Every cloud

I, like many other teachers across the country, am absolutely shattered. In a year like no other, teachers everywhere have risen to the challenges which we have faced. School closures, online learning, blended learning for those isolating at home. And all this before we even consider the qualifications ACM. We are understandably ready for a holiday after completing our own jobs, on top of setting and assessing, moderating and marking, teaching and learning. But as always, we have adapted, done our best for the young people, and got on with it. And I for one am incredibly proud of our profession, and in particular my department team.

They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Always one to try and find the positives, I believe that our team are 100% stronger, wiser and most importantly, better teachers for this experience. Never before have we spent so much time as a department, talking about learning and assessment. And this comes from a department who commits most meeting time each week to learning and teaching. We’ve bonded as a team over developing our understanding of national standards, we’ve shared a cuppa and blethered whilst discussing benchmarks, we’ve blind cross-marked in silence and then celebrated when we’ve been concordant. There has been a real focus on understanding the what and why of our teaching. This can only be a good thing.

I am so grateful for the way in which our team have embraced this experience because its been outwith our comfort zone. Never before have the same teachers who have taught the course and built up a relationship with the young person, had to assess their work. There is an enormous pressure when you have supported the young person and know their struggles snd achievements throughout a practical folio. Every teacher in the country wants the best for our young people. So that pressure to get it right, is very real.

I am 100% confident that our assessment decisions are robust, fair and in the best interests of the young people. Yes it has been a different experience this year, but we should take pride in the fact that we know our stuff. We teach these courses day in day out, and we analyse our results and the national standards every year. We couldn’t do our job successfully if we didn’t.

In art and design in particular, there are some changes we have welcomed. The focus on quality not quantity. This has allowed slow careful workers the same opportunity to demonstrate knowledge, process and skills rather than rush to complete a set number of pieces for their folio. This focus on the demonstration of actual learning complexity rather than the quantity of drawings is a positive departure from the checklist mentality.

Similarly removing the pressure to have every piece of art work double mounted has been another way in which precious time has been siphoned. Importantly the opportunity cost of this, is that we can really focus on the learning and teaching allowing pupils to work right up until the deadline rather than leaving a week or so for ‘mounting.’ This is not to say that we don’t take pride in our pupils work and we absolutely want to mount up important pieces and show it off in the best possible way. But this shouldn’t detract from precious learning time for pupils. And doesn’t need to be done for every single piece of work. Any good art teacher can see quality beyond a double mount. And to add to this, it’s more environmentally friendly!

The ACM has absolutely had its flaws. But this blog isn’t about that. It’s about recognising the resilience, strength and determination of teachers across the country to do our best for our young people and get it right to recognise their hard work in a year filled with challenges. When I look at our team, I see teachers who are tired but more importantly, teachers who are more confident in their assessment decisions and who will go into the year ahead, teaching with an increased understanding of the national standards and the curriculum they are teaching. Yes there are flaws in the system, but with a profession so committed to doing the best for young people, I am confident that together we can get it right moving forward.

Thanks for reading! Would love you to unpick any positives from your own subject experience. Have a positive week – we are nearly there!!

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