Yet Another Andrew Old Round Up

April 24, 2015

A couple of things I really should promote before it’s too late:

Firstly, I am speaking on a panel discussion at an event tomorrow based around “Character vs Knowledge? What is the purpose of education?” This is organised by the East London Science School and The Education Foundation. Details (and still the chance to buy a very cheap ticket) can be found here.

Secondly, assuming my contribution survives the editing process, I should have a chapter in Changing Schools: Dispatches from the Front Line of England’s Rapidly Changing Educational Landscape This book, which is now availble for pre-order, is edited by Robert Peal and should also have contributions from, among others, Doug Lemov, Daisy Christodoulou and Tom Bennett.



  1. Curious as to why it is character versus knowledge? Surely working hard to gain knowledge is character building and a strong character is more likely to result in doing what it takes to gain objective knowledge. Seems to me another false dichotomy. Both are eeducationaly desirable and very likely to have interdependencies.

  2. I noticed a question on the meeting agenda – can character be taught? I think this is a poor question. Character is at least partly learnt behaviour so “can character be learnt?” results in a no-brainer. Ask any behavioural psychologist. Can character be learnt in a school almost entirely organised in classes intended for developing knowledge when influences outside school are likely to be in many cases most influential? I think that is a far more interesting question. Schools are organised to ensure that character is mostly a biproduct of academic learning that is likely to benefit those children that already have that character development supported from home rather than those that have outside school environments that have reduced their character development to mush.

  3. There was a time when, to a large extent, the idea was to educate young people in the hope they would prove to be useful, tolerant, productive and potentially personally fulfilled; they would live in a democratic society whose continuance they would defend. Obviously, there were differences in emphasis over the years but the essential purpose endured.
    No longer.
    We don’t educate people: we educate personalities. Or we try. We’re not necessarily very good at it.

  4. Evidence? Education results in mostly knowledge based qualifications that are seen as stepping stones into FE, HE and work. I don’t see that that has changed much in the last 50 years. Details and delivery yes, principle no. PSHE lessons, assemblies, and extra curricular provision are all still there – perhaps squeezed at the margins a bit but still evident. There is certainly more liberalism in education than in the past but that largely reflects a change in society as a whole.

    • Evidence? Seriously?
      You are the evidence: “..results in mostly knowledge based qualifications that are seen as stepping stones into FE, HE and work.
      What would you prefer? Qualifications that were weighted so that the ‘knowledge’ component accounted for, say, 40%, with the other 60% comprising a score for emotional intelligence…or ‘skills’…or ‘teamwork’…why not, ‘group work’?
      Or possibly you’d prefer that some other factors should be ‘seen as stepping stones into FE, HE and work’ ? What would be the nature of those factors?
      (I am, naturally enough, assuming that your conception of knowledge subsumes understanding, and application.)

  5. Assertion isn’t evidence. The fact is qualifications are as they are and they largely determine the teaching regimes in secondary education. What I prefer is irrelevant. The point is that most of what schools spend time teaching is not EQ, unconnected skills or teamwork. These are tiny minority activities for the most part and that hasn’t changed a lot in the last 50 years. Why do you think I prefer something? I said nothing about my preference, only stated what is actually out there and its primarily focused on attainment and progress 8 in secondary education.

  6. “The point is that most of what schools spend time teaching is not EQ, unconnected skills or teamwork

    One question…

    How is the children’s Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development being promoted across different areas of the curriculum, such as …?

    If you are having trouble answering this, let me clarify a few terms…with reference to a DfE document from Sept 2014

    #The spiritual development of pupils is shown by their:
    ability to be reflective about their own beliefs, religious or otherwise, that inform their perspective on life and their interest in and respect for different people’s faiths, feelings and values
    sense of enjoyment and fascination in learning about themselves, others and the world around them
    use of imagination and creativity in their learning
    willingness to reflect on their experiences.

    The moral development of pupils is shown by their:
    ability to recognise the difference between right and wrong, readily apply this understanding in their own lives and, in so doing, respect the civil and criminal law of England
    understanding of the consequences of their behaviour and actions
    interest in investigating and offering reasoned views about moral and ethical issues, and being able to understand and appreciate the viewpoints of others on these issues.

    The social development of pupils is shown by their:
    use of a range of social skills in different contexts, including working and socialising with pupils from different religious, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds
    willingness to participate in a variety of communities and social settings, including by volunteering, cooperating well with others and being able to resolve conflicts effectively
    acceptance and engagement with the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs; the pupils develop and demonstrate skills and attitudes that will allow them to participate fully in and contribute positively to life in modern Britain.

    The cultural development of pupils is shown by their:
    understanding and appreciation of the wide range of cultural influences that have shaped their own heritage and that of others
    understanding and appreciation of the range of different cultures within school and further afield as an essential element of their preparation for life in modern Britain
    knowledge of Britain’s democratic parliamentary system and its central role in shaping our history and values, and in continuing to develop Britain
    willingness to participate in and respond positively to artistic, sporting and cultural opportunities
    interest in exploring, improving understanding of and showing respect for different faiths and cultural diversity, and the extent to which they understand, accept, respect and celebrate diversity, as shown by their tolerance and attitudes towards different religious, ethnic and socio-economic groups in the local, national and global communities.#

    • In the 100+ schools I have inspected I’d say SMSC provision varied quite a lot and generally had less emphasis than the standard knowledge based curriculum that had most of the schools resources targeted to meet.

      • Then presumably you’ll have been critical in those cases where students’ Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development were insufficiently promoted. Moreover, with regard to the list above, we could reasonably say that such schools were failing to put enough resources into moulding students’ personalities toward a received ideal: a ideal which appears to involve: a preference for democracy and the rule of law tempered by a commitment to moral and cultural relativism and, naturally, a passion and a hunger for learning…presumably inspired by teachers who dream up relevant and engaging lessons which bring any and all topics to vibrant life.
        So, to sum up: well-meaning, law abiding, ethically superficial young people who require their information in entertaining packages.
        I’m relieved that this is not given enough emphasis. I’m not sure that would be a good thing at all.

  7. Sure, if the team thinks it’s lacking it gets criticised. Back to your original claim “We don’t educate people: we educate personalities. Or we try. We’re not necessarily very good at it.”

    I don’t think there is much evidence that this is any more the case now than it was 50 years ago.

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