Editorial: Grit, grammars and Gove: your teaching year

19th December 2014 at 00:00

They say that everyone who is old enough can remember where they were when they heard about the assassination of John F Kennedy. Similarly, many will remember what they were doing when England beat Germany 5-1 or Jason Orange walked out on Take That.

For a large majority of teachers in this country, the moment they learned that Michael Gove's tenure as education secretary was at an end was the same - I bet you know exactly how and when you were told the news. So, my list of things we learned about teachers and teaching in 2014 begins thus:

1. There is no limit to the profession's obsession with Michael Gove. A bit like Keyser Sze, the idea of him overtook the reality.

But what else can we glean from these past 12 months of extraordinary educational change?

2. Thankfully for education journalists, teachers are almost as preoccupied with Sir Michael Wilshaw's reign at Ofsted as they were with Mr Gove.

3. Workload, workload, workload. Everyone already knew that teachers' work-life balance was becoming untenable, but this was the year that most people - even senior politicians - realised that something had to be done.

4. Just when you think the corpse of the 11-plusgrammar school debate has twitched its last twitch, it springs back to life like Christopher Lee in a Hammer horror movie.

5. The ability of headteachers, teachers and pupils to successfully swim against an endless tide of curriculum, exam and Ofsted accountability reform knows no bounds. This is being stress-tested to the limit but the line appears to be holding. For the moment.

6. When it comes to levels, you don't know what you've got until it's gone. Their sudden abolition has left many a school adrift. They weren't perfect but they were better than anarchy.

7. The nation's finances remain more knackered than anyone could have imagined (especially George Osborne). Whatever the political persuasion of the next government, schools are going to be squeezed and squeezed and squeezed until the pips squeak.

8. Vital as it may be to local democracy, accountability and school improvement, very few people can summon the strength to become impassioned about the so-called "middle tier".

9. No one who actually works in education has any faith in the validity of most external exam results any more. Which, let's be honest, makes everything you do really rather difficult.

10. Teachers, it turns out, are responsible for creating resilient, mindful, determined worker bees who will ensure the future of this country. You might have thought that teaching was about imparting important knowledge that would help young people in exams and in later life, but you'd be wrong - you are the guardians of their entire personality.

And that's all I have space for. Of course, this daft inventory barely touches on the issues facing education, so if you want to add to it please get in touch. I reckon, however, that as we reach the end of the Longest Term you'd much rather put your feet up and have a large gin, or perhaps a nice cup of tea. As you doze off, try not to dream about Michael Gove.

Merry Christmas from everyone at TES.



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