LibLink: Layla Moran: The lessons that need learning so teachers are less stressed

Teachers in England are in the middle of their Summer holiday as the Scottish schools prepare to go back next week.

Former teacher and Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Layla Moran has written for the Yorkshire Post about how to alleviate the stress that teachers are facing in their jobs:

She knows that being a teacher is absorbing and that you are often required to go above and beyond to excel at your job. However, there are extra stresses in the system that shouldn’t be there:

But it is something else altogether when the reasons you find yourself working later and later every night, arriving at work earlier each morning or coming in regularly during your holiday, has nothing to do with genuinely supporting pupils learning. When your work life balance is becoming more and more distorted, you start to have trouble sleeping (which many teachers report) and to top it all off, the public sector pay freeze means you have seen your wages effectively being cut year after year. Is it any wonder that more and more dedicated professionals are being pushed to breaking point, and that we have a crisis in teacher recruitment and retention?

So what would Layla do about it?

First of all, reduce the number of high-pressure assessments as “it places undue pressure on both teachers and pupils and distracts from the delivery of high quality teaching.”

Secondly, so long, OFSTED

We should abolish Ofsted and replace it with a system of school inspections which doesn’t reduce schools and teachers to simply ‘passing’ or ‘failing’. Inspections, when they occur, should look in the round at the culture of a school. That includes how well the school supports the wellbeing of teachers and pupils. Where schools are struggling they should be supported to improve, not simply written off.

And league tables can go too:

The toxic culture of competition between schools as they vie for a better ranking than their neighbours, based on a narrow set of criteria, takes valuable focus away from quality teaching, learning and pastoral care.

She looks at what we should be teaching children to do:

What we instead need to do is create an education that provides a real measure of children’s creativity, depth of understanding, and ability to work as a team. These are the attributes which will be just as vital (if not more so), for the future careers our young people are preparing for.

You can read the whole article here.

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  • John Marriott 9th Aug '18 - 9:29am

    At the risk of repeating myself, here are a few things we could do to get the education service we need:

    *Bring all academies and Free Schools back into the LEA family
    *Make all national assessment tests diagnostic ONLY
    *Abolish the charitable status of all independent schools
    *Abolish selection at 11 plus (and phase out the remaining grammar schools)
    *Reduce the number of core subjects in the National Curriculum to English and Maths
    *Give vocational education parity of esteem with academic education
    *Replace OFSTED with LEA controlled inspections
    *Any ‘league tables’ should assess only the ‘value added’ element
    *More effective support for schools in dealing with ‘challenging’ students AND parents
    *No student should be allowed to move from Primary to Secondary Education unless they have reached a specified level of literacy and numeracy

    I could offer more; but that will do for starters. Let battle commence!

  • Peter Watson 9th Aug '18 - 12:32pm

    I’d love to see the party adopt something as radical and clear as the suggestions from John above.
    Like David, I broadly agree with all of the points (though perhaps have reservations about only two core subjects in the National Curriculum).

    Layla Moran’s article, in contrast, seems relatively woolly, empathising with some of the problems faced by schools and teachers (though ignoring any part Coalition government might have played in that) and offering warm words about a nicer inspection regime and less measurable forms of learning. Hopefully it marks progress by the party towards the sort of detailed proposals that John highlights.

    Though I won’t hold my breath on “Abolish selection at 11 plus (and phase out the remaining grammar schools)” since the party’s position seems very much to face both ways on grammar schools, staunchly favouring the status quo, despite a conference vote in 2016 to call on “the government to abandon the selection by ability and social separation of young people, into different schools”.

  • I too have some comments on John Marriott’s list, although I agree with most of his list.

    1) I am not convinced any data on schools should be published as it inevitably leads to comparison and then competition.

    2) As a former primary school teacher, my issue wasn’t the existence of a National Curriculum per se – it was useful to have suggestions for subjects that weren’t my strength to support children gifted/interested in those areas- it was the fact that teachers are then told how to teach eg every lesson must end with a plenary. Why?

    3) I think that parity between academic and vocational subjects will only occur if and when society (and ambitious parents!) sees vocational jobs as equal to the high-status, high-paying professional jobs which require an academic education.

    4) Some areas of society have unrealistic expectations/ bizarre beliefs about what a school can and should achieve. I always wanted to inspire children to learn about the world and topics of interest to them, rather than simply fill them with the knowledge someone somewhere decided they needed.

    5) Some parents/people need to be convinced that a liberal view of education won’t leave their children disadvantaged in the world as compared to young people from places such as China.

  • There are a lot wrong with academies but reforms should think about keeping the benefits of small local academy trusts that I have seen: proven effective leadership teams and staff able to help improve schools; savings on admin and support overheads and on bills though economies of scale.

  • Christopher Clayton 10th Aug '18 - 1:23pm

    John Marriott raised some interesting ideas in a previous article he wrote on education, drawing partly on his experience teaching in Germany from which I suspect his last (sensible ) point emerges (but why not apply this idea into the secondary years also, as in Germany?) I am dismayed by his desire to abolish all selection at 11. This is a well-worn subject of controversy; abolition of selection was, and is, essentially a Labour party policy, inherited by the SDP under Shirley Williams’ influence and I have never understood why Liberals would support such a foolish, unsuccessful and divisive policy of attempted social engineering, irrespective of educational consequences for individuals. It has had damaging consequences for intellectually gifted children from poor homes who have not had the good fortune to be located in catchment areas able to benefit from the “needs-blind” entry opportunities provided by independent schools such as that of Manchester Grammar School, which justify such schools’ charitable status ( -I agree that those independents which do not operate a generous scholarship/bursary policy should not be given charitable status).
    Non-selection, paradoxically, is a divisive policy because (in all but the most rural areas) it produces selection by mortgage or selection by the equally ilLiberal method (the capital letter is deliberate) of religious identity. Apart from very thinly populated rural areas, where all-in schools might be unavoidable and can also be effective because of smaller school populations, would not a system of different types of schools, which cater to different abilities/aptitudes/ interests of pupils, with greater ease of transfer for pupils between different types of school between the ages of 11 and 16, run by apolitical regional authorities, be a more distinctive, successful, popular and Liberal prospectus?
    Returning to LEA control, politically and ideologically driven, maintaining the current lottery element of quality of education provision being dependent on where you live, is not a way forward.
    Martin is right to identify the connection between Ofsted and bullying, third-rate greasy-pole climbers in school senior management – fewer of them, with reduced power over classroom-teacher colleagues, should be intrinsic to a Lib Dem reform programme (and a partial solution to the teacher retention problem.)

  • Jayne Mansfield 10th Aug '18 - 4:27pm

    Top marks for John Marriott’s ideas.

    As with David Raw, I have some reservation about the final idea because of concern about the effect on the children if they were not allowed to progress to secondary school with their friends and peers. Would it not be possible to ensure that those who had not reached the required standard benefitted from the intensive help they needed on admission to a secondary school environment? What did you have in mind to help these children if they stayed in a primary school environment, and why do you think that this would be a better option, John?

  • John Marriott 10th Aug '18 - 8:12pm

    @Christopher Clayton
    Selection at 11: There is already selection in most comprehensive schools; but based on ability in individual subjects. It’s called setting and continues from KS 3 into KS 4 and further. On a personal level, back in 1955, when I took what we in Leicester called ‘The Scholarship’, four boys and six girls passed, with a couple going to Intermediate schools. The rest, around three quarters of the year, went to the local Secondary Modern. Believe me, THEY knew that, according to the mores of the time, they were classed as failures. I live in Lincolnshire where selection at 11 is alive and well. Look at the performances of what used to call themselves ‘County Secondaries’, now more likely ‘Academies’ and you will see a massive difference in terms of the percentage of students getting what the experts called ‘five good GCSEs. I could write a book as to why the comprehensive movement failed to deliver – in fact I reckon I have in previous threads. However, despite the mistakes made since the 1960s I still reckon that we were right back then to work towards the abolition of the 11plus.

    @Jayne Mansfield
    Perhaps the idea of holding students back may be a little harsh; but clearly, any student who leaves formal education without basic literacy and numeracy skills will probably be seriously handicapped for the rest of their lives. This ‘threat’ could be used as a way of ‘encouraging’ all involved to take this problem seriously.

  • nvelope2003 11th Aug '18 - 3:07pm

    Articles about education almost always omit any reference to Independent Fee Paying or Public schools. Is this because, as I suspect, many Liberal Democrats send their own children to them ? If we want to reform the education system it is not the few remaining grammar schools that need to be dealt with which would be like demolishing a Cathedral in case it damaged the interests of nearby churches, but the Independent schools because they are the cause of the most serious social divisions and the class structure in Britain. I do not want them closed down but they must be opened up to those whose parents cannot afford to send their children to them.

    I can see that Liberals will find the idea of banning parents from sending their children to them abhorrent but we have a state education system. Many on here want the railways and other public utilities to be state owned which would mean banning private companies from providing such services so there is no reason to exempt education although the schools could remain autonomous. Germany has Grammar Schools but no 11 plus but maybe something like the Common Entrance exam which is at 13 would need to be retained for Public Schools initially.

    The secondary moderns were for those who did not pass the 11 plus but that did not mean they were failures in life as I know quite a number who enjoyed success later on and also people from the grammar schools who did not. If the 11 plus was abolished it would remove any stigma.

  • Jayne Mansfield 11th Aug '18 - 7:13pm

    @ John Marriott,

    I agree with you. Students without basic literacy and numeracy skill probably will be handicapped for the rest of their lives. That is why it is important to get their education right.

    My concern is that just as failing the 11 plus left many feeling ‘failures’, something that they often could not shake off despite sometimes making successes of their lives. I don’t see how a system that prevents children from primary to secondary school would have anything other than the same effect. So my question would be, who would most suffer from the harsh lesson.

    In the diverse area of London where my grandchildren attend school, my grandchildren started school having had bedtime stories, informative experiences, and a house full of books, plus visits to libraries to choose more, etc. Some of their classmates started school without even the most basic social skills, let alone the building blocks of further learning.

    Schools with committed teachers can achieve added value, but to expect children who have not had the rich experiences of some of the children of middle class professionals at a school, to catch up with their more fortunate peers by the still tender age of eleven , seems to be a big ask. Might not it be the case that keeping them behind in primary school would have a negative impact on their confidence, their self esteem and therefore their learning?

    I have watched as initially keen , often inquisitive little ones, grow into young people who think that academic achievement is ‘uncool’, either as a defence mechanism or through a process of learned helplessness.

    How would the worth of those who have not achieved the standard deemed necessary for transfer to secondary school be maintained? What arrangement do you have in mind? I share your objective but am uncertain whether your proposal is the way forward.

  • John Marriott 11th Aug '18 - 8:48pm

    @Jayne Mansfield
    As a former secondary school modern languages teacher far be it for me to tell my current primary school colleagues how to do their job. However, in France and Germany the idea of repeating a year (‘redoubler’/‘sitzenbleiben’) still applies, as far as I know, at secondary level if not earlier. Your point about ‘middle class parents’ is well made. Unfortunately you don’t need a qualification to become a parent, as far as I know. Perhaps ‘parenthood classes’ ought to feature in the school curriculum; but that might be viewed by many as too ‘nanny statish’, especially for liberals.

    You see, a lot of the damage was done in the 1970s by trusting the education establishment, famously christened by one Mr Gove as ‘the blob’, to deliver comprehensive education. So called ‘child centred education’ has a lot to answer for! Its products are now producing youngsters whose idea of success is to be a soccer or pop star or a contestant on ‘Love Island’. In their social media driven world, where opinions once formed are never changed, most, if not all, answers can be found by pressing a button. I sound very cynical, don’t I?

    A few years ago Nick Lowe sang about being “Cruel to be kind”. Perhaps there’s a grain of truth in that.

  • nvelope2003 11th Aug '18 - 9:37pm

    Bedtime stories, a houseful of books, visits to the libraries ? What kind of world do you people live in ? The only book I recall was the Bible, yet my parents were loving and caring and encouraging and by some miracle I went to the Grammar School and you have taken that chance away for most children yet you see nothing wrong with the well off sending their children to Independent Schools where they will get advantages that no child who goes to a state school will ever have. No wonder the Liberal Democrats and the Labour party are regarded with such suspicion.

    I do have a house full of books now, by the way but maybe a bit late in the day. No one has answered by previous post and I am not surprised. Our former Liberal Democrat MP went to the most expensive school in Britain I have discovered.

  • John Marriott 12th Aug '18 - 9:03am

    The world of bedtime stories and “a house full of books” is the normal world for many people. It’s a pity it’s not the same for all. Sorry if you missed out.

    The problem with grammar schools is that you also get secondary moderns. No disrespect to the many dedicated teachers, who work in them in places like Kent, Lincolnshire etc.; but they do often struggle to get specialist staff and to compete in the every increasingly competitive world of league tables. Despite the problems of the past, comprehensives deliver in terms of academic excellence – as long as they haven’t a grammar school around the corner.

    As for parents sending their children to private schools, that is their right. What I object to is the state (us) giving these schools money indirectly through their status as ‘charities’. A socialist would just abolish them. A liberal surely would not.

    It is true to say that many public schools were struggling to survive in the 1950s and 60s under the tripartite system (which never really was as the technical grammar schools envisaged in the 1944 Education Act failed to materialise in sufficient numbers). The ‘independent’ renaissance had more to do with the idealistically driven way that comprehensive schools were established, particularly in the 1970s. Just because the educational establishment got it wrong doesn’t mean that the concept of all ability schools is wrong. Far from it.

  • Yeovil Yokel 12th Aug '18 - 9:31am

    John Marriott – agree with you. Not only are so-called ‘public’ schools subsidised through their charitable status, but the school fees of the children of armed forces officers (of whom there are many here in the South-West) are subsidised as well. Several non-military people I know have jobs which move them and their families around the country or even around the world and they cope without using private education. Surely, if it justifiable for the children of officers it should be extended to all ranks! Better still, ban these practices, as I resent my taxes being spent on supporting an elitist education for the privileged 7 per cent of children.

  • John Marriott: A houseful of computers and other electronic devices is more likely than books now. In my first post I made it clear that I did not want Independent schools to be abolished but if we are to continue having them on liberal grounds then we need to retain grammar schools for the children of parents who cannot afford school fees in order to reduce the divisive effects of fee paying schools. The very limited response to my post seems to indicate that fee paying schools are popular with Liberal Democrats who are also very keen to see the end of grammar schools as these enable the children of less affluent parents to compete for the better jobs. I do not find this at all satisfactory as a life long Liberal. I am just wondering if I have been living under an illusion about what the party really stands for.

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