Review by Emma Mattinson-Hardy

9 Dec 2016, 5:00

Emma Mattinson-Hardy’s top blogs of the week 5 December 2016

Guest reviewer Emma Mattinson-Hardy, talks you through the best education blogs the web had on offer this week.


Grim up north?

In case you missed it, the chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw last week chose to hit to headlines with a damning description of life in northern schools. This blog presents a balanced analysis of whether it truly is “grim up north,” a much needed antidote to the Wilshaw click-bait soundbite.

“He was keen to talk about northern towns where schools are ‘less than good’ – bleak hopeless places such as Knowsley, Blackpool and Oldham. But the Ofsted annual report shows little difference between northern regions and the national average. According to Ofsted, 75 per cent of pupils in the north west, and similarly in Yorkshire and the north east, are attending “good or outstanding” schools. The national average is 81 per cent… GCSE attainment is not vastly different in northern regions. This year 56 per cent of students in the north west got five or more A*-Cs with English and maths – against a national figure of 5 per cent. However, EBacc is mitigating against poorer students – only 10 per cent on free school meals pass.”


The words people say

In this season of goodwill, forgiveness, unrestrained consumerism and fights with Christmas lights, perhaps we all need to stop and think before we speak. In this blog Jill Turner recounts a situation in which a lie was told and it offers a sobering reminder of the need to protect yourself at work.

“There are those statements and comments that we’ve planned, prepared, rehearsed and the words and expression are such that their meaning and impact are exactly what we want. Then there are those conversations that develop and people come back to us and say, ‘You know you said… I’ve been thinking about it and….’ Discussion ensues: no problem. Yet again there are throwaway comments, comments you didn’t really mean anything by but hit a nerve or have an unintended consequence.

“This week a child made a comment, he was trying to get himself out of trouble but the consequences are beyond anything he could imagine.”


Intrinsic motivation in your students – have they got it?

This blog stood out in trying to understand the complex reasons behind attainment that move beyond your postcode, income, individual teacher or gender. Why do some children have intrinsic motivation and can it be taught? Should we even try to encourage children to do everything well? Or should we follow the advice that head John Tomsett gives to teachers: “sometimes just good enough is good enough.”

Dawn Cox describes intrinsic motivation as being, “about the learning process that a student goes through, it isn’t about being motivated to succeed to do well because of a possible reward. It is about enjoyment of learning and what it has to offer … a ‘failing’ student can have high intrinsic motivation.”

She describes various ways that teachers can encourage a child’s intrinsic motivation which, if followed, could have a huge impact on pedagogy.

Research she points to suggests that students who were autonomous rather than controlled showed greater intrinsic motivation. Arguably then, it would be difficult for children to develop intrinsic motivation in a classroom that was predominately “chalk and talk” with an obedience-focused behavioural policy.


The Road to Damascus: why we need more level heads

It seems fitting to finish a blog review column in December with a plea for understanding and tolerance.

“Recent years have seen the development of a new traditionalism in education that espouses the return to the more effective practices that were prevalent before a more progressive philosophy of education became widespread…resulting in huge damage wreaked on the life chances of poor children in particular…There is clearly a tension between the different approaches that may lead to a great education for children, and the ensuing debate can be very healthy, but I think it would be healthier if it were more moderate and balanced. At the minute, it seems as if the tenor of the debate and the policy agenda are being set by those who believe the most and shout the loudest, and I’m not sure that is good for anyone.”

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