As an ex-teacher I'm often asked whether I miss the classroom and my reply is unequivocally 'No way!'
Of course , I sometimes do return to classrooms to give creative writing workshops and I relish this opportunity. Though, given the severe effects of the Cuts, this has become less frequent.
Like music, drama and foreign languages, it seems that creative writing has been pushed to the periphery, as schools are forced to focus on literacy and numeracy to the exclusion of so much else.
Talking to friends and relatives who are teachers only reinforces my feelings about the current education system in Cymru, only marginally better than England's Govian nightmare.
As I've previously blogged our testing culture is, in many instances, worse than the SATs and in Primaries in particular, we are managing to brand thousands of pupils as inadequate failures in a re-run of what happened with 11 +.
What teachers tell me is appalling.
They describe how even the Core subjects are taught regularly by non-specialists.
How, as a result of the new Welsh Assembly Gov. colour code, GCSE counts for everything and 'A' Level is absurdly ignored.
How parents in an Amber rated school increasingly pressurise staff during Parents' Evenings, despite the fact that these colour codings are ridiculous.
How meetings take place after school,often twice weekly, without proper agendas and often for more than an hour.Together with endless form-filling and target-setting, all this makes it virtually impossible to produce resources, let alone mark work properly.
How morale has reached its lowest point ever, even for young staff, so that many consider leaving.
The colour code system was set up under present education Minister Huw Lewis (an ex-teacher) to replace the totally discredited banding.
It places all schools into categories from Green to Red, and the latter can ultimately be threatened with closure.
Four traffic lights to add to the confusion!
The real power behind Lewis is WAG's Senior Advisor Prof. David Reynolds of Southampton University( who has never taught in a school in his whole career).
When I taught in Merthyr, Reynolds came to the Comp. to deliver a lecture on 'Time Management'. He was three quarters of an hour late and delivered a garbled message which I'd place in the Red category.
The criteria for coding schools are seriously flawed.
One Comp. in Cardiff achieves some of the best 'A' Level results in the country, yet is an Amber school because its GCSE results have gone down slightly.
As well as data set against self-evaluation, the coding is also heavily dependent on the judgement of Challenge Advisors.
I know one of these who was renowned as a callous bully when a Head , forcing staff he didn't like to leave or go on sick as he targeted them. Now he goes into schools and deploys those bullying tactics against whole establishments.
Cronyism and not any merits has ensured that these bullies rise to the top and they rule through fear everywhere.
Advisors need to be as inspirational as they once were.
I recall the former English Advisor for Mid. Glamorgan David John as one who lead by example, pushing creative writing and Welsh writing to the fore and pioneering 100% coursework in both Language and Literature.
Advisors could, once again, become hands-on : helping teachers, taking lessons and producing resources. They could, if they were actually successful teachers themselves!
These Challenge Advisors are marked only by their desire to get out of the classroom,by their blatant careerism.
Even more ludicrous is the system whereby the Green schools profit from coding.
Teachers who are deemed to need improving are sent to these schools at considerable cost, to observe 'good practice'.
The reality is very different and I know of several from Primaries who had to attend a Cardiff Comp. over six weeks, only to find that teaching standards didn't warrant that Green at all.
(Apparently, the results at GCSE are as much due to home tutoring).
Teachers need the freedom to teach what enthuses them and their pupils.
In my Welsh class a few weeks ago I gave a short talk on Prof Gwyn Alf Williams and referred to the Merthyr Rising.
There are three young people in the group, all educated in the area and still living here.
None had heard of Gwyn Alf and only one had scant knowledge of the Rising.
In History alone we need a revolution in the classroom : local and Welsh History must be at the core of study.
Pupils need freedom to research and discover from an early age, through their families, local libraries and museums ( those that remain!).
Huw Lewis and his puppet-master Reynolds are obsessed with data and Wales's position in international PISA tests.
They have forgotten (if they ever knew) that education is all about the excitement of exploring new ideas and using the imagination.
However, a revolution in our schools cannot be achieved without one in society.
No reformist party is going to make things anew.
Teachers and pupils need to relish their time in schools and not merely learn tricks to pass tests, yet another trait of that old and sordid exam , the 11 plus.
NOBODY TRUSTS THE TEACHERS
Nobody trusts the teachers :
the Redtops blurt tales
of disgrace and sexual antics.
Politicians repeat about failures
and send in the trouble-shooters ;
Councils threatened with Commissioners.
Teams of Inspectors invade schools
and deliver their damning judgments.
Heads ambush their lessons
armed with forms and tick-boards.
Parents e-mail to complain
about behaviour, results and testing.
Even the pupils....yes, even them,
after they've heard their parents moaning
as they read newspapers, watch television.
So the teachers don't trust themselves
to ponder, plan, encourage and inspire,
with all that spying vision.