Up the creek without a paddle : Mossbourne again

There’s been a great story in the last two days about one of my old favourites, Mossbourne, announcing that it plans to select some of its children by “aptitude to row”.

Immediately, a brief spat broke out between those who saw this as a proxy for selection by “aptitude-to-have-wealthy-parents”, and those who thought such carping was merely left-wing nonsense; nothing wrong with boats; rowing isn’t posh etc etc. I even got involved myself a bit below the line on the Guardian website.

During that discussion, one fellow contributor pointed out that Mossbourne is near the River Lea, and there is a boat club there which is a community club going strong for many years. So apparently it was perfectly normal and to be expected that local schools should focus on rowing, and it was merely my prejudice which prevented me from seeing that rowing is a sport for all which, apparently “lots of state schools” practice (I’ve never, ever come across one, and while I’m sure there are some, I think we may be stretching the definition of “lots” here).

Anyway, I’m going to keep this blog very short, and merely post this


This is the Facebook photos page for that nearest rowing club. They look like lovely people having a lovely time. Now look again. This is in Hackney, remember. Go on, see if you can work out why some of us might consider this to be simply another cunning way to reserve spaces in Mossbourne for those from the most affluent of local backgrounds.

“Aptitude for rowing”. My arse.

Trust and Teachers

Earlier this evening, I had the following twitter conversation. It was all very civilized. It began with a fellow history tweeter being asked a question by an @ANONAHT. I barged in with my size 10s shortly after. I’ve simplified the thread and anonymized the tweeters, but they are most welcome to lay claim to their identities here if they so wish. I want to be very clear I make no criticism of the chap I was exchanging tweets with. He sounded a lovely, reasonable fellow. I just felt his position was illogical, and thus am using it as an example of how even lovely, reasonable people can find themselves forced into a position in which, without pressures from Ofsted or silliness from the current Cult of the Leader, they probably wouldn’t naturally find themselves.

The purpose of showing the account below is to demonstrate (again) what to me is a fundamental problem of the “leadership” culture in education. This could be what we history teachers might call a “differentiation question”: readers are going to fall on one side of this fence or the other. Those who don’t see a problem with the current trend of SLTs demanding “evidence” of compliance with a rigid marking policy, are probably either in SLTs, or one day will be in SLTs. If you fall on my side of the fence, I suspect you wouldn’t enjoy many NCTL courses on “leadership” as it is currently promoted, and I hope you like the classroom experience, because you’ll never leave it. Continue reading

Lack of a Uniform Belief

I’m a genuine agnostic on school uniform. I wore a uniform at school, and I have always taught in schools with a uniform. It’s pretty common in England. But I’m also aware of another world in which people get to choose their own clothes (amazing!); my children watch endless US teen shows in which students never wear uniforms, and I understand many places in Europe eschew uniforms. The sky doesn’t fall in when kids wear jeans in classrooms, but nor do children start emulating delegates at a North Korean communist party conference just because they’re all forced to wear nasty grey jumpers.

I see the reasonableness of the argument that uniforms might reduce (but never eliminate) the potential for income-based bullying, although I think the days when the boys who had Lacoste crocodiles on their jumpers were able to take the piss out of boys who didn’t, have long been replaced by those with iPhones taking the mickey out of those without (although my teenage scars have not yet fully healed from being nicknamed “The St Michaels Kid” because of my mother’s addiction to Marks&Spencers). I also accept that it’s possible to have a uniform policy which isn’t oppressive, prejudiced against poorer families, or just mad http://littlemavis.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/are-we-uniform/

Likewise, I accept the argument that a uniform is a method of insisting on conformity and discouraging individuality, and so I’m instinctively inclined against it on principle. I also note that the evidence base for the many claims made on behalf of uniforms is rather thin.  http://thelearningcurve.pearson.com/articles/article/uniforms-for-learning

And I’m not going to go anywhere near the issue about boys and girls distracting each other unless they’re covered up properly, which has created a furore in the States this last year or so. Suffice it to say that, if I recall correctly, you could have dressed all the girls in my class in full burqas when I was 15 and I would have still been distracted by them. Such are teenage hormones.

Fundamentally, I don’t really care much. It’s just not an issue which is in my top ten things to be bothered by in a school. Perhaps not even the top twenty. So generally I file uniforms into the “can’t be bothered enough to get worked up” category of stuff.

Astonishing degrees of crashing idiocy

Then, something like this comes along : Continue reading

It’s a Myth-tery: 7 ways in which Ofsted are better than SLTs

An excellent blog on how SLTs need to trust more and demand conformity and compliance less.

kevenbartle's Blog

This is a summary of my presentation to Teaching and Learning Takeover (TLT14) this October. The organisers asked me to base my presentation on my most-read blogpost The Myth of Progress Within Lessons. This is what I came up with.

I began by reasserting my twin premises from the original blogpost:

There is no such thing as progress within lessons. There is only learning.


The main perpetuators of the myth of ‘progress within lessons’ are leadership teams within schools, not Ofsted.

If anything, with numerous and notable exceptions amongst school leaders, this has become even more true: not because school leaders have become even more faithful subscribers to the myth, but because Ofsted (at least at their leadership level) have done even more to distance themselves from the myth.

And as if to illustrate that point for me (not to mention steal my thunder, the buggers), Ofsted released their…

View original post 2,972 more words