Review by Jon Hutchinson

Assistant head, Reach Academy Feltham, and visiting fellow at Ambition Institute

14 Nov 2020, 5:00


Jon Hutchinson’s blogs of the week, 2 November, 2020

This week’s top picks of the education topics are multiple-choice questions, this summer’s exams, cultural capital, talking about racism in school and making every day a black history day


Talking about racism in schools


A cool-headed but appropriately forthright blog

Many schools were left rather perplexed a few weeks ago when the Minister for Equalities stood up in parliament to deride the teaching of critical race theory, which underpins much of the drive for greater equality in schools. Amid heated social media debate, teachers and leaders felt like they were caught in the middle of a political duel, with the accusation of law-breaking being thrown around with abandon. So, just what can we do and say about racism in the classroom? What should we do and say? Thankfully, a cool-headed but appropriately forthright blog by Nick Dennis puts the record straight, reassuring us that “discussing how racism works, how to overcome it and how to ensure against it is a necessary part of our democracy”.


Beyond Black History Month: Integrating the Study of Black Historical Figures into the Mainstream Primary Curriculum through Literature


This blog helps teachers offer a broader, richer, more complete understanding of the world

October has now come and gone, and with it Black History Month. Increasingly, schools are coming to understand that although the dedicated month is “a valuable way of raising the profile of important historical figures, movements and moments from across British Black communities over time” it carries the danger of “the study of Black perspectives being confined exclusively to October”. This blog helps teachers to think about how to integrate black voices throughout the curriculum, offering a broader, richer, more complete understanding of the world. An examination of the national curriculum highlights where we might focus particular attention, and incredibly useful reflective questions allow you to audit your own curriculum offer. This blog is top of the agenda in our SLT meeting this week.




An unconventional and powerful contribution to the exams debate

I’ve long been a fan of Jonathan Mountstevens’ writing on educational leadership and curriculum. He challenges unexamined and often cherished belief with a grace, pragmatism and non-partisanship that is rare on social media. The subject matter of this blogpost is a good case in point: the heated matter of whether or not exams should go forward this summer. Jonathan uses the analogy of a carrot farmer whose fields have been struck with a terrible case of carrot-fly, so that his crops don’t match up to those of previous years. Should he simply throw out his scales? An unconventional and powerful contribution to the debate.


Primary Maths Diagnostic Assessment ̶ Making a Choice: multiple choice questions = multiple benefits?


I had to stop halfway to adapt my planning for the following day

Herts for Learning regularly publishes exceptionally useful literacy blogs for primary school teachers, which I’ve often signposted in this feature. It is a cause for great celebration, then, that maths is getting the same expert treatment from Charlie Harber at the Herts team. Multiple choice questions are under the microscope here, and Harber admits that they have a bit of a PR problem in many primary classrooms. Don’t pupils just guess? Isn’t the answer always really obvious? Aren’t they dull? Don’t they embed misconceptions? Possibly, but only if you’re not using them correctly, and Harber sets out exactly how to use them correctly, with tons of really helpful examples. I had to stop halfway to adapt my planning for the following day and fit some new, improved and targeted MCQs into my lesson.


Pastoral Leaders: Cultural Capital and Connection


No, not the Ofsted aberration but an understanding of the cultures of the families we serve

Teachers’ pastoral and the academic responsibilities sometimes feel like two horses pulling in opposite directions. Of course, in reality they mutually reinforce each other. But pastoral leadership has never been more important, with stark division raging through communities abroad and at home, and social media supercharging an “us vs them” worldview. Here, Aurora Reid argues that getting this important job right requires domain-specific knowledge and asks what that might be with respect to pastoral leadership. Alongside safeguarding legislation, SEND code practice, and psycho-behavioural knowledge, Reid argues that we mustn’t forget cultural capital. No, not the Ofsted aberration, but instead an understanding of the cultures of the families we serve. We must stop seeing cultural capital “as a one-way street”, and instead “connect into the rich worlds that make up our school communities”.

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