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Developing mastery in the classroom through personalised learning

To master anything you first need to be taught how to do it then have the opportunity to practice it, test what you've learned and practice some more until you get it. That's about it. Yet in schools we seem to ignore this and revert to a list of lesson requirements that appease an observation checklist. My presentation at The Telegraph Festival of Education explored this and suggested a few steps that any school can implement quickly to rid themselves of the unnecessary requirements that they have imposed on teaching.

During my time at the Festival I heard a number of teachers having conversations about education, as they would at such a festival, and the topic of mastery often arose. I used the image of the young child leanring to ride a bike as an example of what mastery is. The opening line of this post also defines it quite simply. So with my definition out of the way I got onto examples of great teaching provided by Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby from the brilliant Brigh…
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The depressed teacher

For many years I have been recognised, in the main, as an 'outstanding teacher' by my peers, the LA and Ofsted. I learned from my errors, I listened to advice from those more experienced and I strove to improve my pedagogy through CPD and reading literature. In September 2012 I was recognised as an 'outstanding' teacher, one of only two in the school, by Ofsted yet only one month later I was deemed 'requires improvement' by the newly appointed headteacher. Why? What happened to my teaching? Where did I go wrong? How could I have let this happen? I questioned it yet found the reply insane- I didn't meet the new observation checklist. A descent into ill health and depression followed with two emergency visits to A&E with suspected heart attacks.

It's been a long time coming but I feel ready to tell this side of my teaching career so that others may recognise the signs and do something about it. My first visit to A&E happened during 2014. The atmo…

Favourite education blogger posts of 2017

2017 has been quite a year for Education bloggers. These posts have questioned my beliefs in education, they have informed me and made me think. Best of all, they have caused a ripple in Education in England. A ripple that that demonstrates schools can do things differently whilst achieving fantastic outcomes for their students and improved well-being for their staff.

'The scourge of motivational posters and the problem with pop psychology in the classroom' written by Carl Hendrick exposes the seemingly well intentioned increase of such posters in schools and  whether they may be doing more harm than good.

Memory not memories - teaching for long term learning written by Clare Sealy, asks the question 'Does the best learning result from memorable experiences?' and examines episodic and semantic memory to get to the answer. An essential read. 
Brain Drain: The Mere Presence of One’s Own Smartphone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity a paper written by Adrian F. Ward, Kris…

The Primary Education series - an introduction

"It’s impossible to recruit staff, retain them and help them uncover their greatest professional selves when they feel untrusted, constantly monitored and uncertain about their value in the organization." Jeremy Hannay, Headteacher, Three Bridges Primary School.The quote is from Jeremy's School Improvement post 'An Inconvenient Truth' that challenges the default scrutinize and monitor strategy employed by many leaders of schools. He describes it as the 'reassuring default in times of uncertainty.' I read his post earlier today and it made me reflect on the schools that I have worked as a teacher. Were they the type of schools that promoted trust in their staff? Did they provide staff the respect they deserved to get on with the job of teaching? Or did they monitor and scrutinize every aspect of teaching under the guise of improvement?

Over my 20 year career as a Primary Teacher, four of the schools I worked in were, and three continue to be, run in the r…

Thank you for making me think

My new role as a Senior Lecturer in Primary Education has opened up a world of research that was just out of my reach as a primary teacher due to a severely limited budget and a local library that never stocked such literature. Instead, I used Twitter to keep in contact with those that had access to research and who would kindly share their findings on blog posts. People such as Clare Sealy, Carl Henrick, Martin Robinson, Tom Sherrington, Tom Bennett, Daisy ChristodoulouBen NewmarkDavid DidauDavid Weston, Joe Kirby, and many more, became, and continue to be, my go to educators for research focused discussion. Their posts helped form a period of enlightenment for me. They helped me question my own pedagogical approach, make me think about what I was actually doing in the classroom and made me want to find out more. Thank you for this spark as it helped improve my teaching for the better. Working in a school can feel safe and secure but my practice never seemed to improve through…

Second guessing the observer

Schools usually observe their staff three times a year and a typical observation in a typical school goes along the following lines. The management (SLT) inform the staff when they will be observed. The staff check the dates then plan over the top lessons to show off their teaching skills and a multitude of learning activities that they think will meet the needs of the observation form. The observer comes in for an hour, observes the prepared lesson and checks it off against the school's so-called Ofsted proof observation check list. The teachers have access to this so called Ofsted proof list so will try to make sure the prepared observed lesson meets all the points on the it.
Instead of an example of how the teacher teaches on a day to day basis we end up with an all singing, all dancing, resource filled, three part mini plenary firework induced New Year's Eve lesson that attempts to check off all the ticks on the observer's form. The observation takes place and if the …

Enforce your primary school behaviour policy

Thankfully we have no need of riot control in Primary Schools but according to some out there, behaviour in the primary classroom is getting out of control. I hear stories of teachers that dread a certain class because they know who is coming up, they despair at the thought of no uniform day because they know how certain children will react, they complain to SLT about the same children day after day but nothing ever seems to be done. Behaviour in a primary school must set the standard, there should be no excuses for poor behaviour. None. Yet, stories like this and many more tell a different story. So why does this happen, why does poor behaviour exist in primaries and why do some allow it to fester?
Every primary has a behaviour policy. That policy has to be followed, no, enforced, by every member of staff in the school. Not just the teachers but everyone. Even the caretaker. Everyone has a part to play to make sure the behaviour policy of the school is enforced. From the moment chil…

Teaching and Learning metaphors

There are those that teach and there are those that create visual metaphors about teaching and learning. I present a few of the many teaching and learning visual metaphors currently to be found online and even on some school walls.

Thank you to @C_Hendrick, @HeyMissSmith, @MrHistoire and @StuartLock for the conversation that spawned this post.

There are probably many, many more but I think I've assaulted your senses enough.