Harry Fletcher-Wood picks his top blogs of the week 5 October 2015

The Ofsted Matthew Effect

By Alex Quigley

In this forthright post, Alex Quigley hits out at the phenomenon by which those schools with a “outstanding” or “good” rating metaphorically get richer, “whereas those deemed ‘requiring improvement‘ or ‘inadequate‘ are poor and significantly more likely to get poorer still”. While Quigley works with schools and teachers on “both sides” of the “divide”, he notes that those he speaks with “often prove remarkably similar, only the ability to teach and lead for long-term improvement of the ‘Ofsted poor’ category schools is greatly diminished, given the necessary focus and drive for rapid, but short-termist measures.” Quigley discusses the effects of this divide: “How many teachers, in the midst of a recruitment slump, would knowingly join a school under the iron fist of Ofsted? . . . What prospective headteachers have the desire to risk their entire career? Not very many it appears.” He concludes: “We need to recognise the obvious inequality that is the “Ofsted Matthew Effect and start working on a better solution.”

Give him a break

By Katie Ashford

Katie Ashford writes about the temptation – or perhaps, the compulsion – to give Palmer, a former student, “a break”. Struggling as a new teacher, she found that “any instruction I gave was not only ignored, but sneered at or derided as if I were treating him like a prisoner”. So, perhaps, inevitably, “when he was bored or angry, I gave him a break from the lesson and let him take a breather outside, as was his wont”. Ashford was not alone: “It wasn’t just me who had decided to cut Palmer some slack. All his teachers had, because they were all human. Multiple simultaneous sighs of relief; a collective exhale of expectations.” Ashford discusses the consequences for Palmer: by the end of the year “he had no controlled assessments, was catastrophically under-prepared for his exams, and couldn’t have a normal conversation with an adult without getting into an aggressive altercation of some kind.”

My British values, via Cherry Street and Cherry Blossom

By Tony Parkin

“The recent debate on teaching British values and grit set me reflecting on my own school days, and what education had contributed to my own personal British value system” Tony Parkin begins. He takes us back to York in the 1950s, where he had an early opportunity to learn “grit and resilience from the first year teacher, Miss Theakston, who quickly demonstrated that striking the back of your legs with a wooden ruler was extremely painful, but left no incriminating marks by the end of the school day”. In case history lessons failed to inculcate British values, there was always Empire Day. It may have been the 1950s, but “the headteacher was in his 80s, the map was from the 30s, and Empire Day was still celebrated in the time-honoured way that my father remembered from his own sojourn at Cherry Street in the early 20s”. Tony’s perspective and conclusion that “school contributed . . . not only to my understanding of British values, but hammered home an underlying racism and feeling of smug superiority over my fellow man that I have spent much of my life trying to shed, with only partial success” are worth noting in the rush to adopt and spread British values in schools now.

When are they going to find me out?

By Summer Turner

Summer Turner assumed that her nervousness about speaking out, her lack of confidence applying for jobs, her need to downplay her achievements and the feeling “that I was somehow going to be found out” were features of her personality — until she read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. In her characteristically erudite fashion, Turner seeks answers in literature, specifically looking at Mary Wollstonecraft’s response to Rousseau’s misogyny: “What nonsense!” Turner concludes by arguing that “we need to change society but we also need to stop internalising the negative voice”.