PrimaryFirst The journal for primary schools Issue 25 £5.00
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” Nelson Mandela
National Association for Primary Education
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?
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 £250 and either 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. Or you can identify your own issue for exploration which draws directly on your experience of teaching in the classroom and your developing professional awareness as a primary practitioner. This could, for example, relate to an area of responsibility you are taking on or might be linked to a masters level unit or might simply be an issue about which you feel passionate.
Are you keen to get something published in an educational journal and add it to your CV?
The article should be between 1500 and 2000 words and you are encouraged to select your own focus and title, irrespective of whether you select one of the above themes or opt for something different. 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 2020. 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.
Editorial The evidence that national testing as a measure of the quality of primary education is severely damaging to teaching and learning is now substantial. The consequent impoverishment of the curriculum, the harm to children’s well-being and the inaccuracy of the outcomes as the result of coaching are well documented. Even the schools’ minister has admitted that the testing is imposed as a means of ensuring that the schools are kept up to the mark and not as a way of helping children. Most worryingly of all is the unambiguous message that politicians simply do not trust us to do our work free from sanctions backed pressure. Increasingly parents are allied with teachers in calling for reform and the largest teachers’ union is preparing the ground for a withdrawal of professional cooperation in the administration of the tests. Worthwhile change cannot be long delayed and it is important that we ask the question --- what should replace national testing? Essential to the mapping of an alternative which is acceptable to the profession and to the families we serve must be a fundamental change in the relationships which underpin accountability. More accurate assessment should primarily be formative in the interests of the child. There must be an end to the current confusion between education and the assessment of outcomes so that the latter no longer distorts and limits learning. And above all teachers should be trusted and not coerced. Most primary schools are imbedded in the community from which they draw their pupils. Accountability, continuous and drawing on the parent teacher partnership, is best kept local, this is the accountability which is related to children’s progress. We should be confident in the use of teacher assessment honestly discussed with parents with the aim of agreement wherever possible about the needs and future of the child. Much early learning is implicit in the child’s being and cannot be measured easily through testing; attitudes, understanding, resourcefulness and an expectation of success are chief among the human characteristics upon which later learning depends. It is for this reason that the assessments made by teachers and parents are of high validity since they rest on the sharing of experience in life rather than upon the artificiality of the test question. The need to ensure a commonality of approach
can be achieved through the moderation of judgements by teachers coming together in each others’ schools. Once again it must be stressed that the reliance upon the assessments made by adults who have personal knowledge of the child must be based on a fundamental revaluing of the teacher’s work and a relationship embodying mutual trust. The essential need in a modern democracy to assess and monitor the standards achieved by the primary sector as a whole should no longer be geared to the assessment of the child’s progress. This has damaged the quality of primary education as schools have been forced to meet the officially declared expectations rather than on the perceived needs of the children. A national monitoring of system standards should be carried out by testing a sample of children distributed among many schools. No child would be required to answer more than one question and the pressure to coach for higher performance would no longer be present. It has been estimated that a sample of 5000 children would be of sufficient size to produce a reliable indication of national standards. This is a system used successfully in the past by the Assessment of Performance unit before SATs were introduced and a similar approach is used by PISA in making international comparisons. We will continue to campaign for the ending of national testing and the conflation of children’s progress with the accountability of schools to the government of the day. We will seek to replace national accountability with local accountability to the community served by the school and we will propose a sampling of standards achieved by children that will not have a damaging backwash on the quality of the curriculum. The most difficult task we have is to engender the major shift in the level of trust in teachers which must underpin the practical changes we propose. Equally difficult is the meeting of the challenge which would confront ourselves --- our professionalism would be required on a scale not experienced over the last 30 years during which successive governments have persisted in measures which have denied it. We must rise to a new challenge.
Editorial Editorial Board Photo Credit
John Coe Peter Cansell, Stuart Swann, Robert Young, Robert Morgan Sam Carpenter
Primary First journal is published three times per year by the National Association for Primary Education. Primary First, 57 Britannia Way, Lichfield, Staffordshire, WS14 9UY Tel. 01543 257257 Email: email@example.com ©Primary First 2019 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.
A NAPE position paper
Tony Eaude further deveops the campaign, Humanities 20/20
The sorry tale of Cyril Burt by John Edmonds
Freedom Without Chaos: A European project
The Literacy Pages
Sounding Off! Colin Richards discusses OFSTEDâ€™s view of the curriculum
Ruth Merttens questions the separation of maths and English
The Inner Curriculum
Humanities 20:20 by Tony Eaude
A campaign to embed the humanities within a balanced and broadly-based primary curriculum. This is a follow up to my article in the previous edition of Primary First, ‘Rethinking the humanities and why they matter in primary education.’ It describes a campaign called Humanities 20:20, which is supported by NAPE and several other organisations and was launched in May 2019. Humanities 20:20 aims to improve the quality of learning and teaching in the humanities; and in order to do so to: • raise the profile of the humanities in primary schools, especially in History, Geography, RE and citizenship; • empower all those involved in schools to consider how they can use the humanities as a context for educating children for the complex but fascinating world in which they live; and
• provide ways of sharing and encouraging creative, imaginative approaches. This campaign resulted from a long-standing worry that a group of educators (mostly involved with teacher education in the primary sector) had about the narrowing of the primary curriculum and marginalization of the humanities (and the arts). Too often the humanities have little time or priority allocated to them and may involve little more than children being taught a range of disconnected and abstract facts. This concern led to a themed issue of the journal Education 3-13 looking at the state of the humanities in primary schools in the four jurisdictions of the UK; and then a subsequent seminar in 2017. 05
As a result, a group of us drew up a manifesto as the basis for a campaign to improve the quality of learning and teaching in the humanities. This manifesto argues that the humanities are an essential element of the education of the whole child, as they help children to understand what, and how, it is to be human and to engage with the complexity of the world in which they live. The manifesto states that: ‘Put simply, the humanities matter because they enable children to: • consider questions about the meaning and purpose of their lives • explore their own identities, values and beliefs and concepts such as time, space and faith • develop skills and habits associated with critical and creative thinking • extend their cultural and imaginative horizons • learn to empathise with people who are different, as well as those who are similar, thereby celebrating diversity and challenging stereotypes • learn about democracy, global citizenship and sustainability • strengthen a sense of care for themselves, each other and the planet in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals’ As individuals, those of us involved in Humanities 20:20 inevitably have slightly different interests and emphases but we share a belief that the humanities are a necessary part of a balanced and broadly-based primary curriculum. In Eaude (2017), I argued that the humanities can usefully be understood broadly to include literature, drama and foreign languages, but the main focus of Humanities 20:20 is on History, Geography and Religious Education and citizenship. However, we suggest that subject boundaries should not be rigid and that ways of working such as fieldwork, observation, interpretation and analysis are essential to stimulate children’s questioning and strengthen their ability to think deeply and critically. We believe that such an approach is likely to encourage children to be, and become, active and thoughtful citizens and to help counter stereotyping. The chart below, from our manifesto, sets out some distinctive
concepts and ways in which learning through History, Geography, RE and citizenship education can stimulate children’s interests and enable them to be educated as active citizens in a world of change and diversity. HISTORY
Identify different historical perspectives. Explore continuity and change over time.
Think about causes and consequences.
GEOGRAPHY Explore how people and places interconnect and interact.
Examine place, space and scale, eg by using and making maps.
Consider interdependence and sustainability.
RELIGIOUS Explore religious beliefs, EDUCATION and practices.
Develop understanding of one’s own and other people’s values.
Consider issues of meaning and purpose.
CITIZENSHIP Explore diversity and fairness and how decisions are made.
Examine issues which affect communities and how people can have a say and make positive change.
Develop a commitment to active membership of democratic groups.
As stated in the Education Act of 2011 and previous legislation, all children are entitled to a balanced and broadly-based curriculum. Richards (2019) argues that balance and breadth are vague, rhetorical terms which have meaning only when ‘translated into clearer, less abstract ideas’. He rightly suggests that establishing the appropriate level of breadth is problematic and a
matter of judgment; and balance even more so. However, there is a strong argument on educational grounds for young children to have a broad range of experiences both to identify and develop their (sometimes hidden) talents and to provide several different bases – like the legs on a table - for their engagement with learning about themselves, other people and the world both now and in later life. And young children benefit from a balanced curriculum which provides and encourages different types of experience and ways of representing these, even if quite what the necessary balance entails may vary. We see the humanities, as part of a balanced and broadlybased curriculum, as an entitlement for all children, and especially important for children from disadvantaged backgrounds who are less likely to experience a broad range of opportunities outside school. Eaude and Catling (2019) outlines briefly how the humanities contribute to a balanced and broadly-based curriculum. Alternatively, you may wish to read my chapter in Ogier (2019), in which other chapters discuss what a broad and balanced primary curriculum entails in relation to many other areas, including the arts and science and mathematics. If you want a more detailed, academic view of the humanities in primary schools, then Eaude (2017) and Eaude et al. (2017) provide these. In essence, these articles argue that the humanities are about far more than children just learning factual knowledge related to History, Geography and Religious Education. Rather, the humanities involve ways of working which enable children to understand themselves and other people - what it is to be human – and become resilient, compassionate and thoughtful citizens, able to engage with complex, often contested, ideas which they will encounter. The best teaching of the humanities encourages and enables children to address such issues - about environmental damage, sustainability, migration, diversity, religious belief and identity – in ways, and at a level, appropriate to their age. We believe that even young children can, and need to, explore these issues. The humanities make a major contribution to children’s spiritual, moral, social and cultural development (SMSC), although SMSC development takes place throughout the school curriculum and the whole of children’s lives. Most children value and enjoy learning factual information and the skills and concepts associated with
different subjects and disciplines. But young children, especially, learn these most deeply through active, firsthand experience and by applying their knowledge in situations which they find real and meaningful. We are not suggesting a particular syllabus or that there is any one way to teach the humanities - that is a matter of professional judgement – but believe that headteachers and teachers should review at the curriculum and their teaching to see that these areas of learning and approaches are given greater prominence than seems to be the case in many schools. Moreover, we suggest that learning through the humanities provides a wonderful context to arouse and We see the humanities, maintain children’s interest, enabling them as part of a balanced and broadly-based to learn the concepts and ways of working curriculum, as an outlined above and entitlement for all to apply the skills associated with literacy children, and especially important for children and numeracy in a meaningful context. from disadvantaged For instance, a study of backgrounds one’s local community or a comparison between two or more cultures provides a good context for applying the skills associated with literacy and numeracy in a context where these are needed and meaningful. You may be wondering about the implications for assessment. Many of these aspects of children’s learning cannot be tested but this does not mean that they cannot be assessed. One useful way of seeing progress over time and engendering children’s pride in their work is through the collection of portfolios of work. But an emphasis on the humanities is also likely to be accompanied by the recognition that many important human qualities and types of knowledge cannot be easily or reliably tested. We recognize that providing a balanced and broadlybased curriculum is a challenge in a climate where results in tests frequently dominate how children are taught. But we believe that most primary teachers relish a challenge as long as this is in the best interests of the children in their care. And there is more to
education than what can be measured by tests; and few things more important than children understanding what it means to be human and to care for each other and the world. Ofsted’s new School inspection handbook states (2019: para 174) that: 1. some schools narrow the curriculum available to pupils, particularly in key stages 2 and 3, and that this has a disproportionately negative effect on the most disadvantaged pupils; 2. in key stage 1, inspectors need to check that pupils are able to read, write and use mathematical knowledge, ideas and operations so they are able to access a broad and balanced curriculum at key stage 2; and 3. inspectors will be particularly alert to signs of narrowing in the key stage 2 and 3 curriculums. While the first statement is correct, it seems that a majority of primary schools narrow the curriculum, especially in Year 6, to concentrate on what is to be tested in literacy and numeracy, given the importance accorded to these tests. The third statement provides a great opportunity and encouragement for headteachers and teachers to give more emphasis to the humanities and the arts. I find the second statement somewhat worrying, since although literacy and numeracy are obviously important, focussing on the skills associated with these out of context is unlikely to embed these as deeply as applying them in a context which children find meaningful and engaging. Indeed, doing so frequently leads to boredom and disengagement for those children who spend much of their time working at what they find difficult and often pointless. However, Ofsted’s expectation for the curriculum to remain as broad as possible for as long as possible (2019, para 170) and that ‘in primary schools, a broad range of subjects … is taught in key stage 2 throughout each and all of Years 3 to 6’ (2019, para 197) are welcome. I believe that it would help if inspectors were required to make a specific judgement on whether schools are providing a balanced and broadly based curriculum, though this seems unlikely. We believe that the new Inspection Framework offers an opportunity for schools and teachers to consider how to provide the balanced and broadly-based curriculum
which enables young children to thrive. Humanities 20:20 will try to encourage and empower schools and teachers to do so. We do not believe that such a curriculum should be available only in Key Stage 2 and subsequently. Indeed, we believe that it is especially important for younger children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. We know that there is a great of wonderful learning and teaching in the humanities taking place in primary schools, often against the odds. We hope to encourage and share creative, imaginative and enjoyable (for children and adults) approaches and empoweer teachers to try these in their own schools and classrooms. But we are only a small group, although we have the support of many individuals and organizations, and can only do so much. Success will depend on hundreds and thousands of headteachers, teachers, parents and children working together to make this a reality at classroom and school level; and helping to shape the campaign and how it develops over the next year and a half, till the end of 2020. We hope you will wish to join us. Please look at the website www.humanities2020. org.uk to see the manifesto and the flyer, sign up to show your support and follow us on Twitter at Humanities2020. We would love to know your views, what you have done successfully and what you plan to do, so that you can act as an inspiration to others and vice-versa. If you would like to contribute a short case study about your work in the humanities, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or me at tony@ edperspectives.org.uk Please let other people, teachers, headteachers, teacher educators, parents, children everyone know about Humanities 20:20. And help turn this vision into a reality by trying out the sorts of approach described above and not being constrained by a narrow view of what education involves. In the end, we will make change happen by creating and taking the opportunities to provide the balanced and broadlybased curriculum to which all children are entitled. Together we can really make a positive difference to young children’s lives and their futures.
References: Eaude T. (2017) Humanities in the primary school philosophical considerations. Education 3–13 45(3): 343–353.
Ogier S. (ed) (2019) A Broad and Balanced Curriculum in Primary Schools: Educating the Whole Child. London: SAGE
Eaude T., Butt G., Catling, S., and Vass, P. (2017) The future of the humanities in primary schools – reflections in troubled times. Education 3–13 45(3): 386–395.
Richards, C. (2019) Broad? Balanced? Curriculum? Impact (the journal of the Chartered College of Teaching), Issue 6, 12-15.
Eaude, T. and Catling., S. (2019) The role of the humanities in a balanced and broadly-based primary curriculum, Impact (the journal of the Chartered College of Teaching), Issue 6, 59-61 Ofsted (2019) School inspection handbook Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/educationinspection-framework accessed 30th May 2019
Dr Tony Eaude is an independent consultant and writer. He was previously the headteacher of SS. Mary and John First School in Oxford.
Freedom Without Chaos A European project funded by the Erasmus+ programme from the EU by Steve Davies It was an easy decision to apply for and gain funding for a two-year European project which would promote all children’s autonomy in their learning process and which would help to develop staff awareness of the need for children to be in control of and drive their own learning needs. Easy because this is what my two schools are good at and because I have personal experience of working with the Dalton programme in Dutch schools where they are leading the world in such practices. Some thought we were mad to even be thinking of entering a European project at the very time when Britain was exiting Europe, but with governors on board and all staff excited at the prospect of European exchange visits and the opportunity of hosting a first ever European educational cultural ex-change conference on the Isle of Sheppey, we applied and received the funding. Once we had advertised and chosen our European partner schools via the E-Twinning platform we embarked on a journey that would take us to the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Lithuania to schools where children were highly independent and confident in what they were doing. So much so, that in one school we visited the children were using knives to whittle wood without adult supervision. My teachers, the product of an educational system that seeks to control and test children to death, were horrified and cried “Health and safety health and safety!!” But this was Holland and this was Dalton where all children are given the freedom to drive their own learning, are expected to self-initiate their play and learning experiences and to resolve conflicts themselves with each other. In another school we saw children playing football in the car park (as this
was the largest space they had for the game) and the gates were unlocked and open. This system is based on trust and the whole community buys into it.
Polish and portugese colleagues arrive in Sheppey for the first international conference to launch our project.
My aim in taking our schools into such a project was to widen the teachers’ experiences of what learning could and should be about, to broaden their thinking around what can be achieved when we put the child at the centre of everything we do in school. I also wanted to ensure that the curriculum we offered to our children was going to provide deep level learning opportunities, which they could help to plan, take ownership of and evaluate. The Dalton programme was originally in England in the early 20th century and Helen Parkhurst, its founder was a visionary and years ahead of her time. She believed that children should be heard and seen and promoted the notion that children should be free to develop their own learning skills but not in a chaotic manner. Dalton has proper structures. *See Piet Van Der Ploeg’s book; “Dalton Plan: Origins and Theory of Dalton Education”.
Dalton dies off in the UK, almost entirely as a pedagogy, with the introduction of the Butler Education Act but the Dutch take it up and really develop the theory and practice. Hence why there are hundreds of schools in the Netherlands which now follow this philosophy and they are amongst the top performing schools in the country. We are delighted that De Dolfijn School just outside of Raalte, in Eastern Holland has joined the project as they are a true fully-fledged Dalton practicing school which we have already had the opportunity to visit as part of our project. In just one visit the young teachers we took from the EYFS and KS 1 classes across our federation have been totally inspired. Our teachers are now introducing child led planning and visual timetables for children as young as 5 years old. They are also enabling children to lead the learning process much more effectively. There is much more talk for learning and they are totally basing their approach on what they saw not only at De Dolfijn, but also at De Branning school, another Dalton pedagogical institution which we also had the opportunity to visit as part of the project. I have been visiting this particular school in the Deventer area, for many years and have great friends there such as Tinika the Ex-Head Teacher, who was a true visionary and Yolonga a wonderfully talented and passionate Dutch Special needs Leader.
Despite not having seen them for the past 5 years or so they greeted me like an old friend and it was as if we had seen each other yesterday, as they were eager to show me new purpose-built buildings which had been designed (by specially chosen architects) with and by the children. Buildings that gave ample opportunity for children to work in small groups, and for children to work independently and buildings that were built for the very purpose of educating the children in the Dalton way and not just because they were the cheapest options. The Dutch authorities invest in their future, which is their children, so things like new buildings in schools have to be gotten right. Our teachers have now led successful staff inset sessions on the Dalton approach and we are focussing our attention on EYFS and Key Stage 1 classes to ensure that the philosophy groxws with the children as they go through our school. In two years time when the project’s life span is at its end we fully intend to apply for a further two years of funding so that we can roll the approach out to our Key Stage 2 classes to ensure that this system of child-led learning continues to embed throughout both of the schools here on the Isle of Sheppey. It has been a joy to see our teachers get so fired up about a pedagogy and to be part of yet another European exchange project from which we can all learn so much. It is even more inspiring to see the children’s approach to this way of working which is having a real impact on their ability to learn and their environment for learning also. The aims of the project are simply: • To enable the exchange and dissemination of ideas, pedagogies and practices from three different European schools in order to improve children’s learning outcomes in all partner schools.
Chickens are kept by the children at De Braning School in the Netherlands.
• To form a key alliance between a higher education institution in order to foster research-based innovation and creativity to fully impact on, and improve children’s and teachers’ knowledge and learning outcomes. 11
12 • To ensure wider and more effective professional development for teachers and all school staff. • To ensure that all children are included in the learning process and that they are all able to plan, fully participate in, and assess their own learning opportunities and successes. • To enable the children to have a better understanding of themselves as learners and to appreciate the need to be tolerant of others. • To encourage Children and teachers to have a more international outlook and to appreciate that global issues do have an impact on their lives both in and outside of school. These aims drive all that we are doing in the project and teachers in all partner schools are already reporting that they feel empowered. The learning they are planning for and with the children is now of a higher standard than previously. So even before we do the formally agreed project evaluation exercises, we can truly say that the project is starting to make a difference to children’s learning outcomes across all of our schools.
Hazel Brewer-head Of Schools, myself and The teaching team from our two schools on the isle of Sheppey loving being in Holland to see Dalton schools.
At this point in time we are looking forward to the second year of this international cooperation and we have planned our next Trans National Teacher Exchange Meeting for September when we will head off to Poland to see how the Przedszkole Kindergarten promotes and delivers the Dalton pedagogy to its 2 to 4-year olds. Following on from this we will travel to Portugal to the Agrupamento De Escolas Jose Regio School where they are running many different programmes which promote independent learning and where they are very big on pupil voice and children’s democracy. Like the teachers at my school this old and very experienced Head Teacher is very much looking forward to learning more and more new learning strategies and techniques from our European friends, and whilst the UK government still battle with how to leave we will be booking our flights and planning how to arrive....
Steve Davies is Executive Head Teacher of the Sheerness West Federation of Rose Street and West Minister primary schools. His experience extends over 32 years both as a teacher across all age ranges, SENCO and executive head teacher. He is about to take up a headship in Redbridge.
More information regarding the project can be found at www.freedomwithout chaos.com
National Association for Primary Education
NAPE promotes the very best opportunities for children's learning through: • sharing exemplary teaching approaches • bringing together groups of colleagues for support • developing a strong professionalism • providing conferences with speakers of national reputation • publishing Primary First, a reflective and informative journal • enabling debate about innovative teaching
NAPE is an important national voice for early and primary education. We influence government and its agencies through: • engaging with consultations and formulating responses • participating in discussions at the highest level with other organisations • Issuing media releases and influencing public opinion • responding to media enquiries • participating in radio and TV interviews
Members are kept up to date and fully involved through the NAPE website www.nape.org.uk By joining NAPE you become part of a nationwide movement to improve the status and resourcing of early years and primary education. You will gain not only from a fellowship of shared aims and expertise but also from an increasing range of benefits available to members and school communities.
Join us now through our website or by emailing to email@example.com The office administrator at 01604 647646 will be happy to answer any queries. Payment can be made through BACS, Paypal or cheque. • Individual membership £30 • School Community membership, Group 1 £40, Group 2 and above £55 • No fee is due from student teachers. 13
The Book Pages by Carey Fluker Hunt
Uneasy fame: historical heroines and their relationship with a world that wasn’t ready for them Three picture books for KS2 set in the early twentieth century Back in the days of corsets and long skirts, girls were not expected to be physically brave or financially astute, and they certainly weren’t supposed to know more than men. But some just didn’t conform. Elsie Wright and her cousin Frances Griffiths took photos of fairies that electrified the world. Joan Procter was a fearless expert who left her mark on science despite her disability, and Annie Taylor was the last person you’d expect to barrel-ride a waterfall. Willingly or not, the four of them grabbed public attention by exercising their abilities in unusual spheres, and as these picture books for older readers demonstrate, their stories make vivid and compelling reading. Textual approaches vary from Sender’s lyrical minimalism to van Allsburg’s in-depth reportage, but it’s their sophisticated and intriguing illustrations that really set these books apart. Words and pictures work together to create evocative story worlds, drawing us into emotional landscapes and immersing us in something more than we expect. All three titles will spark interest and motivate children to explore, investigate and respond.
Queen of the Falls by Chris van Allsburg (Andersen Press, 2011)
“How could anyone, let alone a woman, survive a trip over Niagara Falls?” In 1901 at the age of 63, you might have expected charm-school proprietress Annie Taylor to slip into genteel retirement. Instead she decided to ride the Niagara Falls in a barrel - a feat that gained her a taste of the fame she craved, but not the fortune. Van Allsburg uses sepia-coloured documentary-style images, unusual angles and cinematic close-ups to capture Annie’s bravado and pathos. Her story evokes mixed feelings and will inspire discussion and debate.
Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor by Patricia Valdez and Felicita Sala (Andersen Press, 2018)
“What kind of woman runs a reptile house?” Joan didn’t play with dolls, she played with lizards, and when she became curator of the Natural History Museum’s reptile collection, those that knew her weren’t surprised. Women weren’t expected to take such roles but times were changing. Joan went on to design the reptile house at London Zoo and achieved widespread media attention in the late 1920’s when she treated a Komodo Dragon for a mouth infection. This picture book tells an engaging story with immense style and, like its heroine, it has a strong and eccentric heart. It makes a great starting point for independent scientific and historical research.
The Cottingley Fairies by Ana Sender (NorthSouth, 2019)
“Without expecting it, lots of people paid attention to us…” In 1917, Frances and Elsie took photographs of fairies and made headlines around the world. But did they fake the pictures? No-one knew. Friendly yet sophisticated and serious yet humorous, this book tells the story from the girls’ perspective – how they made paper cut-outs that fooled the public, how their fairy friends kept messing up their shots, how the adults didn’t understand that fairies could be real and not-real, both at once - and offers rich opportunities for creative exploration.
Carey Fluker Hunt is a freelance writer, creative learning consultant and founder of Cast of Thousands, a website featuring a selection of the best children’s books and related cross-curricular activities. Find her at www.castofthousands.co.uk
Chalk and cheese? By Ruth Merttens
We start with a question â€“ at primary level, are maths and English two subjects or one? Maths and English are two cornerstones of the KS1 and 2 curriculum yet in most primary schools they are seen as totally different and separate disciplines. However, many children who are completely fluent in numerical procedures struggle with the SATs maths reasoning paper and many good readers fail to achieve top marks in the comprehension SAT. There is also, it appears, a socio-economic factor at play in success in both these papers. Understanding that reasoning, unlike mathematical problem solving, is a linguistic skill, is part and parcel of seeing how these two subjects are not as polarised as we may have imagined and that success may well depend on teaching along the overlap.
In this article, I shall begin with maths (as many might expect me to!) and demonstrate the linguistic aspects of some parts of the current maths curriculum. I shall then move on to discuss these same higher-level skills in relation to the English curriculum. The third and final section will suggest some perhaps radical ideas whereby we may rethink our practice in relation to these two disciplines. Over the last couple of years, I have increasingly encountered a wail of something very like despair from Y6 teachers and senior managers, including many head teachers. ‘Why, oh why,’ they enquire, ‘do so many of our children who have really achieved a high level of numerical fluency still do so poorly in the Reasoning Paper?’ And the answer leads us into interesting territory. Reasoning, I argue, is not a mathematical skill as such, but is much better described as a linguistic skill. We need to distinguish reasoning from problem solving, that quintessentially mathematical ability to see a way to finding solutions when the questions have yet to be formulated.
This thesis is easiest to demonstrate practically. Spend a couple of minutes finding the one-word answers to a couple of these puzzles below. (All the answers are naturally mathematical!)
• The course of the Nile is wrong • The Italian is flattened by the weight • Lines can be improved by hags with effective publicity • Automobile Association is naturally about this region Some people, those who polish off the Times Crossword over their breakfast muesli, may find these pathetically easy. But many highly intelligent teachers will puzzle over them for a while, perhaps getting increasingly frustrated in the process. In this state they have much in common with the poor Y6 child who, numerate as they are, find that some questions on the Reasoning Paper may as well be written in Greek. A highly numerate teacher may not
18 be able to answer these questions because they do not require simply mathematical knowledge but the ability to perform quite high-level reasoning within that domain. This is even more apparent when we look at some of the questions for 10 and 11 year old children which are presented as ‘reasoning’ in today’s mathematics curriculum.
• In a dance, there are three boys and two girls in every line. Forty-two boys take part, so how many children in all are dancing? • A cat sleeps for 18 hours each day and 75% of its life is spent asleep. A koala sleeps for 16 hours a day so what fraction of its life is spent asleep? • If I multiply a number by 3 and subtract 9, what is the number when my answer is the product of 3 and 8?
Leaving out the fact that children are expected to answer such questions under test conditions and in a highly stressful situation, it is fair to say that many adults, drawn at random from the street, would find these challenging. In order to demonstrate the specifically linguistic nature of the challenge involved, let us look analytically at the similarities between these and the crossword conundrums I posed earlier. 1. Both assume an ability to use words and language in complex ways – for example, the relevant information is not given in order, and key aspects of what you need to know may be provided last. 2. Sentences are frequently convoluted rather than simple, often with fronted adverbials or subordinate clauses, making them tricky to decipher. The use of the passive voice is also common, ‘multiplied by’ or ‘added to’ rather than the more easily understood active construction.
3. There are linguistic ‘codes’ which are helpful if not essential. For example, knowing that ‘wrong’ in a crossword indicates an anagram helps us solve the first clue, and realising that the ‘product’ referred to in question 3 is one number times another helps us to find a solution. 4. It may be hard to distinguish what is necessary information and what is extraneous. For example, ‘naturally’ in the fourth clue is not really helping us to solve it and neither is the fact that the cat sleeps 75% of its day in the second question. 5. Sometimes there is extra information which is not given, and that you need to bring to the question, e.g. the fact that a day is 24 hours and the fact that ‘flattened’ in boxing is KO (knocked out). 6. Sometimes background knowledge implicitly helps us, for example understanding how a line dance works or that PR is ‘effective publicity’. Often, this is culturally biased information, so that those from pre-dominantly white, middle-class subcultures are more likely to possess this knowledge. A couple of further points need to be made. In relation to the questions on the Reasoning Papers in maths, a quick analysis shows that between a third and a half of the questions are ‘word problems’ by any reasonable definition of that term. And so it is hardly surprising that higher-level literacy skills inevitably enter the equation. Also, many questions draw on two or more areas of mathematics which were often taught separately, e.g. decimals and fractions. Children then need to bring these together, and whilst this may be a good thing, there is no denying that it involves a more abstract level of thinking. This assumes a cognitive maturity (in the Piagetian sense of that term) which may not yet have developed in an emotionally immature 10/11 year old. We shall return to this point later in the article. Many children, despite having attained a good degree of numerical fluency, find the reasoning paper
tricky. These are the same children who, despite being fluent readers, find the Comprehension Paper presents a similar challenge. This is not surprising as the comprehension papers draw upon a similar set of reasoning strategies. This is apparent if we cast our eye back over the similarities listed above and apply it to the questions on the Comprehension SAT. Any experienced teacher reading it carefully will see that every single point about what makes the questions tricky equally well applies to the Comprehension Paper. These are high-level linguistic skills we are demanding. It is necessary here to think back to our training when we studied the theories and analysis which underpins our teaching of the complex skills required in learning to read. These may be helpfully categorised under two distinct headings. (Many teachers will recall their university lectures on this subject but some, sadly, may not have had the benefit of an input from higher education, so it is worth briefly rehearsing this theoretical grounding.) •
The first aspect is nowadays referred to as ‘decoding’, although its slightly wider reach is better captured by the original term: secretarial skills. Sadly, this aspect of reading is currently subjected to an excessive focus and fanatical over-testing, so much so that parents may be excused for believing this to be the only aspect of learning to read. They are quite wrong. The second aspect consists of what are nowadays termed ‘higher-level literacy skills’. But again, the original characterisation was a more useful and accurate description: semiotic or meaningmaking skills.
Both these aspects are, of course, critical, but the reason I stress the second when talking to parents is that it is this aspect which can get overlooked in our haste to get children through the phonics test or progressing up the ladder of staged-reading books. Sharing books, listening to a story which is well beyond their own reading capability, discussing their
predictions and ideas, following a complex narrative, understanding flashbacks and other time-manipulating devices, and entering the setting, mind and world of another person are all part of the hugely important and complex process of engaging in narrative. Reading comprises all these skills and more. As Gordon Wells reminded us in his seminal text The Meaning Makers (1989), learning to read is a boundary phenomenon – it occurs on the boundary of teacher and learner, as shared meanings are jointly constructed. It is these higher-level skills that form the ground on which the ability to reason is able to be developed and flourish. And this ability to reason is now being tested at a younger age, and more ferociously than ever before. It occurs in both maths and English and is the cause of many children, particularly those from areas of lower socio-economic status not achieving the grades we both want and expect. There is a reason why the largely anecdotal evidence about the role that class/ ethnicity play here is important. It would seem highly likely, a priori, that if background knowledge plus the ability to juggle with complex sentence constructions and convoluted language are critical factors in succeeding here, then this will act to advantage certain children – namely those who have families consistently using ‘standard English’ and who have been immersed since birth in, to use a well-known shorthand, ‘elaborated’ rather than ‘restricted’ code*. A further point needs to be made. Throughout my teaching career, I have felt myself to be more of a Vygotskian than a Piagetian in terms of the theoretical ground on which my teaching prescriptions were based. However, like David Wood in How Children Think and Learn (1988), and my old friend, Martin Hughes in Children and Number (1986) and also like Vygotsky himself, I have a healthy respect for much of what Piaget taught us. And the notion of intellectual or cognitive maturity is one of those ideas that it is foolish, if not actively dangerous, to ignore. Although the notion of ‘stages of development’ can and has been deconstructed, not least by the three academics 19
20 mentioned above, none-the-less we are all aware as teachers that children can be simply ‘not ready’ to learn something. Similarly, experience, not only in teaching but in life, teaches us that a particular form of abstract thinking develops at different paces and over time. And time, as well as differences of pace, are precisely what is ignored by the pressure of national, influential tests and a promise to suggest ways of teaching, ‘along the overlap’ between maths and English which might enable us to prevent competent children from ‘coming a cropper’ so to speak, on those papers which involve a high level of reasoning. As will be apparent if we consider, for a third time, the list in blue above, the engagement with language here is far from simple. Furthermore, since we are firmly in the territory of meta-skills, i.e. knowing which specific skill to draw upon, and when, it is not possible to teach reasoning strategies directly. In general it is much We cannot simply better for children to be demonstrate or active rather than passive model these as in their learning. This has we would a skill, profound implications at and children the level of literacy and cannot learn them numeracy. Children should though a process encode before decoding of imitation and repetition. (This simple texts, they should is more or less generate before solving definitive of a word problems in maths. the difference between meta-skills and skills.) Therefore, we are as teachers, dependent on the much more intricate process of providing the experiences that children require to develop these meta-skills themselves. And I do believe that we come back to the type of integrated learning that some of us grew up with as young teachers. The ability to reason is closely linked to the nature and type of interactions children have in discussion with others, and particularly with their teachers.
Clearly, stories and other narratives are a good starting point here, as the elaboration of retelling, prediction, description, the recognition of story-patterns and the de-centring required to see things from a narrator’s perspective are all critical aspects of this learning. Children immersed in stimulating, sympathetic, even inspirational works, and able to take time to share and discuss these, will be learning to reason as they breathe in these stories or other texts. They will inevitably be hearing and using complex language and tricky sentence constructions. Put simply, they will be speaking and listening, and therefore thinking, outside and beyond the confines of their own skilldevelopment, either in decoding or in numeracy. As well as the determination to reinstate the importance of wider literary discussion as well as literacy skills practice, there are some pragmatic tips to be offered. In general it is much better for children to be active rather than passive in their learning. This has profound implications at the level of literacy and numeracy. Children should encode before decoding simple texts, they should generate before solving word problems in maths. Children who have much loved familiar books ‘read’ these because they know what is said on each page. As Bettleheim demonstrates in (1982) children who know a text off by heart and who then read it are seeing that what they speak is written in text; strictly they are encoding as they read. Children who construct, say and subsequently write, word problems in maths before they attempt to solve them will do much better. So with every new skill taught and learned in maths, we always suggest that teachers should encourage children to generate and write their own problems as a necessary precursor to solving them. Thinking along similar lines, it is also an excellent idea to ‘go backwards’ at reasoning strategies. This becomes clearer if we think about ourselves trying to solve the conundrums presented at the start of this article.
A good way of helping someone get into this is to give them a few answers and help them to go ‘backwards’, from the answer to the clue, and hence to understand how the cryptic crossword clue is constructed. The answer to ‘Lines can be improved by hags with effective publicity’ is g r a p h s – being an anagram of H A G S (rearrange the letters) with the two letters P R (publicity) added. Understanding this may well help me to solve the first clue. Similarly with children solving numerically-based word problems. If they go backwards, having the answer to a problem, can help them see how it came to be formulated in sentences and words. I often give children several problems alongside their answers and challenge them to explain to me how each particular problem comes to have the answer it does. The same tactic works very well in answering complicated comprehension questions, especially on an unfamiliar and perhaps alien (in terms of children’s life experience) text. It is impossible to emphasise enough the role of speech and discussion in all of this. Neither pure repetition nor endless practice will ever achieve an advance in reasoning skills, either in maths or English. But reading Harry Potter to children, pausing and discussing, encouraging speculations, may quite literally improve schools’ scores on the maths SATs reasoning papers, as well as the comprehension papers. I have argued in this article that subjecting both what we are teaching and children are learning to a theory-based analysis can and does help us to see why some parts of the curriculum are proving difficult or intransigent. Reasoning, which is critical to the current mathematics as well as English curriculum, is primarily a linguistic skill, and it is only when we recognise this that we can begin the process of deciding what experiences we can provide which will best encourage children’s own development of this vital set of meta-skills. What we may term a Gradgrind era has been ushered in by the introduction of Academies and concomitant overbearing monitoring of teachers’ and children’s
progress. This has had many consequences, many of them inimical to children’s development and some, I would argue, actively harmful to their well-being. There is also a perceived lack of trust in teachers’ own professionalism and instincts. Everything must be prescribed, including, if it were possible, every minute of every day. But, as I have shown, this approach is very unlikely to lead to the results desired. Before these sad times, a teacher seeing a hedgehog on the school playground or picking up a fallen birds’ nest would have tailored her teaching for that day to incorporate this exciting discovery. A new book by Anthony Browne meant a palpable excitement in the class, as we waited for storytime. Snow falling unexpectedly in April ushered in a day of writing poems about individual flakes and experimenting with melting times. I am not arguing for no formal curricula; nor am I advocating a lessening of time spent on teaching ‘the basics’, whatever these are. But I am suggesting that we as teachers should trust our instincts and remember that children talk and listen most enthusiastically when they are inspired to do so, and that they learn higherlevel skills by being interested in the topic. We need to return to practices which have their origin in the excitement of the teacher and refuse to relegate these to the back of the cupboard. They are the stuff and substance of good primary education, and it’s time we shouted about it.
Professor Ruth Merttens is Co-Director of the Hamilton Trust. She s responsible for the oversight of all the Trust’s work in education and has led many new Initiatives.
A Nape position paper January, 2019
Grammar Schools and Selection for Entry There are 163 grammar schools educating 118200 pupils situated in a quarter of local education authorities. This may be compared to the 3000 comprehensive and secondary modern schools currently at work across England and Wales. The relatively small number of grammars is a hangover from the reorganisation of secondary education prompted by Government Circular 10/56 which requested authorities to take action. At that time the ending of 11+ selection was supported right across the political spectrum but in the intervening years right wing opinion has changed and this has culminated in the allocation in December 2018 of ÂŁ50m to facilitate the creation of 4000 additional places for disadvantaged children. Public opinion remains in favour of comprehensive education and it is noted that this latest political move seeks to broaden selectivity rather than reinforce any current narrowness in approach. The Association deplores the expansion of selective education and remains in outright opposition to the bipartite structure of secondary education. This view is confirmed by international studies which show that the countries which outperform the UK have abandoned selectivity of the kind that grammar schools represent (1). The creaming off of able and well supported children has a profoundly damaging impact upon the other schools serving a community and this leads to lower overall standards. We remain deeply concerned about the impact of 11+ selection on primary education. Too often the curriculum is narrowed and concentrated on preparations for the tests. Private coaching is
widespread which results in selection related to family income rather than innate ability. Furthermore selection tests are inaccurate and cannot predict with sufficient accuracy which children will profit from an academically focused education. It has been shown that a third of those selected could be exchanged for the non selected without any effect on the grammar school profile of ability (2). The 11+ remains a lottery and so much depends on where the children live -- 10 % of the age group are selected in some authority areas whereas this rises to 30 % and even 40 % in others (3). Comprehensive secondary schools have led to higher levels of staying-on, attainment and university entrance and performance (4). Above all, every child is free from the stain of failure which confronts between two thirds and three quarters of the children who do not gain a grammar school place. It is significant that most adults who were failures at the age of eleven find it difficult to refrain from remembering and telling others about it in later life. Early failure has a powerfully negative effect upon learning and life. The implementation of the complete restructuring of secondary education will await a political initiative and the Association offers the following evolutionary way of completing the overdue reorganisation of secondary schools. Understandably grammar schools command loyalty on the part of their staff and the families of children who have survived the lottery of 11+ selection. An abrupt change in function would risk losing traditional expertise and it is important that slower evolutionary change would cushion consequent changes to staffing and resources. The grammar schools should be asked to occupy a worthwhile place
in the comprehensive 11 to 18 structure. Accordingly it is proposed that grammar schools should evolve into selective sixth form colleges over a period of five years. Existing pupils would retain their places but 11+ selection would be ended and there would be no further admissions into Year 7. It will be argued that the proposal simply postpones selection for five years. This is true but it is emphasized that selection at the age of 16 + is a totally different matter when compared to 11+ selection. The younger the selection the more inaccurate and damaging it is. By the later age the choice between academic and vocational courses is much more the preference of the student and the family. The newly evolved grammar sixth form colleges would be an integral element within a range of availability and it is suggested that selection could well be by choice rather than testing.
The Associationâ€™s intention as a first and substantial step in the lessening of the destructive impact of selection by testing is to create a universal system of comprehensive 11-16 secondary schools. We have waited far too long to bring educational opportunity to all our children.
References A Family Affair: Intergenerational Social Mobility Across OECD Countries / Education at a Glance 2011. H. G. Armstrong: Research for the West Riding of Yorkshire LEA 1966. Campaign for State Education, Briefing: Grammar Schools. January, 2015 Destination Measures 2010/11 and 2011/12 (DfE 2014)
The father of the 11-plus; the sorry tale of Cyril Burt by John Edmonds Why on earth do we still have the 11-plus? An education system which splits children up when theyâ€™re young and brands three-quarters of them as failures should have no place in a civilised society. Yet it still persists. Each year thousands of children in England take an 11-plus or its equivalent. The sorry tale of how we got into this miserable mess should be better known. It concerns an educational psychologist who was too arrogant to admit he might The system of academic be wrong. his selection which still name was Cyril blights the English Burt and during education system the last century he was recognised as was based on the the major British theories of Burt and authority on the the psychologists who intelligence of followed his lead. children. Burt believed that intelligence was innate. Early in his career, in 1909, he noticed that upper-class children in private preparatory schools did better in IQ tests than children in ordinary elementary schools. His conclusion, which now seems laughable, was that the difference had little to do with a privileged upbringing, a better resourced school or diligent coaching. Burt believed that rich children scored better than poor children because intelligence was inherited and that rich children in private schools had cleverer parents than the poorer children in the elementary schools. He strived to prove this theory by studying identical twins who had been separated at birth and brought
up in different conditions. In a series of much quoted articles he reported that external circumstances were irrelevant. Even after living apart identical twins scored the same as each other in IQ tests. Burt insisted that this inherited intelligence was fixed and unchangeable. An IQ test taken early in life would reveal which children were bright and which were less intelligent. There was no point in trying to raise the performance of 10 or 11 year olds who did badly in IQ tests because their score would stay much the same throughout their lives. Burtâ€™s influence was enormous. He was called the father of educational psychology and he certainly fathered the 11 plus. He developed and publicised the IQ tests on which it was based and he was consultant to the committees that designed the examination. The system of academic selection which still blights the English education system was based on the theories of Burt and the psychologists who followed his lead. So, whatever the many objections to an education system based on selection -- and in the 1950s the Labour Party even described the 11-plus as evil -supporters of selection could believe it was founded on good research undertaken by one of the best known scientists of his generation. Burt had received a host of awards and had been knighted for the brilliance of his work. But then came the scandal which should have changed everything. Burt lived to a ripe old age but. soon after he died in 1971, academics re-examined his work. To a few sceptics, Burtâ€™s research had always looked a little too neat to carry conviction
and, when other researchers found it difficult to replicate his results, the suspicions multiplied. Burt claimed to have compared the IQ scores of 53 pairs of separated twins, but separated twins are a rarity and other researchers had failed to find half that number. Burt’s articles reported that the IQ scores of these separated twins were not just close but sometimes identical, which seemed farfetched. Burt also failed to explain how he got hold of some of the material used in his later research. More bizarre, two research assistants named in his articles could not be traced and the Sunday Times alleged that Burt had made them up to give greater credence to his work. Psychologists took sides. Was Burt really a great man or just a fraud? While the controversy was splitting the profession, Leslie Hearnshaw, one of Burt’s closest friends, was working on Burt’s biography. Hearnshaw said that he expected his research to vindicate Burt. However, after examining the evidence, Hearnshaw sadly concluded that the allegations against Burt were largely correct. From time to time the evidence is reviewed in some new book or article but the accusations of fraud have never gone away. The American psychologist, Leon Kamin, who first exposed the flaws in Burt’s research is resolute in his judgement: ‘The numbers left behind by Professor Burt are simply not worthy of our current scientific attention’.
Moreover neuroscience has contradicted most of Burt’s theory. Intelligence is not frozen at birth. The brain is plastic and continues to develop well beyond the age of 11. An IQ test taken at a young age is a poor predictor of a person’s performance in later life. Recently Bob Newman, the stand-up comedian, made some unkind remarks about Burt in his stage act. The reaction of the prestigious New Scientist magazine is significant. Burt was called ‘a largely forgotten psychology professor’ and it suggested that in future Newman should pick on someone his own size. The truth is that Burt’s reputation has long gone and with it the scientific basis for selection. What is now needed is for the government to dump the 11 plus and the rest of the nonsense which Burt managed to promulgate and base the English education system on good science and civilised standards.
John Edmonds is Vice Chair of Comprehensive Future. His article was first published on-line by Comprehensive Future.
A telling comment comes from Hans Eysenck, Burt’s most famous pupil and a great supporter of inheritance theory. In an attempt to rehabilitate Burt’s reputation, Eysenck declared that Burt was not guilty of fraud; he was just careless in his research. Eysenck might have realised that labelling an academic as careless would devalue his work almost as quickly as calling him a fraud. Either way - fraudulent or careless - it is clear that the scientific basis for the educational system which Burt did so much to create is totally unreliable. 25
Review by John Coe
The British Betrayal of Childhood by Sir Al Aynsley-Green A powerful title. The betrayal of childhood is by those who see the years of being young as mere preparation for adulthood and who fail to understand that those early years are a worthwhile time of life which should be lived, richly and productively, for their own sake. Sir Al AynsleyGreen, paediatrician and former President of the British Medical Association, was the first Children’s Commissioner for England. He was appointed in 2005 and served for four years. Now he has written a book which brings together all the understanding and practical grasp of the reality of children’s lives in current society which he gained through that vital service. His book is a passionate cry for a greater awareness of the needs of childhood and is demanding in seeking much more positive action by government in meeting those needs. The book is not concerned simply with the education system but ranges widely across every aspect of young lives. Health, social care, the law and disability all receive a penetrating review and this leads to a damming indictment of official attitudes and inadequate legislation. Sir Al not only identifies what is wrong but offers solutions in realistic and practical terms. Underpinning the practicality of his approach he poses the fundamental question - have we the will to change childhood for the better? All those working with young children in their schools will be receptive to analysis and argument which puts the whole child first. Not least among the advantages which stem from the primary teacher’s
responsibility for a class of pupils right across the curriculum for at least a year is the understanding and empathy which is engendered by our prolonged shared experience. We cannot but see the child as a rounded individual and are at one with Sir Al in our appreciation that everything which bears upon the child’s life shapes their growth.
The following extract sums up Sir Al’s view of the education scene. Sadly, so much education controversy is mired in which metrics to use to show success. SATs, attainment targets and league tables are the beloved metrics for the Goveian philosophy for school improvement through tests. What really matters in my opinion and what is simply not being addressed is the quality of the lives of the children and young people when they become adults. Are they healthy, educated, creative and resilient, happy people with the life skills to be successful parents and workers on whom our future depends? I hear a cheer of agreement by my readers and I have no reservations in commending the book to all who have a first concern for the quality of education, particularly those engaged in initial training. Not only should it find a place in the staffroom library, it should be on every university reading list.
Review by John Coe
Reclaim Early Childhood - The Philosophy, Psychology and Practice of Steiner Waldorf Early Years Education By Sebastian and Tamara Suggate There could not be a more opportune time for the publication of this book. After a snap inspection of nine Steiner schools which found six inadequate and three requiring improvement the Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, wrote to the Secretary of State seeking authority to investigate whether the Steiner philosophy contributes to failure. Ofsted received a limited go-ahead and it is clear that the Steiner holistic approach is under severe pressure. The Suggate book is a welcome affirmation of the reality of the approach which rejects much of the official requirement for early attainment preferring instead to focus on the child’s more fundamental development of language gained through sensory experience and, with regard to mathematics, the growth in the understanding and perception of concepts acquired through direct experience, frequently through the child at play. It is little wonder that Ofsted records children working well below the standards expected for their age. The expected standards of early attainment are defined by Ofsted and these ignore the research findings which show that formal learning at an older age benefits from the early childhood approach which centres upon sensorimotor experience. It is not only timely but helpful to all early childhood practitioners to read this authoritative outline of the Steiner philosophy and practice . The book covers the origins of Steiner kindergartens and illustrates the expansion which has led to the establishment of such schools across the world. Child centred practice is discussed in detail and essential precepts are offered with the sensible proviso that the interpretation of such precepts should be moderated by an awareness of the ethics and expectations of the local community. It is particularly interesting to read about the close relationship which is fostered between teacher and child. Ideally children remain with the same teacher for a long period and, as they grow older, beyond the early years, for as long as eight years. This facilitates mutual understanding and awareness of individual needs. Associated with this is the teaching of curriculum
elements in blocks. Only one of the main subjects, literacy, mathematics and drawing are taught intensively for some three to six weeks then there is a switch to another subject allowing the opportunity for reflection and embedding before revisiting and extending that subject in the next block. It is salutary to note that there is recent research which confirms the worth of this Steiner approach. The book does not shy away from the criticisms which are voiced regarding Steiner. There are those who search Steiner’s work published in his lifetime (1861-1925) looking for evidence that he was in some senses ‘racist’. The authors’ considered view is that there are very few formulations scattered in his 6000 lectures that one would not use today; and had he lectured today he also would not have used them. Other researchers confirm that the character of Seiner’s work is fundamentally anti-racist. He rejected racial distinctions in favour of individual distinctions in education and in life. This is an important book which can be read with advantage by all practitioners involved in primary education. The links between Steiner practice and other contemporary work such as Forest and Montessori schools are crystal clear. As we continue to strive against current pressures to formalise early education we need to reinforce our thinking with balanced and sensible views so that when the day comes, and we must hope that it will not be long delayed, when we will once again be free to use our too long neglected professionalism we will do better for the children and their families whom we serve. 27
Mission Impossible? by Colin Richards Let’s be clear. Ofsted is right to want to see a high-quality primary curriculum. Primary schools are right to try to provide one. However, let’s be honest too. It is wrong to believe that for the large majority of primary schools high-quality provision in the terms presupposed by the education inspection framework is possible. They should not be expected to devote time, effort and worry in the year or more which Ofsted is graciously allowing them for preparation. For me the difficulty is encapsulated in three passages in the draft inspection framework: • leaders adopt or construct a curriculum that is ambitious and designed to give all learners the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life;
provided good-quality CPD has helped but not in the depth or scale needed to help them teach an “ambitious” curriculum giving all their children that “knowledge and cultural capital” now demanded of them by Ofsted. Ever since the introduction of the national curriculum and the mass of official guidance that followed, primary schools have not been expected by Ofsted to design their own “coherently planned and sequenced curriculum”. Most have been forced to be implementers of official diktats in the core subjects, not shapers or designers of the whole curriculum. They have been given detailed, sequenced prescriptions in mathematics and English but have been left largely to their own devices in other areas.
• the provider’s curriculum is coherently planned and sequenced…..
It is a rare school that has had the necessary time, expertise or incentive to devise detailed sequential provision in all, or even most, foundation subjects.
• teachers have good knowledge of the subjects and courses they teach. Leaders provide effective support for those teaching outside their main areas of expertise
How within the breathing space Ofsted is providing them can the vast majority of schools meet the proposed new requirements without having the full range of subject expertise within their own staff?
For the most part primary teachers are not subject specialists nor do they see themselves as such, though most do have areas of interest or expertise within the large number of subjects required by the national curriculum and they often use this interest to good effect.
The clue from Ofsted is in the word ‘adopt’ in the passage just quoted. Hopefully schools will devise their bespoke curriculum in those areas where they have the relevant expertise but elsewhere they are likely to be tempted to depend very largely on commercially produced resources from publishers, multi-academy trusts such as Ark or Inspiration Trust or individual entrepreneurs.
However good their professional preparation has been, it has not prepared them to provide highquality provision in every aspect of that curriculum. How could it in the time available? Where it’s been
Even then schools may not have the time or expertise to adapt, rather than adopt, such
materials to suit their unique circumstances and therein lies the threat to high-quality provision. Wholesale adoption of supposedly-sequenced schemes from a variety of sources is no guarantee of high-quality provision across the board, though it may satisfy Ofsted inspectors who have limited curriculum expertise like the rest of us. Designing a logically coherent, sequenced curriculum is problematic enough. Deploying staff to implement that ambitious “knowledge-capitalist” curriculum raises all sorts of other issues. Except possibly in very large, well-staffed primary schools (if there any of these left with current funding constraints!) teaching by specialists in every area of the curriculum is logistically impossible to organise and timetable while mathematics and English take up half or so of the available time.
quality’, ‘ambitious’ curriculum realistic in your context?”, the answer from the primary sector would have been overwhelmingly negative. But the question was never posed.
A former primary school teacher Colin Richards was Staff Inspector for the School Curriculum for HM Inspectorate before its replacement by Ofsted.
This article was first published on the TES website.
The burden on class teachers teaching the whole curriculum could be eased, but not solved, through a variety of ploys. Class teachers with subject expertise or a strong subject interest could be deployed to teach that subject to the class of a colleague on a mutual exchange basis. Or they could be deployed as semi-specialists teaching two or more classes than their own. Part-time teachers if they are available and if funds allow, could be employed to provide some specialist teaching but realistically only for one or two foundation subjects. But would such ploys constitute what Ofsted describes as “effective support for those teaching outside their main areas of expertise” and would they ensure high quality? Doubtful. I contend that Ofsted’s expectations cannot realistically be met. There needs to be compromise between the ideal of a knowledge-rich subjectcentred curriculum and the reality of life in primary schools as currently staffed and funded. The consultation on the education inspection framework has just concluded. If the last question on the consultation form had been “Is this ‘high-
Who would’ve thought Ms. Kent was following our tweets 29
The Inner Curriculum by Neil Hawkes
The Founder of Values-based Education considers the relevance of his work in the light of the new Ofsted inspection framework.
The new inspection framework will give schools in England a fresh chance to consider the nature of their broad and balanced curriculum. I very much welcome the major shift in Ofstedâ€™s inspection policy, which reduces the primacy of test data in favour of a greater attention to the context of learning and the children themselves. This article offers insight to school leaders and teachers on how to fulfil their new obligations. Leaders are expected to adopt or construct a curriculum that is ambitious and designed to give all pupils, particularly disadvantaged pupils including pupils with SEND, the knowledge and cultural capital to succeed in life. Judgements will be made under four headings: the quality of education, personal development, behaviour and attitudes leadership and management. Is this to be welcomed or feared? I remember having a similar debate, as a head teacher in Oxfordshire in the middle of the 1990â€™s. How could we hold on to our convictions about how children best learn; create a school culture that supported this, whilst ensuring that we demonstrated to Ofsted the legitimacy of our pedagogy? Under the framework of 1997, I was relieved that Ofsted reported that we were a very good school with outstanding features. So what had we achieved and is this still relevant in 2019? I had come to West Kidlington School from being The Principal Inspector/Adviser of the Isle of Wight Education Service. I had a yearning to return to headship to explore whether what I believed and understood about transformational leadership of a school community, actually would work in practice. I came to the school with a passionate belief in the prime importance of good relationships; that a school should never have a hierarchy of relationships, only of roles. I understood that education is a conversation between generations about matters of significance. That the role of the leader is to release the creative dynamic of everyone in the school and adults should help children to take the lid off their potential. Pupils should be guided to develop a meaning and purpose for their lives; that this is achieved by them having a deep understanding about universal, human values, such as respect, empathy, compassion, justice,
happiness, quality, responsibility and altruism. That these words, forming an ethical vocabulary, set in the context of stories and real life experiences should be reflected upon so that they impact on the way pupils live their lives. Thus was born an educational philosophy and practices now known as Values-based Education (VbE), which has both implicitly and explicitly been adopted by thousands of schools worldwide. During my Headship I submitted the schoolâ€™s methods to the rigour of my doctoral research degree. I wanted to find out if values education improved the quality of education? (Hawkes, 2005) I am pleased to say that the research showed without doubt the impact values education has on the academic and personal development of In essence, The Inner pupils and staff. The Curriculum teaches us research was further how to be aware and in endorsed by a major control of our internal piece of research in world of thoughts, Australia (Lovat et al feelings, sensations and 2009).
emotions, enabling us to respond appropriately to others without hurting them or damaging our own sense of self.
The culture of the school was calm, safe and purposeful, giving pupils the opportunity to be the best people they could be. A proportion of time was given to reflective activities such as silent sitting. This was modelled in Assembly and practised in the classrooms. Although I could see the profound effects of this work, I had to wait a few more years for neuroscientists to confirm that what we were doing was having a profound effect on childrenâ€™s abilities to re-pattern the neural wiring in their brains, so that they had more self control and resilience - profoundly affecting their wellbeing and sense of self. In recent years my wife, Jane (a psychotherapist) and I have looked in detail at what pupils and indeed adults need in school to support the healthy development of their internal worlds. This research has led us to the conclusion that each school needs to develop what we term an Inner Curriculum, as well as a curriculum that introduces children to the wonders of our world, in terms of subject and dimensions of learning.
The Inner Curriculum (IC) is now one of the seven pillars of Values-based Education (VbE). It is being recognised as one of the powerful transformational aspects of VbE, which we now understand to be both a natural outcome of schools that embrace VbE, and of profound importance in its own right. The IC is a developmental program of experiential activities and adult support, which helps children and young adults to have a clearer knowledge about their internal world of thoughts, feelings and emotions. It creates a safe and secure environment in which students develop self-esteem, trust and a sense of belonging. The purpose of the program is to help them to understand themselves in terms of their motivations, dispositions and character which leads to a more secure sense of self and ability so enabling them to take a constructive role in the world. In essence, The Inner Curriculum teaches us how to be aware and in control of our internal world of thoughts, feelings, sensations and emotions, enabling us to respond appropriately to others without hurting them or damaging our own sense of self. In values-based schools the Inner Curriculum nurtures a secure sense of our authentic self, the essence of who we are, profoundly enhancing our feeling of wellbeing and our ability to be resilient. The Inner Curriculum brings together education, interpersonal neurobiology, psychotherapy and the wisdom of humanity in a new dynamic relationship that enhances both learning and wellbeing. What Jane and I have observed is that if the principles and practices of VbE are naturally, without coercion, embedded in culture, whether in a home, school or other system then the conditions are naturally created, which nurture and nourish our internal worlds. This gentle healing process gives us greater self-awareness, emotional literacy and ethical intelligence. For instance, if children have the opportunity to think about the value of respect, by practising the showing of respect in real situations in their lives, then gradually this concept of respect is embedded in their brains and emerges as one of their character traits, habits, which can be described as one of their virtues. I witnessed pupils with a deep understanding of respect whilst on a visit to Madley Primary and Nursery School in Herefordshire. Madley has imbedded VbE over many
years and its pupils enjoy a rich and varied curriculum. Pupils have regular visits to a local forest where they have first-hand experiences and are expected to live the school’s values as they engage in developing a wide-range of skills and dispositions. They are allowed access to a large area of forest where the children have to take a high degree of personal responsibility. Respect for self, others and the environment is inherent in the behaviour of Madley pupils, who are given space and time to be reflective in a beautiful environment. An aim of VbE and its Inner Curriculum is therefore to promote a school and home ethos that nourishes children’s innate positive qualities from an early age. VbE nurtures the development of a child’s pro-social behaviour, creating a mindset that is more likely to be prone to compassion and altruism. We all need to learn how to keep our internal world healthy, despite what is happening around us. We learn through the Inner Curriculum that we can be an objective observer of the drama of life, which we observe and in which we are involved. Helping children to understand that they have a choice in their responses is key to them understanding how to selfregulate their reactions to thoughts and attendant emotions in order to stay mentally calm and healthy. The Inner Curriculum contains the processes for helping us to appreciate our innate spiritual qualities and to manifest them in our lives, thereby experiencing wellbeing. In doing so, we focus on our core self that can remain stable during the ups and downs of daily living. What follows is our working definition of the Inner Curriculum, which Jane and I hope will be useful to you in school, home or other settings. ‘The Inner Curriculum teaches us how to be conscious about and in harmonious control of our internal world of thoughts, feelings and emotions, enabling us to respond appropriately and altruistically to others without hurting them or damaging our own sense of self. Indeed it supports the development of a strong and secure sense of self, which develops the disposition of self-leadership, which sustains wellbeing. ‘We define self to be the innate essence of human consciousness, the ‘you’ who is observing, a healing
energy that creates the space for the nurturing of wisdom. When we experience self-energy we are accessing our authentic nature. ‘We argue passionately that a core objective of education should be to nurture self-energy, in the context of thinking about and applying human values such as empathy, courage, resilience, altruism, peace, generosity and justice. Such dispositions (virtues) are often evident when there is a natural disaster or major catastrophe, but sadly these are not universally seen during normal life. We think that VbE schools and others, which care deeply about the character development of people, bring such traits into consciousness. ‘The Inner Curriculum evolves in a calm and purposeful environment, one that allows the authentic self to flourish. When our self-energy is leading our internal world then we, and others, have the potential to experience wellbeing and release our innate creativity and connectedness. Self-energy is contagious as it makes it safe for this quality to emerge in others. As humanity shares this simple yet profound wisdom, we hope that it will produce leaders with the new intelligence to solve the complex problems we face in our world.’
34 In summary, a knowledge and understanding of the elements of the Inner Curriculum enables each one of us to respond appropriately to others without hurting their feelings or making us feel unhappy by damaging our own sense of self. Indeed the Inner Curriculum supports the development of a strong and secure sense of self, which develops a disposition we have called self-leadership (agency), which sustains wellbeing. As we have more self-energy we naturally become less judgemental, are more compassionate and are able to feel a greater connection with others. In the context of growing mental health issues for children and young adults, the outcome of The Inner Curriculum is wellbeing and the development of extended personal competence (EPC), which is the ability to be self-led, having the knowledge skills and competences to cope more effectively with lifeâ€™s stresses and complexities with comparative ease and confidence. When combined with the ethical vocabulary, which develops ethical intelligence, learned and experienced in values-based education, the IC gives an understanding of our capacity to expand the clarity of our consciousness so that we can be more aware, thinking and behaving for the greater benefit of ourselves, others and the plane Bridget Knight, head teacher of Eardisley Primary School in Herefordshire and CEO of VbE, has looked at the new Ofsted Framework and the VbE approach to
teaching and learning. She has written a statement, which demonstrates that VbE schools will be secure under the new Ofsted Framework. Copies of this very useful document can be downloaded at www. valuesbasededucation.com I very much enjoy dialogue with heads and teachers and can always be contacted at www.neilhawkes.org Lastly, may I thank you as practitioners for all you do to keep the flame of quality education alive.
References Hawkes, N (2005). Does teaching values improve the quality of education in primary schools. Oxford: Thesis, Oxford University. You can access the thesis on a link at: www. neilhawkes.org Hawkes, N (2013). From My Heart, transforming lives through Values. Crown. Hawkes, N and Hawkes J. (2018) The Inner Curriculum, nourishing wellbeing, resilience and self-leadership. John Catt Educational Publications. Lovat, Terence J., Toomey, Ron, Dally, Kerry and Clement, Neville (2009). Project to Test and Measure the Impact of Values Education on Student Effects and School Ambience. Report for the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations by the University of Newcastle Australia. Canberra: DEEWR.
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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 Sep 10, 2019
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...