Five positives from 2014 and five wishes for 2015.
1) I began blogging and tweeting about education this year. Yes, me, me, me. And did I mention me? It seems very odd writing about myself, having remained pseudonymous thus far, and keeping something of myself back from public view. But writing about oneself seems to be the spirit of Nurture posts, so I’ll write a little more about my year whilst preserving the (ahem) cloak of professionalism in which I try to present myself.
I began writing completely anonymously, unsure what I would end up writing about. Anonymity clearly has benefits. There’s a part of me which would dearly love to let rip in the style of The Quirky Teacher. I’d love to lay bare my frustrations at the way in which of Ofsted has specifically stifled schools in which I’ve worked, and the way in which the current education establishment crushes teachers, but that would be – to my mind at least – clearly unprofessional unless I was prepared to stay completely anonymous for all time, which I am not prepared to do. And I notice that even TQT has toned things down a bit of late, which shows the limitations of anonymity. At some point you have to be prepared to stand by your criticisms, and I’ve taken steps into the light so I can stand by mine.
2) I was asked to appear at the Battle of Ideas. Having stepped further out into the public domain, I was invited to speak as part of a panel at the Barbican. If you get the chance to speak at an event like this, and you feel up to it, then do. I was somewhat apprehensive beforehand, and given that I felt nervous simply asking questions in other sessions, I did wonder how I’d cope with being in front of an audience. I kept reminding myself it was just like standing in front of a class, and that, since I do that for a living, it would be fine. But, you know, I was speaking with Robert Peal and Fiona Miller, as well as Battle of Ideas stalwart Kevin Rooney… so I did have butterflies. But I had prepared, and I knew what I wanted to get across, and I think I did okay.
3) I got to meet some amazing people. At ResearchEd in York, I met the wonderful @nancygedge, who has been a source of both tremendous writing and encouragement all year. It felt odd to be at an education conference which I’d not only chosen to attend, but paid to do so myself. Again, if you haven’t been to one, then do. I also got to meet the wonderful David Didau, who asked me to write a chapter for his forthcoming book. David also gave me my first big boost on Twitter, retweeting RAISEonline is contemptable RUBBISH and singlehandedly adding several hundred followers to my account. I got to meet Sean Harford and Mike Cladingbowl at Ofsted HQ, and put my criticisms of Ofsted’s use of data directly to them. I also got to meet and talk to Daisy Christodoulou, Andrew Smith, Tom Bennett, Ed Dorrell and @DisIdealist at the Battle of Ideas, as well as making various other contacts too. I’ve been invited to speak at the Wellington festival of Education, and I look forward to meeting yet more education voices in 2015.
4) I encouraged @disidealist to blog. I reblogged a long comment he wrote on the Guardian’s Comment is Free in July, which encouraged @disidealist to set up his own blog. It’s been a pleasure to read his ideas since. If you haven’t, head there now.
5) My writing headed off in interesting directions. I started writing because I was, and am, frustrated with many of the assumptions and fallacies about education, schools and teaching. I soon found that having a background in statistics was unusual for a teacher, and that many, many people in education simply don’t understand how numbers work. Whilst I wanted to lay into the stupidity of the Data Dashboard, the Performance Tables and the rest, I have been amazed at the nonsense written about education ‘data’. Luckily, people like Stephen Gorard exist, and have provided a foundation for some of my writing about the misuse of data. I found myself writing about the Pupil Premium because no one seems to be levelling the criticisms I have about the way in which Ofsted and the government have used the policy as a stick with which to beat schools.
Five wishes for 2015
1) That more people question the use of numbers in education. If I could wish for one thing, it would be this. Quite simply, the numbers don’t mean what many people think they mean. Knowledge is a slippery beast, and anyone who reduces it to a number is either deluded or selling something. RAISEonline is ridiculous. Ofsted is data driven. ‘Outstanding’ schools have skewed student populations, as do ‘inadequate’ schools. Trying to use numbers to judge children, their teachers or their schools is utterly wrong and anyone who does should be ashamed of themselves.
2) That more people question their assumptions about teaching. I’m planning a series of blogs about this, which I’d like to collect into a book akin to Daisy Cristodoulou’s Seven Myths about Education. My ‘book’ is tentatively titled ‘Seven Fallacies about Teaching’.
3) I’m looking forward to meeting more people. It’s been great to put faces to names this year, and I look forward to meeting more people at Wellington and Northern Rocks, amongst other education events.
4) That the anti-testing movement takes off in England. This has really begun to make headway in the United States, and I’m hoping that it gets taken up here. High-stakes testing and numbers distort education, and the growing opposition in the States shows that it is possible to stand up to those pushing education in directions I, for one, really dislike.
5) That we hear more from parents, Sixth Formers and non-teachers. The explosion of teacher blogs has shone a bright light into the world of education, and with more and more people in and around education using both Twitter and their own blogs to discuss their concerns, I’m hoping that we see more of those directly affected by the narrowing effects of Ofsted and testing writing about their experiences. I’d like to read blogs by parents about their experiences of their children’s education. Older children, with direct experience of the school system, would be valuable voices in the education debate too. Voices such as ChemistryPoet have made a huge contribution to the ongoing discussion and I’d happily hear more from those outside of the limited world of the Tweeting & blogging teacher.
Finally, thanks to all who have read, commented, retweeted or simply said hello this year.