I blog these days, not as a representative of any single institution, but as a member of a wider community of educators, to which, despite the challeges, I feel privileged to be a member. Today, my blog is a plea. It’s focused on a very specific issue which I know has been playing on many of our minds, but it is also a broader entreaty to continued collaboration and solidarity.
The last ten years, successive governments (and no, I don’t blame just one party) have presided over a growing fragmentation of our education system. Free Schools, Academies, London-centred funding and initiatives, have come alongside a focus on ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’. I believe that words like this should be used with prudence when it comes to education. As I have said elsewhere, it makes me sad that education is used as a political pawn in the UK, unlike in other countries like France and Germany, where certain values and structures remain solid, regardless of the government in power.
But we are where we are, and I, like many of my colleagues, remain stubbornly optimistic. But I can’t hide my growing unease over the issue of assessment at levels in the light of the effective ‘abolition’ of NC levels last year. No, I don’t think these were fit for purpose, and yes, I do see this as a real positive opportunity to come up with a model more suited to our unique communities of students. And yes, I know that there are many people doing excellent work in this area – amongst others, @AlisonMPeacock, @dan_brinton, @Pekabelo and @shaun_allison and I absolute salute what they are doing. I am also one of the lucky ones who gets to cherry-pick their ideas for use in my own context. But I am really concerned about the void that has been left behind.
I have met some of the most inspirational teachers and leaders through Twitter, online networks and TeachMeets. I also know that there are many more inspirational educators who continue to work outside these networks, in addition to schools who may or may not be struggling to meet the ever-changing goalposts that are set for schools. And I’m worried – I’m worried that the gap is growing. I’ve always been a massive opponent of wheel-reinvention – I ban my trainee teachers from EVER designing their own animal Powerpoint; use one of the thousands out there! That said, I don’t deny the unique characteristics of every setting and the need for the time, reflection and effort which goes into finding the right framework for our own students.
So what am I ‘pleading’ for? Well, in a way (and on a serious note), I sense a real career opportunity for somebody. Somebody urgently needs to centralise these resources and use both traditional AND contemporary communications to get them out there to ALL schools. Generally, I’m one of life’s volunteers, but this isn’t a role for me – because I’m not an expert and wouldn’t pretend to be, and because I know others who would be far better placed to get this going.
I’m not talking about a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach – we all know this doesn’t work – but perhaps of a series of models which schools could take, tweak and adapt for their own context. But I simply don’t buy that ‘it’s up to each school’ argument. I believe that working in isolation is not only a waste of time and effort, but that it risks leading effectively to a ‘lottery’ for our young people as to the quality of assessment they receive. And it’s all about them, in the end.
And despite my belligerence on this, I actually don’t want people to say I’m right – I would be hugely relieved, as would thousands of others, if someone came on here and said, ‘silly Emma – you’ve missed a whole initiative that everyone else knows about!’
Now, more than ever, teachers need to work together. We have, between us, a formidable array of talent and inspiration and the tools to give ALL of our students the very best we can. But to do this, we need to get some proper communication in place. And quickly!