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Fixing exams, regional abence rates and what's the best Christmas chocolate?

8 December 2020

Hello tappers! It’s getting closer to Christmas and it’s getting cold in schools. Last week, 15% of you taught in classrooms that were bone-searingly cold, in most cases because you’re keeping windows open to reduce aerosol transmission. If only viruses and cold weather didn’t appear at the same time!

Fixing GCSE exams

The impossible quest to compensate students for unmeasurable missing learning time goes on! The latest idea is that students will get some advanced notice of exam topics and be allowed to use aide memoires. Many of you think this will help somewhat, though over a third say it all depends what exactly is announced for your subject. (You may not find out until the end of January). Language teachers are least enthusiastic about this idea for the moment.

The purpose of these changes is that they benefit pupils who have lost the most learning time. We know that those in disadvantaged schools have lost the most time – as they had the least ‘live’ teaching during lockdown and have suffered from recent lockdowns thanks to living in more urban areas. However, there isn’t good evidence that these particular reforms will help those students most. Indeed, teachers in high FSM schools are certainly not more positive about them (if anything, they are a little more negative).

Over in primary schools, the solutions to exams and missing learning seems a little more straightforward. Just don’t sit them. 7-in-10 primary teachers feel that KS1 and KS2 SATs should go this year.

Over on the other side of accountability, we asked whether you would ever consider becoming an Ofsted inspector. Classroom teachers tend to say no, but perhaps their ideas will change once they reach the lofty levels of senior management! Whilst only a third of SLT say they would consider becoming an inspector, a further third aren’t strongly opposed to the idea.

The never-ending nightmare of headship

At least getting a job at Ofsted would release headteachers from their never-ending days, nights and weekends of contact-tracing and other really important administrative tasks that weren’t on the job description. Our longitudinal measure of work-related anxiety really does emphasise how bad things are for heads at the moment, relative to other teachers who have anxiety levels that aren’t much above normal rates.

This time last year, headteachers were worrying about work a little more than other teachers, with greater numbers agreeing that work is always on their mind, even when they go to bed. However, the proportion of heads strongly agreeing this is true has risen from 51% to 68%.

Absences league table

We may not have performance tables for a couple of years, but in the league table that nobody wants to win, London schools suddenly seem more disrupted than any other (having previously sat mid-pack).

The joys of virtual parents’ evening?

A year ago no one would have believed that virtual parents’ evenings could be achieved. But here we are! So, once things are back to normal, should face-to-face come back or is everyone happier dealing with parents at a digital distance?

Primary teachers were less convinced than secondary teachers about the benefits of virtual, and teachers in schools serving poorer communities were the least happy at all. Device and internet access can be more difficult for parents in this group, which may be why teachers are less keen.

In secondary school, however, around half of teachers were keen to keep virtual parents’ evening – with that increasing to 60% of teachers in the fee-paying community.

Oddly, secondary teachers were less keen on giving parents a choice – maybe because it would take even longer to arrange when trying to see over 100 parents across a year group?

Terry’s wins again

For the fourth year running, Terry’s Chocolate Orange won the prize of ‘most wanted chocolate’ among teachers. Note that this is true among all age ranges but there is a slightly greater predilection for Quality Street among teachers in their 50s, which is switched out for Ferrero Rocher among younger colleagues! The ambassador is much younger than you might expect!

Finally, here are last week’s tips…