Archive for June, 2017

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Nick Gibb on Grammar Schools and Secondary Moderns

June 13, 2017

Since Theresa May became prime minister, the Conservative Party has turned back to its 1990s policy of returning to a grammar/secondary modern system. I suspect this created difficulties for Nick Gibb, the schools minister, who had previously opposed the policy, who would have been given a choice: support the policy and continue to influence policy or oppose it and return to the back benches. I’ve never particularly wanted to point out his previous record of opposition to grammar schools, as while this could be used to embarrass him, it would hardly make things easier for those hoping to dissuade the government from going down the route of selective education.

Now, however, following the loss of the government’s majority, it is unlikely that the government has any hope of passing legislation on the matter and it has already been reported that the policy has been torn up. On top of that, I suspects that the Prime Minister can’t last much longer and, if we are fortunate, her replacement will be less interested in the issue. So I thought this would be a good opportunity to remind ourselves how far the Conservatives had moved on before May turned the clock back.

This is what Nick Gibb had to say in 2012, back during his first stint as schools minister, when asked about grammar schools on Any Questions:

When people talk about the grammar school issue, I never get people asking the question “why don’t you bring back the secondary modern?” And in fact most people would go to the secondary modern – most children would go to a secondary modern school – if we brought back selection at the age of 11.

Now our job is to improve the standards in the three thousand comprehensive schools in this country and I believe it’s not getting rid of the grammar schools that was the issue. It is some of the progressive teaching methods that came into the country in the 1960s and 70s such as mixed ability teaching; moving away from traditional subjects rigorously taught; the way reading has been taught in  primary schools that doesn’t use the traditional phonics method of teaching children to read, so now we have…one in ten boys leaving primary school with a reading age of 7. These are the issues we are trying to grapple [with].

…we have to go on the evidence and the evidence that we have when we look around the world at those high performing jurisdictions that have high quality education systems producing young people who will be competing for the same jobs that our young people will be competing for in the global job market. What those countries have in common is that they have teachers from the top quarter of their graduate output; they have autonomy for their schools so that the teachers can run their schools as they see fit, and they have very rigorous external accountability and testing. When you look around the world – Finland, South Korea, Japan – they don’t have selective systems and yet they have very high performing education systems… The things they all have in common – the top jurisdictions – is those three things I’ve just said and that’s where our education policy is geared.

…Our whole raison d’être in our education policy is to close this attainment gap between those from wealthier and poorer backgrounds. We want to improve the standard of behaviour in those comprehensives that the questioner thinks can’t provide the kind of education that some children need. We want to ensure that our three thousand comprehensives do provide that kind of education.

We are changing the curriculum. We are changing the exams. We brought in the English Baccalaureate to try to undo the damage done over the last ten years where students have moved away from things like modern languages and these more traditional subjects. Now we’ve seen a huge uptake in history geography and languages as a consequence of that policy.

I thought then, and I think now, that this is the right answer. Let’s hope that as things settle down after recent events, no more energy is wasted on finding escape routes for the middle class, rather than providing an academic education for all.

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The Chartered Teacher Programme: Another stick to beat teachers with

June 5, 2017

Yesterday, the following details of the latest from the Chartered College Of Teaching were leaked to me. I assume these are genuine, if not, please let me know and I will remove this post as quickly as possible. This is, as I understand it, a draft of the principles that will be used when awarding the status of “Chartered Teacher”.

The Chartered Teacher Programme – Professional Principles Framework – Draft

The Professional Principles Framework will define the level of accomplishment across three key domains which teachers will need to achieve in order to be awarded Chartered Teacher status. The framework will:

  • provide clarity to all teachers of the competencies that underpin excellence in teaching as supported by a body of evidence;
  • enable all teachers to self-assess their values, knowledge and practice against the competencies and use this to guide their professional development;
  • provide a structured career path for those teachers who wish to progress within their career whilst remaining in the classroom;
  • encourage collaboration between teachers and their peers, and between teachers and the wider teaching profession.

The three key domains of the Chartered Teacher Professional Principles Framework are:

  1. Professional values.
  2. Professional knowledge and understanding.
  3. Professional practice.

These domains are set out below.

Professional values

Chartered Teachers embody five core professional values:

  1. Sustained commitment to critical self-evaluation and career-long professional learning.
  2. Commitment to, and advocate for, all learners, their learning and their wellbeing.
  3. Commitment to education for social justice.
  4. Demonstration of the highest level of integrity and professionalism.
  5. Professional engagement to create a strong community for learning.

Professional knowledge and understanding

Chartered Teachers have a developed knowledge and understanding across five key areas:

  1. Pedagogical knowledge.
  2. Subject knowledge.
  3. Learner development and context.
  4. Enquiry and research.
  5. Curriculum, pedagogy and assessment.

Professional practice

The classroom practice of a Chartered Teacher is characterised by five key elements:

  1. Extending pedagogical knowledge continually through engagement with evidence and research.
  2. Creating an optimal environment for teaching and learning for all learners.
  3. Planning and preparing effective, inspiring learning opportunities.
  4. Teaching high-quality, engaging lessons for learner progress.
  5. Critical evaluation of own practice for improved impact on learner outcomes.

Most of this is what you’d expect when a bureaucracy writes about education: lists of aims and values without any sense of priority. If theories of learner development conflict with research evidence about pedagogy, then which should chartered teachers follow? If “an optimal environment for learning” isn’t one with “inspiring learning opportunities”, which should come first? Like the old lesson observation checklists with 4 dozen items on, where contradictory principles are piled together like this, we get a situation where all judgements can be justified. Anyone could be judged to have met or to have failed to meet these principles, just on the basis of which principles those making the judgement prioritise.

On top of that, a number of items are heavily loaded.

Do we really want teachers to be judged on whether they have a “Commitment to education for social justice”? How could that ever be anything other than a judgement as to whether they have the right politics? How about being “advocates for” the “wellbeing” of all learners? “Wellbeing” can refer to being an amateur therapist or substitute parent (and why are they “learners” not students, pupils or children?) Finally, there is a huge step backward towards judging lessons for their entertainment value. “inspiring learning opportunities” and “engaging lessons for learner progress” sound like something from an OFSTED report from 2012. Why would any teacher whose priority is the learning of their classes want to be judged on that basis? I’ve written before about the misuse of engagement (as have many other bloggers) and inspiration. These terms have been used to condemn teachers for not being entertaining enough.

Of course, at the heart of this is a problem with a professional body set up by non-teachers. It is a body that will seek to judge, classify and assess teachers rather than support them. Like many teachers, I always want to learn more about teaching and would welcome a professional body that can provide knowledge and support, but I will oppose any body that tries to judge teachers. Being a “chartered teacher” will have the same value as having your lessons rated “outstanding” by OFSTED or qualifying as an AST did, it will mark somebody out as “playing the game”, having a willingness to do and say what some authority figure wanted them to do or say. It is not what teachers need; it is a stick to beat teachers with.

Update 5/6/2017: I have now been sent, but not given permission to release, a later draft of this, with most of the contentious parts removed. The later version and some explanatory material can be found here.

 

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