Monday, 23 June 2014

Festival of Education

I was persuaded by @Arakwai to come to the Festival of Education. I have enjoyed the science festival and sessions in the Bristol festival of ideas, so I was keen to go along.

The first session I went to was Andrew Andonis. There was no description of what he was going to talk about in the programme, but I decided I wanted to hear what he had to say about himself anyway. I wasn't disappointed.

I was impressed that Andrew Adonis seemed to speak clearly without notes. I think this is the way that Labour politicians approach speeches these days? Both myself and my OH are teachers and we discuss the state of education under the Tories a lot. He works with students who are 'hard to reach' and is concerned by the pressure on them to go to university as the only route. So when Andrew Adonis talked about the improvement in number and access to apprenticeships as being the next step Labour would have taken I nearly punched the air in agreement.

I also agree with Lord Andonis about teacher training. Separating teacher training from universities isn't going to make the profession more respected or professional.

Due to the number of questions the session over ran and I didn't go to anything in the next slot. Instead I went into the Pearson tent. Interesting, they are using research to influence their products. I was told that the literacy in exploring science: working scientifically was tested in a RCT. I was interested in this, because I feel that as a head of department the resources in the scheme of work have the opportunity to influence the teaching within the department, rather like UpD8 SEGUE has had a massive influence on me. I await to see what Pearson produce.

After a hot chocolate, which was the biggest disappointment of the day (get a Barista Machine Wellington College), we went to a panel discussion about maths. Panel discussions are, for me, what make festivals tick and I found this one disappointing. I did discover that if we improve the maths level of the lowest achievers then we can massively increase GDP. 11% of our young people don't reach PISA's level 1.

Then (fortuitously) a speaker didn't turn up so went to lunch early to avoid the queues. The Paul Rankin burger was lush. Then Arakwai (not her real name) saw via twitter that there was an impromptu panel debate about research and research leads and involving Tom Bennet. So we strode off towards the spiritual room. The session raised more questions about how to turn teaching into a research lead profession. Questions that even the introduction of research leads into schools don't currently answer, but hope to in the future. I can't speak for the wider education community, but it was clear from the room that there is an appetite for teachers to be more involved with research. I was interested in the project Harvard are running to try and make links between teachers/schools and research, but (I might be wrong here, there wasn't much description of the project) it sounded like Harvard were linking with specific schools, what about the rest? How do these small scale projects scale up to a national picture? I was itching to ask a question, but people far more interesting and intellectual than I had their hands up, so I let them speak.

After that I dragged Arakwai to see David Starkey, Keith Vass, Claire Fox and Katie Hopkins in a panel debate. I didn't like Katie Hopkins when she was on The Apprentice and that opinion has not improved. This debate allowed her the opportunity to be extremely vile and make David Starkey sound like the voice of reason. I found some of the opinions of Claire Fox rather unpleasant too. I hope the panel were booked for their entertainment value rather than their expertise? This isn't something I am used to: When attending the science festival I haven't experienced a debate where the panelists attack each other and make statements with so little evidence or experience to back them up. "I don't want my daughter to sit next to someone naughty" and "we shouldn't educate the bottom 20%  intellectually" are not the best informed statements I have heard. If Katie Hopkins has a problem with the education of her children then she should speak to the school, not take education on in the national media.

Second to last we went to another panel debate on whether students should get a say in what they learn. The debate meandered all over the place. I did get the impression the lady from BBC learning didn't know much about education in the classroom as she spouted the corporate lines. Johnny Ball was an interesting addition to the panel, obviously passionate about education. Most interesting was the student from Wellington where students do have some say in what they learn. Not being restricted by doing GCSEs must help an awful lot when it comes to making a creative curriculum that will inspire your students. I was envious for a moment, but then nervous as the straight jacket to GCSEs at least gives me a benchmark.

Final I went to see Richard Dawkins. Everything can be linked to evolution apparently. I think the speech Alice Roberts did to the ASE about humans and education was much better than what Richard Dawkins had to say. But it was good to hear him talk about the scientific method during the questions at the end. He was much calmer than I was when asked silly questions.

I enjoyed being able to go to so many sessions, however I found that 40 minutes wasn't enough. I am used to at least an hour, and often sessions had only just got going when we had to stop.

The idea of an education festival is a good one. I enjoyed being able to listen to debates that were high above my normal pay grade. I like being able to talk about education without feeling guilty that I am not putting something I have heard about into practice on Monday morning. But most if all it was great to be in an beautiful environment, with people who care about education talking and sharing with passion.

I can't wait for the next one.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Pedagoo SouthWest 2014

It has been a week and a day since I went to Pedagoo South West and it has given me time to reflect on what  I saw, heard and thought about during the event.

The welcome from Bristol Grammar School was great and the main hall is an amazing room to spend time in. The tea and biscuits was very welcome. Emma Payne did a great job collecting the prizes for the raffle, very impressive.

I enjoyed Rachel Jones' key note speech. I enjoyed the comment about twitter and dichotomies, oh how I hate straw men when they get thrown about in arguments. I also agree with Rachel that there is no right way to teach.

To me her presentation may have consisted in a series of what might be described  as sound bites, but they summed up the positivity that we can feel as teachers when we want to. It was important for me to start the day by thinking about the bigger picture and realising the importance and solidarity that teachers can feel.Rachel's passion was a great way to start the day!

The video made by Rachel and her students was a real high point of the day:

For a while now I have been thinking that I must force myself to go to CPD and INSET sessions that I aren't in areas that I am currently interested in. Why? Because I often don't learn anything as I will have already investigated, and CPD can end up as a disappointment.

So with this in mind I went to Paula Worth's session about teaching a knowledge-rich curriculum. I went partly because of the knowledge vs skills debate on twitter. That debate actually leaves me cold as it often involves the word dichotomy. I have tried to keep myself out of this debate. However, it was interesting that Paula seemed to say it was a real issue in History. It made it more real.

I was very impressed by the activities she outlined in the ways that she scaffolds students using their knowledge in a skill based activity such as a debate. Facts to outline the points they were making were important. The session certainly made me wonder if I can think of more creative activities for students to learn from. I am glad I went.

After that I went to Robert Massey's session about gifted and talented students. This is another area that I don't have a great deal of interest in. Years of hearing about G&T, but not ever working at a school that had this area sorted has turned me off it as a concept. I actually found it very interesting to be able to drill down into what another independent school does. I hadn't made the connection between 'scholarships' and 'G&T', and I felt a little silly when the penny dropped.

It was certainly a session that made me think about what we do at school and what we do in our department. I need to take more responsibility to ensure that I am confident I know who our scholars are and consider how best to interact with them.

I like the idea of teaching to the top. It can be difficult to do this when SLT (not my current managers, they are reasonable) expect to see specific G&T resources.

After a short break and a cup of tea I stayed in the hall to hear Nick Dennis speak about multipliers. I realised that I hadn't been subject to a leadership talk for a while, and it is always useful to reflect on this area of being a teacher, middle leader and future senior leader. Currently my focus is science education and I have lost my passion for school leadership as a topic.

Nick first talked about diminishers:

And made a comment that I know I have to take more notice of. I have encountered it from managers, but I am still guilty of being 'always on' myself. Taking on too much and trying to implement it all can be as damaging to leadership and those who are being led. 

Nick talked about giving someone within the group, but not in the highest leadership position the casting vote. I can see how this might be useful. But I do wonder if people realise they are having a leadership game played on them and resist? I would! 

The rescuer is an interesting title. I have worked with SLT who really enjoy having this role! I did enjoy all the descriptions of people as they did make me think about real situations and were personas that I could relate to.

It is always useful to reflect on leadership in education and how our actions induce behaviour in others, and on the team we want to lead. I certainly don't feel like a multiplier at the moment.

The last session was by Chris Hildrew. "Closing the Gap" marking. He said himself that he had borrowed from others across the web, and did acknowledge them in his talk. 

I went this talk because marking and planning for marking is something that I know I can be better at. 

He put together all the little pieces about marking and feedback from around the web, and it was really great to have it all sewn together. My favourite piece of the day was the handout from Chris with 12 ideas for marking and feedback.

I came out of the session feeling that Chew Valley School must be a great place to work.

The day ended with a talk from David Didau, it was a shame that we struggled to see his presentation because he stood between the projector and the screen.

David was talking about his premise 'what if we are all wrong'? 

Great afternoon. 

Friday, 13 June 2014

KS3 Published Schemes

I am asked a lot what scheme will I be going for.

I had a free trial of the kerboodle online resources and was pleased with the quizzes and the idea behind how they work, but I was less impressed with the worksheets. Too much paper and not enough to make a lesson from. I feel that the lesson resources really missed the point. I did think that the questions they contained were good, and there were some strong links to contexts.

I knew then that buying kerboodle would not be enough. Luckily a copy of exploring science was sent out at this point. I wasn't exactly pleased that I was unable to find my school on the Pearson website and I had to make a phone call for Pearson to realise that we existed. I felt sorry that the reps that found me were not going to get the business. However, I have always found the worksheet resources for exploring science useful. So we have bought the worksheets from Pearson too.

I did look at the Collins resources and thought that they could have been more imaginative and really what I was buying was more of the same. The Hodder 'progress science' resources didn't do it for me either. I wanted something different.

However, I did buy "better teach science" by Hodder. These activities seem very imaginative and are linked to a context. Something that I couldn't do myself.

I hope that all these resources can compliment what we have an help to build a strong key stage 3 curriculum that helps students understand science.

For those of you who will criticise me for not writing our own and buying *worksheets*, we are a department of 6, only 3 of whom teach key stage 3. And more than that I want to explore the interactive resources that the publishers now offer. I will subscribe to the new exploring science textbooks in September, the interactivity in them looks amazing and is something that I could not hope to do to such a level and in such quantity.

I continue to strive to a 'perfect' key stage 3 scheme, aware that none of the published schemes are quite it.

The cost for what I recommend is upwards of £1600.