Review by Sonia Thompson

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

7 May 2022, 5:00


Sonia Thompson’s blogs of the week, 2 May 2022

Reading Matters – children’s book news


Sorry, not sorry for another shout-out for Anne’s blog. It’s a little selfish this time, as Reading Matters features the shortlist for the wonderful Branford Boase Awards, for which I am a judge. As Anne writes, “This award recognises both new talent and the role of the editor,” and it is so lovely for it to be featured alongside such a plethora of rich reading treats.

As ever, Anne gives readers a peak into her reading world before transporting them to events, authors, resources and books. And as ever, the range, representation and diversity on show is heartening, ensuring her whole audience are catered for as she shines her light into the vibrant world of reading.

If you are that one person (secondary or primary) who still doesn’t know A Library Lady, get ready to have your Saturday reading life changed!

When is retrieval not retrieval?


“When you’re not retrieving anything”. Claudi BenDavid sets out his stall early in this sweet blog, in which he uses his learning of Hebrew via a well-known app to take the reader into his theorising that retrieval – thinking hard – is not our natural default.

But although this is fine for him as part of his language learning, the stakes are higher for students. If they don’t think hard, “they will struggle to access what we’re teaching them. They won’t perform at their best in exams.”

So what can we do? BenDavid advises us to do two clear things: build a culture of error, and have a go from memory before turning to books (though the latter comes with a caveat).

“Remembering stuff is hard. Sometimes it even feels like your brain is aching.” BenDavid ends the blog by iterating that it is this difficulty that will, “make it easier for the students to remember”. That’s retrieval!

Don’t mix the six! Thinking about assessment as six different tools with six different jobs


After a two-year hiatus, Clare Sealy returns with a storming blog about assessment and its purposes. Sealy takes the opportunity to draw the reader back to early memories of assessment and is clear from the outset that, in her view, “assessment has gone rogue”.

Sealy acquiesces that good ideas and even better intentions always underpinned developments in assessment, “but what happens over time is that the originally revolutionary impulse becomes so well established in systems and routines that they become more important than the original idea”. The unwieldy whole, Sealy maintains, has become bigger than the sum of its important parts: “The performance of assessment rituals is perceived as creating the reality of educational righteousness.”

In an attempt course-correct, she takes us back to basics with six different kinds of formative assessment and three summative. Clarity about the purpose of each, and ensuring they don’t mix, she argues, can help us get assessment back to being a powerful set of tools.

This is a brilliant and tough piece. It left me thinking hard about when, where, how and why we use assessment ̶ and ensuring that it’s always done deliberately and appropriately.

With a return like this, I won’t be the only one to rejoice that Sealy is back.

Effective Professional Development (PD)


My final selection this week is not a blog but a Twitter thread cataloguing a range of blogs, podcasts and interviews on the topic of professional development. Kathryn Morgan is the queen of the generous share, with a much-appreciated habit of doing all the work for the rest of us of bringing together collections of research-informed reading.

Here, she treats the reader to 20 resources to “better understand design, selection, implementation and working conditions”. The blogs include Sarah Cottingham, Tom Sherrington and, of course, the EEF Effective Professional Development Guidance Report.

If you like your edu-blogs in one place, then bookmark this and follow the collation queen for her next majestic edu-treat.

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