The Blog

Could Your Child's Teachers Be Struggling?

With the new academic year now well underway, children across England will be getting used to a revamped national curriculum, which the government has described as "rigorous, engaging and tough".

With the new academic year now well underway, children across England will be getting used to a revamped national curriculum, which the government has described as "rigorous, engaging and tough".

Many schools have made changes to the way they assess the achievement of five to 14 year-olds as a result of the new framework being introduced and they will be keen to see how their pupils settle in to a new way of doing things.

But should we be more worried about the impact the changes will have on the teachers who have to deliver this curriculum?

Teaching quality under the spotlight

I have read media articles recently suggesting that the introduction of the new curriculum means some teachers will need to brush up on particular topics.

In one article, head teacher and president of the Girls' School Association, Alice Phillips, raises the point that some of her brightest and most enthusiastic teachers - particularly the younger generation - do not have a full grasp of English grammar, having not been taught it as children.

No wonder, then, that they lack confidence or skill in fully explaining the intricacies of tenses, verbs and sentence structure when they are relatively new learners themselves. As parents, we would not expect our children to fully grasp any topic that had not been comprehensively taught, so should we expect our children's teachers to be experts in every subject?

However, the new framework sees a much greater focus placed on assessing children's use of grammar across the curriculum, so skills that cross over to other subjects will be helpful to pupils. And, of course, as school inspections place more and more emphasis on the quality of teaching, head teachers will want to make sure all staff get the support they need to deliver exciting and engaging lessons to help raise pupils' achievement in each subject.

Accentuate the positive

In my job, I visit a lot of fee-paying schools, where lesson observations and productive feedback have become an intrinsic part of school life. This approach often has a positive and significant impact on the confidence and achievements of both teachers and their students.

There are hidden gems in every school and we all remember the best teachers from our school days - those who had a fantastic wealth of experience or knowledge, those who engaged us and teachers who just had natural ability to explain what felt like the unexplainable.

Teaching staff with a natural ability to capture a child's imagination and encourage them to aim higher form the backbone of a good school and should be championed.

It is also a good idea to highlight those teachers who are particularly successful at spotting the children who might be coasting or are in danger of falling behind, so that more children get the encouragement and support they need to get them back on track.

While we all have strengths and weaknesses, the job of a good school leader is to ensure that excellent teaching is happening in every classroom, every day. If a class is consistently getting good results in their English grammar tests, for example, heads will be keen to identify just what it is that the teacher is doing well - it might be their teaching style, the quality of the resources or a combination of different things they are introducing in to their lessons. Equally if a class is consistently underperforming, understanding why that happens is vital, so that improvement plans can be put in place and staff and pupils given the relevant support to achieve.

Knowing what works means that knowledge can then be shared across the school to help staff learn from each other and raise the overall attainment of pupils.

Supporting teachers

Like any successful organisation, a school needs to make sure that it can identify and nurture people with the talent and skills required to deliver excellence. There is software available, not dissimilar to that used for staff development in the business world, which can help school leaders manage and report on lesson observations, record details of staff reviews and track the overall performance of their teaching staff. This can help to shine a light on successful teaching and ensure any staff training needs, or gaps in knowledge or experience, can be addressed.

Some schools get fantastic results with engaging children when they are given the opportunity to set and then track their own progress towards learning goals. Being encouraged to work collaboratively with their peers can also give children a different perspective on how to take on a task. Should the same ethos be applied to teachers' development? Taking ownership of the information on your own development and career progression, and being given opportunities to share best practice can be incredibly motivating - and could help to strengthen working relationships right across the school.

Championing the shining stars of the classroom

Quality of teaching is one of the most important factors that can influence how well a child progresses in their learning.

Some of the highest performing schools have no qualms about sharing details of the investment they make in good teaching staff and the support they are given to ensure they continue to meet the changing needs of their pupils.

As our children take on the challenges and opportunities that the school year has yet to offer, let's praise the schools that focus on championing the people that make teaching excellence a reality. That way, more children will benefit from the best possible learning experience.