Review by Mary Hind-Portley

Assistant subject leader (English), Hillside High School, Bootle

22 Jan 2022, 5:00


Mary Hind-Portley’s blogs of the week, 17 January 2022

Ten Things I Still Hate about Data


I’ve always enjoyed James Pembroke’s writing about data, and this 50th birthday blog is a distillation of his no-nonsense approach to the topic in primary and secondary schools. Pembroke gives a pacy, detailed and robust run-down of everything problematic about our use of data. For those newer to the profession, he outlines the various incarnations of data accountability over recent years. Some of us will remember CVA, and may even feel a pang of nostalgia for it. 

He goes on to examine at how things look now, with a detailed exploration of the many issues with primary data, their implications for primary schools and their effects on secondary data and progress. This is essential reading for all in leadership roles, not least because of this salutary statement: “Up and down the country, every department in every school is expecting what can only be achieved by 50 per cent.”

Supporting Our Pupil Premium Students: An Evidence-based Approach

@GauravDubay3 via @StMattResearch

Gaurav Dubay presents an argument that “strips away the noise” around pupil premium and focuses on how to increase the progress of disadvantaged students. Bringing together a range of recent research alongside seminal EEF sources, his argument supports the central importance of the expert class teacher within a culture of improvement.

While interventions are often necessary, Dubay says, recruiting strong teachers and investing in their training will undoubtedly narrow the attainment gap. After all, he reminds us, the classroom is where pupils spend the majority of their time. And with four simple steps from the EEF’s Guide to Pupil Premium (2021) the blog makes a persuasive case for slowing down to get our approaches right. 

The question now is: are we brave enough to strip away the noise and reduce teachers’ workload so that they can focus on perfecting their practice?

A New Class 

@MrsBallAP via @EImposters

I was asked to take on a new class during the autumn term, and this post by The Educational Imposters’ Rachel Ball really resonates with me. It’s full of evergreen advice about meeting a new class, and entirely focused on the ways we can make students’ and staff’s experience of transition a positive one.

Even as experienced practitioners, thinking through the process of establishing our nuances with regards to school routines and building relationships is important. Nothing should be taken for granted, and Ball’s own humble approach is a model to us all. She is honest about her own anxiety around transitional moments “even after 20 years in the classroom”, and the result is a highly reflective approach that combines her own experiences with those of other practitioners such as Lodge Park Academy’s Ben Newmark, as well as literature on the subject, including Peps Mccrea’s Motivated Teaching.

Ball’s focus throughout is about creating a culture of “credibility, care and consistency”. And who could want for more? 

Building Leadership Awareness Through Presence of Self


Building on Ball’s humility and sense of imposter syndrome (see the title of her blog), my final selection this week comes from Yamina Bibi, who here addresses directly that nagging voice of doubt which affects so many teachers, and especially women. Bibi addresses the topic with honesty and clarity, discussing how this affects her personally and that many female teachers are held back by it.

This is a practical post at heart, in which Bibi outlines ways to address negative self-talk. One of the ways this manifests is as over-positive self-talk about others. We persuade ourselves that we are surrounded by superhumans and natural leaders and, by extension, that we cannot live up to those standards. It’s something we’re good at addressing with our students, but are we taking our own advice?

Bibi’s openness and vulnerability inspired me to challenge my own negative self-talk as I started this week, encouraged by her statement that “we have a duty to model vulnerability and authenticity” as leaders. If doing that can encourage others who feel this way to continue their leadership journey, then I’m all for it.

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