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report

MAY 2013

THE MAGAZINE FROM THE ASSOCIATION OF TEACHERS & LECTURERS £2.50

Equalities eroded

Top reps

The dismantling of equalities safeguards

Report meets ATL’s award-winning reps

Steamrollered! Why the government must stop forcing through its plans for the national curriculum

ADVICE Legal guidance on changes to the employment tribunal process

JOIN THE DEBATE Michaela Strachan on encouraging the next generation of conservationists


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Contents

Welcome

20 10 Features

Your ATL 04

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News Including concerns over asbestos, independent schools converting to free schools and ATL’s response to the new FE commissioner

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Slow down and start again Report outlines ATL members’ concerns over the proposed national curriculum

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Winning reps ATL’s award-winning reps explain the importance of union activity and what they get out of the role

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Equalities under attack Report looks at the government changes undermining equalities safeguards

Noticeboard Advice, information, events and opportunities to get involved

Join the debate 14

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Agenda General secretary Mary Bousted on how appraisals and performance-related pay cannot work together Letters ATL members have their say on Ofsted, teacher training and Michael Gove’s not-so-Latin qualities ATL in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland Philip Dixon, Mark Langhammer and Keith Robson give views from around the UK Final word TV presenter Michaela Strachan on encouraging the conservation debate

Help and advice 23

Early conciliation Guidance on changes to the employment tribunal process

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Contact All the details you need to get in touch with ATL

Resources 26

ATL resources Useful newsletters, publications and the ATL diary order form

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Classified advertisements Crossword Your chance to win £50 of Marks & Spencer vouchers

Report is the magazine from the Association of Teachers & Lecturers, 7 Northumberland Street, London WC2N 5RD Telephone: 020 7930 6441 Fax: 020 7930 1359 Email report@atl.org.uk or membership@atl.org.uk Internet www.atl.org.uk Managing editor Victoria Poskitt Editors Alex Tomlin, Charlotte Tamvakis Head of advertising sales Stephen Price 01603 772856 Advertising sales Lisa Marrison (nee Parkinson) 01603 772521

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Hank Roberts, national president, ATL

ell, spring has finally fully sprung and soon many of you will be looking forward to a well-earned summer holiday. Or will you? Now, as if Michael Gove wasn’t already unpopular enough, he has announced that he wants English state schools to lengthen the school days and cut holidays. Suzanne Moore in The Guardian wrote: “I like seeing my children sometimes — and what I see is that at the end of the day, and certainly by the end of the term, they are tired … I don’t see why our long-hours culture should ruin their lives.” It’s an awful plan, agreed Tim Lott in the Independent on Sunday: cancel the holidays; only work matters. Teachers know how important the summer break is for them to get over the stresses of the year and recharge their batteries, not to mention spending some time on preparing for the year ahead! This lengthening of hours and shortening of holidays is a real part of Michael Gove’s strategy, as shown by the fact that many academy chains already have teaching days from 8.30am to 5pm, Saturday school, and shorter holidays. Add to this the fact that he is increasingly forcing schools to be taken over by such academy chains. Yet Britain’s successful independent schools generally have longer holidays. The Economist pointed out that Finland, which excels in most educational league tables, “subjects children to fewer hours of teaching a day than any other country in the developed world. It has, however, unusually well qualified teachers”. Compulsory schooling starts at seven years of age. And oh heaven, no Ofsted! But Mr Gove wouldn’t let the evidence get in the way of a policy. In this issue we cover proposals for a history curriculum (p10) of which Toby Young, as well as Michael Gove, would approve; one more based on the classics. Classic Dickens, that is. Welcome back Mr Gradgrind and Mr M’Choakumchild. The fundamental lesson we will have to teach Michael Gove is that history shows us time moves forwards not backwards. The purpose of its study is to learn from the lessons of history, not to repeat the errors — first as tragedy, then as farce.

Report is produced and designed for ATL by Archant Dialogue Ltd, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, Norfolk NR1 1RE. Email: mail@archantdialogue.co.uk Production editor Lucy Mowatt, Art editor Claire Leibrick, Creative director Nick Paul, Managing ad production controller Kay Brown, Publishing director Zoë Francis-Cox, Managing director Mick Hurrell Printed in the UK on FSC-accredited stock. Subscription: Non-members, including libraries, may subscribe at the rate of £16 per year. ATL accepts no liability for any insert, display or classified advertisement included in this publication. While every reasonable care is taken to ensure that all advertisers are reliable and reputable, ATL can give no assurance that they will fulfil their obligation under all circumstances. The views expressed in the articles in Report are the contributors’ own and do not necessarily reflect ATL policy. Official policy statements issued on behalf of the Association are indicated as such. All rights reserved. Material contained in this publication may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without prior permission of ATL.


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Independents dominate free school list

FE fee fears

free schools to be set up “to address More than half of the schools that real demand in an area ... in response have applied to become free schools to what local people say they want are from the independent sector. and need”, so it is unclear how Department for Education (DfE) conversions from the independent data shows that 179 of the 323 sector accomplish this aim. schools that have applied to become Should they all be successful, 10 free schools or have already opened times more independent schools as free schools are independent. would have become free schools While many on the list are than would have converted to small religious schools, there are academies. However, the vast specialist groups such as Steiner majority of the approximately and Montessori, as well as some well-established large independent schools, Financial necessity, including Batley not ideology, is the driving Grammar School. force of this part of Michael John Richardson, ATL’s Gove’s ‘revolution’ national official for the independent sector, said: 2,500 UK independent schools “Financial necessity, not ideology, is are remaining independent. the driving force of this part of Financial pressures are also Michael Gove’s ‘revolution’. For some prompting independent schools members, it might mean that they to convert. A recent example is see their school survive in what are difficult financial times in the sector. King’s School in Tyne and Wear; when pupil numbers at the fee“The whole school would convert paying school dropped by at the same time, with all fees being approximately a third to 600 in dropped at once. I imagine most just over three years, it decided fee-paying parents would be pleased to become an academy through a they are getting the schooling free.” merger with a state sector primary. However, the government created

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One in five FE staff and students who took part in a survey believe changes to post-24 funding will mean fewer people study level 3 and 4 courses in the future. A joint NUS, ATL, UCU and Unison survey on the new system for FE students aged 24 and over also revealed that less than 10% of staff feel they have enough information and knowledge to be able to communicate how the new system works to students. More than half (54%) said they had no information while 37% said they had limited information. Jill Stokoe, policy adviser in ATL’s education policy and research department, said: “Although there was publicity and training available to familiarise colleges with the system, our survey makes it very clear staff and students still do not fully understand how the process will work. Added to this there is the increased administrative burden for staff and students, who now have to deal with the complexities of taking out long-term loans. “It is estimated 100,000 young adults will not continue their education because of these loans and the new system could prevent thousands of adults from accessing higher education and retraining. This is going to hit higher level apprentices particularly hard as they will, in effect, now have to pay to work.” Under the old system, the government paid 50% of tuition fees for most FE students aged 24 and over studying level 3 or above. But now those students will have to pay the full cost of these courses and advanced or higher apprenticeships, with loans available for 100% of the fees. NUS, ATL, UCU and Unison believe the policy should be dropped.

Questions over new FE role ATL has concerns over the remit and accountability of a new ‘FE commissioner’ announced by the government in April. The government’s new strategy Rigour and Responsiveness in Skills will also mean FE colleges deemed to be underperforming could be put into ‘administered college’ status, and the FE commissioner would advise on how to improve colleges considered ‘inadequate’. Jill Stokoe, policy adviser in ATL’s www.atl.org.uk

education policy and research department, said: “Serious questions remain on the role of the proposed new FE commissioner, including whether this will clash with the remit and powers of Ofsted, and on how accountable to Parliament the commissioner will be. “Having disestablished the Learning and Skills Improvement Service and reduced the remit of the Skills Funding Agency, the government appears to be reinventing

the wheel with the added complication of a new roving role that does not sit in any particular agency or department.” Meanwhile, the implementation plan for the FE Guild has now been approved. Its initial focus will be on teaching and learning staff and those directly supporting learner outcomes and experience, but it is expected that eventually it will encompass everyone working in the sector. May 2013


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Left to right: Avie Kaur, Wanda Wyporska, Tendai Mashapure, Angela Bailey, Charles AttaDarkwah, Godwin Agbi and Chris Lubbe at the TUC black workers’ conference

Austerity widening gap ATL put the issue of social divisions in education on the agenda at the TUC black workers’ conference in April. ATL Executive member and delegation leader Avie Kaur brought a motion calling on the TUC and its affiliates to lobby the Department for Education and the National College for School Leadership to set up effective ethnic monitoring mechanisms across state and independent schools to redress the current under-representation of black and minority ethnic (BME) teachers and those in leadership roles. She said: “This conference was a first on many fronts. Led by the first black female Executive member, it was the largest ever delegation, the first all-black delegation, and it had five first-time ATL delegates. “The conference served once again to bring to the forefront the realisation that the gap between workers based on ethnicity is growing wider now as a result of severe austerity measures. The dismantling of structures such as the

equality impact assessment is an open invitation to unscrupulous employers who may choose not to employ ethnic workers or allow them progression through the organisation or, worse still, pay them at lower scales with no redress.” Members Godwin Agbi and Mary Auguiste-Ernest took part in a panel debate on ‘Putting race back on the agenda’. ATL members Chris Lubbe, Angela Bailey, Tendai Mashapure and Charles AttaDarkwah also spoke at the conference. ATL equalities officer Wanda Wyporska said: “The whole delegation learnt a lot from the debates, the networking and the workshops. The TUC equalities conferences provide excellent CPD and a great opportunity to get up to date with issues affecting members. I would encourage members very strongly to think about attending one; it’s a great way to work towards solutions on the ground.” You can read about the current attack on equalities legislation on page 20.

‘Tech bacc’ concern ATL has welcomed the government’s focus on vocational education in its announcement of a new technical baccalaureate — or ‘tech bacc’ — but is concerned it will merely act as a performance measure rather than existing as a qualification in its own right. ATL general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “It is important to get the curriculum right for students and it is not just about holding schools to account.” ATL also believes 16- to 19-year-olds need vocational skills irrespective of what subjects May 2013

they are studying, and that there should be opportunities to move between the two paths, as happens in European systems. “It is worrying that vocational and academic qualifications will continue to be separate. Young people need the option of being able to study both vocational and academic subjects,” she said. “Sadly, it is the old story of trying to make the education system do what the labour market and employers should be doing anyway. Once again this looks like policymaking on the hoof.”

Asbestos warning Schools are being advised to get their heating systems checked for asbestos. The Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC), of which ATL is a member, issued the warning last month after asbestos fibres found in warm air cabinet heaters in Cwmcarn High School in Wales in October 2012 led to the school being closed, which it remains. It has been known since 1981 that asbestos fibres can be released from warm air cabinet heaters, and in 1982 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued guidance to schools to seal or preferably remove the asbestos panels from the heaters. JUAC says it is vital schools have checks carried out by professional asbestos consultants to see whether they have warm air cabinet heaters and if these contain asbestos. If they do, the heaters must be made safe.

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It is about ensuring that schools comply with their legal duties

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Jacqui O’Neill, ATL’s member adviser for health and safety, said: “The advice is not intended to cause panic or upset. It is about ensuring that schools comply with their legal duties to identify and manage any asbestos that may be present on their premises.” JUAC chair Julie Winn said: “The Cwmcarn High School case clearly demonstrates the confusion around asbestos management and the poor management of it in many schools. “The HSE’s continued failure to issue a report on its investigation shows a lack of transparency and has added to the confusion for staff, governors and parents.” Under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, schools must maintain and regularly update an asbestos register with the location and condition of asbestos-containing materials in the school. You can see the JUAC guidance at www.atl.org.uk/asbestos. www.atl.org.uk


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The future for accountability ATL believes there is too much emphasis on accountability to the government and not enough on accountability to parents, governing bodies and the local community. This is a key message in our response to a recent government consultation on secondary school accountability in England, in which the Department for Education (DfE) proposed changes to existing secondary school performance measures and sought views on accountability data. Adrian Prandle, policy adviser in ATL’s education policy and research department, said: “ATL is clear teachers should be accountable, but the question is to whom, for what and how? Governing bodies should hold schools accountable to the local community, and a review of

governance should go hand in hand with a review of accountability. Schools’ accountability to the taxpayer should be exercised at the local level.” ATL believes the DfE accountability proposals include too many criteria, which make the published results too complex, and continue to prioritise certain subjects. Meanwhile, the progress measure it suggests lacks fairness and transparency and assumes the reliability of key stage 2 data. ATL recommends no national testing before the end of schooling, so accountability is not based on testing individual pupils. We also propose accountability based on national sample testing, school self-evaluation and peer-led quality assurance, with national validation

and standardisation in place of Ofsted inspections. “Jumping through hoops — including teaching to the test — is a common consequence of England’s high-stakes accountability systems and serves young people badly,” said Adrian Prandle. “These proposals for secondary school accountability unnecessarily increase competition between schools at the detriment of collaboration, which experience shows is vital to teacher professional development and school improvement. The government should take a steady approach to reform, based on evidence.” You can read this and all ATL’s responses to consultations at: www.atl.org.uk/responses

ATL’s gains on performance pay

FE pay latest

Details of the new performance-related pay government, rather than threatening system for teachers in England and Wales industrial action, ATL has ensured have been set out in a draft version of the performance-related pay progression will School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions not start until September 2014, instead of Document 2013 — and through careful September 2013 as first proposed. ATL negotiation, ATL has has also secured all pay secured improvements progression to start on on the government’s ATL has ensured 1 September, not at any performance-related point in the year as initially original plans. pay progression will proposed, along with the The new document has not start until been issued in draft ability for schools to create September 2014 form so schools can a defined pay scale between review their policies to the maximum and take account of the changes. These include minimum points, allowing teachers linking pay progression to performance an annual increment. based on the outcome of a teacher’s There will also be discretion for schools appraisal; replacing the main and upper to appoint post-threshold teachers on the pay scales with two ranges with minimum same salary as their previous school, and and maximum salary points so teachers all current ASTs and ETs will have their pay can be paid any amount; removing the protected for three years. automatic entitlement for teachers to move For the latest information on pay in to another school on the same salary; and England and Wales along with ATL’s abolishing advanced skills teachers (ASTs) FAQs and guidance for members, see and excellent teachers (ETs), replacing www.atl.org.uk/paynews. For Mary Bousted’s them with learning practitioners. views on appraisal and performance-related Through persuasive dialogue with the pay, see the Agenda article on page 14.

A pay increase of 0.5% for those earning more than £15,000 has been put forward by employers in the FE sector. At a meeting of the FE National Joint Forum (NJF) in April, FE employers also offered a £150 flat rate pay increase for those earning below £15,000 and a willingness to discuss further how the NJF might support work towards a ‘living wage’. The offer has been made on the condition that the joint trade unions agree to a number of commitments to be set out in a joint statement that includes a willingness to engage in discussions regarding local approaches to incremental pay progression. ATL welcomes the proposals aimed at low-paid staff but is disappointed the subject of incremental progression at a local level has been raised again despite it having been rejected by all the unions last year. The next round of talks was due on 16 May, where ATL was set to continue negotiating to try and improve this offer. See www.atl.org.uk/fepaybackground for the latest news.

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May 2013

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Fair4Families

Share My Lesson

Fair4Families is a campaign asking the Chancellor to put families at the top of his agenda in the 2013 Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) on 26 June. Families with children are facing an unprecedented squeeze on their finances as a result of the rising cost of everyday necessities like food, petrol and childcare, and reductions in benefits and tax credits. At the same time many families are feeling an unprecedented ‘care squeeze’ as they try to meet the dual challenges of raising children and caring for elderly relatives. In tough times families need support to allow them to become the asset to this country that we know they can be. In March, ATL’s general secretary Mary Bousted signed an open letter to the Chancellor as part of the campaign asking the government to be ‘Fair4Families’ in both the Budget and the CSR. The government has already taken steps to protect pensioners by introducing a ‘triple lock’ to ensure state pensions will rise by inflation, average earnings or 2.5% — whichever is higher. Yet families are struggling with realterms cuts in tax credits, child benefit, and maternity and paternity pay among other things. Fair4Families is calling on the government to introduce a ‘triple lock’ for families and to put them at the centre of the CSR. For more information about the campaign and to sign a petition ahead of the CSR, see the website www.4children.org.uk/fair4families.

Share My Lesson is a free online platform where educators can come together to create and share their very best teaching resources. Developed by teachers for teachers, it also provides an online community where teachers can collaborate with, encourage and inspire each other. Teachers in more than 50 countries are already using Share My Lesson, and it contains more than 250,000 resources. ATL is a member of Education International, which is the world’s largest federation of unions, representing 30 million education employees in about 400 organisations across the globe. Share My Lesson has been developed by Education International’s affiliate, the American Federation of Teachers and its British partner, TES Connect. Education International has supported the platform’s development and contributed materials to it. Go to www.sharemylesson.com for more information and to register, take advantage of free resources and contribute your own materials.

www.atl.org.uk

May 2013


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Events for your diary

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ATL summer conferences 2013: 25 July-2 August

May 2013

These free conferences feature a keynote speech from ATL general secretary Mary Bousted, who will host a frank and fair discussion about what is happening in education and wants to hear member views on the way forward, along with updates on pay and curriculum, workshops, panel discussions and a choice of free, quality CPD sessions. They are an opportunity for members to come together to discuss the issues facing you as educational professionals today. The dates and venues are: • 25 July, Manchester • 26 July, York • 30 July, Bristol • 1 August, Birmingham • 2 August, London. For more information and to reserve a place, see www.atl.org.uk/summerconferences

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cover feature / curriculum proposals

Slow down Start again Why ATL believes the government should delay its curriculum proposals so there can be a full and proper debate on the purpose of a national curriculum

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here is a sense of déjà vu looking at the coalition government’s proposals for the national curriculum in England. It is barely three months since a storm of opposition from education unions, academics and celebrities eventually caused Secretary of State Michael Gove to back down over aspects of his English baccalaureate certificates. Now here we are again with unions, academics, subject associations, authors and celebrities such as David Attenborough objecting to part or all of the government’s curriculum proposals. The question is how Mr Gove will respond this time. The curriculum is due to come into effect in maintained schools in England from September 2014, with some aspects of the current curriculum being ‘disapplied’ from September 2013. Academies and free schools are not required to follow the curriculum. The consultation document lays out: • the proposed aims of the statutory national curriculum • proposed statements on inclusion and the development of pupils’ competence in language, literacy and numeracy across the school curriculum • revised programmes of study for all national curriculum subjects (excluding KS4 English, mathematics and science). The proposals say all state-funded schools must provide an education that is “balanced and broadly based and which promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school

www.atl.org.uk

and of society, and prepares pupils at the lines. However, its proposals go against school for the opportunities, responsibilities much of ATL’s vision. and experiences of later life”. Along with the number and seriousness of In April, ATL, like many other the concerns that members expressed during organisations, submitted a response to the consultation process, ATL believes the the government’s proposals. It highlights curriculum is being rushed through at an a number of concerns we have about the impractical and dangerous pace. overall design of the curriculum and also In a sign of the widespread opposition, identifies issues within individual subjects more than 100 organisations and individuals, that need addressing. including teachers’ unions, professional and ATL’s vision for the curriculum is this: curriculum associations, academics and • It should be a children’s authors, signed a It’s been slim, skills-based joint statement, coordinated framework, which steamrollered ahead by ATL, arguing that the has as its focus pupils’ curriculum will not and it’s too important primary needs and interests. raise education standards and to rush through Schools and teachers will fail to prepare children should have the for the future. professional freedom to develop Overly prescriptive the detailed content and pedagogy ‘rote learning’ collaboratively with other professionals, One key objection is the level of prescription the local community, employers, pupils involved. When the curriculum review was and families. first announced the chair of the expert • A slim framework should mean defining panel, Professor Tim Oates, said: “The essential content across all subjects, national curriculum that we have at the supported explicitly with aims. It should moment has led teachers to move with not mean cutting out or demoting undue pace through material and individual subjects. encouraged a ‘tick list’ approach to teaching. • A slim national curriculum should give We will make changes only where justified, teachers space to innovate and support in order to avoid unnecessary disruption to pupils’ learning in an ever-changing the education system.” society. However, despite the promises of a slimmed-down curriculum, what is being Listening to government rhetoric prior to proposed at primary level in the core the announcement of its curriculum plans, subjects of English, maths and science it sounded as though the Department for contains a great deal of detail, such as Education (DfE) was thinking along similar

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Slow down statutory spelling lists and arithmetic procedures. “The DfE has set out so much content on what pupils are supposed to achieve at primary level by the end of each year,” says ATL policy adviser Louisa Thomson. “It has said there will be opportunity to revisit it later, but our concern is there is so much detail throughout the curriculum that there simply won’t be time to do it, and children will be left behind. “It doesn’t take into account the different ways children learn, that they don’t learn in linear progression; and the focus on rote learning is not reflective of classroom reality.” The value placed on facts, or ‘essential knowledge’, over concepts, skills and attitudes, means that an increase in rote learning would prevail at the expense of understanding and critical thinking. However, teachers know children learn through real-world situations, and make their learning make sense by being creative, thoughtful and questioning. If school learning fails to make connections with other parts of pupils’ lives, evidence suggests levels of disengagement will increase, particularly among children from poorer backgrounds. Business groups have also expressed doubts. Neil Carberry, CBI director of employment and skills, said: “Businesses want an ambitious, highly rigorous curriculum in terms of what we aim for, but one which doesn’t over-prescribe specifics better left to teachers. While many of the proposals the government makes are May 2013

valuable, we don’t think the overall approach passes this test.” Instead of raising standards, ATL believes there is a risk of inhibiting progress for large numbers of children, labelling some as failures. There are numerous examples, already presented in the media by a plethora of experts and subject associations, showing that the proposals contain unrealistic and inappropriate expectations of children at too early an age. While ATL believes schools should have high expectations of pupils, setting those expectations higher than teachers know most children are capable of will only discourage and disengage many who see no chance of reaching those levels. For example, is comprehending AngloSaxon heptarchy and feudalism at the age of seven, as the history curriculum demands, taking Michael Gove’s fervent desire for rigour too far?

Subject concerns No subject has been more examined and critiqued in the proposed curriculum than history, which embodies many of the characteristics of the whole curriculum that are causing concern. The much-publicised decision to teach chronologically and to learn the monarchs of England by heart shows no awareness of how pupils learn, as the Institute of Education’s Professor Chris Husbands says: “There’s no evidence that teaching chronologically produces an understanding of chronology. What we want young people to have is a

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usable map of the past.” ATL members also express doubt as to whether all the content can be covered in practice. Cross-curricular links with other subjects such as geography have been lost. In all, the approach promotes frantic rote learning over critical review and developing an interest in the subject. One aspect of the history curriculum Michael Gove appears to have taken a personal interest in is an exclusive focus on British history, something that surprised one of the advisers helping to draw up the curriculum. Steven Mastin, head of history at a Cambridge school, was quoted in The Guardian saying the proposals bore no resemblance to the drafts he worked on. “As far as I am aware, we will be the only jurisdiction in the Western world that won’t teach world history. There is no world history in there at all except when Britain bumps into these places. “And age-appropriateness is something else to worry about. Children are expected to understand the complex problems of democracy, nation and civilisation by the age of six. The idea they will understand the concept of civilisation by six just doesn’t work. I don’t think this is a teachable document.” Meanwhile, consultation was distinctly lacking in the design and technology curriculum. The TES reported Matt White, assistant director of the DfE’s national curriculum review, as saying it was drafted internally without “an advisory structure” by a department that does not “have a body of specific design and technology expertise”. The response of Neil Carberry of the CBI was: “The proposed design and technology curriculum is out of step with the needs of a modern economy. It lacks academic and technical rigour, as well as clear links to the realities of the workplace.” ATL also believes there are issues with the core subjects of maths (a lack of emphasis on mathematical thinking, reasoning and problem-solving), science (facts have dulled the content, ignoring the benefits of experimentation) and English, in which ATL welcomes an emphasis on reading for meaning and pleasure, but believes this has come at the expense of drama and the discrete strand of spoken language that enables children to develop skills in asking their own questions along with a host of other qualities. www.atl.org.uk


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cover feature / curriculum proposals

An alternative plan Disjointed and incoherent There are also issues about the coherence of these proposals. Firstly, it is unclear how the curriculum will link with assessment arrangements, such as key stage 1 and 2 tests, GCSE reforms and accountability measures for primary schools, which themselves are unpublished or lacking in clarity. ATL believes the assessment requirements and the curriculum proposals should be published at the same time to enable a more coherent analysis and debate of these two inextricably linked systems. Our members have expressed concern that assessment measures will continue to be high stakes and target driven, further distorting the imbalance between core and foundation subjects, and putting undue pressure on pupils and teachers at the key points of external testing. And even within the curriculum there is a lack of coherence between the stages, notably from early years foundation stage (EYFS) to key stage 1, where members suggest the early learning goals do not relate to the curriculum in Year 1; eg sound is a key feature in the EYFS, but then does not appear again until Year 3. One Year 1 teacher and ATL member said that many children enter school at such a low starting point, unable to use a pencil effectively in some instances, that it seems a huge leap from there to fulfil the requirements of the EYFS and then Year 1. There are also concerns about the transition from primary to secondary, which could be exacerbated by the fact that academies and free schools are not required to cover the national curriculum. Many pupils would be moving from a maintained primary to a secondary academy to discover little or no continuity between the two. Given the government push towards academies and free schools at both primary and secondary level, it begs the question of why pupils at maintained schools are required to follow this supposedly new and improved curriculum while their peers in academies and free schools are not.

Rushed through Meanwhile, for those teachers who will have to implement the curriculum, ATL members are worried that the rushed implementation of such wholesale changes will be nigh on impossible with existing www.atl.org.uk

ATL is calling on the government to do the following: • Delay the proposed statutory implementation of the new national curriculum in September 2014 to give time for a complete rethink of the current aims, values and content. • Allow proper time for local area and school-level curriculum planning, feedback and refining during 2013-14. • Give more time and support for schools to develop resources and provide high quality CPD. • Allow for further debate on the content of the national curriculum as proposals for assessment and accountability are developed.

capacity and expertise. They are also concerned it will not allow for the development of local innovative options, particularly with the rapid disappearance of local authority cluster meetings, which will make partnerships with local schools more difficult. On top of this there would appear to be a need for training and resources to enable a complex implementation at a time when budgets for both are dwindling, while teachers are obviously still teaching much of the old curriculum. Members also predict a confusing interim period over the coming academic year with aspects of the current curriculum being disapplied, while key stage 2 pupils could be taught the new curriculum but tested on the old. Ultimately, ATL believes the government must delay implementation of its new curriculum in order to have a proper debate about what it should look like and what it is trying to achieve. “The stated aims of the current proposals say nothing about pupils’ learning or active engagement in creating, thinking and questioning,” says Louisa Thomson. “Nor do they give any indication of the purposes of education in developing pupils as active citizens, workers or carers.” ATL says this should be an opportunity to open up a debate and build consensus with teachers, parents, employers and others. “It’s been steamrollered ahead,” says Louisa, “and it’s too important to rush through in this manner. Like the English baccalaureate

• Include a clear oracy strand within the English curriculum and reinstate drama as it plays a key role in enhancing children’s language skills and confidence. • Include a greater emphasis on mathematical thinking, reasoning and problem-solving. • Revise the history curriculum entirely, moving away from the narrow focus on British history and age-inappropriate content for primary school children. • Review the foundation subjects and cross-curricular links to ensure there is greater coherence and structure across the curriculum as a whole, and more emphasis on concepts and skills, and pupils’ progression.

certificate, there is time to stop and go back and gain some legitimacy.” However, a delay looks unlikely, judging by a DfE spokesperson quoted in the TES saying: “Extending the consultation period would delay implementation. A whole year of pupils would miss out on a more rigorous, knowledge-focused curriculum.” It would also delay implementation until after the general election in May 2015. ATL members can help highlight concerns about the proposals even though the consultation has closed. We’d like to hear from you — in particular over any subject-specific concerns, and the challenges of implementing the changes given the short timescales. We also need your help to form a different vision for the national curriculum. A locally designed curriculum is a key part of ATL’s policy — can you identify any good practice examples from your areas that we can help publicise and share? We will be developing materials, briefings and further information for branches in the coming weeks. Check www.atl.org.uk/curriculum for updates. ATL’s work on the curriculum came from members sharing their views, which we used in our consultation response. If you are interested in offering your views on education issues in the future, email lthomson@atl.org.uk. Visit www.atl.org.uk/curriculum to find out more or contact us at report@atl.org.uk

May 2013


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join the debate / agenda

Appraisals and pay don’t mix Using the appraisal process to both develop teachers and decide their pay is a circle that cannot be squared, says ATL general secretary Mary Bousted

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ow can good teachers be identified and rewarded? That was the subject debated at a recent summit of the top 20 education systems in the developed world, jointly hosted by the OECD (the body behind those all-important PISA international league tables) and Education International, the umbrella body for education unions throughout the world. The government (none of whose ministers attended) believes the answer is simple. From September, teacher appraisal will have two focus points: formative assessment of teachers’ strengths and areas for development; and a summative assessment of each teacher’s performance set against appraisal objectives and the teacher standards upon which pay recommendations will be made. Ministers have long trumpeted their assertion that good performance will be rewarded by higher pay. Let us leave to one side the situation of school leaders struggling to manage stand-alone budgets that leave no room for rising rewards for some teachers without pay cuts for others. Let us focus on the very complex process of devising and operating an appraisal system that results in valid and reliable judgements about teacher performance upon which pay decisions are based. The OECD produced a report for the summit, Teachers for the 21st Century: Using Evaluation to Improve Teaching, based on a large database and rigorous evaluation of the international evidence. Its authors say systematic approaches to appraisal are important both for teacher development and the status of the profession. So, what do effective appraisal systems look like? The OECD states that good appraisal systems are based on a shared understanding of good teaching and are part of well-aligned procedures for teacher preparation, registration or certification, induction and mentoring, support structures, and professional learning opportunities. Effective

www.atl.org.uk

appraisal systems need to draw on multiple to use results for both formative and instruments of evaluation, be conducted by summative purposes. However, combining well-trained evaluators, offer differentiated the improvement and accountability appraisal approaches for teachers at various functions into a single teacher-appraisal stages of their careers, provide for teachers’ process is not straightforward. When the active participation in the process and be appraisal is oriented towards improving followed up by suggestions for improvement teaching practices, teachers are usually and continuous learning opportunities. prepared to reveal their weaknesses, in The preceding paragraph is worth rethe expectation that conveying that reading. How many of you could say that all information will lead to more effective the elements of an effective appraisal system decisions on developmental needs and are on offer where you work? The OECD did training. However, when teachers are not offer a pick ’n’ mix — all the elements confronted with potential consequences listed above are necessary if staff are to of appraisal on their career and salary, the benefit from appraisal and if pay decisions inclination to reveal weaknesses can be are to be based on sound evidence. reduced, thereby jeopardising the Of all the criteria put forward by the OECD improvement function.” the most difficult to establish, I would argue, There is, I think, just no way round is ‘a shared understanding of good teaching’, this conundrum. If we want appraisal which is not the same thing as Ofsted criteria to be developmental, personalised and for good teaching that have been imposed productive then it has to be formative. If upon, rather than developed with, the pay is in the picture, teachers will play up teaching profession. The OECD concludes: their strengths and downplay weaknesses without a and areas for comprehensive and development in their If pay is in the shared view of teacher practice. Add to this picture, teachers will play the absence of shared professionalism, up their strengths and appraisal systems understandings of will not succeed. effective practice that downplay weaknesses ATL has a affects too many comprehensive view schools, and we have a toxic mix that risks of teacher professionalism (see harming professional relations in schools www.atl.org.uk/professionalism). and making the appraisal process a formal, The coalition’s policy on teacher legalistic encounter rather than a genuine professionalism, however, is completely discussion between peers engaged in inadequate (the revised teaching standards improving professional practice. are simplistic and reductive) and the lack I finish with one very important OECD of engagement with teachers leaves a finding: the key marker of a quality gaping hole where a shared understanding education system is the opportunity it of what elements constitute effective presents for teachers to develop expertise teaching, and how it is assessed, should sit. and then share expertise with other This makes the operation of just appraisal teachers. Top quality education systems systems extremely problematic. The value teachers’ professional knowledge and situation becomes even more complex require teachers to make what they know when pay recommendations are dependent available to others. In a top-down, on appraisal outcomes. hierarchical system these opportunities The OECD says this about squaring the happen rarely, if at all. This is the situation circle: “Most teacher-appraisal systems aim in far too many schools in the UK.

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join the debate / letters

15

Send your letters to: Report, ATL, 7 Northumberland Street, London WC2N 5RD or email report@atl.org.uk. The views expressed in the letters printed in Report do not necessarily reflect ATL policy or opinion.

STAR LETTER

Staying the course

YURI ARCURS/ALAMY

I have just read Zoe Williams’ Final Word ‘Spoilt for choice’ (Report, March 2013), all the while shouting “Yes! Yes! Yes!” in the manner of Meg Ryan. It seems so blindingly obvious that, although schools do need to be inspected, the make-or-break nature of Ofsted verdicts does not lead to better teaching. You don’t need to have a masters in education to see that fear is not the best motivator. Having qualified as a German teacher in 1992, I was lucky enough to have a little, last-minute glimpse of what the alternative to Ofsted could be. Our local authority subject adviser (yes, in those days, the inspector was always a subject specialist), arrived at my classroom door. I was terrified. He watched my lesson and stayed for five minutes at the end to discuss it. It was all spot-on, he said, except that he couldn’t always distinguish whether my ‘u’ had umlauts on or not. As far as I know, not even my headteacher was aware of my offence against the German language, but embarrassment alone made me You don’t need to determined to improve. Some time later, the local authority have a masters in education training courses started to dwindle, to see that fear is not the and the adviser became an Ofsted best motivator inspector, but not for long. Intelligent, kind people don’t generally stay in that job for long, do they? That probably goes some way to explain why it has evolved into the monster that it is today. As Zoe says, we look at neighbouring schools, very similar to ours, whose staff have in the past come into our school to help with training and support, staff for whom we have absolute respect, going through the humiliation and hurt of a bad inspection, and wonder when, not if, it’s going to be our turn. And what about the pupils? How offensive and patronising is the letter that Ofsted writes to pupils at the end of an inspection? My Year 6 daughter was furious when she read it. “How dare they say that I’m only making satisfactory progress? Does this mean that my secondary school will think I’m stupid because I only come from a satisfactory primary school?” “No, darling. They won't think anything of the sort.”

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Name withheld

WIN

The author of the star letter wins £100 in book tokens. If you want to voice your opinion on any issues raised in Report or any other aspect of education, please send letters to the address above, including your phone number. One star letter will be chosen every issue to win the book tokens.

May 2013

GOLDEN PIXELS LLC/ALAMY

Ofsted fear factor

The article ‘In at the deep end’ in the March issue of Report raised many questions, but the key one remains: “Why do so many teachers quit the profession relatively quickly?” I agree that a strong academic background is essential, but this is valueless if the subject cannot be put across effectively to pupils. Put simply, each lesson is a one-act play with a different script each time and a teacher who cannot deliver is soon on the downward spiral. My experience of the PGCE course was that theories as to how pupils learn and how to manage classrooms were all very well, but seeing teaching in action and being actively mentored during my teaching practices and during my probationary year ensured that I was fit to teach. I strongly believe that on-the-job training works, but it needs to be properly supported and resourced. In my career teaching physics I have mentored many PGCE school placement students, but always on a ‘just fit this in’ basis with no time released from my timetable. Whatever system is used to train up the next generation of teachers, we need to resource it properly, to ensure that pupils are taught properly and that more teachers stay the course. R Goslin, Bournemouth

Latin temperament In Martin Freedman’s article ‘Pay becoming pointless’ (Report, April 2013) I read with sadness and bemusement that Michael Gove is a “Latin-speaking, ex-journalist who has never taught”. I get the picture, of course, but as a teacher of Latin of long standing, I wonder what image Martin hoped to conjure up by his use of “Latin-speaking”; not even I speak Latin on a regular basis. Did he mean that Gove is out of touch, out of date or pretentious? Latin imports rigour, discipline and order to the mind; Gove’s scattergun, libertarian ‘reforms’ display none of these qualities. T Walsh, Suffolk

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join the debate / Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland

Scotland Keith Robson

Wales Dr Philip Dixon

Much ado about the curriculum in Scotland

Your voice will be vital in the curriculum review

From August 2013 qualifications in Scotland are changing, designed to reflect the implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence programme, with the access and standard grade qualifications being replaced with the new national 1-5 qualifications. It is interesting to read on a daily basis the headlines that are generated south of the border in relation to curriculum change. Dependent upon each commentator’s perspective, Michael Gove is either hell-bent on destroying English education or is the saviour of standards. I think ATL has been consistent in its well-thought-out approach to the issue (see page 10 for more about the changes to the curriculum in England and ATL’s response). Similar headlines do appear in the media north of the border relating to our own curriculum and qualification changes but to my mind they are the epitome of the old adage about today’s news being tomorrow’s fish and chip wrappers. During ATL’s Conference there was a short-lived media frenzy centred on reports that a principal marker for the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) had resigned due to a decision taken to reduce the pass mark for last year’s higher maths; a decision which ensured that there was an increase in the numbers of students passing. The SQA put out a public statement explaining its (on the face of it not unreasonable) position and all was quickly forgotten. Previously we had seen similar levels of concern and condemnation when accusations were levelled at the Cabinet Secretary for Education of direct political interference over the Scottish texts for the new national 5 qualification and higher English. Further details on the new qualifications are available for students, teachers and parents on the SQA’s website at www.sqa.org.uk.

It seemed strange to many that the recent review of qualifications in Wales was not accompanied by a review of the curriculum. The two, after all, are inextricably linked. However, in the light of the changes in policy and practice brought by the new national literacy and numeracy frameworks (LNF) and their concomitant assessment regime, we are now having a review of the curriculum. The focus of the review is twofold: assessment and curriculum, in that order. The Welsh Government will be looking at the way in which the new assessment regime of the LNF fits with other assessment, and it will also consider: “whether the expectations for what children should know and be able to do, as

www.atl.org.uk

set out in the current national curriculum subject orders, are sufficiently demanding and in line with the expectations of the LNF. This review will cover each of the national curriculum core and other foundation subjects, at each key stage, to ensure our expectations of content and skills development are suitably robust.” (Leighton Andrews, October 2012.) The first part of the review will report back in September 2013, and the second by September 2014. Elsewhere in this issue (p10) you can read of the bizarre and dangerous proposals being put forward in England. Once again we can breathe a sigh of relief. But we still need to engage in our own situation. Thankfully, in Wales we have a government that does believe education practitioners know something about education. Your voice and your experience will be key in ensuring that we build a curriculum suitable for our children as they take their place in the 21st century.

Northern Ireland Mark Langhammer NINA and NILA, the terrible twins As ATL members will be aware, following the Gardner report of 2010 on the impact of InCAS errors, the InCAS diagnostic computeradaptive assessment tool for primary schools was withdrawn and replaced in autumn 2012 by two newly procured tools: NINA (the Northern Ireland Numeracy Assessment) and NILA (the Northern Ireland Literacy Assessment). The ‘terrible twins’, NINA and NILA, caused severe disruption in schools due to technical, IT capacity and other faults, causing the Minister to order a review through the Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA). On the short-term review options, ATL has argued against the ‘status quo’, pressing for no assessment to be specified in 2013.

We expect the Minister to endorse this. The medium-term review options present different challenges, primarily that the 2007 Education (Assessment Arrangements, Foundation to Key Stage 3) Order legislates specifically for a computerbased assessment (CBA) method. The problem at the chalk-face is that there has been little confidence, to date, in the centrally procured CBA tools. This has led to schools purchasing off-the-shelf assessment tools in which teachers have more confidence, but which are not directly related to the Northern Ireland curriculum or standardised against a Northern Ireland cohort. ATL has pressed for a modification of the legislation to retain the legislative requirement to carry out standardised assessments and reporting to parents, but with CBA no longer statutory and with flexibility for schools to choose from a range of assessments. The ministerial review will report in late June 2013. May 2013


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profile / ATL Rep Awards 2013

Report puts some key questions to the winners of ATL’s Rep Awards 2013

Winning reps Outstanding workplace rep Peretz Tabor Year 6 classroom teacher at Michael Sobell Sinai School in north west London, where he has been a rep for six years.

What made you decide to be a rep? Peretz Tabor (PT): I came in to a meeting, the previous rep had left, and they basically sent me off to get a coffee and when I came back they said “you’ll do it”. Kirstie McAlpine (KM): I qualified through the Graduate Teacher Programme and started in an old-style academy, so I felt I didn’t know where the foundations were. I needed a different network to talk to and I realised other students probably felt the same. Brendan FitzGerald (BF): I’d gone to a number of London Wide events. Diana, our predecessor, kept asking me back, then she asked me to help a little. Deborah Parren (DP): I had been asked a number of times. You do need somebody who can step in and help put things back on track as a workplace rep if something goes wrong for a teacher. Neil Coates (NC): My college is across three campuses, and the main rep asked me for some support, then a month later she left, leaving me as the rep. It’s a daunting task, but a rewarding one. KM: With new teachers [education] is changing so much. One of the things that I got from ATL was finding things out and getting support and I wanted to pass that on. NC: There was a large-scale merger at my college. I became a rep so I could have access to the right information and a direct line to staff so I could dispel a lot of rumours and worries. www.atl.org.uk

What is the importance of local union involvement and has it become more critical in recent years? BF: Some unions would go to management and say “we’ve got a problem, what are you going to do about it?”; I would say “we’ve got a problem, what are we going to do about it?” DP: I think independent schools can be ignored sometimes but they have a lot to contribute and ATL gives them a voice. BF: It’s about showing that facilities time for reps and CPD for members gives something back to the school. NC: Having one voice pushing the middle management view through to SMT has given it a lot more strength. DP: Look at the motions at Conference — we can link what’s happening in schools to what’s happening at the local and regional level, then we can influence what happens at a national level, and that’s so important. PT: ATL is a massive organisation and having a face to speak to makes it a little bit less daunting if you need help. You know [ATL] will come in if there is a need.

Why do you think it’s important that ATL is engaged with learning at a local level? KM: I’ve come out of so many CPD events thinking “that was astonishing” and I use it and colleagues ask me where I learnt it. Having had that experience, I want to get more and I want to pass it on. Outstanding ATL Future activist Kirstie McAlpine Classroom teacher at Excelsior Academy, Newcastle; she is currently vice-convenor of ATL Future and will become its convenor next year.

DP: The feedback I get is that it’s good to get training from someone still working in the classroom. You don’t have to be out of the classroom for that long for it not to be cutting edge. KM: It’s those quiet conversations when someone says “you seem to be getting more out of your CPD than I do”, and I tell them about ATL. DP: CPD is disappearing so rapidly because people aren’t being allowed out for it, so there is a role for the union in providing good CPD. If people are going to be working from 22 to 68 they need something to keep the momentum, positiveness and enthusiasm in their work otherwise they’re going to bore the pants off the kids.

Why are reps important for members — what difference can they make? PT: I don’t know a vast amount about union rules or legal issues, but it’s the fact there’s someone members can come to, a sounding board, and they know it’s in confidence. NC: A lot of my work revolves around supporting members through disputes and new policies coming in, by having a chat and offering some reassurance, or by formally sitting on panels. DP: It would be a dictatorship if reps didn’t exist. NC: There would be a lot more stress and a lot less change. Reps help reduce stress through consistency of message, but they also stimulate change. DP: Managers don’t have the monopoly on good ideas, we have them too. BF: You would have a more demoralised workforce and people would just say “I’m not putting up with this”. KM: You’re the person in between the teacher and management and you mould yourself to fill that space. The fact you are in that buffer zone helps the school run more smoothly. DP: If something goes wrong in a school, May 2013


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management cannot be in your corner because they have a duty of care to you, the child and the parent. The union is there to be in your corner when you need it. KM: For new teachers, it’s giving them what they actually need to know. What we’re trying to do in ATL Future is to get people to tell us what is great about this job because no one else is saying it. Everyone else is telling us we’re bad at it. BF: It’s about being proactive. We’re looking at the motions at Conference and looking at what training we can discuss as opportunities for development. Outstanding union learning rep (ULR) Brendan FitzGerald JOINT WINNER A supply teacher and the secretary of London Wide since 2009.

What do you get out of being a rep? BF: I get a lot of personal satisfaction from putting back in what I’ve learnt, being able to contribute to the development of fellow professionals and making them feel good about what they do — saying you’re not just a good teacher, you’re a bloody great teacher and don’t let anybody tell you anything else. NC: It’s being able to reassure someone walking into a conversation who’s very nervous, and giving them confidence, then seeing them coming out with a positive outcome and going on to be a positive practitioner. KM: I agree, but it’s also a lot of fun. I’ve made some powerful friendships through ATL Future. The thing I think of when I think about being a rep is actually laughing. NC: It forces you to stay current, which is really important in education. Locally and nationally you know what’s happening. PT: It keeps me abreast of what is happening in school. Staff appreciate it; if management were even more supportive of unions it would be easier.

What changes have you seen as a result of government policies? PT: The school feels it has to adhere to lots May 2013

of the direction set by the government. On the curriculum, for example, there was more of an IT curriculum before. At the beginning of each year you’re told ‘this has changed’. NC: It’s been awful; it’s just been [the government] saying what’s going to happen and the statutory guidance will follow, and then it arrives the week before it’s supposed to start. Colleges are expected to fund it out of existing budgets, and they are undergoing massive changes in how they’re funded. The government makes changes and tries to push the positives but it’s really all about saving money. KM: The biggest impact has been from workplace-based training for new teachers. And Gove’s announcement that academies don’t need to employ QTS teachers.

What is your greatest achievement? NC: Keeping someone in their job when it was unjust for them to go was quite an achievement for me in my role as rep. It was a typical clash of characters. In this case, it was about using the college’s own processes and guidelines to support that person and ultimately to keep them in their job. Outstanding leadership rep (AMiE) Neil Coates College manager (academic) at South Essex College, where he has been an AMiE rep for three years.

KM: Speaking at Conference is a big thing I didn’t think I’d ever do. It’s that idea about engineering change. You’ve thought about something and presented it and got that positive response. You end up thinking “oh, I’m not the only one who thinks that”. BF: The realisation that what I do on behalf of members has been valued enough for them to nominate me for an award. That was a real buzz. PT: I’m very proud of the fact that lots of people have joined the union and it’s positively affected them, in the sense that if they have any issues, they have representation, they are supported.

How do you think access to CPD could be improved for members? DP: Schools won’t let members out for CPD. I think that’s where ATL needs to push. BF: There’s mileage now in the idea of sabbaticals — a year, a half-year, a halfterm. Members don’t want twilight sessions, the day is too long. Half-terms they want to recharge. It’s amazing how many come on Saturdays. Outstanding union learning rep (ULR) Deborah Parren JOINT WINNER Classroom teacher and workplace rep at North London Collegiate School, who has been president of London Wide for three years.

KM: I prefer Saturdays. You don’t let the kids down. You’re investing your own time. PT: Unfortunately lots of training events are on a Saturday, which as an Orthodox Jew I can’t get to, although I’m aware that for most people that’s the only time they have off.

What would you say to someone wavering about becoming a rep? BF: Try it. You’ll meet people you never thought you’d meet, people who you might have put on a pedestal, but when you meet them you realise they’re just doing a job like you are. DP: It’s fun. There are opportunities you never knew were there. I would say it is work but there is also good support. PT: Lots of members think if the union gets involved it’s going to be a serious thing, and it’s not necessarily that. If staff can be aware unions are there to support you a little bit — it doesn’t always need to be confrontational — it can be quite pleasant. I think the more people know this, the more willing they would be to get involved. ATL reps provide vital information and support to colleagues. You can undertake as much as you feel confident with and ATL offers information, support and training. For more details, email organise@atl.org.uk or visit www.atl.org.uk/getinvolved. www.atl.org.uk


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feature / equalities

Equalities underattack A

little over two years ago the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) came into force, requiring public bodies to have “due regard” to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between people with ‘protected’ characteristics and people with none. This duty is part of the Equality Act 2010, brought in by the previous Labour administration and partially enacted by the current coalition government, which protects people from discrimination, bullying, harassment and victimisation in the workplace and in society, and applies in England, Wales and Scotland. It extended the protected characteristics, which are now: age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, civil partnership and marriage, and sexual orientation; in April, caste was added to the race characteristic. It was partly the Equality Act 2010 that helped ATL win an unfair dismissal claim for member Rebecca Raven last year after she was sacked for being pregnant.The PSED only came into force in April 2011, and publishing information demonstrating compliance with the duty was not required until 31 January 2012; public bodies only had to start publishing equality objectives by 6 April 2012. But already the government is reviewing it as part of what it calls its ‘red tape challenge’. The review was announced last May to see if the equality duty is operating as intended. Its call for evidence, to which ATL responded, closed last month and it

www.atl.org.uk

In its quest to banish red tape the government is dismantling our equalities safeguards. Words by Charlotte Tamvakis

plans to report back in June. government argued that Section 3 serves ATL equalities officer Dr Wanda no legal purpose and hinders the EHRC by Wyporska said: “Not only is it far too early giving it too broad a mandate. However, to consider reviewing the equality duty, it is the government made a last-minute U-turn also a really important piece of legislation and accepted the House of Lords’ vote to for our members. It means public sector keep Section 3 when the bill was debated. employers can be held to account, and But still, the EHRC budget for 2014-15 is removing it would also take away the to be cut by more than 60% from the £70 obligation to actively promote equality. million it was granted in 2007 despite “Removing it may well result in vigorous campaigning from the PCS union. increased legal action as people are forced Wanda said: “We’ve seen how the UK has to turn to the law to enforce their rights.” been downgraded in terms of its financial When the TUC examined the costs and status from an AAA rating, well now we are benefits of the PSED in a TUC-Labour in danger of being downgraded in terms of Research Department survey, it found that human rights organisations. Many countries on the whole there were positive examples previously looked to the UK’s EHRC as a of its impact on gathering equality leading example of a well-resourced information, creating institution, independent greater transparency of the government. Now I worry that the and accountability, a we are at risk of the government is trying sense of fairness and EHRC losing its UN ‘A’ to roll back national a basis for action to status, through lack of equalities standards challenge policies and resources and the decisions. possibility of it being At the same time, in April, the accountable to the government, rather government tried to repeal Section 3 of than Parliament. This will compromise the Equality Act 2006, which contains the all our hard-fought-for equalities rights.” “general duty” of the Equality and Human The government did use the bill to repeal Rights Commission (EHRC), through the two other key pieces of equality legislation: Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill provisions in the Equality Act 2010 that 2012-13. The bill was brought in to reduce make employers liable for the harassment regulatory burden — another weapon in its of their staff by third parties and the ‘red tape challenge’ arsenal. procedure for gaining comparator Section 3 places a general duty on information, or the statutory questionnaire. the EHRC to encourage and support the “This is an extremely relevant issue for development of a society in which there is teachers, because they can bring a claim if respect for human rights, mutual respect they are subjected to harassment that the between groups, and every individual has employer could have prevented, if it an equal opportunity to participate. The happens three times. Teachers are losing

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this protection and we know anecdotally from members in independent schools, in particular, that this is a genuine worry,” said Wanda. The statutory questionnaire was used to force employers to provide information for use in discrimination and equal pay cases was also due to be removed. “These questionnaires are invaluable for reps. Often the very fact that a rep is asking for this information will trigger an agreement with the employer, because the employer knows that the information requested will not support the employer case,” said Wanda. “For example, a rep contacted me about a Muslim member who wanted to take one week off, unpaid, from school, to go on the Hajj pilgrimage. You would look at any other requests and see if someone had made a comparable request and it had been granted. Yet these are being scrapped in the name of cutting red tape.” ATL solicitor Jayne Phillips explained: “We strongly disagree with repealing the procedure. In ATL’s experience, obtaining information at an early stage either results in a case not being pursued or in an early settlement, as the process generally demonstrates to either party the weaknesses in their evidence.” The bill also saw the power of employment tribunals to make recommendations in discrimination cases scaled back. ATL May 2013

responded to the government’s consultations on this and the statutory questionnaire. Jayne Phillips said: “Although just a handful of cases have so far been reported in which it has been used, the evidence suggests tribunals are well-placed to make such recommendations and are likely to use them in an effective and proportionate manner. ATL completely disagrees that the wider recommendations power should be repealed. It’s vital lessons are learnt from complaints and that collective change happens to prevent repeat incidents occurring. And, as with the questionnaires, removing this power could result in more claims and tribunal cases.” In addition, the government has also called time on equality impact assessments (EIAs). EIAs are used to examine a policy, project or scheme to ensure that it does not discriminate against or cause disadvantage to any people with the protected characteristics. There is no statutory requirement for them, but ATL and many organisations believe they are good practice. Last year, Prime Minister David Cameron told the CBI: “We have smart people in Whitehall who consider equalities issues while they’re making the policy. We don’t need all this extra tick-box stuff. So I can tell you today we are calling time on equality impact assessments. You no longer have to do them if these issues have been properly considered.”

The Cabinet Office then instructed Whitehall departments to stop using EIAs, saying: “This sets an example for the whole public sector, which we would like to see follow suit.” There is no information yet about what might replace them. In its response to the government’s PSED review, the TUC says unions are reporting that many public authorities still use EIAs despite this discouragement because they believe they are the most effective way to achieve improved equality outcomes and meet the PSED duty. Julia Neal, ATL’s lead member for equalities, said: “I worry that the government is trying to roll back national equalities standards. The PSED only came into force relatively recently, so there hasn’t been much time to develop guidance for schools or see its effects in practice. “I also understand the government has removed some equalities guidance, yet there’s still a lot of work to be done in schools and it’s vital teachers have the guidance and support they need for a whole-school approach to equality issues. These moves, and the discrediting of EIAs, are a backward step.” Wanda added: “All these changes paint a bleak picture for equalities. We’re seeing the EHRC weakened, the equality duty weakened, together with the end of EIAs. As for ‘smart people in Whitehall’, does David Cameron realise that women, black, Asian and minority ethnic people are not wellrepresented among the higher echelons of the Civil Service? Once again we have people making decisions for our communities, instead of actively involving us. “The PSED came out of the Macpherson report that followed Stephen Lawrence’s murder, and yet, on the 20th anniversary of his death, we’re moving firmly backwards in terms of equalities.” If you are interested in taking part in training on changes in the law around equalities, if you have used EIAs in your work or if you are interested in joining ATL’s equalities network, email equalities@atl.org.uk. What do you think about the issues raised here? Contact Report using the details on page 15 or have your say at www.facebook.com/atlunion

www.atl.org.uk


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Early conciliation From April 2014 employees must take employment complaints to Acas before they can proceed to an employment tribunal, explains ATL solicitor Jayne Phillips

‘‘

May 2013

’’

CHRIS ROUT/ALAMY

S

ince coming into power the representative such as ATL. The problems coalition government has adopted that this may cause are discussed below. a number of measures with the Once the form has been sent, contact principal aim of reducing the will be made with the individual by an number of claims issued each early conciliation support officer within year in employment tribunals. two days. They will take basic details and In this article we explain the proposals give general information, but not advice. for early conciliation (EC) of claims This seems problematic. Acas is only open through the Advisory, Conciliation and from 9am until 5pm so it is likely that the Arbitration Service (Acas) and the possible support officer will experience difficulties problems that may arise as a result. contacting anyone who works the same The basic proposition is that before an hours. Especially if the complainant is still individual can issue their employmentworking for the employer with whom they related complaint they must first contact have the complaint, or is simply not readily Acas with a view to seeking resolution at an contactable during the day, as would be the early stage. While it is highly laudable that case for teachers, teaching assistants and a parties are given an opportunity to resolve wide variety of other workers. It would matters without having to go through the seem far more sensible if initial contact stress and expense of an employment could be made to a representative. If tribunal claim, the process is likely to contact cannot be made, Acas must be complicated. The net result is likely to conclude that EC has failed and issue be that many people are prevented from a certificate (more on this below). accessing justice, particularly if English is If contact is made, an Acas conciliator not their first language and/or they are becomes involved and has a month to try without legal advice. and achieve settlement. The system is due to come into effect in Clearly, this is wholly dependent on April 2014 and the finer details have not all the employer being willing to cooperate. been made available yet. Considering that this summer will see the If an individual attempts to proceed introduction of fees for tribunal claims straight to a tribunal claim, that claim (see legal article ‘Pay to claim’, Report will be automatically dismissed. Most September 2012), there seems to be a importantly it will not considerable risk that be treated as received an employer may refuse Once we are aware by the tribunal in cooperate, preferring of the full details, guidance to compliance with the to see if the individual time limits that exist. will be provided is willing to pay the An employee or fees. worker must first submit an Early A tribunal case can only be issued once Conciliation Form to Acas. It is anticipated, Acas has issued a certificate that will by the government, that most people will include a unique reference number. This do this online, although it will be possible unique number must be included on the to post the form to Acas. claim form and it will be cross-checked by The form is very short. Only the name the tribunal to ensure it relates to the same and contact details for the complainant two parties. It is not clear what will happen and the employer/ex-employer need to if the original EC form contained the be provided. There is no requirement to wrong name for the employer, for example provide any details of the actual complaint. the name of the managing director rather There is no place on this form for the than the company against whom the claim individual to insert details of any should legally be brought.

A certificate will be issued if: • contact with the individual is not possible • the individual chooses not to explore EC • the employer refuses to consider EC • after one month attempts to conciliate have failed. Most employment claims must be issued within three months of the act complained of. During EC there are rules that will extend the time limit. Unfortunately these rules are rather clumsily drafted and there seems a considerable risk that some claimants may find they have misunderstood them and are out of time for issuing a tribunal claim. Certainly with unfair dismissal claims it is nigh on impossible to get time extended. The EC process will mean that anyone wishing to pursue a complaint to a tribunal must act quickly, take responsibility for ensuring vital paperwork is completed and keep it safe. It will also be imperative that members cooperate with their representative and ATL’s solicitors. Once we are aware of the full details, guidance will be provided to members with potential employment tribunal claims to assist them through the procedural minefield that will exist. Members wishing to make complaints against their employer should contact ATL at the earliest opportunity using the details on page 24. www.atl.org.uk


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help and advice / contact

Help and advice If you need help with matters related to your employment, your first point of contact should be your school or college ATL rep, or your AMiE regional officer if you are a leadership member. You can also contact your local ATL branch for advice and support. If they are unable to help, contact ATL using these details:

Membership enquiries 020 7782 1602

General enquiries 020 7930 6441

Monday to Friday, 5-7.30pm during term time. ATL’s regional officials are available to speak to you about work problems.

Email: info@atl.org.uk Website: www.atl.org.uk London: 7 Northumberland Street, London WC2N 5RD. Belfast: 16 West Bank Drive, Belfast BT3 9LA. Tel: 028 9078 2020. Email: ni@atl.org.uk Cardiff: 9 Columbus Walk, Brigantine Place, Cardiff CF10 4BY. Tel: 029 2046 5000. Email: cymru@atl.org.uk Edinburgh: CBC House, 24 Canning Street, Edinburgh EH3 8EG. Tel: 0131 272 2748. Email: scotland@atl.org.uk AMiE members: 35 The Point, Market Harborough, Leicestershire LE16 7QU. Contact your AMiE regional officer (contact details at www.amie.uk.com) or call the employment helpline 01858 464171. Email: helpline@amie.atl.org.uk

Email: membership@atl.org.uk

Pension enquiries 020 7782 1600 Out of office hours helpline 020 7782 1612 Personal injury claims 0800 083 7285 Call Morrish Solicitors LLP, ATL’s appointed solicitors, or go to www.atlinjuryclaims.org.uk. This service is open to members and their families, subject to the rules of the scheme. ATL should be your first port of call in the event of work-related issues. If you feel you need emotional support, Teacher Support Network is a group of independent charities and a social enterprise that provides emotional support to staff in the education sector and their families. Their support lines are available 24 hours a day:

UK: 08000 562 561 Wales: 08000 855 088 Email: support@teachersupport.info Text: 07909 341229

Terms of ATL’s support are outlined in our members’ charter, available via www.atl.org.uk. When emailing ATL from home, please include either your membership number or home postcode to help us deal with your enquiry more efficiently.

www.atl.org.uk

If you are not a member of ATL and would like to join, please contact us on 0845 057 7000 (lo-call) Remember to pass your copy of Report to colleagues who may be interested in it!

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resources / info directory

ATL resources and training report STUDENT & NQ

ATL’S SUPPLEMENT FOR

In this issue…

Organisation matters: Tips for new teachers to help you make the most out of your classroom p2 ATL Future: Matt Mugan shares his experience of this year’s Conference p3

STUDENTS

AND NEWLY QUALIFIEDS

MAY 2013

The facts on pay

What to consider when taking up your first teaching job

It’s important to think about your salary when applying for your first job as a newly qualified teacher. It’s best to discuss the salary you’ll start on as soon as you’ve received a firm offer of a job. You may have heard that the government is planning some major changes to the structure of teachers’ pay in England and Wales. Teachers’ pay in maintained schools in England and Wales is governed Competition: Complete by the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document the Sudoku puzzle to win and the government published a new version of the document £50 in Marks & Spencer with details of these vouchers p4 changes in April. The changes to pay are due to come into force from September 2013, with the aim of giving schools more flexibility in how and what they pay their teachers. In the maintained sector in England and Wales, the statutory pay scale points explains how decisions on are being replaced with pay pay and pay progression will be ranges, and schools will be able to place teachers wherever made. ATL believes that this must be a non-discriminatory they wish within the range. fair and transparent procedure. , Below are the ranges for qualified teachers currently entering the profession. There are four geographical areas Taking on extra responsibilities: covering England and Wales, and each has Teachers who take on additional additional payments its own range: responsibilities may be eligible for an additional payment. Teaching and learning responsibility (TLR) payments England and Wales: £21,588 are awarded to teachers to £31,552 who undertake a sustained Inner London: additional responsibility. £27,000 to £36,387 Special educational needs Outer London: (SEN) allowances are payable £25,117 to £35,116 to teachers who are in posts London fringe: that require a mandatory £22,626 to £32,588 SEN qualification or who teach either in a special school or special classes in a mainstream The Department for Education ATL’s publication for student school. Posts that (DfE) is and newly attract TLR payments or expected to publish new qualified members Ready, SEN allowances are normally ranges for the Steady, Teach! advertised as such. 2013-14 school year in the includes tips on what to summer. It will consider before also publish a reference pay you start your placement scale to act as Academies, or job and a guide for teachers as to free schools and independent contains advice to help you what they can schools settle in, with Academies, free schools expect to be paid during guidance on issues including and independent schools their career. ATL relationships are not bound by the School expects that many schools with colleagues, time management, Teachers’ Pay and Conditions will use the taking Document, and if you choose reference pay scale published on additional duties and to work outside of the by the DfE. your work-life maintained sector you should As in previous years, teachers balance. It also answers check lots of common will and opportunities for progression. the starting salary be able to negotiate with questions on issues including However, many of these their school mentors, schools do use the maintained an appropriate starting salary student behaviour, observation sector pay structure as the on and social basis for their own pay system. appointment. If you are a networking. teacher in a shortage subject or with This edition replaces two previous previous ATL Other education institutions experience, you may be able publications, Into the Classroom and regions to negotiate and Ready, There has been no change a higher starting salary. Steady, Teach! ATL members to pay in the sixth form or qualifying in FE sector, which has its own In the maintained sector, 2013 should have received pay scales, and these changes progression a copy already. do not affect teachers in Scotland to the top of the range will Other members can download and be based on it have their own pay arrangements. Northern Ireland, who performance. All teachers www.atl.org.uk/readysteadyteachfrom Details of pay in these should expect to regions or contact and sectors can be found reach the top of the range, ATL Despatch on 0845 4500 in the ‘Pay & pensions’ but the rate at 009 to order a section of www.atl.org.uk. which you progress will be hard copy. determined by your school. For the latest news, FAQs All schools must have a pay and guidance see policy that www.atl.org.uk/paynews. Ask ATL: Liz Coston answers your questions on asking for help and writing your first reports p4

Ready, Steady, Teach!

www.new2teaching.org.uk

Student & NQ Report We have revamped our New2Teaching publication, which is now called Student & NQ Report and has been sent as part of Report magazine to all student and newly qualified members. It leads with an explanation of what to think about in terms of pay when considering your first teaching job. There is also detailed guidance on how to organise your classroom to best benefit

Your CPD with ATL Classroom assessment: 5 June, Milton Keynes Taking care of behaviour: 6 June, York Understanding leadership and management in education: 14 June, York Differentiation: practical tools: 19 June, Bristol Preparing for retirement: 6 July, London Rep courses Rep induction: 11 June, Manchester; 13 June, London; 13 June, Cardiff; 14 June, Leeds; 21 June, Birmingham; 27 June, Bristol FE rep course: 3-4 July, (residential) Sheffield Supporting yourself: 1 June, London Health & safety induction: 13 June, London; 25 June, York There is a nominal charge for courses (except rep courses) to minimise the number of members not turning up: £40 for all standard members, £20 for standard support members and NQTs. It is our expectation that employers should cover the cost of attending. Visit www.atl.org.uk/learningzone.

you and your pupils. ATL Future member Matt Mugan reveals his experience of ATL’s Annual Conference and Liz Coston answers questions on dealing with the difficult first year as a teacher and writing reports for the first time. Independent Schools newsletter The Independent Schools newsletter is being sent out with this issue of Report. It leads with independent school members playing a leading role at ATL’s Annual Conference. There is also a comprehensive guide to the serious issue of asbestos in independent schools, as well as a rise in the number of independent schools applying to become free schools, plus some glowing testimonials from regional training events. Independent handbook While there are many universal issues in education, there are also significant differences between the independent and state maintained sectors. Unlike the state sector, there is no standard book of rules for teachers

How to order ATL resources There are a number of ways you can access the range of publications, newsletters and position statements ATL provides: Website: you can download PDFs of most of our publications or place your order using an online form via the ‘Publications & resources’ section of our website at www.atl.org.uk Email: you can email your order using despatch@atl.org.uk (quoting the product code, wherever possible) Telephone: you can phone our publications despatch line on 0845 4500 009 (quoting the product code, wherever possible). or support staff. Sometimes there isn’t even a written contract of employment. Pay and conditions vary enormously from school to school. This handbook for ATL members working in the independent sector — now in a newly updated third edition — addresses

these issues and difficulties. It is also a useful resource for ATL school reps, branch secretaries and regional officials.

Plan ahead for 2013-2014: order your ATL diary now Now is the time to order your 2013-2014 ATL pocket diary. This bright and cheery diary comes complete with a week-to-view (Monday to Sunday) and a handy facing page on every double spread for you to make your own notes. Running from mid-July 2013 until December 2014, it is packed

with useful information for members, including ATL policies, services, benefits and pensions advice, a comprehensive useful websites section, and much more. A handy timetable planner and London underground map are also included. With a hardwearing cover, the ATL diary represents unbeatable value at only £3.50 including postage and packaging.

How to order • Please complete this order form and return it to ATL Despatch (see below) as soon as possible. • Multiple orders from schools and colleges should be channelled through your ATL representative. • If you plan to forward payment to ATL for purposes other than the diary, please send separate cheques and make it clear what each individual payment is for.

• Diaries will be despatched by early July. If you have any queries regarding your order, please contact ATL Despatch on 0845 4500 009. A complimentary diary will be sent to school/college representatives, Executive Committee members and branch secretaries. These will be sent separately and should NOT be included with your school/ college order.

Diary order form Please return this form to: ATL Despatch, PO Box 485, Grays, RM17 9HY. Name Delivery address Postcode Please send me

ATL diaries @ £3.50

Total remittance £

Please make cheques and postal orders payable to the ASSOCIATION OF TEACHERS AND LECTURERS.

www.atl.org.uk

May 2013


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Teachers required to host and teach adults and/or teenagers from Europe, Russia and Japan in their home on total-immersion English language courses or GCSE/A-Level revision courses in Maths, Science and Business/Economics. A professional qualification is required, comfortable home and enthusiasm for sharing your language, culture and location. Short summer placements of 2-3 weeks are available and also year-round placement of 1-4 weeks. Good rates. Tel: 0117 9269400 or Email: info@livingenglish.com

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Portugal PORTO SANTO Undiscovered island, glorious golden beach, clear blue ocean. Stunning Ballesteros golf course. Magnificent sea views from villa. Sleeps four. See www.ferreiramar.com for details

France Village house for sale, near Chablis, Burgundy. Sleeps 6, £65K including all furniture and furnishings. Email: melisey@btinternet.com www.hyper-burgundy.co.uk

• For enthusiastic Maths, Science & English teachers (primary/secondary) to help students aged 5-18 in a fun, relaxed & friendly N. London tuition centre. • Generous rates & flexi hours.

Email CV to: info@afterschoollearning.com or call 020 8440 8586 for details www.afterschoollearning.co.uk

Insurance

Motoring

Recruitment

Looking for a new challenge? Recently retired but still have something to give? Or perhaps you are seeking a fresh challenge before settling down?

Finance

World City Links is looking for qualified teachers to teach English in schools and colleges across Thailand. You do not need to be an English/CELTA teacher, but you do need to hold qualified teacher status and have a current CRB check. Good terms and conditions, private, public and vocational schools and colleges, urban or countryside, secondary or primary. World City Links is an organisation that shares good education and curriculum practice between the UK and countries around the world. Established in 2001, we have partnerships between schools and colleges in China, Thailand, Brazil and Canada. For more information and terms and conditions, please email: rachel@worldcitylinks.net or tel: 0207 9606348

www.worldcitylinks.net www.atl.org.uk

May 2013


29 Crossword:Layout 1

WIN £50 in Markser & Spencrs vouche

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Down 1 Tom and Paul sadly hit finally by schoolboy’s weapon? (8) 2 I enter out of breath for art subject (8) 3 Part of a gearwheel, also tough externally (5) 4 What a newborn baby needs in Angola, yet terribly scarce (7) 5 Compose poem re end of protractor and ruler (7) 6 Unusually sanguine losing third of money paid for racehorses? (7) 7 London ‘banker’ gets E in New Maths (6) 8 Attractive, but has no right to be small-minded (5) 16 and 29 down Gosh, yes, strangely Bond’s boss enters in plimsolls! (3,5) 18 Answer to 14 across ÷ 2, or 14 ÷ 14 (3) 19 Note (two crotchets) is E — make it as small as possible (8) 20 Rewrite notes about New York and point to Victorian poet (8) 22 Imitate Australian runner, but not in time (7) 23 Lack of transparency in musical work on a financial centre (7) 24 Suddenly lost one’s self-control when photographed? (7) 25 Notices rash? (5) 26 Triangle, for example, as a numerical symbol (6) 29 See 16 down

The winner of the April crossword competition will be announced on the ATL website. Congratulations to Mrs S Jauncey, the winner of the March crossword competition.

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One lucky reader will win £50 in Marks & Spencer vouchers. Simply send your completed crossword, with your contact details (incl. telephone number), to: ATL May Competition, Archant Dialogue, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, Norfolk NR1 1RE. Closing date: 20 June 2013. If you have an ATL membership number, please include this _________________________________________________________________

Terms & conditions: Please include your full name, address and telephone number. The winner will be picked at random from the correct entries on 20 June 2013. The editor’s decision is final. No purchase is necessary. The prize is non-transferable. Employees of ATL and Archant are not eligible for the prize draw.

Across 1 London schoolboy’s headwear — I confront ATL, perhaps (7) 5 Get his new plan for the rowing race (6) 9 I enter a record in attempt to produce series of books (7) 10 and 11 He investigates every pie at assembly (7,3) 12 Set up a tent on the football field? (5) 13 Cylinder etc, repaired, put back in office (7) 14 Number admitted to Brentwood (3) 15 Unexpectedly I glean Head of English has a pedigree (7) 17 Had its source in Shakespearean theatre (4) 21 Do without me turning up for student protest? (4) 24 Maybe revise about carbon in religious ceremony (7) 27 A pound for something to write with? (3) 28 Flower left Manchester University pair confused (7) 29 Coins distributed to a descendent of a notable family (5) 30 Cambridge University Press trophy (3) 31 Fellow turns up in disastrous suit, but with a big wave! (7) 32 Method of teaching reading might produce chip on shoulder initially (7) 33 Unorthodox belief held in this place — empty study (6) 34 Find out that Cinders is upset (7)

Last month’s solution − April 2013 Across: 4 Ego 8 Assisted 9 Places 10 Girton 11 Tyneside 13 Weirdo 14 Algernon 15 Urge 16 Bobcat 18 Panama 21 Diva 22 Betjeman 24 Ritual 26 Hallowed 29 Drop in 30 Bemuse 31 Castaway 32 Pet Down: 1 Aspire 2 Historic 3 Stand out 4 Edit 5 Open 6 Caesar 7 Headroom 12 Yale 13 Web 14 Again 17 Operated 18 Paradise 19 National 20 All 21 Dare 23 Julius 25 Animal 27 Weep 28 Duct

www.atl.org.uk


30 Final Word:Layout 1

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join the debate / final word

Conservation up for debate ILLUSTRATION: PHIL WRIGGLESWORTH

Encouraging students to debate environmental issues is the best way to help them fully understand, says TV presenter Michaela Strachan

I Michaela Strachan Michaela Strachan is a TV presenter and recently published a new book, Michaela Strachan’s Really Wild Adventures

www.atl.org.uk

don’t really remember being taught conservation at school. But then again I left school about 30 years ago and all I remember was a talk from a guy from WWF. Possibly I’ve forgotten if we did more, but one thing I know for sure is that my passion for wildlife and conservation is not something that developed at school level for me; it was something that blossomed later in life. These days things have changed and kids start learning about the environment and conservation at a young age. Recycling, for instance, is not something we knew much about at school in the ’70s and ’80s; now it’s taught and encouraged from primary level. Many children persuade their parents to recycle at home. Many primary schools get kids involved with a wildlife garden in their grounds, which is a great way of teaching kids about nature. As the Chinese proverb says, ‘tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I’ll understand’. To get kids from a young age involved in their own little wildlife patch is the best way to get them interested. However, my biggest piece of advice for teaching about conservation is to teach students to debate. Conservation

is a very complex subject these days and often there are no easy answers. It’s easy to have an emotional opinion but an opinion needs to be formed from facts. Conservation cannot be taught from an emotional angle; a passionate angle, yes, but every opinion needs to be debated. Only this morning I was reading about the vote to ban neonicotinoid pesticides to protect our dwindling number of bees. The pesticide is implicated in the decline of bees, which are vital for the pollination of many commercial crops. Many people’s initial reaction is ‘of course the pesticide must be banned if it’s killing bees’. But some scientists argue that farmers rely on it for producing safe and affordable food and it’s only a small part of the cause of the bees’ decline. Banning it means farmers have to spray something else to keep the pests at bay. Other causes of decline are loss of habitat and the lethal varroa mite. And so the debate continues. It would be easy to teach just one side of the argument: that the decline of bees is caused by the use of pesticides. Far better to involve the kids by getting them to debate the issue. Get them to research the facts themselves and have a class debate. Without debate we will not be able to produce future influential conservationists. Sometimes you even need to be quite radical with a well-thought-out opinion to inspire debate. When my Springwatch co-presenter Chris Packham declared that giant pandas should be allowed to die out, the emotional response was outrage. Debate his point and it has merit. Is it a strong enough species to survive on its own? Millions are spent trying to protect the panda in the wild; would that money be better spent elsewhere? However much money is ploughed into their conservation, is there enough habitat left to sustain them? There are so many examples I could give you: the debate on how to stop poaching of white rhinos in South Africa; the debate on GM foods; on whether to cull badgers. They are all perfect topical subjects to get students involved and help them to form considered opinions. From doing programmes like Countryfile I learnt that when telling an audience about an emotionally charged subject, it is only fair to give both sides a voice. It’s something that can be done to great effect in the classroom with debate. Involve students and it will certainly help them to understand. May 2013


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