English Educational System Quirks

I’ve been immersed for some time now in the English Education System. So far, I have had the opportunity to teach primary and secondary and, although it is true that the English and Spanish Systems have much in common, some of the differences are fairly curious. For example, there aren’t the dreaded “oposiciones” that bothers Spaniards so much. This concept even doesn’t exit!

TITITITI.001
Substitutions. When a teacher is absent at the school someone has to cover to them, even if it is just for an hour. The way to obtain a supply is mostly though an agency. The agency will send the school one of their workers. So if you want to do supply you should register with an agency.

In England it is quite frequent to do day-to-day supply, may be one day in one school and the next in a different one and so on. In this country there isn’t any similar to “oposiciones” as in Spain.

Agencies work in two ways. Either they can book you in advance for a school ( when the school knows in advance that the teacher will not operate on a specific date) or you get an early morning call, which is quite frequent. These calls can be any time from 7.15am onwards. Therefore, if you work for an agency as a day-to-day supply you have to get up and be ready, even if you don’t know yet if you will get work for that specific day. Some days you might get ready for nothing but fortunately that`s the minority of them.

If you are interested in working as a supply, check out these agencies: Connex-EducationHaysRandstadImpact teachers, Red, or Capita.

DBS. The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) enables organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors to make safer recruitment decisions by identifying candidates who may be unsuitable for certain work, especially that involve children or vulnerable adults, and provides wider access to criminal record information through its disclosure service for England and Wales.

Therefore, you will find that every single school will ask you for your DBS, so if you want to work as a teacher in England, you must get it. You need to register to use the update service. The registration costs are £13 per year.

OFSTED, Public inspection. Unlike Spain, in England all inspections of schools can be consulted online. This allows you to know the reputation of a school that is offering you a position or know its quality reputation before applying for a place for your children.

Punishments. Schools can punish their students for their behaviour, of course never physically. Detention is one of the most common punishments in schools in the United Kingdom.

It requires the pupil to report to a designated area of the school during a specified time on a school day (typically either recess or after school) and remain there for a specified period of time, but also may require a pupil to report to that part of school at a certain time on a non-school day, e.g. «Saturday detention”. Especially for serious offences not quite serious enough for suspension.

Schools don’t have to give parents notice of after-school detentions or tell them why a detention has been given.

Uniforms. Uniforms are not compulsory. However, it is quite unusual to find a school (primary or secondary) that does not have it.

If the school have a uniform – as I said almost all schools have – the head teacher can discipline your child for not wearing the school uniform. Your child can be suspended or expelled if they repeatedly ignore the uniform rules.

Schools can decide if girls can wear trousers, or if religious dress is allowed. In case your family economy cannot afford it, some local councils provide help with the cost of school clothing, including PE kits.

School attendance and absence. Unless you educate your children yourself, you must make sure your child gets a full-time education. Children must get an education between the school term after their 5th birthday and the last Friday in June in the school year they turn 16.

Your child cannot miss school even if you, as a parent, want to (eg: family holidays). You can only allow your child to miss school if either: they’re too ill to go in or you’ve got advance permission from the school.

Holidays in term time. You have to get permission from the head teacher if you want to take your child out of school during term time. It’s up to the head teacher how many days your child can be away from school if leave is granted.

You can be fined for taking your child on holiday during term time without the school’s permission.

Fine. Your local council can give you a fine of £60, which rises to £120 if you don’t pay within 21 days. You may be prosecuted if you don’t pay the fine after 28 days.You could get a fine of up to £2,500, a community order or a jail sentence up to 3 months.

School trips. Your child’s school can ask you for a voluntary contribution to the cost of activities like school trips. They can’t stop your child from attending if you don’t pay.

In England school holidays are spread throughout the year due to half-terms. However, in Spain we keep those days from half-term to use in summer, therefore summer vacation is more prolonged in Spain.

School term, half-term and holiday dates vary across the UK.

Ainoa Cano

 

Types of Schools in England

Unlike Spain, which has just three types of school –público, concertado and privado England has a huge variety. It can become exhausting, as well as confusing, to try to understand their features, especially when you are from another country.

For sure, you will find plenty of information on the Internet, but what I have tried to do in this post is to gather together all that information in the simplest way. I’ve created a summary table, designed to help us, particularly teachers, to differentiate the different kinds of school in England.

In any case, all children in England between the ages of 5 and 16 are entitled to a free place at a state school. Most state schools have to follow the National Curriculum. The most common ones are: community schools, foundation schools, academies, grammar schools.

Types of school

As you can see, the table is firstly divided into three blocks: Academies, Maintained school and other types of school. The data has been taken from newschoolsnetwork.org

The first section provides a brief outline of academies:

While there are different types of academies in operation in England, they all have the same status in law as ‘academies’. Academies are publically funded, independent schools, held accountable through a legally binding ‘funding agreement’. These schools have more freedom and control over curriculum design, school hours and term dates, and staff pay and conditions.

Free schools, academy converters and traditional academies all have this status, yet there are a number of differences between them. This is focussed on: Who sets them up;  Why they are set up; Whether there is a predecessor school; and What the ‘provider’ has to demonstrate in order to be given permission to set one up.

The second section provides information about Maintained schools:

While the number of academies in England is expanding, the majority of state schools are maintained schools. This means they are overseen, or ‘maintained’, by the Local Authority. These schools must follow the national curriculum and national teacher pay and conditions.

There are four main types of maintained schools. Their differences are over: Who employs the staff; Who owns the land and buildings; and Who controls the admissions arrangements.

The third section provides information about other types of school:

While academies and maintained schools form the majority of schools in England, there are two other types of school that are different from the ones already discussed.

They are different from academies and maintained schools because of: How they are funded; and How they can select their pupils.

Ainoa Cano

Icebreaker activities

IceBreakers

This time I want to gather a set of presentation activities; icebreaker activities. Those activities that languages teachers do when we meet our group for the very first time and we want them to get to  know each other too.

Our performance during this lesson, the first one, is one of our most important opportunities to gain the attention of our students. With these activities we have a great chance to make them feel comfortable and to involve and entertain them, which helps to ensure their persistence and dedication towards learning a second language.

Although choosing a good activity is fairly valuable – icebreaker activities will allow teachers to detect the level of their pupils – I should point out this alone is not enough for achieving success. There are other things which teachers must be aware of. For instance, the classroom management, group dynamics, time management and our body language. However, I won’t talk about this now. Let’s focus today on a variety of activities which help us  (students and teachers) to enjoy the lesson.

The proposed activities that I bring to this post are the different approaches that I have been using throughout my career or whilst studying.

Of course, there will be always the possibility of doing it in the usual way for those who are more conservative “Hello, my name is Ainoa. I’m from Murcia, Spain, and I’m you Spanish teacher”. But for those teachers who enjoy trying new things to make their classes more entertaining, here are my suggestions.

Activity 1: The ball of wool You, the teacher, start by saying your name and something that you like. Then you throw the wool to one of your students. This student has to do the same and throw it again to an another classmate. At the end, we get something similar to a spider web. This shows the future attachment of the group and the links that they will be created.

Activity 2: The clover The teacher introduces theirself showing a paper clover leaf where they have previously written several things about themself, one thing on each petal. For example, name, place of birth, nationality, favorite food.

The choice of topics will depend on the level of your students or what you as the teacher want to review. When everyone has written down their information, they should put them them in plant pot.

Once all the clovers are in, the teacher will take one of them and introduce that person (using third person singular). This person should stand up, greet everyone and pick another clover. This process will be repeated until everyone is introduced.

Activity 3: Who I am? The teacher presents a text, you can project it or photocopy one for each student. Throughout the text you present several sentences but giving several choices. For example, “My name is (1.María, 2.Elena, 3.Marta, 4.Lucía). One of the students has to start reading the first sentence and try to guess the correct option. If the student guesses it, continue reading. However, when the pupil is wrong, the turn will be for another student who should start reading from the very beginning. Therefore, all the students must be concentrating because they need to remember the correct option that has been chosen previously.

Actividad 4: Paper ball The teacher introduces themself, telling the students information about themself. At the same time, the teacher is writing down the sentences in a piece of paper. She asks the student to do the same, to write down a specific number of sentences about their lives. Once they have finished, they have to make a ball from the paper and put in a bag.

At this point the introductions are exactly the same as the second paragraph of the activity number 2.

Activity 5: My life in pictures. For this activity we must to prepare material. The idea is to present 6 images (submitted one by one) on which is shown something important to us that we are working on at that point, such as an important name, a place, a profession, a meal, etc. Our students should guess what is the picture about. For example,  on one of the pictures there are several firefighters (“Are you a firefighters?”, “is you husband a firefighter?”, etc) this picture will help us to introduce professions or a picture of our city to introduce nationalities and countries.

Once they have guessed the information that we were looking for, we will turn the images over to see the topic on the other side (“family members”, etc) and the question that we want to work on (“do you have siblings?”). It can be a good idea to stick the six pictures on the wall. Then we will ask the student to work with their partner, they have to ask the six questions.

Once they have done this, they have to introduce their partner to the classroom.

Activity 6: The start. We present to the students a 5 peaks start. In each peak we write down an idea about us, something that we want to remember or introduce later. Then, we ask them to ask us, to try to guess what those ideas are about, emphasizing that they can try as much as they want, there is no penalization for incorrect guessing.

For instance, at one of the peaks there is written “Juan”. Students should ask the teacher trying to guess what is this about (“¿Is this the name of your husband?”, “¿Is your son´s name?”) or “Cuba” (“are you from Cuba?”, “Would you like to go to Cuba?”)

After the teacher presentation, students will draw their own start with their own ideas. We’ll repeat the process.

In case there are too many students (the activity can take forever) we’ll ask them to introduce in small groups.

Activity 7: My hand. Every single students has to draw their hand on a piece of paper and write down on each finger one thing about them, about their life. They will stand up, one by one, and introduced themselves using their hand drawing as a support.

The teacher can ask the students the 5 specific topic which they have to speak about or give them a choice of talking about five different things.

Activity 8: Alphabet soup. This is about presenting a simple alphabet soup where the teacher has typed their information. Students will be provided with a list of sentences as a clue. For example, find the place where i was born.

Actividad 9: Let’s dance. The students need to stand up and dance with rhythm to a song, a funny one. They should move around the room meanwhile the music is playing. However, they must stop when the music is paused and ask the nearest person a question to get information about his/her life.

At the end, students will recall the information they have learned about their classmates.

Activity 10: My collage. For this activity students will be offered a big variety of pictures (newspaper, magazines, print, leaflet,etc).

In the first round, students will select those images which they identify with. Once they have chosen, they should show those pictures to their classmate and explain why they feel they identify with those images. In the case where some students don’t connect with any of the pictures offered, we’ll give them sheets and color to allow them to create that what they identified.

Activity 11: Unfinished sentencesIt is also important to use initial activities to meet the individual expectations of our students about our lessons. Not all learn the same, nor do we like to study in the same way. There are students who want to focus on grammar and others prefer to talk most of the time, regardless of the mistakes they may make. In order to discover this expectation we can throw in a number of phrases such as:

  • By the end of this week / quarter / year I want to …
  • the best way I learn is with …
  • I do not like it when the teacher …
  • Using a textbook is …
  • When we are working in a group …
  • When I do homework …
  • I do understand…
  • I do not understand…
  • I hope that…
  • I do not want class …
  • The sense of coming to class is …
  • I would like … ever.

Activity 12: Incomplete information. Consists in finding out information about the teacher (name, nationality, family, hobbies, pets, etc) giving them an incomplete and different table. In each table there will be just one of the answers, so they must speak with everyone if they want to complete it.

Ainoa Cano

I’m a teacher. What should I know about dyslexia?

Alphabet inside of men's heads face to face contrasting order and chaosTeachers can be in contact throughout their career with countless pupils with Special Educational Needs, and some of them will be more frequently found in the classroom than others. This is the case with dislexia, which can be found in 1 in every 25 students according to some researchers.

What is it about?

Dyslexia is a learning disability where the child’s ability to read or write is located below his/her level of intelligence. It is caused by an impediment of the brain pertaining to the capacity of seeing the words. However, this issue is not related to intelligence. Nowadays, there is a inclination to use dyslexia with any problems in reading.

Symptoms

To make dyslexia clear, you will find below some of the more frequent characteristics of people with dyslexia:

  • Reverse words totally or partially, such as was/saw.
  • Reverse letters, such as «p» with «b» or «d» for “b”. Often they reverse letters even when they know the spelling of the word.
  • Reading can be a difficult task because they can’t tell apart certain letters or they confuse them mentally.
  • They write the same word in different ways.
  • It is difficult to see that a word is misspelled.
  • Odd spelling mistakes happen.
  • They copy the words wrong even when they are looking at the correct spelling.
  • They have difficulty distinguishing left from right.

Dyslexia is often confused with a lack of evolutionary maturity. So I advise to think about it more often when we get some problems with our students’ reading. Anyway, don’t panic too much now thinking that even you may be dyslexic. I remember myself when I was a child mixing up “A” and “4”, which make me see letters in the calculator or number between some words; and I was not dyslexic! Just because you have a few of the symptoms, it doesn’t mean that you are dyslexic.

Is dyslexia for life?

There is some controversy over this point. Some think that dyslexia is a condition which lasts a
lifetime, but can be minimised with the right treatment.  Others, however, think it can be ‘cured’.  Regardless, both agree that with appropriate support, children with dyslexia can learn to read and write well. So the sooner the rehabilitation work is started, the lower the impact.

Is dyslexia linked to other disorders?

Yes, dyslexia is linked to other problems of learning sometimes, such as:

  • Dysgraphia: difficulties in the correct layout of the letters in the parallelism of the lines, the size of the letters and the pressure of writing …
  • Dysorthography: difficulties in the remembering correct spelling rules and patterns at a more advanced level.
  • Dyslalia: It is a disorder in the articulation of phonemes.This is an inability to correctly pronounce certain phonemes or groups of phonemes.

Educational strategies

Once the student is diagnosed as dyslexic, it can be fairly helpful to use some of these guidelines:

  1. The first thing we must do, when we have in our classroom a child with dyslexia, is to explain the disorder to the rest of their classmates. Otherwise, other students can see the adaptations as a privilege instead of a special educational need.
  2. Use an agenda because dyslexics often have short-term memory problems.
  3. In many cases, we can find that the student is suffering also from dysgraphia, where their writing will be severely affected and may become unreadable. In these cases we must allow the student work on a computer.The computer is one of the most useful tools for people with dyslexia.
  4. If possible the child should be allowed to take exams orally or have more time in written tests.
  5. Allow these children to read books at a lower level to the rest of the class, appropriate to their reading level. It will be even better if the pupil can choose the book. Our main goal is to achieve that students with dyslexia begin to feel curious and motivated by the world of letters.
  6. Use the recorder as a reinforcing resource. You can both record important lessons to help the student study more easily at home.
  7. To read aloud in front of peers, it would be beneficial to give them in advance the specific text which you will all read in the classroom. This gives them the opportunity of reading without pressure.
  8. Use multisensory methods relating to what they see, hear and feel.

Ainoa Cano

8 Ideas to work on your language classes when you don’t have any.

kasjdnfñakjsd.001Of course we like to be good teachers, prepare the best lessons for our students and get good educational outcomes. But if we want that, it is essential to have resources, materials.

However, although we have plenty of motivation to plan a lesson, we have to address a lack of creativity or, the most common one, time. Moreover, It has happened to me where I have had to cover a lesson at the very last minute or complete the lesson sooner that I expected.

Furthermore, it’s true that you can find many resources online, but selecting from that amount of information also take a while. As a result, I have found it fairly useful to save those useful websites that I find to make them accessible in seconds when needed, and to have a list of simple wildcard activities, helpful at almost every level.

Having this collection of pages will greatly facilitate our task of planning and improvisation: students finish their work earlier than expected, we turn to one of our links, we have to cover a teacher that morning, we turn to one of our links.

In this post, I want to collate some of the basic activities and useful links in order to bail you out.

1. THE COMIC.The comic as an educational resource can be very enriching. Submitting a “silent” comic strip to students can lead to amazingly different dialogue between the characters and fantastic stories, all from the same resource. Capturing the interest of students with a given subject can be highly effective if we use the comic as a classroom resource.

I always have a few blank comic strips in my folder for my language lessons because it has infinite possibilities, develops creativity and can adapt to any age. It is my star resource, you can extend it as much as you need. As you can see bellow, the comic allows a chain of endless questions, which will help us to fill the time we require:

  • Invent a story line with those scenes.
  • Discuss the succession of events. What happens before and what happens next?
  • Describe what you see in each picture. What do you think the character is doing? Why?
  • Imagine what action takes place between 2 pictures.
  • Why are the character there?
  • List the vocabulary. For example, if the character is eating, we can ask our student about what kind of food and drink. What is their favorite food?, Where is this meal typical? What do you know about that country?…
  • Focus on the action. If the character is singing, then what kind of music do you think he is listening to? What kind of music do you like? How often? What are you doing when you listen to music? etc.

Bitstrips is a website to create your own comic. You can change backgrounds and chose a character, to which you can define facial expressions, posture, gesture, finger position, etc. I loved discovering this product!

2. FLASH CARDS.  Can be used for any topic – it can be as complex or as a basic as you need – and works with images. You can merely teach vocabulary, ask questions or ask pupils to describe what they see. Therefore, the same images can be used for different levels of learning. I mention below some of the most typical topics:

Professions, animals, clothes, weather, numbers, colours, transport, body parts, expressions (surprise, tiredness, happiness, anger …), class materials, food, beverages, hobbies, actions, the class rules (be quiet, raise your hand, do not touch …) daily routines (waking up, eat breakfast, brush teeth, go to school …), concepts (full-empty, near-far, long-short…), etc.

3. DRAWING-NARRATION. That is to say, telling a short a story using the vocabulary that is being studied. Student should draw our description. For instance:

«Once upon a time two sisters who lived in a very small house with their cat. The front door to the house, however, was very large and was painted yellow … »

In just a couple of lines we have already reviewed part of: family members, colors, animals, sizes and elements of a house (door).

4. STORIES AND FABLES. What better way to spend the time left in class than reading. However, in this case we should choose a story according to our student ages. Especially, we can keep the attention of our students if instead of reading the whole story ourselves, we indicate who should read the next paragraph. This keeps them silent and focussed on the activity.

5. SONGS. Listening to songs will help us, among other benefits, to strengthen and learn new vocabulary and improve our listening. The most common activity is to remove some of the lyrics of the song and ask the children to fill in the gaps.

6. SPELLING. Spelling words that have been worked on can be fun. The children can become quite engrossed in this if you give each student a sheet of paper or a whiteboard and start dictating word by word. To reward their involvement, invite a student who has written the word correctly, to write it on the board (as the teacher). You can do spelling online as well:

7. DICTATION. A teaching technique which improves, amongst other things, misspellings. You can dictate exactly from a given text or you can improvise the dictation.

8. WORKSHEETS. Select any worksheet already prepared according to the level of your students.

TIP!  keep the links that you find useful!

Ainoa Cano

 

11 Strategies to Manage Extreme of Behaviour in our classroom

niño malcomportamiento.001Have you ever wondered how to handle challenging behaviour that our students sometimes display in our classroom? I’ve done. That’s why I thought it might be interesting to share this post with some information about what I learned on the course «Managing Extremes of Behavior»,  which I recently completed.

From my experience, working in a secondary school, I realized how difficult it can be dealing with challenges students.  I am beginning to become more aware of how common it is, at this level and working with this age.  There are some disobedient, foul-mouthed students, wanting to challenge you, looking to get attention, insulting each other, who don’t pay attention or who are quiet but just won’t do the job you are asking them.  They are just not interested.

I don’t want to discourage anyone. Teaching can be exciting, but the reality is that it’s not always easy. Therefore, the best way is to accept things how they are but also to try and improve and remedy them. If you really like teaching, don’t worry, but obviously learning how to deal with undesirable situations will help us to develop more effective and rewarding  lessons.

However, I would like to emphasize, I don’t believe in magic formulas that convert chaos into perfection, but I believe that having some educational strategies can achieve greater control of the situation.

So what can we do to deal with these unpredictable situations? What can we do to make a difference in our classroom?

  1. Difficult doesn’t mean impossible. The first advise we need to implement is to believe in ourselves and in the possibility of change. If we don’t change our attitude, the situation won’t change neither. Attitude is everything.
  2. Types of bad behaviour in the classroom. What are these behaviours? Recognizing what may be causing the child’s behavior will help us to know how to deal with it. Naming helps us, for instance, to search for information online and guide us. The most common behaviours are: Attention Seeker, Power Broker, Bully, Clown, Aggressive, Uncooperative and Abusive. For example, if we know our student is an Attention Seeker, we’ll know that in these cases we should ignore the inappropriate behavior of the child, then the child’s tendency will be to stop using that resource and it will become ineffective. Imagine, if the child is kicking in the supermarket because he wants an ice-cream and you buy it, he will repeat that behavior. You just teach him that’s the way to get the things he wants when you don’t want to buy them.
  3. Don’t take for granted or assume that they are bad children. If a child is told he is bad and believes “I’m bad”, he’s going to behave that way. Therefore, you should not say «you’re bad» or things like that. Usually, they often behave worse with supply teachers. They’ll test teachers that they don’t know yet.
  4. Good behaviour can be learned. Teach children how to behave better by showing the way and manners with patience. You are an important role mode for them. How you act will have an impact on their behaviour. In order to solve it, you should ask yourself 4 key Questions:
    • Where does their behavior come from?
    • Where do they lead?
    • What assumptions do we make?
    • How do we respond to behaviors?

    Be tolerant, smile and emphatize, but remember that you’re the teacher, not them.

  5. Enhance their self-esteem! It seems contradictory, right? However, misbehavior is not always due to selfishness. There are other reason why they’re looking for attention. Sometimes, these children feel frustration because school seems difficult for them, they have low-esteem or feel isolated. Therefore, they often think “I will never be good, so I’ll try to stand out because I’m bad”. That’s why when we highlight their progress and success their behaviour improves too.
  6. Don’t say please but say thank you. It is important not to appear as though you are pleading for their behaviour to change by saying ‘please’. But you still want to sound respectful so you should say “thank you” after they have done what you asked them to do.
  7. Reduce the use of the imperative. Make it personal. Use “I” to convert it to a personal matter. For example, “I don’t speak to you like that. Then I don’t expect you to do it to me” instead of “do that”.
  8. Control is just an illusion. It’s about influence! We must influence. If you establish a control struggle with your students, it’s quite posible you won’t be able to win. An alternative to constantly controlling them and focussing on their bad behaviour is to focus in the good.  Effective teachers get their students to become “addicted” to positive reinforcement. For instance, “I really like the topic you’ve chosen to write, it’s very original “ or » What a good question. I think it’s an excellent contribution”. Remember to sound natural otherwise they’ll know that you want something else from these comments.
  9. Positive Language. This will be the structure: make it personal, use positive language and descriptive phrases. Such as “I really like the way you worked today”.
  10. They’re responsible for their behaviour, not you. Make sure they know they are responsible for their behaviour when they do something wrong and they knew the rules and the consequences. Make it clear that it was their choice to receive that penalty, not yours, because they knew the consequences and they decided to do it anyway.
  11. You need to have your own rules, be a rule giver to get authority:
    • For example, 10 rules are too much. Try not to give more than 4 rules.
    • Bring rules to each classroom.
    • Try to write them with a positive language.
    • In connection to the consequences it is better to speak about rewards rather than sanctions.

     

    TIP! If you’re looking for extra information, maybe you’ll like reading  “Creating winning classrooms” by Peter Hook and Andy Vass. This book offers teachers important insights into the emotional classroom climate necessary for successful and effective learning. Following from the first book, Confident Classroom Leadership, the authors present a range of ideas and understandings to support teachers in proactively building and sustaining an emotionally empowering classroom.

Ainoa Cano

 

A summary of the NEW NATIONAL CURRICULUM

 

the national curriculum.001The basicschool curriculum includes the National Curriculum, as well as religious education and sex education. The National Curriculum is a set of subjects and standards used by primary and secondary schools so that all children learn the same things. It covers which subjects are taught and the standards children should reach in each subject.

Other types of schools like academies and private schools dont have to follow the National Curriculum. Academies must teach a broad and balanced curriculum including English, maths and science. They must also teach religious education. (gov.uk)

In September 2014 the New Curriculum was introduced, we must know numerous educational changes in order to provide quality education to our students, as well as follow government guidelines. It’s introduction had an exception, children from Year 2 and 6 were allow to remain on the original National Curriculum, because it seemed quite unfair that children did their last exams of their Key Stage when they had been studying so many years with previous one. But this exception is now gone. From September 2015 all, from year 1 to year 6, are on the new curriculum.

The National Curriculum is organised into blocks of years called ‘key stages’ (KS). At the end of each key stage, the teacher will formally assess his/her students performance to measure a child’s progress.

With the new National Curriculum Key Stage levels are no longer part of the educational landscape, so we dont have levelling any more. Children in years 2 and 6 will be the last to receive an end-of-key-stage ‘level’, in summer 2015”. Instead, students will start sitting the new national primary curriculum tests in 2016. From 2016  at the end of year exams (key stage 2 and 3) children will have what are called scaled scores instead of levelling.

I have tried to summarise the most important features of the new National Curriculum in order to make it easier to understand and to instill confidence in foreign teachers in the English education field, so that we can be as competent as native teachers.

  1. The government wants to pull together a whole school curriculum, from the age of 5 to 14.
  2. Heavy emphasis on the non-academic side of education, such as every child should be taught to swim or to take part in volunteer organizations in Secondary Education.
  3. Music. The government wants every child to play an instrument.
  4. Learning a Modern Foreign Language has become compulsory in Key Stage 2.That is why primary schools are now looking for MFL teachers. So if you are a modern foreign language teacher, you are lucky.
  5. The Program of Study that teachers used to have which helped them define how and what to teach, have been drastically cut.  There is no document telling teachers how they have to do their job. You now have to know what the school does or what the expectations are, but the government doesn’t tell you how do it. Great for freedom.
  6. There are some restrictions on the implementation on the management. For example, schools in special measures will not be allowed to decide themselves what they are going to do. Their autonomy is removed from them and they will be told what they will have to do.
  7. Key Skills (conversation, listening or writing skills) age-appropriate. This point is a good resource for supply teachers because sometimes we don’t feel confident enough with the subject you are covering. Perhaps, you are an MFL teacher and have to cover a geography teacher and you don’t have the necessary knowledge here. What they are saying is it isn’t now just about score curriculum, so you can focus on key skill in this lesson.
  8. Emphasis on spoken language is something the government is determined to make. They will be producing guidelines for spoken language.
  9. It is also about writing and reading in every subject. There should be an element of writing and reading included.
  10. Developing fluency in every relevant subject. Emphasis on the uses of specific subject vocabulary and understanding in the real world.
  11. What they don’t want to see is mixing up physics, chemistry and biology. In this instance they don’t want a cross curriculum.
  12. Schools have autonomy in assessment attainment. In terms of assessment the government’s position is very clear, there is no national assessments model and no national strategy. So schools can keep their previous model or create their own assessment.So you as a teacher won’t be sure about what a school is doing until you ask them their assessment method system and policy and your role within it. By the end of each Key Stage you are expected to know,  apply and understand, skill and processes.
  13. In terms of inclusion it is about participation and achievement for all learners and recognising barriers to learning. Schools must ensure challenging and high quality teaching. For supply, schools should give you necessary information (planning, resources, etc) allowing you to deliver your lesson. However, it is quite possible that if you are there anything longer than a couple of days, you have to plan and be aware of inclusion and SEN.
  14. Core subjects: mathematics, sciences and English. There is a requirement with objetives for each year and Key Stage.
  15. Extra-curricular activities (ECA) are activities that take place outside regular class teaching and yet are related to student learning. As such, they fall within the scope of the school curriculum.  The government expects that schools and teachers provide additional support. For example, through after school club or lunch time club.

TIP 1! If you are a specialist teacher looking for a job in a primary school, now is your moment. Primary school are clamouring for people with specialist subject knowledge because the requirement in primary schools has been increased enormously.

TIP 2! Joining a teaching union will be very helpful as they provide support. I know this two NASUWT and  NUT.

TIP 3! Have a look in the New curriculum and find out the Key Skills. It can help when you are a supply, you don’t control the subject and the planning isn’t there. Don’t panic, focus on Key skills.

TIP 4! Find out the specific curriculum of your subject. In the following link you will find all programs of study by subject.

Teachers are now the ones transforming schools and transforming education in this country. You are part of that. Feel it and you will do a fantastic job.

Ainoa Cano

A chart to assist teachers to compare easily each level of English and Spanish Educational Systems

In the recent years, there has beeneducationspain a flood of young people moving from their places of origin to countries offering better alternatives of life. The goal of this migration is basically due to three major topics: educational, work and/or language reasons. Included in all of these aspects is experience, which comes out of all three factors. Of course, there are always very enterprising people wanting to see the world, but I dare say that for most of us, it is the lack of opportunities and the low value placed on us in our countries, which pushes us to go out. A kind of feeling of accumulating certificates that seem to have lost any validity. However, you dare to get out and people are amazed with your training, they respect it.

Nevertheless, Let’s not fool ourselves, it is not as easy as to pull something off at the first attempt. Progress requires effort, hard work and more hard work. Some of this work begins to enhance your professional knowledge of where you have migrated to. Although it is true that it seems that here they recognize your training and give you the corresponding validation for your certificates, let’s be honest, you do not feel competent at first. And I’m not just referring to the language, a real barrier, but I won’t talk about it on this post.

The thing about our profession, being teachers, is that we can have a deep understanding of education from our country. You may have a great mastery of your National Curriculum and the Spanish legislation, but when you come to England…What do you know of their curriculum? What do you know of their priorities? What are their objetives? What are the concerns in school and what worries them here? and What about the law? Perhaps, all these questions overwhelm you, make you feel small. You have to start from zero. However, it isn’t like that, trust me. We are competent and capable. We have valuable experience, although we still need to research in order to clarify some of our ideas. But how do I know what I need to research? Well, because I am of theses teachers who have decided to have a try in England, I will use my experience to advise you what I consider important, as I would have appreciated someone explaining to me before arriving.

One of the first things we need to know are the names of any stages of education in England in comparison with Spain. Why? because get confuse in a interview denotes ignorance of the topic, ignorance is associated with a lack of proficiency and no boss likes hiring incompetent staff. In other words, imagine you are in an interview for a position as a teacher in Year 2. The interviewer ask you what will you do. As a teacher, we know how important is to know our student ages to adapt our content, objetives and activities. Well, Year 2 is known as 1º de Primaria in Spain. It is clear now, right?

The next chart assists in comparing easily English and Spanish Educational Systems. Its shows the journey from kindergarten to high school. The English system is shown on the left and the Spanish on the right. Each colors correspond to a similar level.

Chart Stage Eng-Spa

I would like to emphasize some points and provide more data in order to complement the information:

First of all, Compulsory Education begins at 5 years old in England, although it is possible to homeschool. In Spain it is at 6, but the reality is that almost all children are in school at the age of 3. On the other hand, compulsory education ends at age of 16 in both. In England it is required to continue taking some type os studies until 18, although the teenager can be working.

Reception, also known as Foundation, is the educational stage with the least resemblance. The biggest difference to me is Foundation 1 (pre-school), which corresponds to Educación Infantil 3 años. The reason is because in England it is frequently taught by non teaching staff, when in Spain must be taught by qualified teachers.

Primary Education expands itself a year in Spain, reducing in one academic year the time spent  by Spanish students in high school.

At the end of Secondary School there are important exams in order to graduate in both countries . Those exams are known as GCSE in England.

The Sixth Form and Bachillerato occupy two academic years with important exams at the end. In England these tests are known as A Levels (Advance Levels). There is a big difference in the educational structure at this level. In Spain are two full-time academic courses in high school and with an average of 8 subjects. However, in England it is a specialization of a 3 subjects in line with the university career that they will take and are part time self-study.

In the case of opting for vocational training or formación profesional, students will be referred to other centers in the same manner as in England, where are called FE College.

NOTE: a bachelor and bachiller are not the same. The first one means that you have a degree at University!

Ainoa Cano.