Posted in Learning

No Mr Gibb, we need to create a learning dialogue!!

I really enjoyed this short article from Jonathon Simons (@PXeducation) about the London-centric nature that educational rhetoric and policy can take on with the extremely apt analogy of ‘The Most Visited School’ by civil servants and ministers, (one that is 100m from Westminster!). This was somewhat ridiculously promoted by the comments coming out of the Schools Standards Minister Nick Gibb’s office this week about marking, feedback and workloads;

with one comment standing out like grade on a formative feedback sheet (!) ‘that marking in different-coloured pens, and giving feedback in exercise books, had never been a government or an Ofsted requirement’

No it hasn’t ever been a government or Ofsted mandate, it was something we as educated professionals realised may have an impact on the learning skills of our pupils, with different variations developed for the rich and diverse demographics that exist in our schools. A good, no, a competent school leader realises that workload stresses on their staff and amends polices and projects accordingly and does not expect them to mark every and anything, the impact is completely lost!

Creation of a learning dialogue is one way we can ensure that pupils develop as learners and into the culturally sound and proficient individuals we all crave for them. A grade, a small mark, a meaningless token that we have marked their learning has no meaning or substance without a creation of dialogue. In lessons, we want pupils to reflect, to be resourceful with comments made, and the different coloured pens only highlight these areas that the skills may have been applied.

The post underneath discusses these issues and how to overcome them, without reverting to comments like ‘work should be marked with a simple, simple!!!!, grade.



Posted in Learning

Contextualised Chengdu!

An attack on the senses is the only way to describe Chengdu, China. Its vibrancy of colour, sound, smells and ‘roll a six to start’ weather changes (!) and has given context to the teaching and learning that I have been able to share in over the past week.

Having spent the last 2 days in various forms of the Chinese education system, it may seem to many a linear, outcome/Gaokao (end of year high school tests), driven structure, but the methodology behind the practice is one of pure simplicity; They want Chinese students to do the best they can in all areas, including developing them as multicultural and global learners. They invest in their future, the pupils and  all students who attend their schools, (sometimes until 9:30pm!). There is an obvious caveat to this vision, All are those who’s parents can and do send them to fee paying schools.

The large and vast elephant in the room is the population, China’s currently sits at 1.3 billion, just a ridiculous and incomprehensible number of people across this physically diverse and challenging country. This means the average school size is around 3000,  The Chinese Experimental Foreign Language school (CEFLS)  for example has a population at around 6500 pupils and 439 staff members. I use the CEFLS as our example as it is based in the city of Chengdu, 14 million strong and home of the Panda Breeding Sanctuary. Its students undertake a variety of programs and studies are all aimed at teaching them English to use abroad and return to develop the Chinese economy, culture and society. But we now seem to be hearing voices of opposition to the traditional ways that Chinese teaching and learning is taking place.

They are now looking to focus on the processes, not just the outcomes. They want to enable pupils to become better life-long learners, develop an active role in the learning process, rather than the passive stance that can be observed at the moment. More creative, more dynamic and nebulous thoughts, questioning, formatively assessing each other and asking ‘Why’ and ‘What if’?

Lily and Scarlet are two pupils experiencing the seed change in their learning, lessons that are team taught, planned with the focus on the learning methods rather than the overall outcome. They were honest about the barriers they saw when it came to adapting the current style of education in their country;

‘The class are still so big, 50, sometimes 60 and we can’t always get the work completed if we are asked to talk in groups first’ mused Scarlet, 14 and fascinated by the piano and all things jazz!

‘I like when we are able to show our learning to the class at the board, although I know that not all schools have that money so they may not have my same facilities’

said Lily, a grade 11 student who is desperate to attend Warwick University in the UK to study and then teach maths. That is the contextualised goal for the majority of the pupils, to travel to the top universities in the US or UK to develop their learning skills even further.

The worry here is with our new educational reforms being put into place, an obvious reaction to PISA scores, media articles about comparing our system to those across the world and the fear our pupils will not be able to compete on the global stage, are we moving more towards a system that other countries, China being one of them, is looking to now maybe not move away from, but definitely is looking to change and develop it? Surely if countries and systems are beginning to recognise that they need more of a dichotomy in their educational outlook, developing rich variety through collaboration and sharing of good practice, we should not be so quick to abolish these traits already evident in our own system.

Yes a mixture, but always pupil focussed and led- contextualise for that generation.

The presentation given about T&L sharing strategies can be located here and here Enjoy!




Posted in Learning


So offering a  Mandarin lesson could have been an advisable curriculum move if we had known that this conference was a real possibility!

Key Question to be asked here, What do we have to offer that may have an impact on the learning of these pupils across the globe?

In the UK we are constrained by the perceived ‘Outcome-led’ nature of some areas of academia, progress and attainment 8 scores, SATS at KS1&2, lip-service degrees being offered by establishments with the  ultimate goal to get their students a first class degree rather than the other way round of pupils challenging themselves for that accolade.

Glacial as it may seem, the movement is now towards this idea of a lifelong learner, that your turn on the learning merry go round is one that will never end, and far from it making you feel slightly worse for wear with all of those stomach turning opportunities, we should embrace the dizzying nature of learning new and exciting things.

I once worked with a senior leader who decided that their assembly theme would be centred around the learning and subsequent application of new skills, opening their learning up to ridicule as they attempted in full view of KS3 to learn how to juggle.

Assembly 1: Their first attempt, discovery learning , some pupils offering advice, but overall lots of balls flying all over the place, (Y8’s loved that joke!).

Assembly 2: 3 weeks later, chunked information, videos had been watched, designated practice time undertaken, let ball flying, still no co-ordination!

Assemblies 3-6 followed much of the same pattern until assembly 7 where they walked in with no equipment and asked the following question;

‘Why bother?’

We know of the expected the stock response from pupils, ‘Effort, Determination, Resilience!!!” but here, an environment had been created where the pupils were invested in the learning process, they wanted to see it through to failure and next steps, or success and application. Their answers were ones of dismayed outrage and almost hurt;

‘We need to see you do it sir’

‘If you don’t see it through it’l bug you and us for the rest of our time here’

Aspirations to create this sort of ethos around learning for all pupils is what we want to offer, to create opportunities for our pupils to expand their global understanding and investment in all learning they may be part of.

Posted in Learning

‘To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries’, Aldous Huxley

I have been afforded to chance to visit Chengdu, China this week as part of the Global Youth Ambassador Programme to present on;

‘Teaching and Worldwide Learning Methods: Ensuring that all pupils no matter where they are receive the best possible opportunity to learn’.  

A weighty topic you may say, but as the Huxley quote postulates, travel will dispel myths and preconceptions populations may have about other locations. We in UK educational circles are all too quick to laud and acclaim other countries pedagogical approach to learning, (especially those of Scandinavia and areas of Asia), and in some areas, with good reason. PISA results in Science, Maths and Reading from 2013 clearly put areas like South Korea, Finland, Taiwan and Hong Kong at the for front of educational outcomes, but not necessarily at the cutting edge of learning. Wanting to become a lifelong learner, having the desire to wake up day to day and tackle something tough, different and ultimately be open to failure is not bred through outcomes and summative assessment alone. The UK is sometimes accused of being Stuck in the Middle in terms of the analysis from PISA, but what is our vision as a country, high results or happy children? And should we be made to choose? Isn’t a set of results is relevant to that demographic, that cohort of pupils?

A whole host of former education minsters have waxed lyrical over the abilities and curricula of those oversees, without ever really instilling next steps and action plans with which we can clearly see how to implement those strategies in our own establishments, (exception here can be the new Maths Mastery curriculum, although resources for it seem to be scarce). We can learn from each other, isn’t that something we implore our pupils to do through the multitude of peer assessment tasks? We may not be achieving the outcomes of those previously mentioned countries, but surely what we can offer pupils is meta-cognition, the ability to understand the value of learning, no matter what it is in, (the Government Apprentice Initiative is surely a great example of this?).

‘The Global Youth Ambassador Project is a network of schools with the mutual goal of sharing their learning cultures and experiences with each other. It seems the fascination about education and the delivery of learning goes both ways, with delegates from America, China, Canada, New Zealand and Australia interested in sharing teaching and learning methods and attempting to forge links and creating projects that will widen pupils’ global horizons.

I feel extremely privileged to have been afforded this chance to work with my international peers and share with them the fantastic methods of learning we have here in the UK, and that we are not stuck in the middle rather we are challenging ourselves and pupils to create learners that are resilient, resourceful, reflective and open to reciprocity and team work. It will also provide an opportunity to also instil the ideals that a numeric grading system isn’t the pinnacle, facilitating pupils to become global citizens and aware of the world around them is just as, if not more important in the modern world.

Blog posts to follow as the conference takes place, (Wifi permitting!)