Archive for the ‘Of Interest’ Category


Radio 4 Interview

June 17, 2014

Although apparently my house is “small”.

I seem to spend a lot of time these days apologising for not blogging regularly enough. Since I ceased to be anonymous I keep getting requests to do things that, while being a result of being a blogger, actually take up much of the time I used to spend blogging. One of these, from a few weeks back, was an appearance on a Radio 4 programme called “One to One” that was broadcast this morning.

The programme can be found on iplayer here or downloaded as a podcast here.

I’ve been a bit surprised at the level of response I’ve had to this, far greater than the last time I was on Radio 4 (i.e. here) perhaps reflecting what time people listen to Radio 4. People I know in the real world, rather than the niche world of online teachers, seem to have noticed it without me telling them, and this is even though my real name is not actually mentioned in the programme.

If you are new to this blog, having just found it after hearing the radio programme, I will be reposting a guide to the contents of the blog later this evening.


An Andrew Old Round Up

May 13, 2014

Apologies for the lack of blogposts recently. This has, in part, been down to a fair number of other activities and opportunities that have come up since I ceased to be anonymous (none of them in any way likely to make me any money). I’ll take this opportunity to advertise some of the things I have done/will be doing.

  1. I know this isn’t new, and my contribution is available online here, but I have written the foreword for Progressively Worse by Robert Peal.
  2. I wrote an article about Improving Teacher Quality for the Fabian Society website.
  3. My views on Performance Related Pay can be found in the online version of the Guardian today (but not the print edition) here.
  4. I will be speaking on “The Teacher As Expert” at a Teach Meet in Stafford on the 9th June. Details here (there’s still a small number of speaking slots available).
  5. I am on a panel at the La Salle Education maths conference (for both primary and secondary teachers) on the 14th June. Still a handful of free tickets available here.
  6. I should be speaking, on another panel, at the Wellington Festival of Education on the 20th June.
  7. I have written a contribution for Don’t Change the Light Bulbs, edited by Rachel Jones, which should be out in September and is available for pre-order now.
  8. I should be doing a talk on “How to have a rational argument about education” at ResearchED 2014 in London on the 6th September. Tickets and details available here.

As for future projects, well … if you need a maths teacher (preferably part-time) for September, for  a school in the West Midlands, please let me know.


My Article About OFSTED on the NUT Website

March 5, 2014

I have written the following article about OFSTED for the Expert View section of the National Union of Teachers website:

The Ongoing Saga of the Ofsted Teaching Style


A Christmas Miracle – OFSTED Get It Right For Once

December 23, 2013

Thanks to @ClerktoGovernor for being the first to point this out to me.

OFSTED published their Subsidiary guidance supporting the inspection of maintained schools and academies today. This is the section on teaching (points 64-67):

Inspectors must not give the impression that Ofsted favours a particular teaching style. Moreover, they must not inspect or report in a way that is not stipulated in the framework, handbook or guidance. For example, they should not criticise teacher talk for being overlong or bemoan a lack of opportunity for different activities in lessons unless there is unequivocal evidence that this is slowing learning over time. It is unrealistic, too, for inspectors to necessarily expect that all work in all lessons is always matched to the specific needs of each individual. Do not expect to see ‘independent learning’ in all lessons and do not make the assumption that this is always necessary or desirable. On occasions, too, pupils are rightly passive rather than active recipients of learning. Do not criticise ‘passivity’ as a matter of course and certainly not unless it is evidently stopping pupils from learning new knowledge or gaining skills and understanding.

When in lessons, also remember that we are gathering evidence about a variety of aspects of provision and outcomes. We are not simply observing the features of the lesson but we are gathering evidence about a range of issues through observation in a lesson. Do not focus on the lesson structure at the expense of its content or the wide range of other evidence about how well children are learning in the school.

When giving feedback, inspectors must not argue that they are unable to give a particular grade because of the time spent in the lesson.

Inspectors must not aggregate the grades given for teaching is a formulaic or simplistic way in order to evaluate its quality overall.

This isn’t even half-hearted or ambiguous. This is exactly what I wanted to see.

Thank you, OFSTED.

Now, the task for those of us in schools is to make sure this is shown to every SMT type, every consultant and every person with “teaching and learning” in their job description and that no inspector gets into a classroom without confirming that they are aware of this section of the guidance. Every union rep should be making sure that this is known to everyone carrying out lesson observations of your members. Every governor needs to make certain it’s reflected in their school’s teaching and learning policy. This is as good a protection as we’ve ever had. Don’t let it be ignored.

Merry Christmas.

Update 30/12/2013: I have written an analysis of why this is such an important change, in light of previous issues raised on this blog, here.


Whatever Happened to…?

December 17, 2013

The following blogs were started this year. apparently written by people either starting teacher training or their NQT year:

Obviously this is a busy time of year; some have only ceased posting 3 or 4 weeks ago, and some were never very prolific anyway. I know a few are on Twitter, apparently still teaching and may even plan to blog again. But just to reassure everyone that you are all still with the profession, it would be good to hear from you, preferably in the form of a new blogpost before next term saying how you’ve got on this term.

Update 19/12/2013: School Direct Trainee Blog and KATEELIZABETH93 have blogged.

Update 20/12/2013: I missed this on the 18/12/2013 because the name’s changed, but the first of the 12 to blog was actually SaysMiss, formerly KATSCRAP’S BLOG.

Update 24/12/2013: Bex Trex …to teaching! has blogged.

Update 25/12/2013: TO TEACH IS TO INSPIRE has blogged.

Update 14/1/2014: The Miss Georgiou blog no longer exists, but the posts now appear on a new blog with greater anonymity. For obvious reasons I won’t provide a link.

Update 17/1/2014: FIRSTDAYATSCHOOL has now blogged.


Edublog Awards 2013

December 7, 2013

I have been nominated in the “Lifetime Achievement” Category in the Edublog awards. If you have a Twitter or Facebook login you should be able to vote below or by following the link.

Lifetime Achievement 2013 – Edublog Awards

View more lists from Edublogs
You might also want to consider voting for:

How I think we should be held to account? (not by OFSTED)

November 23, 2013


Excellent stuff about OFSTED from Stuart Lock. Also worth promoting and on a similar theme is this post by Katie Ashford:

Originally posted on Mr Lock's Weblog:

How would I like schools to be held to account?

I thought I’d write this today after a conversation on twitter. I’m aware it’s very secondary centred. By “very” I mean “completely”.

Tristram Hunt has said that OFSTED is essential. He counterposed the existence of OFSTED with low standards. This disappoints me as I am becoming persuaded that this particular form of accountability is substandard at best, and actively damaging at worst.

I retweeted a blog that criticised Hunt for this today and had a few responses, one of which suggested “being anti-OFSTED is not a credible position for a school leader”. Since I consider myself to be anti-OFSTED, I hold what at least one person considers to be a position that lacks credibility. So I want to explore why I’m anti-OFSTED and consider what level and form of accountability I would welcome.

One of the main reasons for having…

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No OFSTED Hope From Tristram Hunt

November 22, 2013

I have been sent an audio file from  a meeting last night at Warwick University, where Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, was asked about OFSTED by a very perceptive first year undergraduate student. The full file can be found at the bottom of the post (apologies for poor sound quality) but here is a transcription of the key part:

Questioner: I know you mentioned a lot about teacher quality, but I was interested in how that kind of relates into the whole process of OFSTED and OFSTED inspections. For example, in my case I went to one of the worst schools in the country and one of the worst places to go to school in the country. The Isle of Wight is synonymous with just worry…

TH: Where did you go to school in the Isle of Wight?

Q: Sandown Bay Academy. It’s the one recently that our headteacher had been working in another school for two weeks and had not let anyone know, but our school’s in special measures and, towards the end of last year especially, we seemed to have OFSTED in every other week and I found especially with our teachers – and this was you know towards my A-level, A2, exams – our teachers would be more focused on making sure that – with the whole idea of OFSTED coming in – they would be more focused on making sure they looked good rather than actually focused on teaching and I found it to be quite obstructive for us, especially when we were learning, that teachers would get so worked up about OFSTED and so occupied by making sure they, you know, didn’t do really small, you know, ticking boxes sort of thing. How would you address OFSTED in special measures schools and would you make it more frequent? Would you allow schools not to have … [inaudible]?

TH: And did OFSTED fail the school?

Q: It’s in special measures. It’s like…

TH: So your teachers are getting ready for an OFSTED inspection by making sure they look good?

Q: The teachers would be, not so much that they looked good, but like they’d be making sure they had to tick boxes and stuff.

TH: And the response of OFSTED was to put them into special measures?

Q: No, OFSTED would, for example, we’d have have our teachers logging lesson plans for example. They’d be making sure they ticked boxes…

TH: It seems to me OFSTED called it right. If you’ve got teachers not focused on teaching and worrying about boxticking OFSTED actually goes…

Q: Our school went up. After the inspection our school went up because they ticked the boxes.

TH: That’s not good, I won’t pursue that line of analysis. OFSTED is very, very valuable and no one likes being inspected by OFSTED but if you are a school and you are inspected by OFSTED and you’re outstanding you put a big, bloody flag outside your school saying outstanding by OFSTED and suddenly Ofsted is good. So we need OFSTED.  I think Michael Wilshaw was a great headmaster and I think he doesn’t accept the excuses and he certainly shouldn’t accept any excuses in the Isle of Wight which, you know, has a lot more advantages than other parts of the country about the terrible schools and as a challenging school system. So, what OFSTED needs to do, and it is doing more of, is not only just going in to tell a school it is doing badly but begin to work out how it gets out of doing badly and how it works for its students and to have that more sort of collaborative process. It needs to be more regional. It needs to have more understanding of regional sensibilities. There’s an argument for the time at which it goes into schools. Should it do two days? Should it do three days? All of that I think can be discussed, but we need OFSTED and, you know, we cannot be on the side of poor standards. We just cannot be on the side of low standards because the truth of the matter is, and I don’t know your background, but if you are from a nice middle class household, a household with books in or from a learning environment, and you’ve got a bad teacher, you know, it’s going to be bad for you but it’s going to be an awful lot worse for a kid from a disadvantaged household. This is their chance. So we cannot be on the side of poor teaching and we cannot be on the side of bad teachers because it impacts far more upon the pupils we and our party work to support and the people who I represent. You lose more as a kid from a disadvantaged background with a bad teacher than you do from a well supported background and if OFSTED is rooting out those levels of poor attainment and poor teaching then we have to be on their side.

So it looks like Labour’s education spokesman is convinced OFSTED support high standards despite being directly told, by somebody who has experienced them, that they actually promote mindless box-ticking . Even Gove has been more critical of OFSTED’s behaviour than this. Labour urgently needs to stop accepting parts of the education establishment at face value and ask if OFSTED really is fit for purpose.


OFSTED: Smoke and Mirrors and Malevolent Magic

November 9, 2013


Update 10/11/2013: I reblogged this yesterday because I thought it was a really good description of the OFSTED inspired observation culture in schools. However, within that same weekend there were another two really interesting blogposts also describing those experiences. Rather than overdoing the reblogging I thought I’d add the links here:

From BigkidMy experiences of Mocksteds

From Joe KirbyWho says knowledge is pointless in English?

If anyone writes another description of observation nonsense in the next few days I will add it here.

From Thomas Starkey:  Judgement

Originally posted on cazzypotsblog:


‘Every damn thing we’ve talked about at school this week has been driven by Ofsted, and not by the need to educate children effectively’  @cbradbee tweeted last Wednesday.

Even in so few words, the distress and despair of this teacher is palpable. The fact that the OFSTED obsession is interfering with, and often hindering, the effective education of the children is a sad reflection of the times we live in. No surprise, then, that this tweet also summarises the entire ethos and philosophy of schools like mine.

Absolutely everything we do, nowadays, is driven by what our SLT team expect that OFSTED will be looking for. Much tea-leaf-poring has now been distilled into a list of lesson ‘requirements’ which is, I believe, based largely on the OFSTED lesson observation criteria. Lesson perfection; lesson utopia.

And yet. There are those who profoundly disagree. According to a BBC News report (13…

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Hannah Arendt

September 9, 2013

I recently learnt on Twitter (from @Melissa_Benn as it happens) that there is a film due to be released in the UK later this month about the philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt.

The trailer below actually makes it look pretty terrible:


Regardless, any excuse is worth it to draw people’s attention to Arendt’s wonderful essay “The Crisis in Education”, a copy of which can be found here. Although written over 50 years ago about American education, it applies perfectly to contemporary education debate and in particular its analysis of the ideology of progressive education has never been beaten.

What proves that it is particularly insightful is the prediction that, despite a backlash at the time, progressive education would not disappear:

 …wherever the crisis has occurred in the modern world, one cannot simply go on nor yet simply turn back. Such a reversal will never bring us anywhere except to the same situation out of which the crisis has just arisen. The return would simply be a repeat performance–though perhaps different in form, since there are no limits to the possibilities of nonsense and capricious notions that can be decked out as the last word in science

This is something I think of whenever I hear yet another elaborate justification based on technology, social theories or neuroscience for the same practices that have already done decades of harm. If you haven’t already read it, please find the time.


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