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Jul 14 14

Pitch Perfect at ed-invent

by Eylan

Everyone won at the ed-invent Brighton 2014 day on Saturday, as it was such a great day! I was very surprised when the judges announced that my pitch had won, as the breadth and quality of the others were so good.

I did have the advantage of coming with an idea, which meant I had already considered most of the key aspects of the pitch. You can hear a brief summary of my idea here:

 

 

I will share more about the idea in a future post, so for now, you’ll have to do with listening to the Audioboo.

The day was so useful for me, partly because I was able to get such great mentoring and advice, to help me think through key issues, such as the value proposition, business models, and (of course) names!

Huge thanks to Maria,  Peps   , Jo , Dick , and Tony Parkin for their advice and guidance about how to shape and strengthen my pitch.

Many thanks, also, to all those involved in setting the day up, and to the judges for their time.

Finally, though I am not sure quite what I won (prizes had not been announced at the time of writing this), apart from a bar of choc,  but I came away with a few important gifts:

  • An absolute determination to give this idea as much of a chance to ‘live’ as possible – not just because other people told me it was great, but because I believe it in more than ever
  • Confidence in myself to pull this project together (thanks Tony !)
  • New friends

On the way home after a very long day (up at 6am, home at 12midnight) and too many miles (250!) the name came to me, and I think I should be able to announce soon!

SO… watch this space for more details.

 

 

Jun 24 14

Loose threads in Oxford City schools

by Eylan

Based on my most recent work with schools in East Oxford, I have seen a huge opportunity to improve the coordination and collaboration between, and across schools in the city. There are too many loose ends, and those threads need picking up, before local provision falls further apart. I would like to find a way to do this exciting work for the city I live in, and have a few suggestions to see this happen.

I have tried to find ways to change the quality of education in the city in the past (See ONSchool) , and have developed a great network of those who care about the issues around the quality of provision in the city. Yet, I have still been shocked to find just how isolated our local schools have become from each other!

For example, while almost all schools are changing their curriculum for September, there has been almost no sharing or collaboration on this huge effort. I could list the issues I have spotted and have worked on for St Francis (around CPD, Assessment, resource planning, staffing). I am sure these are not surprising to anyone working in schools.

What has shocked me is the extent to which without an LA able to support collaboration, divided political will between City and County councils (of different political hues), Academy trusts seeking internal priorities,  most schools have been left to themselves and failed to forge effective links to help each other. While some are successfully facing down challenges and making huge successes for their children and communities, there is still not enough sharing of good practice across the City.

I would like to help change that. I am well placed, and have the skills and the energy. But more than that, this is coming from the classroom upwards – rather than being led from ‘above’.

Following a major piece of curriculum review work, at St Francis, (see here) I have recently focussed on creating links between the school, staff and children at St Francis out to the local community and other schools. The common key drivers are the move to a Storytelling based curriculum, and taking learning ‘Beyond the Classroom’.

Apart from changing the ‘What’ we teach, we want to change ‘How” we teach. To change pedagogy as well as curriculum, we need to work and learn collaboratively, otherwise all the hard work to change teaching and learning will risk not be sustained.
I have spoken to SLT at Larkrise, St. Christopher’s, and East Oxford (incoming) – to find ways to link our schools around the following:
  • Buddying up staff to support planning
  • Evolving assessment practices (avoiding a new system for each school!)
  • Develop and extend CPD opportunities
  • Encourage an evidence based practice approach
  • Linking to other educational provision (independent schools, local services, universities)
  • Improving external communication about learning

I have also begun work on a resource to support Beyond the Classroom work, and set up a regular TeachMeet, to support staff networking. Local heads and deputies have responded really well to this,  BUT this is not (yet) a coordinated piece of work.

The Isis Partnership of schools in East Oxford has floundered of late, many people privately admitting that it struggles to find relevance and direction. Yet, this is the perfect vehicle for collaboration. What is missing is clear coordination, toward positive change. Individual school leaders are doing great work, but there a missing ingredient to support them

I would like to be that added factor. This post is a direct statement of intent – but also a call for change. I know, given current financial and political realities, that there is unlikely to be a ‘job’ waiting for me – but hope that with a bit of innovation, I can find a way to continue my work.

I am talking to those who could make this happen, and hope that, as we head towards a ‘Middle Tier’ in education, I can be useful to the development of a local solution to support the families of Oxford, and to enable better coordination in our local schools.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 20 14

The 5Min Plan for Planning

by Eylan

My recent tweet sharing my 1st draft of a #5min plan for curriculum planning, got more retweets and favourites than anything single thing  I have done on Twitter in ages! I think I know why.

My guess is that so many people are reviewing their planning in advance of the new curriculum in September, but few have found a common way to maintain the change they want to see. I have been working with a local school to develop their curriculum and pedagogy, and this plan was created to support colleagues in retaining our criteria for our new approach. It is not complete and hints towards internal discussions – but I am glad to see it works for so many others

Please let me know what you think, and #Critique is very welcome. It would be great to know how you are using it too, as it might help our curriculum journey! Also, please adapt and use as needed from the Google Doc (see link and below).

Huge thanks, of course, to Ross McGill, who has inspired this simple and effective model for so many of us.

Jun 16 14

A Quantum of CPD – Atomic TeachMeet

by Eylan

The first Atomic TeachMeet took place this week, bringing Teachmeet back to it’s roots.

logo atomic teachmeet

When Brian Sharland and I started tweeting about this, our intention was to create a regular, social and small gathering of classroom practitioners,… Or a teach meet , if you like. No stage. No pressure. No focus on technology. Just a chance for teachers to share ideas.

We hoped to start with a small group of 5, and that it exactly what happened! It was great that we had a voices from the state and independent sectors, primary and secondary – and different subject/interests – with such a small group. But this proves the theory of  Quantum CPD that we had hoped for.

Alexandra got us started and talked about Quiz and Switch, as an engaging method to make MfL matter. Brian and I were both

Brian Sharland  talk about connections between parsing in code and in MfL / Grammar for writing. This opened up all sorts of ideas

I talked about my adventures in Project Based Learning, and Critique, and got some very useful feedback on how to evaluate pupil exhibitions at the end of the project.    
By the time Ian Yorston (the most reasonable Unreasonable man you’ll ever meet!) arrived, Jane had broadened the conversation into varying ways to manage resources, and we discussed FireFly, and other VLE alternatives.

One of our sponsors, Charley from Educake, arrived to say hi, and we got to say thanks for the food and drink Educake had paid for!

So, what did we learn? Mainly, that the model works, and it is worth repeating!!! Everyone had a good time, and learned something, (including where to park on the Cowley Road!)

So, if you like the sound of Atomic TeachMeet, please sign up for the next one in July!

Finally, a HUGE thanks to the team at Atomic Pizza – Lucy, Debbie and Hannah,  for letting us have the space, use of their WiFi, pens and for their support. You guys rock,

 

 

Jun 9 14

A Treat for Teachers

by Eylan

I have a pitch for you. Ready? I would like to introduce you to… TeachTreat!

An introduction service for the education world.

 

TeachTreat will connect teachers together, as professionals, to learn better.

TeachTreat will match schools with partners for development.

TeachTreat will be a non-profit, social enterprise with teachers at heart.

 

We starting local, and are currently building a Beta version, for Oxford.

If you would like to be involved, please contact me

 

May 28 14

Atomic TeachMeet

by Eylan

 Quantum physics states that even the smallest parts of the universe can exist in two states at once. Atomic TeachMeet is a very small, monthly TeachMeet where CPD and fun exist in the same place. 

With the kind support of Atomic Pizza, we have a venue that has offered us room for us to talk about the teaching and learning that fills our days, in new ways, with new people. If you have never been to a TeachMeet before, then it will change your view of what CPD is – and if you have been to one before, you’ll love how intimate and refreshing Atomic TeachMeet will be.

Brian Sharland and I have tried to make the plan for the first one as dynamic as possible, but expect to see this event evolve with the people who come. We hope it will become a regular event for lots of teachers – both Primary and Secondary. We look forward to seeing you there!

SPONSORS- Sponsorship is very welcome towards the costs of food and drinks at Atomic Pizza. That said… PLEASE NOTE   As with all TeachMeets, direct selling is not allowed. There will no formal publicity materials going out or programmes on the night and no ‘main stage’ – so there will be few opportunities for placing mentions. Also, as we have only been given room for 16 people, there are no spaces for non-teacher sponsors. Any sponsorship will get you HUGE thanks on the night, and on social media. If that is ok with you, then please do get in touch with me or Brian.

 

 
Eventbrite - Atomic TeachMeet

Apr 30 14

The false standard of ‘Standards’

by Eylan

Though I was enormously relieved to read Labour’s first statement of their own education policy, I was disappointed that we still are in awe of a word that has rarely meant less than it does now – ‘Standards’.

From www.centuriontoysoldiers.co.uk

Blunkett did a good job, grounding the proposals to improve accountability  on the strengths in the system, and a clear focus on what is wrong now. Let’s not forget, this policy has been a long time coming. Twigg was a crushing failure in opposition, and there has been no shortage of areas in the Coalition policies that they could have improved on. So, we can take some comfort from the fact that not only has the opposition to the coalition (and specifically, the very clever Mr Gove)  has published something that actually makes sense and does much more than reiterate old ideas.

That said, as we approach the next election, we find ourselves still trapped in the mire that New Labour helped to create, in the Swamp of ‘Standards’. As I argued in my piece for the Fabians, we are held by a rhetoric where we have constructed the dialogue about weighing of the pig, not the quality of the meat (Standards are NOT the problem in education that this policy statement is fixing. These recommendations are about accountability and collaboration – and that is a good thing. The role of Director of School Standards, (DoSSer!?) has a clear remit – and I applaud this first statement of policy from Labour. I would like to see far more bravery from Labour to bring the focus towards a massive shift in pedagogy and introducing new metrics – and to encourage communities to measure what matters. I would like to see skills, competences and wellbeing matter as ways to develop social justice.

Most of all, I want to see ‘Standards’ removed from the political debate, and left in the classroom, where it can be given meaning by professionals, rather than politicians.

 

Apr 23 14

Any colour as long as it is grey

by Eylan

As the sharpest commentator on education in the UK Laura McInnerney is widely considered to be right about the unqualified teacher ‘row’,.. and, following a twitter discussion with her at the time, I have thought long and hard since my last post on the subject. This thinking has been given fresh energy as I have been contacted several time in the past week, by various BBC news outlets, to comment on the subject or TV and radio  - but I  have avoided getting involved.

However, a conversation with my wife about her work has made me want to comment again. In her work as an OT, she recently met a behavioural specialist who works with kids. He was from an outward bound background, got incredible results in his therapeutic work, despite being relatively unqualified. Though often brought in when other approaches were not working, on a freelance basis, it made me wonder at how closely we manage those who get to influence the way kids learn. Those children he works with are supported by a range of experts, with various qualifications, however, it is ‘outsider’ and outside approach that gets results. I extend this anecdote to argue, again, that  we do still need space for non-QTS teachers to work with our kids in schools.

Now, Laura would say (I think!) , that alternative approaches are great – but they must get qualified and held to the same standards as everyone else, if they are to be paid from the public purse. I can see the logic of that thinking, especially in our current political landscape. I would agree more if we created professionals who developed their craft over their career.

Unfortunately, the way we train teachers is not to create professionals. We create practitioners, to deliver ‘more of the same’ – and QTS is an ‘inculturation’ process, that structures all activity into tried&trusted approached like the three part lesson. There is too much wrong with the way we train teachers and construct our ‘profession’.

We need a safe way to allow experimentation. How come there is so little variation in our education system? So little project based learning? So few alternative assessment approaches?

As I have argued before, too many teachers are scared of change and too conservative. By forcing all those who teach in schools to become qualified…. we create more people to defend the status quo.

None of what I am saying denies the excellence that is out there, or that teachers cannot lead change and innovation (see the excellent EOS Alliance schools!). But we need to see more of this. The inspirational Ron Berger, though a qualified teacher, is also a master craftsman in carpentry, and it is clear how much of his teaching is influenced by his own learning outside of school.

 How many teachers can say they are qualified in anything else than being part of the current education system? How does this state of affairs answer the needs of our kids and their futures? I do not think it does!

I am not sure I am yet clear on the rights and wrongs of the current political debate about unqualified teachers, but I am sure that until more of us are open to more professionals sharing their expertise in schools, we are going to keep re-creating an education system that does not deliver anything, except to maintain the vested interests of the few.

 

Apr 17 14

From idea to a viable service in education

by Eylan

How do you grow an idea into a service that teachers will use and that can also be a commercial success?

Here are the slides I used to share my advice, building on the successes I have had as well as the lessons I have learned from what doesn’t work!

I hope this helps others!

 

 

Apr 16 14

Learning Swiftly

by Eylan

I have just completed half a year teaching a group of 10 Year 6 kids. Lots of people described us as a booster class, but I am grateful for the chance to make it so much more.  I think we learned a lot together.

What was the problem?

Having worked with the other upper KS2 staff for a while, I was offered a chance to do more for some of the kids at St Francis. Yes, they needed a boost. They were children who were well below their peers, and who had found little ‘improvement’ since year 3. Their progress  had been inconsistent and their learning patchy. But there was more. Whether there were special needs, emotional, social care or behavioural problems, these were kids who had a common set of issues.

  • Confidence – They were, in their own minds, (as well as the minds of many adults in their lives) failures. All had given up trying.
  • Communication – Whether it was explaining an idea, a problem, or talking to peers, these children found it hard to express themselves.
  • Collaboration – These were kids who used a range of strategies to hide the fact that they struggled to work with others.

What did we do?

I developed a three term plan, to focus on each area, and to build on both knowledge and skills.

Term 2 - Speaking and Listening – Victorians using eQuest  – developing group roles, through structured activities, using a highly engaging story/game.

Term 3 - Daily science investigations - with a focus on scientific method. Lots of learning through failure and testing theories

Term 4 – Project Based LearningIsland project. “Can you create a convincing exhibition of your own (invented) island?’ –  Critique protocols, fixed timeline, skills teaching (cartography, descriptive and persuasive writing )

Did it work? How would we know?
Obviously, the main measure will be the levels as they prepare for SATs… And I am pleased to say that almost everyone made significant progress beyond expectations. I was frustrated that the huge progress I can show in Science will not show for much,…but I know how much of a difference this ‘general knowledge ‘ will make to these kids in Year 7. Still, these are now kids operating at (or at the borders of) level 4.

The head had asked me to boost the learning with these kids but also to help them prepare better for secondary school, to develop more positive learning behaviours.

Using a pupil voice self assessment, taken at the start of the project ad at the end, again there has been very good progress. Of course, all measures have weaknesses, And I would have liked a more rigorous system. Although the one I used indicated progress, it is not evidence on its own.

The strongest evidence I have is on video, of children who could or would not be able to speak with confidence on even the simplest topic , showing off their work.

Meet Ella. She was one of the quietest kids I had ever worked with, who would have shrunk from talking in public in almost any setting, and for whom confidence was (perhaps) her biggest problem!

 


Overall, I learned a lot working with Swifts Class. I was given scope by the head to craft something that suited the kids I had.  I realise that I was very lucky. Although this happened under the pressure of an impending Ofsted, and included an inspection, it is fair to say I had less constraints than my colleagues. My ability to provide a learning environment where open ended questions and challenge was most evident was while doing science (we also covered a ton of maths and literacy). However, without the ground work of teaching the basics of speaking and listening (discussion and group work) we could never have reached the depths of learning that they children found in building their own islands through a project based learning approach.

Thank you Swifts, for teaching me so much.