Category Archives: Uncategorized

Sunbucks, Heimekem and the College of Teaching

I enjoy half term. It’s a time to relax and treat myself to some of the guilty pleasures I often don’t have time for during term time. It’s nice to enjoy a frothy latte from my favourite coffee shop, Sunbucks…

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And I do like a beer or two. There’s nothing like the sound of a cold can of Heimekem opening…

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And if I get the chance, I kick back and play on my PolyStation games console…

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Of course, these products are all Chinese so aren’t actually available in this country. But these sorts of products are ubiquitous in China. In fact, this liberal attitude to brand imitation means that, “on average, 20 percent of all consumer products in the Chinese market are counterfeit“.

This copycat method seems a very easy route to market in places where regulations aren’t particularly stringent. But they piggyback on a brand that’s worked hard to establish itself and offer an inferior product in its place.

Such practice is very difficult in this country, due to market regulations which rightly protect businesses and brands. But it doesn’t, and shouldn’t, stop businesses seeing the success of others and entering the same market to compete with them. This can actually make for a healthy marketplace.

But should the same be said for teacher-led organisations aimed at improving research literacy in education? How many of these do we need?

On 18th March 2013, Tom Bennett had a Twitter exchange with Ben Goldacre, decrying the relationship between research and practice in schools. Goldacre had a simple response – do something about it yourself, Tom:

Within 6 months, Tom Bennett, along with Hélene Galdin-O’Shea  had put together a conference. Held on 7th September 2013, researchED was an event that aimed to bridge research and practice in the profession. Since then, Tom and Hélène have put together increasingly popular national conferences each year, plus regional conferences, and subject- and sector-specific conferences. And, what’s more, they’ve taken taken researchED to an international audience, hosting conferences in New York, Sydney, Gothenburg and Washington, with plans to take it elsewhere already well underway. They have established these relationships with international researchers and educators, whilst continuing to focus on there core activity of bridging research and practice in the UK education sector.

So it was a surprise when I read yesterday that the College of Teaching’s “core activity” will be to do this. To do exactly what researchED is doing.

A few things strike me about this.

Firstly, the College of Teaching has been years in the making. The people involved in the project are always at pains to emphasise the efforts of the many professionals it has taken over the past few years to get to where it is today. There have been multiple consultations, meetings and focus groups. There have been iterations and reiterations of forms of leadership, from Trustees to Chairs to a CEO. There is a pledge of £5 million on the table from the DfE to help fund this, after an attempt to crowdsource funding from the profession failed. There is a website that has been “under construction” for as long as I can remember. It has taken years and huge numbers of people for the College of Teaching to get to where it is today, and we are now told they are merely trying to copy a model that already exists. A model that was set up by Tom and Hélène and a handful of volunteers in just a few months. A truly teacher-led model.

This strikes me as following the model seen in China: see what others have done successfully and just copy that. But is this fair on researchED, given that the College of Teaching have DfE backing and up to £5 million in funding? Is this similar to Tesco being able to shut down the local butcher?

Indeed, if this is what the College of Teaching is offering, why doesn’t the DfE hand the £5 million to researchED instead? It is already established in the area that the College of Teaching is trying to establish itself in.

Secondly, is this what we need the College of Teaching to be? What about, as Michael Merrick suggested here, someone to stand up for teachers and to protect them from workload issues and to improve their working lives? I’m pretty sure that is how many see the College of Teaching. They don’t need another researchED. They already have one of those.

At the moment, it seems like the College of Teaching is an organisation trying to decide what it should be. It’s an organisation in search of a purpose. Which is an odd thing. Surely a government-funded organisation should be set up because it fulfils a need? This is an organisation that has more needs than the profession whose needs it should be fulfilling. It needs to know what it is for. It needs teachers to back it. It needs money to keep it going. It needs membership numbers to sustain it. It needs to copy and cash in on researchED’s success.

It needs to justify itself. This latest announcement that its “core activity will be to bridge research and practice” really doesn’t give it the justification it seeks.

Anyone, it’s still half term. Time to have a break, have a Kicker.

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5 things Einstein didn’t say (that you might hear during CPD or assemblies) by @JamesTheo

Starter for Five

Name: James Theobald
Twitter name: @JamesTheo
Sector: Secondary
Subject taught (if applicable): English
Position: Teacher
What is your advice about? 5 things Einstein didn’t say (that you might hear during CPD or assemblies)

  1. “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
  2. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
  3. “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”
  4. “I don’t need to know everything, I just need to know where to find it when I need it.”
  5. “Please stop Google searching quotes by me to use for your presentation. I probably didn’t say what the internet tells you I said.”

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How to Play Trombone: A Guide to this Blog

On teacher decision making:

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On policy and broader issues in education:

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On schools:

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On the subject of English:

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My attempts to be funny with satirical stories and stuff

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Starter for Five advice:

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Book reviews

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Some resources

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Five Common Wrongs for English Teachers to Avoid by @JamesTheo

Starter for Five

Name: James Theobald
Twitter name: @JamesTheo
Sector: Secondary
Subject taught (if applicable): English
Position: Teacher
What is your advice about? Five Common Wrongs for English Teachers to Avoid

  1. Teaching pupils that a comma is used to mark a pause or to take a breath. Hearing, this, is, enough, to, make, me, hyperventilate.
  2. Using the word ‘connective’ to describe a part of speech. It’s a made-up term used to lump words together into arbitrary groups.
  3. Using the phrase ‘wow word’ to mean ‘sophisticated language’. Unless, of course, you are trying to teach the concept of irony.
  4. Teaching that simple and complex sentences are about length. A well-written simple sentence can often be a long, lingering, meandering piece of carefully crafted epic beauty.
  5. Doing something else when there’s an opportunity to read. If you are studying Shakespeare, the best thing pupils can do is to read some Shakespeare.

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How to teach a book by @JamesTheo

Starter for Five

Name: James Theobald
Twitter name: @JamesTheo
Sector: Secondary
Subject taught (if applicable): English
Position: English Teacher
What is your advice about? How to teach a book

  1. Firstly, be a History teacher: spend lots of time teaching social, historical, cultural and biographical contexts. Give pupils something to hang their ideas on when reading.
  2. Next, tap into your inner Maths teacher: identify the patterns – the recurring themes, motifs and symbols. Draw attention to them throughout reading.
  3. Be a Psychology teacher: focus on characters and their intentions. Treat them as studies in humanity. What can pupils learn about the world from them?
  4. Be a teacher of Philosophy: identify the questions the text provokes. Pitch these as ways into chapters/sections or as essay questions in response to the text.
  5. Most importantly, be an English teacher: make sure pupils read lots (including reading outside of the text); plan for pupils to write about what…

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Essential Books for English Teachers by @JamesTheo

Starter for Five

Name: James Theobald
Twitter name: @JamesTheo
Sector: Secondary
Subject taught (if applicable): English
Position: Teacher
What is your advice about? Essential books for English teachers

1: ‘The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase’ by Mark Forsyth.

2: ‘Gwynne’s Grammar’ by N.M. Gwynne.

3: ‘Shakespeare’s Restless World: An Unexpected History in Twenty Objects’ by Neil MacGregor.

4: ‘You Talkin’ To Me? Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama’ by Sam Leith.

5: ‘A Little History of Literature’ by John Sutherland.

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