Review by Robin Conway

Director of research and innovation, John Mason School

12 Jun 2021, 5:00


Robin Conway’s blogs of the week, 7 June 2021

This week’s top blogs cover how to develop articulate learners, a powerful curriculum metaphor, world-building, courageous leadership, lies, damned lies and statistics


Our Vision For Confident and Articulate Students


This is an excellent blog which has at its heart a simple vision: building in students the confidence and communication skills they need to succeed outside of the “safe, comfortable and validating” environment of school.  

Miss Begum explains the moral drive behind the use of SHAPE and SLANT strategies to build confident oracy and pro-social behaviour in listening and communicating. She summarises the key strategies she has used to build positive habits of discussion, and the most common errors teachers and students make and argues that these skills are “fundamentally a lever that will serve our students well beyond school.” This is a piece I intend to share widely with our team.


Curriculum: The Mirror and the Window


In many schools, the events of the past year may have slowed progress in some areas of curriculum thinking and development. As we now start to pick up those threads, I am always on the look-out for think pieces to share that will inspire and help facilitate discussion. Steve Adcock’s piece on his curriculum review is such.  

A succinct and easy read, it explores a powerful metaphor of the curriculum as a mirror and a window. “The mirror signifying that all pupils would see themselves in our curriculum. The window representing our ambition to show all pupils the world beyond their immediate experience.”  The idea has already had an impact on one other blogger, whose own reflections on the curriculum as a mirror actually led me to Adcock’s piece. So an honourable mention is due to Mr Mountstevens, and I’m sure it won’t be the last reflection inspired by this perceptive blog.


World-building the American West


This is a slightly niche piece targeted at history teachers of the American West. However, it may well be worth a read for teachers of other topics, if you’re struggling to get your students to truly understand the mind-world of the people, place or culture you’re studying.  

Here, Kristian Shanks explains how he worked to break down his own and his students’ negative perceptions of this marmite unit. Core knowledge, liberal use of maps and photographs and a focus on individual stories all helped. The piece is generously illustrated with examples of Shanks’ activities and classroom practice. He notes that “I’m not saying I’ve been brilliantly successful in my world-building attempts… But I do think I’ve come a long way in my teaching of this topic.”  

Some of the most useful blogs are those from people sharing their work in action rather than a ‘finished’ product, and this piece is great example of the genre.


This much I know about … having the courage to be different from the rest


As his departure from headship approaches after 18 years, Tomsett has promised a series of blogs sharing the key lessons he has learned about headship. The posts promise to be brief, readable and to share some insights from someone who is always worth listening to. In this first piece, Tomsett reflects on the courage to be different – a powerful approach to headship, but one he recognises “has always been conditional” on the context of his schools and the work of his predecessors. I am looking forward to the rest of the series.


Another Myth About Exclusions


“Lies, damned lies, and statistics”. So exclaimed Mark Twain and so might we when faced with some education stats. This is not so much a blog on exclusions as the story of one man’s efforts to track down the truth behind some of these.  

Whatever your opinion on the exclusions debate, it is hard to disagree that it should be based on sound evidence. Yet, in pursuing the truth behind the claim that the UK’s “exclusion rate … is ten times higher than that of any other country in Europe”, Andrew Old uncovers quite the complicated history. This piece is unlikely to shape your opinion on exclusions specifically, but is a salutary lesson about the need to dig a little (or a lot) further before repeating claims.


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