No-one could deny that the past few years have been years of momentous change in education policy, and 2014 continued that trend. Any attempt to review it is bound to miss things, but I thought I’d give it a go, all the same. It was the year in which book scrutinies became the new lesson observations, and pay went up just as Gove went down.
The year began (if, dear teacher, you can conceive of a year beginning in January) with plenty of turmoil to deal with. Teachers were trying to get to grips with the new National Curriculum in preparation for September, leaders were battling with the proposed introduction of Free School Meals for infants. Things were not great for the department either – it was confirmed that one of the first primary school free schools was to be shut down.
The obligatory Ofsted changes revolved largely around Behaviour & Safety.
The NAHT released its report into the new landscape for assessment in schools. Having known for some time that levels were to be dropped, the department still hadn’t come up with any indication of what was to replace them, leaving schools somewhat in the lurch.
The STRB also published a report which led us to breathe a sigh of relief. The body had turned down Gove’s suggestions that limits on working hours be scrapped along with specified PPA and cover limits. It almost felt like a turning point.
Finally, the DfE released the long-awaited survey into teachers’ working hours showing that primary school teachers work an average of a 59-hour week. No surprises there then.
As teachers from the NUT were on strike again, the department finally got around to telling us what assessment would look like at the end of KS1 and KS2 – although as ever it raised more questions than answers, some of which still remain! We also heard from Ofsted the first of its proposals to reduce the stakes in inspections of existing Good/Outstanding schools.
Liz Truss used a speech to proclaim the new freedoms being given to schools, including on assessment, seemingly ignorant of the restrictions that the latest release would bring. She also reignited the debate about textbooks with a simplistic call in support. The QTS debate rose once again – rather tiresomely.
The obligatory Ofsted changes revolved largely tweaks to subsidiary guidance.
As Year 6s sat down for tests with misprints on the instructions and not a calculator in sight, panic started to set in for all schools about the September to come. It also became clear that it wasn’t only classroom teachers who lacked answers: the DfE didn’t seem that sure of many things, either.
As the rumblings in Birmingham continued, we started to hear the first mootings of the need for teaching ‘British values’ in our schools. We also heard that from 2019, there will be new infant league tables! It was also the month in which we heard that we would get a 1% pay increase this year – with some exceptions!
Where were you?
There can’t be many teaching colleagues who don’t recall the day that the news came that Gove was gone. As if July weren’t sweet enough in schools, the news led to shouts of joy, messages on staffroom whiteboards and even the occasional cake, I gather.
Interestingly, the department chose the same day to release the sample questions for the new KS1 and KS2 tests, perhaps in the hope we wouldn’t notice how mean they seemed!
Traditionally a quiet month for news, and not least in education. For some reason, this is when I discovered that the NAHT had quietly released its excellent model framework for assessment without levels.
The obligatory Ofsted changes were a more significant overhaul, including the scrapping of lesson observation grades.
The real new year began with a new curriculum, new SEND code of practice, the free school meals fiasco and plenty of other changes to contend with. Ofsted started launching no-notice inspections for a host of reasons, including not having the right information on your school website! It also became increasingly clear that the pace of change regarding the curriculum had been too quick even for the DfE, leading to several cock-ups.
An election must be looming. October saw the launch of the DfE’s Workload Challenge survey, and Ofsted released its clarification document (along with a consultation on more major changes to inspection). The DfE also announced the Early Years Pupil Premium.
The release of funding information showed that secondary school funding continues to be massively higher than primary funding. More pre-election promises included the continuation of higher funding for Primary Pupil Premium funding.
It’s hard to know what’s worst: the new-found need for teaching ‘character’ in school, or the need for government to get involved in the government-free College of Teaching, or the fact that this month brought yet another list of changes to inspection published on the last day of term. Roll on 2015 and an election year for more fun and games?
Perhaps we should be grateful that Ofsted at least thinks we’re not as bad as secondary schools.