Monday, 9 June 2014

The inspectors visit

For the past two years she has been talking about her job, only when prompted to be fair, but what she had to say was never positive.

The job was not ideal, she was under a lot of pressure and everything was uncertain.

The classrooms packed, the children challenging, the senior team difficult to read, and the demands somewhat unpredictable.

The area served by the school is deprived, the majority of children coming from homes dependent on financial help, mostly from Pakistani families, usually only one of the parents had grown up in this country, they usually live in close proximity to family members, and within their little villages they led a life not very different from that led by their parents and grandparents back home.

The children arrived at school with no or very limited knowledge of English, limited social exposure that continued throughout their time at school, often totally oblivious to local or national news, most spending up to three hours after school at the mosques reciting verses in yet another foreign language.

By the end of their fourth year at school three quarters has not travelled to the centre of Birmingham let alone outside it, and perhaps not surprisingly their story writing was lower than that expected at the age of 11.

Then it got worse

Further waves of migrants arrived, and in addition to these children, classes now included up to 10 newly arrived Romanians, Algerians, and Palestinians.

Teachers took on additional roles of interpreters, a job advert for an interpreter speeking both English and Romania resulted in not a single applicant, teachers are issued with picture card tags that they carry around their necks, with images of glasses of water, toilets, food etc with which to try and decipher the tearful demands of six year olds.

Despite an increase of 30% in those achieving expected standards in literacy and numeracy the school was unable to achieve the target of getting all children up to the national standards in reading writing and mathematics, they were unable to cope with the money they were given, and the solution as approved by governmental decree was that the school be taken over by a more successful nearby Academy school.

The head lost her job and everyone else spent the next six months in turmoil as everyone's job was under threat, every single teaching assistant job was scrapped, as were number of teaching jobs. some select few were re-appointed, and at the last minute so was my sister.

In oder to improve results rather draconian rules were brought in, music and art were replaced by extra study periods, extra lessons were provided after hours, and at weekends to bring everyone up to standard, and the teachers tried there best to keep their jobs.

Appointed to teach Arabic she did what she was asked, despite her own surprise, here were classrooms full of children who couldn't speak english and yet they were being asked to form sentences in Arabic, the books she had written, illustrated and printed were used, and to her delight unlike her previous employers at least here she was allowed to use human and animal images in her alphabet books.

And then it got a whole lot worse

The inspectors descended, every day there was something new, rumours were rife, names of previous teachers appeared in the local papers, and before anyone had really figured out what was happening the press arrived to camp outside the school, to poke microphones through the school gates tempting primary school children with TV appearance in return for answering questions.

The reports are out, the news makes the headlines, the school is inadequate

But what made me smile was the only positive comments in the entire report was about the way Arabic was taught.

Way to go sis :)

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