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Amanda Godfrey

Don't believe the hype

Teaching at an academy isn't all about more pay and flexible holidays, says Amanda Godfrey

Posted by Stephanie Broad | February 03, 2016 | Teaching

Teaching at an academy school means innovation. But that innovation must support the need for continual improvement and progression in education, while having the power to deviate from what has previously been a rather rigid structure. To date however, much of the hype surrounding the draw of joining an academy school, has been centred on better salaries and different holiday patterns. And while in some cases this might ring true, the real message should be about using the opportunity to change, to make a positive difference to children’s lives and to better-support teachers in their roles and responsibilities.

Aside from the greater numbers of children currently in mainstream education, there are a number of contributors to increased workloads on teachers today. Greater expectation from parents that children’s needs are met to a high level, continual pressure on schools in terms of the diversity of issues they should be providing educationally, not to mention the increasing numbers of vulnerable pupils who need social and pastoral care.  

The provision for children with special educational needs, the complexities of individual needs of children and the lack of funding for that provision, all have an impact on workload.

Changes to the curriculum have also meant that it’s no longer satisfactory for teachers to simply deliver the curriculum, they need to design it too along with the assessment framework. One can see how a teacher’s workload can easily spiral.

Pressures on other public sector services such as the NHS, social services etc. mean that it has become the duty of many schools to take the necessary steps to bridge that gap. Where the academy school can flex to adapt to these trends, is through its decentralisation, because with that comes more freedom and more flexibility.

Although more freedom makes it easier to make changes it also brings with it more pressure. In particular Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) will have an additional layer of leadership to alleviate that pressure and to help provide clear structures, support and guidance as to what ‘good teaching of mathematics’ looks like, for example. There is also greater freedom to give clearer expectation and a framework to support teachers such as NQT ‘clusters’.

The ability to exploit certain freedoms such as changing school hours, creating extended days, such as an extra hour at the end of the school day where specialist providers are brought in to deliver music, sport, dance etc. gives teachers more time to cover the curriculum within normal school hours.

Frankly, teachers are looking for more than greater pay and holidays – yes, these are important as with any profession but they aren’t the reason people choose to become teachers. They want to make a difference to children’s lives, they want a vocation not just a job, they want autonomy and they also want to buy into the ethos of a school. But there is even more to it than that. 

Today’s teachers also want opportunities for continual professional development. They want to take part in exciting innovations that will keep them motivated and enthused. Being given the chance to take the lead, develop their leadership skills and change schools to move into new positions if they so wish is important for career progression. It is down to the school to provide those opportunities and the right support for teachers. Schools need to provide new challenges to revitalise teachers’ love of teaching. This is where the academy school structure and MATs can challenge the status quo and make the difference to teachers that really matters.

Amanda Godfrey is Executive Head of Spiral Partnership Trust

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