Review by Jon Hutchinson


2 Mar 2019, 5:00


Jon Hutchinson’s top blogs of the week 25 Feb 2019

Let our voices be heard


On March 15, children across the country walked out of their lessons. Why? “To protest against the world leaders’ attitudes towards climate change”. This protest was difficult for adults for a number of reasons. The flush of guilt as we quietly kick the can down the road. The sense of powerlessness when teenagers refuse to play the social contract game of doing what they’re told. The lingering feeling that they just might be right.

Adults argued with each other about the walkout, with the voices of those involved largely ignored. In this blog, 12-year-old Sam asks us: “What is the point in learning about people who broke the rules to change the world, like Rosa Parks or Nelson Mandela, if we’re then told that we have no right to break the rules ourselves?”

The silliest feedback from work scrutinies


Why was it that Frodo had to take the ring to Mordor? It was because Frodo was uninterested in power or glory, in fame or popularity, so the One Ring was unable to corrupt our hero. Andrew Old, I want it to be known, is the Frodo Baggins of educational blogging. He has almost singlehandedly cast the evils of lesson grading, performance management, triple-marking, edutainment lessons and teacher-blaming for poor behaviour into the fiery pits of Mordor. This week, “book scrutinies” are under scrutiny. My favourite is probably “I got told my ticks were too big”. SLTs take note, you don’t want end up on one of Old’s blogs.

Why knowledge-rich is the most child-centred way


The Quirky Teacher has gained a reputation for her iconoclastic and polemical posts. Since unmasking her veil of anonymity, she has lost none of the fearlessness, nor the razor-sharp analysis. This piece deals with the dearth of knowledge specificity in the foundation subjects in primary, and how “child-centred” approaches such as “cutting, sticking and making of The Pantheon out of old toilet roll tubes” doubly disadvantage those pupils already most vulnerable in school. I don’t agree with everything that QT writes, but I’m grateful that she writes blogs like this one, challenging well-intentioned, but ultimately dangerous orthodoxies.

Future of education 3) Calvin Robinson: Leave the curriculum alone, and focus on quality of delivery


I think that it was Aristotle who wrote, “it is the mark of an educated mind to entertain an idea without necessarily accepting it”. In any case, it’s a good thing to seek out, with an open-mind, arguments that challenge your own politics. And so, let me present to you a blog from The baddies. Booooo. But, do “Michael Gove’s more rigorous knowledge-rich curriculum” or “Nick Gibb’s synthetic phonics policy” really collide with your own goals for children? Robinson thinks not. He is no parrot of policy, however, setting out where he believes the DfE has erred (“Some of the large MATs are doing an amazing job, but they shouldn’t be allowed to monopolise or overshadow a local community’s drive to open good schools”), and providing advice on what specific steps they should next take: “If a good education is the best form of enhancing social mobility, we’re doing young people a disservice by allowing rampant bad behaviour to go unchecked… Behaviour should become the main focus of the next education minister.”

The very peculiar case of Goodman, Smith and Clay (or why the whole language approach just won’t die)


Far too often, the debate on early reading instruction is all heat and no light. The Reading Ape is fast becoming the authority in this important area. This post traces the history of the “whole language”, which “supports and encourages Goodman’s (1972) guesswork technique for poor readers”, why it “spread like wildfire” and the aftershocks that are still being felt today: “This [approach] resulted in 20 per cent of all six-year-olds in New Zealand making little or no progress toward gaining independence in reading in their first year of schooling (Chapman, Turner and Prochnow, 2001)”. Having a look at The Reading Ape is required before any debates on reading.

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