Weekly highlights: Teacher pay, SEND and empathy

Tes' round-up from the education world this week features the Covid cost for schools and why spelling tests don't work

Tes Reporter

Tes weekly highlights: The teacher pay freeze, SEND support and empathy

News round-up

As teachers and school leaders prepare to head back to work after the half-term break, they will be anticipating the expected announcement about a wider reopening of schools from 8 March, which the government says will be based on data. To give them a headstart, Tes took a look at what the Covid rates are expected to be on 8 March and what the comparable rates have been in other countries when they decided to reopen schools.

Speculation has been rife over what the prime minister’s roadmap will contain about how schools will return, but one thing is clear: the vast majority of teachers oppose Ofsted’s plan to resume school inspections in the summer term.

Many teachers will be hoping a wider return to classrooms will mean a reduction in work stress that has been caused by remote teaching during lockdown. A survey for Ofsted found that 86 per cent of teachers felt their workloads have increased while schools have been partially closed this term.

Extra work for teachers is likely under plans being drawn up to help pupils catch up with lost learning. However, there are fears that the government's plans will be ineffective: the influential think tank the Education Policy Institute found that Covid catch-up cash promised by the government is "very modest" and "poorly targeted", with less than a third of England's catch-up funding destined to reach poorer pupils.

Tes also revealed that many schools have been struggling to balance their budgets after they were left to cover at least £42 million of extra costs associated with the Covid-19 pandemic during the 2019-20 summer term, with requests for financial help being rejected by the government, despite a fund being made available.

Speaking of cash, teachers and heads' unions hit back at the government this week for dealing "demoralised and undervalued" staff another "kick in the teeth" after the Department for Education revealed that no more than 6,400 teachers would qualify for salary rises this year under its plans. And those who do get a rise would only have £250 added to their salaries.

The unions argue that the pay freeze will further damage serious, entrenched teacher recruitment and retention problems. The DfE acknowledged that the problem is ongoing, when it gave evidence to the pay review body the School Teachers' Review Body, admitting that the uplift in teacher training applications as a result of the pandemic is only a "short-term gain".

Features round-up

There has been a lot of talk, including from the Covid catch-up tsar, about lengthening the school day and increasing "learning time" for students when they return to the classroom.  But has anyone asked how we’re supposed to use these extra hours? Mark Enser looks at the catch-up conundrum.

Despite evidence to the contrary, online interactions don’t actually have to start with “Can you hear me? Oh hang on...there we go...now?” In fact, there's no reason you can’t be creative when welcoming students to online lessons, says teacher Gregory Adam, who offers five interesting approaches to introductions.

School leaders are being pulled in countless directions at the best of times, and that’s never been more the case than during the pandemic. But when it comes to sorting out priorities, empathy should always be top of the list, writes Matt Seddon, who details how his school is keeping a focus on this key skill above all else. 

The remote learning experience has been mixed for autistic young people: some have found the upheaval incredibly difficult, while others have benefited from the lack of crowds and sensory input. So what lessons can we take back to the classroom from this time, asks Ola Malanska.

Children don’t suddenly stop needing support for reading and writing once they leave primary school, yet there is little in the way of resources or training for secondary staff whose students are struggling. Jessica Powell talks to Jessie Ricketts about the challenges many teenagers face and what all teachers – not just those in English departments – should be doing to help.

Exams are supposed to be a fair way to judge learning, but Christina Quaine has found that variations in children’s processing speeds mean some students are disadvantaged by this tool of assessment – leading to inaccurate judgements on learning.

Rote learning an isolated list of spellings in preparation for a weekly test had not led to improvements in her pupils’ independent writing, so Ann Jago decided to abandon the practice and adopt a more integrated approach. She explains how – and how her students responded.

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A one-stop shop for teachers who want to know what impact the ongoing pandemic will have on their working lives.
Tes Reporter 26 Feb 2021