Should teachers be impartial when it comes to politics?

With the election campaigns in full swing, some educators on Twitter have deemed it appropriate to bombard their followers with propaganda tweets in support of their political opinions. Some slogans on my Twitter feed have been so provocative that I have been tempted at times to respond. The reasons why I haven’t are twofold. Firstly, there are not enough characters in a tweet to allow me to fully explain my point of view (I know you can create a thread of multiple tweets but it still feels prescriptive to me). The second and more powerful reason is that for me, politics as well as faith, are private matters.

Source: Should teachers be impartial when it comes to politics?

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Teachers & the Right

The Grumpy Teacher

Twenty years ago, I played for a schoolboy football team.

On the Saturday morning after the General Election result we gathered for training, and I was commiserated with by the others. To begin with I didn’t quite understand why, and said so, at which point I was informed that clearly I must be feeling a bit sore after the Conservatives had been reduced to 165 seats in the House of Commons.

Now I’d never discussed party politics with the lads I played football with. So I set them straight: had I been old enough, I’d have voted Labour. They smirked. Obviously I was a Tory: I was the only privately-educated member of the team.

If you’d asked these boys about tax, or about criminal justice, or about international aid, you’d have got answers which would belong firmly on the right of the political spectrum. But it would never have occurred to them to have…

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Reading and Writing with Year 7

Some History Guy

Since Christmas, and especially since the West London Free School History conference in March, we’ve undergone a bit of a shift in our planning and delivery of lessons to year 7’s, to incorporate what we’ve seen as good practice elsewhere and to get the best out of our cohort and really give them what they need.

For context, the majority of our Year 7’s come in with a reading age below their chronological age. I work in a school and trust that is hugely supportive of a rigorous, knowledge-based curriculum that attempts to help close this gap – enabling us to put together a KS3 history curriculum that focuses on the concepts and knowledge which help to improve students’ literacy. This is not new, but reflecting upon our practice has been aided by working with and learning from experts in the discipline, such as those present at the WLFS History Conference, and the…

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In Praise of Discovery Learning


“We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no-one else can make for us, which no-one can spare us, for our wisdom  is the point of view from which we come at last to view the world.”

Marcel Proust.

How teaching happens matters!

National Council for Curriculum and Assessment

A quick look through the DSE inspectorate reports shows that the popularity of discovery learning is showing no signs of disappearing. One inspection report from March mentions discovery learning twice, recommending that science teachers “should increase the emphasis on discovery learning” and another published last month recommends they “encourage the use of discovery learning by students” and criticises lessons where “too much time was spent on teacher instruction that impacted on discovery learning and student motivation”. A geography inspection report recommends “limiting teacher inputs” .One mathematics inspection praises “a particular focus…inquiry-based learning” and another recommends that…

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There is nothing wrong with teachers controlling the classroom

Filling the pail

I am not an advocate of ‘zero tolerance’ behaviour policies. I have never visited a zero tolerance school so I withhold judgement on what the atmosphere is like but, on paper, some of the rules read as a little eccentric. And I don’t like the name ‘zero tolerance’ because we all have to tolerate all sorts of indignities in everyday life. Like the similar term, ‘no-excuses’, I don’t think it can actually meanzero in practice because there are exceptions to any rule.

I also think these labels can be interpreted very darkly. Zero tolerance schools may be perceived as only seeking to reward and punish students rather than instruct them in how to behave. A student from a chaotic family background may simply not know what is expected. And so I think teachers have a role in teaching these conventions, and with good humour. In fact, it is the…

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Pedagogical Content Knowledge in English

English Remnant World

“…the question of what teachers should understand if they wish to teach a domain responsibly is no simple challenge. In the field of English teaching, where canons are under question and “consensus” is more frequently misspelled than accomplished, the problem of teacher knowledge is daunting.”

In her paper ‘Knowing, Believing and the Teaching of English’, quoted above, Pamela Grossman outlines just some of the key challenges faced by those who try to define the knowledge English teachers require. In essence, they are that:

  • There are numerous ways of dividing up the English curriculum. For example, some argue it can be split into linguistics, literature and composition whilst others would divide it into reading, writing, speaking and listening.
  • English, particularly reading, is an interpretive domain and there are many interpretive schools of thought. There is therefore a question about the number of standpoints which teachers should be able to…

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Folk Knowledge and Academic Learning

Douglas Wise

David Geary, the cognitive developmental and evolutionary psychologist, writes in his essay Folk Knowledge and Academic Learning that ‘academic learning [is] effortful because it requires sustained attentional control and working memory resources.’  The act of reading a GCSE literary text provides a reasonable illustration of this: effortful determination is required to overcome the linguistic and cultural barriers of, say, a chapter of Jekyll and Hyde or a scene from Romeo and Juliet.

Geary argues that students have a natural disposition to favour activities that are largely social in nature.  This in itself is not particularly problematic: done well, group work activities can be productive (as I’ve written about it in a previous post).  However, Geary’s words – once again – are worth keeping in mind:

‘Children’s inherent motivational dispositions and activity preferences are likely to be at odds with the need to engage in the activities, such as…

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