PrimaryFirst The journal for primary schools Issue 19 £5.00
“What children try to represent, they come to understand.”
“What children try to represent, they come to understand.”
National Association for Primary Education in association with
Editorial This issue of Primary First acknowledges and celebrates the professional bravery of Jill Wood and the Little London primary school community. To refuse to undertake what the government may well affirm is a statutory duty is no light matter. Your action is taken not only on behalf of the children and families you serve but also speaks for the great majority of teachers who strive for the ending of the unsound and at times harmful system of national assessment at key stage 2. A colleague writes: The headteacher of Little London Community Primary School in Leeds, Jill Wood, has shown the highest level of professional leadership by refusing to operate the national tests. This was a decision taken openly and with strong support from the governors and parents. It is not a rejection of accountability. Indeed, the school has promised the Standards Agency thorough teacher assessments moderated by experienced Y6 teachers from Outstanding schools. Children’s progress is conscientiously tracked throughout. The current statutory arrangements are not fit for purpose. In 2016, 2 out of 3 FSM pupils nationally were transferred to secondary schools with a failure label in at least one subject. This particularly damages inner-city schools such as Little London, with 77 languages, 82% of children EAL and 50% disadvantaged.
Nationally school policy places great emphasis on leadership, including values and moral purpose and the ability to challenge orthodoxies in the interests of achieving excellence. This is precisely what is happening at Little London, where teaching and learning has benefited from a year free of test-preparation allowing children a broader and richer learning experience rather than test ‘hot housing’. True leadership requires more than being a cog in the machine. To expect simple compliance in this situation is like pushing children onto a school bus with bald tyres and toxic fumes leaking from the engine. The school has received hundreds of messages of support, which we are sure our readers will add to. Almost certainly Jill you will not have worked with Sir Alec Clegg that distinguished CEO in Yorkshire in the post war years who contributed so much to our current approach to vulnerable children. But I worked for him and knew him well and I promise you --- if Alec Clegg was alive today he would say “Well done Jill!”.
Right now, in recent years, there’s a strong tendency to require assessment of children and teachers so that you have to teach to tests. And the test determines what happens to the child and what happens to the teacher. That’s guaranteed to destroy any meaningful educational process. It means the teacher cannot be creative, imaginative or pay attention to individual children’s needs. Noam Chomsky
Editorial Editorial Board
John Coe Peter Cansell, Malini Mistry, Stuart Swann, Robert Young
Primary First journal is published three times per year by the National Association for Primary Education in association with the Association for the Study of Primary Education. Primary First, 57 Britannia Way, Lichfield, Staffordshire, WS14 9UY Tel. 01543 257257, Email. email@example.com ©Primary First 2017 No part of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express written permission of the publisher. Whilst every care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the editorial content the publisher cannot be held responsible for errors or omissions. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the publisher.
Editorial About Us
Where did the science go? Neil Burton asks the question.
Baseline Testing. Professor Wrigley demolishes the myths.
James Cunningham and Krishan Sood consider working memory.
Newly Questioning Teachers. Tara Paxman, an NQT, writes.
Plowden’s model of learning re-visited.
The Book Page by Carey Fluker Hunt.
Malini Mistry introduces the ASPE pages.
Charlotte Clowes on a handwriting “bootcamp”.
Playing with words: investigating the use of language play.
30-32 Book Reviews. 34.
Stewart Mc Coy asks for changes in the job application process.
The vital necessity for children to read.
Baseline testing: science or fantasy? by Terry Wrigley
There’s nothing hidden in your head The Sorting Hat can’t see, So try me on and I will tell you Where you ought to be.
The selection of children into houses at Hogwarts famously involves a magic ‘sorting hat’. A fiction, of course, unlike baseline tests in real schools. The Government’s baseline tests at the start of Reception produce numerical data, so they have an aura of scientific accuracy. They are anything but. This article will focus particularly on the tests designed by CEM as one of the three approved providers of Reception Baseline Assessment in September 2015. This is not because CEM are incompetent but rather the opposite: they were the most experienced providers. Their test was based on PIPS, sold commercially to hundreds of schools in various countries and refined over more than a decade.
Predictive validity CEM marketed its baseline tests as having ‘excellent predictive validity’. Our subsequent investigations showed this to be a dubious claim. Perhaps their advertising department really meant ‘This is about as good as it gets!’ Other CEM documents showed a correlation of around 0.7 between the PIPS test and attainment two years later. 0.7 is generally reckoned to be quite a strong correlation in the social sciences, but we have to ask questions of context and purpose. As one statistician in the Reclaiming Schools network - a former civil engineer - pointed out, when you’re calibrating measuring instruments a correlation of 0.99 is disastrous: bridges collapse! A test with a correlation of 0.7 purporting to predict cardiac arrest
Half a lesson learnt or alzheimers in the next two years would be unusable due to far too many false negatives and false positives. As explained earlier, the above analysis relates to an organisation with substantial expertise Around the same time, another colleague with many in predictive testing. CEM have an established years of experience in educational statistics pointed reputation based on a bank of tests for different out the need to square a correlation in order to age groups. Judging by the data we saw from one estimate how much of an outcome can be predicted of the other providers, it is shocking how lax the from an input measure. (This is because the formula DfE were in vetting these providers. It seems that for correlations involves a square root, which has to neither of the other two approved be cancelled by squaring.) Squaring providers had any longitudinal 0.7 results in 0.49, i.e. around half. In data to underpin their bid. other words, only half of the outcome The DfE resolutely (eg a child’s KS1 result) is predictable The DfE soon realised they were refused to factor in on the basis of the baseline test. presiding over a disaster and commissioned an independent Further data came to light following a the child’s month evaluation from the Scottish Freedom of Information request for a of birth, a major Qualifications Authority. ‘chances table’. A chances table shows what proportion of children with factor for such young Unfortunately the DfE’s official conclusion was simply that data each specific baseline score go on to children from the different providers could reach different KS1 levels. It provides not be aligned. DfE officials failed much more detailed information than to acknowledge - and perhaps a generalised correlation figure. The did not even question - the reliability of any single PIPS test made sound predictions of a KS1 sub-level for provider. roughly 4 children out of 10. (England no longer use levels or sub-levels of course, but that was the basis at Testing very young children is particularly fraught with the time and the problem of predictive validity remains difficulties. A major problem is that test items are often the same whatever symbols are used.) borrowed from tests for older children. In other words, items originally designed to check whether a 7-year-old The data worked quite well at the extremes: in has learnt how to do something are used to determine particular, children with unusually high initial scores at whether a 4-year-old will be able to learn it. Absurdly PIPS tended to still do very well at KS1. It was rather inappropriate (and to many children, meaningless) test more problematic for low scorers, many of whom items were used such as: reached average attainment just two years later. For the vast majority however baseline scores were a Say the word parrot without the P. poor guide. As an example, of children with a baseline I am going to sound out a word like a robot score of 50 out of 100, 6% were graded W or 1 at KS1, would say it: p-i-n. Can you tell me what word I have 13% received 2C, 28% 2B, 32% 2A, and 21% ended sounded out? up with level 3. (These details are for KS1 Reading, or the criterion: from a baseline test at the end rather than the start of Reception.) Can the child order and ascribe numbers up to 20 and add and subtract using single digit numbers? Readers will remember that the Government’s intention was, and is, to link a baseline test undertaken in the Dividing up words into separate sounds is an artificial first half term of Reception with KS2 results nearly exercise which accompanies early literacy teaching: seven years later. The DfE resolutely refused to factor in children are not born with the ability to divide the child’s month of birth, a major factor for such young meaningful words into phonemes. Whether a four-yearchildren. Tests had to be in English even for children old can already manipulate numbers 1-20 reflects both speaking another language at home. CEM’s own test-preparation received from parents or nursery, and researchers have also raised serious doubts about the the child’s general level of maturation. To assume that predictive capacity of these tests in terms of emerging such test items are reliably predictive of subsequent special educational needs. attainment is delusional.
to English. It neglects the levels of mobility in and Selection at four out of many urban schools. It ignores the variation Unfortunately such predictive assessment could work, between one year group and the next, exacerbated in to an extent, as self-fulfilling prophecy. In other words, smaller schools. It forgets that one sick child and an if you label all the low-scorers as “Low Ability” and acrimonious divorce can upset the aggregate score of a treat them as such, and teach the high-scorers on a “High Ability” table, there is a stronger chance that they one-form-entry school. Unfortunately the subtleties of all this have gone will reach the predicted attainment levels. unnoticed by the largest headteachers’ body. Clearly Sadly such practices - illegal and unthinkable in regarding a challenge to KS2 tests as Scandinavia - have become all inconceivable, the NAHT appear to have too common in today’s test-driven All of this form part opted for Baseline as a fair basis for primary schools. Some heads clearly of a spurious search value-added comparisons. It is sad that believed the baseline tests would for certainty and the such a respected organisation should enable them to determine each accept a high-stakes accountability child’s ability and potential in the illusion that schools system designed to put around 10% of first few weeks of Reception. can be judged fairly their members in front of a firing squad It can be argued, of course, that year, and identify their schools by comparing value- each baseline tests are only intended for academisation (or increasingly, reas a measure at whole-school added data brokering into different chains). Is this level i.e. that by comparing the evidence-based, or are there interests whole school’s aggregate baseline at work? A scrutiny of the NAHT’s Assessment Review scores with its aggregate KS2 scores, you can judge Group Report on KS1 and KS2 statutory assessment the school’s “effectiveness”. Regardless of the ‘Redressing the balance’ shows that Robert Coe of CEM assumptions behind such judgements, there is a clear was a full member, and Jan Dubiel of Early Excellence problem: you can’t do this without putting a label on was a key contributor. Schools Minister Nick Gibb, each individual child. when asked to provide evidence for baseline testing, Numerical data: the aura of science alternately cites the NAHT and Professor Coe. There is a circularity when key researchers are simultaneously Others have suggested that the Early Years Foundation policy advisers to government and recipients of major Stage Profile should be used instead. The Profile contracts. certainly a more holistic register of development than baseline tests focused on (proto-) literacy and Hopefully, the parlous condition of government after numeracy, but once its descriptions are converted into the General Election on 8 June could make them rather numerical data, we encounter similar problems to more hesitant to relaunch baseline tests, provided there formal baseline tests. The DfE tried this several years is sufficient pressure from experienced primary school teachers and heads. ago (DfE Research Report RR034). Of children with the midpoint score on reading in the EYFS profile, 23% went on to get W or L1 at KS1 Reading, 22% got 2C, 31% got 2B, 18% got 2A, and 7% L3. This is about as useful as judging children by the cleanliness of their fingernails and shoes. All of this forms part of a spurious search for certainty and the illusion that schools can be judged fairly by comparing value-added data. It forgets that, in general terms, children in poverty tend towards less progress even with talented teachers. It is blind to the potential advantages that accrue from university-educated parents. It overlooks the difficulties of predicting progress for EAL children with variable exposure
Dr Terry Wrigley is Visiting Professor at Northumbria University, editor of the international journal Improving Schools, and one of the coordinators of the Reclaiming Schools research network. Further information can be found at www.reclaimingschools.org
Newly Questioning Teacher by Tara Paxman
This article won the National Associationâ€™s Rosemary Evans Bequest Award for 2017
Photo courtesy of Sam Carpenter Photography & Design
“Fantastic Opal class, you know the continents of teacher do I want to be? More importantly, what the world!” A child puts his hand up, desperate type of teacher can I be? to tell me something, and blurts out “I even do Great Expectations actually know who is the boss of America and it The first deliberation involves an aspect of is Donald Trump.” What an impressive display of world knowledge from a 5-year old! Another child teaching which is present before, throughout, and comments “He orange!” To substantiate this child’s beyond teacher training: the rose-tinted view. In this article, this refers to the scenarios which make claim, I pull up a photo of the president himself. teaching a vocation; that instant a child grasps A chorus of “ewwww” echoes through the mob a concept, learns to read, tells you something sitting on the carpet. Wanting to extend this discussion, I ask “does anyone know who the boss unexpected or is inspired by you. For me, and I am sure most other teachers, it is the reason I am of the country that we live in is?” Silence settles a teacher. When I taught about the continents, over Opal class. Suddenly, an epiphany comes it was that moment in which a child connected to a boy sitting near the front of the class and what they knew about the United States to the his hand shoots up, stopping short of skewering North American continent. It was that surprise and my left nostril, “I live in Pakistan!”. He doesn’t. amazement that Donald Trump had permeated We have just spent a term talking a classroom of 5 year olds about where we live, “Okay, I think in Oxford. As an NQT, these we have some other things to talk Two questions which are the highlights which about…” affirm my career choice, the define my NQT year: This conversation came about with What type of teacher exchanges which say yes, you my year 1 class during a Geography made the right decision and lesson in the Spring term of my do I want to be? you can do this job. first year of teaching. While it is a More importantly, From this perspective, limited context, I believe that for perhaps it is unfair to identify what type of teacher me it exemplifies three of the main these aspects of teaching as debates that are rattling about can I be?” rose-tinted, as this suggests inside my over-worked NQT brain. an unqualified positive view. Three debates which encompass It is not that these situations the highlights and challenges of are not as good as they seem, for they are. teaching my first class. The first centres on the Rather, it is that these situations are few and far sentimental version of teaching which is often between. Another highlight which I cling to when sold to trainees; in the Trump scenario, this is a child’s unexpected contribution which led to much the workload is insurmountable was a Tuesday morning in February when a child in my class giggling. The second debate is about subscription read a word for the first time. It was undeniably to the curriculum. Specifically, this concerns what emotional, and provoked cheers of hallelujah from the children are supposed to know (the world’s myself and the teaching assistant. But to take continents), versus what they need to know (an this in isolation is not representative of the bigger improved concept of locality) and whether I am picture. The reason it was so stunningly rewarding anywhere near qualified to make such decisions. was more illustrative of the six months prior to This is closely linked with the final discussion that day which consisted of exhausting daily in which I am torn between my pedagogical one-to-one intervention and tirelessly designing ideals and the harsh reality of NQT survival. alternative activities for a child who is struggling This intellectual table tennis culminates in two questions which define my NQT year: what type of to access the year 1 curriculum, to no avail. 09
However, could it be that the pinnacle was only a pinnacle because of the gruelling ground work? Maybe the only the true rose-tinted view here, is the one that centralises these experiences as the teaching archetype. A recent TES article (April 2017) by Colin Harris, a former head teacher, suggests that this issue plays an essential role in the debate surrounding teacher recruitment and retention. In his current role, he draws on five key thoughts which he states as an argument to win round young adults considering teaching as a profession. These notions are all based on a sentimentalised view of teaching, employing buzz terms like “make a difference” “inspiring” and “create a passion in another”. I cannot help but wonder; is he being nostalgic or am I being sceptical? In short, does the sentimental approach need more reality or does my reality need a rosetinted make-over? Which will sustain my teaching career? Catch-22 Arguably the largest part of sustaining a teaching career relies on the ability to help children progress and learn. The knowledge that is deemed appropriate to learn is prescribed by the National Curriculum. As with many other teachers, this presents a bone of contention and the origins of my second internal altercation. More specifically, I question the suitability of the curriculum for my class. In the scenario presented at the beginning of this article, this was illustrated by the contest between the prescribed demands of the curriculum, learning the world’s continents, and the clear gap in the children’s knowledge of locality. Prior to learning about the continents, we had completed a project on locality which involved identifying local features, locating where we live on a map and placing this within a map of England. Despite this, it was clear that this child – and indeed a few more – were still confused about where they live and how this relates to the continents. Even
though I was aware of this insecure foundation, I was conscious of running out of time to cover what I needed to, as prescribed by the National Curriculum. Do I go back and cover locality again – wasting time for the children who are secure – do I move on to continents – creating insecure learning for those children who did not grasp locality – or do I split the class and try and teach locality and continents to the respective groups? As a result, I began to wonder how appropriate it is for a 5/6 year old to learn about the continents, and whether I had enough time in the term to cover this in a way that will give the child strong conceptual understanding: an understanding which encompasses their ideas about the world, its composition, and how land and water are divided. Indeed, in an article in The Guardian (April 2013), Professor Andrew Pollard suggests that the National Curriculum asks for too much too soon, as the subject content has been drawn up without reference to English children’s existing knowledge and experience. Certainly, children who are able to go on international holidays are likely to experience plane or boat journeys, different cultures, and crossing bodies of water; knowledge which can inform learning about continents. In this case, the expectations may not be too high. However, for other children these concepts can be almost impossible to grasp. It is these children I am concerned about; the ones in my class who repeatedly build on incomplete concepts as I struggle to keep up with the Curriculum. Am I, as an NQT, qualified to say “no, for now we learn about locality”? How do I defend this choice at the end of the year when some of my children have not met the National Curriculum objectives? War and Peace The pressure of time alongside a teacher’s workload is a problem which seems to be ruling the teaching profession. This issue is set to be at the forefront of the NUT Education Campaign Network which will be pushing for educational
change in the June election, particularly as these issues are frequently identified as the adversaries to teacher retention. For me, it is the effect of the time pressure and the workload on the quality of my teaching which is the issue for sustaining my teaching career. As a NQT, I have many pedagogical ideals about the teacher I want to be: exciting, inspiring, memorable. When planning lessons, I am able to come up with ideas which I feel are all of these things. However, the limits of time, not only for planning but also for preparing resources (in the midst of all other school-related tasks), prevent their consistent and successful implementation. It seems that the unwelcome realities of NQT survival are at odds with the teacher I want to be. The frustration of not being able to utilise my training, ideas and passion is in competition with my motivation to teach. I recognise that this is probably the plight of the inexperienced, yet becoming experienced relies on being able to survive, as a minimum, the first five years. Yet the statistics are in my favour. A report by the NFER (Nov 2015) suggests that the number of teachers leaving the profession has remained relatively constant, around 10% of the workforce, over the last 10 years. However, a survey of teachers included in the NFER report suggests that 53% were considering leaving in the next two years. But, the authors make a keen distinction between intentions and actions, suggesting that the actual rate of teachers leaving (10%) shows many teachers do not follow through with their intention to leave. Nevertheless, it is a rather grisly and demoralising statistic.
my ideas about the teacher I want to be will eventually not seem at odds with the teacher I can be. Whether I can unite these despite the Curriculum objectives, time constraints, and the workload, is something which only time will tell. Ultimately, every job is hard, every job has challenges, but not every job gives back what teaching does. For me, being an NQT is about negotiating these challenges to keep that in sight. With that cliché, and ironically, before I become too sentimental, I think I should stop rambling as I have lessons to plan.
References Harris, C. (12th April 2017). Teachers are blamed for all of society’s ills – but it’s still the greatest job in the world. Retrieved on the 18th April 2017 from TES https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breakingview/teachers-are-blamed-all-societys-ills-its-stillgreatest-job-world The Guardian (April 2013). Is the proposed new National Curriculum too much too soon? Retrieved on the 17th April 2017 from The Guardian https://www. theguardian.com/education/2013/apr/01/newcurriculum-teaching-concepts-younger Worth, J., Bamford, S. and Durbin, B. (2015). Should I Stay or Should I Go? NFER Analysis of Teachers Joining and Leaving the Profession. Slough: NFER.
Brave New World To conclude rather inconclusively, I am not sure what lies ahead. These highlights and challenges are what simultaneously make me want to go to work and leave at the same time. Unfortunately, every day cannot be a highlight otherwise nothing would stand out. I hope that
Tara Paxman graduated from Durham University with a Primary Education(QTS) degree in 2015. Tara’s current teaching appointment is at East Oxford Primary School.
The Book Page by Carey Fluker Hunt
The joy of language: Du Iz Tak? Would you share a picturebook in a language your audience didn’t understand? It’s a familiar experience for EAL learners, but one that English-speaking children rarely encounter. How accessible would they find it? And which book would you choose? Going by the range of picturebooks in mass-market outlets, children want brightly-coloured titles featuring a character they already recognize, not something that will challenge them. But is this true? Children are attracted to the process of ‘sense-making’ and given the right opportunity will enjoy exploring texts that may surprise some adults. Take, for example, Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis. Written in what appears to be a foreign language, the busy adult may ignore it, but the language spoken by its insect protagonists is an invented one, which places every reader on a level playing-field. Nobody knows what anything means, and everyone has the fun of finding out. “Du Iz Tak?” asks an elegantly-dressed bug, pointing at a seedling. “Ma nazoot,” replies his companion and already we’re translating. “I don’t know…” The language becomes a game, and it isn’t difficult to work out what is meant. Ellis’s insects cue us though their use of expression and gesture, and there are many details to observe. The seedling grows, then flowers. “Unk gladdenboot!” exclaim the bugs. “Unk scrivadelly gladdenboot!” But the seasons are changing and the gladdenboot can’t last for long. The bugs depart, and so it goes on, through frost and snow, until another bug encounters some springtime seedlings and wonders “du iz tak…?” This is a book with massive child-appeal - and Ellis’s enjoyment of language puts her in good company. From the nonsense rhymes of Edward Lear to The Gruffalo via frobscottle and grinches, there’s a distinguished history of linguistic playfulness in picturebooks that invites us to revisit our earliest experiences, when soundmaking was fun and a word we didn’t recognise was a treasure to be added to our store. Allowed to explore language freely and with growing confidence, we don’t just acquire the words we need to get by, we acquire the words we need to shape the
world and delight in it. And some of the most fertile opportunities come packaged in a way that needs a little vigour to unwrap. Take poetry, for example, which can cause anxiety. If we don’t know enough, goes the thinking, how can we guide the children in our care? But the language in a poem can be enjoyed for its own sake, and - just as there’s no definitive dictionary for Du Iz Tak? – a poem can have many meanings. It’s the process of engaging, the quality of the questioning and the honesty and purpose around answering that matters, not the right or wrong of it. So what does this mean for the experiences we offer in school? We’re under pressure to teach what can be measured and tested - but how can we test playful engagement and enthusiasm? And if we’re not measuring and testing such things, does it mean that, in effect, they’ve been demoted? Equipping children with decoding skills is not the same as showing them what it means to inhabit a book, to go on a story journey, to take pleasure from language, to absorb all manner of information and understanding, to want something more. We should, at the very least, be matching the attention given to decoding with reading-for-pleasure opportunities, or we risk children falling at the first hurdle – which is to want to do this ‘reading thing’ enough to work at it. Motivation is one of the hardest attributes to measure, and one of the most vital for success. But pleasure doesn’t come solely from reading what is easy and accessible, and challenging material will also motivate. There’s no need to play the expert - joining children in ‘not knowing’ (and modelling ways of dealing with this) will affect their attitudes to learning right across the board. Children need us to share these books with them. They need us to share open-minded and open-ended explorations of art and literature to retain a sense of joy and purpose when SATs and other pressures threaten them, and to grow their cultural capital so that they achieve and thrive. Some children will be lucky and get this at home. They’ll have adults to read to them, help them understand what books are for and supply them with a growing library of their own: libraries that will include
the kind of books that come without a manual and need figuring out. But most children won’t get this anywhere but school - and if that school is struggling with SATs and phonics to the detriment of reading-forother-purposes, they’re unlikely to meet a book like Du Iz Tak? at all. And that would be sad, because children need a bit of literary eccentricity in their lives. We all do. The ability to ask du iz tak (and care about the answer) has rarely been more critical.
Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis is published by Walker If you enjoyed the made-up language in Du Iz Tak, try… The Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll Baloney (Henry P) by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith Tog the Ribber by Paul Coltman and Gillian McClure (out of print, but can be found online) The Giants and the Joneses by Julia Donaldson The BFG by Roald Dahl Fungus the Bogeyman by Raymond Briggs
Carey Fluker Hunt is Creative Development Manager at Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s books based in Newcastle Upon Tyne. Carey writes in a personal capacity.
Testing Times Malini Mistry, University of Bedfordshire Editor of ASPE articles
The academic year is in its final term in schools, and many of these have been in a phase of formal and informal assessments. We are all aware of the purpose of assessment and how it informs future planning and learning. Equally we are all also aware of how assessment brings together the knowledge, understanding and skills pupils have gained through the year. In that respect, the following set of ASPE articles, explore an aspect within the core subjects of English, Maths and Science within the National Curriculum. Firstly, we look at how a handwriting boot camp has helped to develop automaticity as
a result of the expectations set for handwriting in the National Curriculum. Secondly, how language play is used in persuasive writing is explored. Next, we explore an investigation into how working memory interventions have helped improve Maths in one school. Finally, a think piece to encourage discussion and debate as to where the Science has gone within the National Curriculum concludes this set of articles. With any kind of assessment we all know it is important to celebrate pupilsâ€™ success and achievements, so that they have to confidence to do even better.
How successfully can automaticity in handwriting be developed through a six week, daily, handwriting ‘boot-camp’? Charlotte Clowes – Director of Teaching School, Aspirer Teaching School Alliance. The aim of this research was: • To develop automaticity in handwriting through a six week, daily, handwriting ‘boot-camp’. A ‘Handwriting Boot-Camp’ was designed to act as a short, intensive handwriting programme to quickly accelerate the automaticity, speed, fluency and legibility of writing. This was design was done in collaboration with Aspirer Teaching School Alliance. The programme focussed on auditing and assessing, with the child, the process and the product of their handwriting. This helped the handwriting coach and child to set priorities and targets for improvement allowing them to clearly measure the progress and impact on children’s writing. This research was innovative because the National Curriculum 2014 raised expectations of handwriting development and national tests mirrored this in the 2016 tests, which set out that children must be able to use cursive handwriting in order to achieve a standard of ‘working at greater depth’ in writing. Therefore, there was concern within schools nationally, that handwriting was an issue for children which this project aimed to address.
Supporting theory included The National Handwriting Association which offers a wealth of practical support to improve handwriting on their website and INSET training which is based on research and evidence. The renewed emphasis on handwriting in the curriculum was welcomed by many as this remains an essential skill for children to acquire and in which to develop competency. Children spend up to 50% of the school day on pen and paper tasks, often under time constraints (Rosenblum, Paresh & Weiss, 2004) and it is still the medium by which we judge ability, knowledge and understanding (Graham et al, 2011). Research suggests that writing by hand impacts on cognitive learning (Christensen, 2005, Anthony et al, 2007) and it is also a skill which children themselves want to master (Dunford et al, Missjuna et al 2004). The intervention was designed to be delivered by the same adult in small groups (4 or less) for 15 minutes per day for six weeks. A diagnostic check is used at the beginning and end to measure progress. In addition, samples of independent writing from across the curriculum were collected at the start and after six weeks to check on progress. The structure of the Handwriting Boot-camp consisted of four key steps: 15
Step 1 – Starts with individual analysis and action planning and initial assessment – 1:1 Step 2 – Daily teaching (15mins) following the programme Step 3 – at the end of every week, evaluate progress and set further targets with the children Group of 4: daily practice for 15 minutes (over a six week period)
The handwriting Bootcamp was trialled with children at St. Alban’s Catholic Primary School and with children across schools within the Aspirer Teaching Alliance. Full report can be found at: https://aspirer. researchschool.org.uk/2017/01/26/how-successfullycan-automaticity-in-handwriting-be-developedthrough-a-six-week-daily-handwriting-boot-camp-by charlotte-clowes-from-the-aspirer-teaching-alliance
During the programme, the children worked on the ‘process of handwriting’ – so issues in areas such as posture, pen grip, positioning of paper and the pressure applied when writing, were highlighted. They also worked on the ‘product of handwriting’ – so issues in areas such as shape, size, spacing, positioning, consistency of any slant in the writing, speed and style, were highlighted. The session followed a ‘warm-up, teach, practise, apply, review’ cycle. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with the coaches and pupils. Observations were also carried out, as well as collecting evidence of handwriting before and after the intervention. This collection of evidence provided us with data in the form of a set of qualitative results. All children improved their handwriting in automaticity, speed, fluency and legibility, over the six weeks of this project. Although, it was clear that this would need to remain a high priority to ensure the good practice was sustained and implemented into all writing across the curriculum. Therefore, the impact of this research on primary education was that handwriting was improved over the research time period as illustrated above. In addition, the boot-camp continues to be refined in a variety of ways; to continue to develop for use in a whole class, to extend the time children spend in the intervention ensuring a sound consolidation of skills. This research is useful in primary settings, especially when trying to address issues of handwriting, which can be overlooked at times with the emphasis on reading and reading comprehension. A future aim and recommendation is to ensure the continuing professional development of teachers, to ensure barriers to the physical act of handwriting are removed as early as possible for children to help alleviate pressure on higher order writing skills such as spelling and composition.
References Graham, S., & Sandmel, K. (2011). The process writing approach: A meta-analysis. The Journal of Educational Research, 104(6), 396-407. Anthony, L., Yang, J., & Koedinger, K. R. (2007). The benefits of handwritten input for students learning algebra. Artificial Intelligence in Education, 7, 521-523. Christensen, C. A. (2005). The role of orthographic-motor integration in the production of creative and well-structured written text for students in secondary school. Educational Psychology, 25(5), 441-453. Dunford, C., Missiuna, C., Street, E., & Sibert, J. (2005). Children’s perceptions of the impact of developmental coordination disorder on activities of daily living. The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68(5), 207-214. Acknowledgements Megan Dixon – Director of Literacy and Director of Research and Development, Aspirer Teaching School Alliance. Dr. Angela Webb and the National Handwriting Association www.nha-handwriting.org.uk
Welcome to the Association of the Study of Primary Education (ASPE) ASPE was founded in the belief that one of the best ways to advance primary education is through professional collaboration and action. ASPE was launched in 1988 to address the demand for establishing a national association to help advance the cause of primary education by promoting its study. ASPE’s objects are to advance the education of young learners by enhancing the development of primary education through:
Promoting Primary Education
MEMBERSHIP OF ASPE INCLUDES: • The only primary education organisation • Subscription to 3-13 • Online journal access • Promote reflective practice • Priority access to ASPE events • Access to research funding
Reflection on practice
FOR INFORMATION ON JOINING ASPE, PLEASE CONTACT THE MEMBERSHIP SECRETARY AT: ASPEinfo@aol.co.uk or write to: ASPE, PO Box 308, Cheadle, SK8 9ER For further information on ASPE, please visit
Playing with words: investigating the use of language play in the persuasive writing of 9–11-year-olds. by Andrew Burrell and Roger Beard, UCL Institute of Education, London The research aimed to address the following questions: What features of language play are evident in children’s advertisement writing? How does the use of these features vary (i) between different attainment sub-groups and (ii) over a 12-month period? What characterises the uses of language play in the writing of (i) the highest attaining children (ii) the lowest attaining children and (iii) in the children whose attainment increased most over the 12-month period? There has been little research into how children use language play in their writing despite oral language play (the manipulation of language for enjoyment) occurring throughout childhood. Our research sought to address this by examining children’s unprompted use of language play in their persuasive writing by focussing on the subgenre of advertisement writing. Supporting theory was drawn primarily from linguistics. Crystal (1998) has argued that the playful function of language has been a relatively neglected subject of linguistic enquiry, despite the positive contribution that it can make to language learning. This view is shared by several authors, in both literacy education (e.g. Beard 1995; Myhill et al. 2013) and applied linguistics (see, e.g., Cook 2000). Cook also makes a strong case
for recognising the importance of language play in the adult world, and in advertisements in particular, as a focus for applied linguistics research (see, also Leech, 1966; Cook 1992, 2008). We investigated the unprompted language play of a sample of 36 children from five schools in their writing of a short advertisement. The sample was made up of three attainment sub-groups from a larger repeatdesign study of persuasive writing in the 9–11 agerange. A total of 72 scripts were analysed to identify the different forms of language play used and to examine how these forms were employed within the structure of the advertisement. The analysis used qualitative methods derived from relevant linguistic literature. In line with the suggestions of Cook (2000), features of language play were grouped according to the established notions of forms, meanings and uses. We also drew upon real life examples of language play, as used by professional advertisers, to help in contextualising the investigation. The findings indicate that 9–11 year old children find advertisement writing offers many opportunities for creative and playful uses of written language. We found extensive unprompted use of language play, as well as some stylistic differences, between the three attainment sub-groups. Some language play features were particularly evident, most notably the use of humour and persuasive conversation.
Photo courtesy of Sam Carpenter Photography & Design
Other features that were evident in all sub-groups were: in language forms, alliteration and rhyme; in meanings, hyperbole, imagery, slogans and vivid vocabulary; in language uses, instructions. In contrast, there were minimal occurrences of parallelism (repeating linguistic elements for stylistic effect), similes and sound-letter symbolism and, interestingly, none of language violation (deliberate rule-breaking) â€“ despite its frequent use in commercial advertising. Children encounter language play all around them and delight in engaging in it â€“ whether this involves the telling of jokes, the subversion of a familiar rhyme or attempting to repeat tongue twisters. The findings indicate how teaching and learning might be enhanced from increasing such engagement, particularly through more conscious manipulation of the forms, meanings
and uses of language. The ubiquitous nature of language play is such that the findings of this study will be relevant to teachers and other adults involved in nursery and primary education. Opportunities for language play are numerous and extend well beyond advertisement writing into other genres, such as narrative and poetry. The inclusion of language play within the classroom setting can build on childrenâ€™s existing ability to play with language, leading in turn to more sophisticated language use and increased awareness of the way language varies according to differing contexts and purposes. This is based upon the full article which can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03004 279.2016.1217250 19
Think piece to encourage discussion and debate: Where did the science go? Disappeared or dissolved? By Dr. Neil Burton
Photo courtesy of Sam Carpenter Photography & Design
The aims of this research were: To explore the development of primary science from the early 1980s in order to understand the changing position of science within the wider primary curriculum. To investigate the current science approach, a narrowly assessed curriculum which is meant to encourage a more broadly planned and delivered curriculum in respect of science being a ‘core’ subject. The treatment of science within the Rose Review from the perspectives offered by subject associations.
provides the essential curriculum presence in sufficient detail to allow most teachers, with the appropriate professional development, to confidently take ownership of the curriculum and mould it to meet the needs of the school, individual children and their own specific expertise. The language of the document provides a strong steer towards the practical form that the learning should take, with an implicit indication of the need for child-led learning to be central to this. The creative nature of science (and technology for that matter) is highlighted and takes it well beyond a collection of facts to be remembered and regurgitated.
Where primary science SHOULD be going The review is a compromise and few compromises ever leave anyone happy. The emphasis is always focused on what is wrong rather than what is right. In this case, it is also the extent to which the constraints that the Review was constructed under can be considered both reasonable and acceptable. The existing assessment regime was to be considered sacrosanct and this leaves the whole system fundamentally flawed. If we continue to use the same tool, i.e., SATs, to fulfil a range of what must be considered a mutually incompatible purpose, then schools continue to be encouraged to work to the targets chosen for their ease of measurement rather than their enduring value. In the case of science, the ‘essentials for learning and life’, as expressed through ‘learning and thinking skills’ (QCDA 2009a), provide an excellent foundation to creatively developing scientific thought. The whole approach to learning is very reminiscent of the practices encouraged by Driver (1983) and given further support in the research from the SPACE project (Russell and Osborne 1993). The approach underpinning the content outlined in Scientific and technological understanding (QCDA 2009a)
This is based upon the full article which can be found at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03004 270903519220?journalCode=rett20
References: Driver, R. 1983. The pupil as scientist?, Milton Keynes: The Open University. Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA). 2009a. “Essentials for learning and life”. http://www.qcda.gov.uk/22273.aspx Rose, J. 2009. Independent review of the primary curriculum: Final report, Nottingham: DCFS Publications. Russell, T. and Osborne, J. F. Constructivist research, curriculum development and practice in primary classrooms: Reflections on five years of activity in the Science Processes and Concept Exploration (SPACE) project. Proceedings of the Third International Seminar on Misconceptions in the Learning of Science and Mathematics, Cornell University. Edited by: Novak, J. pp.110–23. Ithaca: Cornell University.
Dr Neil Burton is Academic Tutor and Consultant for the Pilgrim Partnership.
How Effective are Working Memory Training Interventions at Improving Maths in Schools: A study into the efficacy of Working Memory training in children aged 9 and 10 in one junior school? By James Cunningham, West Bridgford Junior School, Nottingham, Krishan Sood, Nottingham Trent University The aim of this study was to evaluate the validity of claims that Working Memory (WM) training is an effective and legitimate school-based maths intervention. By analysing the current developments in Working Memory in the fields of neurology and cognitive psychology, this study seeks to analyse their relevance to the classroom.
Photo courtesy of Sam Carpenter Photography & Design
This is innovative research as it has not been undertaken with primary school children before. It is novel, as our research focuses more on in-house produced resources to test WM in Maths, and it is different from using commercially available WM tests. All teachers have experienced the phenomena of the wandering child. After listing a set of clear instructions; close your books, put you books away, put you pencil in the pencil pot and line up with your partner, there is often a child left wandering aimlessly still holding his or her pencil. Many of us have mistakenly presumed this child did not listen to our instructions. The truth is that they were listening intently, but they have forgotten the instruction(s). This is one example of how understanding Working Memory is a critical part of classroom teaching (Alloway and Alloway, 2015, p.2) and how it “should inform the teaching process” (Hardiman, 2012, p.5). A growing body of evidence suggests that it is indeed possible to improve WM through training, some studies even suggest that this has a permanent positive effect on brain development (Takeuchi et al., 2011, p.7; Westerberg and Klingberg, 2007). The main reservation about WM training is that there is no proven transfer to tasks unlike the training tasks. This, in turn, casts strong doubt over their ability to improve scholastic achievement (Melby-Lervag and Hulme, 2013, p.282). This research project was conducted in a junior school with year 3 children. The research was conducted by working in partnership with Year 3 and Year 5 teachers. The year 3 children were selected as they were defined as a vulnerable group and/or were making poor progress in the maths curriculum. 12 children of a range of maths abilities were then selected from this group to participate in the project. A further group of 4 children were then selected to participate as a control group who, although took part in maths and memory pre and post-tests, did not have any WM training. The control group represented 1/3 of the trained group. The 12 children selected to participate in the study worked on WM training tasks for 15 minutes each day for 3 weeks. Therefore, each participant took part in 3h 45min of sessions, which were spread out in short bursts of 15 minutes as opposed to one block of 3h 45 min. Each of the 15 minute’s sessions were filled with class based activities which were designed to stimulate the Working Memory. Results indicate that although working memory improved, it also improved for the control group, who did not undergo training. No significant far-transfer to maths results were demonstrated during the study.
From these findings, it is clear that teachers need to plan and deliver lessons that meet the needs of every child’s individual WM capacity. This, on practical level, means thinking carefully about instructions and lesson success criteria in terms of WM load. It also means that differentiation in lessons, whether through manipulatives or support, should be seen as a way of supporting children’s Working Memory. Teachers need to think carefully about how methods add or detract to WM load in terms of complexity and efficiency, minimising overloading. This research can be useful to others in many ways. For example, by teachers trialling their own approach, collecting and synthesising data, will give them the confidence to ‘do’ research. In terms of professional recommendations, we encourage teachers to try out the research informed practice idea. It is fun and it does not have to take time out from your daily practice. This is based upon the full article which can be found at: Journal. DOI 10.1080/03004279.2016.1210192. http:// dx.doi.org/10.1080/03004279.2016.1210192
References Alloway, T. and Alloway R. (2015) Understanding Working Memory. 2nd edn. London: Sage. Hardiman, M. (2012) The Brain Targeted Teaching Model for 21st Century Schools. London: Corwin. Melby-Lervag, M. and Hulme, C. (2013) Is Working Memory Training Effective? A Meta-Analytic Review. Developmental Psychology, Vol. 49, No.2, pp.270-291. [Accessed 2/3/15]. Takeuchi, H., Taki, Y., Sassay., Hashizume, H., Segiguchi, A. and Fukushima, A. (2011) Working Memory training, Using Mental Calculation Impacts Regional Grey Matter of the Frontal and Parietal Regions. PLOS ONE, Vol.6, No. 8. pp. 1-12 [Accessed 18/2/15]. Westerberg, H. and Klingberg, T. (2007) Changes in cortical activity after training of working memory – a single subject analysis. Physiology and Behaviour, Vol. 92, pp.186-192. [Accessed 7/3/15]. How Effective are Working Memory Training Interventions at Improving Maths in Schools: A study into the efficacy of Working Memory training in children aged 9 and 10 in one junior school?
Plowden’s model of learning re-visited by Robert Young
A celebration of the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Plowden Report and its long term impact
50 years have elapsed since the publication of the Plowden Report but there are enduring values embedded within it which have stood the test of time with a currency which goes beyond the ever-changing landscape for primary education. We may have shifted towards a tightly prescriptive model of the primary curriculum with its multiple layers of accountability in the system, but Plowden’s voice still has resonance in a climate where official jargon, political rhetoric and media mistrust appear to work against it. Take for example its treatment on 26 January 1992 by the Sunday Times, which devoted an entire page to The Great Betrayal claiming that: Former members of the Plowden Committee were still making excuses as the damage their work did to generations of schoolchildren was laid bare by an Official Inquiry (the so-called Three Wise Men Report). At the heart of this attack, almost vitriolic in its intensity, was a fundamental antagonism towards the model of learning seen as central to the
Plowden philosophy, an essentially child-centred orientation: which emphasises the child’s active engagement in his or her learning; which sees the teaching process as needing to be finely tuned to the characteristics of the child; which recognises the significance of developmental considerations in curriculum design and in particular the significance of ‘concrete’ experience in children’s learning’ and which shifts the role of the teacher from that of an instructor to that of a facilitator. Critics saw this model as a recipe for ‘letting the child do as he pleases’, for abandoning the child to his or her own whims, and for a laissezfaire approach to teaching which attached no importance to the cultivation of ‘basic skills’ or the establishment of teacher authority in the classroom. There is no doubt that such a recipe was naively and recklessly adopted by a few and perhaps the William Tyndale Junior School crisis in Islington (London) which hit the headlines in 1974-76 fuelled the antagonism (Davis, 2002) but the vast majority of teachers interpreted ‘childcentredness’ in more measured and constructive terms and in the spirit intended by the authors of the Plowden Report; that is child-centredness was to be linked to a vision of what is possible in children’s education at a distinct stage of human development. It was a vision at its best, profoundly concerned with the potentialities of intellectual enquiry and expression and the interplay of diverse forms of learning. The educational journey had its own destinations but to be meaningful and motivational it had to be harnessed to the cultural and conceptual identity of the child.
Reciprocity was therefore seen as being at the heart of the dynamic relationship between the teacher and the pupil and education was not to be viewed simplistically as the transmission of knowledge, but rather as a complex interactional process in which there was mutual investment and enrichment. Philosophical issues raised by the Report have been well documented over the years since its publication (eg Alexander, 1988 and Dearden, 2012) but they should not detract us from an appreciation of the positive principles articulated in the model of learning. First of all one must see the plea for a deeper respect for children’s levels of conceptual maturity and of their ‘rights’, ‘interests’ and ‘needs’ in the context of a wider ideological shift in society towards greater openness and inclusivity in human relations and an erosion of traditional hierarchies. In this sense it both reflected and celebrated significant trends in the nature of contemporary society and a commitment to greater equality of educational opportunity. It served to challenge assumptions, frequently outmoded, about teacher-pupil relations and the nature of children’s learning. Our contemporary concern for the pupil voice and pupil ownership of processes of learning is wholly consonant with the values of the Plowden Report. For example, Claxton’s recent articulation of the notion of learning power is very much in line with Powden’s confidence in the energy and momentum which children can contribute to the learning process (Chambers, Powell and Claxton, 2006). Secondly, the Report adopted a research-based stance by example in its evaluation of behaviourist and developmental perspectives on learning and in its explicit advice:
...an encouraging number of teachers are beginning to concern themselves with theories of learning. By their practical work in the classroom, teachers have perhaps as much to contribute to psychology as the psychologist to educational practice, (para 518).
between teacher and taught and the interplay between action, image and symbol in children’s learning does not depart too far from the interactionist perspective highlighted in Plowden and subsequently examined in the seminal work of Jerome Bruner (1973).
Learning takes place through a continuous process of interactions between the learner and the environment, which results in the building up of consistent and stable patterns of behaviour, physical and mental. Each new enquiry This interactionist reorganises, however slightly, perspective which the structure of the mind and recognises the complexity contributes to the child’s world of the teacher-pupil picture, (para 521).
Surely, a far-sighted plea for classroom based action research which has its echoes in many contemporary statements? Moreover, teachers are urged to adopt a critical stance: What is immediately needed is that teachers should bring to bear in their day to day problems astringent intellectual scrutiny, (para 550). Alexander, Rose and Woodhead (1992) were not the first to make a case for reflectiveness in one’s approach to pedagogical issues in the classroom!
relationship and goes beyond a simple conceptualisation of learning as a “product” of teacher instruction is now taken for granted in professional circles.
The third key dimension of the Plowden approach is the constructivist model of learning which emphasises the child’s role in building up an understanding of the world and progressively developing skills and conversely the teacher’s role in shaping the educational environment, tuning into and challenging the children’s thinking. This interactionist perspective which recognised the complexities of the teacherpupil relationship and goes beyond a simple conceptualisation of learning as a ‘product’ of teacher instruction is now taken for granted in professional circles. We may have undergone a revolution since the 60s in the centralisation of the school curriculum and its elaboration into a set of prescribed orders, but much of what is written about the dynamics of the relationship
The influential Numeracy Strategy introduced in 1999 may have belonged to a different educational era but some of its underlying pedagogical principles were not that far removed from the Plowden perspective, enshrined below:
Verbal explanations, in advance of understanding based on experience, may be an obstacle to learning, and children’s knowledge of the right words may conceal from teachers their lack of understanding. One of the most important responsibilities of teachers is to help children to see order and pattern in experience, and to extend their ideas by analogies and by the provision of suitable vocabulary, (para 535). Consider what the Strategy has to say on the subject: better numeracy standards occur when: the foundations of mental calculations and recall of numbers facts are established thoroughly before
standard written methods are introduced. better numeracy standards occur when teachers: demonstrate, explain and illustrate mathematical ideas, making links between different topics in mathematics and between mathematics and other subjects use and expect pupils to use correct mathematical vocabulary and notation.
Children are encouraged to physically represent mathematical concepts. Objects and pictures are used to demonstrate and visualise abstract ideas, alongside numbers and symbols. Mathematical concepts are explored in a variety of representations and problem-solving contexts to give pupils a richer and deeper learning experience.(2017)
A fourth and critical aspect in the Plowden model The Strategy may have been explicit, detailed of learning is the emphasis given to flexibility and prescriptive in its exposition of the in the management of time. interventionist role of the teacher but The apparent rigidities of the we can argue that in principle it did not The influential secondary school-timetable significantly depart from the messages should be replaced by a more numeracy strategy implicit in Plowden’s advocacy for open-ended approach which did not significantly teacher involvement. allows the teacher more professional responsibility More recently the Programmes of Study depart from the in the allocation of time to messages implicit for the revised mathematics content different activities in the in the National Curriculum (2013) are in Plowden’s course of the week, making prefaced with the following statement: advocacy for teacher it possible to take account of Mathematics is an interconnected children’s learning styles and involvement. subject in which pupils need to levels of interest. The freeing be able to move fluently between up of time was also seen as representations of mathematical ideas. The essential if work in depth was to be achieved even programmes of study are, by necessity, organised though the teacher was still expected to: into apparently distinct domains, but pupils should make rich connections across mathematical ideas ensure a balance within the day or the week both for the class and for individuals, (para 537). to develop fluency, mathematical reasoning and competence in solving increasingly sophisticated The child caught up in the excitement of writing problems. a story or solving a mathematical problem should not have to switch to another lesson because The Plowden authors would surely have been of timetable requirements. The establishment sympathetic to such a position, emphasising the of the National Curriculum and in particular the importance of flexibility in handling different implementation of the Literacy and Numeracy representations of mathematical concepts, the Hours from 2002 resulted in a much tighter interconnectedness of distinct domains and the management of time, not only within the hours importance of problem-solving. Moreover, the current emphasis on Mathematical Mastery which, themselves but also across the week as a whole. it is claimed, is inspired by approaches taken in the Far East, is drawing, at least in some respects, on a model of learning which is pure Plowdenism:
The rationale behind this formalisation of the use of time was bound up with the importance of guaranteeing the prioritisation of the core skills
in the children’s experience of the curriculum. While the Numeracy and Literacy hours have been phased out, the accountability agenda has continued to have an impact on the extent to which the management of time has been determined by school directives rather than teacher professional judgement. Certainly the loss of flexibility in the organisation of time is perceived by many teachers as a major issue, getting in the way of the pursuit of coherence and depth in learning. Surely we have moved too far from Plowden’s confidence in the capacity of the teacher to make pedagogical decisions? Has the professional model of the teacher been replaced by the technical at the expense of sensitivity towards children’s conceptual and motivational needs? It is significant that there is mounting concern with regard to poor retention rates in the profession, a phenomenon which is linked to both pressure of work and what is perceived as the erosion of the teacher’s sense of professionality. One recognises, however that the last three decades have seen some striking changes in the profession for the better: schools have become more collegial and collaborative in approach, better integrated within their respective communities, more inclusive and systematic in their management of SEND provision, more rigorous in their approach to planning, evaluation and record-keeping and more secure in their commitment to children’s entitlements across the curriculum. On the other side of the coin, high stakes testing has cast a perverse shadow on the quality of pupil experience and has constrained the extent to which teachers can exercise their professional autonomy in the interests of the children’s conceptual and emotional needs. Furthermore, as Alexander (2016) has argued, too much central policy-making in recent decades has been at
the mercy of political whims and obsessions rather than systematically shaped in the light of educational research and professional dialogue. The Plowden Report may belong to the preNational Curriculum era in a different ideological climate, but we would do well to re-visit the Report in the spirit not of dismissal but of appreciation for the insights it brings to bear in the analysis of learning and teaching and its celebration of enlightened values in the primary classroom and beyond.
Alexander, R (1988), Primary Teaching, London Cassell Alexander, R (2016), What works and what matters: education in spite of policy, CPRT Keynote address Alexander, R.,Rose, J., and Woodhead, C. (1982) Three Wise Men Report, Curriculum Organisation and Curriculum Practice in Primary Schools, www.educationengland.org.uk/ documents/threewisemen/ Bruner, J.,1973 Beyond the Information Given: Studies in the Psychology of Knowing. W. W. Norton & Company. Chambers, M., Powell, G., and Claxton, G (2006) Building 101 Ways to Learning Power, TLO Ltd Davis, J, (2002) The Inner London Education Authority and the William Tyndale Junior School Affair, 1974–1976”, Oxford Review of Education 28.2/3 Dearden, R.F., (2012) The Philosophy of Primary Education, Routledge and Kegan Paul Department for Education and Employment (1999), The National Numeracy Strategy: framework for teaching mathematics from reception to Year 6, London: DfEE. Department for Education (2013), Mathematics Programmes of Study: Key Stages 1 and 2, National Curriculum in England, DfE Mathematics Mastery (2017), https://www. mathematicsmastery.org/contact-us/ Plowden Report (1967) Children and their Primary Schools. A Report of the Central Advisory Council for Education (England) London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office 1967.
Robert Young is the former Director of Learning and Quality at the University of Greenwich. He is General Secretary of the National Association for Primary Education.
Review by Peter Cansell
Rethinking Children’s Spaces and Places by David Blundell Published by Bloomsbury Academic
This book is an important contribution to the study of child development. As with the series it has been added to, it encourages the reader to look at childhood from a different perspective. As we read in the introduction to the series. “The attitudes, opinions and lived experiences of children are being given air, and one of the themes within this book concerns the opportunities and challenges this is creating.” The style of the book is deliberately set out to encourage the reader to question the wide ranging research evidence which is presented, with opportunities for reflection and reaction presented at the end of each chapter alongside the useful summaries and further reading lists. One should ask the question whether this is a book which the busy classroom teacher is likely to pick up and find useful and of course the answer is no, it gives us too much, it is too detailed and requires too much time. That does not detract from its usefulness as a valuable resource for those wishing to study childhood in more depth and would be a valuable addition to the canon for teacher trainers. David Blundell explores the interesting conjunction between the ways in which children react to their environment and the impact their environment has upon their development, this would very usefully inform those who plan and design the classrooms and spaces in which our children learn, but its message is broader than that, as it recognises that we all bear a responsibility for the space in which we live and grow and children do not only grow in schools. His postscript contains the following hopeful message.
“rethinking children’s spaces and places may play its part in reimagining and realizing better futures for all in our common world” Let us hope he is right.
Review by Pip Marples
Thinking Allowed on Schooling by Mick Waters Published by Independent Thinking Press Mick Waters book reads with all the same clarity and coherence as his conference presentations. His observations on children’s learning, the importance of school communities, government policy, how schools work , and the pressures of Ofsted, are all made in detail and with great perception. At the end of every chapter he proposes ways forward or what needs to be done with positive and practical suggestions. For example, at the end of the chapter “....on national politicians and education policy”, he suggests attend the surgeries of your local MP, only allow politicians to work on behalf of the school, not for photo opportunities, and write letters to MPs and Secretaries of State. His idea about a “National Council for Schooling” however, has already been superseded by the formation of the National Chartered College of Teaching. Mick is one of those inspirational educators who writes with great acuity. He weaves in wry humour, anecdotes, and experiences alongside research, evidence and theory. This book is a wonderful read with a clever title, and should be recommended to all those who work in schools or who are committed to improving education for children and their teachers. This is a book for young teachers and heads who are new in post to read. The question is, will they? Unfortunately, it is likely to be read only by those who are like minded. This is emphasised in his book which is prefaced by “ Praise for Thinking Allowed on Schooling” by people who are already persuaded. The problem is how to engage those who are not?
Review by Malini Mistry
Review of Professionalization, Leadership and Management in the Early Years Edited by Linda Miller and Carrie Cable, published by Sage This book is a well-illustrated guide for strategies that will help adults and leaders working with children and a range of adults in the Early Years sector. The breadth and depth of case studies show a clear link to illustrate practice in relation to concepts discussed. This review for Primary First focuses on how teachers and leaders might use it to lead and manage staff more effectively in an Early Years environment. The book is organised with an introductory chapter that highlights how professionalism has changed in Early Years and the factors that influence these changes. The two editors have a wide range of experience in the early Years sector and therefore they have approached the Early Years field with their colleagues through a practical approach to help support practice. There are a range of sections which include short introductions to each chapter, definitions of key terminology and new concepts, any recent developments, case studies, questions for discussion, further reading, and links to other websites. Within each section there is a good discussion about the topic by each author which clearly demonstrates their expertise in relation to the subject area. The majority of the book tries to show what leadership and management looks like within Early Years practice and how this links to general leadership and management principles. The questions for discussions aim to challenge current thinking and practice in a critically reflective way. The chosen case studies link the real life experiences of people to the discussion taking place. Perhaps a more equal distribution of case studies in each chapter would help associate theory with practice more, especially for inexperienced staff in Early Years. Each chapter contains general features such as overview, definitions, link to research to help inform
practice, some case studies, and questions for further discussions. Each chapter also links directly to the title to ensure that aspects of leadership and management are deconstructed and then reconstructed through the explanations and discussions. The questions for discussion are progressive in thinking and discussion. They also try to break down the various ways in which leadership and management takes place into small chunks to ensure that it is easier for the reader to apply the natural nature of leadership and management in the Early Years sector. The questions also aim to show that good leaders and managers are seamless in their practice and that this good practice needs to be identified and shared. The further reading section at the end of each chapter breaks the suggested reading into levels 5 and 6, followed by 6 and 7. This is useful to the range of different staff in the Early Years sector, many of whom have different levels of experience and qualifications. So this break down of reading associated with levels is especially useful for those working towards different Early Years qualifications. In conclusion, the book represents a valuable tool for teachers and leaders in all Early Years setting to inspire and support them to better their practice even further.
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR PRIMARY EDUCATION
Are you a recently qualified early years/primary teacher (QTS gained since June 2015)? Are you keen to reflect on your professional development as a classroom practitioner? Are you keen to get something published in an educational journal and add it to your CV? If so, we hope you will be interested in the Rosemary Evans Bequest Award to be given on an annual basis to the best article received for publication in Primary First from a recently qualified teacher. The award is for £200 and the theme can be selected from one of the following: • The highlights and challenges of taking on your own class • What do you see as the key principles and/or values which inform your approach to learning and teaching? • How can teacher retention be improved? • The global teacher for the 21st century. The article should be between 1500 - 2000 words and you are welcome to select your own focus and title, but drawing on one of the above themes.
The article should both critically explore aspects of your own experience and identity as a recently qualified teacher and be informed, where appropriate, by relevant literature. The final date for submission for this academic year is 1 May 2018. It is to be submitted electronically in Word or PDF format to Robert Young, NAPE General Secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Primary First Editorial Board will judge the submissions and it is anticipated that more than one submission will be considered for inclusion in the journal, although not in receipt of the Award itself. Further details about the Award can be requested from Robert Young. 33
Application apathy prevents schools from filling vacancies by Stewart McCoy
Is there a way to streamline the job application process so that the right teachers can find the right jobs at the right schools? With teacher shortages hitting primary education hard at the moment, there has never been a better time to find out. Certainly teachers think things can be improved. A recent survey shows that applying for a new teaching job has become so complicated and drawn out that two thirds of teachers say the process is enough to stop them trying in the first place.
governors think again about the way they go about recruitment, according to Randstad Education’s strategic director Stewart McCoy. “The number of vacancies in schools across the country results in more than 63,000 online job adverts every year,” he said. “Application apathy is gripping the profession and is adding to the already drastic impact of teacher shortages on schools.” However schools tackle their own staff shortages, the recruitment difficulties mean they need to be smarter about finding candidates, McCoy said.
The survey of 875 teachers by Randstad Education, a major recruitment agency in Britain, revealed a picture that should concern every headteacher looking to fill gaps in For teachers their staff. The fundamental issue that it uncovers is that job application packs take up too much time for teachers who are hardpressed by the commitment required from their jobs. For teachers who were surveyed, the prospect of repeatedly completing the requirements of each application pack means that even if they do want a new job, they will only apply for one.
who were surveyed, the prospect of repeatedly completing the requirements of each application pack means that even if they do want a new job , they will only apply for one.
Meanwhile schools have their own problem - 84% say they don’t have enough resources to recruit teachers effectively, which is particularly concerning as appointing staff is among the most important tasks for school managers. And research shows that the quality of the teacher is the single most influential factor in helping each child realise their potential. For example, having a very effective teacher, rather than an average one, means that students can expect to raise their exam grades by a third, according to researchers from University College, London. The report, titled “The Invisible Barrier”, had several findings that should make headteachers and school
“At a time when many teachers are considering leaving the sector, having others languishing in roles and schools they would rather not be because they are disincentivised from applying for new roles cannot be good for either school morale or pupils’ education.
“With a third of teachers tending to apply for just the one role, for schools themselves it is more important than ever to stand out from the crowd by clearly defining their vision, demonstrating their leadership and promoting their results. “Failure to promote themselves could mean schools face a teacher drought and miss out on the dynamism and impetus that comes with new staff.” The research follows growing numbers of warnings that schools are facing a significant shortage of qualified teachers. For the last four years, the government has missed its recruitment targets, according to a National Audit Office report published in February 2016. While much of the media coverage of teacher shortages
has focused on secondary schools, primaries are also likely to be badly hit, and the problem is not just related to recruitment: the number of teachers leaving the profession has gone up by 11% since 2013. So what did the survey discover? The findings include: • 34% of teachers say they will fill out one job application pack • 10% are prepared to fill out two • just 9% would complete three forms to find a job When it comes to the process of finding a job, 51% of respondents said they would check for vacancies on the websites of the local authority or academy chain. A further 45% said they preferred to apply via a recruitment agency. That’s not the only problem facing schools looking to attract teachers, 88% of whom don’t believe their applications will actually be read. Teachers who come up against the process most often are the most disillusioned: 40% of supply teachers do not think the application process is appropriate, while the proportion falls to 25% of permanent staff. So what is the solution? Teachers who took part in the survey were almost united in their solution: a universal application process. Nine out of 10 teachers want a universal application process so that they can use the same details to apply for jobs at every school in the UK. A universal application form could include space for all relevant experience and CPD achievements, cutting the time teachers take to complete the pack. It would be easy to see a standardised application form as removing autonomy from schools and governing bodies, and giving schools control is a central plank of the Government’s policy which advocates diversity of education provision. Yet autonomy shouldn’t mean isolation, and the lack of resources that schools acknowledge means that improving application packs is unlikely to be a top priority for management.
There is no reason that a universal application form would mean that schools would receive generic applications from teachers. By standardising sections of applications that relate to personal details and work history and allowing a flexible section for the use of personal statements, potential applicants may not be put off, and head teachers will still be able to gain enough insight in to the background and personal characteristics of the applicants. The personal statement is a standard element in application packs in almost every industry and successful candidates will tailor their responses to the requirements of the role. Schools could also use the universal form as a starting point, and ask for supplementary information if the role requires it, for example for specialist or senior positions. And naturally a universal application form would not mean any reduction in safeguarding and reference checks, which come later in the application process. With the support of organisations of teachers and heads and with input from recruitment experts on ways to streamline the recruitment process, it would be possible to create a universal application form which schools could then decide to use if they choose. The evidence shows that there needs to be a lower barrier between schools and candidates – getting rid of lengthy application forms will take a few bricks out of the wall.
References https://www.randstrad.co.uk/employers/areas-ofexpertise/education/the-invisible-barrier/ https://www.nao.org.uk/report/training-new-teachers
Stewart McCoy is Strategic Operations Director for Randstrad Education.
Photo courtesy of Sam Carpenter Photography & Design
Lost in a Book
By Geoff Marshall
We were sitting comfortably on the settee as we always did at story time. He was in the crook of my arm. At three years old he could settle there ready to turn each page as we made our way through Peter Rabbit, one of his favourites. He never missed and I sensed the anticipation as he fingered the bottom corner. Then it struck me: he was reading along with me! My John was reading! We went back to the beginning and sure enough he knew every word. But was he reading or was he reciting? In the wonder of the moment I didn’t care nor did it matter except as one of those incidents we remember in his life. He soon began to find his way through stories, sharing them with us, freewheeling his way by memory and guesswork. He seldom asked the meaning of a word: he did what I do. He interpreted from the context. If I’m really interested I look it up: if I’m not I ignore it. Children begin to read when the story they know chimes with the shapes on the page. The youngest readers are not looking for surprise, for excitement, for adventure. They want what they know. They love to go over the familiar tale, to anticipate a well-remembered incident, to tell what is going to happen next, to make their own version, to play games with the words and letters. With picture books they create stories and become authors with us as their secretary, stories for books which they
will learn to make. Readers manipulate a book to be what they wish: an invitation to meet with a new friend, except when someone says that’s quite the wrong way to learn to read and you have to do phonics first! Reading should have no regard to time. Children need to be able to settle comfortably and know they can go where the book takes them and remain there for as long as they want. A book should be a theatre where the imagination of the child meets that of the writer and together they make their meanings. But that will only happen if the child owns the book over time, reflecting upon it, savouring it, redrawing the writer’s picture, making it afresh. That will only happen if the teacher and the child share the same values, knowing books as an experience to be explored, lived with and lived through so that they become part of life. But the common, everyday experience of children today is to be in front of the television and, increasingly, games consoles. Too often books are for school, not for idle pleasure. Books are not their companions; they don’t see themselves as being a practising writer, or the book’s author as someone like themselves with a story to tell. There are homes I know which don’t have books: they have flat screen televisions substituting for books, for
play, for friendships and even for the company of their parents. When they get together at school the conversation is around television- the programmes, and of course the advertisements. Children’s experiences with books rely upon limitless time. They can’t do as I have described without a sense that nothing is more important than what they are doing and that what they are doing is appropriate for them at that moment. There is no such thing as a time for reading: any time is good for reading, but some are better than others. To enjoy a story and then to see it on television is to know the wealth of opportunity in the one and the paucity in the other. In the former the child is creatively active making an image of the characters and their setting, one which will be uniquely framed by the personal experiences brought to the language. If they wish they can pause and change their mind, turn back and think again and perhaps come to a different conclusion and then resume reading. The effect of the book entirely depends upon the contribution of the child.
incontrovertible fact. If reading is to be a popular pastime again, we must give as much time for it as the reader wishes which of course will vary from child to child. What a dilemma for the school with timetabling priorities, which is why reading for private pleasure, unscrutinised and unmeasured, is now an activity for the lucky few. For many of today’s children reading is a tool in everyday transactions, little more, and they don’t even know the riches they are missing. Perhaps that is just as well. Geoffrey Marshall was a head teacher in Kent where the schools he led were recognised as embodying high standards through the use of teaching methods matched to the nature and, in particular, the creativity of the children.
But what of television, to take just one example of the many screen-based forms of entertainment available to children today? A book only comes to life if the reader engages with it, tries to meet the author by imagining what the author intends. Television makes no such requirement. The audience can be entirely passive, indeed often is. The medium of television is not verbal but visual: it shows and the audience watches. Viewers are not asked to imagine the scene, the characters or the action. They are shown what is to be known, their contribution being to stay awake and absorb the message. Because little or no effort is needed, the concept of ownership as applied to a book cannot apply because a film is an intractable medium, almost ‘Take it or leave it’. Reading relies and draws upon a store of words internalised over time in every situation where language plays a part, including other books. Apart from attending to the moving scene, what does a film require of its audience? It takes a sophisticated critic to interpret meanings or metaphors within what seems to be a visually
Photo courtesy of Sam Carpenter Photography & Design
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