When did teaching become so formulaic?


This past few months I've been doing a lot of reflection and one thing that keeps coming to the forefront is how teaching has changed so much that we no longer allow teachers to just 'teach'.

When I was an NQT some 17 years ago, I remember starting at my school and being given a scheme of work and left to it.  Of course there was an expectation that what I was doing was going to develop the students and let them progress but in those years it was never checked upon except for exam results each summer.

Flash forward 10 or so years and suddenly as a Head of Department, everything I do is being scrutinised but not only that I'm also being told to teach my classes in a particular way - the schools way.  

This was the beginning of when I started to question what we were doing.

In the (good) old days we were left to our own devices; we knew our students, we understood what worked and didn't work - if we wanted to differentiate we knew the best way of doing so for our classes.  If we were being asked to push on literacy we knew which students would need that extra support and how best to manage that.

But by and large we chose what to do and how to do it - we knew the class and that was enough.

But times change.  

Schools/leaders don't want teachers to be free thinking individuals anymore.

We don't want teachers deciding how they teach a topic or how often they mark or even what type of marking they give.

We want to control everything.

A student going to 5 or 6 periods a day; we want them to experience the same lesson structure in everyone of those lessons.


Are we that convinced in our 'generic' practices by forcing them on to all we will obtain, not only the right results, but a well rounded educated individual?

It seems strange that in a profession where people will develop a deeper understanding of their preferred subject to degree level; to have them spend a year gaining the confidence to plan or to deliver a lesson in front of 30 individuals that as soon as they are qualified we restrict them into teaching how we (leaders) want them to teacher.

Regardless of individuality in the class.
Regardless of particular needs in the class.
Regardless of their untapped into skills.

We (leaders) know best so therefore you teach in the manner that we want you to teach.

We want a starter
We want literacy in your lesson
We want numeracy in your lesson
We want differentiation to allow all to achieve
We want an opportunity for progress to be checked
We want directed questions
We want the most vulnerable targeted
We want the most able targeted
We want written work
We want feedback in books
We want multicoloured pens
We want evidence you have seen students work
We want evidence you have seen students responses to your comments.
We want pace
We want consolidation
We want quiet
We want discussion
We want, we want, we want...
...all in a 50/60 minute lesson.

And how are we going to check to make sure all the above are actually met?

Well we have our tried and tested 15 minute learning walks and our regular work audits - that's how.

And if you don't follow what we want, then we'll have to start using the 'C' word when we meet with your - 'competency'.

When are we actually allowing teachers to actually teach to the best of their abilities?

When are we going to allow a teacher what is best for their class in terms of delivery decide?

Teaching is not something that can be prescribed; not something where one size fits all.

Teaching is always all about the individual, whether that be in front of the class or a member of the class.

Lets allow the person at the front decide what is best for those students in front to them; lets allow the teacher to decide how to teach; lets allow the teacher to be daring and dangerous.

And if that doesn't work, well we can always say 'I told you so', but lets at least try.

Author Profile

Richard Blaize

Richard Blaize

Assistant Headteacher responsible for Data, Examinations, Pupil Premium and Head of Sixth Form.

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