Read more <here>
Tuesday, 29 December 2015
Read more <here>
Wednesday, 16 December 2015
It's not perfect, and perhaps needs to be further polished. I also haven't got to the tasks at the end yet in a 50minute lesson.
Both my Y9 classes loved the lesson today, as did my Y7s... one even said it was the best lesson ever!
Despite our tiredness, it is a privilege for our students to be in the classroom, and really they should be learning to the end. It does frustrate me a little when I hear of teachers watching random videos... especially in RE when there is a real opportunity for learning during the Christmas period.
Image courtesy of: http://www.dosmallthingswithlove.com/2013/11/33-nativity-crafts-christmas.html
Monday, 14 December 2015
“Being asked by a Year 13 not to report to his parents on his RS A-level because he had continued to study it secretly” Anon
Monday, 30 November 2015
Yet again, disagreement features on Save RE. Previous arguments such those of 'the crucifixion jelly hand', 'teaching the Illuminati' and 'memes' were recalled as Rebecca Sefton blogged about why she was leaving Save RE (see <here>)
Save RE is a closed Facebook group with nearly 3000 members. It includes a wide variety of members including RE teachers, as well as advisers, faith reps, examiner etc. It was originally set up as a response to RE being left out of the EBacc. However it has grown as a place to share resources and discuss the subject. Neil McKain recently wrote about Save RE for RE Today (see <here>).
Here are some of my reasons why sometimes Save RE 'kicks off':
- It is part of the internet. As long as there has been an internet, there has been arguing. It's kind of just what people do. Misunderstandings, lack of humor, misinterpretation of tone - all part of the internet, and particularly social media. Just because we are RE teachers, does not make us immune.
- RE teachers are defensive. People criticise our subject, we are having to defend it's worth to students, parents, SLT, the public, humanist trolls on Twitter (or is that just me?). We bring that 'trench mentality' to Save RE; helmet on, grenades at the ready.
- In our request for relevance and engagement (linked to 2), we do 'shock jock', gimmicky, sexy RE. When we share it online, there is great division on this type of teaching. The 'progressive' vs 'neo-traditional' sides can be evident, and are often irreconcilable.
- People often share for praise and affirmation, not critical reflection. This is linked to 2 and 3. If you have spent time on a resource, or have what you consider a great idea, it is important to ask the question, "Do I want constructive criticism? Or do I just want people to say it's great?"
- RE teachers work bloody hard. Often in one person departments, supporting non specialists. There is no sounding board, where eyebrows would be raised. You use that idea, teach that idea, perhaps over and over, then share on Save RE. People criticise and it, and perhaps quite legitimately, it feels like a punch in the stomach.
- RE varies probably more than any other subject. For example, faith schools very different to community schools often. Budgets, staffing, school perception, approach, aims... Are we even talking about the same subject? Can we have meaningful conversations about what is good and what is not?
- Bias plays a BIG part in RE. We have an open forum to discuss religion, politics etc. Whether we realise it or not, whether we care or not, it is quite hard to not project a personal agenda. Catholic schools have no issue with confessionalism
, but some posts on Save RE indicate much confessionalism in community schools.
Thursday, 26 November 2015
UPDATE: Full statement <here>
- The law is already complex when it comes to RE; it is also often ignored. Will this be ignored or will the BHA have an active campaign to challenge schools where they feel it is being ignored? (Although perhaps this will be a good thing in seeking out poor RE? Not always easy to fix though...)
- What is this content that we need to teach? The proposed GCSE annex is not really RE but a mixture of science, culture, English literature, etc (See <here>). As Mark points out in his blog, will there be a lot of, "humanists tend to have a range of opinions on this issue which probably revolve around being nice to each other" (see <here>).
- The BHA seems to promoting that their 'brand' of Humanism is what now needs to be taught, however this is not the only NRWV and obviously, we may now see other groups pushing to be included in RE, by law. Scientology? The Illuminati? Will the law allow for restriction or determination? I think the DfE need to be really clear on this or we could end up with a mess.
- There seems to be, from some, a desire for a new subject that is a mix of culture, morality, reflection, self exploration, review etc. This sounds lovely and would maybe be popular. I don't think it is a direct replacement for RE. Find an extra space in the curriculum for it, and I am sure schools would be interested... the study of religion remains relevant regardless of the religious persuasion of those studying it.
- If students are reading Dawkins or Hitchens in their spare time, that is genuinely great. However it means they probably need some teaching of Islam in their RE lessons. We need to overcome this belief that 'my students are not religious so they are not interested'. Do we exist as teachers to simply teach them what they are already know, or to open their horizons?
- What is the next step? The BHA seem to want an option paper for Humanism in the GCSE. Maybe this is right and correct. However, with it's current format, it just doesn't work. Maybe the work will happen to make it a comparable study. What worries me is that if this does happen, it will be one version of humanism rather a genuine exploration of a range of NRWV.
We do need to revisit our aims, and maybe our name (read Dawn's excellent blog on this <here>), but RE remains in a bit a of a mess. Maybe this will force the RE community to sharpen up. Maybe there is now political climate for a law change. Just don't expect it to happen over night.
Wednesday, 25 November 2015
- Scenes from the Battleground - THE education blog? Quoted by ministers, certainly one of the oldest edu-blogs, and always a well-researched read - Andrew Old
- The Behaviour Guru & TES - Not just behaviour... Tom has gained a reputation for his work with ResearchEd, reviewing "Educating..." TV shows and general entertaining writing about the profession - Tom Bennett
- The Wing to Heaven - Is there anyone better that Daisy to talk to about assessment? I don't think so, Cricket? West Ham? Same. Make sure you also read her book, 7 Myths - Daisy Christodoulou
- The Learning Spy - David is happy to admit in the past he has been wrong, and is happy to share (after extensive reading) what is wrong in education. He saves me a lot of reading. Since starting to teach part time, his output has been significant - David Didau
- Blogs About School - John's blog has been a repeated source of information and inspiration. One of my real favourites - John Dexter
- LeadingLearner - Stephen's is exec director of a Catholic MAT in Blackpool. He frequently maps out his vision and steps to getting there in his insightful blog. An amazing demonstration of leadership, useful to all schools - Stephen Tierney
- This Much I Know About... - A beautifully human and well written blog about being a headteacher, teacher, father and human being - John Tomsett
- Zest For Learning - A mixture of teaching and leadership. Tom's blog has given me a number of ideas to try out in the past and continues to reflect upon his journey of headship - Tom Sherrington
- Outside In - A Catholic teacher and Blue Labour supporter. Insightful reflections on many aspects of education - Michael Merrick
- Evidence Into Practice - Nick's blog has been really helpful in understanding key elements of the psychology useful in teaching. He has a great ability to make the complex very accessible - Nick Rose
- To The Real - A really insightful blog which cites Plato as an inspiration: that beautiful mix of philosophy and Maths. Kris always has something interesting to say - Kris Boulton
- Esse Quam Videri - A blog which covers so many different topics. Having met Heather at one of the early blogger curries, I have only recently started reading this. No idea why it took me so long!? - Heather Fearn
- Othmar's Trombone - This blog is now even better that we know James actually exists, A must follow on Twitter too - James Theobold
- The Quirky Teacher - One of the few anonymous bloggers left...
- Reading All the Books - Jo writes quite a lot about English, yet there is something for everyone here with her excellent blog - Jo Facer
- Stack of Marking - Another must follow on Twitter. Teaches in FE. Only person to recommend their own blog, but fully justified - Tom Starkey
- Surreal Anarchy - It's impossible to not love Martin. Likewise, it is impossible to not love his blog - Martin Robinson
- Laura McInerney - How Laura still has time to write for this while writing for Schools Week, I have no idea. So much good stuff on here - Laura McInerney
- Filling The Pail - A lot of evidenced based sense all the way from Australia - Greg Ashman
- Chronotope - A source of good evidence and reflection linked to Carl's work as Wellington's Director of Research. Follow on Twitter for trolling of Dida and Bennett - Carl Hendrick
- Pragmatic Education - Joe is excellent on knowledge and it's importance. What else do you need to know? - Joe Kirby
- MM Learning - Mary is an OFSTED inspector and RE champion. She's ace - Mary Myatt
- Clio Etcetera - Michael's blog is often history focused by very useful for other humanities - Michael Fordham
- Bodil's Blog - Sometimes Maths, sometimes not. Always excellent - Bodil Isaksen
- ICT Magic - Martin knows nearly everything about ICT. His list of recommendations is second to none - Martin Burrett
- ICT Evangelist - Alongside Martin, Mark also knows nearly everything about ICT too - Mark Anderson
- Tabula Rasa - Katie writes lots of English related things, but also about education more generally - Katie Ashford
- New To The Post - Amjad is a generous member of the edu-blogger community, always sharing - Amjad Ali
- TeacherToolkit - No need to mention really - Ross Morrison McGill
- Governing Matters - One of the few excellent blogs written by a committed governor. If only they were all like this.. - Naureen Afzal
- "Splogs": Hey Miss Smith - My favourite primary blog, reminding me (informing me?) what it's like teaching the little ones - Jane Manzone
- Mr Lock's Weblog - Writing a little less now he is a head, I always enjoy Stuart's in depth posts - Stuart Lock
- Daily Genius - Another head (where do they find the time?) who takes the time to explain his vision and what he is trying to achieve. It's great to share the journey! - Kev Bartle
- ChocoTzar - A headteacher who often blogs about pastoral issues with great humility. I love this blog. - ChocoTzar
I also had some recommendations via Twitter that I now need to discover and to my read list:
This deserves it's own special section. I have the privilege of running the The RE and Philosophy Education Chamber. These are some of the blogs I return to again and again:
- To Learn Is To Follow - The sharp mind of Jonny has given a real fresh way of looking at how to teach RE - Jonny Porter
- Miss D Cox - Dawn is one of the most forward thinking and reflective teachers I know. Her blog should have a very wide readership. Not just RE, - Dawn Cox
- Mr Sheptsone - Still technically part of the RE gang, despite teaching Maths - Mark Shepstone
- The Cursed Figtree - After much nagging and behind the scenes rants, we convinced Neil to blog. He's great - Neil McKain
- Becky Sefton's Ramblings -Becky really should blog more, all she writes is excellent - Rebecca Sefton
- The Golden Calf - The voice of reason in a world of mad RE. Some excellent take-downs, especially of EdExcel and aspects of GCSE RS - Rob Orme
This is a lovely site with a real community feel. People to check out;
- Helena Marsh
- Stephen Lockyer
- Leah Sharp
- David Rodger
- Jennifer Hart
- Abigail Mann
- Jill Berry
- Claire Bracher
Monday, 23 November 2015
1. Was Michael Gove a great Education Secretary?
2. Should Ofsted be abolished?
3. Is Sir Ken right? Does traditional education kill creativity?
4. Does mixed ability work?
5. Should character be in the curriculum?
For me, yes / no answers were tricky:
1. Not great, but had a good vision, just maybe poor execution.
2. Only if it is replaced by a better regulatory body.
3. Not really, as I don't agree with his definition of creativity.
4. Maybe in some subjects, but not all?
5. It has to be, but not in separate lessons.
I think I went with:
My final thoughts were:
Saturday, 7 November 2015
As such, it is best in such circumstances to focus on the facts:
- The letter came from the Bishops and was their decision. It was simply communicated by the CES, as is their role; the article does not make this clear. The CES offered advice to the Bishops, but they make their own decisions (Perhaps worth noting that some CES staff worked on the AQA GCSE spec which included options to teach both Islam and Judaism). The CES has certainly not "decreed" or ordered anything. In any Diocese, it is the individual Bishop's responsibility to make his own decision; many go with the decision of the collective conference.
- The article begins "Catholic schools will no longer teach Islam as part of GCSE RS". It is worth noting that many did not anyway. The majority of schools teach Catholic Christianity. Any that did teach Catholic Christianity and Islam previously would have done so without formal permission of Bishop's Conference BUT presumably with their own Bishop's knowledge and approval (through Diocese / Section 48 inspection). It is possible that if the Bishop allowed it previously, he will do so again.
- The article says each religion must be "equally weighted". This is absolutely not the requirement of the new GCSE; it requires a minimum of 25% coverage of a second religion. Some specs will provide a 50:50 split, but this is a choice not a requirement.
- The article says, "regardless of whether they are trained to teach other religions, such as Islam.". I don't know of many RE teachers that are trained so specifically for teaching Islam in any schools, let alone Catholic schools? Teachers in Catholic schools are employed primarily to teach Catholic Christianity; that is their job. It would be reasonable to expect their training and expertise would be in this. Their expertise in other faiths is, however, also vital and would be used as KS3, possibly KS5 (in general RE type lessons) and equally still at GCSE! This is a misleading comment.
- It is claimed by an anonymous Catholic RE teacher that this decision was made for "purely academic reasons", as if this is a bad thing. What other reasons would there be? A desire to fit the Community Cohesion agenda? To "fight terrorism"? These responsibilities do not belong to RE alone; they are whole school issues, just like SMSC. Surely RE, particularly in the Catholic school, should be an academic subject? It should have its own integrity and its own measures of success irrespective of the context and "current climate". Do other academic subjects "sway with the times"?
- The choice of studying Islam in Catholic schools previously was not one based on academic rigour, not to help Promote Cohesion arguably. Schools more likely picked it as they thought they would get higher grades with their particular intake. Is this a reason to be defended and upheld?
- Catholic schools do, and will continue to teach Islam; the article implies this is not the case. It will feature in Key Stage 1 to 3, as it always has done.
- What has a primary school with 90% Muslim pupils got to do with GCSE RS? These pupils will learn about Islam alongside Catholic Christianity just like all pupils in Catholic primary schools.
- It is not true that pupils in Catholic schools "must be religious" (this 'fact' features in the print edition - no longer online?). This is only the case in over-subscription, and even then, the parents of a student with a statement of SEND could request, and be granted, a place in a Catholic school (as well as other situations such as LA students etc). This reinforces the idea of proselytising and forced religion in Catholic schools; something which I absolutely do not believe to be true.
- The anonymous teacher claimed "all lesson material would need to be rewritten". I cannot see why this would be the case? The majority of the GCSE remains Catholic Christianty, as has been taught previously. Indeed much lesson material will need reworking, but this is due to the more rigorous GCSE course rather than the inclusion or exclusion of Islam.
NOTE - Since publishing this, Schools Week editor Laura McInery has been in touch to let me know the online version is a corrected version. She also let me know the CES have been given the opportunity to write their own article for next week. Thanks to Laura for this, a sign of good journalism for me! However my concerns remain that often the media, in general, are very quick to report inaccuracies about Catholic education.
Image courtesy of The Telegraph
Friday, 23 October 2015
- Is this the world of RE we want?
- How can we ensure that the negative aspects of this scenario don't happen?
- What are our priorities?
- What do we need to change first?
- What is realistically achievable?
- If there isn't a climate for law change, how do we solve the issues?
- Do we need multiple solutions to these problems?
Feel free to add to this document <here>
Image: The Playground Scene from Terminator 2
Wednesday, 30 September 2015
1. How do students understand new ideas?
2. How do students learn and retain new information?
3. How do students solve problems?
4. How does learning transfer to new situations?
5. What motivates students to learn?
6. What are some common misconceptions about how students think and learn?
How about you starting with those that you know or work with?
Saturday, 19 September 2015
It was then time for the main event...
“Outstanding relationships between teachers and students correlate with their academic success”
The first half of the film was enjoyable watching, with some heartwarming discussion about the importance of relationships in schools. However, it was the second half which prompted the real thinking for me:
- The female PE teacher who was questioned on her Y9 class relationship was a fascinating insight into how we can sometimes totally misjudge our relationships in school. As some of the students were in her form, and many attended extra curricular clubs, she felt there were lots of positive relationships. However using the proximity framework, there was a correlating pattern, but the gap between the two perceptions was significant. When discussing the relationships with the students, they were very divided on their view of the teacher. In fact, she had misjudged the relationships overall, because of the relationships with some of the students in the group.
- I think this is a quite common mistake. Our view of particular teaching groups can often be swayed by one or two challenging students, or a small core group of excellent students. The effects of this, on a potentially significant number within the group, can be disaffected by the teacher and the lesson.
- The male science teacher modeled really positive relationships with his class; it was clear he was very popular with his students. When questioning his students, it was at first hard to get beyond 'he's funny'. However Rob later looked at the attainment data from his classes and there was direct correlation between the positive relationships and over achievement - simply put, better relationships lead to better outcomes.
- This is clearly something we could have guessed, but the data seemed to suggest that this link was measurable and significant. It would be hard for teachers to replicate the teaching style of the lesson, there was a lot of 'personality' in it. Yet, it is a clear reminder of how vital relationships are. Perhaps even more so for students with low aspirations or who are deemed less able.
- As Head of Year, I frequently find myself in the role of 'bridge builder' (see blog <here> ). I am now far better at helping staff restore relationships for themselves. If I intervene, the common result is my relationship with the student improving - even if I have simply backed up a colleague, told them off and put them in detention. Rob recalled a teacher featured in the film discuss how as HoY and having certain characters frequently in detention, strong relationships were developed. The time spent, and conversations had, even if largely about the behaviour incidents, helped form strong relationships. It's also why I now spend a lot of time, 'just checking in' with certain characters in my Y11 cohort. When they do break the rules, it can be easier to remedy.
- A few people commented on how it was very refrshing that there was no mention of Progress 8 or OFSTED. However some did ask, should Lucy Powell be sent a copy? Would, could, should this be a key part of a Labour education policy?
I look forward to reading the book as well as keeping up with the developments of the project. Thank you Rob and team for a great evening.
Tuesday, 8 September 2015
It is everyone’s responsibility.
Reams of data, the latest pedagogy, 1:1 iPads, the 'all singing and dancing lesson' are of no use unless someone is ensuring the students in the room are safe, happy and secure.
However also remembering, Jill Berry’s question at TMLondon, “Who would want to be lead by you?” - as a Pastoral Leader are you ready to get your hands dirty and do registers, detentions, admin like everyone else?
Download the original presentation <here>
Monday, 7 September 2015
At ResearchEd 2014, I stumbled into Andrew Sabisky's talk on IQ. It wasn't my intention to go to it, but whatever I had picked was full and I made this my wildcard. This is great advice for all future ResearchEd conferences, "Don't panic. Go to wildcards."
It was an excellent talk, showing convincing, comprehensive studies over long periods, with lots of participants. He included lots of fascinating information, such as the fact that there are a greater number of boys at the high and low ends of the IQ spectrum, and people with big brains ARE cleverer. It's all in his book, which I have added to my 'to read' list (see <here>).
I must point out that I am no expert in any of this, and I am writing as an absolute 'lay-man' on the topic. Please correct me if and when I have got things wrong. This is also deliberately 'light' and accessible; I also appreciate these topics are like Pandora's Box, and many won't want to read any further.
- IQ scores have little meaning
- Genes have no impact on IQ
- Testing of IQ is so biased it is useless
- Doing well at at IQ test is simply a measure of how good you are doing well at IQ tests (Named "Ritchie's Law" during his talk)
- Intelligence is determined by both environment and genetics, and the genetic influence is substantial;
- Intelligence tests correlate strongly with a range of other measurements of mental capability;
- Intelligence is strongly associated with success in a wide range of real world activities;
- There are several different aspects of intelligence, but most of them are strongly inter-related. <Source>
If it remains a taboo, shut down or awkwardly avoided, there is little chance we'll ever fully understand it's effects. It should not be the great unspoken in education. This is not helpful to schools, teachers or students.
I think the message to students must remain:
We don't want you to fulfil your potential, we want you to exceed it. Regardless of intelligence or IQ score, we don't know what your upper limit is (in terms of GCSE/A-Level grades).
The message to teachers, schools and policy makers:
Let's talk more about this.
Schools Week report on the session <here>
- David Didau on "Reading Ability": <here>
- Andrew's podcast interview on "Genetics and Education": <here>
- Andrew's presentation from ResearchEd 2014: "Nature and Nurture" <here>
- Andrew's presentation from Wellington Festival of Education 2015: "Ability and Education": <here>
- The neuroscience of human intelligence differences - <here>
- Toby Young - "The Fall of the Meritocracy" - man is not a mould-able piece of clay <here>