Lip Service (All surface, No depth)

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I see lots of stuff about curriculum, in fact since the introduction of the EIF (new Ofsted framework) it feels like this is all that we see.

Much of it is shiny, and beautifully designed (it must’ve taken hours). Aesthetically pleasing but with the depth of a thimble.

Knowledge organisers in some places sit at the core as the be-all and end-all of the learning rather than the foundation layer for developing knowledge and understanding.

Quizzing is the new assessment, recall of the facts is all.

Ofsted suggests “Knowing more words makes you smarter” and a thousand vocabulary lists are printed, laminated and sent home before the sentence is even finished.

The current simple view of education seems to be that this will make the difference.

Don’t get me wrong I think curriculum is the answer to practically every question, but I think getting a curriculum right is an on-going complex process. Ask anybody who’s really put in the hours in getting curriculum right for their school and they’ll tell it’s blummin’ tricky.  I truly believe the hours spent developing ‘The What’ are worth every minute.

Engagement is an educational swear-word associated with poor lesson design and poor learning. I’d argue it sits at the core of great learning. I suggest engaged pupils truly remember what they do, we just need to make sure they remember the stuff they need.

Meanwhile we seem intent on stripping ‘The How’ of teaching back to its barest bones. Ignoring the power of good teachers and creating a model that all can deliver. (Maybe that’s what you have to do when you can’t get enough teachers of the quality you want).

Genuinely I feel for young teachers, there is no time to learn. If I were to look back on my formative years in the classroom, they were literally littered with mistakes. I however was lucky, I worked with great people who helped me develop. Do we give the next generation the time to be good. I see lots cast on the scrap-heap without a second glance. There is no time for losers. Be good or be gone. Have we forgotten our responsibility to develop the next generation?

Behaviour is regularly seen as a massive issue in schools. Yet we seem to have forgotten to teach children why and how they should behave. Equally we seem to not bother teaching teachers about classroom management.  Instead we create systems where we wield sanctions like a ‘cane of Damocles’ and all children are expected to behave.  Those who for whatever reason can’t quite reach this halcyon standard are discarded for the ‘Greater Good.’

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‘Think of the 29’ is the clarion call. I don’t disagree that we should remove disruptive children if they are stopping others learning, in-fact I completely believe we should. I also believe we have a responsibility to the 1. How are those children supported…taught. Sadly it seems that some are happy for there to be a few educational casualties cast by the wayside as societal detritus for the benefit of the many. A decision that will come back to haunt those communities forever more.

We seem to have lost our role. Schools should be sat at the heart of a community, increasingly the community is kept at arms length. For all the government’s talk of parents having a greater voice in education, increasingly in this age the voice of the true stakeholders has been mightily diminished.

In our thrust for ‘education’ we seem to be forgetting the role of ‘Schooling’ and the role of Schools.

 

Bedtime Library books…a starter list.

Here’s a starter list of brilliant bedtime books, I’m sure you can think of loads more. They’re  not necessarily books to use in a classroom (though lots are brilliant for use in the classroom)  but they are all fantastic to read and share.

I want my Hat Back by Jon Klassen (I’d recommend all the hat books and the shape books with Mac Barnett as well, just brilliant)

Horrible Bear by Ame Dyckman and Zachariah O’Hara (Ame is one of my favorite got picturebook authors for read aloud brilliance)

Stanley’s Stick by Jon Hegley and Neal Layton

Grumpy Frog by Ed Vere (Huge fan of Ed Vere all his books are wonderful to read and share)

Is There a Dog In This book by Viviane Schwartz (Another read aloud superstar)

Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett

Dogger by Shirley Hughes

The Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak

The Disgusting Sandwich by Gareth Edwards and Hannah Shaw

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems

Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Schaeffer(Always reliable brilliant to read aloud, most of Julia’s book are fantastic bedtime reads)

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd

King Baby by Kate Beaton

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems

The Last Noo-noo by Jill Murphy

The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood and Don Wood

Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers

Hansel and Gretel by Bethan Woolvin

Not Now Bernard by David McKee

Wild by Emily Huighes

Meg and Mog by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski

Mog the Forgetful Cat by Judith Kerr

The Bad Seed by Jory John and Pete Oswald

On Summer Hill by Linda Sarah and Benji Davis

The Storm Whale by Benji Davies (in fact any of Benji’s books)

Sun by Sam Usher (all his season books are great)

This is not a picturebook by Sergo Ruzzier

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stern

My Big Shouting Day by Rebecca Patterson

The Night Pirates by Peter Harris and Deborah Allwright

Oi Frog by Kes Gray and Jim Field

The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith and Katz Cowley

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

This Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown by Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton (I’ve read this book at bedtime more than any other in the world ever!)

Traction Man By Mini Grey (Mini is another bedtime read superstar)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

We’re Going on A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson and Axel Shaeffer

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell

Peace at Last by Jill Murphy

The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr

Oh No George! By Chris Haughton (in fact any Chris Haugton books)

 

Enjoy!!!

 

Please comment with other suggestions

The Bedtime Library

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This is just a quick share of something that has really worked for us.

We wanted to develop children’s love of story and build that breadth of language that children have. We found that a number of our youngest children were not being read to at home and in-particular were not being read bedtime stories. We found that children were not seeing the joyous side of reading. Reading at home had become a trawl through a phonics related book (this was very much our fault).

For many these books were uninspiring and we realised they missed the essence of reading together, they missed the joy of talking and discussing a story, they missed the rhythms and patterns of great stories, they missed the prediction, the anticipation, the moments of revelation, they missed the creativity of language. (That’s not to say children don’t practice their reading at home as well.)

Because of that we set up the bedtime library for our youngest children. (it now goes all the way into year 2).

Essentially it’s a library of great children’s books (mainly picturebooks) to read and share at bedtime. The quality of the books is important.

It’s about putting great books in the hands of parents and children and helping them share them together. Let me say that it’s not about the children reading them to their parent, it’s about the parents reading them to their children. We have also run workshops with parents to help them, for some of our parents this is daunting that is why we always focus it on them and their child. Ultimately, it’s about a parent snuggling with their child and sharing a great book. It’s about creating bedtime routines, structures and special time.

It’s not rocket science. Children borrow the books for a week and then change it. Reading and rereading the same story is part of it, sometimes children don’t want to bring it back they love the book they have so much.

It takes a little investment to get the books, (my charity shop trawling has really helped with this) and we’ve found that we have to not be precious, if a book doesn’t come back, that doesn’t mean they child doesn’t get another one.

That’s it really…it really is that simple. We have a 95% uptake with our Reception children which is just fantastic and Year 1s and 2s are equally as keen.

Reading is so much more than decoding, it’s important we don’t lose sight of that.

(Now if somebody would like to offer us some books or money to expand it that would be great ;-))

Here is a list…that might help.

Bedtime Library books…a starter list.

Writing…Honestly, we need honesty.

This is a very quick blogpost.

Just sat here tidying up my hard-drive (in other words, procrastinating and avoiding work). And I found this. It  was written in a SATs test in 2004. No success criteria, no feature list just what he carried with him internally…

Before people get critical I know it’s not perfect, but what it was, was honest. 45 minutes, pen down, packaged and sent.

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“Mam,” I said tugging on my mam’s arm, ”Can I go and get my new trainers now? Please!” She just ignored me. Like how rude is that, it was as if she was trying to wind me up. I know the next good thing I see, I’ll plead for her to get it for me. She’s bound to fall for it. So off we went down the heaving high street. “LOOK!” I screamed, “ Look at that game. Mam please can I get it. Please!” I put on my best sad face. She bought it, she bought the act. Yes, yes, yes. I’m getting the best game ever. “But Ben darling there is a big queue,” Mam told me, “So lets get in it,” I replied.

As I stood there it was then I saw this girl, this wonderful girl, this beautiful girl, she looked perfect. I looked at her and smiled. Seconds seemed like hours, me stood there grinning like a loon. Then just as all hope faded, she smiled back, she smiled BACK, BACK AT ME! I was  over the moon. I shouted “Hello,” down the line towards her. A huge grin spread across her face “Hi I’m Jenny,” Jenny, Jenny,  the most excellent name ever. She looks like an angel, a god sent angel. I was oblivious of everything around me, the sound that had grown louder and louder to a deafening roar.

Suddenly without warning the big double doors swung open and I found myself carried away on the wave of people. I tried to back away then realised that I wanted the game and dived back into the ruthless sea of idiots clamouring to get through the door. I saw Jenny disappear through the doors ahead of me. It was like squeezing through the eye of a needle, squashed so tight I almost couldn’t breathe. Then I was through, popping out like a cork. I ran for the games stand, full pelt, straining every muscle. Almost there just a daft lad in the way I barged him out the way and I was there. There at last. I grabbed the last game on the stand, just as someone else did.I tugged hard at the game then looked up. Just as I did so did she. Jenny, Jenny was there, the most wonderful girl ever was staring right into my eyes. I let go of the game and so did she. The stupid game bounced off the cold hard floor.

“You can have it!” I stammered. “No you,” she smiled. Just then a little kid darted between us and grabbed the game “Sorry,” I whispered. She grabbed my hand. “Do you want to get a drink?” she asked. My chin hit the floor, she was here, holding  MY hand! “Yes!” I mumbled. This was the best day of my life. I’ve been sort of asked out by the girl with the cutest smile ever. “Hard luck darling,” sighed Mam. “Shall we get you those trainers?” The trainers, the game, nothing mattered. Just Jenny. “I’m alright thanks Mam,” I smiled as me and Jenny wandered away.

Michael Clark aged 11

Why not give it a go? See what your children do. It could be interesting, maybe we could post some up and compare?

Now I’m not advocating writing tests before people get irate about that, but I am suggesting we give children opportunities to write independently and use that to judge our children’s writing. Not what they can  do with a structure, a success criteria and a checklist but what they do when it’s removed. Truly independent writing.

I am writing this in frustration really… as I look at comparison tables.

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The first thing that jumps out particularly with writing is what a waste of time the data is. The second and I hate to say this is the dishonesty of teacher assessment.

Ultimately though it comes down to this…

honest

How do we get honesty I wish I knew but these are the challenges as I see it you can probably add many more in your contexts.

Internal (Barriers to Honesty)

  • Performance related pay and performance management
  • Accountability
  • Fear
  • Lack of support
  • Lack of moderation
  • Poor CPD to develop understanding of Assessment system
  • Targets set by Heads/SLT
  • Use of systems and algorithms to decide whether pupils are there or not.

External (Barriers for schools)

  • Ofsted (Not through want of Sean Harford’s Myth-busting)
  • Fear
  • Raised expectations, ever-changing goalposts
  • Lack of consistency in application of framework
  • Threat of academisation/ floors standards/ coasting schools
  • DFE
  • LA
  • MAT
  • League table

I know this is not a very optimistic start to the New Year, but we are in the same place as we were last year with regards to writing, just more time to jump kids through the hoops.

That’s the real challenge for our school system this year and moving forward. How do we create as assessment system that is about improving and supporting the children’s journey through education rather than measuring schools.

If you have an answer please reply,  at the moment I’m out of ideas.