Review by Robin Conway

Director of research and innovation, John Mason School

27 Feb 2021, 5:00


Robin Conway’s blogs of the week, 22 February 2021

The benefits of centralised resources, ‘catch up’, post-Covid reform, what expertise is not, knowledge vs skills and how ‘Clubhouse’ could transform teachers’ social networking are this week’s top blogs, as chosen by Robin Conway


Kick-Starting the Virtuous Cycle of High-Quality Centralised Resources


In this piece, “(passionately) boring teacher” Miss Sayers advocates convincingly for centralised resources created and shared within subject teams. As with most things in education, there are different views about the value of centralised resources, and Sayers explores some of the reasons that she and her team opposed them for so long.

However, she also explains their experience of a vicious cycle of “survival planning” that drove up workload without necessarily improving the quality of teaching. Sayers goes on to make a strong case for the value her team found in developing these. She explains how a focus on developing high-quality, shared materials gave her team “the time and desire to continually improve their resources and teaching without feeling overwhelmed”.


What Questions Do We Need to Consider for “Catch-Up”?


Terms such as “catch-up” and “recovery curriculum” are deeply loaded, and Mr Gordon recognises this problem from the start, raising valid questions about the concepts. He rightly distils the issue to two key questions: “What are the gaps in learning?” and “What actions can we take to fill these gaps?”

From there, he goes on to unpick these ideas further with a series of questions for consideration relating to planning, communication, curriculum and teaching. Although Gordon rightly emphasises the need for a whole-school approach, many of these questions would be worth teachers reflecting on in smaller teams as they prepare for March. Gordon shares the approaches he found most powerful in September and his 7Rs of “reconnecting”: “routines; relationships; retrieve; research; re-map; regulate; re-teach”.


Is The Education System About to Reform?


As we move from thinking about the immediate impact of the pandemic to the deeper issues it has raised, here is a challenging and insightful piece from headteacher Matthew Evans. Reflecting on the way the past 12 months have challenged our ideas about the nature and purpose of education, he offers thoughtful analysis of the inherent paradox of the examination system, what the idea of ‘catch up’ reveals about our assumptions about curriculum, and considers the role of schools in allowing the rest of society to function effectively.

While the piece doesn’t entirely answer the main question (and who could?), it is a thought-provoking read. I suspect this will prove a prescient guide to the debates of the next few years, especially the question “why are we prepared to gloss over…inequality in normal times but not when it is a consequence of the pandemic?”


Expert Teachers 1 – What Teacher Expertise Isn’t


This is the first post in a series that promises to make for challenging reading. In it, assistant headteacher for teaching, learning and curriculum Pete Foster starts by exploring what expertise is not. He uses research to challenge some common misconceptions, such as that expertise equates only to experience or that it is universal.

The piece concludes with some practical recommendations, promising more to follow. The post is relevant to those interested in taking ownership of their own professional development – which should be everyone! – and lays out some key ideas to help shape this journey. If you believe, as Foster does, that “expertise isn’t a threshold you pass; it’s a continuum you move along”, then this is worth your time.


The Knowledge / Skills Debate: Reflections


Talking of building expertise, my final selection this week is a thoughtful piece summarising head of science Pritesh Raichura’s reflections on this debate and what it means for his teaching.

However, I must confess that I was particularly piqued by the fact that his ideas were shaped by participation in a ‘Clubhouse’ discussion. In the final third of this piece, Raichura discusses the nature of this new social media platform and what it can offer. Having heard about it without really gaining a clear understanding of what it is or involves, it is interesting to hear why he finds it “an excellent platform for teachers to share their thoughts and debate issues in a very human way”. I think I’m going to have to give it a go.

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