Primary Blogging

Collecting blogs about primary education

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Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before: Defining Threshold Concepts in Literacy


This blog is inspired by a couple of brief exchanges on Twitter between myself and the esteemed Michael Tidd, Jon Brunskill and Tim Taylor:

I’d previously blogged about defining Big Ideas in primary literacy, read around a little and began to ask my more informed colleagues on Twitter whether they knew of any work being done in primary. Michael was particularly encouraging, saying that nothing was being done that he knew of, but that it sounded like the right track to be going down. So I attempted to sketch out what I thought were some threshold concepts.

It quickly became apparent that my attempts were really no better than anything a policy wonk in the Department of Education would come up with. My ideas were based on…

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The evil offspring of APP

Ramblings of a Teacher

It’s not often I quote the words of education ministers with anything other than disdain, but just occasionally they talk sense. Back in April, Liz Truss explained the ‘freedoms’ being given to schools to lead on assessment between key stages, and commented on the previous system of APP. She described it as an “enormous, cumbersome process” that led to teachers working excessive hours; a system that was “almost beyond satire, […] requiring hours of literal box-ticking“.

Not everybody agreed with the scrapping of levels, but the recent massive response to the Workload Challenge has shown that if there is one thing that teachers are in agreement about, it is the excessive workload in the profession. Now at least we had a chance to get rid of one of those onerous demands on our time.

And yet…

Just this evening I came across two tracking systems that have been produced by…

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What are we doing to our kids?


This post has been inspired by @nancygedge blogging about life after levels and lessons in life but has been building up bit by bit from my experiences of the past week.

Those of you who read my blogs know I am passionate about the vulnerable and disadvantaged children who are refugees of exclusion in our primary PRU. We shelter them from rejection and strive to put them back together in a new and better way so that they can learn and grow and thrive in the world.
But what sort of world are we fitting them up for?

Here’s a miscellany of jigsaw pieces that I am struggling to make a picture with at the moment.
A few days ago I got into a lather about a blog that referred to misbehaving young children as ‘toerags’. I don’t want to go over old ground as it got me unfollowed and…

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I’m Watching You


During the 1920s, West Electric were interested in how they could improve productivity. So they sent a team of researchers to their Hawthorne Works factory just outside of Chicago. Over a period of 8 years, the research teams experimented with different lighting levels and measured worker output.

As expected, when changes were made to lighting intensity during the experiments, productivity increased. But the increased performance could never be repeated once the experiments had finished. The boost was not, it seemed, down to the light changes, but simply a positive response from the workers to the fact that they were being observed.

Twenty years later, sociologist Henry A Landsberger coined the term ‘the Hawthorne Effect‘ to describe this phenomenon, and researchers in the social sciences have been wrestling with it ever since.

When applied to classroom observation, I believe that the Hawthorne Effect can be devastating. This brings…

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Grade 1 Ofsted Inspections


At the moment there is what you might call an Ofsted frenzy in education. The whole of the education sector is in fear of Ofsted. Our working lives are consumed by it. You can enter any staffroom in any school and someone will mention the inspectorate in relation to displays, environment and teaching in general. Most of us, if not all, are agreed that children should be at the centre of everything we do. The children, not Ofsted. The mantra from my HT is if there is no impact for the children, don’t do it!

To their credit Ofsted, with thanks to Mike Cladingbowl have taken huge steps to try and remove the fear factor and make Ofsted a more supportive process. Moves they have made include the removal of grading individual lessons and they are no longer seeking progress in a 20 minute lesson observation. They have also recommended…

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The art of simplification

Ramblings of a Teacher

When the DfE announced the removal of levels as a system of national assessment, they cited the issue that they were “complicated and difficult to understand, especially for parents”.

Historically, at the end of KS2 parents have received a report indicating the level at which a child is working in the core subjects. In recent years this has become slightly more complex because of the changes following the Bew Review, but by and large parents are given a collection of single-digit scores in which 4 represents the expected level: higher numbers represent higher attainment; lower number represent lower attainment.

So far so simple. A table of results might look something like this:


So in this case, the child was clearly stronger than average in Reading, Writing and Maths, weaker and the grammar aspects, and in line with expectations in Science.

But this was “difficult to understand, especially for parents” so…

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Towards an Educational (R)evolution – my talk for the RSA

Love Learning by Debra Kidd

The following text is the talk I gave at the RSA yesterday. It’s what I wrote and intended to say, although of course on the day I improvised and lost bits. Anyway…

“I felt honoured to be asked to speak here today – honoured and more than a little terrified. And surprised. Surprised that people would come, would want to hear what I might have to say. That’s not a plea for sympathy or reassurance – you may yet regret your decision to be here, but to borrow from Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, “I’m not in Burnley any more.”

When I was little, I remember spending hours cutting pictures out of my Mum’s catalogues of things that I imagined might feature in my future. Handsome men staring wistfully into the distance. Pretty children. Soft furnishings. I took what I knew – home and family – and I imagined…

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Great Teaching = The Trivium

Trivium 21c

Please excuse this trumpet blowing. My scepticism about research and education is sorely tested every time a new report on what makes great teaching comes out. Why? Because when I read something talking about the structure of highly effective pedagogy it seems to have the trivium at its core. This might be a result of my cognitive biases or it might be because the ancient art of the trivium basically got it right by chance and since then we have either been refining the model or ignoring the model, with the latter resulting in poor teaching and the former in great teaching. You decide.

Today the Sutton Trust has published a review of the research into ‘What Makes Great Teaching?’ by Professor Coe from the Durham University School of Education and others. It is a very interesting and useful report and, guess what, the trivium is sitting pretty right in the…

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