David Didau

/David Didau

About David Didau

This author has not yet filled in any details.
So far David Didau has created 848 blog entries.

What works best for children with SEND works best for all children

2019-11-18T16:58:14+00:00November 17th, 2019|Featured|

What works best for children with SEND? That, of course, depends upon the precise nature of children's particular needs. That said, we can draw some generalisable conclusions by thinking about some of the more common areas of special educational need. For instance, a child with a working memory deficit is likely to benefit from having information carefully sequenced and instruction broken into manageable chunks. But all children have limited working memory capacity. Dyslexic children have the best possible chance of learning to read fluently if they are given carefully sequenced systematic synthetic phonics instruction. This is equally true of children who are [...]

Are schools ever at fault for exclusions?

2019-11-11T10:04:48+00:00November 11th, 2019|behaviour|

Sometimes schools get it wrong. It may even be that there are some schools led by nefarious headteachers who, in an effort to game league tables, seek to get rid of those students who are most likely to jeopardise their positions. It may even be the case that in a few case these students are more sinned against than sinning. But this is, I think most people would agree, a relatively rare scenario. It's actually fairly difficult to exclude students: schools need to document the incidents that led up to the decision and then the student is given an opportunity to [...]

What causes exclusion and what does exclusion cause?

2019-11-10T15:33:20+00:00November 10th, 2019|behaviour|

Adult authority in schools is a paper tiger which depends on students agreeing to accept it. Some children choose not to and therefore have the power to make the lives of others miserable. Over the years I’ve taught a small number of students I came to dread seeing. Every encounter was another skirmish in an exhausting war of attrition, usually a war I felt I was losing. When a student no longer cares about any of the consequences, the war is lost. What then? The behaviour of a small minority of students' behaviour cannot be accommodated in mainstream school without endangering [...]

What should schools teach?

2019-10-29T13:20:54+00:00October 29th, 2019|Featured|

All knowledge may be precious, but it's hard to argue that it's equally precious. The time children spend in school is strictly finite and so, when deciding what to teach we must must make choices. Often these choices will necessarily be brutal. I was recently contacted by a marketing company who wanted me to write about some 'research' conducted by SellHouseFast which analysed search terms used on UK search engines to find out which queries related to "the real world" are most search for. Here's the result: The argument appears to be that if people are searching for these things then [...]

The trouble with Shakespeare, or Should everything be made simple?

2019-10-28T06:39:34+00:00October 26th, 2019|English|

I'm regularly inundated by unsolicited emails from folk hoping I'll endorse their products. Recently, I received one asking me if I'd be interested in writing about a collaboration between the software firm Adobe and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Apparently this is the result: Adobe and the RSC have worked with five UK artists and photographers to reimagine iconic Shakespeare scenes to provide inspiration for young people and their teachers. Using illustration, comic book artistry and photography, the artists have recreated pivotal scenes from Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet. I don't have any particular interest in this and [...]

What do Ofsted reports reveal about the way schools are being inspected under the new framework?

2019-10-17T19:26:57+00:00October 17th, 2019|leadership|

Ofsted's new inspection framework went live at the beginning of September and the first reports have now been published. Anecdotally, I've heard whispers from two different inspections about the sorts of questions that are being asked and the sorts of challenges being made, but it's interesting and, I hope, useful, to interrogate the published reports to get a sense of the common themes and patterns emerging from inspections. The following observations are gleaned from a sample of reports from 11 primary schools and 14 secondaries.* 14 of these reports were for 'good' schools whilst 11 were for schools that 'require improvement'. [...]

In praise of uncertainty

2019-10-07T13:20:36+00:00October 7th, 2019|Featured|

I want you to conjure up the spirit of one of your primitive ancestors. Picture yourself hunting for food on the savannah or in a primordial forest. Imagine, if you will, that you catch a glimpse of movement out of the corner of your eye. Is it a snake? Although you can't be sure, the only sensible option is to act with certainty, assume that there is a snake and takes immediate steps to avoid it. We're primed to act with certainty on minimal information. This incredibly useful survival instinct has served the species well for countless millennia. If [...]

Is reading comprehension even a thing?

2019-10-06T11:39:32+00:00October 5th, 2019|reading|

Most of the schools I visit are unsurprisingly keen to explore ideas to narrow the gap between their most and least advantaged students. Whilst there are also sorts of complex chains of causation which go some way to explaining why children from wealthier backgrounds outperform their less fortunate peers, one particularly vexed question that I'm frequently asked about is that of reading. The case I'm making here is that reading comprehension should be more properly thought of as language comprehension. Once word recognition has been mastered (phonological awareness, decoding and sight recognition of familiar words) children's ability to understand what they [...]

The curriculum: Intent, implementation and impact

2019-07-24T18:07:15+00:00July 23rd, 2019|Featured|

This article first appeared in the marvellous free periodical, Teach Secondary. Do pop over and subscribe.  Most teachers will be aware that Ofsted is launching a new inspection framework this September. The big shift in focus is away from inspectors attempting to judge the quality of teaching and learning by observing lessons and towards attempting to judge the quality of education a school provides by, at least in part, interrogating the curriculum a school has in place. In an effort to assist schools in assessing the quality of their curriculum, Ofsted has divided matters into three baskets: intent, implementation and impact. [...]

Why ‘just reading’ might make more of a difference than teaching reading

2019-10-01T14:01:02+00:00June 22nd, 2019|Featured, reading|

Few people would disagree that improving children's reading ability would make a good thing. Not only would it open up greater opportunities in life, it would boost their cognitive development and increase the likelihood of them being able to access an academic curriculum. One barrier to children being able to comprehend what they read is the finding that an estimated 20% of children leave primary phase each year unable to decode with sufficient fluency to read the kinds of texts they will encounter at secondary school. Essentially, the more slowly you read, the more working memory capacity is taken up by [...]

A few thoughts about teaching poetry

2019-06-04T19:36:15+00:00June 3rd, 2019|Featured|

It is, I hope, uncontroversial to say that poetry is not a popular art form. While it's wonderful to hear the sales of poetry rose by 12% in 2018, with over 1.3 million volumes sold, that's dwarfed by the 190.9 million books sold in the UK in the same year, and is still a lot less than the 3.4 million copies of Michelle Obama's autobiography, Becoming. Why is it that so few people read poetry? I'm sure there are a whole host of complex reasons but I suspect it has a lot to do with our prior experience of the form. [...]

What’s the big deal with Big Questions?

2019-05-31T10:48:32+00:00May 31st, 2019|Featured|

You might know them as Fertile Questions, Enquiry Questions, or plain old, Big Questions, but the idea that the curriculum ought to be organised around broad, disciplinary, substantive enquires is a popular one. It seems to be an especially popular approach with the history teaching community. Christine Counsell goes so far as to say that such questions are "vital in history because without [them] you can't learn how the second-order concepts of the discipline work." As an example she goes that a question such as 'Why did Russian Revolution happen in 1917?' are required for students to get a feel for [...]