Remembering what education’s for

SCHOOLS NorthEast Blog

HM welcome picture

We all know August is the silly season for the media but, my goodness, there were some wild education stories flying around last month!

Of course, at results time policymakers and the press indulged in the usual sport of knocking the very qualifications our young people have worked so hard to achieve. Thus Lord (Ken) Baker, and others who should similarly know better, decided to air their view that GCSE has had its day and should wither on the vine. Nothing’s for ever, of course, and the exam is now more than a quarter of a century old. But, at a time when schools will just be starting to teach the new style of GCSEs, it seems unfortunate (to put it mildly) and insulting to candidates to rubbish it.

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The reason why poor teaching survives

Filling the pail

If you were an engineer who was operating under a misconception about the laws of physics or the properties of different materials then your bridges would fall down. It wouldn’t matter whether you appealed to authenticity, excellence, creativity, inclusivity or anything else for that matter, the fact that your bridges fell down would be a problem. Your failure would be obvious and apparent to all. In the ancient world, you might have suffered a grisly fate and so I think it is no coincidence that columns and arches were understood pretty early in our history.

By Gun Powder Ma (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons Hadrian’s Arch, Jordan (By Gun Powder Ma (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons) Medicine offers a more complex picture. On the one hand, a surgeon who kills his patients is going to run into trouble. However, if the alternative to surgery is certain death then even poor-quality, insanitary surgery might persist until something better comes along…

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Awaiting some ministerial decisions

How do we know?

What a joke! This from them today:

Changes to 2016 tests and assessments We are aware that schools are waiting for additional information about changes to the national curriculum tests and assessments to be introduced for the next academic year. We are still awaiting some ministerial decisions, in particular in relation to teacher assessment. We will let you know in September, as more information becomes available

Only they’re not kidding. Mike Tidd comments on the same here, but I was unrealistically (and uncharacteristically) optimistic that something would come out before we had to have everything in place in September. Should we laugh or tear our hair out that they are ‘awaiting ministerial decisions’? What – the ministers haven’t been able to decide after 2 years? I won’t hold my breath for anything sensible then. Of course, ‘teacher assessment’ should be a matter for serious consideration, but I doubt that…

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Thinking through lesson study for task design and learning insights

HE Reflections

Today was one of those days where being able to slow down and reflect can lead to some new insights and ideas for future change. On Friday I’m running a day-long workshop together with Joan, my partner-in-crime on our MA International Education research methods module considering issues around research methods pedagogy. We’ve spent a great day putting together what we hope will be a reflective consideration of our research into this area, and as with all such events we’ll spend some time discussing possible ways forward.

Over the past year, we’ve gained a number od ideas and insights from the use of Lesson Study. We’ve found this approach invaluable as part of a much wider action research approach exploring the module development we’ve undertaken, and have no doubt that it has been a worthwhile activity in opening up new thinking and understanding concerning some (but no where near all) of the…

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Mariam’s Ramdhaan

jonny walker teaching

This is a guest post written by my friend and colleague Dr Nasima Hassan, from the University of East London. In this post, Nasima explores the experiences of a 10 year old girl in London during Ramadan/Ramdhaan. Thanks Nasima!

It’s Ramdhaan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar when Muslims around the word fast from dawn until dusk. Here in London that means the fast starts around 2.45am and ends at 9.25pm. So that means that lots of Muslim children are fasting whilst attending school. This throws up many questions and concerns (and rightly so) from teachers who have to balance the demands of a full teaching day and everything we know about healthy living and drinking water with the spiritual and religious practices of their pupils.   I am asked frequently what happens in Ramdhaan so this blog is a typical day in Ramdhaan through the experiences of Mariam. Mariam…

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The Semmelweis Reflex: Why does Education Ignore Important Research?



In 1846 the general hospital in Vienna was experiencing a peculiar problem. There were two maternity wards at the hospital but at the first clinic, infant mortality rate was around 16% while at the second clinic the rate was much lower, often below 4%. Mysteriously there were no apparent differences between the two clinics to account for this.

Part of the mystery was that there was no mystery. Almost all of the deaths were due to puerperal (childbed) fever, a common cause of death in the 18th century. This fact was well known outside the hospital and many expectant mothers begged to be taken to the second clinic instead of the first. The stigma around the first clinic was so great that many mothers preferred to give birth in the street than be taken there.

Working at the hospital at the time was Ignaz Semmelweis, a young doctor who…

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Suffer the Consequences

Freeing the Angel

In life, as in school, there are consequences for the wrong kind of behaviour. Or at least there are if you get caught. Imagine this: you’re driving along the motorway and for once it is empty. The weather is good, and you are driving a fast new car. You are in a rush to get home, so your foot presses down on the accelerator and you ease up to 90 miles an hour. You are breaking the law – behaving in the ‘wrong’ way. But, hey, no one gets hurt and at least you get home ten minutes earlier than you would have done otherwise. Now imagine this: as you speed along the motorway, you see a police car up ahead of you, waiting on the side of the road. You hit the brake, and by the time you reach the police car, you are doing the right speed. You…

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