Teacher Training in the UK – new Policy

Education Secretary Michael Gove has indicated that the Government should only pay to train graduates with a 2.2 degree or higher as teachers .

Implementing such a policy could according to Professor Alan Smithers and Dr Pamela Robinson  lead  to ” big holes” in the number of graduates training to become teachers in maths, physics, chemistry and languages. A quarter of all physic teachers who trained in 2008-9 would not have met the 2.2 target.

The indication is that this policy could create a situation of increasing the short fall of teachers training in the aforementioned subject. An area that is already struggling to fill all the teaching posts available.

Personally, I believe that there are more important factors than just a degree to making a “good or exceptional” teacher. Not least is the ability to enthuse the pupils with the subject and desire to learn.

Lee McIntyre, was a teacher and although I don’t know the grade of degree he holds he left teaching, which he loved, to become an Internet entrepreneur. He is still teaching, but through a different medium and earning a decent wage too.

Most graduate teachers struggle to live in the early years. Unless they are fortunate they will not be able to afford to buy a property until in their late thirties. At present they will find it even more difficult in the UK, with the present  mortgage drought.

Teaching in the UK is in the peculiar position of not having a formalised body to represent it, but relies on Union representation to Government. Teachers pay into a form of registration, but this is not a body like theRoyal College of Physicians who will be the collective voice of the profession.

Is this change in policy more to do with saving money or is it to do with raising “standard”? I believe that most 1st class and upper second class honours degree students are destined to find better terms and conditions in commerce and industry than in teaching. Although with the current economic climate it will be interesting to see if more higher degree graduates take the teaching route. This is especially lucrative in the sciences and maths as there are various incentives to encourage graduates to become teachers.

Whatever the future of this policy, education will be on the political agenda for the foreseeable future. Successive Governments will meddle in the education of our children under the remit of making the educational provision of higher quality and teachers more accountable and in the processd create an ever increasing support structure to enable teacher to deliver and test pupils.

So will graduates with higher degrees make an impression on a system that is becoming overburdened with support staff. I doubt it very much unless they are very creative and can inculcate that into the subject for their pupils.

Toner Recycling

Where  I work we have a number of colour and mono laser printers. We always recycle and use the manufacturer’s return system where ever it is offered.

HP until recently had a return address option sheet in the new toner box. Now if you wish to use their return service you need to go online and print out a return label. Not only does this require someone to use a computer when it’s on it also requires the use of toner and power to produce the label; plus the paper om which to print the address.

Brother however, have a label that you fix to the outside of the box and that’s it. They have one address for all EU counties it would seem.

Being cynical to me it appears that HP, working on the huge number of toner cartridges that are returned each day, have saved on their printing of return address labels. They have also collectively ensured that their toner cartridges are being used more quickly. Again I am talking world wide each day people printing a return address on an A4 sheet of paper.

HP can rightly claim to be reducing their carbon footprint. The rest of the world in it’s effort to recycle have just increased theirs by print the label, using power for the printer and PC, paper and toner. It also increases the time required for someone to do the task and is likely to have the net result of reducing the number of toner cartridges returned to HP. Perhaps that’s what they want as they are then able to maintain their consumable price to their customers whilst reducing the processing cost on the returned cartridges.

A  brilliant strategy, saving money whilst improving their “green” credentials and promoting their sustainability policy as a company!

SEN & disability Green Paper

Yesterday I wrote about the Ofsted view on Special Educational Needs in education. You may recall that they suggest that good teachers would solve the problem.

The Children’s Minister Sarah Teather has asked all those involved to contribute to the Government’s Green Paper on special educational needs(SEN) The Green Paper will cover a multitude of issues including school choice, funding, identifications and assessment.

All very plausible, but the body tasked with standards in schools has indicated that it’s teachers that are the issue. The agenda would appear to be less about the bureaucracy that control the funding of children with special educational needs or it’s early identifications but more about the issue of identifications of what constitutes a SEN child and the panacea is good teachers.

There is no doubt that good teachers can have a significant contribution to the education of our children, so can parents who have a positive view of education and schools in general. However, a child that is unable through a cognitive problem to learn will find little benefit from a good teacher in main stream classes.

Fundamentally the child is wired differently and only by the use of specific interventions can the child be assisted in the learning process. This is unlikely to occur, in the first instance, in main stream classrooms, but in an area with smaller class numbers and with greater one to one attention. Here is where Ofsted’s ” good teachers” will be of the greatest benefit to the child.

Again I ask the question, ” as most schools will have had at least two inspections since Ofsted’s inception there should only be “good teachers” left in the system or is Ofsted failing?

My own experience, in a school that has a SEN unit is that the teachers are “good”. They use a variety of methods to engaged the children in stimulating activities that contribute to their ability to learn.

Because of the way funding is made available to the school for SEN children they are integrated into the main stream in classes of 30 plus as early as is practical. Whilst this is an attempt to assist them in adjusting to the traditional approach to learning, it often requires one to one mentoring, which even a “good teacher” will be unable to do effectively without detriment to the remaining pupils in the class.

Is perhaps Ofsted suggesting that the increase in  the number of children being classified as special needs is the problem? There is no doubt the there appears to be more children “statemented”  now than 10 years ago. Is this because the test are now more sophisticated or because symptoms are now better defined and therefore easier to identify?

Now we have a Green Paper that will take all of this into consideration, including the all important funding. No doubt there will be an opportunity to redistribute funding as a result of the consultation. My hope is that the additional bureaucracy that is at present attached to SEN will be reduced and the saving will be channelled into an increased provision for these children.

Ofsted comments on Special Needs Children

Ofsted the body in the UK that that is tasked with the standards in our schools has made comment to the effect that there would be less children in special needs if we had better teachers.

On the face of it an odd suggestion or comment from the very body that checks on the standards and quality of teaching in our schools.

Is it suggesting that the number of children that are now identified as needing special educational needs are perhaps just children that are emotionally unable to adjust to the environment of learning found in most schools? If so even the most inspiring teacher will find them challenging and will need to give them a disproportionate amount of their time. With many schools having 30 plus children in a class, 2 or more children who are disruptive can present even the best teachers with challenges.

I use the term disruptive because in the main the form of behaviour of these individual children is disruptive, mostly as a result of their frustration at not being able to do and understand what their peers are able to. Many have emotional problems either from their home and family life, whilst others have learning problems as a result of physical or mental disabilities.

I talk from experience as my two girls had a problem that was a form of dyslexia that caused them to be unable to read books or from a whiteboard. At our own expense we had them both checked by a specialist who found that they both needed coloured lens, one yellow the other a shade of blue. As a result both my girls became better readers and now enjoy reading novels and both are still  pursuing their goals by attending college on day release.

They both struggled to learn because of their problem. Were they disruptive? Most likely, one more than the other, by their constant talking as a means to find out what was on the board etc. I know that they were not special needs, but even the teachers at a school classed as  outstanding by Ofsted found they could require more of their time at the expense of the rest of the class.

Most schools would have had a least two inspections since the inception of Ofsted. As a result both strength and weaknesses would have been identified and actions required to rectify the weaknesses. Therefore, the majority of poor teachers should no longer be in the school system. Or has Ofsted been failing in it’s duty by being less that specific in the actions it deems necessary to remedy problems it finds in schools, especially with respect to teachers and teaching assistants?

Incidently, I am amazed that even today very little if any time is given to giving children the skills required to study.

Income Tax Saga part3

On Friday I got notification of my taxcodings for 2010-11. They are no different to the ones I got in May. Now will the tax office electronically change my tax coding for my pension and then I should get my tax rebate of 6 months over paid tax. I am not holding my breath on that part.

It amazes me that this has gone on for so long. Getting peoples tax coding correct is a fundamental function of the tax office. It also means that the country has a very good idea of the amount of money coming into it’s coffers from PAYE. Having this information is of paramount importance, I would have thought, before the government makes decisions about it’s spending for the next fiscal year?

I am only to acutely aware of the problems of not accurately balancing income with expenditure and am amazed that the civil service is allowed to be so inept in such an important matter at taxation.

PAYE was designed to be simple and for most wage earners the task of working out the tax to be paid is easy. Upgrading a 20 year old computer system , to me, is a poor reason for the problems the tax payers find themselves with at present.

Let’s hope that now they have a more modern computer system that at least this should situation should not happen again.

Have you had a tax rebate or been told you owe tax let me know?

Income Tax Saga continues

Following on from my blog yesterday it appears that the income tax are sending out letter to 1.6 million people, give or take a few, to inform them that they either owe unpaid tax or that they have paid more tax than they should and will receive a cheque soon.

As I commented yesterday the principle of PAYE is simple and for most income earners, as it is all calculated by the income taxoffice and stopped at source by the employer, there is no worry about under or over paying tax.

Now it would seem that there has been a problem in the tax coding for the last tax year or so which means that many people have paid less tax than they should. The majority of wage earning tax payers know what their take home pay will be and any change would I am certain be noticed. However, if  it’s because the tax coding was incorrect  they are less likely to be aware as most people I imagine get their tax code, grumble about all the tax they are paying and that’s it. With changes to the allowances it’s easy for any individual to take no more than a cursory glance at their tax code. If it’s say 200 less than last year they are hardly likely to do an in depth analysis, relying on the tax office to have sorted it correctly.

Personally I only have taken an interest because in the past I have been given the wrong tax code and spent 2 years paying it back.  Also I have paid tax at 40% in the past and keep a sharp eye out for any changes to my tax coding or “take home” pay.

The good news is that if you have overpaid tax they will include interest at 0.5%. If you owe tax you can either pay it back as a lump sum or have it taken out of your pay through a tax coding adjustment. Could be some problems ahead if the system got it wrong a year ago and this year too.

Income Tax in the UK

Because of the work I do, it’s complicated, I have two sources of income and a pension on which I pay income tax as PAYE or Pay As You Earn. This March I got a notification for my tax coding indicating that on my pension and one of my jobs I would pay tax at 40%. After a prolonged period of phoning I managed to contact a person who checked and agreed I did not earn enough money to pay tax on my income at 40%.  This was followed by two new confirmation letters indicating tax would be at the basic rate.

However, the tax office failed to notify the pension agency and one of my employers so I started paying  tax at 40% in April. I was able to send a copy of the new confirmation of tax coding to my employer who made the necessary changes in May. Great, well almost.

The pension agency are unable to change the coding as it is done directly through an electronic transfer so can only be changed by the tax office!

6 months later and a letter to the tax office advising them of the mistake and it’s still not done. Numerous phone calls are met by an automated system that drops the call if it’s not answered. You then have to redial and go through the system again, only to be cuts off if no one answers.

The reason for this and there’s 6 million tax payers with the same sort of problem is a change to the computer system the tax office uses?. It would appear, in my case, that the system automatically puts any person with more that one source of income into the higher taxation band regardless!

The simplicity of PAYE is that it is possible for almost everyone to work out their tax, yet the computer system used by the tax office is unable to make a simple calculation to take all earned income less allowance and work out the tax on what’s left.

Can you email them to point out the mistake has not been rectified? It appears not, so you either write letter that don’t get acknowledged or you phone and waste time and energy trying to contact them.

Not only does the tax payer bails out the banks when through their own greed and indulgence they manage to create a world finacial melt down, we then have to pay more tax than we should whilst the tax office sorts it out. Surely they should have done rigorous testing before going live with the system.

For my part it is causing us as a family some financial hardship as I am now owned hundreds of pounds that should not have been taken and has completely screwed up my budgeting. I should eventually get it back but when?

Have you had a problem with your tax or have you been able to find a way to get it sorted quickly? Let me know.

Almost the end of the Summer Holiday

Some schools have already opened for the new term and many more will do so tomorrow. As normal the weather has improved no end and no doubt once the new term gets into full swing it will be sunny and warm!

Mum’s  and Dad’s will be frantically sorting out the new kit for school and checking that their offspring have everything sorted. For some children there will be some apprehension, for others a chance to catch up with their mates and meet their new teacher or teachers. For some unfortunately the return to school will not be a happy time and they will dread the journey to school.

I wonder if most education systems in the world are geared to just a specific few learners and the rest more or less learn. Maths seems to be a particular problem for many and they struggle throughout the school life. Spelling can be a problem for many boys and often chemistry and physics are not subjects girls appear to like.

Why is this? I must admit that maths was not my best subject. However, when I left school I Came across The Trachtenberg system of Mathematics and it was incredible how much easier maths became. As long as you can add then you can use this system. The following link goes to a site where you can get free software based on the system http://www.shermankeene.com/tracten.html try it you may amaze yourself and your children too.

I liked school and the whole process of learning, not that I found it easy in some subjects. Yet I am today struck by the fact that what subjects I liked was very much down to the teacher who taught it. French was boring, so was the teacher. History was OK depending on who taught it.

Is much of what we learn partly down to the learning style of the teacher? Do they teach as they were taught of do they add their own personality to the mix. I thought art was great because the teacher was enthusiastic, more so than some of my fellow pupils.

Do our education systems inspire our children or just treat them as empty vessals to be filled with content with no obvious relationships between history and geography, music and maths. What do you think?

The 100 Blog Comments Challenge

Two of the lovely people in John Thornhill’s Master Class have come up with this challenge, go here for all the details http://creatingmybusinessonline.com/the-100-blog-comment-challenge/

I’m late, so whats new, but it’s a challenge so lets go for it.

You will need a number of plugin installed for it to be of benefit to the challenge:

DoFollow, CommentLuv, KeywordLuv, AddToAny, WordPress Thread Comments.

No certain as to the working of these yet so stay tuned as I add them to this blog

When Less is More

Hi whilst doing the weekly shop at a well-known supermarket chain I was looking for some tomato sauce. There were a number of choices including lower fat and salt. That’s very commendable, but why must I pay more for a product that has less salt and fat? Surely if it’s got less ingredients it’s cheaper to make?

This on looking is a trend lower fat and salt etc means you pay more? Why? Is this just another way for the producers and the super markets to cash in on the healthy trend  that has become the latest fad to save our lives?

Maybe there is a lesson to be learnt for all those trying to get sales or subscribers look at the trends and target that market with the solution. If like the supermarkets who knows what your sales could be if the product offers more for less!