Did I get into teaching to do what I am doing today? I am travelling up to Westminster to help our children and our schools have a voice. We teach them to stand up for justice, we teach them to speak out if something is wrong, we teach them to stand confident and tall. So now it needs to be our turn.
I am privileged to lead a school which will be probably recognised as being in the top ten percent nationally when looking at the GCSE and A level results this year and we are graded as an “outstanding school”. We are proud of all that we achieve and how our students flourish but it is not down to bountiful resources and funding. It is simply down to the relentless dedication and commitment of staff who work in our school and go above and beyond every day to do right by the students they serve. My own children go the school and I need to speak out for them and for your children too all over the country.
I did not get into teaching to have to cut budgets in every department. I did not get into teaching to have to save nearly £400,000 through the anguish of redundancies in the last year alone. I did not get into teaching to have to stand side by side with one thousand Headteachers from all over the country saying our children are not worthless.
Nobody is suggesting money should be taken from one school and given to another. Simply, give schools the funding we need to do the best every day for our children, my own children. For nearly three years we have been in discussion, dialogue and debate with politicians yet in real terms nothing has changed. The recommended pay increases for teachers are welcomed but there is no clarity of how this will be funded and implemented. The recently increased pension contributions will value the contribution that teachers make to society yet we have no clue how we will afford the extra £350,000 that this will cost when we have made all the “efficiency savings” we can.
For me it is not just another political discussion or debate – it is ethical. I am compelled by my own faith to speak out for our school, our students, our staff, our future but ultimately my own children and yours too. They do not deserve second best in an education where they only get one chance.
I got into teaching to make a difference each and every day and I love what I do but enough is enough. We all need to speak with one voice and ensure that schools are funded fairly. If we fail to educate children in our society what future do we have in facing the big issues of Brexit, conflict or division? Let’s tell everyone we can that our children deserve the best opportunities for their lives and ultimately the future of society.
Rob Carter is Headteacher at St Paul’s Catholic College. He is also a National Leader of Education and the school supports educational development nationally and locally including supporting underperforming schools.
The WorthLess? Campaign is a national campaign led by Headteachers to ensure that there is fair funding for education for all schools. 1000 Headteachers are meeting in Westminster and going to No.11 Downing Street to campaign for fair funding for all schools.
Overcoming the challenges we face in education
As leaders we face some of the most significant challenges seen in education. We are at a pivotal time to shape the educational landscape and direction that provides the opportunity to influence a generation far broader reaching then our own temporary custody within individual schools.
The two most significant challenges we face are those provided by the uncertainties of school funding and the need to ensure a deep-rooted focus on recruitment and retention. The question remains what can we do to address these areas that has an impact in all our schools and will we be in a stronger position standing individually or through working in collaboration?
Recruitment and retention – the quality of education is defined not by the amount of time in the classroom or the size of the class but most importantly by the quality of instruction. The defining factor remains the quality of learning, teaching and leadership to ensure progress and that every child makes the most of their potential. Through working together we have the opportunity to develop strategies for professional learning from the “cradle to grave” and ensure that our schools actively track, engage and provide opportunities for talent management and succession planning at all levels.
Financial uncertainty – the one thing that is clear is that there will be continued change and uncertainty within educational finances. We will face these in isolation with potentially catastrophic effects in that some schools may cease to exist or we have the opportunity to ask ourselves what we can do differently or more effectively by working together. This may include contracts, services, capital development, income generation and staffing.
Underlying this is a commitment to looking to embed and develop the school-led system so that there is a strength of voice when we stand together. Currently there is a risk that we are susceptible to political winds of change and we need to overcome this through helping shape our own destiny. We are challenged to establish a way of working in “accountable collaboration” underpinned by peer review, joint curriculum development and defining a shared strategy, vision and direction.
It is here that we have to take a leap of faith, to have the strength and moral conviction to find a path through the challenges that lie ahead. We simply owe it to ourselves, our students and the school communities we serve to find new ways of working together with creativity, commitment and a shared vision and direction. I am sure that if we invest the time and energy to get this right working in a multi-academy trust can achieve this vision and direction.
So it is time to face the challenges and uncertainties head on and discover new ways to solve these challenges standing stronger and better together. Are you ready for the journey?
Some thoughts and notes from the recent conference on leadership in Birmingham. A few questions to consider.
- What feeds, develops and challenges you as a leader?
- How are you committed to continuing to grow and learn?
- What will you to have a relentless focus on simplicity and improvement?
We can’t have a diet of junk food and need to be broad and balanced in what we eat and drink. Perhaps we need the same exercise and commitment in our leadership development. So thanks to those that shared in the journey and I hope we can all find a meaningful way to share the experience when we return to the pace of life in school.
Like many of those preparing for the dawn of a new term I am eagerly anticipating getting back into the routine of school life. As part of this most schools kick off the school year with some pre-season training (or an INSET day or two!). My youngest daughter was easily convinced for a while that this in fact was an INSECT day where teachers would be set free to explore the world around them…
So what could be happening during this time? I hope most schools worth their salt do a few key things…
- Celebrate the successes of the summer – personally (weddings, engagements) and professionally (results and triumphs)
- Take time to welcome new staff and welcome back the trusty team
- Invest in developing one another by learning in some way actively
If none of this happens at your school and you are sitting around listening to presentations ask “how could this be better use of our time?” and suggest some solutions.
I do think the routines of life are useful for us all on a very basic level and this is definitely the case in our family life. We love time together but equally benefit from the contrast and rhythm of school – in essence I look forward to going back and secretly I think my children do too…
As part of our learning as a staff I want to prompt some reflection on learning and how we can understand what is going on at a deeper level.
Would we send our car to a mechanic who knew nothing about how engines work or we be happy to be operated on by a brain surgeon who hadn’t been to medical school?
I am fairly confident, that on different levels, the answer to these questions would be a resounding no.
So why should be any different for anyone working in education to know nothing about how the brain works and functions?
“How brains are built”
“Optimising the Performance of the Human Mind”
“Opera Singer sings during Brain Surgery”
“The learning brain”
“How playing an instrument benefits the brain”
“The human brain”
So maybe this year we should use this time to “set people free to explore the world around them” just like my daughter once thought! Welcome back and have a great year ahead…