How dare they?

I arrived home fairly late this evening, and am writing this still having not even got round to removing my tie. Let this be an indication of my fury.

I don’t imagine that many education ministers know who I am, and any who do are probably not too fussed about upsetting me. I try my best to work productively with the department as a member of its Teacher Reference Group*, and try to have an understanding of the challenges of government, rather than just being a moaner.

But enough is enough.

The way the whole curriculum and assessment débacle has been handled over the past few years has been beyond chaotic, and despite all the positive words about workload and timescales, it seems that the department or its ministers continues to have a complete disregard for the profession.

Schools and local authorities are in a state of confusion about assessment after levels, and this is repeatedly exacerbated by the actions of the department. In recognition of this problem, Nick Gibb announced an Assessment Commission to “support primary and secondary schools with the transition to assessment without levels”. It seems that the government had failed to notice that the transition should already have happened – the new curriculum is coming to the end of it first year. But more to the point, having received a report from the commission, it seems that the department has decided to sit on it over the summer.

No explanation is offered. No apology for the further chaos (although I fully expect a “I make no apology…” speech from Mr Gibb in due course). No further information is provided about what can be expected. It appears that someone in the department has decided that despite all the problems already caused, despite the clear implications for workload, despite the protocol demanding lead-in times of at least a year, that politics is more important than education.

I sat in a Teacher Reference Group meeting barely two week ago where many of these issues were raised. Repeatedly we were told by representatives from the department that ministers were “acutely aware” of the challenges schools were facing. Well, it appears that they are aware, but indifferent.

How dare they?

How dare a department which has foist immeasurable change on its schools; a department which has repeatedly caused delay and confusion; a department which has continually claimed to be supportive of the profession – make a decision such as this, about such long-awaited guidance, and fail even to properly inform the profession of its actions.

If this post appears irate, forgive me. I feel cheated personally. I have repeatedly told people over recent months to be reassured about their direction of travel. Over and again I have advised good leaders to take comfort from the forthcoming report, reassured that a good band of professionals would offer much-needed clarity and confidence at this time of massive upheaval. To all of them I apologise. It turns out that the repeated denigrations of the department which I have attempted to quell were well-founded. It really does appear that ministers care not a jot for the workload implications, the professional implications, or even the educational implications for hundreds of thousands of school pupils. The whole process feels like sticking two fingers up at the profession, and it stinks.

How dare they?


*Of course, I may cease to be a member of the TRG pretty quickly after this post.

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16 thoughts on “How dare they?

  1. Debbie Thomas 16 July 2015 at 8:29 pm Reply

    I couldn’t agree more.
    It also suggests someone, perhaps, didn’t like what the commission had to say?
    Either way, it is infuriating to be left this way over the summer when we might have had a chance to digest and plan.
    Two fingers indeed.

  2. Karen 16 July 2015 at 8:44 pm Reply

    I really feel your anger! You have been positive and generous of spirit all year, many teachers and children have already benefited from your work and wisdom, hang on in there!! Enjoy the summer break!

  3. mmiweb 16 July 2015 at 9:28 pm Reply

    Micheal, this is not the first time that we have had such action from this legislation yet along from others but I share your frustration and we know who will get the blame where there are the ongoing problems with assessment and with the proposed first SAT tests less than a year away. Like Debbie we can only assume that the assessment commission was not “on message” enough for Gibb – who is an odious little toad; though even if they had published this is a bit of a slap with the expectation that the teachers (who they keep expressing understanding for their workload) would spend the summer doing this rather than getting a bit of energy back into their systems for whatever c**p they come up with in September be it Teach Last (I mean, really!), new assessment, mathematically impossible targets, another denial of the recruitment / retention crisis or the imposition of free school status on all schools.

  4. Kylie 16 July 2015 at 9:48 pm Reply

    We’ve had far too many staff meetings taken up with assessment this year. I now have parents coming in confused about their children’s reports. Working below, working towards, working at – 80% 85% 90%? No school is doing the same everyone is so confused. Children used to understand levels themselves if they’re ‘working at’ where do they go next? At least with levels they had a clear ladder to climb. If they’re working below, they’ll most always be stuck as working below – how rubbish will that make them feel. Assessment seems a disaster. I feel oddly glad to be moving to a school who haven’t changed from levels.

    • Michael Tidd 17 July 2015 at 8:24 am Reply

      I’m afraid that those problems are due to bad assessment design in your school. Levels didn’t offer that clarity for children at all, just the illusion of it.
      But your point is evidence that too few schools are equipped to design assessment systems entirely independently these days, and so this sort of guidance is sorely needed

      • Kylie 17 July 2015 at 12:20 pm Reply

        Thank-you – that makes more sense. That guidance is definitely needed.

  5. Mark 16 July 2015 at 10:10 pm Reply

    Totally agree. We also get this from dfe today in an email …………………
    We are aware that schools are waiting for additional information about changes to the national curriculum tests and assessments to be introduced for the next academic year. We are still awaiting some ministerial decisions, in particular in relation to teacher assessment. We will let you know in September, as more information becomes available.

    Great! makes a complete mockery of the workload consultation and shows how out of touch with the real world they are

  6. thinshadow 16 July 2015 at 10:10 pm Reply

    Ever since I fell upon your twitter handle and followed your blog, you have consistently been positive about the changes. You not only suggested that the changes to the curriculum and assessment would be difficult, you also provided a decent bank of information for parents and teachers to absorb. This was done with the aim of reducing the pending confusion for those within the profession. I totally understand your frustration and stand by your decision to vent, with your tie still on. In our school, we took the risk of moving away from levels with the prospect of guidance from Government arriving after the first year. Well it looks like this might not happen. We will continue the ongoing dialogue in staff and leadership meetings on what progress actually looks like and how we will assess it in this new age of the curriculum. I for one would like to thank you for all your help so far, even if they don’t know who you are.

  7. teachwell 16 July 2015 at 10:18 pm Reply

    Fair play Michael – like the poster before me said you have been as positive as you can – even when you have disagreed with changes or the pace, you have tried your best to be constructive and not just moan. I certainly wouldn’t have taken you for that. I agree that it seems the commission’s findings may not be to the ministers liking or it has suddenly been decided that it needs to be part of something else. However, even if they did not agree with the commissions findings then at least say why and call another emergency commission or something. I mean the SoS has the power to do so. I think that a lot of announcements have been made at the end of term – see Nick Gibbs latest speech, Wilshaw’s announcement about 2 year olds. I hope you have a good break – I have no doubt you deserve it!!

  8. HT Bruce 16 July 2015 at 10:31 pm Reply

    Sometimes indignation is the only reaction. Like here, perhaps. Keep up the great work.

  9. Village Headteacher 17 July 2015 at 10:32 pm Reply

    Couldn’t we for once use the Internet for some good? Flood Dame Alison Peacock’s Twitter account with requests to leak the report. She is a headteacher, she must understand this is unacceptable. Use social media for some good.

  10. Claire 27 July 2015 at 12:39 am Reply

    They did exactly the same with the EYFS not long ago; that was equally as nightmarish – implementation with no guidance or feedback from trials until 3/4 months of already using the document! At least with the EYFS, there is uniformity within it – every child across the country is either emerging, expected or exceeding. (As Aleksandr Meerkat would say -‘Simples!’)

    Aside from the limited guidance, which twonk decided that schools can choose whatever assessment system they want? Child A being assessed by their school as proficient in Band 4, and the same child being levelled as a Level 10 by the school across the road. Apples and oranges.

    Workload and timescales?? I’m sure they’ll be taking advice from Jeremy Hunt – oops, sorry we teachers already have the weekend working covered. Night shifts maybe? At least the lack of information frees up some more quality time for us all over the holidays. Enjoy!

  11. Helen Perry 9 August 2015 at 11:16 am Reply

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/wzl6ycooh8pwflo/assessmentcommissionjune15.docx?dl=0

    I’m sure you have read this leaked draft report by now.

  12. […] Core Content, the delay in accrediting GCSEs that are already being taught, the total mess over KS2 assessment guidance, and the debacle over KS1 baseline assessments are some examples that show that even the DfE […]

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