Where's your head at?

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Blog Sync Post: Wasted investment? Why do so many teachers leave the profession in the first 5 years?

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Why would you want to leave here? It’s not just the beaches like this! 

The school playing fields

 

I have been teaching in Jersey for 14 years. When I came to the Island, I was amazed at the bright, healthy young kids put before me for indoctrination in the ‘Jones school of Art’. I was then, and I hope always will be a hardworking, hopefully inspiring and highly motivated teacher.

As soon as I started working here, I was inspired by the ‘no fear’ attitude of the Head teacher, who always encouraged and cajoled me into trying new things to deepen the students learning. Inset was regularly provided to question best practise and develop thinking. I was coming to school, constantly searching to improve and develop the best experiences I could for the students I was teaching. That freedom to nurture the very best learning experiences I could muster was so liberating.

As a school, we clung onto Hargreaves deeper learning experiences and used this to develop where the school was going along with regular visits from the demi god that is Paul Ginnis. It was and still is a really inspiring place to teach. And at the end of the day, I can walk on a beautiful, relatively deserted beach. I have a fairly good standard of living, though my mortgage would make most people choke on their cornflakes. So yes, life as a Jersey teacher is pretty fab.

School sizes are relatively small, especially primary, as are class sizes. There is a real sense of community and understanding of the children in our care.

There is no doubt that the curriculum and expectations of teaching and learning are fare less prescriptive than England. We can have direct access to the Minister for Education and the Director of ESC (Education, Sport & Culture). In fact, we are positively encouraged to have our say in shaping the islands educational future; all teachers had the opportunity to contribute to a green paper about the future direction of educational policy.

Teachers and schools are free to adapt any UK policy to suit the requirements of learners. And what tops this off? What allows the autonomous approach to developing teaching and learning in our schools? Well.. There is NO OFSTED. No threat of inspections, judging my teaching in a twenty minute toe dip experience. No number slapped on me for the pedagogically empty shop window.

This allows me to benchmark my teaching against my ever growing knowledge of teaching and learning. It allows me to develop schemes of work which are slow, about real learning, not shallow performance. But it does also leaves the profession over here in some kind of limbo. Who is there to judge us? For the committed teacher, our own self-critical ability to reflect and ‘keep, grow, change’ what is needed, through being professional, it’s a wonderfully positive environment. But we know that we are not all like this don’t we?

There are times where I wish there was a more professional layer of accountability, because I think it would help some teachers question whether this is the right job for them, or at least further question their teaching ability. I cannot go into too much detail here, for threat of undermining what is essentially a very positive, trusting environment to work in.

 I also read so many outstanding blog posts about learning, but there is almost always a veneer of ‘Ofsted speak’ encroaching on the most eloquent and inspiring reads. It is, however you lot look at it, a huge influence on decision making, lesson design and ‘progress’ in English schools. I read the horror of Ofsted ‘gone wrong’, of potentially great teachers crumbling under the weight of it all. And it’s all down to levels. Levels everywhere. Levels of teaching, levels of health and safety, levels of leadership, levels of value for money, levels of bloody progress. Somewhere in there, learning is poking its head out screaming for recognition, but often it’s lost. The stifling accountability bus is knocking out the Helsinki attitude for so many teachers whom enter the profession, often with such high aspirations.

 The Ofsted regime has lead to some schools adopting a culture of seeking approval, rather than seeking what is really needed for that school, that community of learners. It has also, clearly lead to high levels of pointless stress and worry for some. I read constantly of effervescent young teachers being subjected to over-bearing levels of stress. I guess one of the main reasons teachers don’t leave here is that they know they have the potential to find their own path, not trudge down the well worn path of Ofsted expectations.

The staff car park

But what about exam results, they must be awful without all those strict measures put in place by the government? Well, as an Island, we are usually above the national average. Not by much. And that is a whole other story, which I won’t go into now.

 So, the unavoidable conclusion to the teaching community being a happy place? A relative lack of overbearing stress provided by a local government which trusts teachers to be professional. We are trusted to be the best people to ensure that the children of Jersey are receiving an education which is the best it can be. Of course we are all about that banal phrase ‘Raising Standards’, but we are entrusted to do this through our own development of our pedagogical ideals. Countless, pointless levels of accountability, initiatives and the ‘What Ofsted want’ mentality could not be further from my mind.

Why do teachers NOT leave Jersey? It’s not just the beaches. It’s the lack of pointless pressure and an acceptance that teachers are professionals. Lucky me.

 

Author: Pete Jones

I am primarily an Art teacher, but over the past 5 years have been co-developing an experienced-based learning programme in the school I work in called Pebble, (short for Project Based Learning). I read extensively on learning and education, and I intend to use this blog to record what is going on in my head as well as in the classroom. Hopefully I will be able to share resources and ideas with like-minded thinkers in the future. The Pebble course runs through the whole of Year 8 for 5 periods a week. I am desperate for our world wide education system to catch up with the way we live our lives. Transformation of what we learn in schools and how we learn in schools is desperately overdue. Pebble is a skills centered curriculum with the focus very much on what students need to be successful learners, giving them valuable, deep learning experiences to boot.

3 Comments

  1. Excellent blog Pete. I think that the punitive accountability of OFSTED is debilitating the education system in England. The ‘OFSTED speak’ and the slavish adherence to the latest supposed whim of the inspectorate is tiring and ultimately highly distracting. It does appear, reading between the lines, that there is an issue when you don’t have accountability measures in place. I think that completely autonomous accountability is problematic – but I do think there is a middle way in terms of local partnerships and peer accountability. I have seen a lot on Twitter recently posing alternative models, across the political divide. Perhaps a Royal College of Teachers can become a viable bridge between schools and external accountability. As made clear in your prescient blog – the current system is broken – on that we can all agree.

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  3. Hi Alex,
    So sorry its taken so long to reply. Sadly I don’t have a solution to fix the current problems, but a constructive two-way dialogue has to happen for us to feel trusted and to trust those ‘above’ us. This seems to have broken down and with Gove dictating, there seems to be little chance of this improving. A Royal College of Teachers sounds like a great plan and I know some great people whom I’m sure could really help bridge the accountability divide. Thanks as ever for your comments.

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