Friday, 27 June 2008

Motormouths teachers achieve results

The TES reports that hyped-up teachers who feel under pressure and talk quickly in class are more likely to be effective. The finding from Brian Apter, an educational psychologist for Wolverhampton council, challenges the accepted wisdom that talkative teachers put pupils off. It also suggests a stressed workforce may improve exam results.

Mr Apter observed more than 3,500 children and nearly 300 teachers in 141 primary classes and found that pupils tended to talk least when teachers talked most. "During literacy and numeracy hours, teachers spend a lot of time speaking at a faster rate," he said. "They are pressing hard because it's really important to get the information into kids' heads. We thought that would exacerbate behaviour problems, but we were wrong. Teachers got much better behaviour when they put their foot on the pedal."

During these lessons, teachers tended to talk so urgently and quickly that pupils simply did not have time to misbehave. "Talk a lot and enthusiastically about your subject, motor around the classroom, engage kids all the time," he said. "They're the teachers who get good results and behaviour."

But it is not merely teachers' mouths that speed up under pressure. They become ultra-alert, with all senses in overdrive. "A teacher who is driven by management to get the school up the league tables is an urgent teacher," said Mr Apter. "So if children don't understand something, they'll pick up on it really quickly. The teacher wants every result in that class to be a good one."

Manufacturing this sense of urgency is not hard, teachers just need to psych themselves up. "Get the walk and the voice right," said Mr Apter. "Sound enthusiastic."

But he questions whether teachers should overdose on caffeine or obsess about their performance. "It may be that this method is very good for cramming, but poor for getting deep, reflective knowledge about a subject," he said. "One wonders what the toll is for teachers," he added. "You have to have the energy to be that full-on and hyped-up during literacy and numeracy hour. Then you come to the end of the day and collapse. I wonder whether this reflects all the teacher career-changers."

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Test papers remain untouched

The TES reports that emergency full-time marking centres have been set up so examiners can work seven days a week to mark national tests taken by 11- and 14-year- olds. Two "marker panels" have been established in Leeds and Cheadle, near Manchester, where examiners are working eight-hour days to get the scripts marked.

Examiners were supposed to have finished all the marking by Monday for the key stage 3 tests, and by yesterday for KS2. But the National Assessment Agency (NAA) told The TES that more than a million of the papers were not listed as being marked on its systems on Monday. The revelations will place fresh pressure on ETS Europe, the American firm running the marking operation for the first time this year, amid complaints from scores of examiners that the administration has been a shambles.

More than 300 examiners have complained to the NAA about their experiences. Problems range from disorganised training to computer glitches and emails and phone calls not being returned.
Some markers were this week still waiting for papers to be collected from their homes, which they were unable to mark because the ETS computer system said they were not supposed to be marking them.

Some markers have been sent scripts for the wrong key stage. One teacher allowed The TES into her home to see her three unopened boxes of scripts, athough she feels unable to contact the schools involved and cannot be named because all markers have signed confidentiality contracts.
The KS2 maths marker received the boxes of KS3 science papers last Friday, completed by pupils at four schools. The boxes were still sitting in her kitchen this week because, she said, ETS had not replied to emails from her asking for them to be collected. The marker said: "Pupils and teachers are all eagerly awaiting their impending results. Little do they know the papers are sitting in my house."

Sunday, 22 June 2008

I'm the Best Man

Yesterday I was the Best Man at my friend's wedding. We all had a thoroughly enjoyable day. Everyone had such a good laugh. My speech went well and people found it funny! (That's what I have been worried about!) Also we picked up a few ideas for our wedding next year!

The Apprentice winner

I don't know about you, but I am still suffering from not having the Apprentice on TV anymore. I hope that repeats of all four series are shown soon, or at least that the American version might be on TV. But in the meantime I was really impressed by this report written by Libby Purves, Author and presenter of 'The Learning Curve' on BBC Radio 4. You can find the original report here. In my mind Lee was the obvious choice for the winner from very early on. He was an enthusiastic, determined, positive, encouraging, risk-taking and innovative salesman, who was always able to learn. Whilst I thought Claire would have been an equally deserving winner, Lee seemed like the ideal 'Apprentice'. A lot has been made of the fact that Lee lied about his academic background. I think this report really sums up how I felt about this:

Lee, a refreshing riposte to our exam-obsessed world

Libby PurvesPublished: 20 June 2008

He won! My favourite, my black-browed hero Lee McQueen is Sir Alan Sugar's chosen apprentice. Amid the usual assortment of ignorami, weasels and delusional self-esteem junkies, the lad shone out week after week as a beacon of rough-hewn sanity. Nearly all the others were either aggressive, grumbly, panicky or stupid. (Who can forget the team that, after years of multiculti education, thought a chicken became kosher if an imam blessed it?) The show was, as ever, hilarious viewing for the middle-aged, as Sir Alan and his wizened cronies set awful tasks for the young, then patronised them.

But Lee won. Rejoice! Full of barrow-boy energy, he was the sort of good- humoured salesman who makes you laugh as you sign up, the kind of team member who wants to win for the fun of shared victory. He never grassed up the others in the boardroom or bitched in the house ("A perfect gentleman," said one rival). After a tough and plainly dyslexic childhood, and a humiliating academic failure, he worked hard at a commission-only job and clearly yearned not for vapid telly fame - as too many do - but for the leap forward, and the business polish of working with the big boys. He'll be a joy, a merry Fauntleroy to Sugar's crusty Earl. Seeing his nervous terror of "presenting" in the final test, his muttered practice and brave final performance had some of us mums wiping away a furtive tear.

Oh, yes, and it's Lee who was caught out falsifying his CV. He used a vague chronology that suggested two years at Thames Valley University, when in fact he lasted only four months. He did not pretend to have graduated, just exaggerated how long he tried. Sir Alan seems unfazed, but several commentators have shaken their heads in pious horror, crying "cheat" and "liar".
Well - habitually pious as I am - I say phooey. It's plain as a pikestaff why the poor devil did it: he was embarrassed. He admits to feeling academically under par compared with his snooty peers with their half- arsed business degrees and poncey claims to be "business analysts". Lee clutched at the fig leaf of a university education to hide what he saw as his nakedness. His dyslexic spelling, his confusing "genre" with "gender" and his sense of educational inferiority did not make him aggressive - just a bit sheepish and all the more determined.
Salute Lee. He exists in every class, in every school in this benighted, tight-lipped, certificate- obsessed educational world of ours. He is the boy adrift, undeservedly belittled in a world where Edexcel can flaunt its hateful slogan "Success through qualifications" - not through knowledge or learning, just qualifications. He is the bright lad, the all-too-human bundle of energy whose ambition risks being crushed by the system. He plunged bravely into the university of life, and did well; but he knew that too many employers have no trust in their own judgement and cling to paper qualifications. So he cheated a bit, just as young girls stuff socks in their bras because the world tells them that only big breasts will make you worthy of love.

He didn't even pretend to have the degree: just the two years' study. Which, ironically, would have benefited him far less than using those years to struggle and sell did. Lee may not have qualifications, but someone taught him something far more useful: resilience, ambition, cheerfulness, a desire to learn by doing, and a capacity to accept knockbacks.

So here's to all the fledgling Lees out there, frustrated by their inability to engage with the paper world but hungry as hell for a bite of the real one. Fair winds to them.

Libby Purves, Author and presenter of 'The Learning Curve' on BBC Radio 4.

Science is uninspiring

According to the TES, the national curriculum and the testing regime lead to boring and repetitive science lessons. Ofsted found that too much time was spent preparing pupils for exams instead of allowing children to do hands-on experiments.

Primary teachers, in particular, lacked confidence, relying too heavily on textbooks and worksheets, according to the report, which looked at lessons in 90 primary and 105 secondary schools. There was limited training for teachers to enhance their expertise in science.

Christine Gilbertm the chief inspector, said: "Science is a fascinating and exciting subject, yet for many pupils it lacks appeal because of the way that it is taught."

Saturday, 21 June 2008

The age of the maths experts...

The Williams Review of Maths has finally been published, and the Government have adopted its proposals. It has investigated ways to improve primary maths teaching. The review recommends:

  • Every primary to have a specialist maths teacher within 10 years, except some small schools, where they may be shared.
  • Teachers to be paid £8000 over five years to train through summer schools and part-time study.
  • Support for catch-up intervention programmes in Year 2, but schools to decide if this is done individually or in small groups.
  • Review of primary teaching frameworks to make them more user-friendly.
  • Government to increase numbers of early years teachers who are graduates.
  • More emphasis on time and volume in the early years curriculum.
  • Primary national curriculum should be broadly unchanged. But the review wants more emphasis on oral and mental mathematics.
  • The Government to produce guidance on how early years staff can encourage children to express mathematical ideas on paper.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Women could learn form teaching style of men!

The TES writes that female teaching need to stop talking so much and at such a high pitch if they are to engage with boys in classes. Celia Lashlie, an education adviser and author from New Zealand, said women are important to boys' learning, but they need to learn from the male colleagues.

Women should make more use of silence - asking a question then giving boys time to think before answering - and non-verbal cues such as raised eyebrows. They also should talk at a lower pitch.

"Don't speak so much - just shut up," says Ms Lashlie, a self-described feminist. "I've been in classes with young female teachers and by the end of the session my ears hurt."

Ms Lashlie also recommends that heads 'defeminise' the workforce by employing more men and dealing with boys' fathers rather than their mothers. Too often, she says, parents turn up for meetings with their son's teacher or headteacher, and the mother talks while the father is too scared to say a word. Some schools are already considering making fathers sign an admissions charter agreeing that they will be the first point of contact with the school.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Radical changes needed for Maths

According to the TES, plans to reform maths teaching in primary schools may bot be radical enough. David Burghes, mathematics professor at Plymouth University and one of the experts who drew up the original numeracy strategy, has criticised the Williams review of maths teaching before it is published next week.

The former chair of the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education, is expected to contain recommendations for how primary schools can improve work with those children who struggle with the subject.

Professor Burghes said he feared the review would simply lead to more initiatives and different training for teachers instead of more radical change. He says that the concentration on test results means schools in England are possibly ignoring international approaches which could be more effective. He suggests English schools should copy strategies tried overseas, including rearranging desks so children sit in pairs facing the front rather than in groups; a re-emphasis on whole-class intereactive teaching; and creating more links between areas of the subject. He said, "I'm not against group work for some subjects, but it doesn't really work in maths - the groups become dominated by one child. I'm not saying we should return to chalk and talk. I want more whole-class interaction, with children coming up and talking to the class."

Saturday, 14 June 2008

You tell him!

The TES reports that a class of 11-year-olds has written to Kim Knight, the schools minister, to describe the anxiety and boredom they faced this year in the run up to national tests.

Year Six pupils from Dog Kennel Hill Primary in East Dulwich, south London, have called for the minister to follow the example of Wales and scrap the exams.

Two pupils described how SATs and test preparation had made them cry, while several said testing had made them ill with worry.

Earlier this term, the pupils asked Katherine Nicholls, their teacher, how to protest against the tests. She suggested writing to Mr Knight, then played them parts of a Panorama TV documentary on over-testing, in which he appeared last month. In the programme, Mr Knight played down concerns about teaching to the test, claiming that it "need not be a huge deal" and that "children don't notice hugely that they're taking national tests as opposed to other tests."

Miss Nicholls said she was incensed by his comments and felt that they were an insult to her and her colleagues, who freequently felt pressurised to improve test results. In her letter to Mr Knight, she said, "I would challenge you to find any English primary school where the children are not aware that they are taking 'important' national tests. I am tired of the Government's fundamentally flawed use of SATs results as a measure of school success, and I am devasted that I have had to watch another class go through the emotional trauma."

Several of the 27 children who wrote to the minister said they missed out on lessons such as art, PE, history and geography. Most also wrote of feeling relieved once they were over. Some describe the tests themselves as a trial, although a handful said they were easier than expected.

Friday, 13 June 2008

£100 for your results

The TES reports that selected primary heads are being offered £100 to report what scores their 8 to 10-year-olds achieved in the optional end of year tests. The National Assessment Agency (NAA) said it was collecting the results from years 3, 4 and 5 to check how pupils are doing in the years they do not sit national tests.

But the National Association of Head Teachers is concerned that the information may be used to compile league tables - a claim the agency has denied. Mick Brookes, the association's general secretary, said, "Our strong advice to schools is not to do it because we have no trust in the use of this data... We are concerned that this could lead into constructing league tables for every year group. We can't allow that to happen... There is also the isssue of the imposition of bureaucracy. Is it something that's going to benefit the school? If not, then don't do it."

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

The day the helicopter came to school

Today will forever be known as "the day the helicopter came to school". What an exciting event.
I saw an advert for Heli-wise some time ago, offering schools free visits by a helicopter. I immediately sent an email, half expected to be told that they were oversubscribed. But it didn't take long before I was given a date and a risk assessment was being carried out. Yesterday we spent some time arranging the 400+ children in the school into a formation ready for a photo to be taken from the air.

At 10.45am the helicopter arrived! It circled the school and took a photo of the children in their formation. Then there was intense excitement from the children and staff when it landed on the field. The co-pilot then gave a half hour talk to the children about the helicopter and how it works. They were enthralled - everyone from Reception to Year Six!

The children then had their class photos taken in front of the helicopter. There was great delight when it finally set off again. It circled the school, taking aerial photos before setting off for its next destination.

What a fantastic event!

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Strikes could be made illegal

Calls are being made for teachers to be banned from taking industial action. Alan Smithers, professor of education at Buckingham University, said the Government should stop teachers from taking industrial action as a 'kindness'.

He said, "Teachers don't seem to realise that they're shooting themselves in the foot by striking, so it would be good if the Government took the decision to ban it for them."

The Centre for Policy Studies, a centre-right think-tank, said schools should be allowed to fire staff who went on strike. Jill Kirby, its director, said, "If you have a teacher who is not sufficiently committed, who wants to strike and deny children an education, schools should be allowed to permanently replace them."

Tuesday, 3 June 2008


I have recently discovered Twitter - a microblogging service. This is a blogging website where only 140 characters can be used in each update. The Year Six Teacher Twitter page will include updates about Year Six news, views, information and lots of other random items too! Hope it's useful!

Monday, 2 June 2008

Sport opportunities not being provided

The Daily Mail reports that almost a million children are not doing enough exercise because thousands of schools are squeezing sport off the timetable. Official figures show that one in seven is missing out on chances to play sports such as football and netball. With childhood obesity soaring - a quarter of 11 to 15-year-olds are now classified as so fat that it threatens their health - schools have been set a target of providing at least two hours a week for PE and sport. But around a third of primaries and two-thirds of secondaries fail to achieve this.

Government figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats show 895,481 children aged five to 16 lose out as a result. Critics yesterday claimed a generation of youngsters is being let down and at risk of becoming couch potatoes. They said it makes a mockery of the £100million drive launched by the Prime Minister last July to give children five hours of sport a week, during and after school, by 2010. Liberal Democrat sports spokesman Don Foster said: 'It's ludicrous for Gordon Brown to be making commitments when so many kids still aren't doing the two hours. 'Billions of pounds have been pumped into school facilities so parents are entitled to expect their kids are given a decent chance to use them.' Heads claim the curriculum is overcrowded, leaving some schools struggling with the demands of tests and exams.

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, said: 'The findings are not surprising. We believe the targets, tests and tables regime is squeezing out important areas.'

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Sparklebox KS2 is free!

Sparklebox has announced the brilliant news that all its resources are now free! Fantastic! This includes the KS2, KS1 and Foundation Stage sites! If you've never used their resources before, now there is no excuse!