Review by Emma Mattinson-Hardy

27 Jan 2017, 5:00

Emma Mattinson-Hardy’s top blogs of the week 23 January 2017

Guest reviewer Emma Mattinson-Hardy takes us through this week’s best education blogs.

The pressures schools face are set to grow, so the question remains: what are we prepared to do about it? The blogs I have selected this week all contribute to answering that question.


“Happy the eyes that can close” – on the reality of the cuts to education spending

Justin Gray highlights the impact the cuts will have on the way we teach: “The compliant children with strong memorisation skills will be rewarded while those who struggle academically will be less valued and those who defy authority will be sanctioned and then excluded in ever greater numbers.”

In the constituency next to mine, schools are facing up to 20 per cent cuts. Gray acknowledges that cuts of this magnitude “require a radical reduction in staffing costs that includes those on the highest salaries.” He goes on to argue: “The future is one of unqualified teachers delivering a narrow curriculum focused on exam results in a competitive, marketised and commodified system […] in dismantling one of the best systems in the world, we are reducing the future opportunities of a significant proportion of our children. For that reason, I look at the proposed cuts with my eyes open and I weep.”


Playing the game

Who is the current education system working for? Teachers are working longer hours than ever and children are more stressed.

In this blog, Abby King shares her pain and discomfort about “colluding in things I know aren’t right for the children.” She concludes with the question I hear frequently from teachers: “how long can I exist in a system that I fundamentally disagree with?” Last week Debra Kidd declared that she would be boycotting SATs; I have the same decision to make for my youngest daughter who is in year 2 this year. Teachers need parents to stand with them more than ever.


The different shades of grey

In this blog Nina Jackson gives practical advice to “help people who have communication difficulties, especially children who may not be able to verbalise how they are feeling […] To explain what you are feeling or experiencing, to try and put into words something which you’re not quite sure how to explain, but it’s just a terrible feeling.” She describes working with the child to create a colour wheel to help them to explain how they feel and she provides a number of links to read more about how different colours describe happiness vs depression.


Using a painting to start an inquiry

This beautiful blog gives concrete examples of how to use a painting to start an inquiry through effective questioning.

Tim Taylor describes first asking a question that requires no prior knowledge, “I’d like to show you a painting, it was painted about 500 years ago of an English king called Henry VII. Take a careful look and see what you notice?” His questioning then becomes more sophisticated and he finishes by arguing that: “Knowledge is essential to the process and it’s not the job of the students to discover it, but it only comes after they have had the chance to look and get engaged in the subject.” With the recent global events I would argue that questioning, discussing and debating has become even more significant.


Candles in the darkness

Mark Enser paints a vivid picture of the current educational climate and the wider world: “A man who boasts of sexually assaulting women has been elected to one of the most powerful offices on the planet.

Our public services are collapsing, libraries closing, schools face huge budget cuts at the same time as pressure to perform increases. Teachers and leaders are fleeing schools.” But he asks us to not give up hope. “We can fight back against ignorance and fear. We can and must collaborate. We must lift each other up. We must look for every opportunity to make the world a brighter place. We must be candles holding back the dark.”

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