Archive for September, 2015


Top Blogs of the Week : Schools Week (September 2015)

September 29, 2015

Schools Week have published my review of the best blogs of the week.

Andrew Old picks his top blogs of the week 21 September 2015

If constructivist teaching is the aspirin, then what exactly is the headache?

By @greg_ashman

A teacher currently studying teaching methods for a PhD asks whether some of the trendiest methods actually deal with the problems they are meant to be a solution to. Do they raise achievement? Do they improve understanding? Do they motivate? The answer, to all these questions, is probably “no”.

Continued in:

Andrew Old picks his top blogs of the week 21 September 2015

For Your Information

September 27, 2015

Just a round up of a few items of interest:

  1. For the first time in ages I got mentioned in a minister’s speech. Nick Gibb MP mentioned me in his talk at ResearchED, quoting the statistics from Changing Schools:

    According to the veteran teacher blogger Old Andrew, there are 1,237 active education blogs in the UK and many of them, I can testify, have directly influenced government policy. Education provides a case-study in the democratising power of new media, providing an entry point for new voices to challenge old orthodoxies.

    Still no sign of me getting quoted by any politician in my own party.

  2. My ranting about trendy maths teaching got picked up by Schools Week in an online article about Jo Boaler’s latest effort to spread bad practice. It’s well worth reading. Odd to see myself quoted under my real name.
  3. I wrote a blogpost for Labour Teachers responding to Corbyn’s election, that I haven’t shared here (as it’s not about education).
  4. I can’t resist sharing Tom Bennett’s blogpost about the College of Teaching.
  5. A BBC programme maker is interested in making a programme addressing the issue of violence against teachers. Details below:

    False allegations of assault is a growing issue for teachers – the latest ATL survey on the subject suggests that 1 in 5 teachers have been the subject of false allegations. Has this happened to you? The BBC is looking to make a fact-based drama about the story of an allegation, and we would very much like to hear your story.

    Our intention is to highlight this issue by making a drama that amalgamates real-life cases. Your identity will not be compromised in any way in the film – all the names of the characters and the location of the drama will be fictional, and the scenario will include a variety of incidents from different stories. If you are happy to help with our research, please get back to Marco Crivellari in the BBC Factual department on


Those Backing the College Of Teaching Still Don’t Get It

September 25, 2015

You may recall that some time back I expressed concern that an attempt to set up a new professional body for teachers (the College Of Teaching) was being hijacked by non-teachers, vested interests and in one case a private company (SSAT) who sell consultancy services to schools. Particularly scandalous was the proposal to let anyone with an interest in education join the College Of Teaching, regardless of whether they were a teacher. Every so often they cross my radar again, although it’s been ages since I blogged about it, so I’ll catch up now.

The first bit of news (now somewhat out of date), is that the Claim Your College Coalition held an event last June to inform people about the College Of Teaching. Again SSAT were heavily involved. More surprising though was that, despite previous bad publicity, they decided to hold it on a school day. To be fair, they didn’t pretend this event was for teachers, and listed the intended audience as:

Those who work closely with local networks of teachers and schools, and who are keen to facilitate teacher and leader engagement with the College of Teaching discussions. For example, Chairs of Headteacher Associations and School Partnerships, Strategic Alliances, CEOs of MATs.

I suppose this could be interpreted in many ways. Perhaps we teachers love our bosses so much that they are the first people you would contact if you wanted to reach out to us. Or perhaps the intended audience of the College Of Teaching are those who control schools rather than those who teach in them. Or perhaps if you are a private company selling consultancy services to schools there are going to be much greater commercial opportunities in talking to headteachers and CEOs of MATs than talking to somebody who would spend their Wednesday in a classroom with children. Please feel free to suggest other explanations.

The second piece of news is that the make up of the board of trustees of the College of Teaching has just been announced. Remember, this is the body governing an organisation that is supposed to represent teachers. 5 of the trustees are non-teaching “experts”. This means a management type, a surgeon (with experience of professional bodies) and 3 people from existing educational charities. While I’m sure the idea is that these three will have the expertise needed to govern a new educational charity, it essentially means that far from representing a shift in power from existing institutions to a profession-led body, existing institutions are well represented in the new structure. Worse though is the selection of teachers. Of the 8 “teachers”, 3 are heads, 3 hold management positions (that could well be SLT) and only 2 are classroom teachers without a promoted post. None, as far as I can tell, are known for challenging the existing power structures in education (although perhaps the fact that one works in a special school is a positive development). Again, some are heavily involved in existing quangos, educational bodies and sources of “expertise”. Far from being a shift in power, this seems to be an attempt to replicate existing power structures. Those who currently tell teachers what to do are to dominate an organisation that was meant to help teachers reclaim their autonomy.

Yes, I am aware of the counter-arguments. Sure, it looks like only one of the trustees is a teacher with a full teaching timetable, but where would such teacher find the time? Sure, the committee is a bit management heavy, but aren’t the trustees meant to be managers? Sure some of the non-teaching experts are familiar establishment figures, but don’t you want people who know how to run a large educational charity? However, the problem with all these arguments is that they are not only assuming that frontline teachers do not have the capacity to govern a professional body for teachers, but that the sort of body that frontline teachers could not govern is the sort of body teachers should have representing them. If teachers cannot govern the professional body that all those vested interests designed, those vested interests got it wrong. Let’s try a different model. Or not try at all. Anything would be better than the professional body for teachers being governed on the basis of teachers not being professional enough to govern their own professional body. This cannot empower us or improve our status as professionals.

What both these bits of news have in common is the flawed thinking behind the plans for the College Of Teaching. People are signing off on the idea of professionalisation without realising that any autonomy given to teachers, any power given to the profession, has to be taken from somewhere. For us to regain our professionalism we have to be able to tell consultants that their expertise is not required; micro-managing bosses have to be told that some decisions are best left with autonomous professionals, and a whole bunch of vested interests have to be told that they do not speak for the frontline of the teaching profession. Instead of claiming more power for teachers, the current plans for the College Of Teaching are based on building around those who already have power over education and making sure they keep it within the new structure. A so-called “professional body” that actually just replicates existing power structures, while keeping teachers in their place, has been tried before; it was called the GTCE and it didn’t work. Until those behind the College Of Teaching stop trying to repeat the same errors, they can add nothing to our professionalism.


The OFSTED Teaching Style R.I.P. (Part One)

September 18, 2015

I can’t resist passing on Sir Michael Wilshaw’s latest denial of the existence of an OFSTED teaching style as it seems particularly clear. The chief inspector appeared before the education committee of the House Of Commons on Wednesday, and was quizzed by Suella Fernandes, MP for Fareham (who I believe was chair of governors at Michaela Community School).

Suella Fernandes: Very quickly, just in terms of inspection. The guidance from Ofsted states that there is no preferred Ofsted teaching style. Do you agree that that is the case?

Sir Michael Wilshaw: Yes.

Suella Fernandes: There are different teaching styles that we have seen. There is more progressive teaching—with child-centred, facilitating, group work, a bit more independent learning—and, on the other hand, there is more traditional teaching, of a teacher standing at the front and desks in the row, and teachers giving out information. Do you honestly think that inspectors do judge teaching method fairly and not prefer a more progressive child-centred teaching style in schools?

Sir Michael Wilshaw: Inspectors admire the 1960s ideology? No. If we have any inspectors who prefer one style of teaching over another, where they see little or no impact? The important thing is impact, as far as we are concerned, the impact of teaching on progress and outcome. If you are saying to me, “Do we have an inspection workforce that prefers group work and uses the phrase “independent learning” more often than they should?” then, no, we don’t. If they did exist, they have been removed from the inspection workforce.

Suella Fernandes: Because, looking at Ofsted reports, it is clear there is a trend that favourable reports do praise independent learning and critical reports tend to criticise more traditional styles of education. There was a book recently written a few years ago by Daisy Christodoulou—“Seven Myths of Education”—and she is an expert in teaching and curriculum and an experienced teacher herself. She had 228 best practice Ofsted lessons set out. None of them were based on a traditional teaching method and were all along the lines of progressive child-centred, facilitating, more children teaching each other, progressive learning styles. The facts suggest otherwise, don’t they?

Sir Michael Wilshaw: If that was a culture that predominated in Ofsted years ago, we have changed it. We have changed it. I have made it my mission as chief inspector to change it. I want inspectors to see what impact teaching is having. If you have somebody standing out in front of the class and teaching well in a very didactic way but it is making a difference and children are learning, that is fine. If somebody is standing up in front of a class and lecturing children and they are not engaged, then that is not fine. If we are seeing group work, which is producing good outcomes—the best teacher I have ever seen in East London used to jump on her desk and teach from the desk and teach groups of children. The big issue for her was when she said, “Stop” the children stopped. She was very interventionist and because the school was a good one—the one I led—the discipline was so good that the children obeyed the teacher. The disciplinary structure supported the teacher. That is the issue. If any inspector at Ofsted favours one particular teaching style over another, they will not last long in our organisation.

Suella Fernandes: I urge you to look at the—I am sure you do, but—

Sir Michael Wilshaw: I know it is a big issue and it is a political issue. That may have been the case with a few inspectors years ago but is certainly not the case now. If I found any inspector that preferred one teaching style over another, they would not last long.

Please let me know if you have experienced something different.


My Other Blogs

September 2, 2015

I do apologise for the lack of blogging in recent weeks. I’ve been a bit distracted by my other blogging related projects. Hopefully, normal service will soon be resumed. However, I thought I’d just mention those other projects here.

Firstly, I’m still editor of the Labour Teachers blog, so if you are a Labour supporting teacher who can write 700 words, please get in touch.

Secondly, if you are a blogger, please make sure that you are listed on the spreadsheet of blogs. This is a good way to make sure people know about your blog.

Thirdly, and finally, I have helped set up a series of Echo Chamber blogs on particular themes, to help people keep track of the blogs they think are relevant. These Blogs are (largely) automated and (usually) based on the spreadsheet of blogs mentioned above. They blog posts consisting of the first few words and a link to each new blog post from a selected category of education bloggers. The current list is below and a version that will be updated can be found here.

I hope you find something here useful.

The Echo Chamber Blogs


Subject blogs (i.e. collecting all the education blogs written by teachers of a particular school subject, or about a particular subject).

The Art Echo Chamber  Maintained by @pennyprileszky

The Business and Economics Echo Chamber Maintained by @MintSpies

The English Echo Chamber  On Twitter:  Maintained by 

The History Echo Chamber  On Twitter:  Maintained by @teach_well

The ICT and Computing Echo Chamber  On Twitter:  Maintained by @eaglestone

The Literacy Echo Chamber  On Twitter: @LitEchoChamber Maintained by @ThinkReadTweet

The Maths Echo Chamber On Twitter:  Maintained by @Just_Maths

The PE Echo Chamber  On Twitter:  Maintained by @ImSporticus

The RE and Philosophy Echo Chamber  On Twitter @REEchoChamber Maintained by @iTeachRE

The Science Echo Chamber  On Twitter: @sciechochamber Maintained by @A_Weatherall


Sector Blogs (i.e. collecting all the blogs from a particular sector of the education system).

The FE Echo Chamber  On Twitter: @FEechochamber Maintained by @clyn40


Role blogs (i.e. collecting all the blog posts from bloggers with a particular position)

The Governor Echo Chamber  On Twitter:  Maintained by @5N_Afzal

The Headteacher Echo Chamber  Maintained by @bekblayton



The Echo Chamber International (My personal selection of blogs from around the world, not actually based on the spreadsheet.)  On Twitter: Maintained by @big_mean_bunny

Echo Chamber Uncut All the education blogs by bloggers in or from the UK. On Twitter:@EchoChamberUncu Maintained by @oldandrewuk

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