Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category


What OFSTED still needs to do

March 17, 2018

It seems incredible to think how far the schools inspectorate OFSTED have moved on since I was writing about them five years ago. Back then they seemed to be little more than the “child centred inquisition”, a way of enforcing the correct way of teaching, and the correct way was always progressive. They were also a nice little earner for contracted inspectors, who could work as consultants advising schools on how to pass OFSTEDs. This was usually by teaching the correct way.

Nowadays, OFSTED do not grade lessons; they do not let inspectors work as OFSTED consultants; they do not officially have a preferred style of teaching and they publish mythbusting information. The worst of their former inspectors can now be found trolling people on Twitter and complaining about how terrible it is that teachers can be openly traditionalist again.

But is there more that needs to be done?

I would make the following suggestions entirely as a classroom teacher (I realise there are plenty of bigger issues if you look at inspections from other perspectives, particularly the pressing need to inspect MATs directly):

  1. Get rid of the “Outstanding” grade for schools, or at least make it dependent on results, not inspections. The point of the outstanding grade seems to be that it should encourage Good schools to get better. However, anecdotally at least, it’s main effect seems to be to scare Outstanding schools into getting worse. I can only judge this from anecdotes, but because the period between inspections of outstanding schools can be so long, and because the schools are so invested in their outstanding status, you end up (after enough time) with schools that are both desperate to do well in an inspection and also a bit out of the loop about what inspections are like. This creates a space where panic and myths thrive and a number of teachers in outstanding schools that are due to be inspected have told me stories of terrible gimmicks that managers have inflicted on them in a panic.
  2. Improve accountability of inspectors. There are still inspectors who think there is a particular correct way of teaching and tell schools what they should be doing. It is not as blatant as it was. They don’t do what an inspector did to me back in the day and tell me a lesson was inadequate because because bottom set year 10 were working quietly on algebra and not talking to each other. But I’ve very recently seen how an inspector can say they want to see more “challenge”, not because students were finding work easy, or because they could all do it, but apparently because there were no exercises of a particular type. I have two suggestions for increasing accountability of inspectors. Firstly, require them to record all advice give on teaching on a separate form, that can then be analysed over time. Secondly, survey teachers immediately after an inspection. While what one school says about inspectors can be a pretty limited and partial perspective, over several inspections it should be possible to build up a picture of what inspectors are doing.
  3. Don’t add to workload. There’s a lot of debate about how inspections could prevent teachers having too much workload. If there is a practical way to do that I would be interested to know what it is, but ultimately it’s not OFSTED’s job to set teachers’ working conditions. However there are still two ways in which inspection is adding to teacher workload. Firstly, inspectors look for consistency, i.e. whether a school’s policy is being followed by everyone. This means that where schools have counter-productive, workload increasing policies, OFSTED is creating an incentive for schools to police those policies aggressively even where the policies are terrible. OFSTED can’t be the final arbiter on which policies create too much workload, but an acceptance that will be looking for consistency only where consistency will not increase workload (with a few examples of what that means) would help matters. Secondly, while OFSTED is clear that they do not require lesson plans or folders of student information when they observe a class, inspectors still take them if offered and schools still encourage teacher to provide such things for inspectors. OFSTED should not just say “we do not require X” when mythbusting, they should say “we will not even look at X” and start with Xs that a classroom teacher might be told to hand over unnecessarily.
  4. Make “mythbusting” more proactive. I really like the way that if lots of schools are doing something ridiculous to prepare for OFSTED, then after a year or so it will become well known via social media or other teacher forums, and perhaps within another year or two it might appear in a mythbusting document and schools might slowly stop doing it. This is a great thing and a vast improvement on days gone by, when not only did almost every fad get described as “this is what OFSTED want to see” but also half the time there were inspectors who spread the myths as part of their consultancy work and probably did expect to see it when inspecting. However, there needs to be a better way of preventing new myths developing than hoping enough people ask Sean Harford on Twitter if they are true. Inspectors need to feedback to say “schools are doing this now” whenever something seems to be a craze during inspections, and OFSTED needs to react to that information by constantly updating its myths documents to remove any practice that looks like it might be being done entirely to impress inspectors but serving no practical purpose.

I now see OFSTED as an organisation that takes a fairly sensible attitude towards dealing with classroom teachers. But it still has a lot of unintended consequences for teachers, and it is time to put systems in place to address them.


What’s normal in a school is what matters

March 10, 2018

A lot of descriptions of what happens in schools become confused because what actually matters in a school is what it normal, not whether things happen at all.

So, for instance, debate about teaching through the use of group work is not a debate between some people who always use group work and some people who would never endorse group work in any context. It’s a debate between those who think it is normal to use group work, and those who think group work should be the exception.  What matters is the default. Would you use group work whenever you felt like it, or would you use it only because it served a particular purpose that you could not achieve in a different way. When we are discussing how teachers teach, the measure of a teacher’s teaching style is not a list of how often they teach in a particular way, but what they default to. How would you teach something if it could be taught in a number of different ways? What would you think would work best? When people who always default to one style, claim they have no ideology, no bias, they just “do what works” and so does everybody else, they are being disingenuous. What you believe works, is an ideology. In particular, what you default to, is a bias. Your teaching style is what you do when there is no reason to do something else, not what you do in exceptional circumstances. This is why the set up of a room is important and controversial. Whether you choose to put desks in rows or in groups has a lot to do with what you think you will normally be doing. It tells you far more about a teacher’s priorities than statements about “sometimes I do this, other times I do this”.

When talking about behaviour in a school, it is the defaults that matter. What will students do for a teacher they have never met? What will students do before the teacher tells them what to do. There’s a lot of debate about whether classes should work in silence or not. But that’s never the issue. The default behaviour of the students is what matters. Do students stay silent until told they can speak, or speak continually until told to be silent? Both situations can result in a class that sometimes works in silence and sometimes do things that involve speaking, but the former is a lot easier to manage. You can pretty much judge the behaviour of a school by how long it would take an unfamiliar teacher to get a class to be quiet and listen. Similarly, do students call out answers to questions until a teacher tells them not to, or do they wait their turn until they are told to call out? Too often the worse behaviour is the habit and the good behaviour the exception, rather than the other way around. There is a paradox in behaviour management that stricter rules are often easier to follow, and a lot of that is because schools that ask for certain behaviours (eg. working in silence, putting your hand up to answer questions, forming an orderly queue) almost all the time find it easier to make exceptions when required, whereas schools that only ask for those behaviours some of the time find it difficult to get students to adjust their behaviour when required.

Finally, discussions of what a school should teach and how they should teach it, must be based around what is normal, not what is necessary in exceptional cases. A lot of debate about inclusion and SEN has simply not been about what schools can do to help the exceptional cases: the students who cannot read or write, cannot access the curriculum or cannot sit still for a test. Instead it has been about how schools can lower expectations across the board so that exceptional cases are no longer exceptional. We can call it “inclusive” if students can learn history for three years without ever having to read and comprehend a page of historical writing; if there are calculators available in every maths lessons so nobody ever has to rely on mental arithmetic, or if classes are mixed in ability to the point where writing five words in an hour is acceptable from some, but the effect on the majority in terms of reduced expectations is immense.

In all these contexts, and more, those running schools and classrooms need to ask “what is normal?”. Anything schools allow may become normal, and anything that is normal may soon be seen as something that cannot be changed. Too often teachers come to the idea that a certain level of effort; a certain level of disruption; a certain level of rudeness, is just normal for kids. They also come to think that a certain way of teaching; a certain way of ignoring bad behaviour, a certain attitude to work is normal for teachers. However, too often all those expectations are simply what the school has taught to the kids and to staff and the behaviour could be changed with a bit of thought and a clearer explanation of what is expected and more consistency in expecting it.


School Shamings: Why they are unnecessary and who is to blame for them

March 4, 2018

I won’t link to it for reasons that will become obvious, but I read an article on the Guardian website about behaviour.

One by one, the children are greeted by staff with a warm smile and a personalised hello. The teachers’ enthusiasm, however genuine, is rarely reciprocated. Some students scowl, others grunt a “hello”, almost all hunch their shoulders. One 11-year-old girl, … [the executive principal of the special school] recalls, responded with a curt “Fuck off!” every single morning for a year.

That particular response would be met with instant isolation, detention or expulsion in many schools – but not at …[this school]. “She was living in a house where there was violence, drug abuse, swearing – that was just commonplace and no one was nice to her,” ….[the executive principal] says. “So when she comes to us and we’re nice to her, she couldn’t cope with it.”

Instead of disciplining her, teachers paid the girl more positive attention in an attempt to understand the angst she was bringing from home. Within a year, she had stopped her morning outburst and got along with school staff. And that, the school’s principal, …, explains, is why the daily greeting is essential: it allows teachers to spot which children are arriving in a foul mood. “You’re sussing out where the child is at and how they’re feeling,” she says.

The article goes on to talk about “unconditional positive regard”:

… it means rewarding children for the smallest things – like being kind to fellow pupils – and not punishing bad behaviour. “I could have a kid that spits in my face today and tomorrow I’ll be OK with them,” he says. And if a pupils throws over a table and swears at the teacher? “The teacher would be really nice to them, talk nicely. It would be dealt with by the care team and that child would be looked after, taken out of the room for a calming period and then welcomed back into the classroom.”

This model of teacher virtue, in which we are encouraged to be human sponges willing to absorb any abuse and punishment, was not popular on my Twitter timeline. Many complained about how bad it would be for students to have their bad behaviour excused or rewarded. Others pointed out the implications for teachers’ working conditions. One tweeter observed that the idea that you should just put up with violence and hostility if you care enough was one that was normally discouraged because of its implications for victims of domestic violence.

However, if you read this blog you are probably already familiar with what I think of this. This is not why I am blogging. There was something else. This article was on Tuesday. The school, the principal and the executive principal were named. They are easily found on Twitter. Many, many Twitter traditionalists expressed their disapproval. Yet when I did a search last night, there was not one tweet attacking the school by name. There was not one abusive tweet sent to those staff members. There was only condemnation of the ideas.

I have repeatedly blogged about school shamings: when named schools and their staff are criticised on social media or in the press and it leads to online abuse.

There have been three main counter points given in defence of school shaming (if you ignore the endless pedantic responses asking me to define every word I use to describe the phenomena).

  1. Schools are publicly funded, therefore, they should be scrutinised and public criticism is part of that.
  2. The school being shamed has sought publicity for itself, therefore, as its name is out there, critics of the school should name it too.
  3. Traditionalists do the same thing too, you only object because you support the ideology of the schools being shamed.

We now have an example that shows that it’s possible to criticise a school, and object to the ideas and activities there in the strongest terms, without naming the school. We now know that it’s possible for people to be really angry about what a school does (and let’s be clear, I am very angry at the suggestion that teachers just accept abuse and violence) without provoking abusive messages on Twitter to staff at the school. We have now seen that even when a school publicises its terrible idea, it is possible to respond with criticism without using the school’s name. And finally, we can now observe that Twitter traditionalists do not react in the same way as progressives to things they dislike in schools; we can actually criticise at length without trying to shame or abuse. The difference between the insults and accusations schools get for having strict discipline policies, and the response this school has had for a ludicrously lenient one, is striking.

So I’m going to say it:

  • There is no excuse for school shaming. You can always criticise ideas without naming schools or people.
  • School shaming is something done by supporters of progressive education, and it is progressives who need to stop.


Why is the EEF getting it so wrong about ability grouping?

March 3, 2018

For a while now, whenever the topic of setting and streaming has come up, people have referred me to the EEF toolkit, and particularly graphs like this one:

It shows that “ability grouping”, which to teachers in England is likely to be thought to refer to setting (i.e. grouping by previous test scores in a particular subject) or streaming (grouping by a measure of general ability or a combination of test scores across subjects) has a negative effect on student achievement. For other topics I’m interested in, the effect sizes found by the EEF, based on meta-analyses, correspond to similar work done by John Hattie for his book Visible Learning. Hattie found a positive effect size of 0.12 for ability grouping. The EEF found a negative effect size: -0.09. This puzzled me when I first saw it.

The EEF – The Education Endowment Foundation – was set up by Michael Gove with the intention of providing a more solid empirical basis for education. It has been generously funded to conduct Randomised Control Trials according to an agreed protocol. It is therefore often treated as a neutral source of information. This has been repeatedly cited to me as proof that setting does not work. One would have assumed that it would be subject to more checks than the work of a single researcher, such as Hattie. So how did the results end up so different?

These are the meta-analyses behind the figure:

Meta-analyses Effect size
Gutierrez, R., & Slavin, R. E., (1992)
-0.34 (mixed age attainment vs non-graded classes)
Kulik C-L.C & Kulik J.A. , (1982)
0.10 (on secondary pupils)
Kulik C-L.C & Kulik J.A. , (1984)
0.10 (on elementary/primary pupils)
Lou, Y., Abrami, P. C., Spence, J. C., Poulsen, C., Chambers, B., & d’Apollonia, S. , (1996)
-0.12 (on low attainers)
Puzio, K., & Colby, G. , (2010)
Slavin, R. E. , (1990)
-0.06 (on low attainers)
Indicative effect size (on low attainers) -0.09

I had previously noticed a couple of issues here.

Firstly, they have cherry picked data for low attainers, rather than an average effect size in two cases. While the effect on low attainers might be of particular concern, it is odd to simply include figures specifically for low attainers in calculating a single effect size. Also it has been claimed (and I’m not in a position to check whether this is correct) that figures for low attainers in this type of research include a systematic error. Secondly, Abrami et al (1996) meta-analysis was actually research into “within class” grouping, which is usually considered a form of mixed ability teaching. I don’t know how the EEF combines its effect sizes so I don’t know the effects of correcting for these two anomalies. It is noticeable that Hattie also includes within class grouping, so that alone can’t explain the differences. And, I think some of the positive effect sizes are also from within class grouping so this may cancel out.

But now I notice there’s a bigger anomaly. Hattie considers Gutierrez et al (1992) to give ability grouping a positive effect size of 0.34. The EEF says -0.34. This is the biggest effect size anyone found in either direction. The paper can be found here and it seems to agree with Hattie. The confusion may be that it is actually research into mixing year groups, and because year groups are called “grades” in the US, the ability grouped classes are called “ungraded”. However, the figure of 0.34 seems to be for ability grouping, not against.

The only effect size which Hattie and the EEF both agree is negative is Slavin (1990). In the abstract Slavin, an opponent of ability grouping, describes his results this way:

“Overall achievement effects were found to be essentially zero at all grade levels… Results were close to zero for students of all levels of prior performance.”

If that’s the best evidence the EEF found for negative effects of setting, then they have, intentionally or otherwise, misled us.

The EEF appears to have used a mix of irrelevant studies, and an incorrect figure, to get its assessment of ability grouping completely wrong. To be honest, the quality of the studies are generally so poor, and the practice of combining effect sizes so problematic, that I hadn’t been that bothered previously. Additionally, most of the effect sizes in the graph above, and in Hattie, assess interventions and come from research conducted by supporters of those interventions, meaning that any comparison with the effect size for ability grouping is not comparing like with like. I had generally concluded that this whole approach was hopeless.

However, it seemed likely that some good research was on its way. The EEF was doing some RCTs with researchers at UCL. And then this week, before any RCT results had come out, an incredibly poor journal article “The Symbolic Violence of Setting” attacking setting on the basis of minimal evidence, was published under the name of most of the UCL researchers. Greg Ashman discusses it here. It’s pretty much everything that gives educational research a poor name: worthless “qualitative” methods and a vehement ideological commitment to a particular conclusion.

This is a big problem for the EEF. If people are so against setting that they compare it with violence, then I don’t believe it can be ethical for them to conduct research into setting. From their perspective, honest and objective research that has a result that favours setting would actually encourage “symbolic violence”. Either they are willing to risk inflicting “symbolic violence” on children or they never planned to allow the results to go that way. Both alternatives would be completely unethical and researchers should not put themselves in a position where they have to make such a choice. This is all despite the claim: “The EEF is committed to maintaining independence and impartiality in all its work”.

The EEF and those funding it need to take a closer look at what it is doing. It was meant to help educators get evidence that is not tainted by the usual ideological nonsense of educational research. Here, either by error or bad intent, they seem to have encouraged exactly that.

As a final note, Dylan Wiliam recently claimed on Twitter that the problems with the research on setting might be even more fundamental:

This area remains one where there really is minimal good evidence, and I would recommend that teachers make their own decisions based on their experience.


Born Bad

February 24, 2018

The dominant model of student behaviour used by educational progressives (and therefore by the education system in England which still takes its assumptions from educational progressivism) is therapeutic. If a child is badly behaved, then this is a symptom of some other problem. The correct response is to diagnose the problem and resolve it. The problems tend to be:

  • the teacher;
  • society;
  • SEND.

This has led to a denial of two key factors in behaviour:

  1. Social influences. The peer group and the culture of a school are absolutely key to a child’s decision to misbehave. Put the same child in a different class or a different school, and you would see radically different behaviour, even if somehow they still had the same teacher, the same SEND and the same external society.
  2. Human agency. Badly behaved children are assumed to have very little agency. Their choices are a response to either internal or external circumstances. They are considered to be perpetually not guilty due to diminished responsibility. Effectively, if a child is badly behaved, they must be insane and need treatment for their insanity.

This latter point is particularly bizarre. When kids see an adult won’t hold them responsible for their actions then they will exploit it ruthlessly. Nothing undermines a kid’s efforts to improve their behaviour than being told they aren’t responsible for it. Schools put a lot of resources into curing badly behaved kids of their “underlying problems” (often these are called “unmet needs” and the bad behaviour is described as “communicating unmet needs”). My experience is that these resources are largely wasted. I have known so many children who have been subjected to “intervention” to help their behaviour on this basis, and yet I cannot think of one child who was “cured” and can think of several whose behaviour became worse as a result. Children do improve their behaviour. Sometimes they just mature; sometimes they realise the consequences of continued misbehaviour; sometimes their peer or family group changes and that’s enough. Rarely does any child’s behaviour improve because their “unmet needs” are identified solely from their behaviour and cured. Beyond asking “what can I do to help you behave?” very little useful information is gained from the search for unmet needs, because while a whole host of factors may affect behaviour, very little behaviour has one over-riding, treatable cause.

So why are progressives so convinced of the therapeutic approach to behaviour management? The most obvious explanation is that it is in accord with their beliefs about human nature. There is a romantic, utopian tradition in both liberalism and socialism, that sees human beings as natural saints who are corrupted by society. Once the right institutions exist, or the wrong ones are destroyed, we will reach the promised land. In this account, no child could be motivated to do something bad without some external influence.

This is in contrast to a conservative account of human nature. In this account, none of us are natural saints. We all feel the temptation to do wrong and we all give into it from time to time. We all do things that we know are wrong and no external agent has encouraged us to do. Even toddlers who have never experienced violence, may decide to shove another child out of the way. No crime that we can imagine is so alien to human nature that nobody has ever tried to commit it. There is darkness and cruelty in human nature.

This is one of those “debates” where one account is obviously true. We are blatantly not natural saints. We do have selfish impulses we have to learn to control. We do suffer from pride and laziness. We do get angry when we shouldn’t. We don’t always consider others as much as we should. Nobody ever had to make us this way; it’s who we are and anyone claiming to be above such impulses would be mocked for their self-righteousness. It’s almost impossible to see where anyone could even begin if one wanted to make a case for our natural moral perfection.

So what can be done to continue a debate where one position is obviously wrong and the evidence that it is wrong is so abundant that it would be impossible to know where to start if somebody asked for it?

There are two main strategies for those who deny human nature: the ad hominem and the straw man.

The ad hominem argument is to point out that belief in our fallen nature is part of Christianity, part of the doctrine of original sin, and therefore, anyone who believes in it, must believe in it on that basis. It has a certain plausibility. I’m sure people who think the state can remake human nature from scratch are less likely to be religious than those of us who worry every day they might fall into temptation. But, of course, no proposition can be disproved by a statement about who believes it and being a Christian belief doesn’t make something inherently false, particularly if it’s obviously true. As G.K.Chesterton said, original sin is “the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved”. Moreover, do atheists always adhere to the romantic view of human nature? Probably the most pessimistic statement about human nature I can think of (far more pessimistic than my beliefs) comes from arch-atheist Richard Dawkins in the Selfish Gene:

“Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish. Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to do.”

He later conceded that we do have more of a natural tendency to altruism than he admitted here, but there is no possibility that he had somehow become temporarily religious when he wrote the claim I quoted.

The other argument, is the straw man. The view that our worst impulses are not necessarily unnatural, can be misrepresented as the view that our natural impulses are only our worst impulses. When I say we are “born bad”, I mean we are born with some bad impulses. We cannot blame our inclination to do wrong only on what has happened to us since birth. It is not a claim that nothing good in our natures is there from birth. It is not a claim that children have no good instincts. However, to those who want to misrepresent me, then what I am saying is that children deserve to be treated as if they are just plain evil. I never cease to be amazed that when I discuss the flawed nature of all human beings, including myself, people will paraphrase whatever I say as referring only to kids and then use it as evidence that I hate children. Of course, I don’t think children are exceptions to human nature, to say otherwise would be to treat them as not actually human. But nobody is under any obligation to believe children are natural saints who do not need boundaries or guidance in order to do the right thing.

If anyone has an argument that we are all natural born saints, that doesn’t consist of pointing and shouting “you hate children”, I’d be grateful to hear it. Until then, I will continue to believe that we are “born bad” in as much as human nature is not completely fluffy and that we should all strive for our own moral improvement.


Don’t let @BAMEedNetwork shame your education event

February 17, 2018

Last week I wrote about how progressives use race to smear education events. I noticed how certain events are singled out for criticism for not having enough ethnic minority speakers on every single panel, while others are not commented on at all even when they advertise a completely white line up.

Most of the response was what you might expect. People claimed the events I mentioned were unrepresentative, or that there were special circumstances, but then couldn’t come up with any counter-examples. People denied the debate between progressives and traditionalists, or refused to acknowledge that some events were progressive dominated while others had a range of viewpoints. People claimed that all events were national events, and, therefore, anybody who took account of where events were held, was defending racism. Nobody gave any evidence that speakers, who often travel at their own expense, will agree to travel anywhere in the country without any regard to time and money. Add to that the ad hominem comments about me and the people who took offence about statements of facts, and you get the picture.

However, one thing that came up was that there was more co-ordination to one of the Twitter shamings than I realised. I later updated my post to include it, but I hadn’t noticed one of the shamings began with a tweet saying:

Diversity klaxon going wild there. Need some help? #BAMEed

This was a signal for people to make complaints and it came from one of the founders of the “BAMEed” group (@BAMEedNetwork). Another one of their leaders described what the group does in response to my questions:

The aim is to call out lack of diversity where it is seen. … If there was a system to ensure all event organisers checklist diversity objectives and balance at events trust me I would encourage it… [we] Just call out any event that has been organised without due respect to the various educators we have… It is public as it on Twitter. It is shaming as those who organise know that they should be doing better on representation. [The] Standard is as arbitrary as inclusion itself. … NRocks, SRocks, TEDxNorwich have actively asked for help with diversity speakers. Have spoken with EducationFest, OxfordshireHeads, ASE after they responded to challenge… Some such as the ASE were called out publicly and responded well. We work with them to improve… I say ‘Hey event organiser! Would be great if your event had the representation of BAME that we have nationally. Would really be good for educators to get more voices. Having trouble finding some? I can help.’

So there is a group that publicly shames… sorry… “calls out” some education events (but not others) for not having the right ethnic balance of speakers according to their own arbitrary standard. It also helps conferences by advising on speakers. Now, there are issues with the fairness of this that arise from the last post. However, there is a bigger concern here. Who are BAMEed to police education events in this way?

Well it turns out that of the 4 founders of BAMEed:

  • One has done work for Leadership Matters a group who advise schools. She explained that it was unpaid writing for their website, but until challenged on it had not been forthcoming about this even when I asked “…can you say directly that you do not work for any consultancy company?”.
  • One works for Challenge Partners, a group that organises education events and advises schools, and promises on their website to provide opportunities to “access the expertise of practitioners and external consultants”. While the debate over the shamings was happening, she advertised the Challenge Partners Conference with the words “Think Festival of Education but far more useful practically!” The Festival of Education, clearly identified here as a rival, was one of the events that has been Twitter shamed over diversity with what seemed like no real justification at all.
  • One works as a “Consultant/Trainer” and according to his website “travels offering training and CPD to educational institutions”.
  • One is the director of ThinkSimple Ltd, a consultancy firm which “consists of a team of experienced educators and trainers who use the philosophy of 21st century learning to support schools and businesses to help redefine a more efficient and successful way of working.”

Now, consultants have a huge interest in speaking at conferences. It is somewhere school leaders will see them and consider hiring them. Nobody looking for a fair judge of education events would ever consider people who work with; for, or as consultants as anything other than a vested interest. I’m not alleging deliberate corruption, nor a conspiracy, but observing the fact that this group has a significant conflict of interest when it comes to policing conferences online, and in advising conferences on who to invite to speak. They even admitted that some of the events they sought to advise actually paid speakers.

Even if it was without conflicts of interest, trying to enforce an arbitrary standard of diversity, through the means of Twitter shaming is morally dubious. As my last post pointed out, there is reason to doubt the neutrality of these campaigns and several people from ethnic minorities involved in education raised the concern that the group did not speak for them or their interests. But now that it has emerged that the shamings are being organised by people who have significant conflicts of interest regarding who gets to speak at education events and how those events are perceived online, it’s time to call on them to stop it. The use of social media to police and publicly shame education events, particularly those organised by unpaid volunteers, needs to end now.


Using Race To Smear Education Events

February 10, 2018

There was an education event in June last year in Berkshire. About 7% of people in Berkshire are Asian, and about 2% are black.

This was posted on Twitter about one of the panels.

Here are some of the comments made about this panel on Twitter.

I can’t help but notice the lack of racial diversity. Is it fair to say many voices will be present, or just the majority group’s?

[when asked about the numbers] I think when we play numbers games it only serves to further marginalized non-majority groups.

[in response to an Asian woman saying she was happy with the panel] this is an anecdotal argument that ignores the larger issue of non-majority populations being consistently underrepresented.

If the panel has no minority representation, it does concern me (despite the rest of the program)

Also worth considering the considerable evidence that diverse constituency of a group produces more effective outcomes (any location)

A risk of tokenism if organisers introduce diversity ‘for show’, sure. That’s why organisations do well to self review at all levels  a telling argument is tendency to perform better without echo chamber repetition typical of dominant monoculture group interactions

Not about representation it’s about power. We should all be willing to consider our work & how power distributed.

There was an education event in Warwickshire in July last year. Less than 5% of people in Warwickshire are Asian. Less than 1% are black. A flyer showing some of the speakers was posted to Twitter.

Here are some of the comments made about the event on Twitter (either responding to that list or to a panel at the event):

Diversity klaxon going wild there. Need some help? #BAMEed

Where you at @BAMEedNetwork ? Represent !!!

and an all-white panel at that…#BAMEed can help next time

How about more diversity in your speaker list?

Visible diversity and diversity are both items which need consideration. The locality of an event is irrelevant.

Isn’t the baseline [for] diversity in the profession? So 1 in 18 speakers wouldn’t be visible/invisible diversity.

There was an education event in Leeds in October. The Leeds Urban Sub Division is more than 10% Asian and more than 5% black.

A flyer showing some of the speakers was posted to Twitter.

I cannot find one single tweet commenting on a lack of diversity in this list.

Statistically this seems odd. Why are white people on one panel in Berkshire or Warwickshire, or white people (and one Asian) in Warwickshire seen as unrepresentative but white speakers in a multicultural city like Leeds not even commented on?

The most plausible answer is that the first two events had plenty of speakers who were ordinary classrooms teachers, and a range of progressive and traditionalist views on education. The Leeds event appears to be very progressive, with no traditionalist speakers and all the names I recognise belong to consultants and educationalists. It’s almost as if “diversity policing” on social media, where people harass organisers of education events for not having enough diversity in their speakers, is actually about trying to silence traditionalists and/or teachers and nothing about diversity at all.

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