The PTE Newsletter – Tuesday 28 September

Whisper it but… there’s not been much education news since out last roundup.

This is probably a good thing – no news is good news, and everyone can just get on with their jobs.

There are plenty of comment pieces though – people will always have views. So there is still lots to read while you’re in the queue to fill up the tank in your car…

“Embracing the New School Year” – Juli Ryzop

Juli Ryzop is a member of the Primary Knowledge Curriculum (PKC) team at the Knowledge Schools Trust

Following two disruptive years of schooling, across the country pupils have settled into their new classrooms; teachers have immersed themselves with this year’s curriculum; and senior leaders have meticulously organised their schools, ready to take on this year’s challenges.

With fewer restrictions now in place, pupils have begun re-engaging themselves in team sports, educational visits, and musical productions. In the first few weeks of term, class teachers have diligently been learning and absorbing all sorts of information about their new pupils. It’s such a great feeling seeing primary classrooms, once again, filled with chatter, laughter, and lots of opportunities for support.

At this time of the year, once things have settled and routines been established, I am often left with two questions at the forefront of my mind: how am I going to maintain a classroom culture that is conducive to learning? And, how am I going to deliver the curriculum this year so that it is even more effective, impactful, yet accessible, to all?

Classroom Culture: A Sense of Belonging

Any teacher knows that creating the right classroom environment is a fundamental prerequisite to good teaching and learning. In our schools, we believe that every child can succeed within a learning environment built upon trust, self-discipline, and high aspirations. Each year, right from the get-go, I explicitly tell my students that we are a team. I believe that creating this sense of belonging, and collective responsibility, allows my pupils to know that we work together within this shared space.

Often, I would joke that we would spend more time together in the classroom with one another than with our own families (although this might not, in fact, be a joke, and may actually be true); as a result, it is important for everyone in that room, to feel comfortable, valued, and respected.

After reading Tom Bennett’s book ‘Running the Room’, it became even more apparent that I needed to be the force behind building, setting and maintaining the right classroom culture. At the beginning of a new school year, rules, routines, and expectations are set, and it is my job to explicitly teach the pupils what good behaviour looks like: from good manners to compliments, from knowing how to ask questions to knowing how to respond, from listening and offering support to our peers when they are in need, to knowing what to do when those around us make a wrong choice.

Pupils need to be taught behaviour, not just told. They need to know that showing respect does not only happen through our words but also through our actions: through being on school on time, lining up in an orderly fashion, holding doors for one another, handing out resources, picking up any rubbish of our floors, or by helping our friends when they fall. READ MORE HERE

Latest news & views

LABOUR PARTY PROPOSALS FOR SCHOOLS: The Mirror reports that Keir Starmer wants to remove private schools’ charitable status, and make them pay VAT & business rates. The move is reported to raise £1.6 billion in taxes overall.

School leaders have warned though that the plan would result in “displaced pupils” moving to state schools and bigger class sizes.

Linked to this, Sir Keir has said that Labour will reform citizenship teaching to include “practical life skills”, introduce two weeks’ compulsory work experienceand give schools access to a careers adviser once a week. If it wins power, the party will also specify “mandatory” digital skills to be embedded “across the curriculum”, give “every child” access to extracurricular activities and establish a fund to “renew” the 1.3 million laptops and other devices sent out to children’s homes during the pandemic.

VACCINES FOR TEENS: Nadhim Zahawi has written for the Telegraph about how school attendance is going to be a priority for him, and the role vaccines will play in this.

“At the core of the Government’s mission is an unwavering commitment to the fundamental right of every child to the best possible education. We owe this to the next generation. But to deliver on that ambition, we need children to be in schools with their teachers, friends and classmates, bouncing ideas off each other and experiencing the joy of learning as a group. That is why we are giving teenagers the chance to be vaccinated, so we can get more children back into face-to-face education.”

FUEL SHORTAGE IMPACT ON SCHOOLS: With so many petrol stations now without fuel, some Headteachers are starting to worry about it stopping staff from getting into school. There are fears that schools could be forced to close and move lessons online if they don’t have enough teachers to open.

ADDITIONAL SCHOOL FUNDING AT RISK: The Times reports that education will be hardest hit in the spending review with “minimal” additional funding to help children to catch up after missing out on school during the pandemic. This is, according to Treasury sources, because the Department for Education did not submit a formal application for catch-up funding. They said that this was greeted with “incredulity” by Downing Street and the Treasury.

And now for some of the latest comment pieces…

A LONGER OCTOBER HALF TERM Amanda Wilson explores what schools should do if they’re considering the switch to a longer October half term holiday.

“Whatever your reasons for making the change, it’s important to ensure that you’re doing it for the right reasons. Just because the school down the road has a two-week break in October, it doesn’t mean that’s what’s right for your school community.”

DIVERSIFYING THE CURRICULUM Emma Slater argues that schools should teach more about colonialism and diversify their curriculum, and that it needs the DfE to take the lead to make it happen.

“But saying that nothing is stopping teachers diversifying the curriculum is passing the buck. There’s a difference between not being prohibited from doing something and being supported to do it. Teachers have been under pressure during the pandemic, and their professional life wasn’t easy before it. The slog is far from over for educators who are responsible for ensuring that children catch up on all their lost learning.“

AN END TO TRAD Vs PROG Geoff Barton reacts to Nick Gibb’s piece last week, and says that he hopes Nick Gibb moving on marks things moving beyond what he considers to be the binary “trad”/”prog” debate.

“Isn’t it time we moved on from this sterile debate, the increasingly tiresome false dichotomy between clashing mythical forces of progressives and traditionalists? There may be a few hardy souls in the education sphere who still plant their flag in the progressive camp, and others who may regard themselves as out-and-out traditionalists. However, most of us, when we think of it at all, are probably somewhere in between.“

IMPROVING STUDENT-TEACHER RELATIONSHIPS Harry Fletcher-Wood takes a look at what research has to say about ways that teachers can improve relationships with pupils.

“Some things are obvious: listening, being firm but fair, explaining our actions. But beyond the obvious, can research tell us anything more about improving relationships? I went looking for an answer, and found three studies with interesting prospects for classroom application.” 

That’s all for now – enjoy!