Category Archives: The Education Fables

These are all stories I made up in my brain. They are ready to collapse under the weight of the clumsy education allegories that they carry, so best read them quickly.

2016: An Education Christmas Hamper

2016. What a year. To celebrate the key moments in education, we at Othmar’s Trombone have put together this delicious Christmas hamper, filled with all of the products that everyone was talking about this year.

Inspiration Trust crème de la crèmeslide1Inspiration Trust dairies have spent this year gathering the crème de la crème from across the country. The creamery have become masters in the process of watching the best rise to the top before using the patented de Souza centrifuge to attract it. How do they get it to taste so good? Inspiration tell us “it’s all about the knowledge”.

Minecraft beers2012-04-06_212754_1905415One of the rising foodie trends of recent years have been Minecraft beers. Taking an artisanal approach to brewing, these beers are adored by self-confessed creative types. However, critics have argued that Minecraft beers are just a gimmick and a fad, so should be avoided. Such critics tell us that, as with many craft products, these beers can come at a great expense for very little in return. A staunch defence by advocates of these fun little beers will often result in them accusing the critics of being fully signed up members of the temperance movement.

Spielman’s superfood smoothiesslide1With Wilshaw’s smoothies controlling the market in recent years, we’ve been using smoothies to regulate our systems for quite some time now. Whilst they have come in for some criticism as doing more damage than good over the years, there have been marked improvements recently. And so it was with great interest when Spielman’s announced their new range, to be launched in early 2017. Many sensible people welcomed the expertise and credibility they can bring to smoothie-making, whilst some daft people complained that they “lacked passion fruit”.

Learning Styles honey
screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-19-26-29The amazing thing about honey is that it has an indefinite shelf life. So just when every other appealing spread (Brain Jam, etc.) has been emptied of content and condemned to the bin, the Learning Styles honey jar keeps coming back out of the cupboard. And just when you think the jar is finished, someone will try and point out that there is still something left of worth in it. Expect this jar to last well into the next decade.

Michaela spread
screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-16-03-46With its distinctive, powerful flavour, Michaela spread is famous for dividing opinion – as they say: you either love it or you hate it. Whilst those that love it sing its praises from every street corner; those that hate this vegetarian spread have accused it of everything from animal cruelty to fascism. Interestingly, some of its fiercest critics haven’t actually tasted it – many decry its flavour based on reading the ingredients alone. Try it on your tiger loaf… but be careful: it gets everywhere!

Vegetarian meat from False Dichotomy Farmsslide1Whilst, traditionally, humans are carnivores, more modern and progressive approaches to our diet means that more and more people are choosing to be vegetarian. In recent years, however, people have decried meat-eating and vegetarianism as a “false dichotomy” and that, “actually, most eaters do both”. You might think that people can’t truly subscribe to the philosophy of vegetarianism whilst still sometimes eating meat, but with this new range of meats from False Dichotomy Farms… you can! It is still actual bona fide meat, butchered from once-living animals, but False Dichotomy Farms ensure us that it is 100% vegetarian too. Don’t ask us how it works… it just does!

Shakespeare’s Folio (Education Weekly Subeditors’ Edition)

Here at the Schools Education Supplement (SES, as all the cool kids are calling it), we are launching a new imprint of Shakespeare classics. You can get the first set of five plays for only £9.99.

In order for us to be able to bring you this deal at such a low price, we have agreed to launch each play with a new title. As such, we’ve asked our subeditors to read every play in the First Folio and retitle each one with a name that reflects what they think is the main plot point of each story.

Our subeditors have a wealth of experience of writing headlines based on the main point of an article. Indeed, our peers over at the TES presented us with a brilliant example yesterday. They published a very sensible article by E.D. Hirsch Jr. in which the famed educator argues that some of the beliefs and misconceptions long-held by schools (such as the idea of natural development) have held back children, narrowed the curriculum, widened the achievement gap between rich and poor, and led to overtesting of non-existent skills. As such, Hirsch says that good, long-term research, rather than beliefs, should be our guide.

And, in what seems like a rather ambiguous, throwaway line he says: “We have become disappointed in policies and programmes that seemed experimentally promising, such as smaller class sizes, direct instruction and Success for All. They were all supported by carefully conducted experiments, but in the long run they have disappointed.”

Now an average person might think that this line offers nothing of import in comparison to the rest of the article. But not a brilliant subeditor. No, a good subeditor would use that ambiguous piece of information to create a headline. See:


It is precisely this skill of the subeditor that we have tapped into to bring you our retitled editions of the plays of William Shakespeare. So, without further ado, we present to you the first five plays in the Shakespeare’s Folio (Education Weekly Subeditors’ Edition):

Priest Supplies 13-Year-Old Girl with Under-the-Counter Drugs (previously published as Romeo and Juliet)

Education for All? The Danish Prince Barred from Higher Education (previously published as Hamlet)

Peter Quince: “Delegating roles in Drama is proof that group work works” (previously published as A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

Is This a Dagger I See Before Me? How Virtual Reality ‘Leads the Way’ in Scotland (previously published as Macbeth)

Earl of Gloucester: “It’s only when I started using eyepads that I got true insight into children’s thinking” (previously published as King Lear)

Don’t delay! Get hold of your copies of these new editions of old classics today!




The College of Teaching: a Claim Your Own Adventure story

As an English teacher, I love second-hand bookshops and I can often be found nosing around the children’s books sections for long lost classics from my own childhood.

I used to be an avid reader of the Choose Your Own Adventure books when I was younger, so I was amazed to find this little beauty – from the lesser known Claim Your Own Adventure imprint –  in a charity bookshop recently, and I managed to pick it up for just a few pence.

I’ve scanned in a few of the pages so that you can follow and enjoy one of the possible story arcs of this particular adventure.












Don’t you hate it when a fictional story stretches the boundaries of believability? Such a silly ending too – they take a real leap into fantasy with that one. I hope the other endings are better than this one.

Great chain of being in education

The following is copied and pasted directly from Wikipedia:

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Great chain of being in education

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The great chain of being in education is a strict, hierarchical structure of all matter and life in the education sector, believed to have been decreed by the Secretary of State for Education. The chain starts from the Secretary of State and progresses downward to the HMCI, HMIs, LEAs, CEOs of MATs, executive headteachers, headteachers, SLT members, middle leaders, and right down to teachers and other minerals.

The great chain of being (Latinscala naturae educatio, literally “ladder/stair-way of nature in education”) is a concept derived from PlatoAristotlePlotinus, and Proclus.

Divisions [edit]

The chain of being is composed of a great number of hierarchical links, from the most basic and foundational elements (classroom teachers) up through the very highest perfection, in other words, Secretary of State for Education.

The Secretary of State sits at the top of the chain, and beneath them sit the HMCI, both existing wholly in spirit form. Earthly flesh is fallible and ever-changing, mutable, as can be noted by teacher retention figures. Spirit, however, is unchanging and permanent. This sense of permanence is crucial to understanding this conception of reality. It is generally impossible for an object in the hierarchy to have a voice that is heard by, or above, those higher up the chain.

In the natural order, teachers are at the bottom of the chain; they possess only the attribute of existence. Each link succeeding upward contains the positive attributes of the previous link and adds at least one other. Teachers possess only existence; the next link up is middle leaders who possess some power and existence. Elements further up the chain add more power still, as well as a more amplified voice in the education debate.

Natural science [edit]

Aristotle [edit]

The basic idea of a ranking of the education system’s organisms goes back to Aristotle.  He classified education’s elements in relation to a linear “Ladder of Life”, placing them according to complexity of structure and function so that higher organisms showed greater power, autonomy and trust.

Aristotle’s concept of higher and lower organisms in education was taken up by natural philosophers during the Scholastic period to form the basis of the Scala Naturae Educatio. The scala allowed for an ordering of beings, thus forming a basis for classification where each kind of leader, teacher and mineral could be slotted into place. In medieval times, the great chain was seen as a God-given ordering: Secretary of State at the top, teachers at the bottom, every grade of creature in its place.

Scala natural educatio and the proposed College of Teaching  [edit]

In May 2012, a cross-party education committee gave impetus to the idea of a new “member-driven” Royal College of Teaching. A consultation was launched in December 2014, after the Secretary of State for Education expressed their support for the college. The consultation report stated that:

“It will be led by teachers, enabling the teaching profession to take responsibility for its professional destiny, set its own aspirational standards and help teachers to challenge themselves to be ever better for those they serve.”

A website was launched too, stating that:

“The College of Teaching is an independent, evidence-led, member-driven body run by teachers for teachers in order to best meet the needs of learners.”

The idea of classroom teachers running their own college, however, is in direct contravention of the great chain of being in education, and despite the claims of the promotional materials and consultation, it was considered blasphemous for the college to put a classroom teacher in charge of its operation. As ever, the great chain of education being and the natural order took over and a CEO was appointed from higher up the chain. It was considered that, as this CEO already has power and a voice in education, it was probably best to amplify that, rather than allow a classroom teacher to speak for their profession. Ultimately, it was considered too much to ask.

See also  [edit]


Visible Learning 2108

It’s been a hundred years since Professor John Hattie released his 2008 seminal work, Visible Learning. To commemorate this, we present to you summaries of our meta-analyses of some of the educational interventions used today, in 2108.

Education has come a long way since the ubiquitous Robinsonian approach to education was adopted and schools churned out innumerate and illiterate finger-painters. Many interventions were introduced in the ensuing years to counter this outdated and unsuccessful approach. Here we present evidence on some of the latest approaches for 22nd century learners.

NZT-48 Nootropic Improvement of Cognitive Functioning

There were huge claims made for NZT-48 Nootropic Improvement of Cognitive Functioning (NICF) in its early use in education in the mid 2050s. Based on the premise that we can only access 20% of our brains, this small clear nootropic pill purported to allow pupils access to 100% and thus improving cognitive functioning.

In classroom trials, the makers of NZT-48 reported a huge effect size for this intervention, based on self reporting of the test subjects. However, this is the only research that has made such claims , highlighting the importance of independent research for any intervention. Indeed, when independent randomised controlled trials were undertaken, researchers actually reported negative effect sizes for this intervention. These independent findings have been confirmed in replication.

In further clinical tests, the drug was proved to have “no cognition-enhancing effects”, suggesting that any initial success reported by the manufacturers was down to the placebo effect.

In fact, neurologists have gone further and have been able to report unequivocally that the 20% rule is a myth and that “we use virtually every part of the brain, and that (most of) the brain is active almost all the time.”

Despite all this overwhelming evidence against NZT-48, however, the approach is still used by many teachers who state that, “it works for me and my pupils.”

NOVA Laboratories Input Reading Intervention

The Input Reading Programme (IPR) is an intervention using educational technology created by NOVA Laboratories in Astoria, Oregon.

It is a one-to-one reading intervention that involves pupils using their own sentient S.A.I.N.T. robot to support reading input. Pupils use their robot to read for them and supply them with any knowledge ‘input’ that they require. The robots can digest knew knowledge at a phenomenal speed and then pass it on to pupils via conversation as required.

The intervention has been hugely popular, with many schools engaging institution-wide one-to-one robots for their pupils. This has put NOVA Laboratories at the forefront of the ‘edtech’ industry. Indeed, NOVA Laboratories run a Distinguished NOVALab Educator programme, where teachers can get a certificate for using NOVA Laboratories products in their classroom. This has resulted in increased sales and income for the company, although there is very little empirical evidence to suggest that it has improved outcome for pupils.

The cost of this intervention is huge, yet it continues to be adopted across schools, despite the paucity of evidence to support it.

One of the concerns of this intervention is that it outsources memory and means that pupils aren’t actually learning the information that their robot shares with them.

Researchers have concluded that schools are often convinced to invest in this unevidenced intervention due to a number of appealing elements. These elements include: the attractive brand of NOVA Laboratories; the ubiquity of the product in education giving a false impression of success; the sunk cost effect (once some money has been ‘sunk’, schools often increase their investment); a belief in narratives surrounding ’22nd century learners’ and ‘robot natives’; and even the general shininess of the S.A.I.N.T. robots.

It is interesting to note that, despite the huge amount of money that companies such as NOVA Laboratories and other similar companies stand to make by selling this type of intervention, these companies are still yet to commission, produce or identify any successful empirical evidence to support their products’ use in education.

Rekall Inc. Memory Implant Programme

The Memory Implant Programme (MIP) is a short intervention programme designed by Rekall Inc. in 2098. After the company’s problematic start as a holiday company, they lost their ABTA membership and were subsequently bought out by billionaire philanthropist Romeo Beckham, who turned it into an education enterprise.

This intervention involves pupils having memories of knowledge within the various subject disciplines implanted into their brains. Its initial rollout on Mars was so successful that it rocketed the Red Planet to the top of the PISA rankings in 2099, where it stayed until the programme was rolled out galaxy-wide in 2105.

Its a very simple intervention which takes very little time and resource (once a memory resource is produced, it can be used for all pupils, undifferentiated) and has the highest effect size we’ve ever seen for an education intervention. MIP has managed to wipe out illiteracy across the known universe and ensures that all pupils are able to obtain the same exceptional level of academic and artistic achievement. It has created true equality in education and allowed all pupils to pursue their dreams. We don’t use these words lightly when we suggest that this is probably the perfect education intervention.

Despite this considerable evidence, however, there are still many teachers who prefer to dilute the effectiveness of MIP as part of a mixed methods approach, citing that “all children are different and they all learn differently”.

The factory model

Mr. Brumley looked out of the window and to the crowd gathered outside the gates. He squinted as he tried to make out the words on the placards being waved enthusiastically at passing cars. He saw the words ‘SCHOOLS’ and ‘FACTORIES’ repeated a dozen times, as well as various iterations urging people to ‘SAY NO!’

He turned to the group gathered around the table in the meeting room.

“What do we do about this?” Mr. Brumley urged. “The staff have all walked out in support of this protest. How can we get them back into work? How can we get this place going again.” He looked around at the nervous faces looking back at him. “Anyone?”

Silence. A few furtive glances were exchanged between those sat at the table. Then, an anxious voice spoke.

“They’ve, er… they’ve kind of got a point, though, haven’t they, sir?”

“What? Who said that? Was that you, Mr. Perkins? What do you mean? Don’t be nervous – I want to know what we can do to get back on track. Your voice is important here, as you know.”

“Well, they are kind of right, aren’t they?” replied Mr. Perkins. “Things could be done a bit better in order to make it less stressful for everyone, couldn’t it? I mean, the current model makes it very difficult for everyone out on the chalkface. There’s a lot of really anxious little faces out there every day.”

“Go on… how could we improve things? What do you think we are getting wrong? Do you think there is something in this whole ‘factory / school’ thing?”

“Well, yes. The fact of the matter is that this place shouldn’t really be run on the model it does. After all, we are a factory. I mean, we manufacture plastics to sell to industry. The protesters are right: this factory really does seem to run on ‘a school model’.”

“How so?”

“Well, the inefficiency for a start. We spend an awful lot of time and money on things that don’t really need to be done. All the filling out of forms. All the time spent on the latest industry fad before it is never heard of again. And what’s the point of all the data collection? I collect the data from all the departments every month and it just sits in filing cabinets. Someone told me it is only produced in case the auditors come in. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot of time spent writing commentaries, explanations and analyses of the data. And then there’s all the meetings….”

“Interesting. Mrs. Sanderson, will you look into this for us? Go on, Mr. Perkins…”

“There’s also the excessive managerialism. Just look around this table. No offence to anyone, but do we really need this many managers? I mean, in every department, there are as many managers as there are entry level workers. Have you seen the amount of company-wide emails and the excessive workload that this sort of thing generates?”

“Right… yes, that is a problem. What else?”

“Well, the worst of all is the waste. I mean, we have lots and lots of materials that we buy in, that then leave the factory without ever having been enhanced in any way. They just end up in the same state that they arrived at us in. It’s like these materials never even came to the factory in the first place. In my last factory, we were really efficient about waste. We made sure all materials were refined.”

“Okay. You seem to speak from a place of experience. How should we go about things here?”

“Well, I propose we run this plant on what I call ‘a factory model’. It’s based on efficiency and fair accountability.”

“Yes, but we do want everyone to enjoy working here. We don’t want to take the fun out of the job, do we?”

“Well, actually, in my experience, when everything runs efficiently and with fair accountability, there is room for lots more joy. Efficiency doesn’t mean ‘cold and unfeeling’. In fact, it means quite the opposite. Because all the systems are structured around effectiveness and efficiency, it means we can take more time for the personal touch. We actually care more about causing damage, not less. Achievement goes up. Morale goes up. Try it and you’ll see.”

“Right. It sounds like a model worth trying.” Mr. Brumley had a glint of excitement in his eye. “We’ll put together some analysis of current systems and then come up with a strategic plan. We’ll start testing this model within a few weeks.”

“Testing?” replied Mr. Perkins. “Testing? Are you some kind of monster?”