All men have secrets and here is mine

From the outset I have a confession to make. I’m no fan of early entry. I’ve seen it suggested as if it was a panacea and could turn a department or a school around and seen subject areas use it having seen successes at other institutions but without the understanding that where it has been successful it wasn’t solely the act of entering students for exams early that made the difference. What was actually needed was an improvement in the quality of classroom practice. Along with coursework catch ups, one to one intervention, meetings with senior leaders for target groups etc it was another example of rearranging ambulances. Not that these aren’t useful and don’t make a difference but, as I’m told by those who are keen on this sort of argument, evidence shows that everything works but it’s how much impact not just having some that’s our vital measure.

You’d expect then that I’d welcome the announcement today to only acknowledge the first grade as part of the school performance figures as it should put an end to these excuses for not tackling underperforming teachers and concentrating on improving classroom practice.

Not so.

Today’s announcement has little to do with classroom practice and merely serves to beat schools up all the more. While I wish schools didn’t feel the need for early entry and had confidence that their teaching and preparation for final assessment were bulletproof, entering students early works for a number of students and a number of schools where a one off stab at it has failed in the past. These schools will now not be able to make a decision based on what suits their students best, as I would imagine very few would be happy to put themselves in a position where they would be represented by exam results that were achieved with six or seven months of teaching left

It is also divisive as it means schools will be in a position where they will be appearing to make a decision about whether to meet the needs of their students or the public relations agenda of the institution. These two don’t necessarily have to be in opposition and in fact taking the early entry and the early results could in the long term mean schools remaining in a category for an artificially long time which will impact on staff morale, recruitment and so on which will in turn impact on students for a longer period. But the perception will be there.

On top of this the decision about early entry which may well have sat with department heads will now have whole school implications in ways it didn’t previously and mean that it will be heads and senior teams making the decisions and potentially creating more disharmony between teachers and leaders who already receive flak for ‘just doing all of this for Ofsted.’ Similar to the current action short of strike action Mr Gove will have his way and hardly be affected while the tensions will grow between groups within schools and the profession who should be working together for the good of our students.

Like I said at the outset, personally I’m not convinced by early entry and don’t see that it achieves much that a mock wouldn’t do in terms of motivating students, giving an interim assessment to identify where next or preparing for exams. In fact I’ve seen early entry equate to an early finish for some who got a ‘target grade’, said thanks everso and then coasted till the end of the year in a manner which spread further than those subjects that they had entered early but equally I’ve seen schools who have used it effectively and been recognised in inspections for doing so. While I may not like it and Gove might not either if it’s allowing students to achieve a ‘gold standard’ C or above who might not otherwise then what difference does it make to give them a crack at it?

And when you announce it in the week when entries or withdrawal need to be decided and we have a strike so lack the time to have the necessary and incredibly complex discussions then you’re clearly just sticking it to us Mr Gove and that’s not on.

Lots of Love

Colin

He may not be naked but his suit’s a little shabby and he may well have stood in something

I’ve interacted with David Didau quite a bit over the nature of Twitter of late and on his suggestion tried to summarise my thinking as a response for his blog. I ran on a bit so decided to create my own blog and use this as the first post.

Firstly I reject the notion that having an issue with the negativity and raising it is an hypocritical standpoint. A tired cliché I know but the only thing needed for evil to flourish etc. And as such I can’t take the advice to just stay quiet as in some way it’s a fault with the individual if we find the behaviours of others unhelpful or unpalatable. This seems to me to be similar to the advice given to female writers, politicians and campaigners when they were being trolled of late – you can always just log off. Imagine how delighted Mr Gove et al might be were we to take the line that if you don’t agree can you just keep quiet and let us get on? There’s a good lad.

 Along with others I have noticed a forum which I greatly enjoyed and found massively beneficial becoming at best tiresome and at worst vitriolic and unpleasant and feel that whereas before I would trumpet Twitter as a place for idea sharing and CPD to teachers either in my own school or wider when delivering training I would feel less comfortable doing so now as – and I appreciate I am looking at the worst side but that’s the side I’m commenting on here – I’m not sure how useful some of the exchanges would be to someone making sense of their professional direction and it also seems less, well, friendly.

The ego tripping and back slapping that has been referred to already is frustrating but not necessarily damaging or concerning – it may be sickening at times but it is at least supportive. To be honest I don’t see the use in RTing when someone thanks you for an idea that works or have read your blog post etc and enjoyed it. Take the thanks and move on without shouting about it! It also drives me mad when I see people conducting conversations about how great they think each other are publicly when they could be done privately as a DM or maybe a text or ‘phone call – or alternatively in person as these are often between people who work in the same office!

 All this aside, and not least because it just makes me sound curmudgeonly, the popularity contest side of things comes through at it’s worst during the ‘debates’ which seem to have taken over my timeline recently.

 I have found the focus of blog posts or conversations to have moved from positive ideas exchanges and suggestions for development to take a more smug tone of late where all ideas and thinking seem to be derided. Again here I know by taking issue I may be being hoist by my own petard but I would disagree. As I said earlier my aim isn’t to deride those making the posts or indeed Twitter as a forum but rather to take issue with the tone and ask, as David has done here and as was done brilliantly in Alex Quigley’s excellent post for a positive contribution rather than to attack what has gone before.

This has on a number of occasions coincided with the popularity contest or the cliques and groupthink mentioned by other contributors and it’s here where I think Twitter is at its worst.

Of course we will have disagreements and we will have different ideas and I am happy to concede here that this may include questioning existing and perhaps long established practices (and I emphasise questioning not attacking or ridiculing) but do we need the ganging up that goes alongside it? When someone has decided to say, “Do you know what? I disagree. I actually think ‘x’ is useful’ they are immediately rounded on and people will RT or draw others in in order to prove the other wrong not through debate or dialogue but brute force and sheer numbers. On frequent occasion this is accompanied by some often unpleasant smugness about how foolish the other person may be for thinking such nonsense while I am clearly more informed because I can call on a far greater number to plague your timeline. It’s disappointing and frustrating because when as a profession we are being sniped at on an almost daily basis a forum where we should be able to work together seems to turn on – not discuss or debate – anyone who suggests a differing view.

I’m painting a bleak picture and I’m not saying it’s all there is. In the last couple of weeks I’ve had some really useful interactions but it seems that where these used to be the norm they are now less of a feature in my timeline. I’m also very aware that it is just my timeline I can refer to but I know others are seeing the same thing. It was a discussion around the idea of a Royal College that started it off for me. There seemed to be a sudden shift to discuss who should be allowed in and what the rules should be and various people attempting to define these while pedagogy seemed incredibly irrelevant and I was left humming Billy Bragg. “Who are these people? Who elected them? And how do I replace them with some of my friends?”

So I’m afraid I do ask what’s wrong with Twitter and hope I’ve summed up my thoughts here. I may well be a plank for doing so but maybe there are issues with others’ eyes as well if they don’t recognise the way that some of these recent exchanges will deter others from getting involved. Maybe by taking a closer look you’ll see that while the emperor my not be naked his suit is looking a little shabby.

And just in case you’re still worried I’m trapped in a circle of negativity

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-vmJ2TmXd4

Lots of Love

Colin