Sunday, 29 September 2013

Personifying The X-Factor Chairs

Has Mr Gove taken over the production of The X-Factor? Last night, I watched the show and was shocked at how remarkably cruel it has suddenly got. It has always dwelled on the sad stories that the acts had and the things that have happened to them in the past, but last night I felt very uncomfortable. In fact, so uncomfortable I retreated into Twitter while it was on.

I have always had an uneasy relationship with the show. I liked the straight talking of some of the judges but detested the way the show manipulated my emotions, or tried to. Like the old exam system, there were people that didn’t quite deserve to get there. Wagner and Jedward are just two examples that come to mind. They achieved a lot, while others more deserving failed at an early stage.

Now the new format has decided to use the new approach towards education. First we have the phonics test – the audition with just the judges. That just tests your ability to read, I mean sing. Let’s weed them out at an early stage. Then we have the SATs tests, which, compared to the first audition, is 500% harder. The SATs tests are more demanding and challenging. First it was reading. Now it is reading, writing and grammar. Now, you are in a huge stadium proving you can sing, ooze charisma and handle the pressure. Get through both of these test and you make it to boot camp.

This is where I get uncomfortable.  The singers are now categorised according to their age and gender and then they have to perform yet again. This is where we get to the GCSEs. The singers /students now have to sing for their life. At this stage, they have worked so hard and received praise and encouragement by a system that says that they are good. At each hurdle, they have demonstrated their ability.  Now, there appears a figure who decides who is worthy and who isn’t worthy of going on in life – I mean the show.  Those worthy get to sit on a white plastic chair and those unworthy slouch off home. Yet, to make things even worse, you sit down thinking you have a hope of success, then in a second your hope is dashed because a judge has decided someone is better than you. Those that have worked hard through the system and done everything right are suddenly binned, because this is showbiz, darling. It is tough. Look at the recent GCSE issues, all those students who had worked hard and sat on their white plastic chairs. Those chairs were cruelly yanked out from under them. In fact, the chairs disappeared, as there was nobody to replace them with.

I don’t take any pleasure in watching people cry, nor do I get any enjoyment from watching someone’s hopes and future dashed and destroyed in one simple movement. Having young children, I see enough crying and snot dribbling that I have no desire to watch it for entertainment. The problem I have always had with The X-Factor is the notion that success is instant. This year they seem to have made it their running theme that success is about trying and trying again, and humiliation after humiliation. Look at how many old contestants have returned this year. Of course, they are a bit like an old character in a soap. A blast from the past. But, also they are examples of how success isn’t instant. Bring on the Year 12 students who resit exams.

Next week, or the week after, we are at the judges’ houses. Like A-Level, this is all cosy and nice. Lots of chatting and a relaxed atmosphere. Only a few succeed and get through. The rest are all told that maybe they are just not ready. Give it a go again next year, because then you will be ready for it.

Anyway, back to those chairs. Those vile, evil chairs that represent everything evil in this new format of the show. I am teaching horror writing to my Year 8s at the moment and I think the chairs would make a great starter for a lesson.  The approach I use for personification either came from somewhere else or it came from my brain. I will see which one responds first and then I will give them a credit.

Step 1:  Think of some verbs that only a human would do.






Step 2: Think of an object.

The lights
The floor

The desk

The speaker

The microphone

The projector

The chair

Step 3: Add some adjectives to the object.

The harsh, cold lights
The clean floor

The high, towering desk

The warm microphone

The bright projector
The silent chair

Step 4: Put some of the objects and the verbs together.

The blank and tall speaker sneezes music  

The high, towering desk stares

The silent chair smiles

The warm microphone shivers                  

 Step 5: Add a simile at the end

The blank and tall speaker sneezes music like a pneumatic drill

The high, towering desk stares like a courtroom judge

The silent chair smiles like an assassin
The warm microphone shivers like nervous animal

Step 6: Adding just a little more detail

The blank and tall speaker sneezes music like a pneumatic drill, struggling to control itself
The high, towering desk stares like a courtroom judge, hoping to condemn  

The silent chair smiles like an assassin, waiting to get ready.

The warm microphone shivers like nervous animal, wishing it was somewhere else

This approach has always worked for me, because it takes out the large leap of imagination students have to come up with when creating some bits of figurative language. I have stood at the front of the room waiting for students to come up with a line of personification about a fireplace or a shoe. I have waited and waited and waited. The most able can create them with glee, but the rest struggle. Starting with verbs has helped my groups to create some effective ones. Building up writing like this is much better than waiting for instant success. This way we tease out the meaning and avoid success or failure. However, the idea of having six chairs in class and putting the six students with the best personification in them could have some potential.

Thanks for reading this,


P.S. I hear that next year that will be a different style of boot camp. There will be a two tier system. Some will get to sit on chairs; others will sit on beanbags. Those on chairs are promised a number one single. Those on beanbags are promised a chance to sing on a cruise ship.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Reading in lessons: Welcome to our book group.

I turned 50 not so long ago. I mean: the blog achieved over 50,000 hits and I was genuinely surprised. I started blogging a year and a half ago out of a mixture of boredom, frustration and loneliness. How did I celebrate this milestone? Did I bathe in champagne? Did I broadcast it to the world? Did I change my info on Twitter? Nah. All I did was eat a twix. In fact, I ate two – it was a special occasion! Sorry, I am not going to go all mawkish on you and blog like I am writing my Oscar speech.  No, I am going back to my main reason for writing a blog: to share my experiences and things I have done.

When I started blogging, I was feeling a tad bit miffed about the fact that some of the things I was taught in my PGCE did not help me in my teaching career. I was given lots of ‘nice’ tips, but the real stuff was something I had to learn during my time teaching. I had to learn that when ringing parents up it always best to ask for the child’s mother or father, rather than Mr Smith or Mrs Smith. I had to learn that sitting next to a child is better for getting students to work than telling them over and over again to get on with their work. I had to learn marking one paragraph can be more effective than marking seven pages of work.  In fact, NQTs and students you don’t know you were born.  Advice now is pouring out of every laptop thanks to blogging and Twitter. However, I still think there is more to be said.

How miffed do you think the voice was?
Do you think these pieces of advice should be taught to PGCE students?
What would you add to the list?

The one piece of advice is the one I am going to discuss in an INSET session this week on reading.  I wish that I had this advice when I was first starting out teaching and I am a little embarrassed to say this, but I only really started using this advice myself last year.  It is about how we deal with texts in lessons and I think it can apply to most subjects in school.  When you are feeling bogged down and you need some breathing space, get students to have ‘book group’ lesson. Sometimes, teachers hold back a DVD or a video for when they want a breather from the demands of a term, but I found a book group lesson worked. I used it with various novels, poems and non-fiction texts and this week I am going to promote it across the school. Before you think I am peddling this as the latest thing in teaching, I am not. I feel that we often overlook the classics in favour of the new shiny thing.  
 What do you think the INSET will be on?
What does the ‘demands of the term’ really mean?
Do we often overlook the classics?

Anyway, how do I structure a book group lesson? Well, I read the text and plan a set of questions to be read at a certain point in the reading. Then, students are placed into groups, or pairs, and they read together. When they reach a certain point, they stop and discuss the questions. At the end of the lesson, we meet together and discuss what they had thought when discussing the questions. I did this with a Year 8 class and it transformed their ideas of a novel, because they were talking in an atmosphere where there were no right and wrongs. It was a warm, cosy environment to chat and discuss. The lovely thing about book groups is that you can chat and explore a book. This approach helped me unlock some hidden potential that is lost in comprehension tasks and lost in class discussion. It was all about exploring and it meant that I had a low planning lesson and a no marking lesson, which if you are a student or an NQT is a joy.  Once the students have experienced the process first-hand, then they can create the questions for you, and you have even less to plan. That is one of the things I wished someone told me all those years ago.
Have you done something similar?
How are book groups structured?

I did this book group lesson this week and it was a joy to listen to as students experimented with American accents when reading out ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and them discussing what a character really meant when they used a particular word.  We all work hard to create an environment that is positive, but this form of group work works. However, there are some important principles behind this strategy in the classroom and it has something to do with ‘Deep Reading’.

What do the most able readers do when they are reading? My experience, of listening to students read to me, has enlightened me on this. Less able students tend to focus on reading the words out with the hope that they have pronounced it correctly. They have the basics of the text’s outline. The most able students tend to read with varying intonation. So, the question is: How do these able students pick up the tone of the words and, therefore, the underlying meaning of a text? For years, we have had the idea that good readers predict, question and visualise things, but I am starting to think that the questioning element is the key thing. Good readers do not process reading like an automaton and just simply decode things; they reflect and question all the time. I will repeat that: all the time. The problem with how we often teach at the moment is that the questions come at the end of the process. In lessons, we get students to read something and THEN answer some questions. We get students to work through an activity and then answer the questions at the end of this.

How do you think students pick up tone?
Is questioning the key element?
Does it really matter when the question is asked?

There is always a big step up from GCSE and A-level, but I do think that that could be partly to do with the questioning of things. I watched an AST teach some A-level class about ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ and the questioning in the lesson was phenomenal. Everything was questioned in the text. Every subtle aspect was broken apart so that the students and teacher had fully understood text.  The teacher evaluated the information and credited or discredited ideas based on the information before them.  What did that look like? Well, using the opening paragraph, I will give you an example:

 I turned 50 not so long ago. What does ‘50’ refer to? Can we assume it means age? As this is a first person perspective, can we trust this writing as reliable? Who is it speaking to? When was this written? I mean: the blog achieved over 50,000 hits and I was genuinely surprised. Who read this blog? Does hits mean readers or visits? Can people visit more than once? Was the voice surprise because he thought it worthless or was he surprised in a mock surprise way? Is the voice really smug but trying to hide it? Why use the word ‘genuinely’? Is the voice convincing himself or the audience?  I started blogging a year and a half ago out of a mixture of boredom, frustration and loneliness. Why is the voice so vague about starting? Is blogging something you can start? Is it natural for someone to blog about boredom? What are the reasons for blogging? Is the voice exaggerating for sympathy or are they attempting to be funny? Is loneliness a result of boredom? How did I celebrate this milestone? Compared to other blogs, is this really a milestone? Has the voice achieved anything else? Is this voice male because it feels a need to assert its achievements? Or, does the emotional point about ‘loneliness’ reflect a female voice? Can we clearly ascertain gender from writing style? Did I bathe in champagne? Is it true that people bathe in champagne? How much did it cost? Why would you do this?Did I broadcast it to the world? How would they broadcast it? Are they in a position to broadcast it? Did I change my info on Twitter? Nah. All I did was eat a twix. In fact, I ate two – it was a special occasion!

There are obviously loads of questions that I have missed or haven’t addressed; however, I think you can see my point. As an adult, I have made this questioning process a subconscious one. I, we, do that all the time. My head is full of questions. The problem comes, I think, is when we look at what we do with reading texts. We focus on doing the reading first and then get students to look back and question things. On one hand that is great because they can see the whole picture. But, on the other hand, it does mean that complex understanding needed to fully understand the task isn’t provided at the right moment. The right question at the right time is very important. Five minutes late and it is lost.

I have blogged about reading as being a journey here. But, if we don’t address the questions at the start of the reading journey, then we have lost sight of the full journey. Yes, they might be able to pick things up, but the full understanding isn’t there. I think we need to build students up to ask questions as they read. This can be internally, verbally or in writing, but we need to build this up. Admittedly, I have been guilt of not focusing on questioning during reading, because I have been so concerned with heads down reading in silence.  However, maybe I am not preparing students fully. Yes, I do lots of questioning before reading a text and I do tonnes of questioning after, but now I need to do a bucketful during.    

Thank you for reading the blog,

P.S. Learning from my mistakes t-shirts, key rings, plates and badges will be available soon.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Virtual Reality Shakespeare

Over the years I have taught Shakespeare’s context good, bad and ugly. I have taught it as a lecture or I have made students do an infamous fact search of things to do with his life, theatre and world. Whatever I did, I ended up with some meaningless waffle copied out from a website. Make a factsheet. Dull results. Make a poster. Boring.  Make a quiz based on the facts. Zzzzzz. Some people might read this and think, ‘Well, I do that, and they loved it’. Maybe I don’t have the magic ingredient, but writing about context always seems to involve some kind of ‘question and answer’ task or some form of regurgitating facts found in a book.

Last year, I did something different with a group of Year 7s with Shakespeare. I got the students to write about the experience of going to the theatre as if they were there. None of the boring and mindlessly irrelevant stuff about Shakespeare dying on his birthday. After several years of students telling me this, my response of ‘really’ is wearing thin. So, I got students to write about watching a play. Subsequently, in my trawling through the internet over the holidays I found that I am not alone in this idea. Great minds think alike.  However, the resource on TES was focusing on descriptive writing, whereas I was focusing on contextual knowledge. (Sorry, but can't find it. When I do, I will put a link here.)

Understanding is more important than lots of mindless facts. The facts are important to understanding, but often the overreliance of factual information leads to some codswallop statements when students write. The facts are used to form ideas rather than applied to an idea. Shakespeare left his wife to work in London is used by a student to crowbar the idea that Shakespeare didn’t like women so makes Lady Macbeth a horrible character. Or, some students just throw contextual facts in like salt and pepper; they just end a sentence with, ‘this is because fathers decided who daughters could marry.’ I feel that something more has to be done with this factual knowledge to develop a real understanding of a situation.

Often, the context becomes a list of facts that we feel we need to impart to students before they fully understand something. But, I feel that the facts need more exploration and connection to other factors of the time. The whole chuck a load of things at them and, hopefully, something will stick doesn’t work for me.  Take, for example, this simple fact:

Elizabethans commonly thought that the Devil was capable of taking over your body and any suggestion of devilish behaviour or costume (actors) caused fear in an audience.

In a nutshell, they were scared of the Devil. Some deeper thinking is need for students to understand the implications of that fact.

If they were scared of the Devil, what else were they scared of?

If they believed the Devil was real, then how religious were they?

If they were scared of actors being devilish, how did they react on stage?

If they thought the Devil could take over a body, how did they view their friends and family differently?

If they believed in the Devil, did they think all crimes had something to do with this?

A simple fact alone becomes something more. The exploration of that one contextual fact has lots of resonance in so many different ways.  The questioning of the fact gives us a deeper understanding so that when we apply the questions to a play such as Macbeth, we understand the context better. You understand the world was one of fear. Look at the play and you see a fear of the supernatural, the fear of family and friends, the fear of things not being right.  Then, add another fact such as James I’s interest in witchcraft and you understand the first fact better. If the King is interested, then the rest of the country would be interested by default.  I am teaching ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ to Year 10s and the one fact that I have unpicked is the fear that the white community held at the time: they feared, incorrectly, of black men being unable to control themselves and attacking their women. The questions this leads to are far more effective than a small photocopy of history of racism in America.  

Rather than listing lots of contextual facts, we should be unpicking them bit by bit and developing our understanding further. Then, we can relate them to other aspects or facts. Knowing one fact and its significance is much better than knowing lots of facts and not knowing their significance. But, maybe we need to give more time to unwinding the facts. I am guilty of rushing through things, as I plough through so many aspects in a text; but, maybe, I need to be a little more simple with how I approach context.

Anyway, how did I do the virtual reality Shakespeare? First of all, I had to explain what virtual reality is, as unlike me they weren’t around in the 1990s.

1] First, I started with the facts. Well, true or false statements. Students decided what was true and what was false in the following below. They are silly, but they help to give a sense of the time.  Each statement could become a stimulus for exploring the context further. If they didn’t wee in a bag, where did they wee then?

When going to the theatre, people used to carry a little bag to wee in.
When you sneeze, somebody else must say 'bless you' or the Devil will take over your body.
If you wear pretend horns on your head and said you were the Devil on stage, then people would think you were the Devil.
People used to carry a little bag of flowers to keep away diseases.
The actors used real explosives and fire on a wooden stage.
Women couldn't act on stage.
People couldn't watch the plays at night time.
You were not allowed to throw rotten fruit at the actors.
Actors were only given their lines the day before the performance.

2] Then students compared two pictures. One of a modern theatre and one of the Globe theatre. This provided a point of comparison for discussion. The longer I teach, the more I realise that we need to place more things side by side to draw knowledge from students.

3] At this stage I worked with students on the language of Shakespeare’s plays and we worked through a small scene from ‘Hamlet’. Year 7s seem to love the opening scene to ‘Hamlet’ for some strange reason.

4] By this point, I felt it was necessary to revisit the context, so we watched five minutes of ‘Shakespeare in Love’. Obviously, I made sure it was a suitable bit; and the bit I selected was the bit towards the end, where they perform ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Students jotted down what they would see, hear, feel, smell and taste, based on the clip.

5] Now the tricky bit! I had to explain what virtual reality is to students who had never heard of the concept. It surprises me, but they haven’t. In the 1990s, it was all the rage, but now it isn’t.

I then got a student to be blindfolded. He then walked (sorry, nervously stumbled) through the class and if he bumped into a student or went near someone, they had to shout out something they might expect to see.  Now, I would hesitate to do this with an older group as you might get a few interesting answers, but, thankfully, the Year 7s were kind. The student bumped into a hawker, a baker on his day off, a boy that wanted to be an actor, and someone urinating on the floor.

We have so many visual stimuli for Shakespeare’s theatre that I think we need to employ our imaginations a bit more. This did.

6] After all that, I decided to narrow the focus on an object that might be seen in that experience. A handkerchief. A purse. A pie. A dagger.  We then had a go at describing that object and experimenting with word choices and how to fit the object into a sentence.

 Finally, they turn this all into a piece of prose.

Task: Write two sides of A4 paper describing the experience of watching one of Shakespeare’s plays.  Your object must fit into the description somehow.

The final products were the most interesting things I have read about context in years. The writing was engaging and fun, but they proved how much students knew about the theatre of the time. These are some of the scenarios that students described:

·         A teenage boy worried about going on stage.

·         A noble worried that they would be robbed.

·         A thief picking pockets.

·         A man in the audience scared at the sight of the ghost.

·         A woman in the audience worried about the weather.

·         An assassin looking for a target.

All of these descriptions were to the backdrop of ‘Hamlet’, so there were constant references to what was happening on stage mixed in with the perspective chosen. In fact, the students were weaving in the context with the play. A few years later and I will be asking them at GCSE to do this and think about how the audience would react to a scene. Here Year 7s were doing it unprompted and with glee.  Some of the more able students were writing using Elizabethan language and others just lifted lines from the play.

When marking these I could see that students had knowledge of the context, but also they had understanding. And, I think, understanding the context is far more important than the knowledge of it. I still need to work on things. But, from now on a few facts, for me, well understood are better than a paragraph of details that isn’t understood and isn’t related to the text.

Thanks for reading,

P.S. Please read my other blog about context for more ideas about teaching context here.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

P.S. I love Gove.

I promise you I haven’t gone mad, but today I am going to be positive about Michael Gove. Yep, you heard me right: positive about the man whose photograph occupies various dartboards across the country in homes and schools. The reason for this surprising burst of positivity is that I feel that somebody needs to play devil’s advocate or provide a counterpoint to the arguments that judge him and his ideas. Most of the time they amount: grrr, don’t you hate him; he is so clueless. Twitter alone has enough comments daily that vilify him, yet there are very few voices that agree or support him. There seems to be a mob mentality when it comes to referring to the man. Some people on twitter are a few steps away from pitchforks and flaming torches, and, maybe, a select few are probably working together to hire an assassin to dispose of him.

I too have joined in the mob and blogged about my dissatisfaction at certain things that have happened or are going to happen. I don’t agree with everything he has orchestrated or suggested. There are some things I abhor too, but I think an overview is needed. I do feel for new teachers as the common held though it that this man is destroying education single-handedly. Really? This man is going to ruin education. I think a bit of perspective is needed. Teachers are the eternal optimists. They have to see the good in the bad.   

So, what have the Romans ever done for us? I mean, what has Gove ever done for us?

Raising the status of education
Teachers hold in their hands the success of our country and the wellbeing of its citizens; they are the key to helping every child in this country to realise their full potential.

When I think back to all the previous education ministers or politicians associated with education, I struggle to name them all. In fact, I struggle to name most of them. I only really remember Lord Adonis and Ed Balls because they sounded like a group of male strippers. In the public eye, education minsters have always been low on the political radar. They have been in the public sight once every five or six months, but the rest of the time they have been hidden in the shadows. Not Gove. He is there on a weekly basis, almost, putting across his views and ideas.  Education is mentioned in the press on a weekly basis. It is in the public mind all the time.

How many sixteen and seventeen year olds have heard of Mr Gove? How many parents have heard of Mr Gove? I would say more parents and students know of our minister’s name than before. They know that changes have taken place. They know how they have been affected.  In Parents Evenings’ in my teaching career, I have never mentioned the education minster, yet now parents do. 

For endless years, we have heard about GCSE results continually improving and there had been little or no reaction to that. The naturally assumption people made was that they were getting easier. Was anything done in the past to combat this? No. What did he do? He opened the can of worms. Resits. Inflated marks. Modular testing. He addressed this. Yes, people might not like it, but the way the GCSEs are going they will be tougher and harder. They will represent a challenge and not something perceived at being easy. 

There is no denying that the man has an agenda: an agenda that most people disagree with. However, he has raised some serious issues about education and how we teach. He may think he has the solution, but in peddling his solution he has raised questions.  Are we academic enough in our teaching? Do we simplify things too much? Are facts more important than skills? Are boring lessons a problem? Are we pandering to what students want rather than what they need? Are some new teaching methods credible? No other minister in my time in education has made me think about the quality and validity of what I do and how I do it. I don’t agree with everything he spouts, but he has made me think about how I teach.

The discussion, for example, about what should be in the curriculum for History and English has raised more questions. He is challenging the status quo. Why do something because it has been done for years? Why shouldn’t we do something else? He has raised questions about how we do things. Each curriculum is about a series of choices and sometime we should question those choices. The most invigorating change for me was the change in AQA anthologies poems. I was secure with the old ones and I had loads of resources. However, the new conflict set of poems sparked my creativity, interest and enthusiasm.  The changes in the English curriculum have also got me excited as I will mention later.

The man has got teachers questioning everything. Look at the arguments on phonics. There have been some intelligent arguments for and against. But, he made us do that. He made us question it and not blindly accept it.
Mr Gove used to work in journalism and he knows how papers work. There is no better evidence of this than his press coverage over the last year. That man is never out of the papers. Why? If you think of the public consensus, he is the hardest working politician next to David Cameron. He is always being seen or heard in one way or another. To his boss, he looks like he is working really hard. And, he is building up his profile of being a future PM (which he denies) with his constant drive on ‘change’. The voting public want politicians of action and change. Look at the image he has created over the years. He isn’t someone that sits on his laurels and waits for things to happen; he makes things happen.

Gove is the fox in the hen hutch or the bright student in the class that can with one sentence cause uproar.  He is a ‘soundbite’ man. He will make a point and ruffle everyone’s feathers and see the reactions. Sometimes, this will include changing policy or backing down.  Mention something and step back and see how people react and behave is a classic management move. He is testing the water and judging things when he says things. Therefore, when he says something these days, I tend to take it with a pinch of salt. I leave sharpening the pitchforks for another day.  

Controlled Conditions / Coursework
Nobody told me how much I would come to hate controlled conditions or coursework over the years. It is one of the things I hate about teaching English. For years, I have struggled with jumping from one piece of coursework to another in Year 10 and Year 11. In English, the whole two years seem to be a jumping from one piece to another and then a mad panic for the exams at the end. It always felt as if I was continually teaching to an assessment and not necessarily teaching English.

Added to this, coursework has always been full of problems and issues. Students copying stuff from the internet. The blur between the help at home they might get and the students' own work. The excessive drafting by some teachers.  Inflated grading of work to combat poor exam marks. There never seems to be a fair way of doing it.

Thankfully, it is going. Yes, it will mean that some students will not be able to shine in a way that they did before, but at least we know the whole system will be fair. No longer will we see E grade students suddenly producing B grade work.  Now, I will have two years to prepare students for an exam and along the way I control what they do. I can be creative and I don’t have to be controlled by the rush to get all the assessments done in the time. I can teach English rather than teach to a piece of coursework.
Oh and another thing: I will no longer have to fill in those coversheets and sort out those folders. This task alone took hours of my free time, checking that things were right.  I love Gove alone for saving me this pain. 

Grammar has always been a difficult subject in schools. Many teachers were not taught explicit grammar at school and this has been a contentious issue for years. He brought it to the attention of all and put it smack bang in the curriculum. It is now part of the testing in Year 6. Time will tell if the impact of this is successful, but it does mean that more teachers are teaching grammar and more students will have knowledge of how to use it correctly. Who could argue that we need less grammar teaching in schools? We needed more and we needed it to be not the sole responsibility of the English teachers, because they were seen as the 'fix-all-brigade'. 

I want my students to have the best chance of getting the result they deserve based on their skills and knowledge. Some argue that the new changes at GCSE will penalise some students, but for me I think they will not. They are now going to be marked in isolation and away from the teacher’s subjectivity.  Their work will be marked by a stranger that doesn’t know them and it is all down to what happens in the exam room. In the past, there hasn’t been a totally objective system. You have had generous markers because students have really tried hard or that they are worried that someone will tell them off if they don’t get enough Cs in their a class.

Students will be judged on one thing and one thing alone: how they perform in the exam. We now will have a level playing field. A C will mean a C and not just a poor result in the exam boosted by uncharacteristically high controlled conditions and speaking and listening marks.    

Enough said, really. What’s not to like about having the Romantics taught in English?

For several years, there has been a tendency for lessons to resemble a children’s television show of quick quizzes with prizes and ‘here’s one I made earlier’. The man, after all, is a Conservative and he will, by default, prefer the traditional approaches and the old ways of teaching. But, he has for one thing, addressed the issue of education over entertainment. Do we as teachers spend too much time entertaining and not enough time educating? The whole furore of the ‘Mr Men-gate’ incident was about the 'alleged' dumbing down, but it was also about the entertainment of the topic, making a subject entertaining or fun.

A child-centred approach to learning is a great thing, but when does it become about entertaining the child and less about educating the child? Maybe, he has something in that we are appealing to the children more, when we should be teaching them in a traditional manner.


Finally, if there is one thing he has done, it is unite teachers. Unite them against him.  Change is difficult and it is always hard to deal with. Reports always cite moving house as being one of the most stressful things in life. I want a system that is effective in teaching and sadly it isn’t as effective as it could be. Yes, change is hard and not always enjoyable, but if we want to improve things, then we have to change things.

Now, what has Gove done for us? Well apart from the status, PR, the questions, the coursework,  grammar, equality and a conservative view, what has Gove done for us?  The only person we hate more than Gove is the bleeding Judean People's Front.  And the People’s Front of Judea.

Talk about Judean People’s Front.  What has Labour done for education recently? In fact, who is the shadow minister of education?

Thanks for reading,

P.S. I don’t love Gove. It is not even a bromance, but I do feel some good has come out of the bad things. And at least he is in the public eye and in plain view. I always worry about the person that doesn’t say what they mean and isn’t in the public eye.