Sunday, 23 October 2016

Battle for Ideas 2016: Battle for Education - Religious Education in a Secular Age

Religious Education in a Secular Age
Sunday 23rd October 2016
12-1pm - Frobisher Auditorium 2

It was a privilege to be invited to speak on a panel about RE at my first Battle of Ideas hosted by the Institute of Ideas. Here I share my opening remarks in full, I deviated slightly, but not by much. I will also include my responses to some of the questions and comments as best as I can recall. There will be a video eventually...

Opening remarks:

Firstly I would like to make it clear that I think there are several potential different debates here - and it is not unusual for people to try and mix them all into one. There is one on the place of RE and a separate one on collective worship. There is also a perhaps complex, legal debate about the place of RE as part of the 1988 Education Act, alongside the GCSE and A-Level subject of Religious Studies. Finally, the place of faith schools also often gets involved.

As an RE teacher, straight out of the classroom and on half term, I am going to focus on some of the practical issues surrounding the study of the subject in schools in England at this very moment in time.

We do not have a clear or shared purpose in RE. Some would say it is as simple as teaching about religion and beliefs, a phenomenological approach as it is sometimes labelled. They feel that this academic, objective approach is likely to be most successful in meeting its wider aims. However, there is an increasing move towards a more sociological approach. Personally, I feel this has a place as part of a much wider study, but we do not simply want to simply give our students of a ‘religious landscape of 2016’. Finally there is a call for students to be ‘more religiously literate’ - yet we are not entirely clear on what this means just yet.

This confusion of purpose is clear in the wide and varying names people have tried to give the subject in their school's: Philosophy and Ethics, Social and Cultural Studies, Beliefs and Values, and my favourite Cultural, Religion and Philosophy - or CRAP for short.

History and Geography do not have this problem. If anything, like Business, we simply need to encourage parity by dropping the Studies or Education and just be Religion. We also don’t need to focus on the students and their beliefs. The strength of Geography is that they study things beyond their local area, and History focuses on far more than just things students can immediately relate to.

For me, part of the problem lies in the colonisation of PHSE, Citizenship, the Community Cohesion agenda, SMSC, British Values, Sex and Relationship Education and even Prevent by RE departments. In the desperate desire for curriculum time and status, RE has watered itself down into some hybrid, confused subject.

RE teachers have tried to rebrand to make their subject sound more relevant and engaging; personally I feel this has been damaging. Some full on hoodwink their students - I have heard of students believing they had the wrong certificates on A-Level results day as their qualifications said Religious Studies not Philosophy and Ethics.

These names are no longer usable. GCSEs require the study of two religions and A-Level one religion or New Testament studies. Some people are upset. It is the job of the teacher to make whatever content they are teaching relevant and engaging. By this I mean, accessible, challenging and with clear purpose not fun and games, and linking to other topics and other subject, not ‘down with the kids’.

The new GCSEs have forced RE teachers to teach more religion. The first unit for many has included the Trinity, Creation, Imago Dei, the Paschal Mystery, eschatology… and this has divided the RE community. Some claim this has destroyed the subject, making it dull and irrelevant to students. Others have celebrated as they are able to really do some actual study of religion, some theology, some proper critical analysis. I have heard of one teacher who has abandoned this section on beliefs and teachings to skip to the ethics to get students on board. How are they going to go back? And what value is the ethics without something to underpin it? It will be just student opinion. Sadly, there is a real knowledge deficit in many departments, especially those with non-specialist teachers.

The EBacc has been hugely damaging to RS, it does not enjoy the same status of its humanities counterparts, despite being in the ‘3rd bucket’. As such, students have often been expected to get through the course in half the time of other GCSE subjects. With the old courses this was possible, but now near impossible. Headteachers often don’t understand the legal status of RE, and the relationship with RS, nor the new qualifications.

We are in a period of unprecedented change in RE - driven primarily by the new GCSE and A-Level. I firmly believe we need to teach students more, not less religion, and the fact we may or may not live in a more secular society is somewhat irrelevant. If anything, we should be desperately trying to teach our students as much as we can about religion as it still holds a huge cultural value, and is vital in the understanding of a significant percentage of the global population.

The 2011 census tells us only 25% of the UK population have ‘no religion’, while the global figure is said to be around 15%. It is absolutely right we teach about these non-religious beliefs in schools, but long before the BHA forced a change in law, this was happening in most schools. A 14 year old will be very quick to point out that they don’t believe in what you are teaching about, usually by saying “I’m not becoming a priest, what’s the point in this?”

Interestingly, it is often experts on religion who argue we need less teaching of religion in schools. It’s like they want to keep that cultural capital to themselves. I think that would be very damaging to the young people I see every day in my classroom.


To the question about the inclusion of humanism:
  • As someone who has worked hard to include Non-Religious World Views in my new GCSE textbook, I think it is important to make the distinction between humanism and secular humanism. Much of the study of secular humanism involves science, literary etc (as demonstrated by the proposed GCSE annex) which could potentially further confuse the content of RE. It is impossible to cover religion without reference to NRWV, and the content is still relatively new to some curriculum. It will be interesting to see how the study of NRWV grows and gets incorporated into RE curriculum, but for me the primary aim is still to teach about religion and religious beliefs.
To the question about the abolition of RE:
  • In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins outlines 129 biblical phrases that English speakers may use and not realise their provenance. They include: the salt of the earth; go the extra mile; I wash my hands of it; filthy lucre; through a glass darkly; wolf in sheep’s clothing; hide your light under a bushel; no peace for the wicked; how are the mighty fallen (See <here>). Everyone in the room has an interest in religion through some kind of RE, to deprive future generations of this would be to give ourselves an educational and cultural privilege.
To the question about the image of RE:
  • Things will not change overnight. Teachers need to be delivering great lessons, and then our students will do the PR themselves. They will go home and tell their parents how great and interesting RE is.
To the question about development of western culture and the study of the Abrahamic religions:
  • Firstly, I don't think there should be absolute privilege for Abrahamic religions, and the suggestion that there is little space for eastern religions is wrong; there needs to be some balance. To the suggestion that Islam has contributed nothing to western culture, you are wrong - I'm glad you recognised your prejudices.
To the question about getting teachers of faith to teach each religion:
  • We don't have enough teachers, and certainly not enough RE teachers. Let's sort that out first! I am still not sure that people of the faith are desirable or necessary to teach their own faith. Faith speakers can be invaluable and this is the role of SACREs in my mind.
To the question about renaming RE:
  • This debate is a total red herring until we have sorted the aims and purposes.
To the question about the narrow curriculum of faith schools:
  • There was insufficient time for this, but in short, with more than double the curriculum time, many Catholic schools actually spend more time on different faiths to other schools. Obviously the aims of RE do differ, and I still believe that RE in the Catholic school can be confessional, yet academic, rigorous and critical. 
Thanks again for the invite. See you again soon...

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Re-Establishing Yourself

The most daunting thing about starting work at a new school is re-establishing yourself. I genuinely believe it is why many some staff end up as 'lifers'; in a stressful job, being an established member of staff takes away a whole lot of hassle. In a new school, you are a great unknown with no past, no legacy and no reputation. It's not that different to being the new kid in the playground.

After 5 years growing from a 22 year old NQT to established teacher and Head of House in my first school. This job had provided a steady learning curve, dealing with many challenges and difficulties; thankfully I learnt many behaviour management tricks and tips. The longer you spend in the classroom, the better you get. Even if you believe some people are born natural teachers, put them in front of a tough class and they no doubt struggle.
I moved schools for a promotion to second in department, and later had the opportunity as a Head of Year. However, my first year in my second school was tough, I had particularly difficulty KS4 classes who were not universally challenging, but certainly were in my lessons. I was doing everything that I believed (and still believe) to be right, but the students were trying me out.

Several staff said, "the girls here always give new staff a rough ride". I'm not entirely sure of their intention with this. I'm also not sure about the (supposed) Bill Rogers quote I've been told on numerous occasions... "They are just testing to see if you are good enough to teach them" - I always wonder why can't they do this by waiting, listening and evaluating? Why do they have to do this by shouting out, humming or refusing to work? 

The point naturally came, eventually, when behaviour management became far less of an issue for me. It was an all-girls school, where there is always the opportunity for low level disruption, distraction and non stop chat. There was also naturally instances of outright defiance and rudeness. However, once I was established, these issues became far less.
I had set out my ground rules, not just in my first lesson, but over a longer period of time. Students knew what I would tolerate and what was not acceptable. Even if I had never taught them. Crucially I also knew all the 'characters'. By the time I was HoY 11, they were usually 'my characters'. I built a reputation of being fair, but firm. Relentless, but forgiving. 

They also knew me. They knew my wife (who also worked in the school), they had met my little son, knew I had met Pope Francis, supported Southend United, loved Bruce Springsteen, enjoyed watching Westerns, went to St Joseph's parish church... These things matter. This comes from working somewhere for five years and putting a little of yourself into your lessons and having normal human interactions with all that you encounter. 

Sadly too often you don't realise exactly how established you are, or what you mean to students and colleagues until either they leave, or you leave. I've always found it a humbling and emotional experience. Leaving a school, and your position of establishment, often gives a great sense of affirmation and realisation - you have done, at the least, a decent job and positively influenced the lives of those around you. 

It was one of the things that kept me up at night during the latter stages of the summer holidays. It's certainly the reason that many people don't move schools. How do I start again? How do I get back to where I was?

I think first of all, you need to realise that it will take a while. I'd suggest at least half a term to fully establish yourself with your classes, perhaps best part of a year with other students (and of course new colleagues). Students are creatures of habit (Do your 6th form always sit in the same seats even though you have no seating plan?), and like to know exactly what the boundaries are - even if they still then kick back against them. 

My suggestions:
  1. Seek out the behaviour, and reward, systems. What sanctions can you use? Use them early, but wisely. A few detentions shows you mean business. Send a student out, call home, write an email or two. Show your students your expectations are high. Don't escalate everything too quickly though. 
  2. Explicitly give your expectations. A first lesson that has part of it dedicated to copying down a set of rules / expectations is time well spent. Revisit as and when necessary. That may be every lesson to start with. 
  3. Deliver the best lessons you can. Poor behaviour is not always the result of the teaching, but if you can show you know your stuff and you are willing to put time and effort into your lessons, it will get noticed.
  4. Follow things through. Always. Don't let a student get away with not turning up to a detention, or it will be hassle for the rest of your time in school. Equally, don't turn a blind eye. Students will work out your weakness and exploit them. 
  5. Be a visible presence. Volunteer for lunch duty, get out in the corridors. Challenge uniform. Confront behaviour. You will become known quickly.
It's not easy, but it will get easier. You will make mistakes, but you'll get most of it right. Don't give up, and ask for guidance and support. Some things will be out of your control, but lots you can try and sort.

If you have new staff establishing or re-establishing themselves, help them out. Don't undermine them, or patronise them though. Find out who is causing the issues and do something about it. Behaviour management is a team game. It's important to be playing together, and all with the same goals.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

#BlogFriday - A Year of Blog Sharing

Last September, inspired by meeting Rory Gallagher at Northern Rocks 2015, I started a SHoM #BlogFriday, emailing all staff with a blog post to read each Friday morning. This was not part of any official T&L role (but I did run it past the T&L AHT first).

Blog Friday. An easy way to introduce colleagues to the wealth of information, thinking and resources available on the blogosphere, and a good way to connect with people, to start a conversation, to wish them a good day, a great weekend... (Rory wrote <here>)

I hope that staff found it useful. Some provided feedback, and as I said in my final email (for 14/7/16), if one post changed the thinking of one person, it's been worth it. It was interesting when through reading blogs some staff realised things like 'Brain Gym', 'Learning Styles' etc were not a thing anymore - and that actually we would be better off focusing on the more recent work of educational psychology and the 'science of learning'. 

Some of the blogs were ones I had seen that week, others were favourites I had read a while before, some were reactive of staff mood, some were ones I just wanted to share. I tried to use a variety of 'voices' and styles of blogs, just to expose staff to some of what was being thought and written about in wider education circles.

One of the hopes I had was that staff would consider blogging themselves, and my final #BlogFriday was one encouraging staff to blog themselves - starting on Staffrm. Who knows if anyone will take up the challenge? 

I am moving on from my current school at the end of this year. Once, I have settled in my new school and got to know staff, I may suggest starting a St Bon's #BlogFriday. In the mean time, here is the 2015-2016 #BlogFriday roll call...

Also available:

SHoM #BlogFriday
11/09/2015Last Night REsearchEd Saved My Life
25/09/2015Putting Family First
02/10/2015Science for Learning
09/10/2015Good to Great Teaching
16/10/201510 Silver Arrows
23/10/2015Achievable challenge: walking the fine line between comfort and panic
06/11/2015Pupils are uniquely stressed these days
13/11/2015Modelling Good Speech
20/11/2015Great Teaching
27/11/2015Social Media and Staff
04/12/2015At what cost?
11/12/2015It's a Wonderful Job
11/12/2015The Mystery of Learning
18/12/2015Love Teaching
15/01/2016Revision Sessions
22/01/2016OFSTED Myths
29/01/2016What if you never marked another book?
12/02/2016In trying to do so much we do too little
26/02/2016Thinking Hard - Practical Solutions
11/03/2016Knowledge Organisers
14/04/2016How can we help the weakest catch up?
21/04/2016Is effective teaching more about good relationships than anything else?
29/04/2016A Few Quick Tips For The Overwhelmed Educator’
20/05/2016Student Effort
27/05/2016Weak Arguments and Conspriacy Theories
10/06/2016Assessments: Simple but not simplistic
17/06/2016Why Mental health is too important to get wrong
24/06/2016Is it Love?
01/07/2016Do Nows
08/07/201612 Points to Great Teaching
15/07/20167 Reasons to Blog 

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

RS Exam Reform

Religious Studies GCSE and A-Level were part of 'Phase 2' of the exam reform, ready for September 2016 teaching. This process could only really start with the final publication of the GCSE content in February 2015 (see <here>), even this long ago, some warned that the timeline was too short. In December 2014, when RE teachers raised their concerns about the timeline at the DfE, they were told not to worry. Others said it was vital we were in 'Phase 2' to have any chance of being in the EBacc (never happened anyway), and to be part of the Progress 8 measure (Phase 3 subjects can be counted in the 'open' group, exactly where RS is anyway).

Looking back now, maybe we should have campaigned harder to have the RS GCSE delayed to September 2017. The subject does have certain complexities that other subjects do not, including a greater number of stakeholders (not least the faith communities). It has a far wider range of options that need to be covered, and the introduction of a second religions is a significant training need for many.

However, let me clear, I am not advocating a boycott or petition to get the qualifications delayed. 'Phase 1' (English and Maths) are already "getting on with it", and many other subjects are in the same position as RS, struggling to be ready for September 2016. RS is not that special, but as it is my area of expertise forms the basis for this case study. At the end, I will put forward some suggestions.

Accreditation Timeline:

Proposed GCSE accreditation timeline (see <here>):
  • August 2015 - Awarding organisations submit draft specifications, sample assessment material and assessment strategy to Ofqual for accreditation.
  • September 2015 - Ofqual panels of subject experts review awarding organisations' submissions.
  • October 2015 - Ofqual decision on the accreditation of specifications.
  • October 2015 - Ofqual inform AOs of their decision on accreditation. AOs then make any necessary changes and submit revised specification and assessment material for re-accreditation.
  • Late Autumn 2015 - Accredited specifications submitted to schools to allow teachers enough time to prepare for first teaching in September 2016.
  • September 2016 - First teaching of new RS GCSE specifications in schools
Actual GCSE accreditation timeline - the dates when the accredited specifications were provided to schools:
  • February 2016 - AQA - 4 months after planned date, 6 months before teaching
  • March 2016 - OCR - 5 months after planned date, 5 months before teaching
  • May 2016 - Eduqas - 7 months after planned date, 3 months before teaching
  • June 2016 - Edexcel - 8 months after planned date, 2 months before teaching
Actual A-Level accreditation timeline;
  • April/May 2016 - AQA/Edexcel/Eduqas/OCR accredited*
Accreditation Process:

For reasons unknown, it took longer than envisaged for exam boards to submit their specifications. Probably as they were totally overloaded by the pace of the reform and had a whole range of subjects to write specs for, without the full time staff to do this. Again, RS had it's added complexities with the wide range of papers available. It is hard to say where GCSE RS would have fitted in their priorities.

There was also confused messages from the OFQUAL about what their exact role was - to simply make sure specifications fitted the DfE annexe and the OFQUAL Assessment requirements - or to ensure comparability across specifications. Some have said the number of resubmissions was high (up to 5), if feedback had been sufficient from the start. There have been reports from a variety of sources, that some feedback was vague, and lacked constructive comments to rectify what was wrong. I do struggle to believe the exam boards were simply incompetent. No doubt, OFQUAL were also overrun and unable to cope with demands being placed upon them.


I've had contact from someone who wanted to make clear that OFQUAL are a regulatory body and it's role was decide if spec met requirements set out by DfE. It's role was not to offer suggestions to improve specs, as boards are in competition with one another. To provide feedback that would influence quicker or slower approval would not be acceptable. It can give examples of where things have, or have not been met. There is obviously a fine line here, saying "You have not included this" is very similar in many ways to "Add this". All examining bodies had the same criteria to work with, and the questions about why some did it quicker than others will no doubt remain unanswered!

The Consequences:
  • Teaching from September 2015 with only DfE Annexe - Many schools teach a 3 year GCSE. The DfE said this is not how GCSEs are designed, but it's this, or not at all for many schools. This is not unique to RS, but is perhaps more common with RS. Teachers have been using the annex or having to change after each submission.
  • Many textbooks are not ready - Some GCSE books will not be with teachers until October / November 2016. A Level ones potentially later, maybe even September 2017. These are vital guides to teachers about level of depth required. Also some scholars cited on A-Level are apparently out of print, new resources are needed to resurrect their work and contributions, or at the least present them in an accessible way.
  • Some textbooks have errors - This is as their publication was rushed. This includes those accredited by the exam board (Pope Francis is from Argentina, not Brazil, for the record.).
  • Budgets  - Departments have had to find finances for both GCSE and A-Level textbooks at the same time. Some schools have been able to provide additional funding, but not all.
  • Editable schemes of work not published - A huge time-saver for teachers, usually provided by the exam board and currently (13/7/16) not ready for some boards. Particularly at A-Level they also indicate the required depth / time spent on areas. A colleague mentioned that he worked on these for the 2008 exam changes and believes whole process is 6 to 12 months behind at this point.
  • Additional resources not ready - Again another time-saver for teachers when planning, some exam boards have not got these ready, as they have put their focus on getting specs accredited.
  • INSET - Some teachers have attended INSET from exam boards, cascaded to staff, and then had to redo after changes made, especially to exam technique. A clear waste of time.
  • Key Stage 3 Review - Given new demands of GCSEs, there has not been time to adequately adapt KS3 including content and assessment.
Teachers are not able to use their 'gained time' during the final few weeks, and are giving up weekends and holidays to attend courses provided by third parties, sometimes out of their own pocket. There are schools organising their own planning days (in the holidays), and teachers desperately posting in panic on Facebook groups created to share, and crucially help. One teacher said they had cut their family holiday to work on preparing for September.

In 2014, the DfE did a workload survey. These exam reforms have placed a huge additional workload on teachers, and the timescales have produced unnecessary stress, and further damage to work/life balance. Everyone has a part to play in reducing workload, but it feels somewhat hypocritical of the DfE. There are already recruitment and retention issues; has this helped or hindered that situation?

Current Feeling:

Via Twitter:

Save RE Facebook Group:

The RE Teacher's Forum Facebook Group:

The Other Side of the Argument:

There are a few reasons why some have said we should just get on with it (and let's be honest, we don't have any choice really!). It is right to be excited about the new qualifications, as they are indeed better. It was also mentioned that 'Phase 1' have gone ahead, and so there is no justification for delaying 'Phase 2'. Teachers have also been working super hard to get ready, and a delay at this stage would be catastrophic (I agree, and hence never suggesting this). Plus the bottom line, is that teachers will go above and beyond to ensure their students don't suffer (Of course they will, that's what we do - but it doesn't mean this is right).

  • The DfE need to listen to teachers - In December 2014, concerns were raised. They were ignored, and countered with threats that to miss September 2016 would mean no Ebacc and no Progress 8. We are still not in the Ebacc (and not likely to be), and I can't see how we would have been excluded from the 'Open' group in Progress 8?
  • The DfE need to listen to exam boards - Apparently, they raised concerns with pace of reform, but were ignored. The same mistakes were made with 'Phase 1', and will be made again with 'Phase 3', The DfE believe all accreditation will take place before Christmas 2016 for September 2017 subjects - what exactly has changed this time around?
  • GCSE and A Level changes should not come together - If the GCSE changed in 2016, and A Level in 2017 or ideally 2018, this would have a drastic effect on teachers. It would also mean A Level students in 2016 or 2017 would be better prepared for the increased rigor and demands of the qualifications. 
  • '6 month cutoff' - It may be worthwhile having a cut off point, that if accreditation has not happened by the end of February, 6 months before first teaching, it is not allowed for teaching that coming September. This may prompt exam boards to submit earlier, OFQUAL to accredit quicker, with better feedback, and teachers to have sufficient preparation time.
  • OFSTED, S48 (SIAMS / CES / etc) Recognition - A public statement recognising the current situation schools are in regarding the transition, particularly for S48 inspections. Most RE Departments would be happy with a S48 this year as everything, quite rightly is in place, this will not be the case next year. Imagine such an inspection in Autumn 2016? 
  • Great Collaboration -
    • SACREs, NATRE Local Groups, Dioceses and any other groups need to think carefully about how best to use their time over the next two years. Instead of meetings where information is cascaded, think about including time for co-planning, moderating marking, resource creation. 
    • Facebook groups with GoogleDrive / Dropbox are a really useful. Teachers need to be proactively uploading and sharing, as well as waiting for resources to download. Someone once suggested to me that it is just 2-3% of teachers willing to upload/share. 
    • Willing schools, perhaps those with Teaching School status, may be able to host evenings or days for teachers (and not just HoDs) to work together. Imagine what 10 RE teachers in a computer room could achieve in a day?
  • Awareness
    • Heads of Department need to be alerting their line managers / SLT / headteacher of the current situation. They should know already (it's not only RS!), and it should obviously not be an excuse for poor standards. Realistically planning cannot be in place for both GCSE and A Level for the two year course for 1st September 2016. In some schools this is being asked for.
    • It is also worth nothing that OFQUAL have said they will not publish grade boundaries until after 2018 exams, anything teachers produce will be an approximation. CPD / meeting time may need review to use time most productively.
  • Being Realistic -
    • You will not have even the whole first year planned and resourced for September 2016. Don't beat yourself up about it. Review termly, plan collaboratively.
    • Your lessons will become more engaging as your familiarise yourself with the spec. Consider adding useful videos to this document <here>. Your lessons in September 2017 for Y10 will be better than those this September, and that's okay.

A useful mantra for the next few years is this:

"Chunk. Collaborate. Share." Mr D Kenny

There is a great opportunity for schools to work together, embracing technology and existing networks. Teachers need to be given some time and leeway to do this. Teachers also need the confidence to share - your resources are worth sharing!

I did think GCSE RS needed reform urgently, there was good reason in my mind as to why the old qualifications were not in the EBacc. I also think A-Level RS needed reform, perhaps less urgently. 

However, the timescales for this were all wrong. Teachers are further overworked, and students will suffer. DfE, this isn't right. Please learn from it. Some of us will probably be here next time around...

*I struggled to find more accurate dates - if you let me know, I will update

Image courtesy of YouTube

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

#TeachMeetCSS: "Love and do what you will" (5/7/16)

At the second annual TeachMeet held at Compass School Southwalk in Bermondsey, I decided to take up the theme from a recent blog post (see <here>) and speak about using the word 'love' in schools, inspired by St Augustine.

Listen here: 

Here are my slides:

Thanks to Vicky Cockram for organising and hosting us again! See you in 2017...

Image courtesy of:

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

10 Reasons

10 reasons teachers are on strike today:
  1. School budgets are being cut by 8% (in real terms) - in a small secondary school that could be £500k with little warning.
  2. Teachers are being made redundant - including the good ones.
  3. TAs are being made redundant - reducing the provision for weaker or SEND students.
  4. Class sizes are getting bigger - less chance of any 1:1 attention.
  5. Workload is increasing - teaching time/marking etc... something has to give.
  6. No money for CPD or training - no chance to improve unless you do it in your own time with your own money.
  7. No money for resources - with new GCSEs and A-Levels beginning which will be harder and more academically rigorous.
  8. Less money for photocopying, glue sticks, exercise books - it will be BYO everything very soon.
  9. Less subject choice for students - some schools do not give 'options' at GCSE anymore.
  10. Less vocational / arts teaching - it's all about a focus on Progress 8.
The public, and particularly parents, need to be aware of what is happening in schools. They need to understand why their kids' schools may not be able to provide the same high standards, or choice, of education. Schools will need to ask parents for more and more money to bridge the gap in funding. It's happening, it's real.

Education cannot improve, let alone thrive, in these circumstances.
  • Read about my current school's financial problems <here>
  • Some schools are suffering more than others with this. If yours is not so bad - you are fortunate! 

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The TES Awards 2016

Photo by Hannah

The TES Awards 2016 took place on Friday 24th June at the The Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London. It is the first time I have been invited, and I was surprised by the sheer scale of it - over 1000 guests fitted into a huge function suite under the hotel. It was a glitzy affair with a champagne reception, "grab as many glasses as you can" I told my wife - how often is there free booze for teachers? 

It was nice to be seated with Natalie and Paul who I met for the first time, plus Heather who I have met on numerous occasions at blogger curry meet ups. Sadly Zoe couldn't make it and there were two empty seats at our table - they were in touch via Twitter though! (And we ate their food, as the waiting staff insisted on leaving it...)

TES provided plenty of wine yet the six bottles on the table seemed to evaporate in no time - huge thanks to Rachel and Sarah from the TES team (and Lara who passed on our dilemma!), who kept us topped up when we ran dry! This did compensate for a tasty but slightly small dinner... After paying £90 for my 'plus one' ticket, the wine was sadly out of price range for most teachers.

As much as it was a night to celebrate all schools, teachers and their achievements, I was there as a representative of the blogger community. These are teachers who are able to share, reflect and question some of the important ideas of the education world. Blogging, alongside social media more widely, has brought about change, allowed different voices to be heard and promoted engagement and great thinking with some of the toughest challenges education has to pose. 

I know my blogs are not the most well written prose out there, they are often thrown together during a stolen 5 minutes at break time, or drafted at midnight as I lie in bed - I'm a full time teacher with more than enough going on in school... plus a 8 month old son! I am glad that someone somewhere thinks I have something worth sharing and it was nice that some of the judges came to find me to say they found my writing interesting and of value. Thank you. 

A final huge thank Andrew for encouraging the blogger community to nominate blogs such as mine (see <here>). Bloggers should be promoting one another, and encouraging others to blog and respond; Andrew does an impressive job with his various Echo Chambers. I know there were reservations about the shortlisting (see <here>), and then some compromise (see <here>), but I do think it is an important award, but one that could perhaps be developed further by TES, perhaps by better engaging with the blogger community.

I haven't see a list of the bloggers linked anywhere else so here they are:

You're on my blog, so you don't need a link...

Thanks again for the shortlisting TES. For next year, remember teachers on a Friday will drink more booze than you imagine, and hopefully a plus one can be included too...

Who knows if or when I'll be back again...