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  • Writer's pictureTom Hopkins-Burke

The Weekly Review on Teachers Talk Radio: 21 January 2024

Missed the Teachers Talk Radio Weekly Review - the show where we review the week in education? Catch up with the headlines and the discussion here...


On this Sunday's Weekly Review, Nathan Gynn discussed the end of performance-related pay, NAHT's recommendations for Ofsted inspection and the court case on students praying in school, with a Teachers Talk Radio panel of Hannah Wilson, Brent Poland and Lianne Lax.

The Teachers Talk Radio Weekly Review panel, featuring Nathan Gynn, Lianne Lax, Brent Poland and Hannah Wilson.

Workload Reducation Taskforce: initial recommendations (January 2024)

The government's Workload Reduction Taskforce has published an early set of recommendations as part of ministers' pledge to cut five hours from the working week of teachers and school leaders. One recommendation is for a formal commitment to ditch performance-related pay in time for the 2024-25 academic year, on the grounds that it "works poorly in practice and does not have a commensurate positive impact on teaching and learning". The Education Endowment Foundation had found that the average impact of performance pay schemes in schools was "just above zero months' progress".

So what did our panel have to say on performance-related pay?

Lianne Lax

"The government says headteachers should still be able to reward their best teachers, so performance-related bonuses will still exist. [On denying pay progression] I used to work in football - at times a player performed poorly on the pitch. Did they take a pay cut? No - so why are teachers?"

Hannah Wilson

"Performance-related pay depends on the school... I moved schools and asked to move up two levels after improving department results by nearly two grades per student in one year. They said they couldn't set the precedent. Target grades in a subject like mine [Art] are less reliable because they are linked to English and Maths... but if a student is getting 3-4 grades lower in one subject than their others, that may be a teacher issue."

Brent Poland

"Teachers need achievable targets. Your pay is currently linked to a cohort of students over whom you have no control over their background... the best people to judge my performance are the parents and students. Some schools simply haven't promoted people quickly enough because they haven't got the money to do it."

Interested in the link between teachers and student performance? Here's a show for you...

What difference do teachers really make to exam results? Tom Rogers is joined by Dylan Wiliam, Robert Plomin and Stephen Gorard to explore the links between teachers and the exam results of their classes. One for middle and senior leaders involved in exam results conversations - Tom and the guests even re-enact one of these!

NAHT - Rethinking school inspection: delivering fair, proportionate and humane school accountability (January 2024)

NAHT has published a new report, Rethinking School Inspection, which makes seven recommendations for systemic reform of Ofsted:

  1. Remove graded judgements - 97 per cent of 1,890 school leaders surveyed by NAHT do not think Ofsted should continue to use a single-word or phrase as an overarching judgement - and improve inspection reports by detailing schools' strengths and areas for development, including clear recommendations for improvement;

  2. Revise the inspection framework and methodology - just 12 per cent of school leaders surveyed by NAHT believe inspectors can accurately assess schools in the time they spend on site during inspection;

  3. Extend the notice period for schools - 84 per cent of school leaders support a longer notice period - the NAHT recommends notice be extended to a minimum of approximately 48 hours;

  4. Separate safeguarding checks from inspection - 61 per cent of school leaders think an annual assessment or audit of safeguarding, separated from routine inspection, would deliver improvements;

  5. More experienced inspection teams - 85 per cent of leaders say inspectors currently have insufficient experience to reliably inspect all schools, regardless of phase, size and type, leading to a low level of trust in current Ofsted inspection teams;

  6. Introduce inspection at trust level - NAHT says this is an "urgent requirement" due to the wide powers exercised by trusts (including on funding, centralised leadership and policy functions);

  7. A new, graduated complaints process - with an independent complaints body with the power to overturn inspection judgements and make binding recommendations on the inspectorate.

What did our panel think of these recommendations? They selected one each to focus on...

Hannah Wilson

"I support a longer notice people for schools.... to get everything ready for an Ofsted visit is different to preparing for a normal school day. Staff need time in their working hours. Ofsted should be something you should be able to prepare for in your normal working week, without adding to workload."

Brent Poland

"Headteachers are being judged on things they have no control over because of Trusts. The lack of governance and accountability at Trust level is one of the failures of the academies system. It's the headteachers who carry the can."

Lianne Lax

"You have A Level teachers inspecting EYFS... if you're open to listening to the teachers you're inspecting maybe it's okay. But some inspectors go in with a preconceived idea of what it should look like. If you've never stepped into a best practice Early Years classroom, how are you to know what you should see?"

What is the current state of play with school inspection? We've got a Collection just for you...

Collections are groups of four shows from the TTR archives grouped around a particular domain specialism. Our Collection on school inspection contains the following:

Life as an Ofsted inspector: Shaniqua Edwards-Hayde is joined by Ofsted HMI Dan Lambert to discuss life working for the inspectorate and visiting schools.

Ofsted: What could or should the future hold? Tom Rogers is joined by guests including Becky Allen, (co-founder of Teacher Tapp), Simon Kidwell (President of NAHT), and Shivan Davis (English teacher), to discuss the past, present and future of school inspection.

Ofsted pressure: Ed Finch reflects on the burden placed on Headteachers by Ofsted inspection with co-host Toby Payne-Cook. In the last fifteen minutes they are joined by Flora Cooper, who tried to prevent Ofsted inspectors from entering her school.

Ofsted reform: what are the options? Tom Rogers is joined by guests from Ireland and Finland to explore what schools inspection looks like there. Plus, Martin Hanbury shares his unique insight into the inspection process as an Ofsted inspector who resigned following the tragic death of Ruth Perry.

The Royal Courts of Justice

A school in London has been taken to the High Court by a student over a policy banning prayer in school. An application by Michaela Community School, led by Katharine Birbalsigh, to remain anonymous during the judicial review process was rejected.

Sarah Hannett KC, for the claimant, said that Muslim pupils were particularly affected by the school's decision to ban prayer since Muslims are required to pray five times a day as part of their faith. The five daily prayers in Islam are:

  • Fajr (prayed at dawn)

  • Dhuhr (prayed at midday)

  • Asr (prayed in the afternoon)

  • Maghrib (prayed at sunset)

  • Isha (prayed at night)

Birbalsingh defended the prayer ban, stating that students being allowed to pray inside the school would lead to lots of pupils "trailing around the school at lunch time". Her full statement was as follows:

We are in Court to defend the culture and ethos of Michaela, and the decisions the governors have taken to maintain a successful and stable learning environment where children of all races and religion can thrive. We want our multi-cultural and multi-faith community to flourish. Ours is a happy and respectful secular school where every race, faith and group understands self-sacrifice for the betterment of the whole. We are one big Michaela family.

Michaela is rated Outstanding by Ofsted and has a unique culture that turns out young people with exceptional character. Our pupils achieve superb exam grades - including the highest ever recorded progress at GCSE level in a state-funded school - which help them win places at some of the best universities in the world. We are extremely proud of what we do to transform the lives of young people, many of whom are from disadvantaged backgrounds. To achieve all this, our school must be a place where children of all races and religions buy into something they all share and that is bigger than themselves: our country.

We have a large number of Muslim pupils. Their positive experiences have helped grow the number of Muslim pupils at the school by 50%. My own grandmother was Muslim. But the Governing Body had to take the decision to stop prayer rituals when some pupils started them, against a backdrop of events including violence, intimidation and appalling racial harassment of our teachers.

Our decision restored calm and order to the school. We have always been clear to parents and pupils when they apply to Michaela that because of our restrictive building combined with our strict ethos that does not allow children to wander around the school unsupervised, we cannot have a prayer room.

At Michaela, those from all religions make sacrifices so that we can maintain a safe secular community. Some Jehovah's Witness families have objected to Macbeth as a set GCSE text. Some Christian families have asked that we do not hold our GCSE revision sessions on Sundays. Some Hindu families have objected to dinner plates touching eggs. And our Muslim families have signed up to the school knowing that we do not have a prayer room. We all eat vegetarian food so that we can

break bread together at lunch where children are not divided according to race or religion. We all make our sacrifices so that we can live in harmony.

We believe it is wrong to separate children according to religion or race, and that it is our duty to protect all of our children and provide them with an environment which is free from bullying, intimidation and harassment.

Multiculturalism can only succeed when we understand that every group must make sacrifices for the sake of the whole. We allow our children freedoms of all sorts, as long as those freedoms do not threaten the happiness and success of the whole school community. Our children, whatever their background are British. As a school, we celebrate what we have in common so that the extraordinary diversity of cultures that we have under our roof can succeed.

I will never separate children according to race and religion.

Somewhat controversially, current Education Secretary Gillian Keegan waded into an ongoing court case, in defence of Birbalsingh:

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan: Michaela is one of the top performing schools in the country - in no small part due to the incredible leadership of @Miss_Snuffy.  It's ridiculous to call her work 'sinister', and very unhelpful for people to comment on live court proceedings.

What did our panel have to say about the Michaela prayer ban and Keegan's intervention?

Brent Poland

"I respect [Birbalsingh] defending her ethos... but the government needs to stop judging schools on British values if their flagship school can do what they want. It goes against human rights legislation and that's why it's in court. She knows what she is doing because she knows her area and knows she will get a response."

Lianne Lax

"Students should have freedom in how they carry out their religion, and not be pressured by other students of the same religion. Maybe there's a gap for PSHE there in terms of students knowing they can carry out their religion in the way they want."

Hannah Wilson

"There is murky water as to what schools can impose and what they can't. Although Michaela is held in high esteem, [this news shows] there are clearly behaviour issues. Is this prayer ban punishing all because of a few? It's a knee-jerk reaction."

Want to hear more from Katharine Birbalsingh? Here's a show for you...

Omer Pazar and guest Katharine Birbalsingh delve into the role of schools, 'woke' culture, small-C conservatism, and the importance of strict discipline.


Want to listen to the discussion in full? Catch up with the full show, plus a message from our sponsors John Catt Educational, here.

A graphic for our sponsors John Catt: educational publishers since 1959.

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