A way out of the Traditionalist v Progressivist dichotomy

20th April 2016

[caption id="attachment_900" align="alignleft" width="240"] Engraving (by C.H. Barbant, 1800s) shows French revolutionary Georges Jacques Danton (1759 - 1794) (center) as he definantly looks over the crowd as he climbs the steps to his execution by guillotine for conspiracy to overthrow the government during the French Revolution, Paris, France, April 5, 1794. He is watched by fellow condemned prisoner Camille Desmoulins (1760 - 1794) (born Lucie Simplice Camille Benoist Desmoulins) (left) and a number of armed soldiers.[/caption] After the execution of Louis XVI a vacuum opened up at the heart of French revolution. Parties who had once been united in opposition...

Earl of Shaftesbury and the Pit Investigation Team

5th February 2016

If you spend any time driving around rural Norfolk you are bound to come across a number of Victorian school buildings. Some will have been converted into pretty homes, with roses growing up their redbrick walls, while others still serve their original purpose. They were built in the last quarter of the nineteenth century in the years following the Elementary Education Act of 1870, which made it obligatory for parishes to provide a basic level of schooling for all their children between the ages of five and thirteen. The urge for reform had been growing rapidly since the 1830s led...

Student Engagement: not worth the trouble or critical to learning?

23rd January 2016

As a teacher, this question really bothers me. It’s the one that gets me most animated on EdTwitter, the one I can’t pass up, the one I find myself gnawing on long after the conversation has finished. Genuinely I can’t understand why people think it’s not important; how can it not be? Bored people don’t learn, especially bored little people. I’ve seen it time and again: that moment when a child’s eyes switch off and their mind disappears to another place. For those who can, they still ‘look’ like they’re interested, for others the strain is too much and their...

Drama for Learning and Mantle of the Expert

13th January 2016

Mantle of the Expert doesn't use drama to perform for others, to 'act out' stories or to role-play scenarios. Rather, it uses drama as a means of creating imaginary contexts for learning (dinosaur islands, medieval castles, fairy-tale worlds, Victorian mines), making the curriculum accessible, meaningful and engaging for students. Drama media — theatre, film and television — uses a range of dramatic conventions in various forms. Some are simple, like the voice-over in Blade Runner, giving us access to the main character's thoughts and emotions. Others are more sophisticated, such as Scrooge's door-knocker that comes to life as Marley's ghost...

Introducing #paintingstalk

20th July 2015

Things can happen fast on EdTwitter. Last night at 22:19 I tweeted...     ...and by 23:16 #paintingstalk was a thing. Here's how it works. - Sunday night a volunteer chooses a painting for discussion on the following Tuesday at 20:00 GMT. - They post it on Twitter using the #paintingstalk hashtag. - They post a blog within 24 hours saying why they chose the painting and including some links for research. - Tuesday at 20:00 we discuss the painting. - People might continue to chat about it for the rest of the week. - The following Sunday it's Storified...

Visit to Ofsted – May 18th 2015

18th May 2015

Sean Harford is a nice man. Which considering the job he does, and the way most of us in education feel about Ofsted, is quite a shock. A bit like fighting your way to the top most tower of Barad Dur only to discover the Mouth of Sauron is… Simon Mayo. Which, of course, is not at all fair. Ofsted Towers, despite having the sandstone façade of a Victorian church, is not a Temple of evil (read Alan Moore’s “From Hell” if you want to get this joke) and those who work there are not servants of the Dark Lord....

Important information regarding Ofsted & Assessment

12th May 2015

I've recently read two important documents regarding changes to Ofsted and the new arrangements for school assessment. These changes will significant affect primary practice and the way schools monitor teaching and learning, as a consequence they are essential reading for everyone in primary eduction. The first was published by Ofsted in May 2015: Ofsted inspections – clarification for schools The purpose of this document is to confirm facts about the requirements of Ofsted and to dispel myths that can result in unnecessary workloads in schools. It should be read alongside the ‘School inspection handbook’. This document is intended to highlight...

Review: Teach Like a Champion

10th March 2015

I see teaching like walking a tightrope. Each step requires a thousand tiny imperceptible adjustments - some consciously made, others automatic – each one edging you and the students along, inch by inch. Tip too far one way towards controlling everything and you’ll lose the interest of the students, tip too far the other, by giving away all your power, and the lesson will lose purpose and direction. It is a difficult balancing act and for this reason, much like learning to walk a tightrope, it takes teachers many hours of practice and application to become an expert. This is...

Would Ofsted disapprove of this lesson?

9th March 2015

I taught a lesson today as part of a project I'm doing with three High Schools funded by the Hamlyn Foundation. The session was one of a long sequence looking at the events of the Norwich riots in 1272. After having spent my whole career working in primary education I'm still struggling to come to terms with the fragmented nature of the timetable in secondary schools. The lessons I'm teaching for this project are either 50mins, 1hr 10mins, or 2hrs. Whereas in primary I'm used to having sessions that last for as long as I like - an hour, a...

KS3 MoE History Project: The Mystery of the Young Monk

21st January 2015

From January until July 2015 I am working on a project funded by the Hamlyn Foundation called, "Becoming, Belonging and Participating in School Communities". The project involves using imaginative-inquiry with students who are struggling with the transition from primary to secondary school. The schools involved in the project are: 1. Benjamin Britten High School 2. Framingham Earl High School 3. Hellesdon High School We have built a website for the project called, The History Team and the Mystery of the Young Monk, this website has three aims: 1. As the History Team website: for the fictional team of historians represented...

On Dorothy Heathcote by Cecily O’Neill

15th January 2015

This is the Introduction to The Collected Writings of Dorothy Heathcote, ed. Liz Jonson & Cecily O'Neill, (Hutchinson, 1984). Published on GoogleBooks. It's available on Amazon for £14.95. I've posted it here as screen grapes from the GoogleBooks page, consequently the quality is not great. If you prefer you can download it as a pdf here.

Student Questionnaire

14th January 2015

This student questionnaire is designed to be used with students in Year 7 who are currently struggling with issues around transition. It is part of a research project called Becoming, Belonging and Participating in School Communities, funded by the Hamlyn Foundation, which is being conducted between January and July 2015 in three High Schools in Norfolk and Suffolk. This is a second draft of the questionnaire and we would very much appreciate any feedback or suggests, particularly in regards to questions or categories of questions. Please use the boxes provided to record your thoughts. Thank you for your participation, Tim...

A Meeting With Tristram Hunt

9th January 2015

For years, we’ve been asking politicians to stop meddling in education and give us the time and space to do our jobs, as well as the opportunity to draw-breath and have a proper in-depth review of the whole system. Not a behind closed doors vanity project, driven by one man’s ideological dogma, but a proper grown-up debate that acknowledges the mess we are in, the mistakes of the past, and the serious complexities of teaching and learning. Well - fingers-crossed (and toes for that matter) - we might really be able to have one after the next election, if things...

Stephen Ball: The Education Debate

20th December 2014

Have you ever wondered how government ministers can keep a straight face while making extravagant speeches about giving freedoms to schools and trusting teachers? If we judge them on their record it seems almost impossible they actually believe what they are saying. In 2010, for example, Michael Gove proclaimed during an interview with Andrew Marr, "I'm a decentraliser. I believe in trusting professionals. Was it a barefaced lie or did he mean it? The evidence would seem to speak for itself. When he became Secretary of State for Education the first thing he did was convince parliament to give him...

Biesta: The Beautiful Risk of Education

13th December 2014

We seem to be in the process of creating an education system that strives to reduce all risks whilst making ever-greater demands. The new system tells our students they have to work harder, be more productive, and aim ever higher, but is not prepared to allow them simple freedoms or opportunities to make choices and to decide things for themselves. It is a mechanistic system of control and productivity that sees qualifications as the over-riding purpose of education. Recently I read a blog written by a teacher at a high performing academy where the students are required to move around...


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