligned by the authorities, the media and the general public and if the future for your child is to be bright, an end must be put to that.

Parent power - teachers need it. Will you join with us?


A Primary Teacher

Photo Credit: lukas.b0 via Compfight cc