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Showing posts from February, 2011

Atten-HUT! Troops to Teachers sees battlefield promotions lauded- but is the science solid?

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I enjoyed Panorama tonight; I always do. There's something so intuitively respectable about the BBC's venerable investigative magazine that I would default to unqualified admiration even if it were to tell me that spaghetti grew on trees. This week: Troops To Teachers (TTT)- Michael Gove's drive to inject a bit of military discipline back into classrooms by aggressively recruiting and retraining ex-military servicemen. It apes the Troops to Teachers program in the US, launched 18 years ago after the first Gulf War, and since then it's seen over 15,000 men and women swap green berets for cardigans with leather patches (or whatever the symbolic equivalent is in America).

If you watched the program you would be forgiven for assuming the the program is an unqualified success; we were treated to the example of Lordswood Boys' School in England, which entertains no less than 1 in 12 staff from  military backgrounds, which shouldn't really be a surprise seeing as how…

TES Behaviour Advice Training Seminar- bookings open again

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After doing a few seminars last month with the lovely people of the Times Educational Supplement, I've been asked back to take a few more. They last about 2 1/2 hours, and I focus entirely on what teachers need to be doing to run a well behaved classroom. The last few seminars went really well, and the feedback was pleasingly, reassuring optimistic. It's a concentrated session, with no time wasted, no sugar paper, no waffle; just straight talking, practical advice and, I'm delighted to confirm, tea and biscuits.

It's held at the TES headquarters (elegantly named TES Towers, which I find fabulous), in facilities that I can only describe as 'well-appointed', like the boardroom in 'The Apprentice' (UK version, not Trump's old-money torture chamber). There are two sessions, on Saturday the 19th of March; one in the afternoon and one in the morning, in order to cater to people who may not live in London. Some of the previous attendees made a weekend of i…

What's red and green and pointless? The endless, anxious debate about the colour of marking.

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What's got two thumbs and couldn't give a damn what colour his marking pen was? *points two thumbs at chest* Me!
The meme de jour of horror flicks is to have the  final frame hinting at the imminent return of the hellish antagonist- see: Carrie; Saw; Freddy; Jason, ad nauseum. Well here's another teaching myth that I thought had been staked a long time ago, but apparently keeps rising from the grave with  the certainty of sunrise. Does it matter in what colour you mark students' books?
No it doesn't   I only mention this because someone emailed me this question recently, and I had to rub my eyes and pinch myself (not easy) to check if I was dreaming. Are people still asking this? Apparently, yes. Dracula has returned. So it's time to dip my crossbow bolts in holy water and bless my silver candelabra, and get ready to knock the brains out of this one, although believe me, it won't take much.
When I started teaching, this was received wisdom; it was dogma; it was…

Grow a pair: leadership in schools, and childhood heroes are back in the news

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Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Hackney's celebrated Mossbourne Academy has been making headlines by suggesting that school leaders need to be just that- leaders, rather than democratic pansies more interested in harmony and coalition than decisions and actions. True dat: schools are ravenous beasts, bubbling with hundreds of agendas (the kids, the staff, the LEA, the parents, the governors), and if there's one thing I learned running night clubs in the Wild West of Soho, it was that if you want to lead people you need to actually want to lead them. It meant that, even if you had reservations about one's right to dictate to another, there it was- that was your job, and if you felt uncomfortable with it then there were plenty of other people who would be happy to oblige. Or worse, you could just hang on and try to ride every wave that surged beneath you. You could do that for quite a while, actually. You would never achieve very much of what you set out to do, and by the time …

New study shows that something is possibly true but it might not be: the Fog of Social Science.

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These are apocalyptic days for many school schemes; in the present age of neo-austerity, it seems like anything not related to life support and child protection is being pared down to the marrow. I'm not sure people are aware yet of how much is on the way out, thanks to a cartel of financial hucksters and their sub-prime lending habits that made the lifestyles of termites seem modest and restrained. Some of the things on their way out were definitely dirty bathwater: the GTC, for example. But some were babies. As the FT comments:

'The schools resource budget, which covers day-to-day running costs, will rise in real terms by 0.4 per cent. But a rise in the number of pupils will mean current spending per pupil will be cut by 2.25 per cent...The education department’s budget for buildings, which is almost entirely spent on schools, will be cut from £7.6bn to £3.4bn – a real terms cut of 60 per cent....Michael Gove, education secretary, admits that many schools will enter a …

'Nation stunned as top two universities in Europe charge 'money' for degrees.'

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The entire population of Britain was last night reeling in amazement and disbelief after the surprise news that Oxford and Cambridge Universities would probably charge the maximum amount allowed for student degrees. Poundstretchers and branches of Argos were closed all day today, as staff workers struggled to get in due to a combination of grief and shock.

'I can't believe it,' said Cristal Bludgen, a fourteen year old trainee beauty therapist from Dagenham. 'This is the end for me. As it was, my chances of going to one of the two top ten world universities was slim, what with my forty-hour-a-week exfoliating and cyberbullying commitments. The decisions of the two senate houses has now priced a world class degree in Cyrillic languages completely out of my grasp. It looks like it's the Lottery and Holby City for me now. Oh well, aut viam inveniam aut faciam, I always say.'

Others took it even harder. 'This has come out of nowhere,' said Tarquin Vespa, t…

If you build it, they will behave: the great behaviour myth of teaching and learning

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Because I don't get out much, I have a favourite false (or possibly just invalid) syllogism, and it's from Yes Minister, the satirical political sit-com precursor to The Thick of It that now seems like a Golden Age of propriety and civic integrity. It goes like this:


P1: We must do something
P2: This is something
C: Therefore we must do this.

I mention this because there seems to be many government ministers and policy formers who apparently see this as the last word in logic. These are interesting times in Education; the Curriculum is being shaken down, sorry, up; Ofsted are being retrained to hunt different prey (presumably using the bloody undergarments of teachers who don't value Geography as scent-markers). It's all a bit up in the air again, and education has the atmosphere of the Museum of Baghdad after the liberation of Iraq. No one really knows what's going on, and schools are feeling sore about the new baccalaureate because everyone looks like they do nothin…