‘Badgers move the goalposts’

Sue Williamson, Chief Executive SSAT, writes…

What an amazing headline and story – a government minister’s excuse for not meeting targets. An even better excuse than my dog ate my homework. As a teacher, my sympathies are with the badgers.  It often feels like everyone has lined up to take pop shots at the teaching profession – not a day goes by without some story of a failure of schools to do. I think it is time that we focused on what we do best – helping young people to learn.

This has to be our first priority. If we are successful in doing this and help young people to be critical thinkers, resilient in the face of intellectual challenge, and keen to solve problems, they will be successful in examinations and assessments. Examinations, which they should take, when they are ready – whenever that might be. I am surprised at the number of schools who cancelled November entries because of the situation with league tables.

Over 50% of students are bored in school, according to an OECD survey. One way of rectifying this is for teachers to return to being curriculum designers. The curriculum is not just the national curriculum, there is the school curriculum, and Dylan Wiliam gives some fantastic pointers for how teachers might approach curriculum design in his pamphlet, Redesigning Schooling – 3: Principled curriculum design. Copies are arriving in SSAT member schools this week. I would like to see subject departments agreeing the ten big ideas that their students need to cover and then decide the best way to explore these ideas. Students should be presented with challenging problems with a mixed delivery model – lessons and project-based learning.

Thirdly, we need to think about our own learning. This week we have a group over from the USA – they are all anxious to learn from another system. Schools in England have developed their own CPD programmes and, in many cases, work in consortia. This is great, but we must continue to have a national and international perspective. This is why I am so excited by SSAT’s National Conference in December on ‘the new professionalism’. Two of the world’s leading academics on teaching and learning – Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves – will help school leaders and teachers to define the new professionalism. Michael and Andy’s research is clear that both teachers and schools can improve through collaboration – but only when it’s done in the right way: that is, focused on specific improvement, transparent about practices, and linked to evidence of outcomes. They bring with them the best practice from around the world to help us. The conference will also be crammed full of school showcases demonstrating successful practice.

For me, the conference is the perfect combination of academia and practice–together we will achieve much more.

My hope is that when we look back, this conference is seen as the landmark event when ‘Teachers moved the goalposts’ and defined their profession.

Featured article image on Blog homepage courtesy of Devon Against The Badger Cull.

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