Review by Sarah Gallagher

Headteacher, Snape Primary School and PGCE tutor, University of Cambridge

30 Sep 2023, 5:00


The Conversation – with Sarah Gallagher

Rewilding education

One of our key drivers this year is giving our children more agency. But how can we give them genuine responsibility and true power to help our school onward and upward?

In this podcast, outdoor learning expert, Marina Robb speaks passionately about trust, consent, equality and the power dynamics of the classroom. Likening the role of the teacher as knowledge-giver to philanthropic donors who – wittingly or not – affect a level of censorship among their recipients, she poses a challenge to anyone engaged in ‘student voice’ activities.

It is outdoors, Robb advocates, where the dynamics shift. Surrounded by nature and able to follow their natural curiosity, children are better supported to develop a healthy mind and heart. But how much do our schools really value the natural world? And how can we expect young people to develop a full sense of self without it?

Given the alarming mental health crisis among our children, I urge you to contend with Robb’s thoughts on rewilding education.

RateMyInspector dot com

In this week’s Rethinking Education podcast, Dr James Mannion speaks to Dave McPartlin, head of Flakefleet Primary School in Lancashire. McPartlin was a candid and vocal commentator after the tragic death of Ruth Perry, and here he is no less so.

The podcast will, I’m sure, still resonate with headteachers across the land as they begin a new term. I can certainly feel the dread re-surfacing as we enter the Ofsted ‘window’ and I am in awe of his honesty as he opens up about his medication increasing in direct correlation with these periods.

Having had ten inspections so far I couldn’t agree more with his diagnosis of a broken system lacking in transparency, honesty and fairness. And is it any wonder we struggle to give students a voice when we are robbed of ours?

One of his many considered and apt suggestions for improvement is for schools to review their inspectors. I wonder how ‘’ would go down with Ofsted. After all, it wasn’t long ago that the inspectorate suggested a ‘TripAdvisor for schools’.

Apps to count on

In an informative and useful podcast for parents and teachers, Dr Laura Outhwaite brings her  research to bear on a tricky choice for us all. A specialist in how maths apps impact on children’s learning and their educational value, she is clearly passionate about supporting schools and families to develop children’s love of maths. I know I won’t be the only one to benefit from her insights when looking for the right app to boost maths learning.

First and foremost, Outhwaite notes that many so-called maths apps contain no maths learning at all. Thankfully some do, and the most impactful include a combination of encouraging feedback which explains why an answer is correct or incorrect and levelled play so children start at their own scaffolded level.

Citing another research project, Outhwaite also notes that language comprehension is a key determiner of how successfully children learn maths.

And above all that, she is a warm and engaging speaker too. With all the talk about tackling maths anxiety, the subject has found itself a powerful advocate. It’s certainly something for us all to work on as we strive to encourage more adult engagement with children’s maths development –  with or without apps.

The bear necessities

Executive headteacher, Simon Botten managed a little time off this summer – enough to binge-watch Disney+ series, The Bear, but not enough to switch off entirely from school. The result is this blog, drawing leadership lessons from the plot.

The show follows a young chef who leaves a top-class restaurant to take over his dead brother’s seedy sandwich shop. However unlikely that might sound, Botten had to resist the urge to shout “THAT’S JUST LIKE SCHOOL!” at every episode.

One of those episodes is on scrubbing the shop from top to bottom even though it feels pointless and staff have never seen the like. As Botten points out, it’s about creating an environment we want to be in, because if we don’t we can’t expect children to.

Now about that crumbly concrete…

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