inadequateNot the nicest of words is it?

According to the new OFTSED (Office for Standards in Education) framework my teaching, in less than a year, has gone from ‘good with outstanding features’ to ‘needs improvement’ to ‘inadequate’.

That really doesn’t make much sense to me.

I have been teaching for nearly twenty years. In those twenty years I have taught some truly rubbish lessons. I am my own worst critic and I know when things are not up to snuff. But similarly I have taught some absolutely brilliant lessons and generally my teaching has never been that bad. I’ve seen bad teaching and I know I’m nothing like that.

I’m not being conceited, I’m just stating what I know to be true. So to be told today that my teaching was inadequate came as a bit of a shock.

Before I go on I just want to state that this post is not aimed at anyone specifically. There may be some that will read this and think I have individuals in mind. That is the furthest thing from the truth. It is the education system itself I am criticizing and not the individuals who, through no fault of their own, have to implement it.

I understand why OFSTED exists, and I understand why there is a need for the quality control of teaching. What I don’t understand is why the system is so flawed that it leaves one feeling completely demoralised and deflated. Without wanting to sound melodramatic, how am I supposed to go back to work tomorrow knowing my teaching is considered inadequate?

Of course there is no doubt I will go back to work, and I know I’ll be supported by the amazing people I work with and I know I’ll carry on doing what it is I do. But somewhere there will be a file with my name on it, and in that file will be a record of today’s observation. And that record is permanent.

In this new era of performance-related pay that’s a very sobering thought.

I do find it rather interesting that performance-related pay came about at around the same time the new OFSTED framework was introduced. Fuel for thought, no?

I didn’t become a teacher to reach targets. I didn’t become a teacher so that I could deal with bureaucracy on a daily basis and jump through hoops to please politicians. I didn’t become a teacher so that I could tick boxes. I didn’t become a teacher so that I would have to compete with my colleagues.

I became a teacher because I wanted to educate children and young people.

I have remained a teacher because it is something I know I am good at.

Four years ago I qualified as an Art Psychotherapist. Because of the recession and government cutbacks in psychological services, Art Therapy jobs were very few and far between. Somehow I ended up in Singapore teaching art and literacy and providing Art Therapy. After two years I came back to the UK but despite my best efforts I was still unable to secure Art Therapy work. And so I fell back on what I all ready knew, the result of which being I am now teaching in a special needs school. The added bonus is that I have been given one a day a week to provide Art Therapy. The best of both worlds.

I was only away from the UK education system for a couple of years, but it’s fair to say it changed drastically in that short space of time. I’m really not sure I can keep up. Or that I want to. And that makes me sad. And it makes me angry.

I fail to understand how a twenty minute lesson observation determines my teaching is inadequate. Despite having had feedback and told how and why that determination was reached, I have thought about it and gone over it in my mind and I just don’t get it. All the educational jargon in the world will not make it any clearer.

My teaching does not lack quality. My teaching is not insufficient for its purpose.

Inadequate is successive governments systematically changing the education system in this country to the point where teachers feel they can no longer teach.

Inadequate is a government bombarding teachers with so much paperwork it detracts from the very thing they are trained to do.

Inadequate is a government that insists on using a divisive and demoralising system to rate how well a teacher is performing.

Inadequate is a government that insists on spending millions of pounds on wars overseas when schools are crying out for resources.

Inadequate is a government that has completely lost sight of what education actually is.

Inadequate is a government that refuses to see the value of teaching assistants and refuses to pay them accordingly.

Inadequate is an education system that is only interested in results.

Inadequate are politicians who have no idea what it means to teach.

Inadequate is not me.