The draft National Curriculum, reflections on skills and funding

Education is about preparing our young people for life beyond school in the broadest possible sense, so they are: secure in friendships; confident in social skills and skills for life; ready to make a positive different in their local community and able to respond to wider issues and needs in our global society; able to be ‘home makers’ whatever the context and ready for the world of work.

A school curriculum needs to teach empathy, resilience, independence and risk taking as well as key skills linked to different subject areas, and core knowledge.

Creativity, fun, appropriate challenges, passion and real life relevance need to be evident at every stage and within every strand of learning so that all children engage actively and begin the journey of life long learning.

These fundamental skills and opportunities are not jumping out at me as central and at the heart of the recently published draft National Curriculum.  Is that an oversight in the draft proposals or intentional, to ‘encourage’ more schools to become academies?  The success of academies is perhaps the legacy My Grove would like to be linked with?

The draft proposals are very much based on a drive for improving performance/academic success, but fails to mention or acknowledge other factors in this equation, other than parents.  Government funding of facilities, resources, staffing and teacher training sit alongside the curriculum in enabling the desired learning outcomes, plus the individual context of each schools.  Without adequate funding in all these areas it is not realistic to facilitate a broad and balanced curriculum for all and without full local community engagement it is not possible for all our pupils to aspire to and achieve their full potential.

Inclusion and equal opportunities for all, which is highlighted in the draft proposals, is fundamentally important but without increased funding to schools it will remain an ideal that cannot be delivered fully. Perhaps Mr Grove will be making a statement shortly to clarify future funding for schools, to sit alongside the new curriculum proposals?

Reform of the National Curriculum in England – my thoughts . . .

Review, reflection and as appropriate change is good, at all levels, otherwise there cannot be improvement and development

The Department for Education’s introduction document to Reform of the National Curriculum in England, 7 February 2013

  •  1.4 – 1.7, underperformance no doubt is in part linked with the curriculum, but perhaps more significantly reflects: the quality of teaching (referenced in 1.9); and equally, but interestingly not referenced, funding – which to a large extent dictates the range and quality of resources and opportunities a school can deliver and class sizes; as well as pupil aspirations, support from home/carers (referenced in section 10) and wider issues in society that impact on the education of Britain’s young people.
  • 1.11 – 1.12 core subjects must be strong with efficient rigour.  We are part of a global society and including a foreign language at KS2 seems highly sensible/important.  Ideally I believe there should be a range of languages available at all primary schools, through enrichment opportunities and extra-curriculum activities, including KS1.
  • 1.13 – ICT curriculum replaced with a new computing curriculum, with the emphasis being placed on computational thinking and practical programming skills (I will return to this).
  • 1.14 makes the key point that there is a difference between the statutory National Curriculum and the whole school curriculum.  “All schools must provide a curriculum that is broadly based, balanced and meets the needs of all pupils.”
  • 1.15 religious education at all key stages is important to support understanding and tolerance of the views and beliefs of others. I am concerned to see only secondary schools must provide sex education. There needs to be age appropriate understanding and linked to this age appropriate awareness of associated issues, i.e. how to say ‘No!’ and how to seek help in the event of abuse, plus awareness of the emotional aspects and consequences of intimate relationships at a young age. (Perhaps it depends what you term sex education?).  In terms of the curriculum, Science KS1/Year 2 covers reproduction – although it says it should be related to growth rather than children understanding how reproduction occurs.  Year 5 covers life cycles, including reproduction in a variety of animals including humans and Year 6  describes the life processes of reproduction in some plants and animals.  It seems unfortunate to cover the science in the National Curriculum but not require the PSHE angle to be covered at the same time too.
  • 1.17 Core knowledge is referenced in relation to the programme of studies. I would like to have seen reference to skills here too.  I am pleased to see skills referenced in 7.4 in relation to attainment and programmes of study.
  • 8.1 & 8.2 and Question 7 I have no objection to the introduction of a computing curriculum; however, this should not be at the expense and removal of ICT from the statutory National Curriculum.
  • Section 9 and question 8.  I think care needs to be taken not to appear to be ‘trashing’ what has gone before.  There has always been a commitment from the teaching profession to deliver the highest possible standards of teaching and learning.  How people feel this is best achieved may change over time but the focus in schools has always been on facilitating and enabling the highest possible standards for all children.
  • Section 10.  It is vital parents engage in the education of their children and that they understand the expected skills and knowledge in each year of schooling.  Many schools I know do an excellent job at keeping parents informed and updated.  Perhaps nationally there is scope for general agreement on what needs to be included in the partnership between school and home.

Computing – Programmes of study for Key Stages 1 – 4

  • I found the KS1 and 2 subject content too limited in scope in relation to computing and ICT skills as a whole.
  • At KS1 and KS2 I believe the focus of teaching and learning should be given to ICT skills in the broadest sense, with inclusion of computing skills within this. I accept that this may not be true at secondary school level.   However, if ‘computing’ is the term of preference the limited scope proposed at KS1 and KS2 could perhaps be rectified by the following  . . .
  • I believe the last two areas included in subject content for KS3 should be added to KS1 and KS2 –
  • Undertake creative projects that involve selecting, using, and combining multiple applications, preferably across a range of devices, to achieve challenging goals, including collecting and analysing data and meeting the needs of known users
  • Create , reuse, revise and repurpose digital information and content with attention to design, intellectual property and audience
  • With text, multimedia, digital image, sound and music covered as well as electronic communication and programming within the schemes of work.  Although at a stretch perhaps the final point listed for KS2 might be considered to embrace this?  Much will depend how the wording is interpreted and the detail included in the schemes of work.  Without some awareness of this to comment fully is problematic.
  •  There needs to be appropriate and consistent reference to ICT skills within all subject programmes of studies, e.g. Music at KS1 and KS2 should include digital sound and music – composing and recording, so that key skills are embedded in all subjects across the whole school curriculum.
  • In summary, as it stands I have significant reservations about Computing, rather than ICT or Computing and ICT, in the statutory National Curriculum, specifically at KS1 and KS2.  I believe the draft proposals for Computing needs further thought, clarification and potentially key modifications.

Beyond Computing, I think the proposed changes in History and DT would have the greatest impact on our school.

Four hopes

I hope that:

  1. the draft programme of study for the new subject Computing would be revised significantly and sex education would be included from primary and secondary pupils (as referenced in my observations above)
  2. there would be sufficient central funding, and commitment, to facilitate high quality training to enable teachers to deliver what is proposed, where they need further skills and knowledge to implement changes
  3. there would be sufficient funding to cover the new and/or additional resources needed
  4. beyond the curriculum, the government would prioritise funding to schools and teacher training institutions 1) the over all funding to schools so that the ratio of teachers to pupils improves, school facilitates could be kept up to date and fit for purpose and there would be adequate resources to support the best possible teaching and learning and 2) the input into teacher training would be increased to ensure that all new teachers entering the profession have had a full range and depth of opportunities and experiences to maintain and enhance high standards of teaching and learning

Twitter invaluable in the event of a school closure

Twice this week we have needed to close School due to snow.  On both occasions we used our school Twitter account to help keep parents informed.

Why was it invaluable?

1.  Easy access for parents on their mobile ‘phones where ever they were, or via computers at work or home

2.  We could keep sending out messages.  We have ‘an email/text provider’ to send information to parents, I will not share the name, but when many schools use the system at the same time messages are delayed or the system hits overload and you cannot send any messages

3. School websites are fine, but they are not as easy/quick to access on a mobile ‘phone as Twitter

4. We (any staff with authorised access to the school Twitter account) could change and update information instantly, without the need for any ICT support in relation to the School website or a message by an outside provider

1 – 4 = invaluable!

Coping when the going gets tough

This post links and follows on from my previous post, ‘When the going gets tough’.

Some say our ability to cope with stress and pressure is based on what we experienced and learnt when we were young; what was modelled to us and strategies and habits that we adopted as a result.  Some say it relates to our awareness of our inner-self, positive self-worth and acceptance, unconditionally, of our value in relation to others.  Some people link it with philosophies and belief systems/faith – our purpose in life and belonging. Some suggest genetic dispositions.  Work life balance is something key to factor in too and the quality of meaningful relationships we enjoy with others.

I am no expert and do not claim to know or understand all the ins and outs of mental resilience.  No doubt there are a number of factors that come into play in our ability to cope and that these vary between each person, as everyone is an individual and unique.  I guess one of the complications is that we do not always realise that someone has moved from a healthy level of stress to no longer coping.

Within the work environment I have no doubt that the degree to which people feel valued, supported, included in decisions, able to innovate and be creative will play a strong part in how they handle stress.  The school work ethic for staff, whether defined or perceived  – timescales and volume of work to be undertaken again will be powerful factors. In isolation, the general statement that line managers are there to help and staff should see them if someone has concerns or worries is insufficient.

I think there is a need for more training in relation to this so that people are more aware of possible trigger factors and develop greater mental resilience/a range of strategies so that they can cope and seek support. I think training is needed at all levels: teacher training, newly qualified teachers, middle managers and heads.  It is something we can all include in INSET for our staff and incorporate in an age appropriate way for pupils.  It could be included within e.g. LEA and Professional Association courses as well as NPQH training.

When the going gets tough . . .

Listening and reflection are key skills of effective leaders, but when the going gets tough and criticism comes from parents and/or staff it is vital we are able to keep perspective.

This is especially true when a number of situations occur at one time.  At such times most of us would question our decisions and the way we do things.  Have we got it right, was there the right amount of support, encouragement, were people enabled? However, it seems to me that in high pressure jobs there can become a narrow line between an awareness that there may be room for improvement and associated healthy reflection and the point at which someone takes it too personally, they lose their focus and confidence and things become destructive.

In the last few months I have been really sad to hear of a number of people where things have become too much for them and they have become depressed, unable to cope or worse.

It is easy to say that when the going gets tough we all need to have positive, effective coping strategies and someone or several people we can talk with who can help us keep perspective. How much do we talk about deep resilience, coping under intense pressure, maintaining positive mental health or is it one of the few remaining taboos? . . . we do not mention stress in the workplace.  Where is it included in training and ways to cope?

At middle management and deputy head level there is more mutual support, but for heads it seems to me there is little training or support in this specific area.  It would appear to be the same in industry.  May be I am wrong, but recent situations with friends or their family members has made me question this.  I think more could and should be done in this area.

Hand-held devices for teaching staff

I am seeking advice and help to find a suitable hand-held device for teaching staff.

What I am looking for is a device that can take photos and notes and upload them direct to a) a website and b) an email account. Ideally will minimal programming needed for direct linkage into a website. I want it to be quick/manageable for staff rather than a burden and avoid downloading and uploading, by direct linkage.

I am thinking perhaps 1 device, ideally 2 (one for each class), per year group to help with recording progress/assessment evidence and sharing a snap shot of learning with parents each week.

What would you see as the main options? What device would you recommend and why? Is it manageable, realistically, by an ICT support member of staff or do I need to consider ‘out sourcing’ to an ICT provider?

I would welcome comments or a reply by Twitter, many thanks in anticipation of responses!

Do you have other suggestions on what I would be wise to consider at this time?

Education in 2013

We have all been to school and therefore we all have views on what education should be like.  Our experiences have shaped our opinions.  However, that does not make everyone that has been to school educational experts . . .

My hopes for education in 2013 are that:

  • Heads nationally would have the vision, energy and motivation to lead their schools forward in the most positive and dynamic ways for the needs and context of their school community (it is a self-less, lonely and very demanding position)
  • the sharing of ideas and initiatives between leadership,teachers and governors, and the genuine support for all, would help to build the strongest and most dynamic educational communities, for the benefit of the pupils
  • educational policy and decision makers would embrace the fact that there are different and equally valid approaches and models to education and ‘one size’ does not fit all
  • the Government/ministers and newspapers/journalists would highlight excellence in education rather than seeking to re-define and re-shape education on what seems like a monthly basis (one can dream!)

Sandy Hook Elementary School

Twenty innocent young children, just six and seven years of age and six numbers of staff brutally murdered.

Around the world there has been the deepest shock and sadness at this pointless tragedy. There are no adequate words.

May these dear children rest in peace and as the President of the USA has said somehow, at some point, may the parents and the children’s families and friends, the school community and the wider community find the love to cope.

Also, we extend love and prayers to Principal Dawn Hochsprung’s family and to the families of Mary Sherlach, Victoria Soto, Lauren Rousseau, Anne Marie Murphy and Rachel Davino.  In their professionalism and care of the children and the school community as a whole they were selfless and made the ultimate sacrifice.  Our hearts go out to their colleagues and we acknowledge their quick thinking, their actions and careful words that avoided even greater fatalities.

What parent has not agonised over the fact that it could have been their child?  What educator has not reflected that it could have been their school?  What community  has not shouted, ‘we want our children to be safe, nurtured and to go to school without the fear of a similar fatal attack?’  What Head has not reviewed their school’s safety measures and concluded that if someone was really determined they could find their way through virtually every reasonable security system in place at the vast majority of schools?  What staff members working in schools have not considered how far they would go to protect the lives of the children in their care?

May none of us be complacent and may nations around the world reflect on the gun laws they have in place and whether they adequately protect our children.

#ffedapps

Many educators are sharing a range of Apps that they are finding beneficial, which is clearly invaluable and extremely helpful for everyone!  There are so many new Apps appearing and reading how others are using them and which ones they recommend can save significant time and help us avoid downloading and paying for Apps that we then realise are not the best ones available, or the most suitable for our school’s specific context and needs.

In some ways it is rather ad hoc which Apps we spot via tweets, or a link blog post, depending on when we view Twitter and how we group and filter tweets etc.

I would like to make a suggestion, how about making a tweak on the hashtag #ff i.e. #ffedapps, on Fridays?  People could tweet the hashtag, the name of the App and hashtag the subject or skills it develops, e.g. #ffedapps ‘name of App’ #creativewriting. Simple and straightforward and easy to find.  In addition a link to a blog post could be given.

It gives the weekend to explore the Apps or details could be saved until the following week, depending on people’s preferences in when they research and plan.

I will wait with interest to see on Friday if others feel this would be helpful and start to share using this hashtag and if key people will re-share Apps details and information.  Alternatively people could hashtag #edapps which I have just discovered is already in use.