Review by Robin Conway

Director of research and innovation, John Mason School

25 Apr 2020, 5:00


Robin Conway’s top edu blogs of the week, 20 April 2020

Awarding grades, Oak National Academy, recruitment and an educational revolution in the offing are this week’s top picks of the education topics


Generating “centre assessment grades”: the challenges


The responsibility to provide “centre assessment grades” for each student is one no teacher can be unaware of. I have come across a number of good pieces on this, but Andy Byers’ blog stands out for its balance, thoroughness and clear sense of moral purpose. The first third analyses trends in recent results for his school. This is well worth reading as it pins down issues we are all thinking about. It also provides an effective analytical model and builds to conclusions we should all consider.

Byers then considers thresholds, over-prediction, under-prediction and his initial plans to approach this momentous task. As he notes, the system will be far from perfect, but it “is the least-worst option” and if everyone approaches it with the same care and thought modelled here, it will help a lot.


What’s wrong with Oak National Academy


The Oak National Academy launched on April 20 and I am greatly heartened by the spirit of generosity and proactive response to the lockdown that is behind it. Here principal David Thomas gives a little context to the pressure under which the team worked to launch the resource hub within six working days.

He recognises the key development points the team will be working on in future, but also gives a good insight into their aims and sense of mission. Thomas notes that “Oak won’t change the world. It’s not supposed to revolutionise teaching. We just want to make life a little bit easier during one of the most difficult periods in our lifetimes.” He may be erring on the side of humility. This piece is a wonderful introduction to an incredible and inspiring initiative.


Recruiting better: lessons from lockdown


Adam Boxer notes the pressing need for schools to continue recruiting. With two places to fill and interviews about to start before schools were shut, his team developed a well thought-out process to replace the lesson observation: a carefully planned interview that unpicked the thinking behind a detailed plan. He shares the long list of discussion questions generated – with other useful advice – and concludes that this model has some strengths over the standard model “even in non-pandemic times… because of the insight it gives you, as well as the technical advantages”. Whether recruiting during lockdown or when schools reopen, this blog is worth your time.


The next edu-revolution: textbooks!


The demands of remote learning have led a lot of teachers to look at resources with new eyes. Many have not proven easy to adapt to supporting absent students, with solutions offered from all quarters. (Like many others I have mastered technological innovations in the past few weeks that I would previously have run from, screaming.) However, Tom Sherrington reminds us of an old standby that should perhaps never have fallen out of use: the textbook.

He strongly argues that we should reconsider investing in them and his key features of a good textbook will make a handy guide to selecting any new resources. He explores the reasons for the decline in the use of textbooks and how we might reverse the trend.

I am not entirely sure that he gives online textbooks quite the credit they deserve, but I cannot disagree with his conclusion that we should “train teachers to use textbooks well, to link a curriculum plan to good texts and give the books the funding prioritisation they deserve”.


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