Diary of an NQT: Will there be change ahead?

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This week, our NQT diarist couldn’t fail to feel the election fever – but what will be the implications of the new Parliament for her, her school and education?

I am sure my topic this week is an obvious one. As this edition of SecEd is published we are all heading off to queue at the polling station, perhaps still trying to decide which box to mark with a cross.

We will be weighing up the hype and hysteria that has been created over recent months. Having been bombarded with live debates and news coverage, we will be making a key decision about the future of our country – and perhaps the future of our education system.

We will all have our own personal opinions and we will perhaps be voting purely depending on which policies “suit us” as individuals, and which policies suit our families and communities.

But as teaching professionals, what is the best outcome?

As teachers, we should be proud. We enable thousands of young people to seek out opportunities, achieve great qualifications and improve their life chances. We do this often in spite of the challenges and reforms that the government of the day throw at us.

Every government has a duty to facilitate and fund education – albeit to a greater or lesser extent depending on your party of choice. But what and how much would change immediately, or in the medium or longer term, depending on the outcome of the election?

We have already seen a lot of change over the past five years. I am already managing the change from national curriculum levels at key stage 3 and am preparing myself for the introduction of Progress 8 performance table measures at key stage 4.

I, for one, hope they are not scrapped or altered as it is taking enough time to become familiar and confident with the criteria and requirements.

I am not adverse to change – it is healthy and useful in the majority of contexts. However, schools and teachers need time to embed the policies of our politicians and make them work in our contexts.

Furthermore, I fail to see how election manifestos suggesting yet more initiatives to “drive-up standards” or “zero-tolerance” strategies to address “failing or coasting schools” help us. Especially as, to my mind (maybe naïvely), monitoring, auditing and support systems are already in place for schools in challenging circumstances.

Likewise, how do we as a country maintain consistency without a system like Ofsted, if this were to be scrapped as one party suggests. What system will replace it and how much will this cost the taxpayer in creating a new system?

However, there have been some election debates that I see as vital. For example, what are the implications for our future secondary pupils who potentially will not learn about sex and relationships education in their primary school settings (as one party is advocating)?

And what about the university aspirations of our young people who are still facing £9,000 – or possibly £6,000? – a year tuition fees?

The implications of any election are huge, for ourselves as well as our young learners, who unknowingly feel the push and pull of the Department of Education’s reforms and programme of change. 

We are very fortunate to have a political and cultural system that values education so highly. It just feels daunting that as I begin to settle and overcome some of the big hurdles this year, the powers that be might begin to move the goalposts. 

I am questioning how flexible am I with change. I hope to be pretty flexible if we face more new policies and requirements in the coming months and I know my school will embrace and support any change as well – and will facilitate any transitions that I need to make.

  • SecEd’s NQT diarist this year is a teacher of sociology and philosophy from a school in the South of England.

 


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