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Biscuits, 4 year-olds and being honest with Ofsted

4 March 2019

Phew! The biscuit-eating drought (a la half-term) is finally over for most of you.

Most of the questions we asked this week came from Teacher Tappers and we made some interesting discoveries about you all. We were amazed to find out you mostly aren’t eating your biscuits in the main staffroom. In fact, many of you secondary teachers rarely visit it!

We guessed it would be the science teachers who would visit the main staffroom least as the need for a technicians’ room means it is harder to avoid giving them staff space in their department. But when we looked, it turned out it was the art and crafty types who are most likely to stay away.

A week ago on Sunday, the majority of the country was preparing to return to school after half-term. The Sunday night sleep after a holiday is always the hardest.

The small group of you who just completed half-term were blissfully sleeping a week ago. How do you feel today?

Being honest with Ofsted

Ofsted’s Sean Harford was pretty happy to see that you claim you would be honest in a staff questionnaire at the time of inspection. But how you spin this statistics rather depends on what story you want to tell. 25% of teachers would not give a fair reflection of how they feel their school is performing! 63% would not feel confident in providing examples of leadership and management failings! Moreover, as some teachers on twitter pointed out, many of those saying they would be honest also work for schools where they are very happy. They aren’t claiming they would report problems, should they exist. We’ll think about asking another question on this…

Counting teaching hours is hard

A Teacher Tapper wanted to know what the typical teaching hours burden looked like for a ‘normal’ classroom teacher. We feared it would be hard to get the right response by asking this way. In particular, primary teachers struggled. When does registration time stop and ‘lesson’ time start? Does walking to and from assembly count? For secondary teachers, the maths involved in converting non-hour-long lessons into hours was challenging for a few! We will ask about this again – but we need another idea about how to do it!

Taking this data with a pinch of salt, we couldn’t resist sorting this by region and it was exactly as we expected. London has higher per pupil funding and the advantage of a slightly more inexperienced (i.e. cheaper) workforce. All this means that they are managing to maintain more reasonable teaching burdens as budgets shrink.

We asked what you felt the ideal teaching burden would be and most felt it would be at least a few hours less a week. On the whole, classroom teachers without responsibilities (i.e. those who currently have the largest teaching load) were least optimistic about how many hours of teaching they could comfortably deliver each week!

4 year-olds at schools

We are in the strange situation of having a curriculum that almost relies on 4 year-olds showing up at school in September, and yet legally they don’t have to be there until the term after they turn 5. There seems to be no consensus on whether this is something we should try to resolve. We thought primary and secondary teachers might have very different views, but it turns out they didn’t.

One group who are much more in favour of a later start for school is older teachers. This makes sense to us – most under 25 year old teachers would have started school when they were 4 year-olds, whereas many older teachers would have started when they turned 5. If it was alright for me, it’ll be alright for them…

Single sex schools

To many, single sex schools look increasingly like a historic quirk of the education system. They are facing challenges developing appropriate policies for transgender students and the relative unpopularity of boys-only schools creates very unbalanced mixed schools where girls-only ones persist. (Ever tried teaching in a school with 70% boys?)

However, this is ANOTHER policy where there is no consensus among teachers about what they would like to see. Moreover, younger teachers are no more or less in favour of single sex schools that older teachers.

Perhaps not surprisingly, those who actually TEACH in single-sex schools are pretty happy to see them stay (and have new ones open).

OK, that’s it for another week. Missed any tips last week? Take another look here to catch-up