Sunday, September 16, 2012

Upskilling, workloads and trolls

Despite all the good intentions in my last post I've not updated this blog since the end of February. Other things have continually taken priority in what has been the busiest period in my teaching career. However today I am so incensed that the exam data analysis and the creation of GCSE Computing resources have been put on one side while I get a few things off my chest.

This is my seventh year of teaching. I graduated with a 2.1 in Computer Science in 1992 and worked for 13 years for a high street bank as variously a programmer, systems analyst, process manager, project manager and data analyst. When I hit my forties I decided that I wanted to do something for a living that would make more of a difference than fractionally increasing the profits of a vast multinational company (an idealist notion but one that given the current state of the banking industry looks more prudent than it did at the time). I therefore gave up my well paid job, retrained as an ICT teacher and am currently Subject Leader for ICT at a community school near Bristol. 

During my time as a teacher I have taught numerous different courses - GNVQ, DiDA, BTEC (currently developing resources for the third version of the spec), OCR Nationals (2 different specs), Digital Cre8tor, 2 different Applied ICT A level courses and now Computing GCSE. In addition I have completely overhauled the KS3 curriculum and contributed to the #ictcurric resource bank. I've taught myself numerous different software packages including various versions of Adobe Creative suite, Scratch, Game Maker, Alice and umpteen versions of MS Office and am continually updating the students resources for each. I've also attended training courses and teachmeets and strive to ensure that my skills are kept up to date in a very fast moving subject area.

This year we had already decided to start teaching Computing GCSE before Gove stood up to make his speech at BETT and I had been using Codecademy and other online resources to brush up on my very rusty programming skills. I was contacted last week by a journalist from the Guardian, Louise Tickle who was looking to interview teachers who were teaching GCSE Computing for an article offering advice to other teachers starting the course. I know that with my background I am in a fortunate position in having a relevant degree and career experience in the IT industry but wanted to stress that it was a steep learning curve for all teachers who had previously only taught the ICT elements of the subject. Here's the article:-

However when looking through the comments I came across the following:-

Now I know all about not feeding the trolls and a quick look through tristanmax's other comments shows what calibre of troll he is:-

I am quite happy with "educational apartheid" as you put it. I see little benifit to throwing thick people amoung the brightest. There can only be one beneficiary of this idea, and that is for the thick kids. Pray tell, how will a gifted bright kid benefit from being surrounded by thick kids? 
12 September 2012

However I am angered by his casual dismissal of all my hard work when he so evidently has little or no knowledge about what is actually happening in education. I am also incensed by the impression that Gove and his like are trying to give, that the state of ICT teaching is the result of weak, lazy ICT teachers rather than the result of endless meddling by politicians. The department of education came out with the national strategy lessons so derided by Gove.  When schools are judged almost entirely by the number of students achieving 5 A*-C is it any wonder that schools and by extension ICT departments have been under immense pressure to go down the GNVQ / OCR Nationals multiple GCSE equivalent courses? The introduction of Functional Skills IT with the Diploma further increased the pressure to teach only MS Office skills. Many of the more innovative SOWs I put together in my last school were replaced by teams of non specialist teachers delivering only functional ICT once I left . Many ICT teachers have been working hard to resist this pressure and have put massive amount of time and effort into developing the ICT curriculum despite the outside pressure to become qualification factories. Most ICT teachers I know are gearing up to teach computing. However with the very rapid introduction of the changes, little or no training available within schools and massive existing workload it is no wonder that they are feeling so stressed about the changes and worried about how to update their skills 

It's great that I'm now getting official backing for the changes to the ICT curriculum that I was making anyway but I'm sick of having this new focus on computing being used as yet another stick with which to beat teachers. 

Rant over - back to my exam data analysis.