As a school leader I’ve had the privilege to visit many, many classrooms. I learn something during most visits, whether my stay be five minutes or longer. As a teacher and school leader, I’ve looked at loads of outcomes and progress data over the years and used these to start and inform conversations about teaching and learning. I’ve also been lucky enough to visit and teach in classrooms other than in the UK. Based on this rather flimsy experience of successfully increasing attainment and progress at different scales continually over my career, I’ve come to the following conclusions:
- The core purpose of education is to ensure that every young person makes more progress than they ever expected through developing their skills, broadening their knowledge and deepening their understanding. However, if we are to succeed in this goal, the purpose of education has to be much broader and contextualised to each individual institution’s context. There’s no point in having a bomber, rigid mock exam system if the young people don’t turn up to school.
- It doesn’t matter how an individual decides to teach, as long as progress is being made and can be demonstrated over time. There isn’t a single strategy or tool in the world that is the answer.
- Teachers are agents of change, there’s no point in waiting for Superman. A new Government, central workload initiative or a transformed Ofsted isn’t really going to change the world. Continual CPD that subverts, contextualises and challenges systems will.
- In the UK, there is a game to be played – get the Progress right and Attainment will look right and Ofsted will bugger off.
- You’re a teacher, trad/prog blah blah
- The relationship between the teacher and their class, including high expectations, challenge and their own knowledge (especially subject and assessment knowledge) is more important than the teaching style.
- The have weak or inconsistent classroom management techniques.
- Work isn’t matched to where students are either because of a lack of planning, assessment or because expectations are too low.
- There are subject or assessment knowledge issues.
- Progress of students isn’t checked appropriately. As a result interventions aren’t tracked and are often too late.
- Student focus groups.
- Speaking to other adults in the room, such as TAs.
- Looking at books whilst speaking to students about feedback.
- Progress checks, internal and external examinations.
- Parental contact.
If I were more clever, I would compare education to some other aspect of life. However, the debate around the purpose of education is refreshing. Those who don’t like it can just ignore it. Thing is, every aspect of life continually evaluates and refreshes. At some point the medical profession became focused on prevention as well as treatment.
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