Behind the Education Headlines in June


The impact of Ofsted on student's wellbeing

The charity States of Mind has produced a short film called Breaking the Silence which offers a fascinating insight into how students view the educational system in the UK. Using the input of 150 students and 80 head teachers, teachers and Ofsted inspectors, the charity found that young people say that the school is one of the main contributors to poor mental health. Over the three year research process, State of Mind found that pupils do not think that the current Ofsted inspection framework gives them enough opportunity to discuss their mental health. Instead, the students found that the "narrow definitions of success" used by Ofsted cause a "tense" atmosphere due to the stress it places on students and staff.

State of Mind has proposed radical changes to the framework including lengthening the inspections over two days to allow inspectors to adequately capture students' opinions. They are also advocating for an end to school grading which they say leads to "game-playing" by schools.

The last consultation on the Ofsted inspection framework was over three years ago and only involved 15,000 responses. Of these, only 0.2% of the respondents (34) were learners. Although the consultation was primarily designed to get an overall view of the framework, the DfE did work with YoungMinds to encourage learners and the public to engage with the consultation. As a result of this, the DfE made some amendments to "personal development" and "leadership and management" grade descriptors to encourage integrity, kindness and inclusion.

According to the Children's Society, one in six children between the ages of 5 and 16 are "likely" to have a mental health issue. Over the last three years, the possibility of a child having a mental health problem has also increased by 50%. The mental health charity Mind's report "Making the Grade: why our approach to mental health at secondary school is failing young people", showed the impact of school on student's mental health. Of the 1271 students surveyed in England, 96% said that their mental health had impacted their schoolwork at some point. 

Combating the teacher shortage

Teacher trainee recruitment is coming under increasing scrutiny as schools say they will not be able to recruit and retain teachers without a "significant" pay rise. The National Education Union (NEU) warned former education secretary Nadhim Zahawi that teachers could strike at the start of the next school year unless they receive an "inflation-plus" pay rise.

Although Zahawi vowed to increase new teachers' salaries to £30,000 over the next few years, this does not cover the pay of established teachers and school leasers whose pay is set to rise by around 2%. Additionally, these pay increases will have to come from the school budget.

Additionally, the DfE has announced a new catchily named service to counteract these shortages. The "apply for qualified teacher status in England" scheme will see foreign teachers from all over the world being awarded QTS. These new international teachers will have the same induction period as newly qualified English teachers, but will ultimately be able to teach in any school.  

LGBT discrimination in schools is still at unacceptable levels

According to Stonewall's LGBT in Britain Work Report, 18% of LGBT staff across the UK have had "negative comments or conduct" due to their sexuality. One teacher who responded had to move across London when they were outed due to the high level of hostility they endured. They also found that 12% of trans staff and 10% of black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT staff had been physically attacked to their sexuality or gender identity.

The NASUWT's LGBTI Equality Survey has found that discrimination against LGBTI staff is still at disturbingly high levels. Almost 60% of respondents said that they had experienced discrimination due to their sexuality or gender identity. Although the most common instigators of discrimination are pupils (68%) and teachers (49%), 25% of LGBTI staff say that school leadership have also contributed to hostility. Over three-quarters of respondents to the survey do not think that their organisation does enough to promote equality for LGBT members of staff. Over a quarter said that there was no way to report discrimination at their school, college or trust.

In fact, a paper published in Frontiers in Sociology suggests that LGBT teachers could make "exceptional school leaders". Navigating the heteronormative environment within schools has given LGBT teachers and staff key skills which enable them to thrive as leaders. The ability to manage uncertainty, network, connections and read people are all assets to any school leadership team.

Although, as school business professionals, we try to encourage an atmosphere of inclusion and equity between our pupils, schools lag behind the average in terms of providing a safe space for their staff. Creating an inclusive environment in school is a shared responsibility from pupils and parents through to head teachers, CEOs and the governors board. Diversity (in all forms) is a resource to any organisation rather than a hinderance.

You can help to promote a safer space within your school or trust by:

  • Implementing a zero-tolerance policy for bullying for staff and parents as well as students
  • Adding inclusion and kindness to your values and embracing it
  • Creating a welcoming environment
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