DfE response about the schools national funding formula.

Very helpful, thought-provoking and utterly depressing piece from Sandra. If this was not so serious, it would be funny. The NAO constantly deride the DfE – and this shows why!

Sandra Leaton Gray

I wrote to the DfE recently, pointing out that the largely urbanised model the Government continues to use in calculating school funding penalises schools and pupils in deprived rural areas, such as East Fenland in Cambridgeshire, to quote one example. Here we have the reply. I am relieved that switching energy providers and photocopier contracts will apparently solve the problem at one fell swoop. Who knew?

Dear Ms Leaton Gray

Thank you for correspondence regarding the schools national funding formula.

The government has protected the core schools budget in real terms overall. This year, it is the largest ever on record, totalling over £40 billion. This is set to increase to £42 billion by 2019-20 as pupil numbers rise over the next two years.

The current funding system is, however, based on data that is a decade or more out of date and does not support the government’s ambition for…

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Assessing primary pupils in PE

Today, I was talking to a secondary PE teacher. We were chatting about assessment and how secondary schools assessed Year 7 students on entry. This teacher explained how much time is wasted in secondary PE departments in assessing students’ skills and starting points when they join the school. If only, he said, primary schools could assess their Y6 pupils before they transfer to secondary schools. So this is a plea to primary colleagues to ensure that our Y6 pupils have the very best opportunities to move forward in PE when they enter KS3. You never know, we may start a trend.

But, where to begin? Fortunately we don’t need to re-invent the wheel because there are a few resources out there to help. Some of them will cost more than others, and many are free. Obviously, the paid resources are relatively superior but you’ll need to decide if the benefit justifies the cost. Two starting points might be The PE Hub (don’t confuse the UK version with the US one), which offers a subscription service that gives access to plans, resources and assessment information. Alternatively, primary schools might like the PE Passport, which is an app that offers teachers online planning, assessment and tracking tools.

However, if you don’t want to spend loads of money, there are some free assessment tools on offer from schools. I have reviewed several and have not be super-impressed by many, especially those that replace levels with levels by another name. However, a TES user, going by the name of Hilly100m, has put onto the TES resource site a really super set of downloads for PE assessment – and they are free. One commentator seemed concerned that you’d need a sheet per pupil but a) how difficult is that? And b) if you’ve the time, it is easy to use the sheets as the basis of an excel spreadsheet. As a starting point for primary PE assessment, I would highly recommend this download. Follow this link – but to connect you’ll need to be logged in to TES.

Even if you only use this for your departing Year 6 pupils, it will be very helpful to the PE Department(s) in their secondary school(s). You might need to provide them with a set of the assessment grids to help them understand your judgements. If you think this is a good idea, spread the word.

The Big Five Revisited

Many years ago, I introduced the concept of ‘The Loop’ to help teachers to think about lesson planning (you can find it in earlier blog posts). At that time I was turning round a school in special measures and we needed these kinds of tools to simplify thinking. Another tool was ‘The Big Five’ guide to lesson planning, also reported in an earlier blog post.  Over the years, the Big Five grew to six and then seven but then I began to think it looked a bit outdated.

However, I recently met a headteacher who made me wonder if there was mileage in revisiting the Big Five in the light of current thinking. So, Louise, this is for you:-

The Big Five (v2.0)

   1.    A clear and specific focus on the learning

If you focus on the doing all you can check is that the work has been done. If you are unsure of the precise learning points then you won’t know the precise teaching points – and you won’t be able to assess the learning.

  1. Key vocabulary: identify it, teach it, display it

Every lesson has its key vocabulary; words and terms that support the learning. Identify the most significant – three to five words, no more – pre-teach them and keep them on display. The most powerful KV is that which is conceptual.

  1. Plan the learning journey

What do you expect the least confident child to walk away knowing or being able to do? What do you expect the most confident child to walk away with? How can you support their learning? Will you use success criteria? If so, then use the ‘remember to..’ approach so that it provides a pathway.  Will you provide opportunities for pupils to work together; collaborative working powerfully supports learning.

  1. Identify key assessment points

What are the key moments for assessment in the lesson? Check pupils’ starting points at the outset. Teach the concepts and plan your questions to check learning. What questions will you ask the most confident children?

  1. Make the plenary count

The plenary has four key functions:

  • It engages pupils with what they have learnt. So, if you were clear about the learning, you can show pupils their improved knowledge or skills. They need to appreciate what they are walking away with. Use the learning focus and the KV to populate the plenary.
  • It is a key assessment point. Don’t trust pupils’ self-reporting (Doug Lemov); ask deep questions to check if they really get it. Use something like exit cards so that pupils can identify their own gaps.
  • It’s the only chance you get to secure the key teaching points. Make them clearly to help pupils later recall skills.
  • It opens the door to the next lesson. ‘Now you know this (or can do this) in the next lesson you’re going to have a go at this. Then, when you arrive in the next lesson, you can look back through the open door and ask, ‘what were we learning last time? What were those words we learnt and what did they mean? You can watch the pupils re-engage. Then you can close the door and move on.


Why are academies so expensive?

Interesting perspective – and it is certainly so.

Sandra Leaton Gray

moneyI think academies are proving to be more expensive than we can realistically afford. A while back I posted something facetious about academy funding, breaking it down very simplistically and pointing out we could have taught every child in Britain to ski had we decided to spend the money otherwise. I would like to develop this now in a more serious way, and in doing so I have to fully acknowledge an anonymous assistant who has painstakingly helped to extract these figures from the DfE’s various publications (anonymous because this is the Internet). We start with this statement, relating to the £8.3 billion that had been spent on the project between 2010 and 2012.

“Of this £8.3 billion total, £6.4 billion was offset by money recovered from local authorities, or was distributed to schools on the same basis, irrespective of whether they were maintained schools or academies – for example…

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Applying learning theory in the classroom

A useful perspective on learning theory. In 2016 we might take a more critical view of Gardner than in 2012, but the principles of this post are relevant to the modern classroom.

Education Blogger

Applying learning theories in the classroom

How many of us are aware of the multitude of learning theories that have been written and published over the last fifty years? Furthermore, how many of us actively attempt to apply these theories on a day-today basis in our teaching? With the possible exception of the enduringly popular Bloom’s Taxonomy, we can hazard a guess at very few. However, theories of learning should not be treated as some vague piece of academic reading that you undertook whilst completing your teaching qualification. Moreover, they should certainly not be treated as the sole domain of university academics sat in comfy offices and not having to contend with 9C on a wet Wednesday afternoon. Learning theories can be an excellent resource for developing ideas, resources and strategies that can improve the outcomes of our students and make our own experiences as teacher more interesting and rewarding.

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Adverbs and Opportunities

This sums up very well the nonsense around the high-stakes testing of GPS (or SPaG!). It applies to Y6 as much as Y2. A teacher commented to me yesterday that this robs writing of its fun. The problem is that we are in a time of high prescription and high accountability. The groundwell of parents opposed to the Tests and the pressure from unions to boycott them may have the power to bring about change, but this isn’t going to happen overnight. It was J S Mill who said, ‘my father never gave me a childhood’. These Y2 children, whom jemmaths refers to are not 100 months old! They need their childhood too. Go figure, Nicky Morgan.

The World Is Maths

I wasn’t going to blog about my thoughts on education.  I was going to stick to mathematics and resources, but a conversation on Twitter this week got me thinking, to the point where I had to write.  

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Managing behaviour – or running the room?

Sir Michael Wilshaw has always been concerned about the behaviour in the nation’s classrooms. It was way back in his 2012/13 Annual Report that the Chief Inspector referred to ‘The Unlucky Child’ taught in a school where weak classroom management led to poor behaviour which impeded the learning of those who wanted to learn.   This heralded the arrival of the unannounced Ofsted inspection of behaviour and safety.

When I once took over a school that was in special measures I inherited a school where it was fairly frequent for pupils to be seen standing on desks, throwing chairs and inviting their teachers to f**k off.  What is worse was that many of the staff had more or less given up – ‘what do you expect with these kinds of children? They would ask.  The fact of the matter is that what school leaders have to expect is for teachers to do their job. Years ago, Frank Knowles HMI, then responsible for IQD at Ofsted, told me, ‘behaviour you can sort out quite quickly; standards take longer to follow.’  This is true – unless we sort of the behaviour, kids can’t learn.

So, how do we sort out the behaviour? Oddly enough, its more about the classroom management stuff that comes before the behaviour management stuff.  Get the climate for learning right and keep the kids engaged and we’re more than half way there. It’s what behaviour ‘guru’ Tom Bennet calls, ‘running the room’.  No more than that. Indeed, we may cite Teachers’ Standard 7 in performance management, knowing that it’s about managing behaviour, but is it?

Here’s the first part of the standard:-

  • Have clear rules and routines for behaviour in classrooms.

Not much here about managing behaviour – this is about what Robin Alexander in ‘Culture and Pedagogy’ calls ‘rules, routines and rituals’. This starts in the early years classroom and should continue throughout a student’s school career. Who owns the room?

Here’s the second part:-

  • Have high expectations of behaviour, and establish a framework for discipline.

This is about the teacher, not the kids. Expect little and that’s what you’ll get. The greater your expectations, the clearer your rules, the consistency of your approach and the kids know how to behave. When they don’t, well, that’s when you need that clear framework. The students must be aware of the choices they face, the sanctions, consequences and rewards.

Part 3 of Standard 7 says:-

  • Manage classes effectively, using approaches which are appropriate to pupils’ needs.

No more, no less – manage the class. Teachers need to learn the approaches that are appropriate to their students’ needs. It is rare that this comes intuitively but fail to bother about learning strategies and you’ll soon be in trouble.

Finally, here’s part 4:-

  • Maintain good relationships with pupils, exercise appropriate authority, and act decisively.

To some extent, it will always come down to relationships. Wrecking a relationship with a student takes minutes, rebuilding it may take years. The business of authority is important too, and this is partly about relationships and respect. You may be AN authority since you’re the teacher but being IN authority is earned. And acting decisively…well most teachers will agree that this is important. Even if you’re wrong!

We will revisit aspects of managing behaviour in the next few blogs. This is just the preamble. Establish good relationships, lay down the absolutes and be consistent. Even if you struggle with managing behaviour, this is a start.