The mushroom effect – Universal issues becoming everyone’s problem

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I was so depressed to see that colleagues are being asked to think about what they can do in class to ‘close the gap’ for PP students. Supportive colleagues went on to make a variety of suggestions and some did question the concept. It’s not the ‘closing the gap’ bit it’s the ‘for PP students’ bit that depresses me. I’ve specifically blogged about PP before but this is slightly different.

This request got me thinking about how often in education, a ‘big’ picture is given from above (whether it is Ofsted, the DfE or from SLT themselves) and then the responsibility for changing this is instantly passed down to the teacher in the classroom.

This type of generalisation from the whole picture cannot and should not be passed down directly. There is a misunderstanding amongst some leaders that a whole school issue is every teacher’s issue. Or a national issue in education is every school’s issue. It is not.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to deny that a school may have issues that are across the board. I’m also not trying to buck the responsibility. But where these issues are identified they need well thought out, appropriate, specific, collaborative action. Not just passed to teachers in their raw form to deal with.

The job of national, local and school leaders is to be strategic with this information and how it can be addressed. They need to analyse the data carefully and think what may be the causes and then what may be potential ways forward. This kind of data can be addressed at leadership level through whole school interventions but should not be passed down directly to teachers.

A teacher’s job is to ensure ALL students are learning and making progress. Any interventions from a teacher should happen on an individual level for the student that isn’t progressing. That student may well have additional needs that will influence the way in which they are supported however it is not possible to create a general intervention for a category of students. It is almost as ridiculous as saying “The data says all our brown eyed students are underachieving, let’s do some special activities in class for brown eyed students” especially in the case of PP students. I am responsible for spotting trends. I am responsible for making a difference to these in my classroom.

Teachers may be supported in developing strategies to support students with additional needs in their classroom. However it is frustrating for teachers who are told “this is a whole school issue” and then are made to sit in a CPD session on it or write a report on how they’re dealing with it, even though it isn’t an issue in their classes. It’s close to keeping back the whole class at break because of the behaviour of a few; it doesn’t work and it isn’t fair.

The big issues in schools will rarely be dealt with by an over generalised strategy. Children and teachers are individuals and need to be treated in such a manner.

So, my heart goes out to those colleagues who are being told to do the almost impossible.

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2 thoughts on “The mushroom effect – Universal issues becoming everyone’s problem

  1. Quite. Similarly, I have sat through CPD on how to raise boys’ attainment in literacy (boy friendly books, apparently) when there was no attainment gap in genderwise in my class and the most keen readers and writers were boys.

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