The Educational Nomad

It has been a while since I’ve posted mainly due to summer holidays and a need to finish my Masters thesis. It has also been due to starting at a new school which is one of the most hectic periods you can go through as a new teacher. Building relationships is the most important part of an educator’s job and asking a whole new set of classroom’s to trust you takes a lot of investment. This post is a short look back on my time since April- when I left my last school and started a stint doing a bit of supply, a bit of consulting with an ed tech start up, a bit of exam marking, and training some new recruits.

  • The Supply Pool is a Hot Mess

When I entered the supply pool I learnt something I already knew: supply agencies and the whole supply industry is a hot mess. Teacher supply agencies were paid £733 million in 2014, but by 2016 this had risen to £1.26 billion a yes – 38% increase in three years. You’d think that would mean they are providing a good service but of course that is not the case. I was recruited off LinkedIn with no prior vetting, they attempted to under pay me (obviously), charged the school a fortune, and had outsourced key functions such as pay slips to a dazzling array of different companies. A lot of stressful nonsense.

It desperately needs to be sorted and lot of people have ideas but I don’t think I’ve seen a viable strategy yet. Labour’s plan, announced yesterday, of nationalising the supply pool would not work. Dodgy agencies would undercut the government provider easily and established providers have captured a lot of the expertise. We need to be asking why so many teachers feel the need to enter the supply pool in the first place, and why we are so stretched for talent in the classroom.

  • Exam marking is just a sketchy as we all think it is

Quick one on this: don’t be an examiner. It is poorly paid. You are expected to do all the training for free. The technology you use is unnecessarily complex. The system for checking your accuracy is unsettlingly patchy- and flawed:

“Why didn’t you give that X Mark”

“I didn’t think it was particularly perceptive”

“Well it is”

“Why? The specimen was more sophisticated and got a lower mark”

“It just is”

And so on… The advice on what to give marks changed as they realised students weren’t achieving on particularly questions. No wonder results day is always so confusing.

  • Ed Tech and schools need to connect better

I really had no idea how many excellent ed tech start ups there were out there. Yes there’s plenty of random rubbish but schools need more advice on knowing what to go for and what is out there. There are brilliant solutions to everything from careers and UCAs to marking and feedback. Most importantly, there are products that streamline data and smooth workload- but educators just don’t know about them. Too many schools leave ed tech to the ICT team, but if a strategic priority across our whole system is workload, and technology is generating solutions, schools need to have ed tech expertise on their SLT.

  • Training new teachers is 100% the most rewarding thing you can do in education

You forget how much experience you accumulate over the years. If you want to be reminded of it- train new teachers. I spent one week at the end of the summer term training new Teach First recruits and it was so bizarre and refreshing to talk to people who were so enthused about the possibilities of the classroom. It is also nice to go back and be living proof that not everyone has the worst experience of their lives. All in all, it was a great reminder that it can be a great privilege to do something worthwhile and get paid to do it.

And so, now I’m back in the classroom. I was worried my time away would rust the tools but am glad to say it very much has not. Teachers should get more opportunities to work outside the classroom and return with new skills and experiences; the profession would be richer for it.

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