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NFER - Tests for Years 1-6
NFER - Tests for Years 1-6

“It Didn’t Matter What She Did, It Wasn’t Good Enough” – How an Academy Takeover Led To Stress, Anxiety and 10 Teachers Resigning

The new demands meant it wasn't uncommon for staff to work 60-hour weeks...

  • “It Didn’t Matter What She Did, It Wasn’t Good Enough” – How an Academy Takeover Led To Stress, Anxiety and 10 Teachers Resigning

Recently I started teaching in a school where the head had a proven track record for nurturing challenging and deprived children to feel confident and leave school with a love for learning.

It was a school where staff refused to spend all of Year 6 rehearsing SATs papers and spent every afternoon clinging onto the wider curriculum.

The large academy that took over the same year suddenly sacked the head.

Everyone was shocked. The staff felt deflated, the pupils were upset and the parents were extremely confused.

There wasn’t even an opportunity for the head to say goodbye after ten years at the school. Apparently, the Year 6 SATs results were not high enough.

A new head was appointed. She had to prove her impact – quickly. She observed everyone in her first week.

The majority of teachers were judged inadequate, despite having a history of good or outstanding teaching at several other schools. The academy was happy. She had identified the problem.

She soon sent everyone to other schools in the academy to observe teachers teaching the ‘academy way’. It felt like a tick box strategy to show how she was helping to improve the school.

Later that term, she instructed us that all lessons must be typed up the night before using her new A4 format.

Every lesson had to have three objectives to meet the needs of the class. A long list of non-negotiables was also introduced – from typing up daily learning objective slips to the use of coloured pens and highlighters and daily next steps written in books.

Everyone was soon struggling to keep up with the workload. It was not uncommon for staff to be working sixty hour weeks to keep on top of the new demands.

The head said by Christmas, 25% of us would be good teachers again because she had written this on her action plan.

She was particularly pleased with one teacher who was soon asked to teach Year 6.

The teacher was told that she was ideal for the role because of her experience, hard work and ability to form strong relationships with the pupils.

The new teacher in Year 6 was soon doing a great job. The pupils were making excellent progress.

Then HMI visited the school and informed the head that the teaching in Year 6 was not good enough. Staff were confused as the report seemed to be based on historic data and nothing to do with the current teacher.

The Year 6 teacher was called immediately into the head’s office where she was put on a coaching program.

The head said she felt ‘vulnerable’. She knew her job was on the line.

The teacher was understandably shocked and upset. She had been told her lessons were buzzing by the head just a few days before.

The Year 6 teacher soon spent every night working until midnight, trying to satisfy the new demands being placed on her. But it was no good.

It didn’t matter what she did, it wasn’t good enough. She was soon threatened with capabilities.

She found it hard to sleep because she was so anxious.

Staff members rallied around her and told her she was being bullied and the head was panicking. They told the teacher that the head should have defended her.

‘But what if the SATs were poor again and the academy hadn’t taken action early on based on the HMI report?’ said some. ‘The teacher is being set up to fail,’ said others.

The teacher was signed off for two weeks with stress. Upon her return, she was told she was no longer required to teach Year 6 and was being put into reception. Staff were horrified as they soon realised they could be next.

The parents in Year 6 were angry as they had a strong relationship with the teacher and demanded a meeting with the head.

She refused to tell them why the teacher had been removed, prompting comments from one parent that the teacher must have done something ‘very bad’ to be suddenly removed like that.

The teacher resigned and found another job within weeks.

Although it took the teacher nearly two years to recover, she successfully became part of the SLT team at her new school, where she continues to make a positive impact.

Since the academy took over, ten teachers have resigned. It is a one form entry school.

Year 6 did well that year. The academy told pupils they had to attend early morning and after-school booster groups and paid for a company to run booster lessons every day.
The wider curriculum was abandoned until after the SATs.

Because of their improved SATs results, they are now a good school. A good school?

The writer has taught in five schools across a 20-year career. Read more at headteacher-newsletter.com and on Twitter at @fakeheadteacher. This blog post was in response to a teacher mental health survey we ran in conjunction with Leeds Beckett University. Find out more and see the results here.

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