BREAKING NEWS: Guidance does NOT say sex at 13 is okay.


The Education Select Committee met yesterday and appeared to get a little bit fixated on the Brook Sexual Behaviours traffic light tool. As a result subsequent reporting in the Telegraph the BBC, The Daily Mail, Metro and the Mirror are all now completely miscontruing the excellent Brook Sexual Behaviours Traffic lights tool as a form of teaching guidance for SRE (it’s not guidance for teaching sex ed, it’s a safeguarding tool).

A collation of the miseleading headlines is as follows:

Teachers told: sex at 13 ‘is normal part of growing up’

Sex ‘normal at 13’ suggestion raises concerns

Sex between 13-year-olds is NORMAL, says controversial ‘traffic light tool’ sent to schools to teach about relationships (N.B this one is complete rubbish- the tool has never been sent into schools to teach about relationhships)

School kids having sex at 13 is ‘normal’ says controversial advice given by charity

Campaigners claim schools are teaching pupils that 13 is a normal age for sex

I am really cross and disappointed about this. Some of the (totally rubbish and written in a hurry churnalism) articles imply that the Traffic Light tool is the same as the non-statutory supplementary guidance for SRE (produced because the current statutory guidance from DfE was produced in 2000 and is now out dated). Brook have written an excellent response statement to the article here which clarifies things further and Ally Fogg at the Guardian has written an excellent piece on this issue here.  I also wanted to add a post from my perspective of a practitioner of Sex Education, because when I’m teaching SRE in schools, I also automatically have an additional responsibility for child protection.

TO CLARIFY (if I was an Education Editor of a widely read national newspaper my refuting headline would be!) :

SEX EDUCATION TEACHERS ARE NOT BEING TOLD (BY ANY GUIDANCE DOCUMENT OR ANYONE ELSE) TO SAY SEX AT 13 IS OKAY! 

The traffic light tool actually a safeguarding tool for practitioners (not necessarily SRE teachers but maybe youth workers, teachers, pastoral leads, child protection officers etc.) to assist in identifying whether a sexual behaviour is ‘normal’ for an age group or a ’cause for concern’. The age ranges are 0-5, 5-9, 9-13 and 13-17 deliberately because there are overlaps.  It has not been reported (because that destroys the anti-sex ed narrative) that in the 9-13 age range a red behaviour (ie. one that is a serious safeguarding concern) is:

And in the 13-17 age range one of the green behaviours (ie. one that is not usually a cause for concern unless there are other factors going on) is:

Obviously the tool is an aid to professional judgement but does not replace it.  We know there maybe 13 year olds having their ‘first snogs or fumbles’, and usually this is in line with normal development. However a disclosure of a sexually active 13 year old (ie. having penetrative sex) would, in most settings, trigger a referral to the child protection lead and probably further support/intervention being put into place to support the young person. We have mandatory reporting for under 13’s because under 13’s are not able to legally consent to sex but for 13-15year olds the law is not intended to prosecute mutually agreed teenage sexual activity between two young people of a similar age, unless it involves abuse or exploitation.  Therefore the tool is entirely reasonable (and not “illegal” at all as suggested by Sarah Carter from the Family Education Trust).

Yes, we all know that sex under the age of 16 is illegal, but we also know that almost 1/3 of our young people are having sex under the age of 16 (remember that most of these will be ~15, and most people have lost their virginity by 19. So erm it’s a no brainer that the teen years are vital for high quality accurate age appropriate sex education! D’uh!)Talking about this statistic doesn’t mean any practitioner of sex ed is encouraging or condoning underage sex (I regularly use it as a social norming approach- when I ask my classes what percetage of teens have sex under the age of 16 they all respond with “90-100%” and are suprised to find out it is far lower!). Teachers of sex education are not on some kind of crusade to encourage underage sex (urgh at the thought!) but we recognise our duty is to support young people and meet their needs, where they are at, and signpost where to get further help and support.

Yes, the Brook Traffic Light Tool does also mention in the 13-17 age range:

  • consenting oral and/or penetrative sex with others of the same or opposite gender who are of similar age and developmental ability

which the media has seized upon.  But as a professional interpreting this in practice, I would be looking very closely at the 9-13 behaviours and the 13-17 behaviours and in my experience if a sexually active 13 year old presented to me, then often they are not in consensual situations, or have chaotic home lives, and therefore more support and intervention is needed to support that young person. (Particularly if there needs to be a (potentially criminal) investigation into the often older partner).

(As an aside, I have actually never had consensual penetrative sexual activity disclosed to me in 13 year olds, but once had to refer on two horrific cases of 13 year olds who had been gang raped, one of whom thought it was some kind of ‘rite of passage’ and and minimised it as ‘normal thing’ to happen in her peers which absolutely broke my heart. This is also why I am so angry about this misreporting- the Brook Traffic LightsTool is invaluable in suppporting professionals to protect young people so how dare they twist it like this, to score political points!?)

Like most practitioners I would use the SRE guidance documents (both statutory and non-statutory) and my school policy to ensure my teaching was in line with all of these.  If I had a disclosure or something happened that concerned me in a lesson (likely discussion of an amber or red behaviour) –  then I would refer it to my child protection lead in the school who would also be hopefully using the traffic light tool to determine the level of intervention needed.  I am clear on this, many teachers of PSHE are clear on this, but some aren’t, and they won’t be helped by misguided and innacurate reporting on it from the press.

It’s such a shame that such inaccurate reporting about sex education works to damage the reputation of this really important subject and may make some teachers reluctant or fearful about teaching it.  I just hope the Education Select Committee who are currently hearing evidence about PSHE will be able to see through this poor sensationalist reporting (and selective presentation of evidence and innacurate statements about “legality” from the Family Education Trust to the committee) to understand that the difference between guidance documents supporting the teaching of SRE, and guidance documents supporting the safeguarding of children and young people. Ultimately the the safety and healthy sexual development of young people depends on us getting this right. So maybe just maybe the reporters could try and get this right too?

 

 

 

 

The concept of Procractivism (& Meta-Procractivism)


In August I coined the phrase “procractivism”  which is a combination of procrastination and activism.

(in this case procrastination from writing masters into homophobia in schools and activism into challenging homophobia in schools!)

The phrase arose during the completion of the masters in August 2013 when I had a significant role in exposing Sex and Relationships Education Policies that had language harking back to Section 28 alongside the British Humanist Association and other twitter activists. Despite the repeal of section 28 in the UK in 2003, more than 45 schools schools were identified as having Sex and Relationship Education policies that banned the “promotion of homosexuality

Days later I also exposed the DfE’s deliberate erasure of gender Identity from equalities statement in the Feb 2013 draft to the latest draft of the document. This lead to the DfE having a swift turnaround and putting it back in . Had it not been for this masters I would not have been eagle eyed enough to spot this omission, and thanks to the wonders of social media and my ace followers we were able to kick up sufficient stink to get the government to make the U-Turn. Of everything I ever achieved in my life this is in the top ten! I’m so proud!

I am now at the stage of writing my reflective chapter on the masters and talking about procractivism, but um somehow I now find myself on my blog sharing the concept of procractivism and how awesome it can be.

Seriously give it a go. Procrastination can make you achieve things you never thought possible- and heck you might as well use this as a force for good.

This blog post being an example of Meta-procractivism right!?

Ahem. *gets back to work, 42days to go…..*

 

 

 

 

It’s easier than you think to encourage kids to #getoverit


*Very quick post from me as erm somebody *should* be finishing off a masters (in challenging homophobia in schools) which is due in imminently!*

Today Stonewall and Mumsnet have launched a new campaign to encourage kids to #getoverit

Sometimes people object to challenging homophobic language as “language evolves” or “its endemic”, and therefore it “isn’t worth it/too much effort to challenge”.  These responses don’t actually justify any lack of response from teachers, especially given the effect continually hearing such language can have on lesbian, gay or bisexual young people.

From my experience challenging homophobic language in schools, it snowballs very very rapidly. In no time at all you get kids challenging themselves and each other for using “that’s so gay”. They just need to be challenged to think about the language they use and how it might affect people. Most children and young people are not homophobic, they just use popular language without thinking about the impact.

Teachers- challenge them, get them to think about the impact, set off that snowball and watch it avalanche into a transformed school culture.

P.S True Story- I once had one student slap her hand over her own mouth so hard when she said “that’s so gay” she hurt herself! Ooops! it had become an ingrained habit to her but one she really wanted to stop. That student is now an awesome teacher herself (and makes me feel very old!). As far as I know she would challenge homophobic language in her classes too. So erm teachers- do it for this generation- do it for the next generation. Just blimming do it!

Gove on Love Poetry vs. Sexting, A Sex & Relationships Education perspective.


So Michael Gove is urging young people to write poetry not sexts.

Which has currently spawned some brilliant responses on twitter (Look at #govepoems #govepoetry, #govelovepoetry #govelovepoems or variations thereof).

I just want to share this by William Shakespeare.

Love

It is to be all made of sighs and tears….

It is to be all made of faith and service….

It is to be made of fantasy….

All adoration, duty and observance,

All humbleness, all patience and impatience

All purity, all trial, all obedience.

Interpreting through a modern lens- do we think Shakespeare was a Christian Grey of his time!? And are they really notions of love we want to share and celebrate?

Personally I think love poetry is an incredibly useful tool to explore Sex & Relationships Education (Just think about sinister and unrelenting co-oercion expressed in “To his Coy Mistress” By Andrew Marvell), and I am a big fan of using poetry to express feelings, and despite not being an English teacher it is something I use a lot in PSHE lessons.

Do young people sext more than they write poetry to each other? Possibly? Maybe? I don’t know.  Is consensual sexting between a couple over the age of consent who have agreed boundaries in advance and would never share those images outside of that partnership somehow much worse than a man pressuring his coy mistress into unwanted sex with beautiful powerful pressurising words?

I think that it is so important for SRE to discuss with young people, how to express feelings appropriately and stay safe, and discussions of both sexting and poetry definitely have their place. I am definitely not convinced that presenting one as a suitable alternative to the other by someone who does not have young people’s (or educator’s) respect (or necessary understanding of the issues at stake) is going to make the slightest bit of difference, apart from ensuring a good giggle on twitter following the hashtags.

What do you think?

How clear is the DfE SRE Guidance? A Poll


So the DfE are widely quoted as saying:

“‘Our sex and relationship education guidance makes it clear that schools should not promote any sexual orientation.” (emphasis mine)

“Clear” they say?

The document in question actually states:

a) It is not about the promotion of sexual orientation or

sexual activity – this would be inappropriate teaching. (Page 5)

b) “There should be no direct promotion of

sexual orientation.” (Page 13)

c)

“It is inappropriate for youth workers, as with any professional, to promote sexual
orientation.” (Page 28)

What a difference the addition of “any” makes to those statements.

So I did a poll- just for fun- how clear are the DfE in their SRE Guidance?

Over 100 school policies identified that mention something on “not promoting sexual orientation”, many also include “that would be inappropriate teaching.”


I just did this google search (more info on this non-systematic search strategy can be found here), in the first 32 pages I identified OVER 100 school policies that include words to the effect of the DfE 2000 Guidance which states several times.

“It is not about the promotion of sexual orientation or

sexual activity – this would be inappropriate teaching.”

I do not have time to go through all 138,000 google hits in that search but I am betting that hundreds and hundreds of schools include versions of this phrase.

After all these school policies are only following the exact wording from the guidance of the department for education.

Can we blame them?

These policies (and the more serious ones where “homosexuality is not allowed to be promoted“), and government guidance have create school cultures where homophobia and transphobia can thrive, and teachers are scared to challenge it lest they be accused of “promotion”.

The DfE are trying to spin it that they meant not promoting one sexual orientation (heterosexuality) over any other. We know they did not. The evidence from this post and this one shows just how little they care about students who are LGBT whatever noises they are currently making in the current media furore.

We cannot let them continue to get away with this. We cannot. I want my children to learn in an environment where they understand that everyone is equal and that differences are to be respected.

To do otherwise fails another generation.

Dear Schools (Academies?) having “SECTION 28” in your school Sex Ed Policy is NOT acceptable.


Just been made aware of this petition and with the help of twitter pals we have identified at least NINE academies (identified so far…) have been using versions of the same policy* (some are still using it, some have been using it until recently when made aware of the issues with it and are now in the process of updating it). Another blogger has uncovered where these policies probably originated from.

Versions of this SRE policy document state under the section on “Homosexuality”**

11 Homosexuality
11.1 The Governing Body recognises the need to address the issue of homosexuality and the need to provide education related to the spread of HIV/AIDS which will, of necessity, include reference to homosexuals and bisexuals. Objective discussion of homosexuality may take place in the classroom.
11.2 The Governing Body will not permit the promotion of homosexuality.

(emphasis mine)

or words to the effect of “Teachers should not promote homosexuality”

I don’t have time to unpick all the reasons why this policy statement is SO WRONG (as I am trying to actually write my Masters dissertation into challenging homophobia in schools!) but very quickly:

a) Homosexuality is outdated and somewhat offensive terminology- talking about sexual identity is much more inclusive including Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual (LGB) as well as Gender Identity including discussion of gender non-conformism and trans*

b) SECTION 28 HAS BEEN REPEALED. Teachers now have a legal duty to challenge homophobia and promote equality. Yes the current SRE guidance may contravene the Equality Act and yes even the English and Welsh Governments are confused when interpreting the legislation. BUT even mentioning “PROMOTION OF HOMOSEXUALITY” the exact terminology of Section 28 is just so wrong. Schools can and should talk about sexual and gender identity and address homophobia. Putting it in school policy like this effectively gags teachers who could make such a difference to students who identify as LGB and/or T. remember teachers are legally bound to follow school policies- contravening them can lead to disciplinary or even dismissal.

c)HIV/AIDS IS NOT A “GAY DISEASE”. Making an explicit link like that in the policy is offensive.

I am very disappointed that schools think this is an acceptable document to use as their school policy, but I am hopeful that it is a case of schools getting an “off the shelf, generic policy” put in place quickly and not thinking it through or discussing it properly and that the schools will be open to developing a more appropriate school policy.

*Further checking reveals some of these documents maybe in process of being updated and I hope their new policy are vastly improved I would be happy to help any school with developing an appropriate school policy- just ask! With hindsight I have deleted the direct link to the school policy involved and am not naming individual schools on this blog as I don’t think scapegoating and “making an example of” individual schools is the answer as it has emerged this problem is too widespread and actually all schools need to check and update their policies.

Puberty is mentioned in the latest draft of Science National Curriculum


So I do believe we are now on Draft 3 of this 224 page National curriculum document.  There is yet ANOTHER consultation on it which ends in August.

The big news is Puberty is now mentioned in Year 5 which is absolutely when it should be at least (not left until last days of Summer term of Y6 which is far too late given many will have started puberty by then) – so I’m really pleased about that.

The other changes we need to see to support young people have not been made. Here are my previous blogs on the issue-

A letter from Liz Truss

A Political Hot Potato

Naming of the Teeth Versus Naming of the Genitals

I also note there is nothing really on microbes, disease and vaccinations in the doc. (Not just for teaching about HIV and other STI’s, and about the HPV vaccine (which most girls have at secondary school now) but also for general health and hygiene- things like Swine Flu and other pandemics are not going to stop happening- we need to teach kids about them.)

So erm this is the document to catch us up with the worlds best, but misses so much crucial scientific info out it is not even funny (I’m speaking with my Science Teacher hat on here). Plus academies don’t even have to follow this document and they now that they make up 45% of secondary schools and since Gove seems to want all schools to become academies, then I’m not entirely sure what the point to a “national” curriculum is any more.

Le Sigh.

There are lots of other issues with the doc which I will link to as the orgs I work for publish their responses. Watch this space.

The PSHE Review. Respondents and Homophobic Bullying in the report


In March 2013 the DfE published the outcomes of the latest PSHE review (DfE 2013). The publication of this review took over 16 months to complete from the close of the consultation process in November 2011. Unfortunately the review was problematic in the way that it did not weight responses correctly so the review made it seem like parents were the biggest respondents (168) when other organisations who responded included the Sex Education Forum (who represent over 70 organisations working in the sector who were consulted on the response), as well as the PSHE Association (who surveyed their 2000+ membership before submitting their response) but in the final report their responses only counted as 1 response each. Thus a single parent voice was given equal weight to huge organisations consisting of hundreds of professional voices when compiling the review.

I discovered the published report on the consultation does not include mention of homophobia, sexual orientation, sexuality AT ALL (but racism and gender equality are included) but given I like to track these things I compiled the table below that outlines the responses possibly could be relevant to challenging homophobia contained within the PSHE report.

“Many respondents thought that PSHE outcomes could be evidenced in the positive behaviour of pupils, and observable attitudes and relationships across the school and the local community. They believed PSHE outcomes must move away from quantitative outcomes to things such as school ethos, attitudes to bullying, promotion of equality, and improved social behaviour.
68 (12%) felt that being able to recognise bullying should be a core outcome of PSHE. Respondents identified two separate issues. Some felt that the main outcome should be to offer support to pupils who were being bullied and help them to deal with the consequences of negative relationships. Others felt that the reason for including the topic was to promote equality and enable pupils to be able to identify and tackle bullying amongst their peers. 
137 (24%) believed pupils must be given the knowledge to respect others and to appreciate different beliefs. It was mentioned that it was important that they had an understanding of the differences between people and cultures, about gender equality and had the ability to challenge racism, discrimination and stereotyping.

Then I went back to some of the organisations who submitted responses just to see what they had said about homophobia, homophobic bullying, sexual orientation, & sexuality.

I copy and paste the most relevant below (I have not C&P’d every mention but have hyperlinked to the reports where available online so you can check them)

PSHE Association, – Under Qu 7 request for case studies-

“Teacher training in the area of homophobic bullying has also helped in the way we deal with homophobic bullying (as we are in a primary school this would often be the derogatory use of the word ‘Gay’ and hopefully will impact on the incidents of homophobic bullying that we have). Ofsted PSHE inspection 2009 ‘outstanding’.”

SEF response

“Be positively inclusive in terms of gender, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, culture,
age, religion or belief or other life-experience particularly HIV status and pregnancy;”

FPA & Brook Response:

“We believe that it is vital for any updated guidance on relationships and sex education to address the needs of all children and young people, including young people with special educational needs (SEN) or learning disabilities, disabled children and young people, children and young people in care and lesbian, gay or bisexual children and young people. It is vital that all relationships and sex education is inclusive and non-discriminatory. Ways this can be done includes not making assumptions about faith-based or cultural practices, challenging any homophobia, racism or sexism, and ensuring that resources and discussions reflect the diversity of the pupils.”

ATL:

“We believe that the relationships element of
PSHE education must take proper account of the imbalance of power in many relationships which can manifest itself in bullying, violent, abusive and/or discriminatory behaviour based amongst others on race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion or belief and
social class. We also recommend that the relationships element of PSHE education is more explicitly joined up with wider initiatives aimed at eliminating all forms of bullying, discrimination, violence and hate crime, including culturally-specific violence against women and girls.”

NASUWT,

“Despite this, cyberbullying is clearly an issue affecting teachers in other countries outside the UK, with cyber-abuse related to gender and sexual orientation being most frequent.ETUCE 2010”

Stonewall (their response is not available online but I requested a copy and funnily enough there is considerable focus on homophobia and homophobic bullying throughout the document including:

PSHE provides children and young people with the opportunity to discuss topics like homophobic bullying, different families including same-sex families and lesbian, gay and bisexual issues. Discussing these issues in an appropriate and structured way helps break down stereotypes, for example, about what boys and girls ‘should and shouldn’t do’. It also provides all pupils, including those who are, or will grow up to be, lesbian, gay and bisexual, with relevant information enabling them to make safe choices. However, at present the PSHE framework does not give clear enough guidance to schools about what issues to address and how to address them. Developing a more inclusive PSHE framework and programme of study which specifically includes age-appropriate information about different families and homophobic bullying and information on how schools can work effectively with parents and carers around these issues, will help the Government’s aim in tackling this form of bullying as outlined in the Schools White Paper 2010; will help schools comply with the Equality Act 2010 and public sector Equality Duty; and will help schools to meet the requirements of the new proposed Ofsted inspection framework.”

NICE,

“Ninety per cent of secondary school teachers and 44% of primary school teachers say that children and young people experience homophobic bullying, name calling or harassment at school, yet most incidents go unreported (Guasp 2007). Pupils who experience homophobic bullying are more likely to miss school and less likely to stay in full-time education (Department for Children, Schools and Families 2009b). Further, most teachers and non-teaching staff in primary and secondary schools have not received training in how to tackle this form of bullying, and most would not feel confident in providing pupils with information, advice and guidance on lesbian and gay issues (Department for Children, Schools and Families 2007).”

British Humanist Association:

“Homophobic Bullying is a major issue in all schools, but is a particular issue in ‘faith’ schools. Stonewall’s 2007 ‘The School Report’ showed that two thirds of young gay people at secondary schools have experienced homophobic bullying, but in ‘faith’ schools that figure rises to three in four. The report also showed that lesbian and gay pupils who attend ‘faith’ schools are 23% less likely to report bullying than those at other schools.’1 Many ‘faith’ schools also have issues with teaching about relationships other than heterosexual relationships, and it is important that different sexual orientations are treated equally including in issues to do with marriage and civil partnership.”

National Secular Society

Reduce homophobic bullying by improving education and normalising all sexualities. A YouGov polling demonstrates that nine in ten secondary school teachers and more than
two in five primary school teachers have witnessed children being subjected to homophobic bullying in their schools. Teachers say the vast majority of homophobic incidents go unreported by pupils. Three quarters of young LGBT people who attend faith schools have experienced homophobic bullying4.

National AIDS Trust

“This can also link with work on bullying. However, more broadly the PSHE curriculum needs to focus more explicitly on attitudes and values, in order to properly address issues such as HIV-related stigma, homophobia and racism.”

Accord Coalition

We are very concerned how schools may deal with issues of sexual difference and diversity. Homophobia is a major issue in schools, but is a particular issue in the faith school sector. Stonewall’s 2007 ‘The School Report’ showed that two thirds of young gay people at secondary schools have experienced homophobic bullying, but in schools with a religious character the figure rises to three in four. The report also showed that lesbian and gay pupils who attend these schools are 23% less likely to report bullying than those at schools without a faith designation[1].

We believe stronger guidance should be given to help schools cover issues of sexual difference and diversity so that they are able to balances setting out religious and cultural perspectives with schools vitally important requirement to promote equality and encourages acceptance of diversity. PSHE could and should play an important role in schools tackling bullying based on sexual difference.

Other organisations I suspect will have mentioned homophobic bullying but I have not been able to see a copy of their responses are Anti-Bullying alliance, Beat Bullying, NAH, Banardos, Astell Project, NAH and ASCL. The DfE has supplied me with a list of respondents to the PSHE review and I have gone through them and know many people personally in the list who would also have flagged it as an issue. So this suggests to me that this was raised in a reasonable proportion of responses, although obviously without checking all 699 reponses I can’t know for sure.

Interesting then how the words Homophobia, Homophobic Bullying, Sexuality and Sexual Orientation are then COMPLETELY ABSENT FROM THE PSHE REPORT. Silenced Sexualities in 2013. How very disappointing. Not only are we having to stick with the SRE Guidance that is possibly in breach of the equalities act. But we also have an education department who can’t even bring themselves to mention the words Homophobia, Homophobic Bullying, Sexuality or Sexual Orientation- in a report about Personal Social Health and Economic Education (PSHE). The exact place these things would and should be covered.

It makes me so cross.

 

 

QTS Maths- How exactly does requiring teachers to be “fast” at maths help our profession?


Before you read this post in its entirety I want you to set a countdown timer to 18 seconds and listen to this maths question. You may listen to it twice but at the start of the second listening you must start the timer. Once the 18 seconds is up you MUST STOP. If you have not written down the right answer in that time you have FAILED that question*

Did you get the right answer in the time allowed? Would you continue to get the right answer for each of the next twelve mental arithmetic questions in 18 seconds each bearing in mind you can only hear the question and not see it? Then also go onto do 16 more maths questions over the next 40 minutes. You need to get 18 marks in order to pass the QTS maths test. You can try the QTS maths test here if you want.

Now imagine you are someone who has just spent four years of their life doing a BEd in Primary Education. For the first three years of your course you knew you could do the QTS tests at any point and have as many goes as you wanted, but in your final year you were informed this had now changed and you now only have three goes at it plus the pass mark had been increased to 63% (although 18/28 is actually a 64.3% pass mark).

The goalposts have suddenly changed. Now each time you do the test you are under considerable pressure. You pass the literacy test first time, but sadly you fail the maths test, first time on the mental arithmetic section by four marks. Deep breath and you try it again…………. again you fail on the mental arithmetic section by 4 marks, you can get the right answer but just not quite quick enough. Several times you are just about to put the right answer in but the box disappears as the 18 seconds are up and you have missed it by a second.

You take time before you take your third and final test, you spend weeks and weeks revising and preparing for your final chance at this test. Four years of your life are riding on this. You have just been given your dream job at a lovely yet challenging school. The head and governors are really excited about having you start and you are due to start within weeks.

The pressure this time for your last chance at this test is now insane. Again you sadly fail the mental arithmetic test BY FOUR MARKS. Because you are just not quite quick enough to answer mental arithmetic quite fast enough for the arbitrary speeds set by the government. Because the pressure of answering each question in only 18 seconds is already too much and added to that the pressure of how much you have riding on this means that you are flustered and frantic, desperate to get it right but also aware 18 seconds just isn’t quite enough time for you to process the auditory info, do the calculations and get the right answer in everytime. If you had just a few more seconds per question or could read instead of hear the question in all likelihood you would have passed the QTS Maths test and been able to become the teacher you always wanted to be.

FOUR MARKS OFF THE MATHS QTS PASS MARK & NOW FOUR YEARS OF YOUR LIFE ARE NOW POTENTIALLY WASTED.

You are not permitted to retake the tests for another 2 years, the dream job offer you had now has to be rescinded. The head and interview panel are devastated they can’t employ you. You are devastated you cannot be employed as a teacher in this school where you could have made a real difference. The real kicker is if your dream school was an academy this wouldn’t have mattered and you could have started your dream job.

But you can’t just because of FOUR marks in an auditory mental arithmetic test.

The thing is you are passionate about teaching and absolutely brilliant with kids. You already have a C in your GCSE maths, showing you have a good enough grounding in maths, and although maths isn’t a strong point you have really worked hard at it and all your observations for maths teaching at primary level have been absolutely fine, because you have worked hard to understand and overcome barriers in maths and so can really help children with those same issues. But just because you are not quite fast enough at maths, because for 4 questions you didn’t manage to get them done in 18 seconds then you are prevented from becoming a teacher for the next 2 years.

How do you feel?

This just happened to a friend of mine. I’m so angry about it. She is exactly the sort of primary teacher I want for my kids. In fact my kids absolutely adore her and she is brilliant with them. She just knows how to get onto their level and inspire them to inquire about the world. But simply because she can’t do maths “FAST” enough. She has just lost out on a job where she would have been awesome and the school and kids are losing out.

Seriously is the benchmark of a good teacher being able to do “fast maths”? Really? How utterly bonkers?! I couldn’t give a stuff how fast you can work out the proportion of money going to a charity, I care that you can teach my kids well and inspire them to learn.

I suspect I might now fail QTS maths if I had to resit and so would many of my colleagues. I can’t do maths under pressure. Never have been able to. I also can’t work as well if hearing a question and not seeing it in front of me. Should we be barred from teaching as a result? If this test was applied across the profession I suspect many incredible teachers would lose their QTS. Just because we some of us are fast enough at maths or not as good at auditory mathematical processing than visual mathematical processing. I understand and respect the need for teachers to be literate and numerate but emphasising speed over accuracy in maths is just plain wrong (also I wonder if “Troops to teachers” will be expected to do the QTS maths tests?)

It’s a joke it really is. Except an unfunny joke that has put my friends life on hold for the next two years. I don’t know if she will become a teacher now and if she doesn’t that will be a significant loss to a profession that would have really benefited from having her.

Shame on you DfE, Shame on you. Yet another way you are currently destroying the teaching workforce.

* The question from the recording was this:

Six hundred and thirty pupils paid fifty pence each on a charity day. The money collected was divided equally between three local charities.

How much did each of the charities receive?

Remember you are not allowed to see the question only hear it and you have 18 seconds from the start of the second reading of the question. Could you do it in time?