Having worked as a teacher for 10 years in a grammar, an independent and now a community comprehensive school, the calls to tax independent schools, as echoed by Fiona Millar, ring with the ideological purity of those who are prepared to place motives above outcomes (Reform grammar schools and ditch the GCSE treadmill – here’s how Labour can fix education in England, 13 August).
I wholeheartedly believe in her summative closing paragraph, calling for an educational experience that supports and ensures success according to each child’s needs and ambitions. She is also correct in recognising that this is what parents are paying for through independent education. And yet, where many parents opt to ensure this for their children, with no certain that their local underfunded and oversubscribed comprehensive school can, the position of many on the Labour left is to penalise these children and their families. Motive and means, it seems, trump outcomes in an educational retelling of Margaret Thatcher’s “so long as the gap is smaller”.
Labour should be identifying and distilling the underlying principles that make many independent, comprehensive and grammar schools successful, and subsequently ensuring a programme of training and funding to deliver this. Success would remove many of the motivating factors for an independent education, and organically render most of the market for a private education untenable.
Millar’s rallying cry, to “bring children together rather than divide them” should be our aspirational measure of success, not the mechanism by which to achieve it.
Fiona Millar’s proposal to bring in an all-embracing school or college leaving qualification has many attractive features, but it does not sit well in an enabling framework for lifelong learning, which needs to be at the heart of Labour’s bold new era.
GCSEs may be a soulless treadmill for children in school who are aiming for higher qualifications, but GCSEs and A-levels are essential entry qualifications for many jobs and professional courses such as nursing and teaching. Many children and adults have experienced disruptions and need to study for these qualifications outside school, often alongside family and work commitments. It is hard enough at present for an independent student to access these courses and exams, but it would be impossible to achieve a school leaving certificate if you were not at school. This is one reason why the demise of GCSEs and possibly A-levels would close many doors for lifelong learners.
I write from the experience of being a former CEO and now trustee of the National Extension College, an education charity set up 60 years ago with the remit to ensure that there is an opportunity for those left behind to catch up.
Fiona Millar makes some excellent points but, as a teacher who teaches International baccalaureate (IB), A-level and GCSE qualifications, I have to highlight that her proposed baccalaureate would need exceptionally careful design if it were to solve the inequalities she correctly highlights, for several reasons. First, scrapping the now almost pointless GCSEs is a good idea for the reasons she cites, but such a change comes with the caveat that if her baccalaureate were to involve terminal exams, then those baccalaureate exams would be the first occasion that students would undertake such high-stakes tests, which presents an issue.
Second, the IB, which requires students to do most of what Millar proposes, works them into the ground. Sixth-formers taking the IB have an entirely different experience of years 12 and 13 to that of their peers doing A-levels, as the IB students are run ragged trying to jump through so many disparate hoops. Third, well-resourced schools offering a wide range of co-curricular activities (not least independent schools) will inevitably afford their students greater opportunities to excel across a diverse curriculum than less well-resourced schools.
The children of those with the sharpest elbows and greater resources will still succeed disproportionately, whatever the final qualification offered. And the inequalities of outcomes highlighted by Millar cannot be effectively addressed to any significant extent by changing the qualifications regime without also changing the entire structure of the UK’s education system.
Name and address supplied
Fiona Millar’s article is a valuable contribution to the debate about a future Labour government’s education policy. However, previous major reforms undertaken by both parties were effected through local education authorities (LEAs), now stripped of many of their powers and functions. I wonder if those currently responsible for the running of academies and free schools will be as cooperative with central government as LEAs were, despite political differences.
A reforming Labour government will need resources, courage and time to unravel the present inequitable patchwork and create a fairer system for all our children. It will be a huge challenge.
St Albans, Hertfordshire
America is experiencing two critical shortages at the same time: new school teachers and volunteers for the military.
The shortage of teachers is more specific to locality and subject area, rather than acute. School districts have been on a hiring spree for decades, but many schools are struggling to provide their classrooms with effective teachers.
Simultaneously, the military faces the worst recruitment crisis since it became an all-volunteer force in 1973. The Army, Air Force, and Navy are all failing to reach recruitment goals by the tens of thousands.
But now here is an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone by enabling more former troops to serve as teachers and, in so doing, acquainting more young people with the military.
Prior federal efforts to facilitate troops becoming teachers largely have proved ineffective. For example, in 1993, Congress created the Troops to Teachers program to incentivize states to create veteran-to-teacher hiring programs.
The program, known as TTT, offers participating states a $5 million yearly grant and individual veterans a yearly stipend of $5,000 while the veterans pursue teaching certifications.
To qualify, veterans need to have served a minimum of 48 months in the military within the past three years and have a bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject.
Since the program was established, several states have signed on. However, TTT’s performance has declined in recent years, with participation dropping from over 12,000 veterans hired as teachers in 2014 to fewer than 3,000 hired in 2017.
Because of the floundering participation rate, the Defense Department cut the program in 2020, although Congress temporarily reinstated it last year. But unreliable funding makes it difficult for states to implement consistent TTT programs and might dissuade veterans from participating.
The historic failure of the military services today to attract volunteers has real-world consequences. The Navy has undermanned ships, the Air Force has understrength squadrons, and the Army is considering cutting the number of brigade combat teams—all of which directly threaten America’s national security.
To boost recruitment, the military is offering a slew of benefits, such as hefty sign-on bonuses and allowing recruits to choose a first duty station. None of these attempts, however, seems to be turning the tide.
The biggest predictor that someone will join the military is his or her familiarity with the military. In 2019, 79% of Army recruits reported having at least one family member who had served; 30% of those relatives were the recruits’ parents.
So, it’s no surprise that areas near military installations generally have higher recruitment rates than the national average. These communities also tend to have more Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps programs, and schools encourage and prepare students to take the military’s entrance exam—as they do with the standard college admission tests.
However, with bases largely concentrated in the Southeast, most American youth don’t get much real exposure to the military.
Teacher hiring and retention and military recruitment problems are complex issues and may not seem related. But a potential solution could help alleviate both issues: eliminating state certification requirements for service members to teach.
To help America’s youth engage with the military, states and school districts could hire more veterans as teachers. Having extensive leadership experience and expertise in specific areas, veterans are more disciplined and have more life experience than the average college graduate, making them great candidates for mentorship roles.
Removing unnecessary barriers to veterans becoming teachers would benefit service members and students across the country.
Indeed, research suggests that teacher certification programs have little to no influence on students’ academic performance. Indeed, many state teacher certification requirements push aspiring teachers to attend education colleges that push critical race theory rather than foundational pedagogical concepts, lesson-plan design, and classroom management.
To encourage more veterans to apply for teacher positions, states should eliminate or dramatically reduce certification requirements for service members.
Some states, including Florida, are on the right track by offering temporary teaching licenses to veterans while they complete college degrees.
Having a college or postgraduate degree is important for teachers, but degrees aren’t necessarily good predictors of teacher quality. Rather, a teacher’s subject-specific qualifications tend to be a much greater indicator of student success.
States therefore could consider waiving the four-year bachelor’s degree requirement for those who have served for 48 months in highly sought-after technical fields such as cybersecurity, linguistics, or engineering.
America’s military recruitment crisis and teacher shortage are both serious issues affecting national security and the nation’s future.
States have the tools at their disposal to help with both and should take the lead in resolving these problems.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal
STUDENTS from QMC overcame a battle with cancer and a broken leg to achieve the grades they need for university.
Matt Pearce was diagnosed with a spinal tumour in the summer between his first and second year at Queen Mary's College.
He told the Gazette: "I had a pretty weird second year. I found out in the summer holidays between the first and second year that I had a spinal tumour.
"I had an operation to remove it, missed the first months of the second year, and it was hard to catch up but I have caught up now so that's all that matters."
Matt Pearce, who studied history, graphic design and philosophy, missed an entire term after he was diagnosed with the spinal tumour.
"It was tough, catching up on all that learning, you know it's difficult if you miss a day of A Levels let alone a few months.
Matt spoke of how he was given the option to put his studies on hold while he recovered but decided against it.
"I had to re-learn to walk and was told I could defer my studies, but I said 'If I'm just laying in bed, I might as well study'."
When results day came around, Matt admitted he was nervous about his grades.
"It was anxious waiting, but I'm just glad it paid off.
"I really am relieved."
Matt received a B in philosophy, a B in history and a C in graphic design, meaning he was able to get a place on the university course he desired.
He will go to Royal Holloway to study philosophy and politics, and he hopes to become a teacher.
"The goal for me at the minute is teaching, I want to start teacher training, and then teaching."
Helen Nash also studied at QMC, and after completing her maths paper, she found herself in a predicament.
She told the Gazette: "I came out of my first maths paper, fell down the stairs and broke my ankle."
Despite this, Helen's main concern was the fact she had an exam the next day.
"All I could think was 'I've got a biology exam tomorrow, how am I going to get to my exam?'
"I must have been the most insufferable patient ever because I would not shut up about my exam the next day, but I survived and I'm so exhilarated."
Despite this setback, she achieved an A in maths, an A in biology, a B in chemistry and a D in music.
She will now go on to study veterinary medicine at the University of Liverpool.
"I got the results I wanted and a bit better and now I can go to the University I want to go to."
North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for education, learning and skills, Cllr Annabel Wilkinson, said: “I am incredibly proud of the achievements of our remarkable students here in North Yorkshire.
“Receiving these grades and qualifications, local students can look forward to the future, whether that is a university place, further education, an apprenticeship, training, or employment.
“I would also like to thank all our teaching and school colleagues from across the county for their ongoing hard work and dedication. The results are also a testament to them.
“Congratulations to all the students. I wish everyone the very best for their next steps and longer-term futures.”
North Yorkshire Council’s corporate director for children and young people’s services, Stuart Carlton, praised students for their exam success.
He said: “I would like to congratulate students on their achievements and thank our dedicated teachers for all the help and guidance they have provided. I wish young people who have received their results today the very best in their future studies or employment.
“I am very proud of the schools and colleges in North Yorkshire, and of the commitment of leaders and teachers, who work incredibly hard to support our students to achieve well. As a local authority we are ambitious for all our children and young people and are committed to providing here in North Yorkshire the quality of provision and support they need to pursue their individual aspirations.”
Any student who is not happy with their results should speak to their school, or college, which will be able to provide them with advice on how to explore future options for example through clearing.
Young people who may be uncertain about what to do next or are anxious about taking the next steps in their education, employment, or training are encouraged to find out more from their school, college or careers adviser.
When: Hempfield school board meeting, Aug. 8.
What happened: In a 9-0 vote, the board approved several contracts for 2023-24, including those that will support teacher training and enhance student safety services through online content inspection.
Details: A contract with Dame Leadership will provide executive training and coaching. Costello Educational Consulting will maintain a contract to implement a coaching format to support classroom teachers with math instruction at the elementary level. Gaggle will help to manage safety on school-provided technology. It will also assist in screening students for mental health symptoms by monitoring student activity on school-provided devices.
By the numbers: The contract with Dame will cost $6,000 and be funded from the superintendent’s budget. Costello Educational Consulting will cost $750 per day, $375 per half day, and $93.75 per hour. Federal pandemic relief funds will cover this cost. The contract with Gaggle will cost $28,820, which will come from the technology budget.
Staffing update: Due to the retirement of Jodi Harrington, Kimberly Donahue was hired as a substitute assistant principal at Centerville Middle School with a rate of $400 per day. A search committee is in place in order to find a permanent replacement.
Safety grant: Superintendent Michael Bromirski shared information regarding a two-year state School Mental Health & Safety and Security Grant the district received in May for $203,630 per year. Hempfield has used the money to hire an additional social worker and extra student assistance program (SAP) teachers as well as for trainings for those involved with the SAP process. The district is also looking to hire additional security personnel and other positions with the funding.
What’s next: Officials have requested an extension to this grant so that the district can use the money more effectively.
Next meeting: The policy, personnel and legal committee meeting will meet at 5 p.m. Aug. 17.
VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Heading into the school year, almost all of Central Florida’s districts are still facing a teacher shortage and are finding different ways to fill the gaps.
Many are finding more people to teach that don’t come from traditional education backgrounds but are hired on temporary certificates.
“Sometimes they’re coming straight from their institution and they’ve got an educational degree and they’re excited to start their planned career but others are pivoting from other careers they’ve known for a long time,” said Tiffany Fuller, Volusia Schools’ recruitment and retention coordinator.
When the bells ring on Volusia’s first day of school Monday, there will be 418 teachers brand new to the district and a little over 100 of those are on temporary, or alternative, certifications.
“If you have a heart for kids, we can start a conversation. That has to be ground zero, that’s where we build from,” Fuller said.
Florida started allowing districts to hire on alternative certifications in the late ‘90s to help them fill vacancies.
Fuller said they’re now recruiting for it more than ever with the national teacher shortage growing each year.
“Our goal has been to open up the doors and start having conversations with people about ‘have you considered this? Here’s some of the benefits about this,’” she said.
These teachers have to have a bachelor’s degree, pass background checks, and then get hired by a district on a temporary certificate. Depending on what bachelor’s degree they have, they may have to take a state subject placement exam.
Then, while teaching, they have five years to complete the requirements for a professional certificate which include exams and a state preparation program.
In the meantime, it’s up to the district to get them classroom ready, like in Volusia’s New Teacher Academy.
“We want you to be able to manage your classroom, we want you to know how to build relationships with students and set up structures for success so that classroom can run smoothly. We have curriculum support, so you know how to best teach the whatever it is you’re going to be teaching that year,” Fuller said.
Some of these teachers come from very different backgrounds like law, science, or medical while others have some experience in schools like substituting and decided to take the leap.
“A lot of times, school is the most fun place for them so just seeing the smiles back on their face every day in the building is what I’m most excited for,” Sean Hyacinth said.
Hyacinth has been a paraprofessional or teacher’s aid. This year, though, he’s getting a classroom of his own as a fifth grade math and science teacher.
“If there’s ever an issue in any profession, the best way to tackle that issue is to join it and see how you can help. I’m filling a vacancy they didn’t have filled,” he said.
Currently, Volusia has 107 classroom vacancies. That’s down from 256 at this time last year.
The district has also brought in international teachers this year to fill the gap. There will be 55 international teachers in classrooms this year.
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