Archive for the ‘Of Interest’ Category


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


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.


Tough Questions For OFSTED

June 22, 2015

I’m fairly sympathetic to the leadership of OFSTED these days or, at any rate, to their efforts to reform the organisation. It was recently confirmed in the press that their efforts to bring everything in-house had resulted in 40% of Additional Inspectors (i.e. inspectors who worked for contracting companies) being dispensed with. Having been on the receiving end of a lesson observation judgement by an AI a couple of years back who ignored pretty much everything the Chief Inspector had been saying, I’m glad to see this. However, all reform of OFSTED is open to the criticism that it is too late for those who have suffered the effects of an incorrect judgement. This does tend to assume that where OFSTED has got it wrong they have been too harsh, not too lenient, on schools which is far from obviously the case. I do tend to wonder if some of those complaining about past inaccuracies in inspection would be terribly happy if OFSTED reviewed some of their “good” or “outstanding” judgements. Nevertheless, it is of interest to see to what extent OFSTED do acknowledge their past failings. One senior figure was interviewed (6 minutes in) here on Radio 4’s PM programme. In case you are reading this after that programme ceases to be available, or you cannot easily listen now, here (courtesy of @littlepippin76 to whom I’m very grateful) is a transcript:

Eddie Mair: For thousands of schools across England, pleasing OFSTED is very important. A school will trumpet a report that describes it as outstanding. At the other end of the scale, schools that are deemed inadequate go through a lot of soul-searching, disappointment and sometimes staff changes. The system has always been controversial, and teachers have complained about the quality of inspections, but for better or worse, the inspections have been the bedrock on which the education of England is based. The ratings are very significant. Under new laws, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan wants every school that is rated ‘inadequate’ is turned into an academy.

Well tonight there are new questions about whether the ratings should be believed at all. OFSTED has announced that it’s letting go 1,200 school and college inspectors after assessing them as not good enough. 1,200 is about 40% of the contracted workforce.

Sir Robin Bosher is OFSTED’s director of quality and training. What’s happened here?

Sir Robin Bosher: Well, we’re coming to the end of our current contracts with our contractors, and we’re determined to raise the standard of inspections, and so we’ve looked at the workforce that’s been with us, with the contractors for some time, and we want to raise that quality.

EM: In what ways have they been failing?

RB: I think, the main issue for head teachers, and I think you hit on it in your introduction, was the lack of consistency, the lack of consistent quality, and we’re very keen that a head teacher can rely, fully rely, on the inspector that’s walking up the path, and they absolutely know that they can deliver the highest quality inspection.

EM: For how long have these inconsistent inspectors been working for you?

RB: Well, what you’ll understand is that some of the inspectors who are less consistent have been working for the contractors…

EM: But for how long?

RB: The contracts have been in place for a number of years, but what I would say is that

EM: Forgive me, but this is important to everyone who is interested in education in England; they’ll want to know, for how many years might these inconsistent, these slightly poor inspectors, how long have they been assessing education?

RB: Well I don’t think they were ‘poor’. What we want to do at this point is to raise the overall quality. What you’ll understand is that we are introducing a new framework, and that requires us to raise the quality of inspection.

EM: Right, but for how long were the ‘poor’ inspectors, for how long were the inconsistent inspectors doing the job?

RB: Well, you know, that’s not the point.

EM: I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking.

RB: That’s not the point.

EM: It’s my question.

RB: The point now is that we’re raising the bar to move forward, and that’s why we need to make sure that the full cohort of inspectors are the best that they can be.

EM: Would you give a pass mark to a pupil who so consistently failed to answer a question?

RB: (Laughs) You know that it’s not that I’m not answering your question…

EM: Yes it is.

RB: No, it’s not. In every workforce, you’re going to have some very good people, some people who need more support, and what we’re saying, because of our new framework, we’re looking to raise the bar of the quality of the inspections that are given.

EM: Sir Robin, you’ve just got rid of 40% of your inspectors in a system that was controversial for its standards, I think parents and teachers and pupils will want to know, for how long has this been going on, because they, the reason I’m asking the question is can they rely on their reports going back years? What’s your answer?

RB: Yes they can, because the quality assurance system will have dealt with any report or any inspection or an outcome of any report that needed further work, but we’re moving forward with a new framework which is going to require a higher quality of inspector.

EM: So there’s nothing to worry about. You stand by every word of every previous OFSTED report.

RB: Well you know, yes I think we would do that, yes.

EM: So where does that leave the 1,200 people who are losing their jobs?

RB: Well, what we’ve done, if I can explain exactly what we’ve done, we’ve looked at the workforce, there were around 2,800 inspectors, who are currently in the workforce, and we’ve put them through an assessment, because remember they’re going to be delivering a new quality, a new framework, and we wanted to raise the quality of that framework and to raise the quality of that framework raise the quality of the inspector.

EM: And given, as you’ve indicated, that some of these people have been doing the job for years, are you satisfied that, and I understand what you say about your new framework, are you satisfied that none of them could have been let go sooner than now?

RB: Well you know that wasn’t our choice, because they were working within a contract for a contractor, and so that wouldn’t have been our decision.


“Changing Schools: Perspectives on five years of education reform”, Edited by Robert Peal

June 1, 2015


Changing Schools: Perspectives on five years of education reform has just been published. (Update 2/6/2015: It is now available for purchase in paperbook or for Kindle if you follow the link above.) This is a book on education policy which I contributed to. Here’s the info:

Changing Schools is a collection of essays by teachers, researchers and administrators who have been on the frontline of the dramatic changes taking place in state education over the last five years.

The authors assess the rapidly changing educational landscape and offer thoughts on where we go from here.

Chapters include:

  • Academies and chains: When competition meets collaboration, James O’Shaughnessy
  • Free schools: Making success sustainable, Katharine Birbalsingh
  • Qualifications: What constitutes real qualifications reform?, Dr Tina Isaacs
  • Assessment: High stakes, low improvement, Daisy Christodoulou
  • Social media: Did blogs break the Blob?, Andrew Old
  • Policy: Ten challenges for any government from 2015, Jonathan Simons
  • Teaching: Teacher professionalism, training, and autonomy, Tom Bennett
  • Charter schools: Lessons from America’s experiment with autonomy and accountability, Doug Lemov and Joaquin Hernandez

My chapter is about the world of education blogging, whether it has influenced policy and, if so, whether that is a good thing. I’d tell you about the other chapters, but I haven’t even got my copy of the book yet.

Other books with (smaller) sections by me are also available:

  1. Progressively worse: The Burden of Bad Ideas in British Schools
  2. Don’t change the light bulbs: A compendium of expertise from the UK s most switched-on educators

Floating Voters Wanted

May 17, 2015

I do apologise for neglecting my blog recently. It has been getting used more and more infrequently. It is mainly because I have a habit of agreeing to do other things, then getting overwhelmed. Hopefully I will catch up in the half-term holiday.

However, before I do, I thought I’d draw attention to one of those other things. As you may know, I am now editor of the Labour Teachers Blog. I am often asking around for Labour supporting teachers to write for it (please get in touch if you are interested) but I haven’t tended to ask here because I know this blog has a wider and less partisan audience. However, in half term I intend to be running “Floating Voters Week” on Labour Teachers and actively seeking out a wider range of writers. Basically, if you are a teacher who didn’t vote Labour this year (or even if you did but didn’t in 2010) but could be persuaded to in the future with a change of education policy then I’d like to hear from you and publish your views. Full details are here (and you really must read this beforehand, otherwise you might be wasting your time).

I hope to hear from you.

Also, please share this post to help me reach everyone who might be interested. Thanks.


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.


Labour Teachers – Under New Management

March 15, 2015

I’m already managing to spend half my life reading blogs and interacting with bloggers, but I recently volunteered to take on something else. The following is from the Labour Teachers website:

Last year, when we decided that we wished to step down as editors of Labour Teachers, we were keen that the site should continue: as a discussion space for Labour-supporting teachers (and those who want to talk to them) that operated without policy motions and activist-centred conferences, we believed and continue to believe the site has something to offer to the process of debating education within the Labour Party and amongst teachers. In an age in which social media has become increasingly important in the wider political discussion of schools policy, Labour Teachers retains significant potential to build support for Labour amongst educators as well as challenging and shaping the consensus on education within the party.

For that reason, we are delighted to say that prominent education blogger Old Andrew has agreed to take on the mantle of Editor of Labour Teachers. Andrew has a long pedigree in education blogging: his Scenes From The Battleground is required reading for anyone interested in the education debate, from the Secretary of State on down. He is a powerful and passionate advocate for traditional ideas of teaching in education, but has always made clear his commitment is drawn from his own left-wing beliefs. As a member of the Labour Party and the NUT, Andrew is well-placed to share and examine ideas for education emanating from the labour movement.

But more than just sharing his own ideas, Andrew has shown a consistent commitment to amplifying the voice of other teachers on social media (including many with whom he has crossed Tweeted swords) via the Education Echo Chamber blog (and it’s even more comprehensive “Uncut” sibling) and his creation and curation of the most definitive lists of UK education bloggers available. Andrew has also written for Schools Week, highlighting excellent education blogging. As we have always been, Andrew is committed to offering a platform to the diversity of views on education, and under his editorship, Labour Teachers will continue to seek out differing perspectives from the chalkface amongst Labour supporters.

We will both continue to be involved with Labour Teachers, writing and helping out in other ways, but as we approach what may be a defining election for Labour, now is an excellent time for a new editor to take charge.

Andrew’s combination of firm Labour values, well-considered policy positions and desire for intense but open debate makes him the ideal person to take Labour Teachers forward, and we both wish him well.

John Blake & John Taylor
Editors of Labour Teachers 2011-2015 

I’ll give more details on the Labour Teachers website as soon as I get a moment, but my plan is to organise regular blogging, at least a couple of posts a week, on the Labour Teachers blog from the start of April. However, first I need to recruit a range of teacher bloggers who are either Labour Party members or Labour supporters. I’m not planning to push an editorial line, I want a range of views and lots of debate. Anything on policy, Labour or being a teacher is fine. If you are interested, please email me using the “Contact Me” details on the sidebar of this blog or on Twitter @oldandrewuk. Happy to hear from both experienced bloggers (who are Labour members) wanting a regular slot (every month or every two months) and from new bloggers, or people who are Labour supporters, wanting to write something on a one-off basis.

Thanks to John & John for the work they’ve done and for giving me this opportunity.


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