The sheer level of scrutiny in the primary sector is enough to make me scream

15th June 2012 at 01:00
All the checks on teachers and their practice make you question the real intention

Primary teachers are hugely over-monitored in their work, if my colleagues across the country are to be believed. From conversations I have had with fellow teachers and read in online discussion forums, this seems to be a growing phenomenon. Of course we have a duty to check the quality of the teaching and learning that is taking place, but look at what are we checking, and how often.

It starts at teaching college. Students on four-year courses are put on placements in schools, monitored by their class teachers and cross-checked by a staff tutor from the college.

If successful, the student graduates as a probationer teacher, is placed once more in a school and has nine "observed lessons" throughout the next year, with the additional watchful eye of an assigned mentor, who is more often than not a valued member of the senior management team, whose experience and skills are ideally suited to this purpose, bringing forth guidance and illumination on discipline, forward planning, assessments, recording and reporting. If successful, the probationer is granted full registration and, if exceedingly lucky, secures a full-time job. All the past experiences are bearing fruit.

As a fully fledged and enthusiastic member of staff, what can this new teacher expect now? Forward plans are submitted and scrutinised regularly. Feedback on these is given orally and in writing by the senior management team, and staffstage meetings are held regularly to discuss ongoing curricular involvement. The head andor depute are also likely to visit the classroom several times in any school term, allowing for first-hand observation of how things are going. Then there are the "official" monitoring visits by the SMT each term, and a period of "peer" monitoring (a "cosy" type of observation).

There will then be the local authority's annual quality assurance monitoring, possibly even an establishment review, closely followed, it often seems, by a visit from Education Scotland - that's HMIE in old- speak. And there will be a check listtick-box to be filled in as this hierarchy becomes more remote - you might or might not see it, but it will be there.

Now is it just me, or does that seem a tad over the top? It appears that we are not being trusted - classroom teachers or SMT - to do a good job. What are those who are responsible for such policymaking hoping to achieve by such continuous scrutiny? Enthusiastic, collegiate, progressive working practices, where both pupil and teacher are thriving? A rewarding educational experience tailor-made for the individual?

And just to put the cat among the pigeons - my other half is a secondary teacher. He doesn't seem to know what I'm talking about.

Carolyn Ritchie is a primary teacher in Glasgow.

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