Over recent weeks I have read more and more blogs and tweets on the issue of the alleged progressive-traditionalist (or neo-trad) divide in education. Some people have lined up to blame “progressives” for every ill in the world, while others have pointed fingers at neo-trads for providing cover for the wholesale Govian replacement of modern schools with 19th Century workhouses. In an interesting side-argument, I’ve seen plenty of ordinary teachers saying that they don’t identify with either progressive or traditional camps, and prefer to use mixed methods, only to be met by a blast of “You’re either with us or against us – there is no middle ground”. Which will be news to Switzerland.
So, how is a bog-standard teacher to navigate their way through this terminological minefield? How do they know who to follow on Twitter? Folks, as always, I’m here to help. All you need to do is take the following easy 20 question quiz, and you’ll soon have a clear identity. Then you can throw yourself enthusiastically into the fray without finding that you’ve embarrassingly raced to the wrong barricade.
Honest answers only, now.
- What is a fronted adverbial ?
(a) A what now ?
(b) A term which has no value at all, yet is bizarrely required knowledge for little kids in the bloody SATS
(c) An essential piece of grammatical knowledge without which poor children could never become the next Dickens or Shakespeare.
- When you see this sign, what is your reaction?
(a) The glowing future of education
(b) A sinister cult
(c) What’s wrong with a state school ethos?
- The following extract is taken from the Summerhill School website
The freedom to attend formal lessons or not at the school is a central feature of the school’s philosophy. Children have the opportunity for unlimited play, which we believe is good for both their physical and mental health. Children are allowed to fill their time with freely chosen actions. This allows them to develop at their own pace, enjoy what they do and achieve the results they want to achieve. Individual responsibility in learning means that children can continue to work and use spaces whether or not an adult is present. Classes with structured learning are available for all children and organised in timetable format with flexible content and attention to individual learning needs and levels. There are also classes arranged so that children can go in and access materials and resources to pursue individual activities and projects. There are no limits on the achievements in independent learning: children can do something they want as much as they want.
(a) So, hang on, they don’t actually have to attend lessons? Do they ever go to any?
(b) Child abuse! Call the police!
(c) That’s beautiful, I wish I worked there.
- What do you think of the Ebacc ?
(a) An assault on student choice and a ridiculous narrowing of the curriculum designed to force every child in the country to endure the same curriculum that Gove liked when he was at school.
(b) Just don’t see the point.
(c) The essential grounds for any quality education. To oppose it is to demonstrate your low expectations of children, you hippy scum.
- Your reaction to this man?
(a) Ken, can you please sign my TED Talks boxset?
(b) No idea who that is
(c) You can take your “creativity”, and stick it up your arse.
- Performance-Related Pay for teachers, your view?
(a) A policy which pretends to be about performance but is really an attack on teachers’ professionalism, pay and conditions
(b) I’ve never understood why I should be paid the same as those slackers in the staff room, when I’m so outstanding.
(c) More pointless paperwork and targets which don’t seem to be based on the kids in front of me.
- Bloggers Tom Bennett and Old Andrew ?
(a) The representative voice of the classroom
(b) Unrepresentative Govian mouthpieces
- At the Perry Beeches Multi-Academy Trust, the company paid the Head, Liam Nolan, a second salary through shell companies, employed his niece and nephew, and funnelled tens of thousands to yet another company owned by its Chair of Directors. This is one of a series of financial scandals coming to light in the new private companies the Government is promoting to replace LEA-maintained schools.
(a) Isn’t that crooked? Shouldn’t people like this be sacked? Or in jail?
(b) It’s outright privatisation. That’s always been the Government’s goal since the beginning. Companies and individuals are already making profits from our children. It’s an infection of G.E.R.M.
(c) Nothing to see here. It’s all about Autonomy, Standards, Freedom, Neatness. Policy Exchange have given it all a clean bill of health.
- Teachers are…
(a) Overworked saints struggling under impossible expectations and being blamed for things they can’t possibly affect.
(b) Generally good people doing a tough job. I wouldn’t do it. Wouldn’t mind their holidays though.
(c) Enemies of Promise
- Group work and videos in class?
(b) When appropriate
(c) You are DESTROYING THOSE CHILDREN’S LIFE CHANCES!
- Bloggers DisappointedIdealist and SueCowley
(a) The representative voice of the classroom
(b) Unrepresentative Blobby Trots condemning children to a second-class education of low expectations
- Michael Wilshaw: “If anyone says to you that ‘staff morale is at an all-time low’ you know you are doing something right.”
(a) We need more Great Leaders like him.
(b) Sounds like a bit of an arse
(c) Where’s my gun?
- No Excuses Discipline
(a) Surely the response should be tailored to the circumstances ? A mix of humanity and boundaries?
(b) Essential. If you let them miss a lesson just because their parent died, then they’re not signed up to the school’s ‘private sector ethos’. Expel them.
(c) You can’t punish Sophie for crapping in the sink, as she’d missed an episode of TOWIE last night, and was distraught, so is not responsible for her own actions.
- School uniform
(a) I feel uncomfortable if every student isn’t identical in every way. Send offenders home, as appearance is more important than being in lessons.
(b) A tool of oppression demanding unthinking conformity for no purpose
(c) Just don’t care very much.
- Kids going on holiday during term-time
(a) As long as they don’t take the piss for months each year, fine.
(b) What a lovely learning experience for the children and their families
(c) Every second of classroom time missed is child abuse. In the best interests of the children, we should fine and imprison their parents, and take them into state care.
- DFE is…
(a) A laughing stock incompetently trying to impose market reforms on the schools system
(b) A laughing stock incompetently producing a series of inexplicable, unworkable policies
(c) A laughing stock incompetently failing to deliver Gove’s righteous agenda
- Ofsted :
(a) Abolish it, so it can no longer act as a Government lapdog aiding the privatisation agenda by failing schools to enable MAT takeovers, while imposing Victorian pedagogies on teachers
(b) Abolish it, so it can no longer dictate progressive teaching methodology while obstructing the development of the marketised schools system with its desire to inspect MATs
- Michael Rosen
(a) Oh My God ! I loved “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt”. Gosh, don’t they grow up fast?
(b) The last progressive speck of light in the gathering darkness of neo-traditionalist oppression.
(c) Dangerous Trot determined to ruin all children’s education by opposing any form of rigour. Also probably an anti-semite.
- Toby Young
(a) The guy who persuaded his friend Gove to allow him to set up his own school in order to pay himself a wedge and guarantee a place for his own and his mates’ kids. Hates teachers. Thinks Zac Goldsmith was right to link Sadiq Khan to 7/7 bombings. Perhaps the last person on the planet who should be anywhere near children’s education.
(b) Far-sighted architect of wondrous Free School programme, bringing a proper academic education to the benighted local children. If his school seems to have fewer ethnic minority or poor kids than you’d expect, it’s not his fault they choose not to go there. And you can’t blame him if all his headteachers choose to leave so suddenly and frequently. They’re just not up to his high standards.
(c) Looks like a potato with eyes.
- What is your reaction to this picture?
(c) Mein Fuhrer !
Now, add up your scores, and find out which tribe you belong to – answers below.
1. (a) 5 points (b) 0 points (c) 10 points
2. (a) 10 points (b) 0 points (c) 5 points
3. (a) 5 points (b) 10 points (c) 0 points
4. (a) 0 points (b) 5 points (c) 10 points
5. (a) 0 points (b) 5 points (c) 10 points
6. (a) 0 points (b) 10 points (c) 5 points
7. (a) 10 points (b) 0 points (c) 5 points
8. (a) 5 points (b) 0 points (c) 10 points
9. (a) 0 points (b) 5 points (c) 10 points
10. (a) 0 points (b) 5 points (c) 10 points
11. (a) 0 points (b) 10 points (c) 5 points
12. (a) 10 points (b) 5 points (c) 0 points
13. (a) 5 points (b) 10 points (c) 0 points
14. (a) 10 points (b) 0 points (c) 5 points
15. (a) 5 points (b) 0 points (c) 10 points
16. (a) 0 points (b) 5 points (c) 10 points
17. (a) 0 points (b) 10 points (c) 5 points
18. (a) 5 points (b) 0 points (c) 10 points
19 (a) 0 points (b) 10 points (c) 5 points
20. (a) 0 points (b) 5 points (c) 10 points
0 points – You don’t really exist. You’re actually a character from the Daily Mail editor’s most fevered nightmares
Nicky Morgan once again demanded that schools stop using Mr Straw to teach classes
5-30 points – Let’s face it, you’d be more comfortable if the school uniform involved kaftans, and you think discipline should emerge from within the child rather than be imposed by an authority figure. As a result your class most frequently seems to be a re-enactment of the Battle of Berlin in 1945. You believe the school curriculum is a state-approved patriarchal Anglo-centric list of outdated Dead White Men. Or something. Many of your students seem unable to read anything which isn’t on a phone screen, although they are assertive about their “rights”, even if they can’t actually spell “rights”. Your workload is heavier than it should be, because of the time you dedicate to making Socialist Worker Party placards for demos.
The Progressive Teachers’ Party Conference
35-70 points – You are broadly progressive. You may not be blobby, but you are an Enemy of Promise. You have odd ideas about trying to fit some of what goes on in school around the child, rather than a one-size fits all system. You think applied qualifications are ok, acknowledge that not all students are equally able, and would like, generally, to be able to find something of value in the education system for all of them and not just the clever ones. You moan in the staffroom about the badly behaved kid you just slapped back into line, but then feel guilty about him when he is excluded. You almost certainly read the Guardian. You like to try to use group work even if you’re aware that the group in the corner never bloody does anything except talk about football. You show videos because of their engagement value, and occasionally wander the room banging the desk next to kids who are trying to go to sleep on their arms, because damn it, they’re going to be bloody well engaged whether they like it or not. You dislike the involvement of private companies in running schools, and you think Nick Gibb bears an uncanny resemblance to the Child Catcher from ‘Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang’.
Nick Gibb on the school run
75-125 points – You think Twitter is a place where people post pictures of cats. You’re in a teacher union, but only for the discounts at the local garage. You do care about the fact that your school is becoming part of an academy chain, but you’re not yet 30 years old, so you think you’re safe. The Government is always announcing stuff, but what happens in your classroom doesn’t change much from year to year, because, well, you do what you’ve always done. There was that fuss when that teenage girl who’d never actually taught at all became your new superhead because Michael Gove liked her, but she didn’t last long, and everything went back to normal after a bit. Mustn’t grumble.
130-160 points – You are broadly traditionalist. You do occasionally use videos in class, but you feel guilty about it. Kids today don’t know they’re born. When you did your exams, they were much harder than this lot. Frankly, you blame the parents. You have a sneaking suspicion that dyslexia is a made up term for “lazy”, although you know you shouldn’t say that. You worry about observations because you can’t abide all that bouncing around, giving out starters and plenaries, and pretending to give a stuff what the students think, which is what you always feel you have to do when watched. You think Media Studies is a made-up subject, and view anything electronic in the classroom with deep suspicion. Your general view is that kids are not to be trusted, and your job is to keep them in line. If you could close your door, teach your way, and the SLT would just kick out those annoying kids, you’d be happy.
Enforcing discipline and ensuring learning, traditionally
165-195 points – You have a small shrine to Gove in a cupboard in your bedroom. Your main goal is to get out of the classroom as fast as possible and into “leadership”. You like the sound of “leadership”. You feel like a “leader”, and think you should be rewarded handsomely for it, preferably via your company in the Cayman Islands. You’ve always rather despised other teachers, which is why you’re happy about performance-related pay, because you know you’re better than them. They haven’t seen the light like you have, and they don’t understand that there’s Only One Way, and it’s Your Way. Talking, instructing, silence, desks in rows, respect, discipline, lists of Monarchs, Capital Cities, approved classic novels. This is what education should be about. The Victorians had it right. People accuse you of not really liking children, but they’re wrong. You know that warmth, humanity and compassion are weaknesses, and it’s in the child’s interests to eradicate them before they are plunged into the cold, unforgiving marketplace of the adult world. Spare the rod and spoil the child.
It’s all gone downhill since we stopped beating the little bastards
200 points – I’ve told you before, Gove, you’re not welcome here. Now piss off.