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Blog 2018-07-06T13:12:36+00:00

Is love the most important thing?

Yesterday, I wrote a post explaining that important as the quality of teaching in a school is, there are other, more important things on which to concentrate. In response, Katharine Birbalsingh, head mistress of Michaela School tweeted this: I agree with lots of this but @DavidDidau misses a, if not THE most important thing: kids need to love their teacher. They need to be inspired. When a kid loves their [...]

By | July 9th, 2018|Categories: Featured|12 Comments

Teaching matters, but there are more important things to get right

As John Tomsett says in his latest blog, "It is generally accepted that the quality of teaching is the most influential factor in determining the rate at which pupils make progress in their learning – broadly speaking, the better the teaching, the more progress pupils make over time." Here, I want to argue that teaching, important as it is, only comes third (or maybe fourth) on the list of things [...]

By | July 8th, 2018|Categories: Featured|12 Comments

A broad and balanced approach to English teaching and the curriculum

Having launched a stream of invective against the use of 'balance' as a weasel word in my last post, I want to offer a more nuanced take on what I think balance ought to mean. I see the purpose of a curriculum as being to introduce students to that knowledge which will be of most use to them in academic contexts and to allow them to have the maximum amount [...]

By | June 29th, 2018|Categories: English|Tags: , , , |4 Comments

When “balance” goes bad

Balance is an obviously good thing, isn't it? After all, who wants to be unbalanced? "What is it indeed that gives us the feeling of elegance in a solution, in a demonstration?" asked the mathematician Henri Poincaré. "It is the harmony of the diverse parts, their symmetry, their happy balance; in a word it is all that introduces order, all that gives unity, that permits us to see clearly and to comprehend [...]

By | June 28th, 2018|Categories: Featured|10 Comments

Are the new GCSE exams causing mental health problems?

Sitting an exam is, for most people, an inherently stressful situation. People have been sitting exams since at least the Sui dynasty in China (581-618 CE) when prospective entrants to the Imperial civil service took a series of examinations of their knowledge of classic Confucian texts and commentaries. Those who passed the imperial palace examinations at the highest level would go on to become some of the most important and influential bureaucrats [...]

By | June 24th, 2018|Categories: Featured|Tags: , , , , , |23 Comments

Teaching knowledge is teaching skill

We can call everything stored in our long-term memories knowledge. All knowledge is biological - stored in the organic substance of our brains - and everything stored biologically is knowledge. If you call some of the stuff that occupies our minds anything other than knowledge then you have to explain how it would be stored. This is hard to do without getting into debates about 'ether' or some other insubstantial [...]

By | June 17th, 2018|Categories: curriculum|11 Comments

The trouble with troublesome knowledge

A recent blog post made some interesting assertions about knowledge. In doing so it presented a series of opinions as facts. That is not a criticism - we all have a tendency to do this. But in order to confront the troublesome nature of knowledge we should address these claims head on and to do so I will treat them as if they were factual. Fact claim 1: we can teach [...]

By | June 16th, 2018|Categories: Featured|Tags: , , , , |5 Comments

The best books I've read so far this year…

I normally round up my favourite reads at the end of the year but I've read so many really excellent books so far this year that I decided to put them out there now. Who knows? Maybe you'll consider picking one of them up to peruse over the summer. In no particular order... Factfulness: 10 reasons we're wrong about the world - and why things are better than you think, [...]

By | June 12th, 2018|Categories: Featured|6 Comments

The problem with dead white men – a reply to Mary Bousted

Apparently, Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union has announced that England is “hurtling forward to a rosy past” with its emphasis on knowledge. She is reported as having said the following: As an English teacher, I have no problem with Shakespeare, with Pope, with Dryden, with Shelley. ... But I knew in a school where there are 38 first languages taught other than English that I had [...]

The illusion of leadership

Everyone knows what's needed to turn around a struggling school: strong leadership. In order for it to be deemed necessary for school to be consigned to 'special measures,' something has to have gone badly wrong. It's more than likely true that poor leadership will be at the heart of the problem. So, the school is taken over and a new 'strong leader' is parachuted in to turn it around. This [...]

By | June 8th, 2018|Categories: Featured|Tags: , , |12 Comments

Should Ofsted observe lessons?

As you may have seen, Ofsted have published a report which lays the ground work on how they might start observing lessons once more: Six models of lesson observation: an international perspective. Most people will probably accept that if Ofsted are going to inspect schools then should almost certainly observe lessons as part of the inspection process. And, as someone who spends a fair bit of time visiting schools around the [...]

By | May 31st, 2018|Categories: Featured|Tags: , |9 Comments

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