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Russell Hobby

What do school leaders want for Christmas?

Russell Hobby's end of term blog outlines five areas where teachers are hoping to see improvement next year

Posted by Stephanie Broad | December 21, 2015 | Teaching

In his final blog of the year, Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, outlines the areas where head teachers will be hoping to see improvements in education next year: Teacher Supply, Fairer Funding, Pupil Wellbeing, Assessment & Accountability and Stability. 

Teacher Supply

Mr Hobby says: “You can’t keep high standards without the right number of qualified, trained and motivated teachers. It is getting harder to make sure every class is led by the right person. Our recent recruitment survey revealed that four out of five members had trouble filling their vacancies; the hardest roles to fill were the most senior - TLRs, UPSs and SENCOs. Teachers’ salaries are well behind what they could earn with their skills in another sector.”

Hobby says school leaders could shoulder some of the responsibility and avoid working practices in schools that are motivated by “what the inspector might say rather than what we know to be right.” He goes on to say: “We need to have more confidence in our own expertise. Teachers marking work late into the night to please a potential inspector, for example, is as bad for students as it is for the teachers if we are sapping their energy.”

He repeats his call for the government to find a new way to communicate their plans to the teaching profession, saying: “we will get more out of teachers if we use the language of ambition rather than the language of failure – of inspiring people with what they could achieve next rather than making them feel ashamed of what they have done. The answer to the recruitment issue is so simple as to be banal: pay people properly and treat them well.”

Fairer Funding

Hobby believes that the government needs to forge ahead with its plans for a fairer funding formula: “Two schools serving the same sort of pupils can get very different amounts of money. Let’s get this right this year; but let’s do it carefully. Increasing one school’s budget will almost certainly mean shrinking another’s. They will need time to adjust. Our survey in November revealed that two thirds of school budgets are within two years of reaching 'breaking point'.” 

Pupil Wellbeing

The issue of the bond between the school and the home is also critical, Mr Hobby believes: “a good relationship between parents and teachers is essential to children’s success. Our schools are not perfect; there are still children we fail to reach, still things we could do better. But we have come so far since the days when we were at school.” 

Assessment and Accountability

Hobby says: “A dearly held hope for many school leaders would be that their school is judged in the round, on the basis of all the work they do with students, rather than a single number summing up results in a few subjects. We must get the basics right, academic achievement matters – literacy and numeracy are not going out of fashion in the digital age – but there are other things that matter too, including music, sport, arts and community service. Schools should be held to account but if you hold them to account for narrow numbers you will get a narrow education.”

Stability

He concludes with a wish for stability in the new year: “No Christmas list would be complete without a wish for peace and goodwill. The education world has seen massive change over the last few years, usually accompanied by criticism to help the medicine go down. But education works best in an atmosphere of calm and stability, where schools focus on teaching rather than administrative changes. Yet every cohort of children in secondary school today will face a different set of exams when they reach sixteen. This is too much. Let’s settle down in 2016 and get on with the main job.”

Read the full blog on the NAHT website    

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