Review by Sonia Thompson

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

2 Jul 2022, 5:00


Sonia Thompson’s blogs of the week, 27 June 2022


I open my review of this week’s blogs not with a blog but with a wonderful thread that celebrates the power of the graphic novel. More and more schools are catching on to the fact that no library is complete without a sturdy selection of books with comic content. This thread offers a look at the new, the old and everything in between, as selected by some of the most dedicated, ardent and knowledgeable supporters of the genre. This week, the thread led to rich discussion of the inimitable world of Margaret Meek.

Teacher or librarian, if you are looking to expand your knowledge and find some gems for your school, tune in and join the ‘GN’ party. As contributor Mat Tobin noted, #LetsTalkGraphicNovels has now been going for two years. That’s quite a back catalogue to draw from.

Retrieval practice: recalling the end goal


Sarah Cottingham has got the short and sweet five-minute read down to a fine art, and this tasty offering reminds us that the ‘why’ must be front and centre of any retrieval journey. Quoting Tom Sherrington, who laments the disparate learning that some students are often asked to recall, Cottingham goes on to speculate about the reason for this, and her argument that “sometimes, we lose sight of the end goal” is persuasive.

Cottingham is clear that retaining “individual bits of information” isn’t what we should be striving for, and offers an alterative model of “retain, access and transfer” as a way for students to demonstrate that their knowledge is “stable, accessible and well-organised”.

With references to Ausubel and Thompson & Wiliam, it is this breadth of knowledge, clarity of thinking and focus on practical take-aways that make Cottingham’s blogs so readable and impactful.

The 7 Hallmarks of a Research-Informed School


As an EEF research school director, when long-time blogger extraordinaire Ross Morrison McGill asks “Are you working in a research-informed school?”, my ears prick up. I was not disappointed. Here, McGill celebrates the work being done to bring often complex research into our teaching spaces and offers some sage advice for schools looking to embed research and reap its benefits.

His focus on teachers’ ability “to interrogate the research” and translate it for their own workplaces is a welcome reminder that practitioners should always bear context in mind. Rather than a universal ‘what works’, this research literacy is the mark of teacher professionalism.

McGill goes on to offer checklists to determine whether your school is or isn’t credibly research-engaged and, as always with his blogs, there are links and further reading to support your thinking and next steps.

So, whether your school is on a research-informed journey or needs a gentle nudge to get started, you’ll find plenty to drive you forward here.

Another damned expectation


The publication of the DfE national plan for music education triggered a plethora of responses across the education twittersphere this weekend. From rage that it had been released at the weekend, to rapture at its content, teachers and leaders agreed on one thing: Music has the power to change lives.

Another long-time edu-writer, Michael Tidd captured some of this raw emotion in this blog, which lays bare the numerous concerns about the plan’s ramifications. In the end, he argues, schools are faced with an ignominious choice: “There isn’t a primary head in the land who wouldn’t like to give every child the opportunity to become proficient at piano,” he says; but with their focus fully on ensuring children are fed, safe, attending school and mastering an already crammed curriculum, launching this plan right now is just “another damned expectation”.

Tidd ends the blog with a poignant and personal reference to our crisis in leadership recruitment and retention. I don’t agree with it all, but the heartfelt description of the cumulative toll of these expectations certainly offers up some serious food for thought. Policy makers take heed.

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