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Diary of an NQT One term down, two to go...

THE HOLIDAY felt well and truly earned. I have managed to survive what I have been told is the longest and hardest term in school. And I almost made it to the end without a single day off – almost. In the last week before the break I

was struck down with the coughing, tired, coldy flu that was going round. We had a prize-giving evening, which all staff had to attend, so I took my miserable coughing, snotty body along and dutifully clapped at the appropriate times. I felt and apparently

looked “awful” according to every member of staff. I was feeling well and truly wretched by the time I eventually fell into bed that night. Luckily it was the last week of term and there was a PHSCE day the next day, so I didn’t have to plan any cover lessons and send them in. It took me two days to

recover enough to actually consider going back into school. It was the last day and after the first period of normal lessons, we had a period with our forms to do “admin” (and eat cakes) followed by a cabaret show involving staff and students. I can honestly say I was glad that I managed to drag myself in for the half-day. My one and only “lesson” was with my

favourite biology class, and we had fun. It was nice to see my form, they are now all “gelling” together with one or two even writing one another Christmas cards outside of their year groups. The cabaret show was fantastic, although once

or twice during the show I felt I was having a series of medication-induced hallucinations.

One student got up to sing what initially

appeared to be an acoustic carol song but in fact was all about “the night that Santa went mental at the North Pole”. This was swiftly followed by a motley collection of teachers, who did a brilliant, albeit unintentional, Status Quo- esque series of “rocking” Christmas tunes. Some of the student’s performances were excellent, clearly they had put a lot of work and thought into their songs, dance routines or instrumental pieces, and it was good way to see out 2010. The show was neatly wrapped up by the head who gave a short thank you to everyone for a great term, especially during the recent Ofsted visit. He told everyone

that they deserved a good break, before coming back for exams in the new year. The school was dismissed

and all the teachers promptly headed to the staffroom to find

out whether or not the head had been told anything from Ofsted yet. No was the simple answer, but he wasn’t being drawn on it and neither were any of the other members

of leadership team. Down the pub later that night, one poor school leader was cornered by a gang of teachers, or should I

say interrogators, who where all clearly versed in Gestapo techniques. Even this failed to yield any results, and so as I write I am still waiting to find out what the inspectors had to say...

• Our NQT diarist this year writes anonymously and is a teacher of science from a secondary school in the East of England. He returns next week.

Resolved to change? Moral support

TWO WEEKS in to 2011 and I wonder how many of you have stuck to your new year’s resolutions. If you have not, don’t worry, you are not alone. Research shows that after six months, 50 per cent of people have given up on their new year’s goal. This figure goes further down to 10 per cent after 12 months. In 2011 though, it will be more than just ourselves

that we look to change. The impact of government cuts, new policies and approaches will begin to be felt and we will see significant changes to the schools, colleges and structures within which we work. Like it or not, this year education is changing. Yet, if, as people, we find it so

hard to accept our own resolutions, how will we ever cope with these new challenges facing us? There are many ways to deal

positively with change, but first we need to understand change. According to our various factsheets on the subject, changes can be roughly grouped into five types: • Straightforward change, like changing your hairstyle or changing your car.

• Changing something you already do and relearning a new way, like changing your golf swing.

• Changing something that obviously needs changing, but you don’t want to or can’t quite see how it can be done, like quitting smoking.

• Changing something you absolutely, positively know you cannot change, like beliefs.

• Change that is imposed upon you and over which you appear to have no control, like structural or policy changes.

The first three types of change we grapple

with every day of our lives. Yes, we may struggle with these kinds of changes and we may never be successful, but we are conscious of them and can choose relatively easily how we accept (or reject) the changes. It is the fourth and fifth types of change that can

be more difficult to deal with and therefore more challenging and confrontational. Both of these types of change come up against the beliefs that we have created that underpin our whole lives. The fourth type of change asks us to change a point of view and adopt a way of seeing the world

that is at odds with the way we are used to seeing it. This experience can easily tap into our insecurity. We can develop a feeling of unsureness. There is no longer a predictable, reliable pattern to follow. These can be the hardest patterns to break. Often the belief system or pattern is stronger than the contradictory evidence, because it has been around longer. The best way to deal with this change is to

first become conscious that the pattern is there. Acknowledge that you are thinking or responding to a situation in a particular way, because that is how you are patterned to respond. Then begin to reprogram your thoughts to break the pattern. It is the fifth type, imposed

change, which is likely to concern us in the education sector most this year. This kind of change can often be difficult. If we have no say in the change, we can feel like it is being done to us,

rather than with us. Often we can feel cheated or hoodwinked. Our dissatisfaction and helplessness comes about because we didn’t buy

into the agreement or because we were never consulted. The only way through this type

of change, our factsheet advises, is through negotiation with yourself and other people affected. Often relief from both the stress and the upset caused comes when people

choose to accept and commit to the change, to stop fighting or cease feeling resentful.

That is not to say that you should agree or universally accept all the change that is imposed upon you, far from it. It’s vital that you stay true to who you are and what you believe in. Appraise each situation you face, take

the most positive direction you can for you and all who you care about, and look forward. The more able you are to do this, the more likely you are to reach positive outcomes that benefit you and everyone else. As 2011 continues, it is clear that nothing is

certain, other than that change in one form or another is inevitable. It is just how we deal with it that needs to be resolved.

• Julian Stanley is chief executive of the Teacher Support Network. Visit or call 08000 562 261 (England), 08000 855088 (Wales). Moral support returns in a fortnight.

Learning languages: Students from Droitwich Spa High School play softball hockey with French baguettes (above) and combine their culinary and language skills while making crème patissières (main image)

8 SecEd • January 13 2011


Alison Thomas reports on three projects where

languages are being used to support pupils through key transition points in their school careers

Droitwich Spa High School

It is not every day that an English playground rings to the cries of “Allez les Bleus!” But this was a special occasion laid on by Droitwich Spa High School in Worcestershire to prepare middle school pupils for their forthcoming transfer to high school. In the course of the morning, 45 12-year-olds

played soft-ball hockey with French baguettes and sped round on scooters in a light-hearted adaptation of the Tour de France, complete with yellow jerseys for the winners. They learned the language of food while preparing crème patissière and exploited language learning strategies to decipher an authentic French website on the Eiffel Tower. They also made craft straw models of the famous landmark, with prizes for the best, and everyone took home a certificate of participation. When they moved up in September they were

greeted by a prominent display of their work to celebrate their achievements and remind them of the fun they had together. It stayed up for open day for parents to share and photos were passed on to middle schools to whet the appetite of next year’s intake. Organised by French and German teacher, Jo Vicary,

the event marked the start of a cross-sector project funded by the LinkedUp award scheme, part of the government-funded Links Into Languages programme. She explained: “Pupils arrive in year 8 with quite

big gaps in their knowledge but until recently we had no contact with feeder schools, so that was the focus of our bid. It will take several years to establish really good links. My aim is to kick-start the process.” Establishing links is especially complex for

Droitwich Spa, which belongs to a three-tier system comprising itself, two middle schools and nine first schools. As a result, children experience the upheaval of transfer not once but twice. The first cluster meetings took place last term and

teachers are now preparing a variety of initiatives, including a transition day for pupils moving to middle school, a pantomime with performers from all three tiers, and an online bank of resources for everyone to share. Ms Vicary is also visiting primary schools to support special needs children and provide stretch and challenge for the gifted and talented. She explained: “Middle school teachers have to

cope with mixed ability, mixed experience and in some cases mixed ages. That is a tough challenge for anyone. Imagine what it’s like when you are not at home with the subject matter.” Their non-specialist background has other

implications too. They whole-heartedly agree that mutual observation is the key to better cross-phase understanding with the ultimate aim of creating a smoother pathway of progression. However, lack of self-confidence makes them wary of inviting specialist linguists into their classrooms. “We have to tread carefully. It’s about breaking

down barriers, getting communication going and understanding that we are all in this together,” she

continued. “It’s vital that the high school doesn’t consider itself to be at the top of the pile, as that is certainly not the case. Primary teachers have the most wonderful repertoire of teaching skills, activities and ideas – far, far more innovative than anything at high school. We can all learn from each other.”

King Edward VII School

Continuity, Creativity, Culture is the title of the LinkedUp project led by King Edward VII School in Sheffield, a language college with many years’ experience of supporting primary languages. For the last four years, Spanish – the first language at King Edward VII – has been taught from year 3 in five feeder schools, in the first instance by classroom teachers and then by a Spanish specialist shared by the cluster. Language learning is embedded into the curriculum and progression is carefully planned. It sounds like an ideal situation. However these

children account for less than 50 per cent of the language college’s intake. The remainder, who come from some 40 different establishments, arrive with a very mixed bag of prior language learning. In response, the school has restructured year 7

schemes of work to continue the cross-curricular approach established at primary school and ensure that language learning is firmly rooted in a meaningful

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