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04/02/13

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Too many Government initiatives and the focus on structures and systems are drawing attention away from the classroom, says Academy Commission

Note: words in brackets are those of the author.

The avalanche of Government initiatives and reforms, changes in Ofsted and so on, was leaving heads uneasy. It was this that was preventing schools from being innovative.

Only 16% of the Teach First respondents to the Commission’s survey thought that innovations with teachers’ terms and conditions of service had a positive impact. This rose to 28% for teachers in academies (so 72% of Teach First respondents in academies thought that changing teachers’ pay and conditions did NOT have a positive effect.)

Only a third of the Teach First respondents thought changing the school day had contributed positively to school improvement. About half of Teach First respondents thought curricula innovations had made a positive difference – ironically, this figure was higher for Teach First respondents in non-academies (so, Teach First graduates in non-academies were seeing more positive results from innovative curricula than graduates in academies. But according to the Government, schools must be academies in order to innovate. According to the Government, non-academies don’t have the “freedom” to innovate. But they’re doing it, nevertheless.)

The Commission said there was “an overwhelming argument for focusing innovation on improving teaching and learning”. Pushing alternative structures, such as academy conversion, and concentrating on “systems and timetables” draws attention away from what is happening in the classroom. The emphasis should be on “valuing and supporting teachers as professionals”.

The Commission recommended that:

1 All schools should use the freedoms they already have to improve teaching and “develop better pedagogy”.

2 Teachers should be encouraged to be reflective, to be “active learners and researchers” who collaborate and share good practice.

3 Social media has a valuable role in sharing this good practice.

4 Unions are well-placed to encourage such a reflective system, as would a new Royal College of Teaching. (It’s pleasing to see that the contribuition of teaching unions is recognised.  This contrasts with the Government’s attitude which views unions as the enemy.)

5 Universities and schools should provide trainee teachers with analytical skills to “access, evaluate and design research” and ensure future teachers know how to critique and evaluate their own teaching. (The Sutton Trust’s toolkit which assesses the quality of evidence underpinning various teaching strategies is a useful resource especially when weighing up Government advice.)

 

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Comments, replies and queries

  1. Roger Titcombe says:

    Absolutely right. It is teaching methods that matter.

  2. Leonard James says:

    No it is systems that matter. 95% of performance is said to be down to the system while 5% can be attributed to indviduals.

    • You seems to be describing a world that you know very well but I’ve never experienced Leonard.

      It’s not the case in most schools and most I’ve worked in prefer teachers to be allowed appropriate professional freedom so that they can personally inspire and command the respect of students.

      • Leonard James says:

        “You seems to be describing a world that you know very well but I’ve never experienced Leonard.”

        Then you need to take more responsibility for the failings of your last school and stop blaming everyone else.

        “It’s not the case in most schools and most I’ve worked in prefer teachers to be allowed appropriate professional freedom so that they can personally inspire and command the respect of students.”

        I don’t doubt it. This description is synonymous with the management classes in education who have abdicated responsibility for their schools. It isn’t a teachers job to personally inspire and win the respect of anyone – every adult in a school and in a child’s life shares this responsibility which is why a system that facilitates these matters is so important.

        • “This description is synonymous with the management classes in education who have abdicated responsibility for their schools.”

          That’s an interesting comment. For me this is about leadership and it’s interaction with management.

          I’ve been lucky enough to work with a very brilliant and respected head who was an outstanding leader. He was also a strong manager but he chose to keep the systems of management as minimalist as could reasonably be managed to maximise the opportunities to for professionalism to flourish.

          His style was nothing whatsoever to do with abdicating responsibility. It was a highly intelligent approach which was entirely true to Handy. The results commanded huge respect throughout the area but the energy for what was achieved clearly came from his highly motivated, intelligent and extremely professional staff.

          I’ve also experienced well run schools which are manageralist and do not place much value on professional freedom and the cultivation of mutual and self respect. But even in the most extreme examples to say the teacher is only responsible for 5% of the progress of the child in front of the is, quite frankly, deeply odd. As I wrote before I am keen to hear more of what you had in mind when you made this comment.

          • Leonard James says:

            Firstly abdicating responsibility isn’t something I would associate with a particular management style. My main issue with the description was the use of the word ‘personally’ because it implies that the managers are seeking to pin blame on individuals rather than systems.

            Secondly I find it odd that you want to give ‘the teacher’ (I presume whomever is teaching a child at the time) so much credit especially when you think of all the factors that influence whether a child makes good progress or not. Considering all these factors I’m inclined to believe the systems thinkers 95:5 rule. In other words in a controlled environment the best teachers class results will be about 5% higher than the average teacher.

            From a systems thinking perspective any government policy that seeks to improve education but is overwhelmingly about controlling and inspecting teachers (PRP, OFSTED etc) is fundamentally flawed. We could, and should, take this argument to the government and tell them to get schools focused on what really matters – their systems. To me this argument is obviously better than what we get from most of the educational establishment which amounts to little more than “schools would improve if we got the all the kids knitting yoghurt”.

          • “Firstly abdicating responsibility isn’t something I would associate with a particular management style. My main issue with the description was the use of the word ‘personally’ because it implies that the managers are seeking to pin blame on individuals rather than systems.”

            I’m talking about a head who takes the time, whenever they set up a system to make the rules and processes in their school stronger, to carefully consider whether the benefits brought by having those rules and processes outweigh the disadvantages to their teachers of not having rules and processes to follow which prevent them doing what they believe is in the best interests of their students or not. If they think the disadvantages outweigh the benefits they don’t set up the rules. Or perhaps they set them up with a bit more flexibility than they might otherwise have done.

            When they don’t set up rules and leave the teacher with freedom you may see this as abdicating responsibility but in this context I don’t. I see it as correctly placing responsibility. I see the much greater extent to which teachers develop, mature and become excellent teachers over time if they have this freedom. It doesn’t suit all teachers. Some feel much happier in a very tightly disciplined environment and I understand that. Many (but not all) who prefer a tight structure when they are young or new teachers prefer the structure which allows greater freedoms when they have a acquired more skills for dealing with issues which arise themselves, through experience or maybe through becoming parents.

            “in a controlled environment the best teachers class results will be about 5% higher than the average teacher”

            I suspect you had a picture in your head which made sense when you wrote this sentence Leonard but I can’t work out what it is from what you’ve written.

            I don’t know what you mean by a controlled environment. Do you mean a highly structured management environment or some kind of experimental situation with control groups? I also find 5% higher hard to conceive. Do you mean, for example, 21 students getting C grades instead of 20?

            “From a systems thinking perspective any government policy that seeks to improve education but is overwhelmingly about controlling and inspecting teachers (PRP, OFSTED etc) is fundamentally flawed. ”

            Absolutely. Most of our regulators use much better practice than this because they adhere to the regulators’ code.

            “We could, and should, take this argument to the government and tell them to get schools focused on what really matters – their systems.”

            Under the last government Ofsted was being pushed towards compliance with the regulators code so the SEF was introduced, forcing schools to make explicit their internal processes for communication and improvement. This was a halfway step towards proper regulatory activity.

            However this government has stopped trying to make Ofsted fit for purpose and has in chosen to configure it to work in their own interest as a weapon for implementing their unconsulted policy.

            I agree with the need to take this to government and personally I’m working hard with the Lib Dems.

            I don’t understand your disparagement of the educational establishment. Working as I do in teacher training and having been back at the NCSL this weekend I see a lot of good practice going on. Where I see practice which concerns me it’s never appeared to be ungrounded, just sometimes over-applied beyond the context for which it is appropriate.

            Education as a social science is a relatively new academic discipline Leonard, having really emerged only in the 60s and 70s. There were very substantial problems then. We still have much to discover but the field is vastly further on than it was in its embryonic days. It helps that other academic disciplines, such as management, have grown up alongside it, providing support and cross checks.

  3. Roger Titcombe says:

    Leonard – You seem to enjoy provoking and prolonging comment on this site. This is my last response to you.

    • Leonard – please can you describe a typical school where the organisation of the system if 19 times as important as the ability of the teacher who takes a student through and exam course?

      I’m all ears.

      • Leonard James says:

        Rebecca,

        I thought it was teaching methods that were important not the ability of the teacher.

    • Leonard James says:

      I’m pretty sure you’ve said this before.

  4. Leonard James says:

    Rebecca (no reply button),

    “I’m talking about a head who takes the time, whenever they set up a system to make the rules and processes in their school stronger, to carefully consider whether the benefits brought by having those rules and processes outweigh the disadvantages to their teachers of not having rules and processes to follow which prevent them doing what they believe is in the best interests of their students or not. If they think the disadvantages outweigh the benefits they don’t set up the rules. Or perhaps they set them up with a bit more flexibility than they might otherwise have done.
    When they don’t set up rules and leave the teacher with freedom you may see this as abdicating responsibility but in this context I don’t. I see it as correctly placing responsibility. I see the much greater extent to which teachers develop, mature and become excellent teachers over time if they have this freedom. It doesn’t suit all teachers. Some feel much happier in a very tightly disciplined environment and I understand that. Many (but not all) who prefer a tight structure when they are young or new teachers prefer the structure which allows greater freedoms when they have a acquired more skills for dealing with issues which arise themselves, through experience or maybe through becoming parents.”

    You seem to be muddying the waters between ‘giving staff freedom to innovate’ and holding them ‘personally responsible for the work’. To clarify again I am against the latter and actually believe it leads to less of the former.

    “I suspect you had a picture in your head which made sense when you wrote this sentence Leonard but I can’t work out what it is from what you’ve written.
    I don’t know what you mean by a controlled environment. Do you mean a highly structured management environment or some kind of experimental situation with control groups? I also find 5% higher hard to conceive. Do you mean, for example, 21 students getting C grades instead of 20?”

    I mean a scientific control (all other variables being equal aside from teacher ability). I also think that raw scores would be a better way to see subtle differences than grades.

    “Under the last government Ofsted was being pushed towards compliance with the regulators code so the SEF was introduced, forcing schools to make explicit their internal processes for communication and improvement. This was a halfway step towards proper regulatory activity.”

    I don’t find SEFs particularly valuable as they are still linked to compliance inspection.

    “However this government has stopped trying to make Ofsted fit for purpose and has in chosen to configure it to work in their own interest as a weapon for implementing their unconsulted policy.”

    Such as? Wilshaw’s comments about teaching styles were quite refreshing.

    “I agree with the need to take this to government and personally I’m working hard with the Lib Dems.”

    Then you are in the way. Ministers need to be talking with people doing the work – not SLT, not the educational establishment.

    “I don’t understand your disparagement of the educational establishment. Working as I do in teacher training and having been back at the NCSL this weekend I see a lot of good practice going on. Where I see practice which concerns me it’s never appeared to be ungrounded, just sometimes over-applied beyond the context for which it is appropriate.”

    Generally speaking the educational establishment have no knowledge of the work which is why I have little time for them. More often than not I find them an obstacle to reform and innovation.

    “Education as a social science is a relatively new academic discipline Leonard, having really emerged only in the 60s and 70s. There were very substantial problems then. We still have much to discover but the field is vastly further on than it was in its embryonic days. It helps that other academic disciplines, such as management, have grown up alongside it, providing support and cross checks.”

    I think there are considerable drawbacks in pretending that vocational jobs are academic disciplines – I really wish we wouldn’t do it.

  5. “Wilshaw’s comments about teaching styles were quite refreshing.”

    I don’t find comments which contradict what someone is actually doing refreshing. I find them nauseating. Too many years of seeing the horrific reality and the consequences of Ofsted talking about teaching styles and inspectors not understanding the reality of what they’re talking about Leonard. If Wilshaw was serious about allowing diversity in teaching styles he would reform Ofsted to comply with the regulators code which is designed to do this instead of operating it as a political wing of government.

    ““I agree with the need to take this to government and personally I’m working hard with the Lib Dems.”
    Then you are in the way. Ministers need to be talking with people doing the work – not SLT, not the educational establishment.”

    I agree with your second comment but not your first. As a teacher I attended the kind of professional consultations you are talking about and you are quite correctly demanding. I watched with horror as they were all shut down by Gove I continued, and still continue to attend them and they are complete farce – and absolute waste of time. So I am not in the way because the way does not exist. I am slogging away trying to create the way. I am talking extensively to teachers (and of course being at the NCSL created excellent opportunities to chat to the trainee heads – who were very keen to express their concerns about Ofsted, especially those who had come from overseas) and to the unions and professional bodies I’ve always been involved with. I work with the blessing and good will of many of their members who know me well and who know the paths I have walked. When I am in the way I will drink a toast and step aside, as I have always done in the past and will continue to do in the future. I have plenty of other things to do – like focusing on earning money for a start.

    “Generally speaking the educational establishment have no knowledge of the work which is why I have little time for them. More often than not I find them an obstacle to reform and innovation.”

    There are very few of them and, in general, they spend their time running PGCE courses and the like. Can you give me some examples of how they have been an obstacle to you?

    ” think there are considerable drawbacks in pretending that vocational jobs are academic disciplines – I really wish we wouldn’t do it.”

    It does have it’s drawbacks. I remember when dad was fighting to created one of the very first degree courses that contained management as an academic discipline in the UK we explored these concerns in tremendous depth. For example one main validity in them lay in the concern that an understanding of what leadership was would be lost in the face of the relative ease of studying management. Dad worked hard to ensure this was not the case on the course he set up. I’m glad to say that my degree course in management at Cambridge understood these challenges, as did my MEd in management and leadership in Education with the OU. I have seen evidence of lack of understanding of these and similar issues but that tends to exist in people who have not done further academic study rather than those who have. In my practical experience the same is true of the study of education.

    For example in your comment about carrying out a controlled study it’s pretty clear you’ve not studied educational research and you have no insight into what actually works and what’s valid Leonard.

    I think you’re also confusing responsibility and accountability.

    SEFS as they were were weird because they were still linked to Ofsted’s traditional practice rather than compliance inspection as at that time schools did not have licensed instruments to test compliance against. Do you actually have insight into these issues Leonard? You talk as if you have a little and I’m happy to explore this further if you have and if you’re interested.

  6. Leonard James says:

    “I don’t find comments which contradict what someone is actually doing refreshing. I find them nauseating. Too many years of seeing the horrific reality and the consequences of Ofsted talking about teaching styles and inspectors not understanding the reality of what they’re talking about Leonard. If Wilshaw was serious about allowing diversity in teaching styles he would reform Ofsted to comply with the regulators code which is designed to do this instead of operating it as a political wing of government.”

    More reality. What do you think Ofsted were/are saying about teaching styles? See apart from the LSN everyone else I know find Ofsted inspectors progressive in their approach to pedagogy.

    “I agree with your second comment but not your first. As a teacher I attended the kind of professional consultations you are talking about and you are quite correctly demanding. I watched with horror as they were all shut down by Gove I continued, and still continue to attend them and they are complete farce – and absolute waste of time. So I am not in the way because the way does not exist. I am slogging away trying to create the way. I am talking extensively to teachers (and of course being at the NCSL created excellent opportunities to chat to the trainee heads – who were very keen to express their concerns about Ofsted, especially those who had come from overseas) and to the unions and professional bodies I’ve always been involved with. I work with the blessing and good will of many of their members who know me well and who know the paths I have walked.”

    Wasn’t my complaint that ministers rarely get access to real teachers? Heads, unions and professional bodies are all part of the establishment so you are confirming my point here.

    “There are very few of them and, in general, they spend their time running PGCE courses and the like. Can you give me some examples of how they have been an obstacle to you?”

    The biggest problems surround their influence on ministers and policy that invariable creates unnecessary work. Take APP which is generally loved by the establishment but hated by teachers – we spent hours on APP only for it to be scrapped later.

    “It does have it’s drawbacks. I remember when dad was fighting to created one of the very first degree courses that contained management as an academic discipline in the UK we explored these concerns in tremendous depth. For example one main validity in them lay in the concern that an understanding of what leadership was would be lost in the face of the relative ease of studying management. Dad worked hard to ensure this was not the case on the course he set up. I’m glad to say that my degree course in management at Cambridge understood these challenges, as did my MEd in management and leadership in Education with the OU. I have seen evidence of lack of understanding of these and similar issues but that tends to exist in people who have not done further academic study rather than those who have. In my practical experience the same is true of the study of education.”

    I’m against the academic study of management I don’t studying it academically makes one a better manager – managing well is about knowing the work you are managing.

    “For example in your comment about carrying out a controlled study it’s pretty clear you’ve not studied educational research and you have no insight into what actually works and what’s valid Leonard.”

    To begin with I have yet to cite any educational research here. The 95:5 rule is from John Seddon’s work on systems thinking in all kinds of workplaces. I am well aware it is next to impossible to carry out a controlled experiment in educational research which makes all sorts of concerns over validity although I’ve no idea why validity concerns someone who frequently appeals to their own authority and anecdotal evidence over actual research.

    “I think you’re also confusing responsibility and accountability.”

    The entire education system holds people to account for things they are not entirely responsible for and here you are claiming that there are heads who give teachers personal responsibility for things like behaviour and, presumably, don’t expect them to account for their actions! Doesn’t this further validate my comments about abdicating responsibility.

    “SEFS as they were were weird because they were still linked to Ofsted’s traditional practice rather than compliance inspection as at that time schools did not have licensed instruments to test compliance against. Do you actually have insight into these issues Leonard? You talk as if you have a little and I’m happy to explore this further if you have and if you’re interested.”

    Schools were obliged to complete SEFs under the last labour government. Are you suggesting that Ofsted was not about compliance inspection then?

  7. Which particular comments from Ofsted about teaching styles would you like to discuss Leonard?

    I have direct experience of being inspected by a top inspector who wrote one of these reports which looked brilliant and intelligent. It didn’t translate into the inspection experience. Hence I have an unusual strand to my scepticism.

    “Wasn’t my complaint that ministers rarely get access to real teachers? Heads, unions and professional bodies are all part of the establishment so you are confirming my point here.”

    It’s best when ministers communicate actively with the teachers who have worked their way up the ranks of the bodies which represent them, such as their unions or their professional bodies, and are clearly speaking with an empowered and representative voice.

    You become part of the establishment by bothering to get involved with people who care outside your school and by working at that engagement over the years so that you understand the views of those around you.

    Being a teacher is not a barrier to becoming part of the consultative process. I was fully involved as a frontline teacher.

    “APP which is generally loved by the establishment”

    Why do you think that? Personally I attended training and got some useful insights from it but did it my own way. You can read more about that here in an article I wrote as Rebecca Teasdale if you like:
    http://www.atm.org.uk/journal/archive/mt210.html

    “I’m against the academic study of management”
    You are entitled to your opinion. I’m against it when it’s done badly as it easily can be. But in general I prefer to be managed by people who’ve done an MBA than by people who haven’t because they understand the systems, process and reference points we can use to discuss and resolve issues if we disagree. But there are exceptions. I’ve had some brilliant managers who were not educated to this level.

    “The 95:5 rule is from John Seddon’s work on systems thinking in all kinds of workplaces.”

    I’ve now ordered the book and will analyse his arguments.

    “I’ve no idea why validity concerns someone who frequently appeals to their own authority and anecdotal evidence over actual research.”

    If you study research methodology you’ll learn about ethnographic evidence and come to understand relevant criticisms of the use of pseudo-scientific research in the social sciences. It’s a shame you’re against studying these things.

    “The entire education system holds people to account for things they are not entirely responsible for”

    I agree with that and that’s what I’m trying to address.

    “Are you suggesting that Ofsted was not about compliance inspection then”

    I’m suggesting you don’t know what compliance inspection is. To have compliance inspection the organisation being inspected and the regulator need to have previously agreed the frame of reference for the inspection. We never got to the point where this was happening because Gove came along and decided to use Ofsted as a tool for forcing through inappropriate change by bullying schools and LAs instead of as a proper regulator. The point of the SEF was to help schools learn to be able to set up compliance inspection agreements which we were working towards.

    Compliance inspection is a good thing if organisations have appropriate control regarding what it is they are being compliant with and the ability to hold their regulatory accountable if they behave badly (as the vast majority of organisations in the UK have). Ofsted was moving towards proper compliance inspection but has veered violently away from that path. It never got there.

  8. Leonard James says:

    “Which particular comments from Ofsted about teaching styles would you like to discuss Leonard?”

    I didn’t ask for a discussion I asked you to state what you think Ofsted are saying about teaching styles.

    “It’s best when ministers communicate actively with the teachers who have worked their way up the ranks of the bodies which represent them, such as their unions or their professional bodies, and are clearly speaking with an empowered and representative voice.”

    No it clearly isn’t best because the education system has not improved.

    “You become part of the establishment by bothering to get involved with people who care outside your school and by working at that engagement over the years so that you understand the views of those around you.”

    No becoming part of the establishment means never questioning the establishment and doing whatever it takes to leave the classroom in order to join it.

    “Being a teacher is not a barrier to becoming part of the consultative process. I was fully involved as a frontline teacher.”

    Are you suggesting that workload isn’t an issue for frontline teachers?

    “Why do you think that? Personally I attended training and got some useful insights from it but did it my own way. You can read more about that here in an article I wrote as Rebecca Teasdale if you like:
    http://www.atm.org.uk/journal/archive/mt210.html

    No one bar classroom teachers seemed to oppose it at the time and no thank you.

    “You are entitled to your opinion. I’m against it when it’s done badly as it easily can be. But in general I prefer to be managed by people who’ve done an MBA than by people who haven’t because they understand the systems, process and reference points we can use to discuss and resolve issues if we disagree. But there are exceptions. I’ve had some brilliant managers who were not educated to this level.”

    An MBA doesn’t mean you understand systems – the only way to do this is to get involved with the work.

    “I’ve now ordered the book and will analyse his arguments.”

    I’m amazed that there is anyone who studied management who isn’t familiar with his methods.

    “If you study research methodology you’ll learn about ethnographic evidence and come to understand relevant criticisms of the use of pseudo-scientific research in the social sciences. It’s a shame you’re against studying these things.”

    I’m not sure how this addresses what I said.

    “I agree with that and that’s what I’m trying to address.”

    With respect I really wish you wouldn’t given your conspiracy theories about Ofsted.

    • “I didn’t ask for a discussion”
      I am interested in discussion. I’m sorry you’re not.

      “No it clearly isn’t best because the education system has not improved.”
      At what stages over the last 20 years do you think the kind of system I describe has actually been going on Leonard?
      The vast majority of the time politicians have found an extremist on the fringe of education who suits their purposes, they’ve put them up on a pedestal for so long as it suits them (while ignoring the mainstream) and then they’ve viceously attacked ‘the establishment’ when things go wrong, having never listened to them in the first place.

      Now of course we’ve moved into the era when ministers don’t even bother to link in to an extremist on the fringe.

      “No one bar classroom teachers seemed to oppose it at the time.”
      Which consultations were you at?

      “I’m amazed that there is anyone who studied management who isn’t familiar with his methods.”
      Really? Why’s that? His most respected work seems to be from the last 5 years. Your comment seems odd given your dislike of the study of management theory. Amazon say it’s been dispatched today.

      “I’m not sure how this addresses what I said.”
      If you haven’t studed research methods in social sciences then that’s understandable.

      “With respect I really wish you wouldn’t given your conspiracy theories about Ofsted.”
      Blimey – that’s an unexpected comment. What on earth are you on about? Do you think Ofsted are actually independent of government and that my perception that they aren’t is all in my head? :-)

  9. Leonard James says:

    “I am interested in discussion. I’m sorry you’re not.”

    I’m not sure why you are accusing me of disinterest in discussion when you are going to such lengths to avoid one yourself – again please can you state what it is you think Ofsted have said about teaching styles.

    “At what stages over the last 20 years do you think the kind of system I describe has actually been going on Leonard?
    The vast majority of the time politicians have found an extremist on the fringe of education who suits their purposes, they’ve put them up on a pedestal for so long as it suits them (while ignoring the mainstream) and then they’ve viceously attacked ‘the establishment’ when things go wrong, having never listened to them in the first place.
    Now of course we’ve moved into the era when ministers don’t even bother to link in to an extremist on the fringe.”

    Well the educational establishment have been there for more than twenty years. Either you are completely ineffective, plain wrong or the extremists you talk about are from your own shop – either way it is high time for a change.

    “Which consultations were you at?”

    I wasn’t and you didnt need to be to see the reaction towards APP when it hit the ground. That it made it through consultation in the form that it did suggests to me that the wrong people were consulted – likely one of those ‘extremists’ from your own shop.

    “Really? Why’s that? His most respected work seems to be from the last 5 years. Your comment seems odd given your dislike of the study of management theory. Amazon say it’s been dispatched today.”

    He was influenced by other systems thinkers such as Taiichi Ohno – many of the ideas are not new.

    “If you haven’t studed research methods in social sciences then that’s understandable.”

    Wasn’t I saying that your arguments are full of logical fallacies? I’m not sure remarks about research methodology address this argument.

    “Blimey – that’s an unexpected comment. What on earth are you on about? Do you think Ofsted are actually independent of government and that my perception that they aren’t is all in my head?”

    You haven’t merely been questioning Ofsted’s independence you have been accusing them of acting as, what was it, a ‘political wing of the government’. Maybe you could provide one example that shows this to be the case.

    • I would strongly recommend to any teacher that they get professional development to masters level so that when initiatives come along they feel able to confidently take from them what is good and relevant to them while leaving the rest. It’s hard to do that unless you can clearly verbally justify what you’re doing.

      I also advise teachers to go along to consultations so they can experience how they work, what they feel like and actually understand the processes of collaboration. I’ve been doing this on forums for a while and I was delighted to see that there were 80 currently teaching teachers at the WEF consultation on the new maths curriculum today.

      • Leonard James says:

        This is becoming a bit of a pattern Rebecca, you make an outrageous claim and when you are called on it your only answer is to question the sanity or experience of whoever is asking the question. The biggest irony here is your implication that a masters education means you can ‘verbally justify’ things when you are choosing to do the opposite – what do you think Ofsted are saying about teaching styles? Do you have any evidence to support your accusation that Ofsted are a political wing of the govenment?

        As for your second point perhaps you could verbally justify how collaboration manifests itself at a consultation?

        • Please don’t take my comments about the advice I give to teachers in general as being about questioning your sanity Leonard. It isn’t.

          Here’s a previous description of how a WEF consultation works:
          https://www.ncetm.org.uk/community/thread/97905

          I’m ignoring your question about Ofsted at present because a senior LibDem had a meeting with Sir Michael recently where he put relevant questions to him. I’m still waiting for feedback on that as said senior LibDem then went off skiing before giving that feedback.

          • Leonard James says:

            The sanity comment was referring to your frequent retort about people who disagree with being unable to grasp reality.

            Also it just seems odd to me that you feel comfortable making pretty serious accusations about Ofsted but are reluctant to provide any basis for those accusations because of an unnamed politician – this is all starting to sound far fetched.

          • I’m not suggesting that because people lack experience they are insane Leonard.

            Much of my perception of Ofsted comes from analysing best practice in inspection and regulation as it is perceived by other regulators which are independent of government and which do conform to the regulators code.

            More of it comes from chatting to senior people who are now leaving Ofsted about how ministers in this government have simply been calling in Ofsted to dictate boundary criteria to them.

            Then we have the very intimate relation between Michael and Sir Michael. That directly contradicts the standards of independence other regulators see as being fundamental to their good practice which allows them to function for the benefit of consumers and society rather than in the interests of themselves or government.

            Also I watch closely what’s happening in practice.

            I find your incredulity about my comments about Ofsted startling.

          • You make a decent point about having a masters level qualification in education not necessarily making you able to justify your decisions verbally Leonard.

            I also advise teachers to join and participate in their professional associations so that they can get support with this as and when they ever need it.

  10. Leonard James says:

    PS here are some of your recent comments about a collaboration;

    “I attended one of the first consultations (on the new primary curriculum) after Gove got convicted of failing to consult. The nature of the consultation meant that everyone in the room for that 7:30am consultation (I kid you not and there were a lot of us there) knew it was absolutely pointless being there.

    I cried through most of it.”

    Replace Gove with educational establishment and you have more or less summarised how I feel about consultation.

  11. Leonard James says:

    “I’m not suggesting that because people lack experience they are insane Leonard.”

    If that is what you mean then it really isn’t much better – still a logical fallacy.

    “Much of my perception of Ofsted comes from analysing best practice in inspection and regulation as it is perceived by other regulators which are independent of government and which do conform to the regulators code.”

    This doesn’t make Ofsted the ‘political wing of the government’ it simply brings their independence into question.

    “More of it comes from chatting to senior people who are now leaving Ofsted about how ministers in this government have simply been calling in Ofsted to dictate boundary criteria to them.”

    Who? What are they saying? Which ministers?

    “Then we have the very intimate relation between Michael and Sir Michael. That directly contradicts the standards of independence other regulators see as being fundamental to their good practice which allows them to function for the benefit of consumers and society rather than in the interests of themselves or government.”

    All your doing here is saying ‘this looks dodgy’ – it probably is but you’ve yet to come up with one example where this manifests itself.

    “Also I watch closely what’s happening in practice.”

    Then you will, no doubt, be able to find some evidence to back up your accusations.

    “I find your incredulity about my comments about Ofsted startling.”

    Look I have no time for Ofsted but unlike you I don’t consider them to be a political wing of the government (they would be more useful if that were the case) – Andrew Old has looked into this here: http://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/what-ofsted-actually-want/

    • Regulators can be configured to act in the interests of consumers if they are independent and adhere to the regulators code.

      Ofsted is not configured in this way. It’s set up to work in the interests of politicians and itself and that’s what it’s been doing. Therefore it is political.

      I don’t use anonymous blogs, unlike Gove’s key advisor.

      You seem to think that what Ofsted say they want in lessons is translating into how they actually grade them in all schools Leonard. In many cases it simply isn’t. The outcome of the inspection is predetermined and the gradings given fit that rather than being in any way related to what actually goes on in the lesson.

      • If you are obsessed with this being about traditional vs. progressive learning then it’s easy for those who teach in a traditional way (or who happen to be teaching in a traditional way when Ofsted come in) to blame Ofsted’s preference for progressive teaching for their inconsistent gradings. Similarly it’s easy for those who prefer to teach in a more child centred way to blame Ofsted’s preference for teacher centred lessons for the lack of coherency in their lesson gradings.

        Setting the debate up in this way conceals what is actually going on – which is just a very serious incoherency and inconsistency in lesson gradings.

        • Leonard James says:

          “If you are obsessed with this being about traditional vs. progressive learning then it’s easy for those who teach in a traditional way (or who happen to be teaching in a traditional way when Ofsted come in) to blame Ofsted’s preference for progressive teaching for their inconsistent gradings.”

          I’m not the point is that it seems unlikely that any ‘political wing’ of the current government would have a preference for progressive teaching methods.

          “Similarly it’s easy for those who prefer to teach in a more child centred way to blame Ofsted’s preference for teacher centred lessons for the lack of coherency in their lesson gradings.”

          Why would they complain? Ofsted seem to have a preference for their methods.

          “Setting the debate up in this way conceals what is actually going on – which is just a very serious incoherency and inconsistency in lesson gradings.”

          This is a very watered down description – earlier on you were accusing Ofsted of corruption and systematic fraud. Are you retracting this claim?

      • Leonard James says:

        “Ofsted is not configured in this way. It’s set up to work in the interests of politicians and itself and that’s what it’s been doing. Therefore it is political.”

        This is verging on a strawman. My complaint wasn’t about whether Ofsted are political or independent it is about your accusation that they are ‘a political wing of government’ and this government in particular. You’ve made the accusation again yet steadfastly refuse to provide any supporting evidence.

        “I don’t use anonymous blogs, unlike Gove’s key advisor.”

        This is a bit rich given your own sources of information – you know the unnamed ‘senior members of Ofsted’ and they unnamed ‘Lib Dem minister’.

        “You seem to think that what Ofsted say they want in lessons is translating into how they actually grade them in all schools Leonard. In many cases it simply isn’t. The outcome of the inspection is predetermined and the gradings given fit that rather than being in any way related to what actually goes on in the lesson.”

        More smoke and no fire. If what you say is true then it is a national scandal that ought to bring down Gove and Ofsted – the trouble is you’ve yet to provide one example of this actually happening. Anonymous he may be but Andrew has published excerpts from Ofsted reports that demonstrate that Ofsted inspectors favour progressive teaching methods – I find it difficult to believe that this is what Gove wants.

        • I just careful to conceal my real sources Leonard. Many people have signed compromised agreements.

          But I think it’s fairly widely known that Nick Gibb had senior people form Ofsted in to dictate how his views on phonics should be integrated into they way they assess schools.

          And of course Gove’s powers relating to Ofsted’s judgements are there in law and actions relating to Downhills are clearly recorded.

          Do you think that’s how other regulators behave?

  12. Leonard James says:

    “I just careful to conceal my real sources Leonard.”

    Then you have no grounds for complaining about Andrew Old’s anonymity.

    “Many people have signed compromised agreements.”

    I would imagine that these people have broken their agreements by talking to you and you have announced this on a public forum. I mean how many senior members of Ofsted who have signed compromised agreements can there be?

    “But I think it’s fairly widely known that Nick Gibb had senior people form Ofsted in to dictate how his views on phonics should be integrated into they way they assess schools.”

    OK and you have evidence of how this has manifested itself on the ground?

    “And of course Gove’s powers relating to Ofsted’s judgements are there in law and actions relating to Downhills are clearly recorded.
    Do you think that’s how other regulators behave?”

    So it is clearly recorded that Gove told Ofsted to place downhills in special measures and they did as they were told? I happen to think the whole downhills thing stinks but not in the way you seem to be suggesting.

    I suspect a few the public service regulators behave like Ofsted but the problem isn’t political corruption it is the command and control culture that dominates public service. This isn’t unique to Gove and Ofsted.

  13. Leonard James says:

    “earlier on you were accusing Ofsted of corruption and systematic fraud. Are you retracting this claim?”
    Where?

    The bit where you accused Ofsted of being a ‘political wing of the government’ and that Gove and Wilshaw of having an ‘intimate’ relationship with each other – this implies that Ofsted is a corrupt organisation.

    You also accused Ofsted of pre determining the outcome of inspections – this is fraud.

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