New Teacher’s Standards – how they can be manipulated

Everyone is asking me about the new teacher’s standards which came into force on 1st Sep 2012. You can view the official document via the link below. 

While the general consensus is that they are simpler and more concise, I refuse to believe that, in the current climate of bashing and bullying teachers to within an inch of their life, these changes are anything but bad news.

I’m playing devil’s advocate in this post and showing you how your senior managers can manipulate and interpret the new teachers standards to catch you out. I’m probably going to come across as very negative and very cynical, but I guarantee these are the things you will be encountering in the next academic year during your performance appraisals.

1 Set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils
• establish a safe and stimulating environment for pupils, rooted in mutual respect
• set goals that stretch and challenge pupils of all backgrounds, abilities and dispositions
• demonstrate consistently the positive attitudes, values and behaviour which are expected of pupils.
This first point is open to manipulation firstly on the ‘mutual respect’ point. If a student does not respect you, as students generally tend not to, then it is your responsibility. Also, I’m concerned about the last point, which states you must demonstrate certain behaviours, without stating what those behaviours are. Senior management are free to make up what they are retrospectively, so that you can be told you are not demonstrating something which you had no idea you were supposed to be.

2 Promote good progress and outcomes by pupils
• be accountable for pupils’ attainment, progress and outcomes
• be aware of pupils’ capabilities and their prior knowledge, and plan teaching to build on these
• guide pupils to reflect on the progress they have made and their emerging needs
• demonstrate knowledge and understanding of how pupils learn and how this impacts on teaching
• encourage pupils to take a responsible and conscientious attitude to their own work and study.
The first point here states outright that you are solely responsible for students attainment in it’s entirety, and therefore implies that the student isn’t responsible at all. So that a student that makes no progress and doesn’t achieve very much through their own means will still mean that you are in trouble. The last point also starts with the word ‘encourage’ which to me states that you merely need to try to get them to be conscientious, but I know that senior managers will interpret this as you have to achieve a conscientious attitude in students.
Finally, the fourth point is far far too vague for my liking, and whether you have achieved this or not will need to be entirely based on an opinion rather than any evidence. It seems to imply you need a knowledge of all the latest faddy pedagogy and how to apply it, so if you do want evidence, senior managers can find one you’re not using and claim you have no knowledge of it.

3 Demonstrate good subject and curriculum knowledge
• have a secure knowledge of the relevant subject(s) and curriculum areas, foster and maintain pupils’ interest in the subject, and address misunderstandings
• demonstrate a critical understanding of developments in the subject and curriculum areas, and promote the value of scholarship
• demonstrate an understanding of and take responsibility for promoting high standards of literacy, articulacy and the correct use of standard English, whatever the teacher’s specialist subject
This whole point is rather dodgy, particularly if you are the only teacher of your subject in your educational establishment. There is no reference to any kind of subject audit, so that you could be judged on this point by someone who knows nothing about your subject.
Also, I have never heard the phrase ‘the value of scholarship’ in my life, and find that particular point vague enough to leave it too open to manipulation. Senior management could pull something irrelevant out from your subject, and claim you don’t have a ‘critical understanding’ of it, and fail you on this standard with manufactured evidence.

4 Plan and teach well structured lessons
• impart knowledge and develop understanding through effective use of lesson time
• promote a love of learning and children’s intellectual curiosity
• set homework and plan other out-of-class activities to consolidate and extend the knowledge and understanding pupils have acquired
• reflect systematically on the effectiveness of lessons and approaches to teaching
• contribute to the design and provision of an engaging curriculum within the relevant subject area(s).
Point 1 is again too vague, and doesn’t state what is an effective use of lesson time. You could think you are using it effectively, and your appraiser can just disagree based on nothing more than opinion.
Although the second point says you merely need to ‘promote’ ‘intellectual curiosity’, I think senior management can interpret that as your students need to be engaged and curious about your lesson 100% of the time. You can promote it to death, and if a student is still not interested, then you’re in for it.

5 Adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils
• know when and how to differentiate appropriately, using approaches which enable pupils to be taught effectively
• have a secure understanding of how a range of factors can inhibit pupils’ ability to learn, and how best to overcome these
• demonstrate an awareness of the physical, social and intellectual development of children, and know how to adapt teaching to support pupils’ education at different stages of development
• have a clear understanding of the needs of all pupils, including those with special educational needs; those of high ability; those with English as an additional language; those with disabilities; and be able to use and evaluate distinctive teaching approaches to engage and support them.
The first two are once again vague enough to allow a someone to fail you based on their opinion alone without any evidence. The term ‘taught effectively’ is particularly bad, and I can imagine senior managers saying something along the lines of, “Yes, you’ve done everything I asked you to, but the students still aren’t being taught effectively.”
Also the last point implies you need specialist knowledge in all aspects of SEN, rather than just being able to support them properly using in house SENCOs, you now need to do it all yourself, it seems. It also makes a distinction between SEN and students with disabilities, which I think is odd.

6 Make accurate and productive use of assessment
• know and understand how to assess the relevant subject and curriculum areas, including statutory assessment requirements
• make use of formative and summative assessment to secure pupils’ progress
• use relevant data to monitor progress, set targets, and plan subsequent lessons
• give pupils regular feedback, both orally and through accurate marking, and encourage pupils to respond to the feedback.
I think the second point is a brilliant example of everything that is wrong with teacher assessment. It starts off brilliantly, asking for formative and summative assessment, so that a teacher could show they were using both, and that’s job done on that standard. However, there’s a get out clause at the end of it, ‘to secure pupil’s progress’, so that you can be using both types of assessment, but a senior manager can then say, “…but in my opinion it hasn’t secured progress,” and suddenly you’ve failed on this standard after all.

7 Manage behaviour effectively to ensure a good and safe learning environment
• have clear rules and routines for behaviour in classrooms, and take responsibility for promoting good and courteous behaviour both in classrooms and around the school, in accordance with the school’s behaviour policy
• have high expectations of behaviour, and establish a framework for discipline with a range of strategies, using praise, sanctions and rewards consistently and fairly manage classes effectively, using approaches which are appropriate to pupils’ needs in order to involve and motivate them
• maintain good relationships with pupils, exercise appropriate authority, and act decisively when necessary.
Here’s another example of teachers being asked to simply ‘promote’ something rather than be responsible for it, in this case it’s ‘good and courteous behaviour’. I don’t for one second think that any teacher will be able to argue that they’ve promoted this effectively yet the student still chooses to misbehave – you will still be solely responsible for their behaviour.
It does however state that you are responsible for maintaining a good relationship with every single student in your care – I’m sure you agree that this is a tall order in some cases and you can, in theory, be failed on this standard as soon as one student takes a permanent dislike to you.

8 Fulfil wider professional responsibilities
• make a positive contribution to the wider life and ethos of the school
• develop effective professional relationships with colleagues, knowing how and when to draw on advice and specialist support
• deploy support staff effectively
• take responsibility for improving teaching through appropriate professional development, responding to advice and feedback from colleagues
• communicate effectively with parents with regard to pupils’ achievements and well-being.
Notice how this does not state that you will photocopy, do displays, collect cash or any other administrative tasks that teachers are asked to do regularly. However, you could argue that they all count as ‘wider professional responsibilities’ because your refusal to do them could be seen as not making a positive contribution to the school, as in the first point.

To summarise, I think senior managers are going to get you on these standards in the following ways:
  • Some of the standards are vague and it can therefore be argued that it is the manager’s opinion that you have not met it.
  • Some standards mention you only need to ‘encourage’ or ‘promote’ things that teachers are currently held completely responsible for, and I don’t think a distinction between the two levels of accountability will be made.
  • Some standards make you responsible for student’s attitudes and opinions, such as their relationship with you or the amount of respect they have for you, which you cannot possibly control in their entirety without learning mind control or brainwashing techniques. A student may take an irrational dislike to you, and you’re in trouble.
  • Some standards ask senior managers to make a judgement on things they may know nothing about and therefore can’t possibly judge accurately, particularly with regards to subject knowledge.
  • There is use of language and particular phrases that are not widely used or understood, and are frankly a little bit odd. This leaves them open to interpretation, e.g. ‘the value of scholarship’, or, ‘intellectual curiosity’.
  • You seem to have sole responsibility for all SEN in your class, with no mention of external support.

Are you worried about the new teacher's standards? Have you fallen foul of them already? Please comment below.


Faiakes said...

The whole thing is unaaceptable!

So why aren't these points taken up by the NUT and NASWUT? (or are they?)

The Edudicator said...

Hello, thanks for commenting. The Unions are taking action on pay and pensions only, which is not only irrelevant, it's making teachers even more unpopular.

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