What’s the problem with part-time teaching jobs?

working

It’s been over four months since I left my last post because the option of (true) part-time wasn’t available to me (although if I wanted to take a 33% cut in salary scale I could have dropped to a teaching contract for the rest of the year)

I recently visited a local secondary school and was told the SENCO is part-time (0.7FTE) so you’ll have to make an appointment for when they are back at work. The head made it clear that she had inherited part-time staff and it wasn’t her choice. I can understand some of the issues with part-time leadership posts but should this extend to teaching posts?

Twice I’ve dug down into the vacancies advertised in the TES. I appreciate that fewer part-time jobs are probably advertised nationally than full-time jobs but the figures are startling.

In my first sample, 18% of jobs were tagged as part-time. Of all the jobs advertised, 14% were secondary part-time jobs. Of all the jobs advertised, 1.5% were for part-time secondary science jobs. On drilling down into the science jobs further, several weren’t teaching jobs and many schools advertised for part-time/full-time hoping to snag any science teachers looking for work (but they had a full-time gap to fill)

I returned this week and looked again. Of all the jobs advertised, 18% were tagged as part-time. Of all jobs advertised, 12% were secondary part-time jobs and 1.1% of all jobs advertised were part-time science jobs. (As a comparison, there were ten times as many full-time science posts)

It gets worse because many of the jobs advertised as part-time were wrongly labelled and the actual number of genuine part-time jobs is much lower.  Of those part-time jobs advertised 0.5/0.6 contracts seem to be the most common.

We hear that industry loves part-timers. They are flexible, some workers are even on zero-hours contracts so is this true? A quick search of Indeed shows nearly 19,000 jobs within a 25-mile radius of me. Of those jobs only 16% are part-time, this reduces further when you search for science-specific jobs, so the dislike of part-time workers extends beyond education.

Are schools banking on a reduction in workload improving the recruitment situation? (I would have stayed in the profession if my workload could have been reduced, the fact that I was replaced with two members of staff says something about that workload!)  With a profession haemorrhaging teachers and suffering from a recruitment crisis, can we really be so short-sighted as to ignore the huge pool of teachers out there who don’t want to or who can’t work full-time?

Image © chris riebschlager under a Creative Commons license

Are teachers on Twitter living in a echo chamber/filter bubble?

The Oxford Dictionary gives the definition of an echo chamber as “An environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own, so that their existing views are reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered“. Similarly, the Oxford Dictionary defines a filter bubble as “A situation in which an Internet user encounters only information and opinions that conform to and reinforce their own beliefs, caused by algorithms that personalize an individual’s online experience.

These terms are increasingly used interchangeably since both have similar meanings. Many teachers on social media tend to fit into established cliques, self-selected because they have similar viewpoints. Twitter and social media will recommend that you follow new people similar to the people you already follow. When you search on Google it will return results that are personalised for you based on what it knows about you.

Since I left teaching I’ve come to rely on connections that I’ve made, although I hope the projects I’m working on now are based on what I know as well as who I know. As I’ve stepped back from the classroom I’ve paid more attention to what happens on social media and who talks to who. When I’ve been out and about at conferences I’ve looked at who knows each other offline, and at how often these relationships continue online.

Some of these teachers meet up at conferences and Saturday events and cement these relationships and viewpoints.  This isn’t a criticism of either people or their networks but it makes me question if we (myself included) might be missing out on a wider range of viewpoints because of this.

This weekend I was reading the introduction to a recently published education-related book in which the author thanked some colleagues who had contributed advice. Of course, these colleagues were part of a wider network on social media.

So does this matter?

I try to follow most people back on Twitter (apart from those who follow only to boost their follower numbers or their sales)  and I enjoy reading a range of viewpoints. I wonder if having a following of teachers, most of whom teach the same subject and to the same age range of learners, means that I’m limiting my own exposure to alternative viewpoints and ideas.  I’ve started following teachers from other subject areas and phases to see how this changes the ideas in my Twitter feed and in turn my own ideas.

I’ll keep you posted!

The new BTEC level 1 Applied Science – is it for your school?

The team at Pearson have been busy updating and promoting their new level 1 BTEC qualifications. This follows a move to the new assessment framework in line with other BTECs but is it a good qualification to use with your lower attaining students in the same way its predecessor was?

I’ve sat through webinars and read the material on the website  – I hope I’ve not got the wrong end of the stick! I’ve focused on the appropriateness and relevance to students in a school setting – I don’t know enough about FE to comment.

So what’s changed for the better?

  • Differentiation – now three levels of pass so is likely to appeal to a wider range of learners.
  • The focus of the qualification now makes it more suited for students who have completed ELC or GCSE (In my last school we didn’t offer science to P16 due to the lack of a suitable qualification)
  • More of a focus on practical skills (and it’s still 100% internal assessment)

Barriers to adoption by a school

  • The new assessment regime makes this qualification less suited to students with SEN than the old version. There is an expectation that students are working more independently and there will be less scaffolding than allowed under the original level 1 BTEC. That poses serious barriers to many level 1 learners. In line with the revised level 2 BTECS, feedback is different and Pearson states “Feedback from the initial work should tell the learner WHAT is missing but not HOW to achieve it”.  There is a special retake process but this can only lead to a pass grade.
  • The qualification still doesn’t carry performance measures or count towards progress 8. In this situation, you have to stop and ask yourself what qualification is most appropriate to my learners? If they are unlikely to pass GCSE Science or on the border-line of a pass, this qualification is unlikely to be for them.
  • For KS4 learners, ELC is co-teachable with GCSE whereas this qualification would not be. The new L1 BTEC would be best taught to a discrete group, most likely at KS5 (and not many schools offer a P16 pathway that isn’t A-level)
  • There is overlap but not coverage of the GCSE specification content. This qualification was not written to be a GCSE replacement but an alternative qualification for students aged 14 and over.
  • Although a level 1 qualification, some of the tasks are quite challenging and require a different teaching approach to ELC and GCSE

So where does this leave the qualification?

Whilst interesting, this is a niche qualification that most secondary schools will skip past for the reasons detailed above. If this qualification interests you and you would like to find out more, the link to the  BTEC L1 page is here.