Review by Sonia Thompson

Headteacher, St Matthew's C of E teaching and research school

8 Jan 2022, 5:00


Sonia Thompson’s blogs of the new year – 4 January 2022

Cultural capital: an exploration


As the new year begins, I have been looking back over blogs that have influenced me over the years. There are many, but I have picked just one because of its ongoing relevance: this soaring piece by Penny Rabiger, which takes us back to the launch of the new inspection framework that put the controversial subject of cultural capital at the heart of our curriculum conversations.

Rabiger refers us to the originator of the phrase, Pierre Bourdieu, and uses his definition to frame her own thoughts around the EIF, curriculum, context, and terminology such as “decolonise the curriculum”, which had not yet achieved the prominence it has come to since.  

As 2022 dawns and the pandemic continues to dominate almost every aspect of our news cycle and educational thinking, there is a risk that the groundswell of demand for curriculum reform that was central to the Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd loses momentum. The thought-provoking questions Rabiger presents us with here are an important reminder that creating inclusive and diverse cultures is central to our curriculum work.  

Shifting the curve – what will it take?


We were gifted an epic blog this Christmas too, and I have no doubt I will be returning to this one in years to come. Like you, I’m sure, the one group of students I can be guaranteed to wake up at night in a cold sweat about is those Tom Sherrington identifies as being “at the lower end of the range”.

He writes: “If it was easy [to affect change for them], everyone would be doing it.” But it isn’t, and this is the result of “many contributing factors creating a cumulative effect”. He goes on to make a compelling case that we need to rethink how we “deal” with these students if there is ever going to be any chance of “shifting the curve”.

Sherrington presents us with a comprehensive list of influential factors, and breaks each one down to explore its effects. These range from student motivation to an inappropriate curriculum and include our propensity to “teach to the top”. But what made me inhale sharply was the heading “Students’ inherent intellectual limits”. I only exhaled again when he ended this section with a clear rebuttal and a challenge to think about who we place in that “difficult” category and lower our expectations for.

The blog ends as all excellent Sherrington blogs do, with some best-bet solutions before a final challenge to our thinking. What might it look like if we focused our efforts on the lower third? After reading this blog, I doubt anyone could see that shift as anything but a straight win. So, here’s to doing whatever it takes in 2022.

Supporting teachers with their workload 


And, when it comes to useful blogs to start what is likely to be another incomparably busy term, none could be more timely than this reflective blog by Chris Curtis. Curtis loves being a middle leader and consistently celebrates the immense contribution middle leaders make as the school ship’s “rudder”. Here, he offers a clear pathway towards minimising workload and his focus is on the systems that allow leaders to work smarter.  

Championing the fact that “a system allows for clarity and reduces the cognitive overload for teachers and students”, Curtis offers a range of thoughtful examples of his own systematic approaches for saving time while supporting students to learn better. He gives us vignettes about duplication, teaching components and explanations, and peppers them with key questions that any school could use to audit their provision.

This wonderfully relevant blog ends with a clarion call for all teachers to work together to make change for the better. “A leader can make changes, but they shouldn’t always be the one to initiate change,” he concludes. As we reset and rethink at this challenging juncture, it is hard to disagree with the idea that “a collective and organic system is far better for all”.

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