Cover story - May 22, 2017 issue

Whiteman unchallenged for leadership of NAHT   

Paul Whiteman is the new leader of the National Association of Head Teachers after his candidacy for the post of general secretary went unchallenged. He emerged earlier this month as the preferred candidate of the union’s national executive but, under trades union law, the post had to be opened to nominations from the membership. The deadline for nominations passed last week and none were received.

Whiteman will start the role in September when Russell Hobby, the current general secretary, stands down. Hobby is to become chief executive of the charity Teach First, which has grown to become the UK’s largest recruiter of graduates.

Whiteman has no school leadership experience. He worked for nearly 11 years at the First Division Association, the union for senior civil servants, before moving to the NAHT. He is currently the union’s director of representation and advice. In an interview given before his appointment was confirmed, he said: ‘I never knew I would fall in love with school leaders – they didn’t love me much when I was coming through the [school] system … but seeing what they do on a day to day basis inspires me.’

The uncontested appointment comes three months after the union’s rival, the Association of School and College Leaders, saw its executive’s preferred candidate, who had never been a teacher, challenged by rank and file member Geoff Barton, a fierce critic of government policy. Barton went on to a landslide victory.

One of the first tasks Whiteman will face is making the NAHTs case to the new government on issues the union considers priorities (Greensheets May 1).

 


Cover story - May 15, 2017 issue

SATs cause ‘unacceptable pressure’ in schools – survey   

Three in four school leaders lack confidence in SATs, while nearly half report not having sufficient information to prepare pupils for this year’s Key Stage 2 tests (which took place last week) according a survey by The Key, an information service for school leaders.

A survey of more than 1,000 primary school leaders by The Key found that 77 per cent of those who responded ‘do not have confidence’ in the current national assessment system.

Of those surveyed, 92 per cent said pressure placed on schools by performance measurement had increased over the past two years, and 90 per cent said those changes had a negative effect on teacher workload.

More than eight out of 10 respondents reported an increase in mental health issues among children around the time of the tests.

The Key quotes one respondent as saying that expectations were ‘too high’ at the end of Key Stages 1 and 2, claiming this led to a limiting of the curriculum, stress among pupils, and ‘unacceptable pressure on teachers, pupils, parents and the school’.

Seventy per cent said the current accountability measures were not a ‘fair and accurate way’ to measure school performance.

Another primary school leader told The Key that assessment had been ‘drastically changed and poorly communicated’, while another said they had received ‘too little information, too late’.

Other responses to the survey included a demand for more exemplification materials for tests, especially for reading: ‘Sourcing appropriate and matched resources has a huge impact on teachers’ workloads,’ the respondent wrote.

Another said: ‘The late notice which schools are given [of assessment information] is unfair, unprofessional and not supportive of helping staff, children and others to deal with changes and prepare adequately.’ 

The publication of the survey comes after a report by the House of Commons Education Select Committee said that the accountability system for primary schools is too ‘high-stakes’. It says the SATS, as they currently operate, are affecting the well-being of both pupils and teachers, and it calls on the next government to lower the stakes by limiting what is reported in school annual performance tables. The committee also calls for school performance to be judged on a rolling three-year average of SATs results, rather than on annual data.

The government acknowledged some problems with the current system. In March, it launched a consultation that proposed the scrapping of Key Stage 1 SATs and the creation instead of a new baseline test for Reception pupils.

Amy Cook, senior researcher at the Key, said: ‘While the various pressures and factors bearing down on children today are wide-ranging and should not fall solely to schools to resolve, their dedication to protecting their pupils’ well-being is unwavering. But should we accept that a rigorous and high-quality school system will place such pressures on pupils and schools, or is a different approach needed?’

Online consultation: tinyurl.com/mka5mjd