Important Curriculum Memo

Memo: From Head Office

RE: Curriculum

Salutations,

As an organisation we’ve always prided ourselves on being ahead of the curve, and by ‘curve’ we mean twitter and by ‘ahead’ we mean stumbled across a blog. So, it will be of no surprise to many of you that we have recently decided to take an interest in curriculum.

For too long we have ignored the wider curriculum; unless of course an inspection was going well and we had nothing else to talk about, or an inspection was going badly and we thought it would be fun to stick the boot in. And, as schools seem to be getting the hang of securing higher and higher standards (off-rolling the thickies), managing challenging behaviour (off-rolling the poor) and meeting children’s needs (off-rolling the specials) we thought now would be a good time to give them something else to worry about.

We were going to choose research. That seems quite popular at the moment. You can’t hardly move without some thought-gibbon promoting their latest research discovery – apparently noticing stuff you like in your own classroom qualifies as robust research nowadays. But, given the surge in books being written by anyone who has once taken a register, we thought better of it.

Then we thought we could focus on work-life balance. This is a thing, apparently. Honestly, teachers nowadays. I remember when PPA was the time it took your pupils to down a milk and have a nap in the afternoon.

No, the thing to focus on is the one thing schools haven’t thought about for years: curriculum. For those new to us, curriculum is the thing that happens in schools after maths and English, in between PE and home time. It should be the bedrock of a pupil’s time at school, where children learn everything, and I mean EVERYTHING…to do with Henry VIII, photosynthesis and the war.

Now, the moment we leaked the possibility we’d finally be giving a Farage & Johnson* about what schools are teaching children, the education world went into meltdown. As predicted, we saw three types of reaction:

  1. Our school has spent the last five years establishing a well-defined and carefully implemented schema based on a deep analysis of our school community and the needs of our children.
  2. Our school has just bought a curriculum that promises to be a well-defined and carefully implemented schema which also comes with its own homework app.
  3. What the hell is a schema?

In order to support schools with their curriculum design it is important that, as an organisation, we have a clear and consistent line about what it is we expect to see in schools. We must be transparent and offer schools a consistent and easy-to-understand message that cannot be misinterpreted or misconstrued. To do this we will use words. Three of them to be precise: Intent, Implementation and Impact. These three words – Intent, Implementation and Impair – will help guide schools and make it clear what we want to see. In no way could these three words – Iguana, Icarus and Imbecile – be given to misinterpretation or confusion.

Already, we have seen schools make leaps and bounds with their curriculum design, but there are a few pitfalls that we need to be aware of. The first is Artificial Symbiotic Schema (ASS). A curriculum with a hefty ASS is one that is likely to contain a range of links and curriculum call-backs that are dafter than a DfE pledge to increase school funding. In short, the more convoluted the links (We learn about the madness of King George III in Year 5 which links back to our work in Year 1 on identifying nut trees) the bigger the ASS the school will make of itself when we come to visit.

With that in mind, please remember that we do not expect schools to have their curriculum ready by the beginning of next year. No, that would be ridiculous. Any outstanding school has an infinite number of years to get their curriculum in order, any good school should seek to have their curriculum ready within the next four years, and RI schools must have a brand new curriculum in place within the next half an hour. Inadequate schools don’t deserve a new curriculum so just continue giving them hell as per.

That concludes this memo. I have condensed all the key points into a knowledge organiser (word bank) for you to memorise before lining your cat litter tray with it. I’ll also be uploading a vlog, where I will be jogging through my local high street whilst recording my sweaty face speaking confidently to you about everything I believe to be right.

What a time to be alive.

*two sh*ts

Heading for Headship

I thought you might be interested to learn that the entire first series of the spoof professional development programme Heading for Headship is now available as an album.

The clever swines at @brainEDcomedy have put them out, as a collection, on SoundCloud and on their website.

This way you don’t have to wade through all of that Inside the DfE and HFH HQ special report nonsense. You can just head straight to Heading for Headship and enjoy six episodes in one go.

Each episode is sure to have you in at least one stitch per show. So that’s six entire stitches across the series.

E01: Well-being . Our intrepid reporter, Jonathan Monkton, witnesses some whole staff yoga which doesn’t exactly help teachers manage their workload.

E02: Behaviour. Listen to the parent reactions when they learn about the new ‘no excuses‘ policy being implemented in their children’s school.

E03: Teaching. Be amazed at the technical innovation one Headteacher brings to lesson observations.

E04: Accountability. Find out how one school’s appraisal system ensures that everyone has the same target.

E05: Community. What does it take to plan a school summer fayre. Sadly, one headteacher is going to find out.

E06: The end. The HFH HQ switchboard is buzzing as the team try to support schools in coping with the end of the year.

All that, plus… so much more!

So get cracking and head on down to www.brainedcomedy.com or listen to each episode via SoundCloud.

Don’t forget to follow @brainEDcomedy on Twitter and subscribe to their podcast. It’s available on i-tunes, SoundCloud, Google podcasts, and any other podcast server you wish to mention.

But most of all listen and enjoy!

Spineless

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When our education minister proudly announced, in late July, that teachers on the main pay scale would be getting a partially funded 3.5% pay increase I was really pleased. In fairness, it was the end of the school year and I was really tired. You could have told me that a cat had just vomited into one my shoes and I would have been grateful that at least I still had one unsoiled brogue meaning that I could at least hop home.

Headteachers were lamenting the fact that the pay rise was not fully-funded. Damian had presumed that schools would already be budgeting a 1% increase and the government would pick up the rest of the tab. But what about those schools who could not afford that 1% increase? At the time, I shrugged my shoulders and gave up my offering to the great big Business Manager in the sky so that my school was able to budget for that 1%. Selfish, I know. But it was the first day of the school holidays and I was really tired. You could have told me that a seagull had emptied its bowels all over the roof of my car and I would have winked and been grateful I’d never bought that convertible.

Then there were the debates about those teachers on the upper-pay and leadership scales. Why were they being penalised? I absentmindedly tweeted that I was OK with this and that I was just pleased that those at the lower end of the pay scales were getting a well-deserved pay rise. In fairness, it was the start of the holiday and I was still really tired. You could have told me that a dog had piddled over my summer suit and I would have calmly said that it was August now so I wouldn’t be needing that any more as it was time to unpack my heavy woollen tweed three-piece and my waterproof cape.

As the summer holiday began and the pressures of school life retreated and became as distant a memory as an electable left-wing opposition party, I began to engage with those people who were not happy with Damian’s summer gift. I saw their point. Those teachers who were just stepping up were being penalised and it wasn’t fair. My initial relaxed stance on the matter was born out of my own very personal circumstances: I live on my own and have no dependants, therefore my salary is fine, for me. Not only have hundreds (thousands?) of teachers been significantly affected by the recent years of pay freezes but now there is no real financial incentive to develop their careers.

And then I was alerted to another little tit-bit of information about the pay increase that had passed me by. The pay rise is not for all teachers on the main pay scale. It’s only for those at either end – the bottom and the top. Those teachers who are in between will have to make do with a 1% increase (as long as their schools have budgeted for that, of course.) When I first read this, I thought it was a mistake. My memory of the news headlines were all about how it was ‘a fully funded pay rise of up to 3.5% – or between £800 and £1,366 – for classroom teachers on the main pay range’. I don’t remember Damian opening his blow-hole and saying that his wonderful news only applied to those teachers just starting out or those who had reached M6.

But the more I read the more it dawned on me that when Damian spoke of ‘teachers’ he meant ‘some teachers’ and when he talked about the ‘main pay range’ he meant ‘a bit of the main pay range’. This therefore does not mean that teachers on the upper pay scale or leadership scale have been pitted against those on the main pay scale. What it means is that it’s the NQTs and M6s against the world. It’s like an educational Hunger Games where the young and the weak must join forces with the old and weary as they do battle against the embittered but ambitious middle leaders when it’s time to buy a round in the pub on Friday nights.

Unless, of course, schools have done more than just budgeted for a 1% pay rise of all staff. Maybe they have budgeted a 1% pay rise for M1 and M6 and a 3.5% pay rise for all the teachers in between. Or maybe we can pay our staff in supermarket coupons?

Either way, you have to hand it to the current government, because they have played an absolute blinder. And, fair play to the Tories, because they have been playing the long game more than I would have thought was possible. If we go back to when Gove decided to tear apart teachers’ pay and conditions and replace it with more ‘freedoms’ that allowed schools to set their own pay spines, he must have known that he was making it impossible for any future minister to award a universal pay rise for all teachers. Why? Because his freedoms brought about a convenient unknowing.

Think about it. As soon as schools were able to set their own pay increments (and lots of schools did go pay and conditions crazy) it meant that nobody knew what a teacher in, let’s say their third year, was getting paid because it would all depend on their individual school’s pay policy. By allowing schools to play about with the scales, Gove ensured that those teachers trapped in the middle would be at the mercy of austerity ridden politics.

What’s more, he did it in a way so that when teachers do not receive an advertised pay rise, it’s not the government’s fault. Because how can the treasury agree to a universal pay rise when they have no idea what the majority of teachers are getting paid from school to school? So, all the minister can do is to award it to what is known: the top and the bottom. If anyone else wants a piece of the action, then go ask your school’s Executive Board. Either way, it’s your fault for being mid-way through your career, or its your school’s fault for not having any money languishing in an off-shore high interest saving account.

Maybe I’ve read it all wrong. Maybe I’ve got the wrong end of the stick. To be fair, it’s the end of the holidays and I’m quite tired because I had to get up at ten o’clock to buy some pick’n’mix. I hope I am wrong and that this blog didn’t need to be written. I hope so because I don’t fancy having to choose between giving lots of teachers a pay rise they deserve (and which is in line with some of their colleagues) or pushing my school into a massive deficit.

If I am right though, I’ll still be tired. I’ll be tired of feeling like I’m walking around in cat-sick filled shoes in a dog-piss stained suit with seagull crap on my head. Which translates as being tired of spineless politicians waxing lyrical about their half-baked efforts to improve a profession they clearly have no respect for, in an attempt to con the public that they’re doing a decent thing.