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Dear madam: Letters to the editor 15/3/19

In this week's postbag of letters to the editor, Tes readers discuss abusive parents and our obsession with data

Dear madam: letters to the editor 15/3/19

In this week's postbag of letters to the editor, Tes readers discuss abusive parents and our obsession with data

I blame the DfE for abusive parents

As somebody with 14 years of experience on senior teams, I’m sure I am not the only one who feels that parental behaviour has significantly worsened in recent years. In the past few weeks, I have witnessed staff being threatened and sworn at publicly and being vilified on social media platforms.

On one occasion, the headteacher went to assist his staff and faced the same treatment. I am sad to say that this culture is being fed by the Department for Education, Ofsted and other public bodies, which are only too willing to listen to baseless complaints from parents who have behaved in an appalling manner towards school staff. It has to stop. Whatever happened to respect for teachers?

Stephen Gray
Deputy headteacher

Children turned into data

“Schools – don’t be slaves to data, says governor” (8 March, subscribers can read the article here) certainly resonated with my experience at my previous school.

As English lead, I was expected to conduct numerous checks. There were book scrutinies; copious checks on planning (has the teacher planned for shared reading – with differentiated questioning and themed instruction on different areas of expectation?); spelling lessons; grammar themes taught throughout week (with evidence in writing); coverage of a range of genres in weekly writing (taught over a few weeks to show development); drama opportunities; interesting lessons and so on.

The subject was also tested regularly and results linked with teacher assessment would be put into the data system. I would then discuss results with teachers to understand where there were gaps or drops in data to understand why and what could be put in place to support, where necessary. So imagine how disheartened I would feel when being called for my meeting with the headteacher to go through the data. Any time I would try to explain or “justify” data, I was met with, "Don’t make excuses." The same head talked about performance-related pay with a real expectation that the school should meet the very high percentages set for English and maths regardless of the cohort. 

Therefore, year groups began to fiddle data to show the expected data, Year 6 teachers would despair as children withmuch-inflatedd data from previous years were then coming to them to be judged on pure test results. Then there was the mammoth task of dragging these children through the Sats. How is this allowed to go on?

Surely data is only a small part of the story? And it is nothing without the discussion around it. Nick Campion’s article spoke volumes to me about how data is being revered or misused to represent our children as a commodity to be squeezed through an education machine.

We should be discussing the huge achievements that some children make (although their results cannot add benefit to our data).  We should have the opportunity to reflect and give reason for fluctuations in results – it is only natural. And yet we are all held accountable to the numbers. It’s what takes the life out of teaching and turns children and their wonderful differences into a collective of results and data. What damage are we doing?

Name and address supplied





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