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Showing posts from 2014

My manifesto for Education Secretary (or what ever it’ll be called in May 2015)

I remember rocking up at my first school as a trainee teacher.  It was the start of my diagnostic practice (so called as it was short enough not to do any lasting damage to the school and would also identify what I was rubbish at – a long list) at High Tunstall School in Hartlepool.  I’d heard all about the monkey story and vowed never to mention it, although I wasn’t expecting one of my fellow trainees to identify me a a future Secretary of State for Education and Skills, as it was known at the time.  Now, those that know me well understand that I don’t really do modesty, but this was a step too far.  I’ve no idea to this day what I said at the time to warrant this comment, and I’ve far too many bony things in the wardrobe to become a politician.  Anyway, as I’m about to enter my twelfth year of teaching, I thought it would be fun to set out what I’d do as Education Boss (as I would call it) after May 2015.  It’s just a bit of fun really and an opportunity to vent, if you want to rea

#Nurture1415 . Where the personal and professional collide.

‘Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.’ Salvador Dali. You can find my Nurture 13/14 post here and what a difference a year makes.  When I read it, it seemed like a decade had passed rather than twelve months.  So, five highlights of 2014: Running Yesterday, I ran 18miles from my house, to the summit of the South Downs and back which took me to just over 1,200 miles run in 2014.  I also completed some races: 10k Virtual Race Longman 18.8 Miles Portsmouth Coastal Half Marathon Virtual half marathon x2 Brighton Marathon Bristol 10k Trailblazer Bedgebury Forest Half Marathon Worthing 10k Lakeland Trails Marathon Littlehampton 10k RAB Mountain Marathon Great South Run Worthing seafront 10k St Barnabas Santa Dash Portsmouth Coastal Marathon Boxing Day Virtual 10k Running has helped me connect with friends; taken me to wild and wonderful places that I wouldn’t have bothered with otherwise and challenged me.  In addition, and this is the best bit, running

Calm down dear, it’s only educational research.

Before you embark, please note that I’m not anti-research.  Also, I’m a teacher because I believe in public service and don’t wish to make other people money.  Over the years, I’ve been lucky to speak to a huge range of audiences.  That’s not because I’m an expert anything, it’s simply because I have a range of stories that, when selected, form a powerful narrative on what has worked for me, in a particular context, with particular people.  I’m an instinctive sort of chap, which is why, perhaps, most of what I read seems like stating the obvious.  Indeed, I had no real understanding of educational research when we were transforming Priory Geography.  We just got on with what we thought was best and it turned out alright.  Anyway, back to the point.  Educational research has it’s own version.  Spot the key word: Academic research is a collection of stories, often within particular contexts. This post is a story, and my perspective of that story. It’s desirable to question and argue.

Teacher well-being, a personal perspective #teacher5aday

Recently, I’ve read this post by Rachel Jones which was triggered by this by Martyn Reah.  Workload and well-being is interesting and a hugely personal, complex beast.  It’s totally to do with personal perspective, and that’s where this post is written from, so before you crucify me, help me learn. If I’m totally honest (as someone who grew up with domestic violence, had a sister give birth at 14, my mother wanting to leave this life and other such things) is to stop moaning and take positive control.   One, really influential thing that I learned once was this: This was powerful and increased my well-being.  It saved me from really dark places.  For example, I couldn’t control my father’s very poor choices, but I can control not seeing him for a decade and ensuring he has nothing to do with my son.  Now, this isn’t a bleeding heart column, nor do I want to come across as an emotionally-arid monster.  What I will say though, is that taking control is the most important step to inc

On subject knowledge–it’s not a dichotomy but a blend.

An interesting chat on Twitter yesterday has me pondering about the importance of subject knowledge.  The report into great teaching by Coe et al (available here ) argues that pedagogical content knowledge has strong evidence of impact on student outcomes.  Now, I don’t see this as an Earth shattering observation as I’ve argued that for a long time, and consider teachers to be experts . I’m still pondering a fuller post in response to the article.  The conversation last night has provoked consideration of how schools can create systems to encourage the development of subject knowledge. Now, before suggesting any practical steps, it’s worth considering what I consider to be subject knowledge.  I am a geographer, and consider myself to be an expert in the geographical subject knowledge needed for secondary education.  Indeed, by being a geographer I find that workload is reduced and well-being increased as I’m doing what I love.  However, I do not accept that there is a dichotomy betw

Come to make an impact: announcing the first ever GA Conference TeachMeet!

There’s lots to look forward to at next year’s Geographical Association Annual Conference taking place at the University of Manchester in April.  I’ll put up more of a preview post later on.  I’m really excited to announce, after a tweet I sent during the Surry event in 2014, that the first ever TeachMeet has been added to the 2015 Conference Programme. You can sign up for this free event on the TeachMeet Wiki , or through the conference booking form.  Presentations should be focused on teaching and learning ideas, and based around the theme of ‘Making an Impact.’  Presentations are welcome from all geographers! Discover the World are proudly sponsoring the event, so expect some nibbles and networking.  At the moment, plans are also afoot to follow the event with the famous Beer Meet gathering. All in all, looks like being an excellent event and I look forward to seeing you there.

Workload and teacher well-being

Much has been written lately about workload and teacher wellbeing, and so it should.  Thing is, it’s really easy to talk and write about and bloody difficult to put into practice.  For a start, I can’t look at myself in the mirror when my official contracted hours are well under 40 hours a week.  I can’t complain about working excess hours until that’s straight. Yes, I do think that teachers work way too many hours, but I also think that the basics need looking at in a system and job that demands more from teachers than it did when the contracts were developed. Teacher well being and workload are paramount – the questions I ask myself about everything is: How does this make teaching and learning better? How does this enable teachers to make teaching and learning better? Of course, we have to balance the need for efficient systems for teachers and what is right to develop teaching and learning.  Data entry is a great example, streamlined, slick and happens all the time.  However,

What is feedback?

Had another go at the feedback loops, based upon the geographical concept of negative and positive feedback loops.

I apologise. It’s all my fault.

  We counted all our reasons, excuses that we made We found ourselves some treasure, and threw it all away What you waiting for? What you waiting for? What you waiting for? What you waiting for? When I dance alone, and the sun's bleeding down, Blame it on me When I lose control and the veil's overused, Blame it on me What you waiting for? What you waiting for?   George Ezra, Blame it on me.   It was inevitable.  Once RAISE has is published, Oftsed followed up with rays of sunshine . I particularly enjoyed catching up with Wilshaw’s Radio 4 interview .  So schools need closer monitoring?  Like LEAs with specialist advisors?  I could, of course, point out that careers education went (together with work experience) and blame that on the Tories destroying the Connexions service.  Or I could point out that, if there was a cross-party moratorium on curriculum change, teachers and leaders could focus upon what Wilshaw quite rightly points out as the most important thing: the qu

Does summative assessment of Key Stage 3 matter? And why data is king.

There’s a lot of chatter about the demise of levels.  This has been focused around with what to replace them with.  This is interesting as there will still be an end of Key Stage 2 testing regime (see also here , national testing frameworks here , and sample national test material here )  which will set the baseline for Secondary School progress between the ages of 11 and 16.  We also know that there are GCSEs at the end of Key Stage 4.  This leaves  Key Stage Three with some flexibility over how to  measure and assess the learning of young people.  It’s important to note, that there is no real need to replace levels. Indeed, the energy created to do so, could be wasted.  I’ve always thought of secondary school as a five or seven year journey toward and external qualification so wonder what value there is in creating a measure at all.  After all, what were KS3 Levels for apart from a way of making schools accountable at the end of Year 9? Levels were simply a way of measuring school

How on Earth did I end up here?

At the Google Teacher Academy last week, I had an out of body experience.  It was truly humbling and strange to be working for Ewan at NoTosh and with a room full of energetic, like-minded (without being carbon copies) ego-less teachers.  More on that in a future post.  In the pub afterward, a few people asked me how I ended up being a mentor.  At the time I told a little white lie and said that I had no idea.  Which is kind of true.  Apart from being myself, I had no real advice.  However, it’s not the first time someone has asked and, when looking back, I have managed to get into some mad places.  Helping the curation of the first TeachMeet at Microsoft’s Global Forum with the entire Western European contingent, most of whom had no idea what a teachmeet was.  They had around about 20 minutes and some free beer before presenting.  I was part of the first FSC-Hack day; have taken part in some mad marathons and other challenges.  And, before the naysayers start, I’ve been up to all