On Tuesday, December 4th Mr O’Donnell had the opportunity to meet with electronic music pioneer, Gary Numan shortly after his sound-check at the Edinburgh Picturehouse.
Numan began by discussing the early literary influences, specifically novels by authors such as Philip K. Dick, on his first four albums – two of which reached No.1 in the same year (1979) and produced the chart singles, ‘Are Friends Electric?‘ and ‘Cars‘. Literature continues to influence Numan’s music, and ‘Fantasy’ is currently his favourite literary genre – he even plans to write such a novel upon the completion of his latest studio album and fully settled after his recent emigration to the United States.
He was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in 2000, a condition that makes social situations difficult but which provides him with immense focus and concentration; it may have contributed to him being expelled from grammar school. However, he is passionate about learning and remains a committed reader of fiction, and when on tour or busy in the studio he relies on e-readers and e-reading apps.
Gary was presented with one of Dunoon Grammar School’s copies of ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep‘, illustrated and signed by pupils in Mr O’Donnell’s S3 class, and is the novel that inspired Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner‘, the media text currently being studied by Mr O’Donnell’s S3 class.
A copy signed by Gary Numan resides in the school’s English Department as a testament to the powerful influence that literature has on the world of music and art.
A time for reflection…
The Secondary Schools’ Literacy Initiative (SSLI)
So, we had our visit from Dr Noeline Wright. Memorable andunforgettable that Dr Wright visited us and augmented our understanding of the SSLI research. We have video and audio of our discussion.
The S1 Mars Report
And we had at House Time (we have adopted a ‘vertical house system’ for our tutor forms S1 – S6) activity which ran for a fortnight, although was originally scheduled to be formally enacted for one week and then undertaken by pupils in the second week. We hopsted that with four subject teachers could present Mars from their particular subject’s perspective: RME, the morals and ethics of spending trillions on space research; History, The Space Race and its legacy; English, film and textual imaginings around Mars and the solar system; Science, the facts and figures associated with previous and the current Mars Curiosity Rover.
We did attempt to introduce De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats.
Some of the members have been at the school for a considerable time – many of whom were there at just those right times when, as a student teacher and probationer, I needed some vital advice, feedback on that dilemma – and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t awed in some way.
Much positive and negative feedback was provided as ‘minutes’ of each LCoP meeting. In summary:
- It was a chance for practitioners of different disciplines to meet up and discuss pedagogical issues.
- The Mars Curiosity Rover proved to be a relevant and current scientific event under investigation by our pupils and the media – perhaps for longer than expected.
- S1 pupils were excited about the project.
- Artistic, technical and literacy was being showcased – as was the ability to meet a deadline.
- Pupils were already aware of the importance of Literacy – this re-iterated the fact, delivering a whole-school exercise.
- This was the first time that Literacy – as ‘a responsibility of all’ – was given the high priority it requires, and primarily of its inextricable link with successful learning.
- Too little time in which to undertake all activities during 20-minute House Time.
- Too much information.
- Many pupils ‘cut and paste’ (something I think that we are increasingly more aware of in light of the ubiquity of digital information).
- Concern was raised about how often staff are supposed to assess literacy in a subject – there is little time to mark for content let alone literacy.
- Cognizance should be taken for the participation from other year groups (although I personally had S2 and S4 pupils providing peer-support, for which they gained a ‘House Merit’).
The Way Ahead
A whole-school Correction Code which will be laminated and on display in every classroom in the school
Collegiate Peer-Assessment Activity planned for November 19th (the next collegiate meeting) and will allow non-English subject teachers to be part of a supportive LCoP and led by a Key Person (KP) drawn from Modern languages or the English Department. Small, supportive and interdisciplinary with a focus on a subset of the Writing Es and Os of under ‘Literacy’.
The LCoPs are to foster and nurture interdisciplinary tasks that can be constructed and ‘sand-boxed’ during House Time; allowing smaller-scale projects that minimise negative impact on both teacher’s confidence and curriculum progress.
4 Collegiate Meetings have been afforded and ring-fenced by senior management – a commitment to LAC has to be demonstrated by SMT, and the SSLI research asserts the dependency on successful LAC progress as being linked with CPD.
Strategy for greater links with associated primary schools already underway, with peer-reading to be constructed, and Big Writing to continue beyond Primary and into S1. VCOP, Correction Code and Literacy Es and Os should be the focus.
Sharing of House Time Mars Activity with associated Secondary English Departments. Positives and negatives that have been identified will not only help our future adoption of similar whole-school House Time tasks, but also the dissemination of this interdisciplinary task fosters closer relations with associated authority schools, and should assist in resource creation and moderation.
My belief in the authenticity of future professional development for the teaching profession (a viewpoint that will invariably be shared by my collegiate) is filled with uncertainty and doubt. I welcome change – disruption is essential for any thriving professional body. But change must herald reward for professional development, enhanced practice, and must be accredited with an academic institution.
Future moves to create a ‘Maters-Level Profession’, whilst welcomed and applauded by this author, will undoubtedly meet with suspicion and fingers will (rightly) point at the tatters in which the Chartered Teacher Scheme now lies; conjecture from a teaching force – currently facing a multi-facteted onslaught towards their pay and conditions as well as their pension, and the many pressures associated with new curriculum structures – as to a similar dismantling exercise being undertaken within a short number of years would be justified, evincing that the recent short-term decision failed to concentrate on the positives, and to re-negotiate the C.T. Scheme instead of cutting costs.
The CT Pay Scale helped to bear the financial burden costs each academic course of study. As of a couple of weeks ago, I have been forced to inform my course provider (at very short notice) that I would be unable to continue with the scheme of professional development that I undertook in ‘good faith’ four or more years ago (my long-term plan), but which now lacks the very financial model that supported and enabled myself and other committed colleagues to pursue what was for us the gateway to achieving the status of enhanced professional.
Asked what they do for a living, I am sure that his or her response is “I am a teacher.” They do not immediately say, “I teach Physics” or “I am an English Teacher.” We are teachers; that is our identity.
Roles and activities that I and others undertake as ‘leaders of learning’, may fail to create the impact and success that having a recognisable professional and academic mechanism – i.e. The Chartered Teacher Scheme – aimed to do. The GTC-accredited professional identity was imperative in facilitating and supporting enhanced practice.
Detractors of the scheme will view professionals like myself as simply having ‘failed’ to complete a scheme of CPD, a scheme that many teachers and managers viewed as ineffective, inferior; it was just a route to “more money.”
So, has the SNCT accounted for the manifestation of a multi-tier system, consisting of teachers partially- and fully-accredited in accordance with a professional scheme that no longer exists? I can only envisage resentment and further opprobrium directed towards those individuals who chose this route – exacerbated, perhaps because the scheme no longer even exists, but that certain individuals will have a slightly higher level of salary (which in itself carries some limiting effects).
This lack of clarity will only serve to undermine the future activities of such committed individuals, rendering them defenseless in light of the Chartered Teachers who share the responsibility for the scheme’s dissolution, through their betrayal of the tenets of the Standard for Chartered Teacher, as well as school managements that, whether or not they understood the Standard or not it was within their remit and interest to do so, failed to constructively engage with their Chartered colleague. Who knows, this may have actually saved the scheme.
Now, let us usher in further confusion and continue to foster the disagreements between management, classroom teachers and and CT practitioners.
How will aspirant Chartered Teachers, unable to complete their professional journey along the Chartered Teacher Pathway, delineate their professional practice from unpromoted classroom teachers and those at the next pay scale level on the CT Pay Scale?
Will employers recognise the complexity in differentiating between those who laid the foundations their final Med Dissertation and those who did not – or perhaps had no intention of – ‘raise their head’ beyond Point 4?
We should await with interest how ‘additional responsibility’ will be quantified and evaluated in proportion to a person’s position within the 6-point Chartered Teacher Pay Scale. What differences in responsibility are proposed to exist between a candidate on Point 3 and one on Point 4, especially when considering that an individual on Point 4 may have undertaken the preparatory Dissertation preparation and submission phase, which introduces and exercises the use of academic research tools and theory, and the difference being, therefore, not simply the inclusion/absence of a single module of study.
How will a fragmented view of the Standard for Chartered Teacher elicit the clarity that the whole failed to do?
How will a ‘sliding’ scale of interpretation apply to the Standard when identifying duties and evaluating an individual’s performance against it? How can the Standard’s qualitative statements be interpreted using a scale of 1 – 6? I am sure that I speak for many participants that even when on the lower-end of the scale, one was aspiring to fulfill all expectations of the Standard even at such a formative stage of or individual ‘journeys’. Will this be the case?
Add to this ‘new era’ in interpreting ‘The Standard’, feelings of professional betrayal, de-motivation, coupled with a purely remunerative approach by management and local authorities, which ignores the un-quantifiable returns that a negotiated enhanced practice could yield for all stakeholders.
What has been damaged is the professional identity that was formed, fashioned and – until recently – nurtured by the professional development under the tenets of The Standard for Chartered Teacher.
My Professional Identity and my sense of ‘self ‘ are inextricably linked. And both have been damaged.
Give kids a remit and then watch them flourish!
And as for the teachers? Well… they have been great. Initial responses were, on the whole, positive and supportive. Yes, some niggles – definitely aspects that could benefit from some tweaks and changes for the future – and the main change being an extension to the original timeframe, moving from one to two weeks.
Peer collaboration (pupil and teachers!)
Quality and variety of form of responses
Strengths & Weaknesses/subject bias
And everyone is taking about Literacy!
I now have to collate, short-list and grade the competition winners. More important is that we now have attempted to create a holistic view of all S1 writing ability which will now be assessed by non-English teachers, and form a folio of work that should be a baseline from which all Literacy teachers should now consider in advancing the literacy development of their House Class pupils in addition to their own subject S1 pupils.
I applaud advancements to the education of our teaching graduates who, energised with the desire to innovate, are ready to enhance not only the learning experiences of our children, but will also re-kindle (perhaps) the spirits of their collegiate…
Gillian Macdonald, writing in the TESS, (7 September 2012) celebrates the changes in initial teacher education whereby “New and stronger links are being forged between theory and practice, and between schools and universities, while the students themselves are encouraged to be enquiring, lifelong learners…”
Then what? So why, upon qualification, are these essential “links” no longer available? What about the exemplifying life-long learning?
The Standard for Chartered Teacher (2009) provides teaching professionals aiming to enhance their professional careers a set of benchmarks against which their continuous professional development and classroom practice can be evaluated. It is a framework against which the practice of Chartered Teachers can be evaluated by all stakeholders; it also shapes academic provision and choice.
Academic research, according to Judyth Sachs (Sachs, 2003) is concerned with validity and positing generalisations, the result of ‘processed analysis’ of teaching practice. Sachs suggests that such skills can be demonstrated by ‘teacher researchers’ “collecting and analysing data, publicly presenting their research to broader audiences, and developing a process which could be extrapolated across other areas of school improvement” (p. 81). This suggests a symbiotic relationship between what happens in the classroom and those ‘hallowed halls’ of academia; those on the Chartered Teacher Pathway – the ‘teacher researchers’ – demonstrating educational praxis within their schools, authorities, and perhaps even nationally and internationally via the ubiquity of digital media.
Teacher researchers are ideally placed to engage in this ‘action research’, which harnesses their daily practice of teaching, allowing them to apply the pedagogical ‘lensing’ that encompasses the critical interplay of educational literature and pedagogical discourse. Such enriching discourses lead to the creation of ‘critical friends’ and ‘critical communities’ (school- and local -authority-wide) which have the opportunity of delivering “a recognized contribution to the educational effectiveness of the school and the wider professional community” (The Scottish Government, 2009, p. 1) and towards the construction of the ‘knowledge-creating school’ (Hargreaves, 1999 in Sachs 2003).
Communication. Share goals. Trust.
For such teachers, “autonomy [and] altruism” are instrumental features in forming “the platform for teacher professionalism” (Bottery, 1996, cited by Sachs, 2003, p. 13). Moreover their autonomy takes account of notions of choice, freedom, individuality and moral responsibility – all of which are pertinent to the classroom context and social interactions that shape both the identity of the young learner, and the accomplished teacher.
Surely the schism that exists between universities and the daily practice in Scottish schools – post- Initial Teacher Education phase – can be bridged only through harnessing the synergy that occurs when classroom teachers undertake a formalised academic programme of study, during which time they engage with educational literature, similarly-oriented peers, and under the guidance of accredited course providers.
What opportunities exist – outwith the higher education providers of the Chartered Teacher Scheme – for teachers to develop their research skills and have the ability to publish and make a positive contribution to the world’s academic canon?
Moreover, how does one access the vast body of academic research that exists to educate our teaching profession, but one which is ‘pay-walled’ by the various silos of journal providers? Considering the prohibitive expense of purchasing a single journal ranges, judicious choice is required when undertaking the most basic of research activities, and even then – and from personal experience over the last five years – often there is the serendipity when tangential curiosities lead to unexpected yet often rewarding pathways during the course of an investigation. This exploratory approach, accompanied by the benefits of any course of wide-reading, would be stymied.
Can local authorities replicate the provisioning of access (as well as the routes to publishing) for teachers willing to assume the identity of ‘teacher researcher’?
Or does it all end with initial teacher education?
Sachs, J. 2003. The Activist Teacher. OU Press.
The Scottish Government. (2009). The Standard for Chartered Teacher. HMSO.
Could our mobility opportunities have been severely damaged by the statement regarding salary retention?
My chances to compete for a Secondary Classroom Teacher post – should I ever wish to experience another school authority – has been significantly reduced, when one considers the Secondary Teacher salary ceiling and that this, in such austere times, additional 3 or 4,000 pounds to employ myself and others like me as a result of a professional development scheme that was publicly dissolved as one facet of the McCormack Review, and one which was misunderstood by senior management and local authorities, may well count against me even being considered for interview.
The assurance of salary protection (which may change) not only has a negative effect on mobility, but the inability of staff to ‘migrate’ across authorities may lead to stagnation, which ultimately leaves little inspiration for the pupils of such teachers who have low levels of confidence as to their professional development. Furthermore, partially-accredited practitioners may find themelves faced with unwieldy ‘remits’ from less sensitive and more cynical local authorities who wish to get the ‘best bang for their buck’.
Decisions against pursuing a management position, or a Guidance Role made five or six years ago may now be reversed, as those betrayed by the decision to dismantle – nay, dissolve – the Chartered Teacher Scheme now seek the very limited P.T., Faculty Head or Guidance posts as the only opportunity for career advancement – rightly or wrongly!
Next Post – ‘The Academic Canon’.
For a few days now, I have been attempting to nail my colours to the mast in response to the dissolution of the Chartered Teacher Scheme and my recent communication from the SNCT stating that I would be unable to complete my ‘journey’, despite 4 years of personal, financial and professional commitment.
So, I’ve decided to blog each point I think deserves some reflection. It is presented as an ‘open letter’, and I am sure there are many other similarly betrayed professionals with whom I share many observations.
As of last week, I had to inform my course provider, University of the West of Scotland (UWS), that I would not be completing my Masters Dissertation phase, but would be exiting the programme and leaving with a Postgraduate Diploma (I have three such pieces of parchment already).
My name is Hugh O’Donnell, and I am a Secondary English Teacher who undertook the Chartered Teacher Pathway Programme with the University of West of Scotland in September, 2009. Additionally, I was simultaneously completing the Postgraduate Diploma in E-learning at EdinburghUniversity, which further evinces my commitment to continuous professional development.
On 4th September 2012, and as a result of the McCormack Review’s proposition to dissolve the Chartered Teacher Scheme, my application to be allowed to progress through the final stages (CT Pay Scale Points 5 and 6) was refused. This is in despite of the fact that I was currently on Point 4 of the Chartered Teacher Pay Scale, and embarking on the final stage of the CT Pathway Programme at UWS between September 2012 and June 2013. I would – and hoped to be – fully accredited by June 2013, having attained the associated MEd in Advanced Professional Studies.
But this proximity to being fully accredited, to be at the Masters-level Dissertation stage, according to the recent SNCT decision on circular 12/35, does not equate to fulfilling its ‘exceptional circumstances’, despite being one year from what would have amounted to five years of personal and financial commitment, and a course of study that would culminate in pursuing a piece of academic research – one which I envisage would have provided an opportunity for further longitudinal study into enhancing pupils’ literacy experiences across the curriculum.
When enrolling and undertaking what has proven to be both a huge financial undertaking, as well as one whereby many personal sacrifices have been made, it was one devoid of any cynicism – motivated to take advantage of the CT Pay Scale; my decision to undertake this professional development was:
- To aspire to upholding the tenets of the Standard for Chartered Teacher and provide an enhanced educational experience for every pupil;
- To qualify for an MEd, having undertake modular study and a final Masters-level dissertation that would contribute to the growing body of current academic research;
- To become and embody the pedagogy of ‘teacher-researcher’, nurturing the established academic and collegiate links that will continue to inform daily praxis;
- To forego Principal Teacher position or other promoted post routes (Guidance, for example), choosing to pursue a route that rewarded excellence in the classroom, and one which would help to imbue the importance of education in pupils and colleagues.
Since the ‘refusal’ notification, there has been no ‘appeals procedure’, and, additionally, I have less conviction as to the sincerity afforded the time-frame for the submission of ‘exceptional circumstances’, when one considers that the registration deadline for the University of West of Scotland’s MEd Dissertation Project was 10th September 2012 – less than one week after the SNCT’s notification.
Has there been proper consideration and consultation of all stakeholders, especially with the Scheme’s academic providers?
I have not been judged on who I have become, or what I do in and away from the classroom in the past 4 years . Simply, I have been judged on how much I cost.
Next Post – ‘Mobility’.
During a recent in-service I was asked to present Literacy Across the Curriculum to my colleagues. My opening gambit was to highlight the simple statement that Literacy is the responsibility of all teaching staff; I opted to focus on the inextricable link between language and learning.
So the whole-school literacy initiative is underway.
However, it was, as David Corson warns, seen as an “act of imperialism” by the English Department, and less than constructive feedback has been detected.
Still, thanks to the dedicated contribution from my peers from the three other contributing departments – and the near-nightly coverage on the mainstream news! – S1 pupils successfully delivered viewpoints on Mars across a variety of subject disciplines.
The House Time activity – initially one week – has now been granted an additional week for writing support.