Parent: Thanks for leaving books out to peruse during parents evening. I don’t understand some of it. Can you explain what VF means.
Teacher: Of course. No problem. VF is written or stamped next to your child’s work if an adult has suggested an idea or helped them in anyway.
Parent: So basically, if you speak to my child you have to write VF to prove you have spoken to them.
Teacher: Erm. Yes. It’s a book scrutiny thing.
Parent: A what? What’s that?
Teacher: The management team regularly look at the children’s books to check we are writing VF so many times a week – amongst a whole load of other things.
Parent: Wtf. That’s weird. Don’t they trust you? Why on earth do you need to write VF every time you speak to my child about his work? Also, why have you highlighted some of his work in green and pink?
Teacher: Oh, that’s to tell your child the bits I liked and the bits he needs to improve.
Parent: Why don’t you just tick the bits you like? Must be quicker than repeatedly picking up a variety of pens when marking.
Teacher: I would love to just tick good bits. Even double tick! I am not allowed to though. It has to be a green highlighter.
Parent: That’s nuts! So you don’t have a choice?
Teacher: I’m afraid not.
Parent: Has anyone asked if the children mind teachers highlighting their work in different colours? That would have annoyed me at school.
Teacher: I don’t think so. It’s a good point!
Parent: I noticed that every page has a learning objective slip with a success criteria and feedback faces to colour in. They must cost a lot to buy in.
Teacher: Not really. We create them ourselves. I have to type them up every day, print them off, trim them and get pupils to stick them in with the four glue sticks we have left.
Parent: Wtf. Seriously? Why? That must take ages to do each week and for what reason?
Teacher: So the children know what they are learning. It makes books look good for Ofsted. We do them for every lesson, every day.
Parent: Can’t you just tell them what they are learning about or get children to write a very simple 1-2 word title? Surely Ofsted don’t care about this.
Teacher: It’s a non-negotiable. I have to do them.
Parent: Wtf. A non- what? That’s nuts. When do you get time to do all this nonsense? You must have other priorities?
Teacher: Of course, but I’ll get put on a support plan if I don’t do what I am told to do.
Parent: Why do you have to draw little ladders and stars and wishes in books? Don’t tell me that’s a non-negotiable?
Teacher: Little ladders are to let the child know they have a next step – I write a next step comment next to the ladder. The ladder makes it obvious where the next step comment is located. Stars are drawn to show where the pupil can find a positive comment. And a wand (wish) shows them where to find another moving on comment. And yes, they are non-negotiables.
Parent: That’s ludicrous. Can’t you just tell the children? Why do you need to write it all out for every child. Must take you hours.
Teacher: Yes. Yes it does. I suppose you want to know why I have written SDI next to your child’s work too?
Parent: Absolutely. Looks a bit rude – like he has an infection!
Teacher: Well, if I feel your child needs extra support, I am not allowed to help him in the next lesson. Instead, he is invited to miss his afternoon lessons and attend a same day intervention group with about 4 other children. To evidence this happened, I have to write SDI his book. Sometimes I forget to write it in and have to spend all weekend writing all these little gems in books so I don’t get told off.
Parent. Wtf. So you actually retrospectively add comments and draw symbols etc, if you feel it will help keep the management off your back.
Teacher: Yes. Sad eh. It’s just not worth the agro. Most things I write in books isn’t for the child.
Parent: What do you mean?
Teacher: It’s to please a slightly obsessive management team who like to micro-manage people. They have to prove their impact I guess.
Teacher: Are you ok? What’s wrong?
Teacher: Can I get you a glass of water?
Parent: Are all schools like this?
Teacher: Apparently not. Some schools are trying really hard to reduce workload and minimise marking and non-negotiables.
Parent: Why don’t you move schools?
Teacher: Actually, I have just resigned. The job has become too hard at present. When I am trusted to do the job I trained for and have a certain amount of autonomy, I may come back.
Parent: But you’re an amazing teacher with years of experience.