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The Government Should Listen to Teachers. And By “Teachers”, I Mean “Me”

May 22, 2013

Gove mentioned me again. Last week, in this debate with one of my political heroes, Lord Glasman, he said:

It is also the case as well, that even though there are people within the teaching unions who have a range of views about the reforms we are making, it is also the case that increasingly teachers are making themselves heard in the debate about our reforms – pro and anti – and individual teachers and groups of teachers are shaping the debate. Those who follow the education debate will know that on the blogosphere it is often the case that there are teachers like Andrew Old, or Tom Bennett, who are actually the most articulate and effective supporters of some of the things we are doing, far more effective and articulate than I am.

I’m not sure I particularly appreciate this description. I hardly agree with Gove on everything.

Anyway, the novelty of being mentioned by the secretary of state has worn off. I will add any future mentions below rather than keep blogging every time it happens. However, I will continue to be amused every time it is claimed that Gove doesn’t listen to teachers. He certainly appears to listen to me a lot more than my SMT do. But, of course, when people complain that Gove doesn’t listen to teachers they don’t mean teachers in general, they mean the education establishment (often managers or non-teachers) rather than actual classroom teachers.

This brings me on to my latest endeavour. After talking to a few of my fellow education bloggers, I have set up another blog to promote the views of those education bloggers who do not simply follow the views that are attributed to “teachers” by the media. In protest at so much of the education debate simply being about people who agree with each other simply confirming each other’s opinions, I have set up my own Echo Chamber for reblogging the views of my favourite bloggers and, indeed, any blogger who takes the time to about education from a perspective that doesn’t normally appear in the media as what “teachers” think. I hope you can take the time to look at it, and follow the Twitter account. Personally, I feel we are entering something of a golden age of education blogging and this will be a good way to keep up.

Update 23/6/2013: On Friday, while being interviewed by David Aaronovitch on stage at the Wellington Festival of Education, Gove mentioned me again:

… over the course of, I think, the last two or three years it’s been the case that there has been an emerging part of the education debate which I think has been suppressed for a long time and that’s the part of the debate where you have teachers – serving teachers – who feel that the sort of Rousseau-Dewey model has let children down. And there are people who will be speaking at this conference like Daisy Christodoulou; there are people who blog regularly,  like the teacher who blogs under the name Andrew Old; like John Blake the leader of Labour teachers, all of whom take the view that there was a wrong turning in education and that wrong turning was the dethroning of knowledge; the undermining of schools as an academic institution and that has actually impeded social mobility. So those people, even though they tended to have been eclipsed from the education debate, they weren’t the sort of people who in the past were  invited to  speak at festivals like this or to write for the TES, but they are now, as it were, an emerging and more powerful and, to my mind, more persuasive voice in the education debate. Of course, all the people I have mentioned are impeccably polite but they do have strong feelings about the mistakes that have been made by the other side in the debate.

It can be downloaded here (thanks). He may have mentioned another blogger in passing later on.

Update 5/9/2013: More evidence today in a speech to Policy Exchange.

This section may well be based on material brought to light by the last part of this blogpost (which was also the source of the Mr Men story):

Another teacher records a lesson for A level English students in which they were asked to depict literary characters on a paper plate – drawing a face on the plate – and then asked to use stickers to define the character’s principal traits – pinning the stickers on their clothes and mingling with other students, while they introduce themselves ‘in character’.

Even if that wasn’t the case, I am also mentioned explicitly a couple of times. There is this in a section on teaching:

Which is why it is so encouraging that a growing number of teachers – indeed the most popular teachers on the web, like Andrew Old, whose blog has received more than 600,000 hits; Tom Bennett, with almost eight and a half thousand followers on Twitter, and Joe Kirby, with almost 2,000 – are arguing for a restoration of knowledge and direct instruction; in short, standing up for the importance of teaching.

However, the following is the best bit. This is what makes blogging worthwhile:

…Ofsted’s guidance provided too little clarity about what constituted good teaching; or allowed inspectors’ personal prejudices and preferences to be interpreted as ‘the Ofsted way’.

As a result, and as teacher bloggers like Andrew Old have chronicled, time and again too much emphasis was given to particular practices like group work and discovery learning; while Ofsted inspectors marked teachers down for such heinous crimes as ‘talking too much’, ‘telling pupils things’ or ‘dominating the discussion’.

The good news is that Ofsted – under its inspirational new leadership – is moving to address all these weaknesses and give us a system of inspection of which we can be proud.

Update 6/2/2014: I was mentioned again by Mr Gove in this podcast on the Telegraph website. He said:

And surprisingly, many of the people who are most enthusiastic about what we are doing are not traditional Tory voters. If you look on the blogosphere and look at someone like Andrew Old, or if you consider the work of someone like John Blake, they are out and proud Labour Party activists who still believe that the emphasis that we are placing on better behaviour, strong discipline, a knowledge-based curriculum, rigour in traditional subjects, these are things that they believe in. And I think it is striking, actually, that it will often be people on what you might call the traditional wing of the Labour Party who are supportive of what we are doing because they recognise how, in the past, the ambitions of working class parents for their children have often suffered from middle class liberal condescension.

Which is basically true, but makes me feel taken for granted. After all, I may believe in those things, but it doesn’t mean I have limitless confidence in Mr Gove’s ability to deliver them.

Update 10/7/2014: I was mentioned again by Mr Gove in a speech he gave at some conference thing for influential education types that I wasn’t invited to.

One of the most encouraging trends in English education – which helps the cause of reform worldwide – is the way in which those leading the debate and driving evidence-based change in our schools are teachers. We commissioned Dr Ben Goldacre – the author of ‘Bad Science’, a brilliant debunking of pseudo-scientific myths and fallacies – to help improve the use of evidence in English education. And the biggest enthusiasts for his work have been teachers. Teachers such as Andrew Old, Daisy Christodoulou, Robert Peal, Joe Kirby, Kris Boulton and Tom Bennett have used social media and professional networks to drive this move towards a more rigorous and evidence-based approach to helping children learn.

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6 comments

  1. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber and commented:

    Apologies for the slightly circular nature of reblogging this one.


  2. ‘the most articulate and effective supporters of _some_ of the things we are doing’ (my underscore).

    The phrasing seems reasonable enough to me, if not rather an underestimate.


  3. Gove and Andrew sItting in a tree
    K-I-S-S-I-N-G!


  4. Who will you be voting for in the next election?


    • I’ll vote Labour. Even Twigg can’t put me off that much.


      • I know that views on education are not a simple right/left division but I think the chances of any near-future Labour Education Secretary citing this blog are fairly remote…



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