Archive for the ‘Of Interest’ Category

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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.

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

June 1, 2015

changingschools

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
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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.

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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.

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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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Introducing… The Echo Chamber Uncut

March 11, 2015

If you follow me on Twitter you may have already seen it, but this will be an introduction for many readers. I have set up a new website, Echo Chamber Uncut. This is a companion site to The Echo Chamber where my team of volunteers and I have been blogging links to the best blogposts we could find.

The Uncut site is different in that it is largely automated (occasionally some blogs that do not have RSS feeds are reblogged manually), and that it is intended to reblog everything from the UK education blogosphere regardless of whether I think it is good or not. This is likely to be substantially more than 100 posts every day, so this is not really a convenient site to follow to read every post. However, you may find it useful for a number of things:

  1. Discovering blog posts you weren’t familiar with. A short time browsing through the posts is likely to give you a chance to find plenty of content you weren’t familiar with. You can also watch out for new posts by following @EchoChamberUncu on Twitter.
  2. Searching for blogs on a particular topic. While it is uncategorised and only has a basic WordPress search, that should be enough to find posts related to any keyword you search for. As it builds up it will be a good way to find out what the denizens of the blogosphere are saying about any given topic, whether that’s an issue in school, a news story or advice about something to do with teaching.
  3. Finding blogs to follow. Browsing the posts should give you a chance to look out for writers you weren’t familiar with and it also has a Blog Roll (which I will update from time to time) listing all the UK education blogs I know of (more than 1200  of them).

So please, take time to have a look.

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A Couple of Items of Interest

March 2, 2015

Two things you should probably be aware of:

1) Blogger Of The Year

The TES awards now have an award for “Blogger Of The Year”. The voting is all done by a panel of judges, so don’t worry, I’m not begging for support. Any practising teacher who blogs (please remember this, don’t waste time nominating those who are who not eligible) could be nominated and I’m trying to ensure that all the best blogs are put forward for consideration. Fortunately, you can nominate yourself, and I’m led to believe this won’t count against you. However, there is a real risk that some great blogs could be missed, so please, please help with nominating. The deadline is tomorrow at midnight, Sunday 8th March, so time is short.

For starters, I think that there are a number of people who are write really great blogs who are far too modest to realise how great they are. They are probably not even thinking about getting themselves nominated. So, if you can nominate any of the following, or talk them into nominating themselves, please do so and let everyone know in the comments below once they are nominated (or if you have already nominated them):

I’m also told that, because those nominating have to give their name and school, it is difficult for anonymous bloggers to sort out their nominations. Therefore, please consider nominating:

Finally, if you write a blog but I haven’t mentioned you above, please don’t take it personally, I have probably just assumed that you can get yourself nominated without my help. If you are having difficulties, please ask for help in the comments below and I’ll see what I can do.

2) Battle Of Ideas Panel discussion.

I’m in this:

 

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