The Challenge of Traditionalism

Outside In

‘Traditionalism’, so far as that label catches anything, has had something of a fraught time of late. It has been put to all manner of uses, positive and negative, from those who seek to attach legacy and prestige to their latest innovation, to those who wish to dismiss a proposition by rendering it already unworthy of consideration. Still, if words mean things, then we might as well try and find agreement on what they mean, lest we simply talk past each other even whilst claiming to debate.

To my mind, traditionalism is a positive moral vision more than a pedagogical claim (I don’t like the term, but that’s for another blogpost). Of course the latter can and often does flow from the former, but ultimately it is a code which allows more pedagogical freedom than it does ethical. Or put another way, virtue-signalling about VAK need not make one a…

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Test to the Teach


making-good-progressWhen Daisy Christodoulou told us not to teach to the test, I assumed she was mainly concerned with teachers spending too much lesson time making sure children understood the intricacies of the mark scheme at the expense of the intricacies of the subject. Personally, I’ve never spent that much time on the intricacies of any mark scheme. I’ve been far too busy making sure children grasp the rudimentary basics of how tests work to have time spare for anything intricate.   For example, how important it is to actually read the question.  I spend whole lessons stressing ‘if the question says underline two words that mean the same as …., that means you underline TWO words. Not one word, not three words, not two phrases. TWO WORDS.    Or if the questions says ‘tick the best answer’ then,  and yes, I know this is tricky, the marker is looking…

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From whippersnapper to joyful scholar: the missing link in early primary education

The Quirky Teacher

This is an attempt to pull together various ideas and thoughts about teaching and learning in the Far East. The reason I feel compelled to nail my colours to the mast is because something struck home when I read Hirsch’s most recent book about the importance of a knowledge-based curriculum for helping the most disadvantaged children. He said that disadvantaged children didn’t have that extra vocabulary and general knowledge-augmenting curriculum which is ‘taught’ at home, and as a result they were held back by their own inability to communicate and understand, which then inhibited further learning opportunities. I also think there are other important ways that advantaged children get a leg-up; basically, advantaged children are also given training at home in acquiring a scholarly disposition. Surely, if we want to give disadvantaged children the same opportunities in life, we need to not only give them vocabulary, knowledge and the means to…

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How to help secondary pupils with reading and writing complex words.

I wrote the following response, which I’ve edited slightly and supplemented, to Robert Peal’s excellent piece ‘Planning a knowledge-based scheme of work. Part 1: Reading. You can read it here.

Source: How to help secondary pupils with reading and writing complex words.

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Teachers and the Alphabet – phonicsblog

In my last posting here (The Knowledge Deficit) I commented on teacher reluctance to engage with up-to-date knowledge about the teaching of reading – preferring instead to stick to the mixed-methods approach of teaching children to word-guess from clues. This is essentially the same methodology that has characterised the teaching of reading in this country for a hundred years or more. And exactly the same approach that has consistently led to about one in five children being excluded from the state of fully-functional literacy.

Source: Teachers and the Alphabet – phonicsblog

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Teaching to the test vs Teaching for the test (and beyond)


These thoughts are from an INSET day a few weeks ago when I wanted to focus in our department on ‘What is learning?’. We had some good discussions and one of them was about key stage 4 and GCSE teaching.

I have blogged before on how I ‘Teach to the test‘ by arguing that students need to see exam papers well before they’re faced with one in their final exam.

Our discussions focussed more on the teaching that takes place over the 2/3 years. We came up with two potential models for teaching for GCSE? (For ease I will use hand drawn diagrams – apologies for the presentation/quality)

Model 1 – Teaching to the test


This model is when a teacher only teaches the content of the GCSE. Everything that a student needs to know as a potential exam question is taught. It is often taught in…

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Necessary & Sufficient

No Easy Answers

What does a good education at school look like?

I think it’s essential to look at this question through the paradigm of what is necessary to a good education and what is sufficient.

Briefly, a necessary condition must be met for a good education, and sufficient conditions guarantee that a good education has been had. My argument here is that Education has been too focused on sufficient conditions, and as a result of this many necessary conditions to a good education are not being met. A good education cannot be had without the foundation of necessary conditions.

My view is that we must look to the necessary conditions and only once these are in place should we layer the sufficient conditions on top of these foundations.

So, what are the necessary conditions of a good education and what are the barriers to them being met? My subject is secondary maths…

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