Saturday, 30 November 2013

Can Tribal Inspections be Trusted?

Did you know that Ofsted, like many other public services, have been privatised? Did you know that companies like Serco - who run prisons and who are currently being investigated for fraud - have contracts to run Ofsted inspections? So when 'Ofsted' go into a school it's often a private, profit-making company that performs the inspection.

One of the private companies with a contract to run Ofsted inspections is Tribal who have come to our attention several times over the past few months.

In May this year Tribal carried out an inspection of the London Nautical School, giving it a 'requires improvement' grading. In a clear conflict of interests one of the inspectors was Daniel Moynihan the CEO of Harris Academies. Harris Academies are a London-based academy chain that would be in a position to take over the London Nautical School were academisation to be considered. Private Eye picked up on this story in August and it is reproduced on the Anti-Academies Alliance website here.

"When the Eye asked in 2011 how independent “additional” inspectors working for private firms would be, given the involvement of firms like Tribal in opening new free schools themselves, Ofsted said it would regard any situation where inspectors and their employers were “involved in an organisation in competition” with the school under inspection as a conflict of interests to be avoided (Eye 1286)."

Then, in November, Private Eye covered the story of the inspection of Wanstead High School (here) where one of the inspection team was head of a neighbouring school - another conflict of interests. Like London Nautical, Wanstead High was also given a requires improvement grade. The inspection was carried out by Tribal.

Within the past month we noticed that Battersea Park School had complained about their inspection by Tribal which happened back in June. The complaint is on the schools website here, runs to 11 pages, and contains some very serious allegations about the conduct of the inspectors including a suggestion that they made up evidence. We suggest you read the full complaint for yourself as it is pretty damning. The school received an inadequate grading and is now due to be handed over to the Harris Academy chain.

Finally Longhill School near Brighton was inspected by Tribal in October. The school have complained about the report which rates the school as requiring improvement, a judgement they say "contradicts the views shared with us by the Inspection Team during the course of their visit." The school's letter to parents can be seen here and a report in the local paper is here

As a footnote we noticed that Andrew Barker, former head of Bishopsford Arts College, which was failed by Ofsted in 2012 and placed in special measures, is listed as an additional inspector on Tribal's website here. That school has now been reopened as a Harris Academy.

Edited to add: 

Our attention was just drawn to this article about Westlands School in Torquay who are appealing against their inspection in June by Tribal which downgraded them from a previous grading of good to inadequate.

We've also been alerted to the fact that the disputed inspection of Kings' Stanley Primary School in Gloucestershire, which took place in May, was also by Tribal. Read this local news report which says "Parents and governors of the school near Stonehouse say the inspection conducted by Tribal on behalf of Ofsted was unfair and feel they are being driven towards applying for academy status. Tribal used to help schools convert to academy status." This report says the school is appealing the decision to demote it from outstanding to inadequate.

This Guardian article examines in more detail what the motives for private companies giving schools poor Ofsted reports could be. 

Thursday, 28 November 2013

#loveTAs Twitter Storm TONIGHT

Tomorrow, Friday 29 November, UNISON has announced ‘Speaking Up for Teaching Assistants’, a day in which the valuable work of teaching assistants will be highlighted and celebrated. This is a particularly important message at the moment as it’s been reported that some in government want to cut teaching assistants’ jobs.

We are intending to support this by creating a Twitter Storm tonight to create awareness, and we have chosen to do this between 2235 and 2335 when BBC Question Time is on. 

If you use Twitter then we need you to be online when BBC Question Time starts at 2235. The minute the programme starts we need you to start tweeting. All messages should have two hashtags in them: #loveTAs & #BBCQT

Each tweet should contain a brief message that should highlight or celebrate the work of teaching assistants. We should also be looking to educate the Question Time/Twitter audience about just how valuable teaching assistants are to teachers, head teachers, parents and students, to counteract the negative press they have received in recent months. E.g.
  • Without a TA, my son/daughter would not be able to X/Y/Z #loveTAs #BBCQT
  • The work that teaching assistants do is vital. We must speak up for them! #loveTAs #BBCQT
  • I’m a teacher and I value the work of teaching assistants. They are completely invaluable! #loveTAs #BBCQT
  • As a parent I know the difference teaching assistants make. We must make sure they are valued! #loveTAs #BBCQT
  • Teaching assistants are edu-heroes! We will continue to promote the positive impact they have! #loveTAs #BBCQT
  • Teaching assistants enable children to thrive at school. Give them medals, don’t undermine them! #loveTAs #BBCQT
  • Did you know it’s been reported that some in government want to cut teaching assistant jobs? What a false economy #loveTAs #BBCQT

You get the general idea right? Make up your own or use the examples above. It's worth preparing a few tweets and saving them as drafts on your phone or computer so you can whack them out one after the other. Retweets don't count. But this is an occasion where it's perfectly acceptable to cut and paste others' tweets without crediting them. It's the number of original tweets that counts towards creating a Twitter storm and getting #loveTAs trending.

Please alert others on Twitter who might want to join in.

How can you help if you don't have Twitter?
  1. If you have Facebook you can post your messages about why you're striking, or why you support the teachers on the BBC Question Time Facebook page here
  2. Don't have a smartphone? You can still use your mobile to text Question Time. Details on how to are here

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Secondary English teacher Miss M has "nothing but admiration and respect" for teaching assistants

As a Teacher of English in a UK Secondary School, I would struggle to do my job as effectively, without the help of teaching assistants. 

They provide vital support in a number of ways: mixed ability classes which have children with a variety of Special Education Needs can be difficult to manage, without the support of a TA. Lower level students, who have the help of the TA, know that they can rely on them. This has a beneficial effect on their behaviour which helps to foster a more positive learning environment for the rest of the students. When they have TA support, students are calmer and display fewer behavioural issues – the TA forms strong bonds with the student that helps the pupil feel secure. Often school is the only place that some students can feel safe and are encouraged to adhere to a routine - TAs play an important role in this.  

The TAs at my school get heavily involved in raising achievement. Two of them co-ordinate the Nessie Reading programme and they have also piloted the Paired Reading Programme where KS3 students, whose reading age is below the national average, are paired with KS4 reading mentors, twice a week, to engage and improve their reading skills. Both of these programmes are very successful. The TAs undertake all the pre-testing and copious administration that is required before the reading schemes can commence. 

I have nothing but admiration and respect for teaching assistants and the crucial role that they play in today’s education system.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Teacher Emma explains hows a reduction in teaching assistants has affected her school

Back one May evening last year an email went out to all staff announcing an 'emergency briefing' the following morning. Rumours were rife: was the head retiring, had an ex pupil committed some heinous crime, were Ofsted descending?

None of the above proved to be true. In fact, we were told that due to national budget cuts all TAs would have to reapply for their jobs and three would be unsuccessful. In addition to this, the remaining TAs would have their hours cut and so they would now only be paid to work from 9.10 (when lessons begin) to 3.15 (when lessons end).

We have been working under this new system since September, and it is not pretty. The reduction in hours has left one of my form members, who is physically disabled, to lug her heavy equipment from the  form room to lessons on her own, as nobody is in to help her with it until she should already be in her first lesson. It also means the invaluable discussions I could have with this girl's TA during form time no longer happen, and so I am somewhat out of the loop with regards to the issues she faces.

Worse though, is the effect the loss of four TAs has had on the support available to statemented pupils. It is now quite common for a TA to be assigned to three or four pupils during a one hour slot. "Well that could be worse" I initially thought to myself "a TA helping four pupils in a class is hardly a problem." What I hadn't realised was that the TAs were scheduled to be with four different pupils in different classes during that one hour.

What this means, then, is that a TA will arrive for a 15 minute slot at any given time in your lesson. I never know when this slot will be, and so planning to use them effectively is nigh-on impossible. It's also hardly helpful for those pupils with difficulties that mean they desire routine, as I'm sure you can imagine.

The TAs feel terrible about it. Three months into this new system and they still apologise to me for arriving late or leaving early. The overriding sense I get from them is that they desperately want to be able to do their jobs and help the pupils they're employed to help. But they can't.

I suppose if one positive thing has come out of this, it's renewed appreciation for the job a TA does across our school. Unfortunately though, I fear this appreciation is too little, too late and that these are only signs of worse things to come for SEN provision.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Teacher Stephen says teaching assistants "complete small miracles every day"

Teaching assistants. I've known many. 

There wass the Liverpudlian woman who came in especially to coach students in the accent for Blood Brothers. This was in her own time. 

The one who identified the difficulties one boy in my English class was having, difficulties I hadn't noticed because he was so articulate and lovely and would never have told me out of shyness. 

Most recently the wonderful TA who coached an 18 year-old with Aspergers through his A levels ( including Drama ) and is still in contact with his family now he's at university living independently in ways we'd never expected could happen. 

Some children at secondary level relate so much better to a TA, perhaps because they get the consistency of a "parental figure" which it is hard to replicate when as a 11,12,13 year-old you are going from lesson to lesson, struggling with the tasks but also with your peers and simply growing up. 

I see students every day engaging with TAs in a much more meaningful way because they are getting one-to-one attention, attention that cannot be given so easily by the teacher when there are 32 in a class. 

I have welcomed at least three ex students back as TAs who have gone onto train to be teachers. In fact it has seemed that the only way to get on some PGCE courses is to have had experience as a TA. Where does that leave future teachers in terms of recruitment onto courses if they have been denied that opportunity? 

Every day I watch in wonder as TAs do a low paid job with the same commitment as teachers. Fair enough they don't have to plan lessons, write reports, mark work or be accountable for exam results, but they do complete small miracles every day with some students who would be lost without them - as would many teaching staff.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Sarah explains why we should celebrate and defend teaching assistants

Today we're delighted to be hosting a blog post by Sarah, a teaching assistant who normally blogs here. She outlines a typical day for us - imagine what a loss of wonderful experience it would be if she, and others like her, were no longer there to support children.

I received an email yesterday from my union. I am a member of Unison and the email was to tell me about a day - 29th November 2013 - a day to celebrate Teaching Assistants. Now why would they be wanting to do that? Why celebrate Teaching Assistants? Well, the reason is because if the UK Government has its way there might not be any Teaching Assistants in schools in the future.

Unison is fighting to save Teaching Assistants. The Government has decided that Teachers can do the job of Teaching Assistants. We are an expensive luxury.

So, let me tell you a little bit about my day and you can decide whether I am an expensive luxury and whether my Teachers can do my duties instead.

I am paid, as are my colleagues, from 8.50 am. I actually arrive each day at 8.25 am and start to prepare for my day. I help my Teacher welcome the Year 1 children and look after any of them who are upset or wobbly that day. I am there for any parent who wants to chat. If a parent needs to chat to my Teacher, I take the children in so they don't have to stand in the cold.

I have organised a rota for myself, (in my own time,) so that I can fit in all the children who need extra help. Working from information collated by my Teacher I have organised the children so that all of of them can reach their potential. By 8.50 I have started 1 to 1 work on phonics, handwriting, reading, number work.At 9.05 I bring out my 2nd group for 15 minutes, catching up on phonics, High Frequency Words. During this time the Teacher has taken Register and is into the Phonics session.

All the time I am listening to the lesson in the classroom, ready to go in if needed, because there are children who have Special Needs and I might be needed to sit with them. In Year 1 children very rarely have been statemented yet so there is no funding for 1 to 1 support. Therefore the General T.A (me) has to be there for them.

By 9.15 the Literacy Lesson starts and I either sit on the carpet with particular children to support them or spend time writing up my interventions so far that morning ( because I have to provide evidence of the work done with the children). Then I start checking reading books. I either change them or initial that the record has been checked. When the children go to their tables to work I go with them. I know which table because I have spent time (my own time) reading the Teacher's detailed plans, emailed to me each week.

Most of the time I work with the children who find school tricky. The Teacher and I alternate daily with the groups so that she spends time with all the children. There are children who find it so hard to sit still, concentrate, form letters. I am there to encourage, push, support, explain.

Its amazing the number of ways you can find to explain a single thing! And its amazing how many children find the simplest thing (to you and me) impossible to grasp. If I or the Teacher wasn't sitting with them they would not know what to do, how to start. One of my greatest skills is patience. To find yet another way to explain something, but to do it with kindness and humour is what I love to do. And at the same time as I am helping this child there are another 5 on the table who need me too.

Of course the Teacher could sit with them ... but what about the other 25 five year olds?

By 10 am its time for Assembly and I keep a group back to read with. I read with every child in the class at least once a week, assessing their skills and giving them tips and encouragement as we go along. Whether that child gets lots of support at home and loves to read or receives minimum support and finds reading hard, hard, hard -  I find the way to help them achieve their best, help them enjoy reading. The joy of seeing a child move up a level or get excited about a book is just wonderful.

After break (10 minutes) I read the story while the Teacher reads with another group (they try to read with every child once a week too).

Then its Maths and the same sort of support as I have given in Literacy. My last group goes out with me at 11.50 for a quick recap on numbers - formation, number lines, counting. Then at 12 its time for home ...

But we don't go home do we? Most T.As in my school stay and get the jobs done that they couldn't do in the changing reading books, putting up displays, changing the roleplay area, filing ... Its a rare day that I go home before 12.35 and some days I stay until 1pm, an hour over my paid time. Obviously this is up to me. Its my choice that I stay, but then that's the sort of people T.As tend to be. We don't do our job for the money, we do it because we love it, love the children.

An ordinary morning is what I have described above. I haven't told you about my playground duties, my chats with children whose parents are breaking up, whose granny has died, who have seen their dad beating up their mum... I haven't told you about the chats with parents who are worried or don't "get" phonics. I haven't mentioned helping children who have wet themselves or been sick everywhere or had a massive nose bleed.

Of course the Teacher could do all these things too. She gets into work at 7.30 and stops for lunch at 12.55 ( 15 minutes break ... soooo lazy!!) then works through until 5.30 when she goes home sorts life out for her own children and then carries on with school work. The thing is though that if she did my job, the things I do, then when would she actually be teaching? Or maybe we should just forget about all the small groups I take out, forget about reading with the children?

There are Teaching Assistants in my school who work 1 to 1 with children who are autistic or have long term illness, children with behavioural problems who, if left to their own devices could be dangerous both to themselves and other children. Without their T.As these children would be lost. As it is, their parents have to fight for help. How could they access education without the care and 1 to 1 support of a Teaching Assistant? T.As deliver physiotherapy programmes, Speech and Language interventions, administer medication...

Teaching Assistants are the unsung backbone of the education system. We work for just over minimum wage and we work because we choose to give our best for the children in our care. In my school the T.As are hard working, intelligent (many are Graduates) and very caring. Often it is the T.A who has the time to sit and listen to a child, who picks up on the underlying problems a child faces. We are part of a team, with our Teachers, trying to create an environment where children can learn and enjoy learning.

Teachers work incredibly hard already. If we were not there to do the things we do then I really hate to think what would happen to the children who need us. Teachers cannot physically do their own jobs and ours. Its impossible. I despair at the short sightedness of the UK Government and their plans.

If you have a child in school then please celebrate how fortunate they are, not only to have Teachers who work their socks off, but also Teaching Assistants who do their best to support, care and guide. It has been a long time since all we did was wash up paint pots.

Friday, 22 November 2013

PRU teacher Neil Finbow is ROARing his support for teaching assistants

Mr Gove appears to believe that the halcyon days of education lie well in the past. The 50s and 60s, when learning was by rote, GCEs were rigorous and behaviour good.
I am one who had that education.
I can clearly remember this 7 year old walking home from Old Heath Primary School in 1961 chanting to myself ‘nature abhors a vacuum, nature abhors a vacuum’, with no real idea of what a vacuum was and even less idea of the meaning of ‘abhors’. Still I learnt it and remember it to this day.
I can also remember that, when I was in what would be now Year 5, two new young children arrived in our class. They were brothers, a year apart in age, but put into the same class because they had the same ‘problem’. They were illiterate.
I have no idea of any of the circumstances behind why they had never been taught to read and write, all I can remember is that they were good at football.
They were placed at the back of the class, given a copious amount of blank paper and crayons and left to colour-in and draw all day. Yes they did join in with the bits that they could. like games, listening to stories and, of course, art. But otherwise they were left to their own devices. You see there was just nothing to be done for them. It was a class of 34 now and there was nobody or no time to give them any extra help.
It is, however, very ironic that in the following year when six of us who were deemed 11+ material were hived off to the headmaster’s room every morning for a term for extra tuition to help us pass.
I have no idea what happened to these brothers, perhaps they became prolific artists, but I went to the local grammar school.
Today we have our wonderful TAs.
I am convinced that, because of the introduction into the Teacher’s Pay and Conditions document of the ’25 tasks’ that teachers are not supposed to do, Mr Gove, Mr Osborne, et al, think that all TAs do is photocopying, data entry and classroom displays. The things that teachers should still be doing. How wrong could they be?
I feel no need to list all the wonderful things that TAs do here as every head teacher, teacher, governor and parent will know from experience what a difference they have made to the education of their children. It appears to only be the ‘usual culprits’ who have no idea whatsoever what happens in a school or the problems that we have to deal with in real life, that think they could be dispensable.
When I first started teaching I was told to make friends with and be nice to the caretaker as he really ran the school. Now that advice must include the TAs as well.
In fact I would go one step further than just calling for the retention of TAs. I think we should be calling for an increase in their very meagre pay and a change to their contracts that makes them so vulnerable.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Secondary teacher Vicki is ROARing her support for TAs

I have been teaching for 13 years. When I first started teaching classroom support was a rare sight - the school I started teaching in had four learning support assistants (the preferred term then) and none of them worked full-time. I remember as a brand new teacher, just a month after my 22nd birthday, feeling on the spot with support in the classroom - that I was being judged by them and that they probably thought I was a bit crap. I soon realised that they are invaluable - even in my first school where we had relatively few students on the SEN register.

I now work in a 'proper' comprehensive, in rural Suffolk. Whilst behaviour is very good within school we have a higher than average number of students on the SEN register, and are lucky enough to have a team of around 10 teaching assistants, who are excellent. 

Over the years I have worked closely with many of them, particularly in the last year when I have taken on the role of teaching Entry Level English, on top of my Geography Subject Leader role. My Year 11 group are great - but it has taken me months to get them where I wanted them due to the nature of their needs (both learning and socially) and I would have never been able to do this without the support of the teaching assistants timetabled with this class.

However they are probably even more valuable to me in my mainstream classes. Two of my Year 11 Entry Level English group also take GCSE Geography - they are in a class where nearly all of the other students will achieve a C or above, with many aiming for A and A*. Despite the demands of the course they manage to keep up in lessons and enjoy the lessons as they have the support of another adult in the room - a level of support that I physically can't give when I am teaching a class of 25 students. 

In our lower school we have many students with very specific needs who are taught in mostly mixed ability classes. In one of my Year 8 classes I have a boy with severe autism who loves the subject and has fantastic knowledge, however he struggles to get anything written down and over feels totally overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge he has. This leads to episodes where he goes into meltdown - but he has the support of a brilliant teaching assistant who can recognise the triggers much more quickly than I can as I am teaching the whole class, and therefore can intervene and stop things from escalating. The same teaching assistant (who wants to become a teacher) also supports me with a Year 7 class. Within this class I have a student with Down's Syndrome who is functioning many years below her classmates, two other statemented students, and four more on School Action Plus. This is a class that I love teaching, however due to their needs I am exhausted after 100 minutes with them. I simply could not teach this class without his support.

In my school teaching assistants go above and beyond their duties for very little re-numeration. They mentor students in their lunch hour, run after-school clubs, prepare resources, run withdrawal groups, lead enrichment activities, ferry students around who go to college on specific days, run some detentions, and feed and toilet those that can't do it themselves. 

In my school teaching assistants are loved by students and are often the only source of stability for these youngsters. If Mr Gove doesn't understand this then perhaps he shouldn't be in his current position. Oh on second thoughts....

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Specialist teacher Diane Girard is ROARing her support for teaching assistants

I am shocked by the the Department of Education even considering getting rid of teaching assistants as a cost cutting exercise.

Although I have now retired as a specialist teacher I greatly valued the work of TAs . They are crucial for supporting children in school. I have worked with and given training to a number of TAs. Their dedication and interest was always inspiring despite low pay.

I am deeply concerned that without TA support many children will not be able to reach their potential or even cope at all. For all kinds of reasons not all children are able to access the curriculum or manage socially. I have been involved with children on the autism spectrum and children with dyslexia. These children were able to remain in mainstream education because of support.

The loss of TAs is extremely worrying. Michael Gove's department need to ditch this idea once and for all.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Deputy head teacher and SENCO Mary Vince is ROARing her support for teaching assistants

I started infant teaching in 1976 and didn’t have a teaching assistant. I have strong memories of trying to meet the needs of all the children in big classes of over 30, feeling really restricted in what I was able to offer the children as the only adult in the room.

Great improvements came  to both my teaching and to the pastoral care the children received after the introduction of teaching assistants.   I was now able to differentiate work and activities better to meet the needs of individuals and groups. The curriculum could be more hands on, practical and exploratory with another adult in the classroom. The children received more care and attention and thrived as a result.

By the time I became Special Needs Coordinator (SENCO) later in my career, TAs had become indispensible in supporting children with Special Educational Needs. Their enthusiasm and commitment  to the children they work with has never been reflected in their pay and conditions. They are always keen to attend training to enhance their knowledge and strategies for supporting children with learning, behaviour and emotional needs. Many children would not thrive, or indeed survive, in the school system without the dedication of a TA. Over the years more and more responsibilities have been given to TAs eg. contributing to Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and progress review meetings, and meeting with professionals from support agencies as they worked tirelessly to help children with the most challenging needs.

TAs are always around in the classrooms, playgrounds, corridors and dinner halls caring for the children and encouraging them to reach their full potential. Their importance to school life should not be under estimated.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Class teacher Polly Donnison is ROARing her support for teaching assistants

When I started my first job in 1983 in a deprived infant school in Hackney I had a class of thirty 5 year olds. It was common practice then to work on your own. Support teachers were unheard of and the only help I got was on Thursday afternoons when an elderly woman would come to take away my paint pots for washing . Her other jobs around the school were dinner and playground duty. 

During the last 30 years I have seen classroom support develop and expand enormously from this limited, though still vital role, to one, which has a central place in the classroom alongside the teacher. The names these workers have been given indicate that change, from dinner lady, helper, classroom assistant to teaching assistant and learning mentor.

The job of teaching assistant still entails doing the basic tasks that keep the classroom going, but also requires them to take on a teaching role. TAs have, for a long time now, supported small groups of children in a wide range of activities and tasks across the curriculum, and helped individual children with learning, behaviour or physical difficulties. The job titles may have changed but the rates of pay for these workers have remained low and do not reflect the range of skills and expertise they are expected to have.

Over the years I have worked with excellent TAs and we have developed real working partnerships. TAs have enabled me to increase what I can achieve with the children far beyond what was possible in 1983.  They give me valuable insights both into my teaching methods and the children’s’ responses and progress. TAs have an essential role in dealing with minor or major crises that occur in your classroom.  They nurture the children in general, and provide continuity of care in the class when teachers are called away.

But their importance goes beyond the classroom. TAs are usually recruited from the school community, most often being parents or grandparents of the children. This provides valuable links with the local area. Bridges have been built between school and home, differences in language and culture have been understood or overcome by these connections, and the benefits to the school, and especially the children, have been enormous.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Speaking Up for Teaching Assistants

On 29 November Unison is holding a 'Speaking Up for Teaching Assistants Day' which is to celebrate TAs and all the incredible work they do.

In the 12 days leading up to that we want to share some of your thoughts on this.

On Twitter teacher @Organic_Jane told us,

"Without our Teaching Assistants children will not be able to access the curriculum. Vital part of our school."

And via email former head teacher Pat Wills said,

"As HT of a large primary school in one of the most disadvantaged wards in the country it was obvious that teachers needed to be enabled to teach. By building teams of teaching assistants this could happen. Learning mentors, family support workers, inclusion team and QuietPlace workers provided the structure. The SEN team gained knowledge re specific learning needs so children could access the curriculum."

Another email contributor said,

"In my school they have already started to reduce the number of teaching assistants and it's obvious that the students they supported (often the most vulnerable in the school) are finding it difficult without that extra layer of support. We shouldn't be reducing the numbers of teaching assistants, we need more of them. They are absolutely invaluable!"

Can you add your testimony? Let us know what what difference teaching assistants make and we'll post it up on the site.  Let's ROAR for our TAs.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Who is ROARing for education on Twitter?

We thought it might be useful for us to list just some of the people who we think are are using Twitter effectively to ROAR for education and who we would recommend giving a follow.

Please note that this is by no means comprehensive, is definitely in no particular order, and will certainly be updated from time-to-time (as new campaign groups appear for instance). 

If you think we've missed off someone who really should be on the list please email us at and tell us why you think they need to be on the list. We're very happy to hear your suggestions.


@heymisssmith writes great blog posts defending education 
@bed_by_ten is an activist who was key player in setting up the Primary Charter (see below)
@Sue_Cowley is an early years expert and all round defender of education 
@debrakidd is THE BLOB incarnate
@emmaannhardy is a Labour activist and campaigning teacher
      @LolaOkolosie is a teacher and journalist who wrote in defence of our last strike action
@jamesdhobson believes in high standards *and* trade unionism (seems the two aren't mutally exclusive!)
      @sdupp is the teacherROAR in-house cartoonist
@cazzypot writes another great blog, particularly good recently on Ofsted's damaging effects on education
@angryexteacher has written really well about how PRP will not work and will damage collaboration
@UnbiasedHistory fought against Gove's proposed History curriculum, and won!
      @elly_barnes works to make schools more LGBT friendly
@drursy is a music teacher fighting hard for her subject and for education
@Brixtonite campaigns against the privatisation of education
@secretteacher6 writes an excellent blog about the life of the ordinary classroom teacher
@bristol_teacher is a really hard-working activist fighting for hard for a better education system
      @teachertomo is an activist who fights against privatisation. Consistently tweets interesting education stories
@LGBTEXEC is Annette Pryce, teacher, trade unionist and LGBT campaigner
@ELTNUT2606 is Alex Kenny who represents 2000 teachers in east London
@MerthyrNASUWT ROARS from South Wales 
@tweetingteach is a teacher turned union organiser who recently organised #seyt13
@NUTNorthern is Mike McDonald, regional secretary of NUT's Northern Region
@vinwynne is a union organiser working with teachers in north east England
@jackieschneider is a music teacher and campaigner for school food and social justice
@kiritunks is more Sylvia than Emmeline
@RoyNUT tweets about education issues
@cyclingkev is a trade union activist who tweets about education (and also happens to be DGS of the NUT)
@blamehound is an early years expert and union activist
@truan_steve is fighting against the academic snobbery that labels some subjects 'soft'
@annie80778 is the woman behind the #savepeandthearts hashtag and blog
@gorillawitch is a fully paid up enemy of promise
@geordiepolyglot is a big fan of Gove, and a heavy user of irony
@MPDNUT is a trade unionist and campaigner 
@justified_left is a Suffolk based teacher and a very loud ROARer for education and teachers
@sianbloor is a primary teacher and an ICT specialist interested in education policy
@tonydowling ROARs from Gateshead where he is a teacher and union activist
@66ron is a union activist and teacher based in Brighton
@gapboy is Daniel, a Liverpool based teacher and education activist
@g56g is a retired primary head, school governor and former NUT president based in Huddersfield
@bedfordburrow is a Green activist and blogger who loves afternoon tea and is less enthusiastic about Gove and Wilshaw
@ian_bec is Head of History at a large comprehensive in Wales

Further Education

@TracieFK is a freelance lecturer and trainer in all things children/parenting
@MahmoonaShah works in FE in Bradford. She has a locked account but ask nicely and she may let you follow
@yokelbear is a trade unionist and lecturer 


@WembleyMatters is a Green Party activist with a particular interest in education
@Melissa_Benn is a journalist and author specialising in education
@schooltruth is Fiona Miller who, along with Melissa Benn, set up the Local Schools Network campaign to promote the work of community schools

Campaign Groups

@primarycharter campaigns for child-centred learning
@save_downhills inspired all the anti-forced academy campaigns that followed
@saveSnaresbrook recently won their campaign against forced academy status
@saveoursullivan are currently campaigning to stop their school being closed to make way for a free school
@antiacademies campaign against the privatisation and marketisation of education
@comp_future campaigns for fair school admissions
@ourschoolsE17 are a group of parents, teachers and residents who love their local community schools
@parentseduforum have been set up to promote parents' voice in education
@parentROAR are parents ROARing support for teachers
@edu_reform campaigns against the overly-prescriptive, league-table-obsessed nature education 
@soceduass is Labour's only affiliated education group
@BadassTeachersA are a group US teachers fighting back against marketisation of education
@localschools_uk celebrate local schools and run a series of great education stories
@govewatch does what it says on the tin and keeps track of Gove's latest idiotic plans and cockups
@LNWN_NUT is the London NUT's Women's Network 
@TheDramaArmy are champions of the expressive arts and other subjects deemed (mistakenly) to be 'soft'

Generally Gobby People and Teacher Allies

@MichaelRosenYes is a professor of children's literature and defender of education
@jennylandreth has written in defence of teachers and strike action
@realmissfiona is a TV presenter and Mirror columnist who has supported teachers against Gove
@DearDaveandNick is an artist-educator and political campaigner who has always been a firm supporter of teachers


@DrLoisWeiner is a US professor of education and union activist
@DianeRavitch is a leading US campaigner for education
@teachsolidarity has global news of of teachers' struggles and the fight against education reform
@teach_talk_back is a Dublin based forum for teachers to discuss education and union matters

Education Policy and Law

@pasi_sahlberg is the international ambassador for Finnish education (no testing til 18, no Ofsted, world-class)
@tothechalkface is a senior lecturer in education
@Education_LDay is the education department of the human rights law firm Leigh Day
@canofworms is the barrister David Wolfe who works for those concerned about academies, free schools and the law 
@dylanwiliam is a professor of education and interested in the power of education to transform lives
@hstevenson10 is Howard Stevenson who writes about teaching, teachers and schools
@RichardEvans36 is a Cambridge Professor and defender of the History curriculum
Satirical Accounts (at least we think they're satirical...)

@Toryedumacation exists to poke fun at a similarly named vitriolic twitter account allegedly run from the DfE
@Badheadteacher says there's been no dissent in his school since he got rid of the staff room, the union reps, the doors to every classroom and the Head of History

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Help us Defend and Celebrate Teaching Assistants

Here at #teacherROAR we're huge fans of the teaching assistants we work with - who are often the unsung heroes of education. So we were disgusted to find out that Gove had been secretly plotting to axe 230,000* of them.

That's why we're proud to support Unison's day of action 'Speaking Up for Teaching Assistants' on 29 November. There's lots you can do to show your support for teaching assistants including writing to your MP to let them know how strongly you feel about this. It's easy to do using the Write to Them website here.

What we'd like to do is to have a '12 Days celebrating Teaching Assistants' starting 17 November and building up to the Unison action on the 29th. What we'd like you to do is to share your stories about what heroes teaching assistants are. Perhaps you're a parent who wants to explain the difference a teaching assistant has made to your child? Or perhaps you're a teacher who wants to share the way a teaching assistant has had an impact in the classroom? Email us at and we'll publish them on this blog. 

If you want more information about how important teaching assistants are there's a great page of useful facts on the Unison website here.

*Unison think this figure could be as high as 300,000!