Educational Technology Blog

Nurses matter in the General Election, but teachers don’t

The TES homepage has a large banner saying “I want to Teach”. Fewer people want to be teachers (at least more people are considering leaving the profession), but the Labour party are considering increasing the pay of nurses while leaving teachers’ pay at the current proposed levels.

In teaching, there is a cap on pay increases of 1% up until 2019-20. It should be made clear that not all teachers achieve this 1% increase (due to performance related pay). A similar pay cap is in force for nurses, who are also subject to performance related pay.

The Labour party have committed to increase pay for nurses if they win the general election, who were subject to a similar pay cap.

Why would nurses be in line for a pay increase as part of a manifesto pledge, but not teachers?

The cost of implementing a pay increase for the two professions is likely to be similar, and in general both professions can be considered as passion professions. But the similarities run deep:

Teaching Nursing
Gender 26% of teachers are men, 74% are women 20% of nurses are men, 80% are women
Number of staff 512,000 teachers 675,000 nurses
Average salary £28,660 £25,820

Looking at the figures it is unlikely to be the cost of implementing the policy, why would a party focus on nursing rather than teaching?

The fantastic Tribe by Sebastian Junger proposes that

“Jobs that are directly observable by the public, like construction, tend to be less respected and well paid than jobs that happen behind closed doors.”

Clearly everyone has met many teachers during their lives, and there seems to be no air of mystery about the profession. At parents evening parents sometimes feel free to openly challenge teachers that they are delivering the wrong material, in the wrong way and perhaps not supporting their child.

The reason that teaching is becoming a less compelling profession is perhaps the same reason that teaching will not see pay increase for the foreseeable future. The perception of some is that you don’t need a qualification, Google Classroom allows anyone to be a teacher and a poor general perception of teaching.

This analysis has not mentioned the tedious discussion around teacher holidays. In my experience more teachers are expected to teach extra classes during the holiday, and irrespective of that teachers work during the holiday.

Historically teachers have not been valued, and this is reflected in the current general election campaign. The crucial question has been; why would someone with a Masters degree choose to be a teacher with the starting salary of £19,600, low public respect and glacial career progression. The answer, as TES say, is I want to teach.

 

StudeApps create EdTech mobile applications and teaching resources, including General election resources on TES.

 


OECD’s opinion on performance related pay: http://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisaproducts/pisainfocus/50328990.pdf

Gender of nurses: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men_in_nursing

Gender of teachers: http://www.bbc.com/news/education-37552056

Number of nurses: https://www.statista.com/statistics/318922/number-of-nurses-in-the-uk/

Number of teachers: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/patrick-hayes/teacher-shortage_b_9319692.html

Average teacher salary : http://gazettereview.com/2017/03/average-teacher-salary-uk-how-much-does-a-teacher-in-the-united-kingdom-make/

Average nurse salary: https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/uk-nursing-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN2_KO3,10.htm

Schools have a confusing mess of software and hardware: This is why schools don’t plan their digital future

The complexity of schools and the systems they run is a problem when we consider digital learning and Edtech tools.

As more schools implement G Suite for Education or Microsoft Classroom, little thought goes into the future maintenance of the systems and how training needs to be implemented into what, ideally, should be a major project that changes the work of many people within the school.

The following rich picture shows some of the wider picture that a school leader would need to take into account when they are looking at their digital learning system.

Interestingly the school featured in the diagram above did not have G Suite (Google Apps for Education), but it should be something every school either considers or have a strategy to update their digital strategy (Microsoft Classroom is a great alternative to this).

The issue is that schools often have legacy or poorly maintained systems. Previously schools might have implemented quick and easy solutions to enable staff and students to access files and work from home, Home Access Plus (HAP+) is just such a system, and although not common within schools it has been implemented by some schools. Any system that offers great functionality without great amounts of development or implementation time may seem like a great solution for senior staff.

Taking HAP+ as a case in point, it has been created by a handful of people (a coordinator and developer are listed on the people page of the codeplex site above, yet the status of the project (it is hosted on CodePlex, which is being shutdown this year for a start). This might explain why the software struggles with mobile devices, which are exactly the platform that people would want to use to access their work. In short: software that seems easy to implement might not be the right solution, and may go out of date quickly (with nobody to contact to help support it). Schools making such decisions may keep using inadequate software for many years, providing a sub-optimal experience for staff and students alike.

Software needs teachers to be involved before they are expected to use it. Few companies (although those that pursue this strategy do exist) would implement software like HAP+ that their organisation depends upon. Crucially work does not take place that takes account of the existing digital landscape in schools. The result of this might be a mess of the type shown below:

 

 

A strategy should be looked at for schools to implement both hardware and software solutions to prevent this type of system –  where there are two pieces of software (Fronter and HAP+) that teachers did not know the difference between, what they were using or why (or even how to ask help for the system they were using).

A strategy guide for schools to take back control from technologists might be to follow the following guidelines;

  • Focus on education
  • Analyse needs
  • Do research
  • Don’t save money in the short term at the expense of the long term
  • Ask for help
  • Customise if you need to
  • Make sure you can integrate your new software and hardware
  • Get everyone on-board
  • Communicate

The focus on education is, obviously at the heart of everything schools do. However, if schools are led by teachers who see technology as a bolt-on they may well approach software as a simple sticking plaster to fix a problem. Schools should be in a position to plan their technology, especially since training time is very limited within the school term (some schools I have worked at only provide training for technology during September meaning any technology rollout during the school year would be restricted to voluntary training session, which are typically only attended by the most able to use the software in any case.

The advantage of planned rollouts is clear, but schools still struggle to take advantage of them due to lack of foresight from SLT who may not have experience from previous rollouts.

The Teacher Transfer System: A Crisis In School Recruitment

In the UK teachers at state schools have a series of resignation dates: currently (as defined in a document referred to as the Burgundy Book)

To leave at.. Resignation date
31st December (Autumn term) 31st October
30th April (Spring Term) 28th February (or 29th)
31st August (Summer Term) 31st May

 

The time just before Easter and the summer are reminiscent of the football transfer window; teachers can only move at a certain time of the year and they are stuck unless they can find a new suitable position.

In other parts of the world the rules can be more stringent, in parts of Asia teachers can only move during after the summer (and must present their notice the previous December).

The reason football teams have a transfer window is to keep the sport exciting, and to have a settled team for most of the year. This prevents a wealthy team seeing they have a chance of the championship buying players at the last minute to boost their chances.

Schools put somebody into place to be able to deliver classes and lessons to classes. This is important because schools are there for the education of students, if nothing else you need a body in front of a class day in day out. Teachers not currently in a position can be employed outside the resignation dates as by definition these teachers do not have to resign from a previous post; however, there is a fear that these are the dregs of the available talent pool and may head teachers opt for temporary staff when in this position.

It is possible for teachers to have three or more interviews crammed into the last few days before the resignation date as a rushed form of musical chairs takes place. This takes teachers out of the classroom during important revision sessions. Teachers who want to move have a limited time to make their wishes come true, while schools become desperate to fill available vacancies perhaps being satisfied with any candidate on offer.

This March the clamour for the best staff seems more fraught than ever, as teachers who leave the profession are not being replenished by new staff. The Guardian reported in 2014 that 20% of secondary teachers are under 30. Teaching in the UK is becoming a young profession where people stay working for a few years before they can find a career that does not demand a 60 hour working week.

We are working on a series of lessons and Apps to make the lives of teachers easier.

How schools fail those moving in and out of teaching

Teaching is now not seen as a profession for life, and is often more something that someone drifts in an out of. The name of the UK programme to attract the best graduates Teach First implies that teaching is something those candidates will do for a small amount of time before starting their next career (which in itself is a shame as they take their teaching experience with them, and the Government subsidy is lost to the profession). Some of these people will come back into teaching, but the process for doing so seems to be trapped in the past.

The difficulty arises as more teachers move in and out of teaching during their careers.

It is good practice for schools ask for references before interviews take place. However, the questions asked are not always relevant for people who are not currently teaching; for example, asking how the candidate performs with students. In other cases, it is not possible to give permission for schools to obtain references before an interview as in some jobs this spells the death of a career.

Accessing confidential information

Some stories are horrifying: mine is that one of the top non-selective state schools in the country decided to send me confidential student data at 23:00 before an interview the following day. The fact that I did not possess a DBS criminal check at the time did not seem to worry the school. I’m still unsure what expected me to do with it as my lesson had been planned some time before.

How do practicing teachers find it possible to attend job interviews?

This is a question as many people outside teaching do not realise that it is not possible to take a personal day, or select your holiday when working in a school.

Teachers take their holiday when the school is closed, and are not offered the discretion that some students are in taking holidays during term time (even if they are parents themselves). Only around half of teachers take one or more sick days in a year, and of the remaining 50 percent they often come to work even when they are not fit to do so as even when sick teachers are expected to work (by providing lesson plans, perhaps completing reports or marking even when too sick to come to work).

It turns out that schools will allow you to go, covering the absence internally (with other employed teachers) or by buying in cover at cost. Most of the time a head teacher will give you paid leave to attend an interview at another school; but they don’t have to (I’ve heard rumours that some academies do not pay teachers for interview days).

Schools sometimes give 48 hours’ notice or less for an interview. This can work for someone working a school environment (although it can be inconvenient to a head teacher, or a teacher running exam classes), but how can a parent returning to the profession from raising a child arrange childcare? What about a job where requesting a day’s leave at such notice is unprofessional?

The image that schools project should be important. As teaching is losing many teachers with years of experience there must be an open door to allow these people a way back into the profession. Schools need to do better.

Fake news, and schools teaching children how to brush their teeth

Typing in “Schools should” into Google UK this morning leads with the top story from the BBC that Schools should teach pupils how to spot ‘fake news’. Beyond that, schools should be like Dragon’s Den, Schools should be doing more to prepare young people for the world, the bewildering Schools should teach children how to brush their teeth and schools should teach all pupils ‘digital citizenship’.

Putting aside the ease with which various organisations (think tanks, the OECD, university vice-chancellors and others) feel free to assign work to schools. Academy schools and Independent schools in the UK do not follow the National Curriculum  and simple have to offer a broad an balanced curriculum including the core subjects of mathematics and English. This means that many state schools (Over 50% of secondary schools in the UK are academies) do not even have a requirement to teach vital subjects like computing, let alone various activities that the media report should be taught.

Teachers might listen to the news reports this week imploring them to teach students how to recognise fake news, yet this is the time of year where teachers are particularly busy preparing students for exams. Some teachers aim to run sessions with tutor groups, but in running a discussion class may face misinformation from their own class members; further spreading fake news.

The broad answer has always been schools and particularly individual teachers try their best to give students a rounded education. However teachers are sometimes put under pressure to teach students about various topics, sometimes encouraged by grieving parents but lacking the oversight of any body considering what topics are the most important or how the material is best delivered.

We do know that fake news is becoming an issue in the media, if only as a buzz word. In the same way that a student might call a variety of actions hacking in a computing lesson (with little understanding of the meaning of the term), students can become lost in the way that they process media and understand the world around them.

OFCOM report on the way that children consume media, and the move away from traditional media is an important one that students need to develop their critical understanding to be able to make value judgements around the content they consume.

To help teachers and students, there are resources available. From a simple poster, to an assembly or a full lesson there are materials available that help teachers to grasp the topics and deliver quality material to their students.

Free images!

Finding images on the Internet

Looking on the Internet for images to use for projects, whether for students or for teachers can often be problematic, but there are some fantastic sites available for use.

One of the best sites for Public Domain images that I found is unsplash has a great  set of attractive photographs that can be used for any purpose (even commercial so selling lessons on TES is completely fine).

One of the most ways to find images that you can use (even for commercial work) is to use Google. Image search allows you to look for images with alternative usage rights.

Once you have searched for an item you can click on the tools icon, and select the usage rights that you desire. However you should be aware that the system provides a false sense of security and does not always work, and that you should check the image on the original website wherever possible.

As an author, or posting work on the Internet (even if it is not paid content) you do need to be careful around the notion of usage rights as there are punishments for violations. The 10% rule for educational use of copyright material (which would not apply for paid work, or that posted on the Internet as is made clear), is itself is a myth.

Which brings us to the confusion around conflating copyright cleared materials, the public domain and attribution (SWGFL do not distinguish all three with their copyright free material for the classroom work).

 

Usage rights

Some materials are in the Public Domain, and can be used for any reason. You don’t need to reference who created the work, or do anything apart from use the images.

Some authors allow you to use their work, but ask to be recognised (attribution).

Some work you can use upon payment (Shutterstock providing images for national newspapers and the BBC).

 

Some great links

Along with the previously mentioned unsplash, I use some great sites for images.

Work in the Public Domain.can be used commercially: Publicdomainpictures.net and its sister site Publicdomainvectors.org are great resources.

I love the more complex images on freepik, but these must credit the author. This means that text recognising the original author has to be added to your final work (which may not be ideal).

People often feel that files on flickr are in the public domain; no so since each image has a different set of rules to follow upon publication

 

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