On the other hand, I’m not in a position where I am getting paid for my opinions and research, which is one of the quid pro quos of giving up your anonymity as a journalist or academic. And it is clearly useful to not have to reveal where I currently teach, especially since I work with children and I would not want, even inadvertently, to reveal anything about those with whom I work.
All this said, I think that some background would be useful for those who read my ideas. I am always interested in the person behind anything I read and I find it useful to have some idea of their experience, basic philosophy and history. So here goes…
As it says elsewhere on this site, I have worked in Primary education for a decade. Before that I worked in an unrelated field in the private sector for ten years. I did a PGCE course and trained as a specialist in Early Years and Primary. I’ve taught children from Reception to Year 6, as well as 3 and 4 year olds in nurseries.
I trained and taught in one city for five years, then I relocated to another city where I still live.
When I started teaching, I worked around 55 hours a week, which was just above average for a primary school teacher at the time. I could just about do all that I needed to do in that time, although I always wanted to do more, and I worked with colleagues who clearly spent much more time than I did.
My first school was an amazing place, run by an inspirational head teacher who always put the children in the school first, regardless of what outside agencies suggested or demanded. It had an intake of the aspirational poor, and every other child spoke a language other than English at home. When I left, I heard the old saw that I would only really appreciate how well run the school was once I had left. I can’t tell you how true this is, and how much I miss that school.
When I moved city, I did a year’s maternity cover which gave me time to settle. I taught an inner city Year 6 class in an extremely deprived part of town. It was an eye-opener for many, many reasons. I haven’t felt the need to watch reality TV since.
At the end of that year, I got a job at a small village school, quite be accident. It was completely different to the two schools I'd taught in previously. The children were delightful in a distinctly different way to their city cousins, the parents were uniformly lovely and the head teacher turned out to be a serial bully.
I lasted six months before I handed in my notice and moved to yet another village school, where I settled down to a sixty hour week, and a huge workload. At both village schools, I worked as subject co-ordinator for both Maths and PE on top of my class work. Both schools also had ‘Creative Curriculums’ which were ‘Skills based’ which meant that each half term the teaching team had to reinvent the wheel and spend a huge amount of time on planning endlessly differentiated lessons.
By the end of the 2012-3 academic year, I had had enough. My children were growing up, and whereas when they were toddlers I had accepted having to disappear for hours each weekend to do the endless administrative aspects of teaching, as they grew up and had things to say and do, I felt that I was missing out on their childhood. We had a change of circumstances at home, and I took the opportunity to take a sabbatical from full-time teaching.
I’d lasted ten years, and at the point when I finally handed in my notice, the toll of every single one of those years cascaded down. I’m still reeling from the freedom I have; to think, to play, to live, to write, to enjoy life. I love teaching with a passion and I am still shocked by how much I had come to hate it.
I hated the overbearing blob which sat above the schools in which I taught. I hated any discussion involving Ofsted or Michael Gove or Michael Wilshaw. I hated the growing understanding that we had been sold a lie, and that children, teachers and schools were being damned by data. Data which was, quite clearly to a statistician, complete nonsense, for reasons which were beyond anyone with whom I raised them. It felt like I was discussing the books I was reading with people who thought that the average number of letters per word per page per chapter were somehow representative of the books themselves.
Having started this blog, it’s clear that hardly anyone understands data in education. In the words attributed to Wolfgang Pauli, they're not even wrong. Those who seek to measure and compare children and schools, in my view, simply don't know what they re doing.
And by attempting to measure and compare schools, education itself has been twisted into something which it should not be - a world of 'good' and 'bad' schools, lauded or damned for a plethora of factors out of their control.
I hope to entirely demolish the dishonest, destructive, downright disgusting way which being not even wrong about education has destroyed the greatest gift you can give anyone – the love of learning. Stop laughing at the back. I can at least dream. And even if I am tilting at a particularly vicious windmill, I will do my very best to help to completely revolutionise the way we all look at the purpose and possibilities of education.
Because I love learning, more than I can tell you. More than teaching, I love the fact that I know stuff which children don’t, and that children want to know stuff I can teach them. I love seeing faces light up as children make sense of the world, and learn how to develop, use and understand knowledge which they didn't have before a teacher helped them to expand their horizons. And I hate watching children being forced to tick boxes, and ‘extend sentences’ and regurgitate ‘written methods’ and do what they are told without thought or understanding or love of learning. It is not even wrong.
So now I work 30 hours a week in a school near home, and all I do is help children to learn. I don’t have a class of my own and I don’t have to jump through all the hoops I’ve had to jump through to satisfy the blob for the last ten years.
It’s given me time to think and time to write this blog. I’m getting the chance to get things off my chest as I build up my plan to change the world. School may be the icing on the cake – and it is, as I will keep banging on about until the message is universally understood – but that icing can be rich and glorious and inspirational and glittering. It doesn’t have to be the dull grey gruel being served up to far too many children in England.
I’m exploring a number of options to fund my quest to bring about the revolution, starting with writing, providing much needed resources and researching ideas about education. I am developing some numeracy support materials for schools and parents, and I’d love to work with any organisation which is prepared to tackle the data monster head on.
Since I’m not being paid – yet – I plan to preserve my anonymity online, so I will write ‘Icing on the Cake’ using the alias ‘Jack Marwood’ – learner, teacher, parent and plotting to revolutionise the way we think about education. Aim high, I say.