David Didau

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So far David Didau has created 878 blog entries.

Homework in the time of Corona

2020-04-04T10:55:51+01:00April 3rd, 2020|Featured|

It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of uncompleted homework. Gabriel Garcia Marquez I've never been much of fan of homework, not as a child, not as a teacher and nor as a parent. It's always seemed a quite unnecessary imposition. As a child, the 'dog' got to homework with unconvincing regularity. As a teacher I hated having even more marking to do. And as a parent, I just wanted to spend time with my children without papier mache art projects intruding. That was certainly the case when they were younger, anyway. After a [...]

Exam season and COVID19: What should we do?

2020-03-16T11:53:52+00:00March 16th, 2020|Featured|

In the current climate, worrying about whether this year's GCSE and A level exams are going to go ahead as scheduled may seem like small beans but it's a big deal to those directly affected. My eldest is due to sit her GCSEs and is, understandably, frustrated with the uncertainty. The likelihood that schools will carry on as normal over the exam period is looking more and more remote. Something has to give. Everyone working in education is expected an imminent announcement, but no one knows anything for sure. As ever, we have to hope for the best and plan for [...]

The dangers of hierarchy: a recommendation for improving Ofsted inspections

2020-03-07T08:10:05+00:00March 7th, 2020|Featured|

One of the many hard lessons learned by the aviation industry is that distributing responsibility and challenging hierarchical authority saves lives. From examining flight recorders and listening to cockpit recordings, crash investigators know that otherwise avoidable accidents have been caused by dysfunctional relationships between airline crew. The traditional model was the captain was in absolute authority and that questioning his actions was unthinkable. This led copilots and cabin crew to keeping silents when they noticed the captain making a mistake. There are clear dangers in leaving people to organise themselves because our natural inclination is to defer to those in authority [...]

Why interview feedback is a waste of time

2020-02-27T20:58:27+00:00February 27th, 2020|leadership|

A few years ago I wrote a series of posts on the subject of improving the interview process in schools: Part 1: A brief review of the evidence Part 2: Intuition vs. statistical prediction (in which I made suggestions for improving structured interviews) Part 3: The interview lesson I thought I'd said all I needed to say of the subject of school interviews. Then a few days ago I responded to a tweet about providing unsuccessful candidates with post-interview feedback suggesting it was a waste of time: Feedback on unsuccessful interviews is valueless. It’s all polite variants rationalising why your face [...]

What I learned from visiting schools in Uganda

2020-02-27T18:09:27+00:00February 26th, 2020|Featured|

Some months ago I was asked to be part of an advisory panel on a project to improve primary education in Uganda. To say I was surprised would be an understatement. What, I wondered, would I have to offer? The project, SESIL (Strengthening Education Systems for Improved Leadership) is funded by the Department for International Development and managed by Cambridge Education. The basic premise is that by introducing systems for collecting, analysing and using data to make decisions, school leaders will be better placed to improve children's outcomes by the end of primary school. Before heading out to Uganda, I was [...]

Can observation pro formas be used well?

2020-02-09T18:37:56+00:00February 9th, 2020|leadership|

Should observers waltz into lessons armed with a clipboard full of hoops they hope to see teachers jump through? No, probably not. Some years ago I wrote about my preference for how lessons should be observed: The point of a lesson observation should not be to see whether a teacher is slavishly following a checklist, rather it should be to tease out how effectively they are teaching the students in front of them to master specific curriculum goals. Who cares if there’s ‘evidence of differentiation’ but the quality of students’ work is rubbish? Why would it matter if a ‘plenary takes place’ if students [...]

This is what I do

2020-02-03T18:57:27+00:00January 31st, 2020|Featured|

For the past seven years I've been working as a freelance training provider and consultant. Most of the work I get comes either from word-of-mouth recommendations, or because someone has seen me speak or read something I've written. The majority of the work I do is in English schools - both primary and secondary (although I also seem to get a fair bit of work in Sweden and the Netherlands) and it tends to take two distinct forms; I either spend a day speaking to teachers about some aspect of education, or I spend a longer period working with teachers to [...]

Are things so good that normal seems bad?

2020-01-24T15:26:50+00:00January 24th, 2020|Featured|

Former Irish president Mary Robinson has been doing the rounds warning the world it needs to wake up as the hands of the Doomsday Clock are moved to 100 seconds to midnight. Apparently things are so bleak that the world is closer catastrophe than at any point in history. Not only is climate change about to wash away most of the world's coastline, but the threat of nuclear annihilation is greater than at the peak of the Cold War. Basically, we're doomed. It's common currency to believe that the world is in truly awful shape, but is it really? If you [...]

Why can’t we agree about internal isolation?

2020-01-19T16:00:01+00:00January 19th, 2020|behaviour|

The debate about whether schools should be allowed to internally exclude children from lessons is a hot topic at the moment, with all sorts of people weighing in at both ends of the spectrum of opinion. Whether you agree or disagree with the concept of internal exclusion probably says something about whether you prioritise the rights of the group or the rights of the individual. But it's also probably true that we all care about the rights of both individuals and groups. So, how can we get past the inflamed rhetoric and reason coldly of our grievances? One way to begin [...]

Does the new inspection framework trade off reliability against validity?

2020-01-15T13:52:40+00:00January 15th, 2020|leadership|

Yesterday I saw a thread on Twitter from headteacher Stuart Lock on the pros and cons of the new inspection framework: https://twitter.com/StuartLock/status/1216475275514523648?s=20 In it he discusses the idea that because the previous inspection framework relied heavily on schools'  results in national exams in making judgements it managed to be fairly reliable. That is to say, an inspection team inspecting two schools with similar results or that two different inspection teams inspecting the same school would arrive at a broadly similar judgement. In 2015 Ofsted conducted some research on the reliability of it's judgments (the report can be found here). Two independent [...]

Are Ofsted punishing disadvantaged children by penalising three-year GCSE courses?

2020-01-15T10:30:17+00:00January 14th, 2020|curriculum|

Is a broad and balanced curriculum "middle class"? According to an article published in The Times, Sir Daniel Moynihan, CEO of the Harris Federation, has described Ofsted's new inspection framework as "a middle-class framework for middle-class kids” because "Ofsted is valuing curriculum over qualifications." Currently, there is a great deal of fear that inspectors have been briefed to penalise schools - like those in the Harris Federation - where students spend 3 three years studying for GCSEs instead of the more usual 2 years. According to Moynihan, spending an additional year studying a full range of subjects before the inevitable narrowing [...]

My most viewed posts of 2019

2019-12-31T16:18:24+00:00December 31st, 2019|Featured|

For those of you who are interested, here are the top 10 most viewed posts on my blog during 2019 Closing the language gap: Building vocabulary (16th November 2014) It's a bit of a puzzler why a post written 5 years ago is proving so popular but I can only imagine anxious teachers are looking for Alex Quigley's wildly popular book are are somehow stumbling onto this post. How do we know pupils are making progress? Part 1 The madness of flightpaths (23rd March) The first of a four part series about how we might go about stating with any degree [...]