Old School Ties

The Sutton Trust have relesed the results of a survey indicating that leading professional people are more likely to have been educated independently.  In particular, schooling post 11 is the greatest indicator of future success. 

Dr Elliot Major said: “This analysis shows that the school you attend at age 11 has a huge impact on your life chances, and particularly how likely you are to reach the top of your chosen profession.”

So where does that place the Prep Schools?  If, as it seems from the survey, that your senior school education is the one that gives you the leg up, professionally, then surely it is the job of the Prep Schools to inculcate the core values that our future leaders are going to need. Honesty, fairness and teamwork are elements of what a good preparatory education can and should offer.  With the hope that our charges, when they go onto their senior schools, will take all their lessons in how to be a decent person all the way through into their professional lives.


An Acronym Too Far

Is it me or has someone at DfES Towers gone bonkers?  Do we really need another term to describe or otherwise pigeon-hole children.  This time it appears to be an effort to redress the balance over the labelling of children as either “Gifted & Talented” or “Special Educational Needs”.

The DfES publication “Gifted & Talented Education.  Guidance on preventing underachievement: a focus on Dual or multiple exceptionality (DME)” introduces us to the concept of an SEN pupil who might actually have other talents!  Well, thank goodness, for a moment I thought that a label was a prerequisite in today’s educational climate.

I recognise that there are differing schools of thought.  Some believe that labels enable us to tailor educational provison more exactly.  Others feel that labels are too restrictive and prevent children from maximising their potential, they are merely shoe-horned into a “type” by seemingly well-meaning educational psychologists.

However I do feel that far too much emphasis is placed upon a reductionist approach to the process of teaching and learning.  Sure, catogorising individuals based in their cognitive ability would enable better provision of personalised learning.  But an over reliance leads to a person’s full range of talents being unexplored.  So do we need to know what DME is?  Or ought we already know that any one child has an array of gifts and talents that we as teachers must recognise and allow to flourish.

Smoke & Mirrors

I’ve been taking a stroll through the initiatives & directives that have recently been or are in the process of being published.  Even in independent education there is no longer a hiding place from the top-down application of new schemes, frameworks, policies or guidance.  A veritabnle forest of literature exists in an attempt to tie-down and regulate every aspect of the learning and teaching experience as well as the non-academic aspects of school.  It is a very timely reminder for those of us in independent education just what a duty our colleagues in the maintained sector have a stuatory obligation to carry out. 

The title of this blog is, in part, a reference to the degree of bureaucracy that now exists in school management.  It has become so very difficult for a head to manage that it is quite literally magical that so many remain effective and continue to drive their schools forward!

So, for those interested, here is a summer reading list…


Every Child Matters

Performance Management


Renewed Primary Framework

Gifted & Talented Education – with a focus on Dual or Multiple Exceptionalities

Read With Mother

I put here, for your delight, the government’s 45 phonemes by which we are to learn to read through the joy of synthetic phonics.  Although, according to the BBC’s website, from where this list came, some say there are 44.  A scan through the Wikipedia entry for phoneme points out that the number of phonemes in English is dependent on the speaker and averages somewhere between 40 & 45.  So 45 for our children to learn?  Nanny state?  Or a drive to encourage RP?

/a/ cat
/e/ peg, bread
/i/ pig, wanted
/o/ log, want
/u/ plug, love
/ae/ pain, day, gate, station
/ee/ sweet, heat, thief, these
/ie/ tried, light, my, shine, mind
/oe/ road, blow, bone, cold
/ue/ moon, blue, grew, tune
/oo / look, would, put
/ar/ cart, fast (regional)
/ur/ burn, first, term
/or/ torn, door, warn (regional)
/au/ haul, law, call
/er/ circus, sister
/ow/ down, shout
/oi/ coin, boy
/air/ stairs, bear, hare
/ear/ fear, beer, here

Consonant phonemes and representative words

/b/ baby
/d/ dog
/f/ field, photo
/g/ game
/h/ hat
/j/ judge, giant, barge
/k/ cook, quick, mix, Chris
/l/ lamb
/m/ monkey, comb
/n/ nut, knife, gnat
/p/ paper
/r/ rabbit, wrong
/s/ sun, mouse, city, science
/t/ tap
/v/ van
/w/ was
/wh/ where (regional)
/y/ yes
/z/ zebra, please, is
/th/ then
/th/ thin
/ch/ chip, watch
/sh/ ship, mission, chef
/zh/ treasure
/ng/ ring, sink

More on Coaching

This course may just have ruined my life!  I think I now have the words “will listen to you whatever!” emblazoned across my forehead!  I jest of course, but I have found that it has become far easier to talk with people about their concerns – my poor wife is wondering why I keep asking her questions…

The process of coaching has lead me to begin what, we hope, will be a very useful dialogue with the Chair of the PTA at the school in our village where I am a governor.  She is, as is common amongst PTAs is very effective but finds the process of organising events increasingly burdensome and delegation very difficult.  However its a key issue in the management of the school: How do you recruit volunteer help & sustain it?  It may be as our Chair feels, that she just has to step away & hope that someone fills the gap.  But will they be as successful?  Its a leap of faith.  Perhaps what would be more sustainable, as emerged from our discussion, would be a situation whereby the chair managed the people organising events rather than manage the events themselves.  Of course this leads to a different set of issues, mostly in relationships!  Yet it seems a very interesting route to explore…

Coaching For Performance

Although it clashed with Father’s day (something I did realise & my family forgot) I have just attended a 2-day Advanced Coaching for Performance course.  Although it is organised by ALITE, it was facilitated by Will Thomas from Vision For Learning

Coaching is fast becoming the tool-du-jour for schools and LEAs as they seek to improve learning and professional development.  The models within coaching are of a softer touch and provide individuals with a tool kit which addresses issues and concerns held by colleagues and students.  Using the coaching process one enables others to find their own solutions and answers that lie within themselves.

 It was very rewarding.  I made some good friends and I will be writing more about it in the future.

DfES Consultations

Did you know about this site – www.dfes.gov.uk/consultations/?

The DfES circulates consultation documents around schools & anticipates an online response to draft doumentation.  I discovered it through an article by Janette Owen in the Guardian which highlights the difficulties that governors have in becoming aware of the intentions of government before guidelines are imposed upon them.

For example, the article reads:

Disappointed at the lack of information on governornet, I searched for “community cohesion” and was given a link to a 2003 document called “How governors can contribute to community cohesion and accountability”. However, access to the document was forbidden.

I’ve been wondering how to respond to a posting by Peter on what he believes is his purpose in Education.  And bringing these two somewhat divergent ideas together has lead me to conclude that we all must play a role in the one, central aim of our involvement in education: the development of the individual.

Peter has returned to a more structured environment to do what he does best.  Others, such as Terry Freedman, work outside the structured educational establishments in an advisory capacity.  Still more, and they are an increasing number, operate within the formal education sector (schools), yet find the time and indeed have the need to drive their profession forward.  Here I am thinking of those teachers who maintain blogs or achieve sucess or public exposure through the media.

Whichever way you view it, whether you are a governor, teacher, educator or consultant it is your belief in your role that counts.  And that role, as diverse as it can be and as difficult as it may become, has at its core the education of the child.  After that, for me, it is up to you how you express that belief.  If that means switching jobs, demonstrating and agitating for change or reading reams and reams of consultation documents then all the best to you.