Gazette Article 13: “Teachers’ strike good if it opens the minister’s eyes to problems”

Published in the Brentwood Gazette – 25th September 2013

(Gazette site version: http://www.brentwoodgazette.co.uk/COMMENT-teachers-strike/story-19822710-detail/story.html)

As a parent of children at two different schools you would be forgiven for thinking that I would be viewing the prospect of a teachers strike with horror. However, I believe that one day’s inconvenience for me is a small price to pay for teachers exercising their democratic right.

I am particularly supportive after the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, claimed that “morale had never been higher” in the profession earlier this month. By sitting on their hands teachers would be seen to be giving this statement credence when anyone who follows education matters would tell you that this is patently not the case.

But not only are they striking about their pay, conditions and pensions, they are also protesting on behalf of our children about changes that they believe will be to the detriment of their education.

I don’t want unqualified teachers in my children’s classrooms. I want them to have a broad curricula choice not a narrow focus on “traditional” subjects. I want properly trained specialists looking after those who need extra support and I don’t want class sizes to creep up again.

Teachers are prepared to lose a day’s pay to voice their concerns.

As they are professionals, and the Secretary of State is not, I suggest he listens.

***

It’s been a year since my first Gazette People column and it seems to have passed in a blink of an eye. At that point we were in the middle of choosing the secondary school preferences for our son and it seemed an all encompassing experience. These are my observations.

Parents will be selecting their preferences for primary and secondary schools over the next month or so and for many the ability of their child to settle in will seem a priority. Based on my experience, and the last fortnight, my advice would be to concern yourself with the wider context of the school rather than this aspect.gazette teach

The step up to a new school will be daunting whichever one your child goes to and every child is in the same boat.  The presence of others from a previous school or pre-school seems an irrelevance after a few weeks.

Having arrived from Junction Road, by the end of my first term at Brentwood County High I had made new friends from Warley, St Peter’s, Long Ridings, St Thomas’s, Hogarth and West Horndon. I’m still in touch with many of them and am hoping to bump into some of them again at the upcoming centenary celebrations.

A bigger pool of children increases the chances of finding others on your wavelength and soon the overwhelming first fortnight is a distant memory.

I thoroughly recommend attending any Open Day’s of schools that interest you, most do not require an appointment so can be visited as a late decision, and also open mornings when the school is in session. Primary schools don’t always run these events but most are happy to offer appointments.

Open events have started and details can be found on school websites.

Ask questions, take the PR with a pinch of salt and don’t take what you hear in the playground as gospel.

I am constantly shocked by some of the received wisdom that is reported to me about some of our schools. A glance at recent GCSE and A level results should tell you that we have perfectly good options within our town but you wouldn’t believe it if you had taken some of the drivel that I have heard seriously.

Our primaries have enviable records too. I was delighted to read about Warley Primary’s recent Ofsted report in last week’s Gazette for example and in particular that their behaviour policy was rated as outstanding. This seems to contradict the playground PR that believes this is impossible in a non-Church school.

So I’m thinking of all of you parents this month and hoping that when the dust settles you are all as happy with the final result as we have been.

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