Unconditionally mercenary

teaching personally

An eminent writer to a national newspaper recently observed that education in Britain has ‘lost its sense of moral purpose’. That need not imply any particular belief system for it still to be true, inasmuch as education should presumably strive for a higher ideal in the quest for objective knowledge.

As if more evidence were needed of the extent to which this is true, The Independent has reported that the number of unconditional offers made to would-be university students has risen from fewer than 3000 in 2013 to over 68 000 this year. It seems that the sole driver of this has been the desire of universities to fill places in advance and secure their incomes for the year ahead.

Where is the concern for the actual quality that entrants are required to demonstrate, or of the likely impact on their motivation? The adverse effects of this are blatant evidence…

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Love thy efficiency neighbour


I find nothing more irritating than to have my intelligence insulted, particularly by people who think they are being helpful but haven’t actually got a clue.

If you have ever come across the ESFAs ‘Efficiency Neighbours’ data you’ll know what I mean. This blog is for any school leaders who are told they should use this data to help them identify financial efficiencies. To save you some time, I publish below my submission to the ESFA in which I try to explain why their data is rubbish.

Now I don’t like to bite the hand that feeds, so I will repeat that I think this data has been put together in good faith. Financial efficiency is important and it is right that schools should be expected to benchmark costs against similar schools and identify ways they could operate with better value for money. Thanks for trying to help. It’s just……

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Giving our data a haircut


Our data hasn’t had a haircut in a while. To be honest, we’ve allowed it to grow and we looked in the mirror and realised that it looks a bit… well, unkempt. It is time to cut it all back, but the question is how short can we get away with?

So, what is the minimum amount of data a school can collect about students centrally whilst being an effective school?

Sitting behind this question is the desire to make our data systems simpler, easier and all about action. Partly this is about workload, but it is also driven by a creeping doubt about the value of some of the data we collect.

But before we head off to the barbers, lets take a look in the mirror. Just how much data is there, and which bits need trimming?

The data we collect falls in to two camps which we’ve…

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Reasons to be happy about your child leaving year 6

The Quirky Teacher

The edunet is awash with photos of smiley children, accompanied with messages of ‘Oh how we’ll miss those years of awe, wonder, fun, innocence….’

So I thought I’d write a lighthearted blog for those parents who, in the midst of all the heart-break, feel a little relieved now that their youngest child has finally left primary school. Here are the reasons why you can be happy about your child leaving year 6:

  • Bake sales that you never seemed to know anything about until the last minute – goodbye!
  • No more repeated charity donation requests from yummy mummies and their coffee morning friends to go cycling up the Alps while you have to continue with your boring life of office work and paying of gas bills
  • World Book Day – with time and support from family and friends (and maybe counselling), you too can begin to recover from this

Screenshot 2018-07-20 at 9.12.32 AM

  • An end…

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Principle to Practice 3: Expertise Reversal Effect and Worked Examples


My third principle to practice blog post focuses on a paper by:

Salden, Aleven, Schwonk and Renkl (2009)


What was the paper about?

Just a couple of definitions before we start:

Expertise reversal effect: as learners become more knowledgeable in a domain, guided instruction becomes less impactful and may actually hinder learning (see the work of Slava Kalyuga for more information).

Procedural knowledge: knowing about processes and procedures (e.g. how you might calculate ½ + ¾ = 1 1/4).

Conceptual knowledge: knowing why certain processes work; understanding the relationship between things (e.g. I also know that ½ = 0.5 and ¾ = 0.75, therefore 1.25 = 1 1/4).

There is a wealth of research to support the use of worked examples to support problem solving, particularly with novice learners because it helps…

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The “teacher led” College Of Teaching. Part 1

Scenes From The Battleground

I’ve been writing recently about how the Chartered College Of Teaching, the new government funded professional body for teachers, is not to be teacher led after all. It has been suggested that, as people change their minds, and plans changed, this is not a big deal. So I thought I’d write here about how integral to this whole project was the idea that any new body be led by teachers.

The politician who first suggested there be a new professional body to replace the GTCE, was Neil Carmichael, then a member of the education select committee. In January 2012 he raised the idea with a number of people interviewed by the committee [my emphasis].

Neil Carmichael: That is a really interesting point that you have just raised about the parallel between teachers and doctors, and indeed lawyers. The one thing that teachers do not have, which the others do have…

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The Point of It all



When I was a younger teacher I believed that my work would have a direct, immediately clear link to positive future outcomes. For example, I thought that if I worked hard at my job and was good at it, poorer pupils in my classes would get better exam grades. This would lead to them studying at better universities, which meant they would get better jobs, earn more money and become more economically, socially and politically influential than they would otherwise have been. This would, of course, make them happier people. Eventually, the world would become a better, fairer and happier place because of my work. While perhaps naïve, I was no fool for believing this; the narrative is familiar and to many of us, a reason we chose teaching as a profession.

I now accept that life just isn’t as simple as this. It’s very difficult, probably impossible, to separate…

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