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Are you ready for the start of the new school year?

02 September, 2019 - 07:00
Clare Flintoff says teachers deserve a long summer holiday because they have an important role shaping the next generation.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Clare Flintoff says teachers deserve a long summer holiday because they have an important role shaping the next generation. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

It's back to school this week with all the usual last minute shopping, earlier nights, butterflies in the stomach and most probably a sleepless night before the first day - and that's just the adults!

It's a new start, writes Clare Flintoff, CEO at ASSET Education, routines are different, there are new people to meet, new places to be and it's all a bit daunting until we settle in and the holiday quickly becomes a distant memory.

Today, we have over 200 teachers from the 14 primary schools in our education trust travelling to Ipswich to work, train and plan together in preparation for the new school year. We will be the first group to make use of a fabulous new building at Whitton Primary School which has been designed to cater for large numbers of people and will be officially opened by the school in the coming weeks. The day is full of exciting, innovative workshops run by experts in the field of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths).

Teachers are also learners, their work is always developing, they need to stay up to date and informed and we need to make full use of our five PD (professional development) training days a year to ensure that they are at the top of their game.

The expectations on primary teachers are huge; they teach every area of the curriculum and their subject knowledge needs to be good. They also need a good understanding of pedagogy - choosing the right strategies and methods to teach so that children can best learn the content.

They need to pitch their teaching at the right level so that children are reaching the standards expected for their age group and they need to check and assess all of the time to make sure the children are actually learning something.

Before they can begin to teach they need to manage the behaviour of 30 children all at once, dealing with any upsets, getting to know parents, developing children's skills and generally encouraging them to become good, well-rounded people.

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The best teachers are those who can manage a heavy workload whilst devoting time to get to know the children as individuals, sharing a joke, developing the relationships that will ensure their charges feel supported, valued, respected and cared for throughout the year.

On our PD day we will be reminding ourselves that good relationships at every level are what makes a school tick and looking after our staff is one of the most important things we can do. As a group of schools we seek to empower our children and staff to be the best versions of themselves that they can be.

Every school child deserves the best and every parent wants to know that their child is surrounded by adults who care for them as well as having the skills and expertise to teach them.

There is no place in a child's life for a moody teacher, an adult in class who is having a bad day or a teacher under pressure who is stressed and not coping with their job.

This means that, as an organisation, we need to prioritise our staff; looking after their well-being, watching their workload and ensuring that they have the necessary support and encouragement. If they are happy, then our children will be happy.

Our values need to be driving our practice and we need to fully understand what our value of 'empowerment' actually looks and feels like in action in our classrooms.

So, as we start the new academic year, have a thought for all the teachers going back to work today. How about those who are tempted to complain or bemoan the 'amount of holiday' that teachers get? Well, they would undoubtedly find teaching a challenging job, not least because a positive, kind, compassionate mindset is a pretty essential characteristic for anybody involved in nurturing and educating the next generation.

- ASSET Education is a charity that runs 14 primary schools across Suffolk

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