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High quality reviews and training
High quality reviews and training

Guest Column - June 2024
Rachel Macfarlane

Cavalcade

A few months ago, as I was walking to a meeting in Westminster, I came across a police cordon blocking my route. As I contemplated how I would get to my destination, several police motorbikes came into view, headlights flashing. Close behind was a convoy of chauffeur-driven limousines, with more police escort bikes taking up the rear. The cavalcade swooshed past effortlessly and disappeared rapidly into the distance on the empty road.

The education journey of the advantaged is a bit like the passage of a VIP through London. They are provided with the equivalent of a cavalcade from the moment of their birth: love, warmth and milk; visual, physical and mental stimulation.

The parents of the well served seek out the best pre-school provider for their child. They read with their child at home and engage them in regular dialogic talk to extend their vocabulary. The knowledge and skills that the child has gained through this support ensure a smooth transition to school. They arrive in nursery toilet trained, able to dress themselves, do up buttons and tie their shoes laces, to recognise letters and words, to learn with and from others.

Through primary, the advantaged are helped at home with their reading fluency, spelling and times tables, supported with homework tasks, and given the resources to produce beautiful projects and artwork. If they experience friendship troubles or there are blips in the quality of education provided by their school, their parents have the confidence and articulacy to make representation to the head. They know how to secure a meeting with the SENDCO to discuss any emerging special educational needs. They take their child to museums, galleries, castles, the seaside and concerts. Weekends and holidays are filled with enriching experiences. And then, ahead of public tests, private tutors or tuition classes are arranged and practice papers sat.

Advantaged learners are highly likely to transition smoothly to secondary school, supported by key adults who ensure that they have a full set of uniform and equipment items and have been prepared thoroughly for the challenges ahead. They will have a quiet place to study at home, 24-hour-a-day access to the internet a device and a printer, an array of stationary items to help with organisation of their work and craft equipment for art assignments - the ‘home advantage'.

As teenagers they will have access to field trips and enrichment activities. Showing sporting and/or musical skills after years of club membership, private lessons and coaching, they may well represent their school in sporting fixtures and/or play in the school orchestra. Often socially adept, articulate, self-assured and confident, they are likely to become leaders, councillors, prefects and school representatives.

The well-served are likely to benefit from informed parental advice and strong advocacy when it comes to GCSE options choices, exam tier entries, exam re-marks and KS5 course decisions. Their family's network of connections will aid them in securing prestigious work experience placements which, in turn, will bolster their CVs and university applications. I am not suggesting that every learner from a middle-class and affluent background has all of the advantages described in this illustration – and I recognise that there can be stresses and pressures experienced by children whose parents have high aspirations for them and who, on the surface, may seem to ‘have it all'. However, many children have a lot of these privileges and travel through their educational journey smoothly as a result of the robust cavalcade around them.

Compare that with a learner whose parents cannot afford private tuition, music or sports lessons, a laptop, printer or Wi-Fi. Whose home is not stocked with a supply of coloured paper, highlighters, scissors, glue, and who does not have her own room or desk. Or whose home is a room in a bed-and-breakfast hotel, hostel or a caravan. Or a learner whose parents were underserved by school as learners themselves, who do not have the confidence to make representation on behalf of their child or the level of literacy/articulacy skills to put forward a persuasive case to the headteacher.

Or the learner whose parents have no time, or resource or capacity to help them at home with learning activities, to attend parent consultations or assemblies, to wash their uniform, to read and respond to communications from school, to provide money for trips and charity events, to assemble food ingredients and objects for show and tell. Too many learners have absolutely no ‘police escort' to surround them as they navigate their way through their 14-year education journey.

The cavalcade surrounding the advantaged allows them to perform at a high level in a range of disciplines at school and to catch the eye of teachers and leaders. This can result in them being labelled as ‘highly able' or ‘high aptitude'. But should it?

Would we describe the prime minister as gifted at moving around Central London at speed? Of course not. We appreciate that this is the work of the entourage around him. When we watch a well-served pupil with an impressive top spin on the cricket pitch or a student perform a Chopin nocturne with technical flair, do we stop to ask ‘What would it take for my learners without that service at home to be supported so that they too shine?'

This is an extract from Chapter C in The A - Z of Diversity & Inclusion by Rachel Macfarlane, just published by John Catt.

Cavalcade (June 2024)


Guest Column - April 2024
Tim Coulson
Successful leaders don't just improve schools, they transform them. Everyone wants to lead a good and effective school. Everyone taking over a school in trouble wants it to recover and return respectability to the education it provides to its children. However, some leaders set ambitions that achieve these aims more effectively or quicker. Conversely, school improvement is often limited by leaders' lack of ambition. Rarely do schools achieve their aims better or quicker than the ambitions that their leaders have set.
The A - Z of School Improvement (April 2024)

Guest Column - March 2024
Keith Grainger
Recently schools received detailed guidance from the Department for Education on banning the use of mobile phones in school. A 'non-policy for a non-problem' was the response of one teaching union.
Real policies to solve real problems (March 2024)

Guest Column - February 2024
David Ingram
As a child I was a keen member of the Zoological Society of London's Young Zoologists Club. I remember making the long journey to Whipsnade Zoo to see the critically endangered Pere David's Deer. Extinct in their native China, the deer in Whipsnade were part of British/Chinese collaboration to bring these unique animals back from the brink and reintroduce them into the wild.
Stewardship (February 2024)

Guest Column - January 2024
Dom Burke
I started my teacher training course at the University of Leeds on Monday 17th September 2001. I remember the specific date because it was less than one week after the horrific events at the World Trade Centre on Tuesday September 11th.
A failure to invest in education risks our future prosperity (January 2024)

Guest Essay - January 2024
Rob Stokoe
The current inspection paradigm has long since outlived its original purpose. The case for inspection is that it provides an independent, external evaluation and identifies what needs to improve for provision to be good or better.
Appreciative Enquiry: A New Inspection Paradigm (January 2024)

Guest Column - December 2023
Matt Bromley and Andy Griffith
Once we have designed an ambitious curriculum which is broad and balanced, planned and sequenced, and offered it - with equality - to all students, we need to ensure that all students can access that curriculum and achieve.
The Working Classroom: How to make school work for working-class students (December 2023)

Guest Column - November 2023
Andy Hunter
We are the firefighters, called in when things need calming. We are the referees, called in when we need to take back control. We are the Avengers, arriving with a fanfare to right wrongs and ensure justice is done. And, to be fair to us, those are all valid roles for a senior leader and ones that we're generally rather good at fulfilling. When called upon to do so, we act quickly and appropriately to maintain the good order of the school.
Jumping? (November 2023)

Guest Column - October 2023
Alison Jeffery
This independent article from Alison Jeffery, Director for Children's Services for East Sussex County Council is part of the LGA children and young people's mental health think piece series. Alison has written this piece in a personal capacity and explores the question 'what would a good 'whole system' set of services and policies to support mental health and wellbeing look like?'.
Reforming the mental health system for children and young people (October 2023)

Guest Column - September 2023
David Chidgey
Mr Hargreaves was an inspirational teacher who led me to some success in A level chemistry a few decades ago. He was young and enthusiastic, creating multicoloured Banda sheets (a forerunner to laser printers, Google 'Banda spirit duplicator' to have a giggle) by the ream. The whole class looked forward to his lessons: he was clear about class rules, demanding in the amount of homework and revision we had to do, merciless on those who didn't, and supportive of all his students.
Looking back, thinking ahead (September 2023)

Guest Column - June/ July 2023
Marc Rowland
Addressing disadvantage with small numbers of disadvantaged pupils
Getting the climate right through teacher agency, shared understanding, shared ambitions. Through building strong relationships, having high expectations. It may be even MORE important to be mindful of these issues where the majority of children are growing up in families with more stable, higher incomes.
Addressing disadvantage with small numbers of disadvantaged pupils (June/ July 2023)

Guest Column - May 2023
Jack George
Inter-school collaboration has never been more important
There are a lot of things at Aiglon College, Switzerland, about which we can be proud, but one aspect stands out for me - it is our scholarship programme.
Inter-school collaboration has never been more important (May 2023)

Guest Column - March/ April 2023
Alison Rendle & Kit Messenger
'Curious Not Furious'
Nobody rises to low expectations.
Once the first foundation stone of strong, positive relationships is firmly in place, we need to take a look at the second of those three foundation stones: working with young people to set clear, consistent and high expectations. You may have heard the saying that nobody rises to low expectations. That's why we firmly believe that expectations should be set high for all young people. High expectations set the aspiration that young people and all those around them are able to be safe, content and at their best.
'Curious Not Furious' (March/ April 2023)

Guest Column - February/ March 2023
Carole Herman
Mathematics for all?
When Rishi Sunak announced in his first speech of 2023 that all students should continue to learn mathematics to the age of 18, I am sure I wasn't the only educationalist to be somewhat surprised. When had this major policy announcement been discussed with the profession?
Mathematics for all? (February/ March 2023)

Guest Column - January 2023
Malcolm Wheeler
Open your classroom window
Marsha Ivins, a veteran of five space shuttle missions who logged over 1,300 hours in space, was asked by one of our students, 'So how do you go to toilet in space?' Her smile told me it was a question she had often fielded. Her answer, although given hundreds of times by her, was original for every child asking the question for the first time.
Open your classroom window (January 2023)

Guest Column - December 2022
Tim Coulson
If I were Education Secretary
If I were education secretary, I would expect to reverse the current position, and to be seen as more influential than Ofsted.
If I were Education Secretary (December 2022)

Guest Column - September/October 2022
Simon Watson
Aim High, Work Smart, Care Deeply
International schools are free to choose from the best educational initiatives around the world, unshackled from the administrative handcuffs of national and state regulations.
Aim High, Work Smart, Care Deeply (September/October 2022)

Guest Column - July/August 2022
Jane Harris
2030 vision: we need to talk about speech and language
Given the unusual way the schools white paper and SEND green paper were published on consecutive days in late March, it is understandable that the sector is still trying to make sense of them.
2030 vision: we need to talk about speech and language (July/August 2022)

Guest Column - April/May 2022
Andy Samways
10 reasons why reading aloud matters
The simplest sentences are often the most impactful. That was certainly the case in Roy Blatchford's monthly column in March:
"If you read no further than the end of this sentence, please watch the YouTube video Frank Cottrell-Boyce supporting the Essex Year of Reading - Essex County Council."
10 reasons why reading aloud matters (April/May 2022)

Guest Column - February 2022
Tom Duckling
Learning Strands
It is the start of term and for INSET day an engaging and inspirational speaker has been booked. It is a financial investment but they have a great reputation on the conference circuit and some glittering reviews.
Learning Strands (February 2022)

Guest Column - January 2022
Samantha Smith
Lead as yourself
When I was starting as a headteacher, I was given the advice, Remember to lead as you.
This is a most valuable piece of advice and one I often return to. And it has never been more important than in the past two years, when we have all been asked to give more than we ever thought we would.
Lead as yourself (January 2022)

Guest Column - December 2021
Jean Gross
Reaching The Unseen Children
This is an extract from Chapter Seven of Jean Gross's recently published 'Reaching The Unseen Children'
The seven secrets of self-efficacy
This is the most important chapter in this book. It is important because it introduces a concept which is relatively unfamiliar to educators, but profoundly important in improving outcomes for disadvantaged children.
Reaching The Unseen Children (December 2021)

Guest Column - November 2021
David Bartram OBE
Leading great SEND provision in schools
We appear to be making the leadership of SEND increasingly complicated. The danger of creating this overly complex approach is that it persuades teachers across the country that they may not be sufficiently expert enough to help children experiencing difficulty.
Leading great SEND provision in schools (November 2021)

Guest Column - October 2021
Cameron Mirza
The learning scientist
The critical success factor in the education system will always be the teacher. It is essential today that teachers are supported to develop the skills, subject knowledge, attitudes, behaviours, pedagogical content knowledge and digital skills required to thrive in the classroom environment. The recently published teaching report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Microsoft, laid stark some sobering data.
The learning scientist (October 2021)

Guest Column - September 2021
Harry Hudson
At the cutting edge
Teaching is moving at a pace, and there has never been a more exciting time to become a teacher. We know more now than we have ever known about how the brain works, and teachers can be more confident than at any time in history about the science of learning. What's more, there is still so much left to discover.
At the cutting edge (September 2021)

Guest Column - June 2021
By Old Cobbler
Great news! Primary languages are rubbish!
Ofsted blog: schools, early years, further education and skills
As the subject lead's blog on the Ofsted website explains, inspectors recently visited 24 primary schools, all rated excellent at their latest inspection, to assess the quality of their languages teaching.
Great news! Primary languages are rubbish! (June 2021)

Guest Column - May 2021
Dr Michael Lightfoot
Rethinking assessment: in praise of ePortfolios
The long-term impact on education systems caused by the Great Pandemic of 2020/21 will take many years to play out. Emergency remote teaching became the mode through which education systems tried to overcome the impacts of school closures, and most schools turned to EdTech for solutions.
Rethinking assessment: in praise of ePortfolios (May 2021)

Guest Column - April 2021
David Ingram
Shaping the legacy of COVID-19
During a particularly difficult stretch of the lockdown, my professional coach invited me to engage my curiosity. This prompted me to consider the enormity of the pandemic from an entirely different perspective. I remain curious. Necessity may have been the mother of invention during lockdown but as the world returns to a semblance of normality, school leaders will need to ponder next steps.
Shaping the legacy of COVID-19 (April 2021)

Guest Column - March 2021
Harry Hudson
Changing the image of teaching
Education is in the spotlight in a way it hasn't been for decades, and much has been said about how teaching can 'build back better' after the pandemic. Yet step back from all the talk of 'catch up funding' and ways our classroom practice can be improved by having taught online, and there's an even bigger picture.
Changing the image of teaching (March 2021)

Guest Column - February 2021
Marc Rowland
Culture
The most effective strategies give teachers and other staff the capacity, expertise, knowledge and development to meet the needs of their pupils and improve them as learners. Teacher agency and buy-in are fundamental to success. They all complement one another, working together to support the development of a culture of inclusivity where pupils' needs are understood and assessment drives action.
Culture (February 2021)

Guest Column - January 2021
Malcolm Wheeler
Online passages from India
The pandemic will be remembered in the words of Dickens as "the worst of times" and, in the most unintended ways, also "the best of times". Before the lockdown, the challenge for our kind of schools was finding the sweet spot between theoretical and experiential learning. After the move to virtual learning, it has become about finding our collective 'ikigai', or finding our reason for being.
Online passages from India (January 2021)

Guest Column December 2020
Keith Grainger, Principal, Garth Hill College
The case for the defence: online learning
In a week when the government has threatened councils with legal action over decisions to switch to online learning over coronavirus fears, I feel the urge to celebrate the considerable merits of online learning. Such threats almost cast a slur on the very concept of online learning and, given our positive experience as a state secondary school, I am compelled to make a case for the defence.
The case for the defence: online learning (December 2020)

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