Posts Tagged ‘Subject Knowledge’

Future Education Policy?

April 2, 2015 5 comments

So it’s that time again and we’re well and truly into Election season. Paxman has given Dave and Ed a good going over on C4, we’ve had the election debate and the nation is (I hope) deep in thought about which way they want to go. I’m waiting with baited breath for the manifestos so I can really get to grips with their policies. So far, we haven’t got manifestos, but the labour party have released a pamphlet entitled “Changing Britain Together“, which sets out some key themes which came out of the national policy forum last autumn and which will be in the manifesto.

These are what they believe to be the key facts on education:


And here are some of the things they want to change:


So what do you think?

Well let’s take a look, first up we have:

Guarantee all teachers in state schools are qualified

This is something I’ve argued for before. I can understand the argument that someone who is an expert in their field and wants to teach it should be allowed, but teaching isn’t that easy. You need strategies to deal with the classroom climate, you need pedagogical ideas on how to pass on your knowledge and you need to know what’s on the curriculum in your subject. These are (or should be) dealt with within teacher training. I don’t necessarily mean experts should have to go away and complete a qualification, the could do it on the job such as salaried schools direct or teach first etc.

Require teachers to continue building skills and subject knowledge with more high quality training and new career paths

This is a great priority to have. We all need to continually develop our practice. We need to reflect on what we’re doing and improve upon it. Subject knowledge is key, the Sutton Trust Report “What makes great teaching?” told us that the most important thing you improve outcomes for students was teachers having a strong pedagogical subject knowledge. This is particularly important at the moment as we are moving to new curricula across the board, new GCSEs, A levels, all subjects, all key stages. We need to ensure we are sharp on all the content to ensure the best outcomes for our learners.

Ensure schools are locally accountable with new local Director of School Standards responsible for intervening in underperfoming schools.

I’m not too sure about this one. On the face of it it looks good. It looks like there will be a safeguard to ensure all children are receiving a good education, but what will trigger the intervention? And what will that intervention be? These are two massive questions that I don’t know the answer to, so I can’t really comment further. I guess we’ll need to wait for the manifesto.

End the flawed free schools programme and instead prioritise new schools in areas with a shortage of places

This one makes me laugh a little at the ridiculousness of the free schools programme. Money is being spent on mew schools in areas where the existing schools are not fully subscribed, yet areas which are oversubscribed are still in need of new schools. Surely it’s common sense to ensure that schools are being built where they are needed?!

4 promises, the first two would, if done well, make great strides towards improving education for all. The final one is so common sense it seems daft it even needs mentioning, but unfortunately it does, and the third is one I need to know more about. What are your views on these 4 promises? I’d love to hear them.

This is based on the bit specifically on schools policy, the leaflet is 52 pages long and covers all policy areas so do have a read, and make sure you read the manifestos when they come out. And for goodness sake, don’t forget to exercise your democratic right on may 7th and vote, apathy and disenfranchisement are what breaks democracy.

Great teaching leads to student progress

October 31, 2014 5 comments


Today the Sutton Trust report “What makes great teaching?” by Rob Coe, Cesare Aloisi, Steve Higgins and Lee Elliot Major was released. It’s a report I’ve eagerly been awaiting and I very much enjoyed reading it. You can download the report in full here free of charge. It’s only around 50 pages long and I’d say read it, but if your lacking in the time or the inclination I would say you should definitely still download it, and read the executive summary which is only around 3 pages long. This executive summary is a brilliant summary of the report, so I feel no need to summarise it here, but there are a few points I’d like to comment on.

Above is a screenshot of the start of the executive summary which includes the quote:

Great teaching is defined as that which leads to improved student progress.

That, to me, seems the most obvious thing in the world. If the pupils are progressing well in your subject, then the teaching is great. If the students aren’t progressing, then you need to look at what’s going on and put things right. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case in recent years.

Last year I was discussing the progress of my NQT with the SLT member in charge of the department. He had completed the penultimate NQT observations on those in the department and had graded one as outstanding and the one I mentored as requires improvement. We discussed this and he said that there were things missing from the lesson, the sort of things you would expect from all singing all dancing lessons – one example he gave was “he didn’t use lollipop sticks”!!! I found this particularly bad as the class he’d seen my NQT with was his year 9 class and I knew that the class in question had made significant progress throughout the year. More progress across the year, in fact, than any other class in year 9! Which to me proves that the teaching they were receiving was great. This points to an issue highlighted in the report:


I also had a discussion with a HoD at another school who told me he didn’t understand how his AS results had been so poor when he’d had a “consistently outstanding” teacher teaching them all year. My advice was simple: “you need to redefine your conditions for outstanding. If the students aren’t making progress, then you need to try something else.”

I’m glad that this report, and recent ofsted guidance, is signposting a move away from the idea of preferred teaching styles and single lesson judgements. Different things work for different teachers, and different things work for different classes. Context is key. There’s a wealth of ideas and things research suggests works in this report, and I’d suggest trying it out, I will be, but you need to always bare in mind that things that work elsewhere won’t always work for you.

Another key point I noted was the strength of evidence to say that Pedagogical Subject Knowledge was important, especially in maths.


This is something I’ve written about before, and again something that seems obvious. Yet I’ve often heard people say “If you can teach, you can teach anything.” I’ve experienced in my own education teachers that were one page ahead in the text book and it wasn’t effective. We need to ensure our pedagogical subject knowledge is up to scratch, that we know the links between our subject and the misconceptions likely to occur. This is particularly important now, as we are in the middle of massive curricula reform which will see a large amount of teachers teaching topics they haven’t taught before, and we all need to make sure we are prepared.


Teacher observations

A strong theme throughout the report is around observations. The report seems to favour heavily the idea that they are most effective when done in a formative developmental way.


They also have some pointers as to how this development can be helped:


These are ideas I like. I think all teachers should be constantly developing, and striving to improve. Hattie’s research suggests that there us a massive positive effect on outcomes when teachers see themselves as learners and this backs that up. I’ve noticed an uptake in the number if teachers I know undertaking further study, and this can only be a good thing.

The model of formative and development observations seems to oppose the recent move to performance related pay, and the report has this to say on it:


The report talks about creating a culture where teachers are comfortable discussing their shortcomings, and working to improve them. But if they are tied to pat progression then teachers may not feel comfortable owning up to them.

I was worried to see in the report that apparently 90% of teachers still buy into learning styles


Which is terribly worrying given the weight of evidence against then. It’s easy to find a bucketload but here’s one to start you off.

As you can see, there’s a wealth of fantastic stuff in the report, these are just a few key themes I’ve picked out that interest me. The mainstream media seem to think the main theme is about “lavish praise” but that’s just a tiny part!

If you have strong views on any of this, or anything else in the report, I’d love to hear then.

I’ll leave you with an interesting page on effective teaching of numeracy:


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