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“Our concern for the individual should be greater than what you want them to learn”
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All too slowly the government turns away from a political fixation with systems and the assessment of the levels at which those systems perform, turning instead to the more promising consideration of children’s learning. This is reflected in Ofsted’s work and on the 24th April 2018 Sean Harford, National Director of Education, published a blog entitled “ A Working Definition of Curriculum. I quote, “A framework for setting out the aims of a programme of education including the knowledge and understanding to be gained at each stage (intent)... for translating that framework over time into a structure and narrative within an institutional context (implementation)... and for evaluating what knowledge and understanding pupils have gained against expectations (impact).” Inspectors will apply the definition in their practice. Ofsted takes care never to depart too clearly from government policies and it is important to analyse the assumptions regarding education which lie beneath the working definition. Contrary to earlier definitions of curriculum, notably HMI (DES 1980) in “A View of the Curriculum”, the definition is embodied in a framework doubtless chosen as most appropriate to the inspection of schools which relies heavily upon performance data and written records. The word “narrative” is revealing. Essentially the definition relates to the school system, “each stage” implies pupils brought together in organisational years or groups of years such as a key stage, rather than to the stage of development and growth of the individual child. Similarly “expectations” implies expectation of the organisational stage rather than of the individual. The definition is in fact a blueprint, a syllabus to be followed and not a description of all that is implied by the curriculum. It omits a vital element, that of the learner who is in a dynamic relationship with the teacher using the syllabus. In seeking a more valid definition of the early years and primary school curriculum there is no better place to start than the Hadow Report (1931) which has been foundation of the education of young children over many years. The statement “the curriculum is to be thought of in terms of activity and
experience rather than of knowledge to be acquired and facts to be stored. Its aim should be to develop in a child the fundamental interests of civilized life in so far as these interests lie within the compass of childhood....” puts the child at the centre of primary education. The primacy of the child was reiterated in the Plowden report (1967) which affirmed “Teachers must rely both on their general knowledge of child development and on detailed observation of individual children for matching their demands to children’s stage of development”. A View of the Curriculum (DES 1980) followed a commitment to the need to reflect the broad aims of education with an uncompromising affirmation that the curriculum “has to allow for differences in the abilities and other characteristics of children, even of the same age...” Jerome Bruner in 2006 summed up the definition of the curriculum widely held by primary practitioners “We have learned that there is no such thing as the curriculum; it is very specific to a particular situation and a particular student, and it will vary. For in effect it’s an animated three-way conversation between a learner, someone who is more expert in an area of study and a body of knowledge that is difficult to define but that exists in the culture”. That is it... curriculum is much more than a framework, it is what happens and always has the child at the very centre. What happens takes into account the child as a whole and the individual responses of the children in the conversation concerning the act of teaching and learning set out so wisely by Jerome Bruner. Our definition of the curriculum both informs and reconciles all the elements which make up the rich fabric of primary education. The child is at the centre as we acknowledge the curriculum’s complexity revealed through the experience of children as they learn.
Editorial Editorial Board Photo Credit
John Coe Peter Cansell, Malini Mistry, Stuart Swann, Robert Young Sam Carpenter
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 2018 Summer Issue 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.
Finding the balance by Flora Barton
Taking on your first class by Hannah Smith
Malini Mistry introduces the ASPE articles
Tony Eaudeâ€™s Christian Schiller lecture, Re-humanising primary education
SEND children in the mainstream 31.
Where we stand Two position papers
Very young children making music
The Book Pages
the Balance… One of the main messages I gave to my new team during my first Inset as a Head Teacher, was that I expected everyone to be able to leave at least twice a week by 4:15 with nothing in their hands. Everything we did would ensure that this would be a possibility. I’m now coming into my fifth year of headship and wellbeing of pupils and staff is still central to everything that we do. I want teachers to be passionate each and every day they are in the classroom, but for this to be a possibility they have to have a work life balance, so that they are able to come into school each morning refreshed and excited about the day ahead of them – happy and in a profession they love. If we want our children to be enthused about learning, then it is crucial they have teachers who exude enthusiasm for learning. It is up to schools to create this climate; it is our duty to relentlessly work towards this. We start with the children, of course, but also the staff, as they are the ones that make everything happen. They are the ones who implement what is necessary every day, they are what makes knowledge come alive. Today we have a phenomenal team who truly put children at the heart of everything they do and governors who believe in the path we are taking – without them, our story would be very different. After our first full term identifying our key areas of development, we launched ‘Purple Learning’ – a term conceived by Diana Pardoe, who has worked with our school from the beginning to transform the learning of all of our pupils. From research we know that, “helping students learn how to be better learners is one of the most effective ways of raising their achievement (never mind its role in preparing them for life). The more curious, adventurous, resilient and independent they become, the better their grades” (Claxton et al, 2011, p. 38). Underpinned by Carol Dweck’s idea of Growth
by Flora Barton
Mindset, Purple Learning aims to develop children into independent learners, able to bounce back from their mistakes, who through effort continue to challenge themselves in their learning. It is about developing effective learning traits in children, explicitly teaching them, so they are able to utilise these skills when accessing anything new. This was a vital first step – training children in recognising the traits of successful learners. As Diana Pardoe asserts, “To foster a real sense of ownership it is crucial that learners, of any age, are enabled to identify their own learning needs rather than be told…” (Pardoe 2009, p. 23). From the age of four, children can tell you why challenge is important and what they can do if things get difficult or if they get stuck. About a year later, we began discussing the transition to the removal of levels. For us, this was an opportunity to really question and redesign the idea of teaching and learning. Where many schools were purchasing online tracking systems which really just recreated levels under a different guise, we decided to reposition assessment back into the classroom, where it belongs. For this to happen, teachers and subject leads needed to design a system that worked for them. During the academic year while this system was being developed, trialled and adapted we didn’t have any formal ‘data’ as we knew it, at all. But as we know, for assessment to be effective, it must work in the classroom, if not, there isn’t any point to it. Therefore, it was crucial that we spent this time to get it right for our school. Pupil progress meetings became the main forum where we were able to more fully understand the progress children were making and how well teachers were identifying gaps in their pupils’ understanding. Like many schools, we still were using a form of practice SATs papers, three times a year, as summative assessments. What we noticed, was how heavily teachers relied on these tests to identify children’s gaps and to highlight what 05
children could and couldn’t do. This contradicted our whole approach to assessment. We wanted teachers to trust themselves, to trust their professional judgements while using formative assessment to identify children’s next steps. It was at this point that we decided to take away all formal testing in school. We also began to support teachers through moderation and conversations to help restore their confidence in ongoing, regular assessments that informed their teaching and learning. It has taken time to embed assessment just for Maths and English, but it has absolutely altered the way teachers think about children’s learning and how they plan for their classrooms. We still haven’t perfected it and continue to look for ways to improve on current practice. This, however, is one major strength of our school; we constantly evaluate what we are doing, researching and adapting our practice to ensure the best for our pupils. We know that what might work for one pupil, may not work for another or similarly, what might be effective in one school context may not be in ours. Two questions emerged, which guided our decision making and continue to do so: What is the purpose of what we are doing? (Why are we doing it?) What impact will it have on our pupils and on the workload of staff? If we don’t think something is having a positive impact on pupils or staff, we don’t do it. Marking and Feedback was a key area we began to question. After lengthy discussions with staff, analysis of teacher marking and the progress the children made, the year 6 teacher (also deputy head), began trialing the use of verbal feedback. Following a period of in-depth school research, we have begun to embed the use of verbal feedback groups across the school as our main mode of feedback, especially in writing. The impact has been tangible, both in the children’s written pieces, but more clearly in the way the children can articulate how they need to improve their writing. Most significantly, “children, as Sadler (1989) states,(are) clear about what they are doing well now, where they are aiming to get to and more crucially how they close the gap between the two (Black and Wiliam 1998). There have been many other changes and critical
events along our journey; this is just a mere glimpse. It hasn’t been easy and I am certain there will be many more obstacles to overcome moving forward. At every point it seems we have been challenged and questioned by everyone involved, to the point we often grew uncertain and hesitant in what we were trying to achieve. Advisers and external agencies supporting our school continued to ask for specific data, data which did not benefit our pupils. During my first year I was asked for predicted levels – I didn’t agree with this, so have never produced them. Later, while still developing our assessment system, we were asked for ‘progress’ data. This was a very difficult period for governors as they too were being asked for this data. During reviews and briefings when governors were challenged about ‘progress data’, no one seemed to accept our principle that progress can’t be reported or measured numerically, many still struggle with this. With the help of Jamie Pembroke we have finally been able to move away from the idea of ‘expected progress’. How can we possibly suggest what ‘expected progress’ is? Learning isn’t linear and every child is so different. As a result, we don’t produce percentages of ‘progress’, instead governors now get ‘information’ about classes and we look at the anonymised progress information of children as individuals. When questioned and doubted on so many levels, you have to be clear about the purpose of everything that you do. It is important to remember that, no matter what is asked of us, there is always another way. We cannot be afraid to dispute the status quo once in a while – if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be fighting for what our children deserve. It’s about time we all began examining the purpose behind particular aspects of our education system. It must be said that all of our discussions have been aided by working in collaboration with other schools,
We wanted teachers to trust themselves, to trust their professional judgements while using formative assessment to identify children’s next steps.
08 head teachers and educators. The support on Twitter from leaders such as Dame Alison Peacock and Julie Lily, who began the #LearningFirst movement, has been pivotal in helping us focus on the most important issues. Building up strong networks with other people means that you always have someone to turn to, to ask questions of, or merely to have a conversation with in order to clarify your thinking. We must work with each other, not in competition, in joint efforts to ensure the best possible outcomes for children everywhere. So what have recent visitors to the school had to say about our approach? The last two years we have had ‘glowing’ moderation reports about our year 6 writing, feedback and assessment. This past October, we had Ofsted. In school, we have never had a staff meeting or SLT meeting about Ofsted (governors were a different story). We don’t We don’t do things for do things for Ofsted, we do Ofsted, we do things things that are which are right for our right for our school. Ofsted school. Ofsted came came and and Ofsted went. Ofsted went. They looked through They looked through books books with no teacher with no teacher marking and they could marking and they could see see the impact. the impact. They confirmed that we absolutely were on the right path and identified the same actions we had already written into our development plan. If you are clear about what you are doing and why you are doing it and can show the impact it is having on your school, then Ofsted will see it as well. We have visitors into our school all of the time. There is no point, causing anxiety about one visit that happens every four or five years. Make every day count...this is what is important. We haven’t got everything right and we are still trying to embed what we find successful. Our next undertaking is to rewrite our curriculum for non-core subjects, to give every pupil rich opportunities for learning, so that we create geographers, historians, artists and musicians.
Just last year, to ascertain the impact of educational visits, our school was given the opportunity to take part in a NAPE research project called Keycolab. This was a European project which examined the teaching and evaluation of key curriculum competences through work in the environment outside the school. Before the research was undertaken, we were quite certain of what the results would be. However, having to assess the key competencies and really delve into the ‘impact’ that the visits were having has forced us to reflect on the experiences that we provide for our children. ‘Memories’ has weaved itself as a theme into our vision for our school. What memories are we creating for our children? We know that every moment counts – a word, a slant of our head, an attitude - can either help to reinforce the joy of learning or disengage learners. These will form part of their ‘memories’ of school. Are we creating life-long learners who will always have a thirst for finding answers to their questions? Primary schools must create experiences and build memories for their children, which bring learning to life. Real-life learning and exploring the world allows this to happen. We must free ourselves from focusing on the end of year SATs, which narrow our curriculum to ensure children pass the test. Rather, we should be focusing on building positive memories of learning – creating childhood experiences that will never be forgotten; this approach is what will create life-long learners. It is our job to prepare children for anything that comes their way, not for a test when they are 11. Of all the things I have learnt during my time in headship, what I am certain of is this: When you put children and your staff at the centre of what you do, you will never go far wrong. Like I tell my children all the time, being a leader means you always do what you think is right, even if it means you have to stand alone. It isn’t about being brave anymore – it is about doing what is right... what is right for our school… our community... our children.
Flora Barton is the head of Crowmarsh Gifford Primary School in Oxfordshire.
Learning beyond core subjects by Malini Mistry, University of Bedfordshire Editor of ASPE articles
In our primary schools today, there is increasing emphasis on skills and results gained in core subjects. On the one hand we would like our children to become holistic global citizens and yet we do not have enough time to teach everything we would like to. With a performative culture, the emphasis will always be on English and Maths, but other forms of development are necessary beyond Early Years.
Our two articles begin by focusing on lessons from one primary school in how they embed inclusion to support pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEND). Finally the focus is on how musical activities in the home can support childrenâ€™s development at school. Musical ability can sometimes be overlooked as it is not a targeted subject. But as this article shows, skills gained in music can also support childrenâ€™s social skills and relationships with others.
Sharing practice: Embedding inclusion for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in mainstream primary education by Emma Dyson The aim of this research was to: 1. To investigate what inclusion mean to teachers and how they ensure inclusion for pupils with SEND in mainstream primary schools? 2. To explore the common strategies/approaches used in mainstream primary classrooms to support pupils with SEND? 3. To consider the effectiveness of strategies/ approaches used to support pupils with SEND? This research was innovative because it aimed to seek a greater understanding of the varied provision that supports pupils with SEND in mainstream classrooms and how professional development can help to better support the needs of these pupils. By gaining a deeper understanding of the different ways in which pupils with SEND are supported, classroom practice can be further improved to help pupils make progress. The emphasis on inclusion has resulted in a change in which pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) have their needs met. `Traditionally, pupils requiring special educational needs have been segregated into separate learning environments’ (Wang, 2009: 154). Booth and Ainscow (2002) suggest that inclusion is the identification and minimising of barriers to learning and the maximising of resources to support learning participation. Inclusive practice has been more prominent in the education system `since the 1997 Special Educational Needs (SEN) Green Paper, Excellence for All Pupils’ (DfEE, 1997 cited in DfES, 2004:4). Inclusive practice involves strategies such as differentiation within planning and ensuring lessons are resourced suitably and effectively for all needs within the classroom so all pupils can access learning. This is essential because teachers have a vital role to play in embedding inclusive practice in classrooms to ensure pupils with SEND, like all pupils, make progress.
Supporting theory looked at various Education Acts such as The Education Act (1981) and the Warnock Report (1978) which outlined considerable changes to SEND provision. The term SEND was first introduced by this report to identify a learning difficulty/disability during this time as `previous legislation from the early twentieth century had resulted in attempts to provide descriptive labels for needs, which resulted in marginalisation and for the most part, segregation for the disabled’ (Horsfall, 2001:149). The Education Act of 1981 encouraged a change in attitudes and beliefs to encourage practitioners to understand what inclusion means and to embed it in practice. One way this was achieved was through outlining the legal recognition of those pupils with SEND alongside the provision that can be put in place for them (Adamson and Langley-Hamel, 2001). Furthermore, The Salamanca Statement of 1994 called for inclusion to be the norm which implied pupils with SEND should be expected to attend school by society. The SEND Code of Practice (2014) supports inclusion for pupils with SEND in the mainstream sector. Changes, within this code of practice, consist of `greater emphasis and expectation placed on class and subject teachers, taking ownership for the planning and reviewing of pupils’ SEN support’ which promotes inclusivity (Cheminais, 2015:13). This implies a greater inclusive approach for pupils with SEND from teachers as they are more accountable in meeting their needs. It also includes the understanding of EHCP’s which provides multi-agency working for planning, reviewing and implementation of provision (Cheminais, 2015:13) which supports a more inclusive ethos. A qualitative approach was adopted and the research methods utilised consisted of document analysis, questionnaires, observations and interviews. The inclusion policy of the setting was analysed initially as a starting point, `policy documents, particularly in the
case of classroom-based research, do offer a productive starting place as they provide a strong indication of what should be happening’ (Burton et al 2008:112). The sample consisted of several classes in a large urban primary school situated in Bedfordshire each with both teaching and support staff. It is recognised that this is a small scale study limited to one county, but it is believed the lessons from this research are useful to others. The findings showed that inclusion is a very broad term that teachers perceive differently, and therefore provision is different too. One teacher commented inclusion is` providing opportunities for all pupils to engage and access the curriculum’. However, another teacher believed `inclusion is including everyone regardless of race, gender, religion, disability and circumstances’ but here, access to the curriculum through adapting it for the pupils with SEND is not mentioned. Several strategies were suggested to support the inclusion of pupils with SEND such as: one to one support, individualised differentiation, visual timetables, selective questioning, pictorial prompts and visual/ concrete resources. The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) (2017) claim, `a combination of strategies produces more powerful effects than a single strategy solution’ which emphasises that inclusion for every child is not the same therefore different strategies are essential. Wearmouth (2012) supports this claiming by saying `it is very important to be aware of the process that should be followed to maintain the child’s access to education’. From this research, the majority of strategies observed and used were successful as they had a positive effect on pupils and their learning. However, `some studies have found that pupils with SEN have a more negative social selfconcept than their peers’ (Avramidis, 2009:14). The research also found that the strategies used are unable to help pupils with SEND achieve in line with their peers in most cases because their needs are so different. This implies that although there can be provision and interventions along with different strategies and approaches in place, not all pupils will benefit from mainstream schooling because pupils needs are so varied and mainstream education is can be more of a one fit model for catering for similar needs at times. The impact of this research was that teachers need the support and experience of other staff in the school setting any beyond rather than trying to work in isolation. Having the confident to meet the more different needs of pupils is essential rather than percieving it as a barrier to learning. Finally, more help and guidance from outside agencies to support schools
in terms of constructing EHCP’s or statements would help SENCO’s to guide school teams. This research is useful in primary settings and for teacher trainers and students in initial and in-service teacher training. It is recommended that school staff in mainstream education make links with special needs settings to learn from each other and to work more closely to share good practice. This will help teachers have a range of strategies to help meet the needs of their pupils with SEND which in turn helps them to feel more confident in meeting more diverse needs. `Teachers’ attitudes toward inclusion are often based on the practical implementation of inclusive education rather than specific ideology and understanding of inclusiveness’ (Vaz et al, 2015:2). Reference list: Avramidis, E. (2009) The Social Impacts of Inclusion on Children with SEN and their Mainstream Peers. [Online] Available: http:// reshare.ukdataservice.ac.uk/851667/5/Report_RES-061-230069-A.pdf (Accessed: 24 April 2017) Booth, T. and Ainscow,M. (2002) Index for Inclusion: Developing learning and participation in school. [Online] Available at: http:// www.eenet.org.uk/resources/docs/Index%20English.pdf (Accessed: 24 April 2017) Burton, N. et al. (2008) Doing your education research project. London: SAGE Publications. Cheminais, R. (2015) Special educational needs for qualified and trainee teachers: a practical guide to the new changes. 3rd edn. Oxon: Routledge Department for Education and Skills (2004) Teaching Strategies and Approaches for Children with Special Educational Needs: A Scoping Study. Nottingham: Queen’s Printer. Department for Education and Skills (2017) Inclusion and Pupil Achievement. Nottingham: Crown Copy Horsfall. (2001) ‘Special educational needs and the teacher’, in Jacques, K. and Hyland, R. (eds.) Professional studies: primary phase. Exeter: Learning Matters Ltd, pp. 145 – 159. Vaz, S, et al (2015) ‘Factors Associated with Primary School Teachers’ attitudes Toward the Inclusion of Students with Disabilities’ PLOS ONE, 10(8) pp. 1-12 Wang, H.L. (2009) ‘Should all students with special educational needs (SEN) be included in mainstream education provision? - A critical analysis’, International Education Studies, 2(4). doi: 10.5539/ies.v2n4p154. Wearmouth, J. (2012) Special educational needs, the basics. New York: Routledge Emma Dyson teaches at Duxford C of E Community Primary School in Cambridgeshire
Young children’s musical activities in the home by Carolyn Blackburn The aim of this study was to explore children’s lived experiences of musical activities in the home through parent reports, given the acknowledged body of wisdom that the home learning environment has a significant impact on children’s later social and academic achievement and overall wellbeing (Sylva et.al, 2004). The researcher was interested in parents’ perceptions of what constituted musical activity and what kinds of activities children participated in during solitary play, play with siblings and peers and shared musical activities with adults. This is because music and musicality have been shown to promote children’s pro-social skills, physical development and parentchild relationships (Williams et al., 2015). This research was innovative as it explored the home musical experiences of young children from birth to five in England in contrast to previous research which has focussed either on infants or on children aged three to five or older and in laboratory settings rather than natural environments. It is the first study to address the musical activities of young children across the age range of the EYFS (DfE, 2014) in the home in the England. The study takes a bio-psycho-social approach which acknowledges that children grow and develop in a social and cultural context influenced by the bidirectional interactions and relationships within and between the environments they inhabit that interact with their own unique characteristics and personalities. Their learning and development is therefore socially and culturally constructed through interactions and relationships with others in environments where meanings and languages are shared (Bronfenbrenner, 1993). A mixed-methods approach was adopted for this study that combined an online survey with interviews in order to obtain a more in-depth view than could
be gathered from a survey alone. The survey was designed and trialled with three parents and carers of children aged birth to five before being launched and promoted using existing networks and social media. Parents, grandparents and foster carers of children aged birth to five residing in England were invited to participate. Attempts were made to promote the survey as widely as possible to a range of different social and cultural groups, for example, parenting groups aimed at both genders, groups for grandparents and minority ethnic and cultural groups, fostering networks and general social media groups. Questions included closed questions relating to demographics of participants and number and ages of children in the family as well as the frequency, category and role of technology in musical activities that young children participated in and these allowed for descriptive quantitative data. Open questions about the perceived benefit of young children’s participation in musical activities in the home, organised musical activities outside the home and general comments provided qualitative data. In developing the survey account was taken of themes generated by previous studies such as the nature and frequency of musical activities in the home, whether they were solitary or shared, children’s preferences for musical activities, activities outside the home, parents own musical backgrounds and any influence this might have on children’s participation. The perceived benefits of children’s participation in musical activities as well as any barriers was also of interest, Following the survey parents were invited to participate in an interview to explore emerging themes in more detail. Parents were asked about the families’ musical background, the nature, frequency, context as well as barriers and benefits. They were also asked about children’s participation in organised
musical activities outside the home. Questions for the interview were derived from responses to the survey. Contrary to previous studies, findings suggest that children participate in a range of spontaneous shared musical activities in the home daily. The factors that both promote and inhibit musical activities in the home for young children are shown to be parental attitude to musical activities and confidence in their own musical ability, cost of instruments or equipment, time for parents to join in with their child. The study also shows that children are participating in a wide range of organised, structured musical activities outside the home. Research is needed to examine the quality of such activities and the appropriateness of formal musical activities for very young children to ensure that formality does not disturb spontaneity in young children’s musical worlds. Given the associations between children’s involvement in musical activities from an early age and later prosocial skills, communication and overall well-being, the transition from the EYFS to YR1 could usefully embrace children’s musical competencies. From these findings it is clear that there are opportunities for early years professionals to work with parents to build their confidence and promote the value and importance of children’s involvement in a wide range of musical activities in the home. Adopting a bio-psycho-social approach to the study suggests that the characteristics within the microsystem of home that influence young children’s musical participation in the home relate to adult confidence in their own musicality and ability or interest/motivation to participate with their child, perceptions about the requirement for instruments to be available for musical activity and any cost or availability factors that relate to this. More research into these aspects would be beneficial. A similar study exploring the perceptions of early years practitioners in this regard would be interesting and useful.
The study also calls into question the policy rationale for prioritising communication and literacy over creative, spontaneous activities that appear to be valued by caregivers and have the potential to promote communicative intersubjectivity between adults and children. Full article can be found at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03004 279.2017.1342320
References: Bronfenbrenner, U. (1993). The ecology of cognitive development: Research models and fugitive findings. In R. H. Wozniak & K.W. Fisher (Eds.), Development in context: Acting and thinking in specific environments Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. pp 3-44 Department for Education (2014) Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage [Online https://www.gov. uk/government/publications/early-years-foundation-stageframework--2 accessed 06.06.2014] Sylva, K., Melhuish, E., Siraj-Blatchford, I., Sammons, P. and Taggart, B. (2004) Final Report of the Effective Provision of Pre-school Education project. London: Institute of Education. Williams, K.E., Barrett, M.S., Welch, G.F., Abad, V. and Broughton, M. (2015) Associations between early shared music activities in the home and later child outcomes: Findings from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. Early Childhood Research Quarterly (21 (2015) 113-124
Dr. Carolyn Blackburn is Senior Research Fellow at Birmingham City University
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
Mighty Girls? by Carey Fluker Hunt
Women today are succeeding in a way the Suffragettes could only dream of, but until recently their real-life achievements rarely made it onto the pages of a children’s book. There’s nothing like a significant anniversary to motivate publishers, though, and with 2018 marking the centenary of the UK’s Representation of the People Act, non-fiction lists are finally catching up. Making the biggest splash has been Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, an anthology of minibiographies created by tech entrepreneurs Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo. Told by Silicon Valley investors that ‘girls alone couldn’t raise money’ the pair turned to Kickstarter instead, where initial pledges quickly exceeded the $40,000 goal by a staggering $635,000, setting a crowdfunding record
and paving the way for sales topping a million copies in thirty languages. Billed as the children’s book that ‘reinvents fairytales’, Favilli and Cavallo’s rebels range from Jane Austen to UAE weightlifter Amna Al Haddad, delivering a genuinely engaging voyage of discovery. “Much of the charm is in the juxtapositions,” says one reviewer. “Queens sit alongside activists, ballerinas with lawyers, pirates with computer scientists… creating a thrilling sense of possibility.” Readers on social media have been expressing their delight. “Rebel Girls has just arrived for my 6 year old. Down went the iPad and headphones instantly, huge smile spread across her face, and she’s 18 pages in. Love these books!” says one. “For the first time in 5 years we have no problem getting the kids (to) go to bed,” says another.
THE BOOK PAGES
This is publishing for the touchscreen generation, but Rebel Girls comes recommended, too, by critics who applaud its aims and praise its eyecatching design. Sadly, the bedtime tales themselves are not of the same standard. “(They)… could be less like a random assembly of facts, maybe a bit warmer or have a more natural story-like structure,” suggests one supporter, maybe hoping for better in Volume Two. “The stories are choppy and not well written,” adds a second, but it’s easy to underestimate the skill required to craft the shortest of tales, and developing a nuanced ear for text does not come easily. “I revise and revise and revise and revise,” says Kevin Crossley-Holland, author of Short!, the award-winning anthology of micro-stories. “The music of language is part of its meaning; the ‘right’ word, and the silence surrounding it, are at the heart of the matter.” Not so for the writer of Rebel Girls, whose schedule didn’t allow for luxuries like musicality. Favilli proposed writing the first fifty stories in June and the remaining fifty in July, so it’s not surprising to find them repetitive. “(The book) will be created by 100 female artists… They can work simultaneously on the portraits and reduce dramatically the time it would take for just one artist to create (them),” enthuses the book’s Kickstarter page, missing the point that a writer is also an artist, and will need time to craft her work. It’s a testament to the power behind the concept, then, that Rebel Girls is such a hit. Children are hungry for real-world female role models. So are their parents. And when you’re hungry, you tend to be less critical about the flavour of the food. “I had as much of a blast learning about these women as my daughter did,” says one dad, echoing the sentiments of hundreds more. The families enjoying this book aren’t thinking about language as they read. They’re thinking about how good it
feels to share the experience, forge close bonds and dream big thoughts. “My five-year-old has started telling me ways she… could get into the rebel girls book,” says one parent. “I have no doubt the kids are happier and dreaming more daring about what they can be, because of (Rebel Girls),” says another. Those who value the music of language may lament missed opportunities to offer something better, richer, stronger: texts crafted by real storytellers who care about their choice of words. But many of the book’s most ardent devourers will have been weaned on screens and won’t regard themselves as bookworms – yet. If Rebel Girls helps to shape and support the way girls see themselves (and boys see them) it will be doing something profound. And if it encourages positive reading behaviours, they can be built on by offering more in the way of literary nourishment. For all its value, Rebel Girls should never be the only book on the menu. Once tasted, let it lead you elsewhere for the main course. In Finding Wonders, Jeannine Atkins uses vibrant and evocative blank verse to tell the historical stories of three quietly rebellious heroines pursuing scientific goals. Atkins’ gem of a book for Upper KS2 is easily overlooked but worth pursuing, and will feed the hunger in a different way. For powerful picturebooks in a similar mould, try Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousufzai and Kerascoet, or the true story of daring 62-year-old Annie Edson Taylor in Queen of the Falls by Chris van Allsburg. For more girl-powered reading, check out the suggestions at US-based amightygirl.com
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. 17
Reviews by John Coe
Can I Go & Play Now? by Greg Bottrill Published by Sage This is an excellent book written by an experienced Early Years teacher who combines expertise in the classroom with a sound theoretical underpinning to offer us a book which is both practical and wise. The author speaks directly to fellow practitioners in terms which make absolute sense of the teaching of young children who are at the very beginning of their formal education. The tenor of the approach can be best appreciated by the way the title of the book is justified in the introduction. I quote, “I guess there’s no better time than now to explain the book’s title. I’m sure you’ve heard it in the classroom from children, who after sitting at your table with you filling out some worksheet or other, or while you try to get children to do what you’ve asked them to do on your planning sheet with spongy letters in the water tray, will say in a pained tone: ‘Can I go and play now?’ There it is - a firm commitment to the reality of four year old lives and even more a commitment to the naturally rich way in which they are learning with every breath they take, the way of play. There is outright opposition to the current apparatus of state intervention in childhood through ever increasing demands for learning targets which barely conceal the purpose which is to prepare children for the testing regimes and league tables of the later years. And for any who might worry that the playful school life which is advocated might lead to pupils who fail at the many hurdles which the state erects, there is reassurance. Greg Bottrill leads the Early Years unit of a primary school which has received the ultimate Ofsted accolade of excellent.
A substantial majority of educationists who occupy the commanding heights of education have experience in upper primary and secondary education. Seldom are Early Years teachers promoted to lead schools and as administration has become the preoccupation of politicians, even teaching experience itself is no longer seen as an essential prerequisite for policy making. This is a major reason for the heavy governmental emphasis upon the measureable aspects of human development and upon preparing children for the later stages of learning. The mantra is ‘get them ready’ and ‘here are the successful systems such as phonics which will enable all children to read fluently earlier than ever before’.
Greg Bottrillâ€™s book reverses this top/down pressure and almost for the first time articulates how a genuinely child centred curriculum which focuses on the nature of young children and how they learn through play can bring success not only immediately but also in the later years. Trust the children at the centre of their world, their play is freedom so let it be free is a principle which should be a bottom/up pressure on the primary and secondary curriculum.
subversive. Students in training might however come upon it when out on school experience and find it a welcome and stimulating supplement to reading Piaget in translation. Certainly it is essential reading for experienced colleagues who have never taught Early years or Admission classes before in their earlier career. They will understand the truth of what they read and it could change them for ever.
It would be a brave initial training department which put this book on its reading list, it is too
Learning Theories for Early Years Practice by Sean Macblain
Published by SAGE
A useful introduction to a number of the philosophers and theorists from John Locke to Loris Malaguzzi of Reggio Emilia who have made or continue to make significant contributions to the theory and practice of early education. Most of the important names are considered and student teachers will find the book helpful in scaffolding their essays with authoritative references. An explanation of the work of each key theorist is set out together with indications of any links between them. Strengths and weaknesses are offered and the practical applications of the theories are illustrated by case studies, however the studies while adding human interest are bland in tone and are unlikely to provoke pacesetting practice in the classroom. Allowance has to be made for an understandable tendency to exercise hindsight in commenting upon theory when this is placed in an appropriate historical context.
The third part of the book entitled â€œChallenges for Theorists in a Changing Worldâ€? will be much more useful to the Early Years teacher. Sean Macblain deals with the issues which confront us all as he discusses the impact of poverty on child development, the growing significance of emotional intelligence, the digital world which surrounds the children and the vital importance of play which, it is argued, is often sidelined today as national pressure for early attainment bears down on the nursery. There is also a welcome introduction to the way the brain develops and a recognition that there is new knowledge from the field of neuroscience and the increasing number of insights which, not least, often confirm the vision of theorists such as John Locke.
This book is strongly recommended as an addition to the reading list of trainee teachers and teaching assistants.
The highlights and challenges of taking on your own class... NQT (Not Quite Trained!): Taking my first steps into the world of education.
by Hannah Smith
Rewind to summer 2015 and I felt reasonably prepared and ready to embark upon my teaching career. My classroom was beautifully decorated, weeks of planning were done and I was keen to get started. Flash forward to the present day, after surviving my first two years, the true layers of the job have revealed themselves. It soon became apparent that teacher training cannot prepare you for the trials and tribulations of your first year- the snotty noses, needy parents, endless paperwork, playground fights…no lecturer will guide you on this- you have to find your own way. As an NQT, by now you will have undoubtedly realised that being a primary school teacher isn’t just about teaching the curriculum. At times you have to be a counsellor, a guardian, a comedian, a mediator, a disciplinarian and a motivator. This is why the first year of teaching is so unique in the challenges it provides, as subconsciously you discover so much more about yourself. You unveil your true strengths,
underlying talents and characteristics and skills you didn’t realise you had. Teaching has the potential to bring out the best in you. Finding my feet September 2015- first INSET day. I sat there, pen and paper in hand, ready to begin. Without warning, I was inducted into the acronym club that is education, letters batted about freely with little explanation; SDP, SEN, PM, SLT, FGB…! (I simply nodded, took note and then looked them up later!). But, it’s not long before you find yourself using them with non-teaching friends, who look at you like you’re speaking in a different language. With all this new information to digest, I felt completely overwhelmed. Where should I begin? What needed to be done? I was in a bubble, just floating along for the time being, with the potential to pop! Adrenaline had kicked in. I had made it, after years of hard work and training. The doors opened and a wave of smiley five year olds poured through.
‘Where do we put our snack?’ ‘What shall I do with my wellies?’ ‘Can I got to the toilet now?’ Instantly, I was faced with a flood of questions and I was the one who had to make the decisions. The reality of being a ‘real’ teacher hit me. Teaching is full of questions. I am constantly asking myself how, when, why, if? Questioning my own practice, questioning the children, questioning the entire education system! Every morning I walked through the school gate, and every day I left asking myself something different. What can I do to help them? Why won’t they behave? Have I marked all the books? How many days until the weekend? How much longer can I stay on this teaching treadmill?! I did survive, because every day I was a step closer to finding my feet. Every day I gained confidence, as I established myself, and the sense of autonomy and self-belief grew. Just remember, it takes time to establish yourself as a teacher and find your feet, but once you have you feel like anything is possible. Stepping onto the rollercoaster Teaching is a never ending rollercoaster, full of highs and lows and surprising twists and turns along the way. It can be exhilarating, exhausting and overwhelming at times. But one thing that is for sure is that you can’t just sit back and ride along. NQT years are an emotional rollercoaster. Each week brings with it a new feeling: happiness, frustration, anxiety, elation, deflation…nothing I was inspired by can prepare you for my own teachers this. Some days you don’t know how you at primary school, will make it to the the ones who made end of the week, but school fun and gave somehow you do. Teaching is an act you time to explore of juggling a million and play. and one things and learning which ones are okay to sometimes drop. Nothing can prepare you for the ride- once you are on, it’s hard to get off. The workload, the sheer amount of paperwork, the constant demands, the sleepless nights, and the ‘to do’ list that is never ending…all of which are pushing
us to our limits and driving inspirational teachers out of the education system. More than anything, I have learned that, in order to stay on track and reach the top, you need to feel supported. I am fortunate to work within an amazing team of people who are always there for each other. We laugh, we joke, we cry and we get through each day together as a team. Relationships are key to surviving and succeeding in this role- it is not possible on your own. As an NQT, if you stay on track, and take the highs and the lows, you will reach the end. Real V Ideal I have always wanted to be a teacher. I was inspired by my own teachers at primary school, the ones who made school fun, gave you time to explore and play and who let you sit on their laps for a cuddle. How times have changed. Sadly, due to government expectations, health and safety and the modern society we live in, these experiences do not happen very often these days. The 21st century introduced a ‘tick box’ culture which hijacked the teaching agenda and has taken away teachers’ freedom, creativity and passion, driving many inspirational teachers out of the profession. In November 2016, the National Foundation for Educational Research confirmed Government statistics stating that nearly a third of teachers who joined the profession in 2010 had left teaching within five years. About one in eight (13 per cent) had left after just a year. The reality of the future in this profession is worrying. I always knew the ‘ideal’ teacher I wanted to be, based on a sentimentalised view of teaching; inspiring, innovative and supportive. I wanted to ‘make a difference’. However, it didn’t take long for the reality of the current education system to be revealed. Great expectations and ideas were suddenly flattened by the government’s demands. The growing pressures, demands and workload is a problem for all in the profession. Recently, The Independent (2017) published figures from a teaching union survey which revealed almost four in ten young teachers could quit the classroom within the next five years because of mental health problems related to the workload. Even the 50 hour weeks do not allow enough time to plan and prepare
consistently high quality lessons whilst completing the mundane administrative tasks- my frustration is forever in competition with my motivation to be the best I can be. The matter of the fact is: reality wins every time. The reality of each day in school is unknown. Every day is different. I would say I am an organised person who manages time well and gets ahead of the game, but you will soon learn that, more often than not, lessons will take you down a path you didn’t predict, despite your best plans and intentions. This is what makes teaching exciting- no lesson or day is the same. It’s all about thinking on your feet and being adaptable. As Gail Godwin said; “Good teaching is one fourth preparation and three fourths pure theatre…” (cited in Enns, 2010, pg 224). Teachers are the greatest actors. I am a perfectionist. I strive to be the perfect teacher, but I have realised that teaching is a lifetime’s craft. I will never perfect it, nor will I ever complete my ever-growing ‘to do’ list. Once I accepted this, I began to master the art of resilience. Reaching the top At its best, teaching is the most rewarding and exciting profession. There is nothing better than the buzz you get after teaching a successful lesson. It doesn’t happen very often but, when luck is on your side and everything aligns, it is worth it. I have come to realise that without the low points, the high points wouldn’t feel so rewarding. Despite the endless workload and demands, each day you will have a sense of reaching the top. Each day my motley crew of innocent, curious and entertaining children make me smile and remind me why I do this job. Seeing those light bulb moments when a child reads for the first time or suddenly understands fractions. Seeing children’s faces light up with excitement when introduced to a new topic. The days when parents appreciate your hard work and thank you for helping their child. These are the reasons I teach and get up every day- knowing that today might be the day that one of these moments arise. As a new teacher, I have learned that it doesn’t matter if one of the many plates you are spinning wobbles from time to time- you just have to keep spinning (and smiling!). It’s hard, but important to
keep a sense of perspective. We are human. We can’t tick all the boxes all the time, despite what the government think
References: Enns, K, (2010) Teachers Take Heart. Bloomington: Xlibriss Corporation. pg 224. Lynch, S., Worth, J., Bamford, S. and Wespieser, K. (2016). Engaging Teachers: NFER Analysis of Teacher Retention.Slough: NFER. Independent (2017) Staggeringly high teachers threatening to quit the classroom. Available at: http://www. independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/ staggeringly-high-teachers-quit-classroom-recruitmentcrisis-retention-schools-funding-education-a7760551.html Last accessed 6.2.18.
Hanna Smith trained at Oxford Brookes University and teaches at Middle Barton Primary School in Oxfordshire.
Rehumanising primary education – placing trust in teachers, learning from the legacy of Christian Schiller by Tony Eaude
This is a short version of the Christian Schiller lecture on 19th April 2018. The full text is on www.edperspectives.org.uk/objects/edp/ schillerlecture2018.pdf Some two months into my PGCE course in 19756, I had the privilege of attending a lecture given by Christian Schiller and he kept his audience spellbound. Exactly what he said then I cannot remember clearly, but the authority with which he spoke that day remains with me powerfully. I wish to highlight four aspects of Schiller’s legacy from the book which records his talks (Schiller, 1979). The first is his profound shock at the appalling, inhumane conditions in Liverpool and the surrounding area in the 1920s and the dull and decontextualised tasks set in the elementary schools, especially for children from disadvantaged backgrounds; and his amazement at the breadth and depth of those children’s imagination and knowledge when involved in more familiar and engaging tasks. Schiller read an advance copy of the Hadow report of 1931 on the Mersey ferry and its words ’what a good and wise father desires for his own children, a nation must desire for all its children’. As he looked out at the desolate docklands and the shipyards closed during the Depression, so that most schools had not a single father in work, he dreamed of transforming those elementary schools into more humane places. The second was Schiller’s emphasis on children’s experience, though he always spoke of individual children by name, and how each Mary and John needed space to make sense of their experience, especially through the arts. He believed that ‘all children, given opportunity and encouragement, could express themselves through painting, craft and movement.’ (Schiller, 1979 : xi). The third was the importance of meeting the needs of each Mary and John as she or he is now rather than thinking only what she or he may become or doing what is convenient for teachers.
The fourth was his belief that real, lasting change comes from the bottom up and the need to trust the teachers who understand individual children’s needs. As Schiller recognised, the context – and with it the challenges and types of deprivation – and the impact of policy changes and has done so massively, especially in the last thirty years. I suggest that primary schooling has in many respects become soulless, though this is largely the result of policy rather than the fault of teachers, and we need to restore the humanity which Schiller espoused. Sadly, words such as soul and humanity do not figure much in the current discourse of education, dominated by the language of data, standards, targets and delivery. Teachers, parents and policy makers have to know what effect we are having but this cannot, and must not, be reduced to data, what can be measured (often with an alarming level of inaccuracy) in some limited aspects of English and mathematics. Life is fuller, richer and more complex than that. As Andy Hargreaves (2013 : xvii– xviii) writes, ‘data-driven and hyper-rational environments produce consequences of a highly adverse nature. These include destructions of innovation and creativity, distractions of participants’ energy towards producing the appearance of numerical results and degradations of people’s essential humanity through machine- like environments that assault people’s emotional and moral integrity’. Standards are important, but do we ever step back and ask ourselves, and each other, standards of what? Worthwhile standards relate to much more than how to use a fronted adverbial or to multiply vulgar fractions. Surely we must start to think more in terms of standards of conduct, curiosity, imagination, teamwork, and compassion. I am not opposed to targets as such, but when targets are too closely defined by the teacher, they constrain children’s imagination and creativity – and contribute to the remarkable and lamentable
achievement of making many young children bored, and disaffected, with learning. However, I cannot bear the language of delivery. Boxes and babies, possibly even lectures, are delivered, whereas teaching should be a reciprocal, two-way process, characterised by mutual respect, led by and encouraging a love for learning. As Hargreaves (2003: 161) states, ‘teachers are not deliverers but developers of learning. Those who focus only on teaching techniques and curriculum standards . . . promote a diminished view of teaching and teacher professionalism that has no place in a sophisticated knowledge society.’ The 1985 White Paper ‘Better schools’ stated that ‘many children are still given too little opportunity for work in Worthwhile standards practical, scientific and aesthetic areas relate to much more of the curriculum than how to use a which increases fronted adverbial or not only their understanding in to multiply vulgar these areas but fractions. We must also their literacy and numeracy … think more in terms of Over-concentration standards of conduct, on the practice curiosity, imagination of the basic skills in literacy and compassion. and numeracy unrelated to a context in which they are needed means that those skills are insufficiently extended and applied.’ (cited in Alexander 2010: 243). I fear that this remains true over thirty years later. Too often, a narrow curriculum, and the tests devised to police coverage of, and compliance with, this, emphasises convergence on what the curriculum or the teacher demands, rather than divergence, following the child’s interests and lines of enquiry. And the lowest attainers often receive the thinnest
gruel, endlessly repeating what they find difficult and pointless. In the desperate dash to cover an overfull and unbalanced curriculum and achieve shortterm results, the humanities and the arts are too often marginalised in a Gradgrind world of grammar and sums. The current emphasis on literacy and numeracy skills separated from practical application institutionalises low expectations. There is no test as rigorous as actually using one’s skills to make something work in practice. Such considerations permeate the whole system but are especially damaging for young children.
which I am suggesting that schooling, rather than primary schools, has become soulless and lacking in humanity, as children with all their wonderful diversities and eccentricities are treated as widgets on a production line.
The Royal Society of Arts published a report ‘Schools with Soul: A New Approach to Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Education’ (RSA, 2014) highlighting the importance of SMSC, as enshrined The current emphasis on literacy in law, though too rarely emphasised in and numeracy Ofsted reports and often marginalised separated from in practice. The practical application report calls for institutionalises low more emphasis on longer-term, less expectations. measurable outcomes related to the whole child, rather than just cognitive development and academic attainment. Children need qualities and dispositions such as creativity, resilience and teamwork to succeed in the present and as global citizens in a future faced with changes which we struggle even to imagine.
I am not suggesting that all was perfect in some golden era or that it is awful now - it is not. For instance, there is now much more emphasis - at least in principle - on including children with disabilities, on children’s talk, on mental health and well-being and on the damaging effects of abuse and poverty. Children are encouraged and enabled to articulate their thinking, often in pairs and small groups. However, we need, as teachers, to listen to children more and talk at them less; and to ask authentic and challenging questions, without immediately providing our own answers to questions they may not have even considered. Despite the current focus on young children’s mental health, the answer is all too often programmes - many well thought-out, others not so good - encouraging a particular, usually behaviourist, approach to help children to control their emotions and behaviour – and particularly suppress their anger - rather than addressing the root problems, be they poverty, a lack of sensitive and supportive relationships or excessive demands on children from too early an age. In Lilian Katz’s words, (1997: 368), ‘if formal instruction is introduced too early, too intensely and too abstractly, the children may indeed learn the instructed knowledge and skills, but they may do so at the expense of the disposition to use them.’
In many religious traditions, the soul is associated with life itself. The idea also captures something about the essential aspects of who one is as a person, many of which are not measurable in ways that are either meaningful or desirable. Moreover, the word ‘soul’ refers to environments and systems, usually when they are considered to be ‘soulless’ lacking the human warmth, care and responsiveness, essential for an environment to be welcoming and genuinely inclusive. This is the main sense in
Jerome Bruner (1996) reminds us of how even very young children are meaning-makers and the importance of maintaining their sense of agency, of the influence of culture in how attitudes and values are learned and how learning is a social process, even though it occurs in ways specific to individuals. Margaret Donaldson’s beautiful research (1982) highlights the centrality, especially for young children, of the relationship with a trusted adult in determining how, and how well, they understand a
task and what they can achieve. As neuroscientific research suggests, confirming what generations of teachers have known, young children need a broad and balanced range of experiences to develop – and uncover - what Howard Gardner calls their ‘spectrum of talents’, reflecting his view of intelligence as multifaceted. I love the idea of the ‘horizon of possibility’ which extends and reveals new opportunities as one approaches it. Most learning occurs outside school settings, for better or worse. Teachers need to draw much more on what Gonzales, Moll and Amanti (2005) call ‘funds of knowledge’, those aspects which are often not valued in school, to engage children who are otherwise alienated by, and disengaged from, school learning. Examples include fishing and disco dancing, martial arts and computer games, but I would add knowledge, and experience, of other activities from chess to astronomy, photography and religious texts, gardening and cooking; and types of music and art not usually introduced at school. Drawing on, and extending, these funds of knowledge is essential if children are to continue to recognise that learning is endlessly fascinating and worthwhile; especially so for children from backgrounds where what is taught in school too often is associated with failure and does not engage them. Schiller’s recognised that it is the quality of the teacher which breathes life into any curriculum. I like the old Puritan saying ‘God loveth adverbs; and careth not how good, but how well.’ In other words, in this context, the how of teaching and learning matters more than the what. Before I return to this, let me consider how ‘the humanities’ can help to rehumanise primary education. I don’t know what comes to mind when you think of ‘the humanities’. Probably, history, geography and Religious Education - and perhaps citizenship. In a recent article in Education 3-13 (Eaude, 2017), I argue that there is no agreement on which disciplines ‘the humanities’ embrace; and that
primary schools should adopt a broad view of the humanities, including literature, poetry, drama and philosophy as well as history, geography and RE. We should consider what the humanities, and education more broadly, seeks to achieve – an understanding of what it means to be human and of the different ways in which culture has reflected and shaped this. This requires a holistic, overarching approach taking into account the whole range of children’s experience and interests – which leads me to question whether dividing the timetable into discrete subjects is beneficial, especially for young children. For instance, drama can be used in almost any subject area to enhance children’s understanding of themselves, and empathy for, other people; and literature and stories contribute to children’s learning and enjoyment far more broadly than just in English lessons. I recall vividly how when Rosemary and Hannah, two quiet ten year olds, were acting out being evicted from their houses, as a result of enclosure, one of them suddenly shouted out and banged the table loudly – to my utter amazement and that of the rest of the class. Incidentally, the theme of enclosure and the injustices associated with that captured the imagination of that class in a way that the life of the wealthy never did - an example of the extent to which content and context affect children’s engagement. Other articles in that issue of Education 3-13, from the four different jurisdictions of the United Kingdom, highlighted different curriculum arrangements broad areas of learning in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales as opposed to subjects in England. While this provided a timely reminder that England often moves in a different direction from other systems, the humanities are marginalised in most systems, not only in the UK but around the world. The American philosopher, Martha Nussbaum (2010), argues that the humanities are the basis of democracy, especially in a diverse society, in troubled times, not least because they help to create an understanding of, and empathy for, people who
are different from ourselves. However, this must just involve memorising facts about kings and battles, rivers and mountains or what members of different religions wear or where they worship, but of having some first- hand experience of these. The ways of working, such as fieldwork, observation and nuanced interpretation of what is complex and hard to understand, help to strengthen the skills and dispositions associated with critical thinking and extend children’s emotional repertoire. Visits out of school, both for the day and residentials, and local studies, do not just enhance children’s knowledge of history and geography, but enable a deeper understanding of people in some ways similar to, in some ways different from, ourselves. And wellplanned visits to churches, mosques and synagogues – or visits into schools by members of different faith communities - enable children to understand far more about how believers think and act than the best-prepared or delivered lesson ever could. Children from a young age need to approach, and be helped to explore, difficult and contested questions, such as whose history is being studied, how can we, as a species, mitigate the impact of environmental degradation or how do those unlike ourselves think which leads them to act in ways we find strange, incomprehensible or wicked. Such an approach may enable children to avoid seeing other cultures as exotic and usually inferior to our own. All too often it is we who are strange or complacent. I suggest, though this is not enough space to argue this here, that the humanities, well taught, help to avoid children adopting stereotypes based on skewed or simplistic views of other people – and probably reduces the danger of radicalisation. Much of what I am saying about the humanities applies to the arts. This reflects Robin Alexander’s distinction between Curriculum 1 – ‘the basics’ especially those aspects of English and mathematics most easily measured - and Curriculum 2 - ‘the rest’ including the arts and humanities, which are too often seen ‘as desirable but inessential.’
(Alexander, 2016: 2). It is no co-incidence that what is currently marginalised is often what most engages and motivates young children - play, physical activity, story, art, music and fieldwork. I suggest that we must try to see education in different ways from how it is usually now presented. We should see learning more like a series of guided rambles through a museum than a frantic race, in which inevitably many of those least able to cope get left behind. As Nel Noddings (1991: 161) writes, ‘Schools should become places in which teachers and students live together, talk to each other, reason together, take delight in each others’ company. Like good parents, teachers should be concerned first and foremost with the kind of people their charges are becoming. My guess is that when schools focus on what really matters in life, the cognitive ends we are now striving towards in such painful and artificial ways will be met as natural culminations of the means we have widely chosen.’ Learning must be relational, reciprocal and endlessly exciting. And not too serious. I recall an incident when I had been using Picasso’s painting ‘Guernica’ to try and illustrate that you should not always believe everything you see or hear. As we were about to go home, nine-year old Adam came and asked if I knew that the Basque country was the world’s greatest producer of broccoli. I asked him how on earth he had found that out – to which his reply was ‘don’t always believe everything you see or hear.’ Schools must offer, in the playwright David Hare’s words, both haven and challenge. Children thrive on challenge which they find meaningful and achievable. But they - we all - need to feel safe, especially in emotional terms, if they are to take risks and enable their creativity to flourish. For teachers, this involves creating in classrooms what I have called ‘hospitable space’, (Eaude, 2014), which is genuinely inclusive and welcoming, helping children to maintain and strengthen qualities such as curiosity, imagination, resilience and resourcefulness-
all, along with the ability to work co-operatively, essential in a world of change and uncertainty. A space for silence and reflection as well as for activity and exploration, for children to talk and not just to be talked at. Noddings (2013) suggests that young children – we all – need not only to be cared-for, but to care-for others. Hospitable spaces must not be too competitive. I am not against competition as such and am rather too competitive myself. But remorseless competition creates too many losers, all too often those from backgrounds where socio-economic factors and ethnicity have made exclusion and failure the norm. We need to recognise individual children’s needs, now Anjum and Leroy, as well as Mary and John, and how hard life is for many children, not as an excuse for low attainment, but as a prompt to remember how they may develop and succeed in many different ways, not just in terms of test scores, and to search for ways of enriching their lives. As Schiller argued, real, lasting change comes from the bottom up and we need to trust teachers. However weak and fallible we may be, or feel that we are, as teachers, part of our responsibility is to breathe life and soul into the curriculum – and no one is better placed to do so across the whole curriculum than the primary classroom teacher. Greater respect for students and display of more passion for teaching are among the key features of teacher expertise highlighted in the Cambridge Primary Review and as Robin Alexander indicates these are correlated with children’s academic success especially for younger and low-income students. (Alexander, 2010: 417-8). Thousands of children and adults look back on a primary school teacher who brought the curriculum to life for them and who believed in each Jesse or Martha enough to enable him or her to experience success, often when the evidence suggested otherwise. I wish to pay tribute to the many brave teachers and headteachers who manage to provide a broad and humane education, day in, day out, often against the
odds and in spite of policy. But we all need to escape from what Alexander calls a ‘culture of compliance’; and reclaim a sense of professionalism based on informed autonomy and judgement. Those outside the profession must regain the trust in teachers which has been undermined, notably by politicians, over the last thirty years. But those of us in the profession have to help, not least by becoming better at articulating our expertise and being less selfdeprecating than most primary teachers tend to be. We must learn to be more open, and more confident, in explaining to ourselves and to each other what ‘good practice’ or being ‘child-centred’ entails. We must challenge, and change, the language in which children, learning and teaching are considered, as I started to do earlier. All children, but especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, benefit from a broad range We must learn to of opportunities to be more open and engage their interests, more confident valuing and drawing on their existing in explaining to funds of knowledge ourselves and to each and encouraging active learning based other what ‘good especially on their own practice’ and being experience, observation ‘child-centred’ entails. and reflection on thisand their imagination. The humanities and the arts must be central, not peripheral, encouraging curiosity and playfulness and providing opportunities to deal with complexity, uncertainty and disagreement. On the first day of my PGCE course, as a relatively successful and academic history graduate, I was told to draw a vegetable. Somewhat reluctantly, I drew a green pepper, all too conscious - and somewhat resentful - that the result was not very good, compared to other people’s. This was, I now know, a result of Schiller’s thinking, not just because of his emphasis on the arts, but also to encourage teachers
to be a learner faced with feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty – something we as adults should all do more often, because it helps us feel what it is like not to know how to approach an unfamiliar or scary task. As I indicated, I do not recall exactly what Schiller said, but I remember vividly the authority with which he spoke and how he conducted himself. And that highlights my most important point – that who you are as a teacher, the example you set and how you interact with other people, especially children themselves, matters more, and will make a more lasting impression, than what you know. This is made manifest in the quiet word recognising when Tracey or Ajaz is finding life hard, or has finally achieved what they found difficult, the smile of encouragement, the nod of approval, the funny incident shared, the dreams acknowledged. Schiller tended to end his talks with a call to arms, most memorably ‘Fare forward voyagers!’ I cannot manage so memorable a phrase, but let us be brave and dare to dream. He recognised and warned his audiences that lasting change would be hard and slow, but essentially happens from the bottom upwards. We must not be naïve. Of course, the curriculum, assessment procedures and the inspection regime matter and should change. But we are the ones who can and must re-humanise primary education, starting with our own children, classes and schools, rather than expecting others to do it for us. Any change, especially one of beliefs and habits, is easier together. So, let us take a deep breath as we embark together on the arduous but essential journey of finding ways to re-humanise, and breathe new life and soul into, primary education.
Bruner, J. S. (1996) The Culture of Education. Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press. Donaldson, M. (1982) Children’s Minds. Glasgow: Fontana. Eaude T. (2014) ‘Creating hospitable space to nurture children’s spirituality: Possibilities and dilemmas associated with power’, International Journal of Children’s Spirituality, 19 (3–4): 236–248. Gonzales, N., L. Moll, and C. Amanti (2005) Funds of Knowledge. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Hargreaves, A. (2003) Teaching in the Knowledge Society – Education in the Age of Insecurity Maidenhead: Open University Press. Hargreaves, A. (2013) ‘Preface: The day of judgment’, in M. Newberry, A. Gallant and P. Riley (eds), Emotion and School: Understanding How the Hidden Curriculum Influences Relationships, Leadership, Teaching and Learning, xv–xx, Bingley: Emerald. Katz, L. (2003) Current issues and Trends in Early Childhood Education. In T.S. Saraswathi (Ed.) Cross Cultural Perspectives in Human Development: Theory, Research and Application (pp. 354-382). London, Sage. Noddings, N (1991) Stories in dialogue: caring and interpersonal reasoning in Witherell C. and Noddings, N. (eds) Stories lives tell: narrative and dialogue in education. (pp. 157-70) New York: Teachers’ College Press. Noddings, N. (2013) Caring – a Relational Approach to Ethics and Moral Education. Berkeley: University of California Press. Nussbaum, M. (2010) Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities. Princeton: Princeton University Press. RSA (Royal Society of Arts) (2014) Schools with Soul: A New Approach to Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Education. https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-andarticles/reports/schools- with-soul-a-new-approach-tospiritualmoral-social-and-cultural-education Schiller, C. (1979) Christian Schiller in his own words. London: A. and C. Black.
References: Alexander, R. (ed.) (2010) Children, Their World, Their Education – Final Report and Recommendations of the Cambridge Primary Review. Abingdon: Routledge. Alexander, R. (2016) What is Education For? Submission to the House of Commons Education Committee Inquiry into the Quality and Purpose of Education in England. Available at http://cprtrust.org.uk/wpcontent/uploads/2016/01/ HoCPurposes-Inquiry- CPRT-logo-1.pdf
Dr Tony Eaude is the former head of a primary school and has written widely about primary education. Details of his work can be seen on www.edperspectives.org.uk
Where We Stand The National Association for Primary Education is compiling a series of position papers which establish the association’s policies regarding important current issues. The papers provide the basis for our campaigning for worthwhile change in primary education and they are published on the NAPE website (www.nape.org.uk). Here are two position papers. The editor will be pleased to receive comments from members since there will undoubtedly be revisions in the future.
Evidence Based Policy The association is committed to evidenced based policy and this commitment is widely shared in the profession, most notably in schools. universities and government. Recently the minister for School Standards declared his faith in a “thorough interrogation of the research” as the basis for policy making. However doubts regarding this commitment must be raised when we examine the way in which research findings have been used to buttress political action in recent years. Research may well have been interrogated but it transpires that there has been little or no impact upon policies such as the expansion of grammar schools, synthetic phonics as the first, fast and only way of teaching reading, the phonic screening check and the segregation of children into ability streamed classes . Such measures are rooted more in political opinion than in the evidence which is disregarded when it doesn’t fit social and economic priorities. Improvement in the consideration of evidence is much needed. Fundamentally, there should be an acceptance that in education, and in primary education in particular, research findings can seldom be immediately transformational. Research contributes to the building up of insights which taken together and subject to the moderation provided by the experience of practitioners can change practice in an evolutionary way. Care must be taken to examine the validity of research and an essential safeguard is that the work should
be peer reviewed. This will help to ensure that there should be no bias either political or commercial. Currently the market-place is seen as an appropriate place for debate and there are many funders who are interested only in sponsoring research designed from the outset to produce outcomes which will have a beneficial effect on sales. Such motivation has had an adverse effect upon research into the teaching of phonics. It is essential to the search for evidence regarding primary education that we think beyond the simplistic “what works”. This instrumental mantra is much used by politicians who are over concerned with performance in examinations. Success in snapshot tests is what works through coaching but is a grossly inadequate measure of primary learning. Such learning is embedded in the whole child and in the early and primary years is more related to the growth of understanding than to performance. Many of the outcomes of primary teaching can only be weighed as evidence over a number of years as children mature and for this reason the value of longitudinal studies of children’s lives is emphasised. Ultimately the value of evidence can only be assessed in the light of the partnership between those engaged in research and the practitioners who may apply their findings. It will assist the maintenance, and to a large extent the restoration, of the integrity of research if government would stop cherry-picking evidence to support politically favoured policies and instead show support for, and confidence in, the links between schools and universities. And the latter should show
greater caution before accepting sponsorship of research whenever the intended sponsorship is tainted by the possibility of commercial gain.
successful teaching monitored by the university would be required before the award of qualified teacher certification.
The shaping of educational policy should be framed within a set of ethical values which we in NAPE see as bound up with the whole child and the inclusivity of approach. However, the way in which those values are transformed into a set of policies must be informed by the rigorous scrutiny of research evidence and not the language of rhetoric which characterises too much political discourse.
It is recommended that school based training (SCITT) should be phased out. Primary schools should be totally focused upon the growth and development of their pupils and schools are neither staffed nor equipped at the level required for the initiation of initial training. In addition the growing number of primary pupils makes it unlikely that appropriate accommodation can be made available for students. However the schoolsâ€™ valuable role should be to provide training and professional development through the experience of student teaching while supervised by a partnership of senior teacher and university tutor. Student teaching should be accompanied by opportunities for reading, reflection and discussion away from the many demands of the classroom. Such an environment is best provided by the university. In this way we can begin to develop the reflective teacher who is trained to consider what lies beneath the immediate actions of spontaneous young children.
The Initial Training of Primary Teachers Initial training should be a full time two year university centred course for students possessing graduate or equivalent status. Approximately half of the course should be spent in schools which partner the university in providing supervised experience in the classroom. Qualified teacher certification should be awarded following the successful completion of a third induction year. The status of students engaged in the second year of postgraduate study should be equivalent to that of junior doctors but they will only teach while supervised. The induction year will be monitored but probationer students may teach unsupervised on condition that the mentor is on easy call. While current staffing problems persist the government should consider the emergency training of mature students extending over a university centred year of 46 weeks of study. A further induction year of
The continuing day to day partnership between school and university will do much to halt the currently high level of premature wastage from the profession by teachers in the early years of their work. Teachers should be associate members of their local university and that university will provide an assurance of professionalism removed from day to day demands. Access to research and further study to second degree level and beyond should be an extended part of the relationship created in the three years of initial training.
An understanding of child development is of particular importance to those preparing for work in primary education. Students should be acquainted with the more important results of contemporary research, even when these are in dispute. Edited from: Central Advisory Council for Education (England) (1967) Children and their primary schools (The Plowden Report). London HMSO 983
Where to stick your stickers! by Jeremy Rowe
Let us look at the vexed question of rewards. Which really means, let us look at motivation. And in two short sentences we’re at the very heart of education and indeed the heart of bringing up children. Tiny babies respond to stimulus they enjoy: Being tickled brings a giggle. I’ll do this for you, and you’ll respond because you like what I do. As the baby grows, so early skills are acquired but not always for reward. The toddler stands up because he wants to, not for a reward although the praise and smiles of the parent certainly encourages further effort. It’s interesting that the toddler continues to try to stand despite falling down many times, his own desire driving his effort. We need to replicate this internal desire to make an effort to learn a new skill when we work with children - and indeed with all learners, whatever their age. Our focus must be on self-motivation, not external reward. The use of stickers in school is the exact opposite to this. Offering stickers and similar facile rewards completely undermines self-motivation and thus in the long run is destructive of learning. Recently we adopted two puppies. We took them to an experienced dog trainer to help make them obedient, to sit, to lay down and to return when they wander away. We had a long discussion about rewards with the dog trainer. He advocated petting and loving the dogs as a reward for behaving themselves and obeying instructions, but he recognised food as a second best
reward for good behaviour. Dogs love treats, especially tiny snacks of foods they especially like. Stand with a small piece of dried liver in your hand and your dog will sit, lay, roll over and do any kind of trick to earn the reward. It’s horrifying that some classrooms operate in a style which is very similar to dog training. Occasionally it’s even food that is used to get children to work and very often it’s stickers. Mostly stickers are used to motivate individuals. Sometimes children have little cards in which to collect their stickers but usually they wear them as badges of honour, particularly worth bearing at the end of the day when meeting parents. Not only do stickers destroy the notion of selfmotivation they also belittle the effort and imagination which goes into an excellent piece of work. The child has worked hard on a story or poem and produced an interesting and stimulating result. Being given a small sticky cartoon with the legend “Well done” or even “I did a good job today” is hopelessly inadequate as a reward for outstanding work. How much more rewarding to see the child’s work as well presented as possible and displayed in the classroom. How much better for the parent to receive the work at the end of the day - perhaps a photocopy to put on the fridge at home! Many schools take the rewards system a step further into systems of house points: Children are arbitrarily divided into houses and rewards are given as points which are totalled and shown on charts displayed in the assembly hall. In one school where I worked as a very young teacher, the winning house got a fish and chips supper! In the long run it’s essential for our children to develop self-motivation. They had it when they were babies struggling to stand up and it’s dreadful for teachers to substitute an external reward system which undermines and destroys that self motivation and devalues their learning. Many commercial firms make money by selling stickers and there are plenty of schools who have sold out to this crass system.
Ultimately, giving out stickers to children is a lack of respect for them. Our children are not dogs and they must not be treated as if they were. Get the stickers out of the classroom and any teacher who has become dependent on them must be helped to find a better way of managing learning. Imagine if Ofsted could fail a school for using stickers - now wouldn’t that be a breakthrough for children?
Jeremy Rowe is the former head of the Lyceum Independent Primary School
External incentives such as marks and stars and other rewards and punishments, influence children’s learning mainly by evoking or representing parents’ or teachers’ approval. Although children vary temperamentally in their response to rewards and punishments, positive incentives are generally more effective than punishment and neither is as damaging as neglect. But the children who most need the incentive of good marks are least likely to gain them, even when, as in many primary schools, they are given for effort rather than for achievement. In any case, one of the main educational tasks of the primary school is to build on and strengthen children’s intrinsic interest in learning and lead them to learn for themselves rather than from fear of disapproval or desire for praise.
Edited from: Central Advisory Council for Education (England) (1967) Children and their primary schools (The Plowden Report). London HMSO, 193-7
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR PRIMARY EDUCATION
Are you a recently qualified early years/primary teacher (QTS gained since June 2016)? 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 2019. 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. 35
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All prices include post and packing All prices include post and packing For a sale or return pack contact: For a sale or return pack contact: NAPE at 01604 647646 For a sale or return pack contact: or at 01604 647646 NAPE NAPE at 01604 647646 orFREEPOST orNAPE MID 24319 FREEPOST FREEPOST Moulton NAPE MID 24319 NAPE MID 24319 Northampton NN3 7BR
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We treat you like a thinking teacher, you put the children first and so do we. We include in-depth and forward looking articles about primar...
Published on Oct 2, 2018
We treat you like a thinking teacher, you put the children first and so do we. We include in-depth and forward looking articles about primar...