Wednesday, 28 March 2012

"The Riot Report" - What now?

The Riot Report" See BBC Education is causing flurries of disturbances around the country, especially in areas directly affected by last summer's riots.  

Embedded image permalink

  picture nicked from here

Proposals include:

  • a new requirement for schools to develop and publish their policies on building character
  • primary and secondary schools should undertake regular assessments of pupils' strength of character
  • schools develop and publish a careers support guarantee, setting out what a child can expect in terms of advice, guidance, contact with businesses and work experience options
  • schools failing to raise the literacy rate of a child to an age appropriate standard should cover the financial cost of raising their attainment  and
  • Ofsted undertake a thematic review of character building in schools

Colleagues in education will need to keep very calm when they read comments at the end of the BBC piece!  The "them and us" brigade are in there fast, brandishing canes and calling for National Service but calmer voices are there too, echoing those as I noted in this BLOG last August (scroll down from here)

It is heartening that most of the conversations and comments about "The Riots" in my social life and the social media (including Facebook) has been thoughtful and considered.  I'm struck, most forcibly by the calm response of some victims who have already spoken of forgiveness.

So, taking a leaf from the calmer voices, I am advising one school to have serious conversations before reacting, or acting on any recommendations.  None of this is an argument for the complacent "We are already doing it" or the desperate, "We must add more into the mix!"  It is call for a calm, interdependent review of current provision, a considered reaffirmation of the good already in place and the careful design of an holistic view of the social and academic curriculum.  Having held up that warning sign, here's a two stage model we are using that others might find useful: 

Stage One 
Read the report (and reports of the report) with these Don'ts and balancing  Do's in mind:

Don't get angry about all the social ills landing in your overflowing in-tray
Do feel good that you are being seen as key players in other than examination league  tables.
Don't see the curriculum as the National Curriculum, the timetable, or the subjects taught
Do see the curriculum as the sum of all a student experiences  (each and every student - it will be different).
Don't hunker down and try to sort it internally or, worse, as a pastoral issue
Do involve calm and considered voices from across your community
Don't knee-jerk and add "Charactership" to Citizenship, Community Studies and all those other add-ons after similar national panics.
Do look at what is already there in your current provision  (esp SMSC - a key focus for Ofsted) and look for ways to amalgamate and harness similar curriculum objectives.
Don't just implement what is recommended
Do look at the purpose of the recommendations and see if you are already doing it - or if there is a better way before you implant a, well intentioned but, "one size fits all" solution.

Stage Two

Build your response into the normal process of curriculum review and development planning
Schools already have strategies to review and develop their curriculum. Critical incidents, political and educational initiatives and new ideas all trigger change or developments. The "Riot Report" hits all three buttons.  Here are ten suggestions (updated from my post of August 2011)  that might be appropriate when reviewing Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) provision in the light of the "Riot Report" and more generally around school."

  1. Encourage reasoned debate amongst colleagues, students and members of the community about what happened locally in relation to the riots, and how young people reacted at the time.  What are the specific and local conditions for young people? (Beware of saying it didn't happen here - we have no problem) Ask - what might we need to develop, or change, in our provision?
  2. Try to understand "Why?" it happened by talking to those who really know how young people think and behave (not those who have an idealised view - or a demonising view of the young) Invite speakers in to illuminate this perspective.
  3. Develop 1 & 2 into systems for including debate and discussion of current affairs and wider perspectives in school.  See the excellent "The Day" on-line newspaper   Use the moral dilemmas in The Day e.g. "Walk in the stolen trainers of those who rioted.  What circumstances, background, education, values and beliefs could lead an individual, or gang to do those things?  Now use evidence from 1-3 to inform a review of SMSC and more general issues in and around school
  4. Discuss and debate your SMSC provision i.e. How might we better educate this and future generations so there is a Moral Purpose  (character building) as well as a Functionality in their learning - Stress that this is not just "school and curriculum" -  include family, friends, community/society, Children Services Colleagues, local politicians, third sector ad interested citizens as part of this educational process.
  5. Undertake a curriculum mapping exercise to ensure any key issues that may, or may not, emerge as "character building descriptors" are already there in your SMSC provision.  Consider the SMSC Grid an excellent way to do a simple SMSC tracking and evaluation exercise (there are great prompts within the program)
  6. (I promise this is not flippant) Analyse the language within your curriculum, especially around SMSC to see if "character building" is already there but called something else!  One colleague said to me, "Most of us are doing this most of the time anyway” but be sure you know this is true and not an idle claim. More generally:
  7. Encourage colleagues to teach about and find ways youngsters can experience the critical link between action and consequence and understand not just their "independence" but our "interdependence" locally, nationally and globally.
  8. Find ways the organisation can (increasingly) give and demonstrate for youngsters the fragility, risk and inspiration of real responsibility, as they grow into educated adults
  9. Accept  that we are all role models for the eager eyed young who are ALWAYS looking for exemplar peers and adult citizens they want to emulate...(be we bankers, politicians, teachers, parents, bloggers or whatever label they choose to label us with) And critically, not as a first, or last resort, but as turbo charger for the above:
  10. Strengthen, develop, or create your sequential, stepped, behaviour management policy that rewards "agreed good" behaviour and your parallel sequential, stepped, behaviour management system that first teaches the consequences of "agreed bad" behaviour and then increasingly sanctions the breaking of this.
My hypothesis is that, most schools, already have the basis of "policies for building character" and system for "regular assessments of pupils' strength of character".  

As always, I'm happy to share ideas and offer help to individuals and schools who want to pursue this, at a practical level -

And finally...for some Easter fun, if we did have "Charactership" lessons what would they look like?   Any starter activities?

Monday, 19 March 2012

Sorry Michael...

This post is not sensible for two good reasons. I am apologising for a previous BLOG, rather than just deleting it and I am exposing a personal weakness - my IGS  (Irritable Growl Syndrome). But it's right for a better reason -  I am practising what I preach  "Looking at what I do with a view to doing it better next time" and I wish others would do that, including you know who...

The apology.  
I am sorry for having a pop at you Michael Gove in my previous post, undeleted below.  It was a cheap shot - you are an easy target and there is always loud applause for anyone who has a go and so I aimed at you, not the issue and took the bow - sorry.  Excuse? My IGS bubbled up at what is happening in and across education and rational thought and argument faded.  

Doing that makes we pundits easy targets too - filed as "maverick" as the unions often are when they seem to argue against everything because "that is what we do".  Am I forgiven Michael? 

Well, if so you may ready on....

What was I really trying to say? 
Simple... I sense a critical point of balance in the debate about how to improve schooling and we must act.  Our profession must be stronger in the defence of effective practice, it's no good just moaning.  I see more in the profession standing up and arguing  the case for what works in our contexts.  We know we know best - we are there all the time and more of us appear to be saying so.  Furthermore, now may be our very best time to have fierce conversations with those from outside who come in over short periods and offer quick judgements based on a partial view.  Why do I say this?

Quality assurance
I have always believed the best model for school improvement is quality assurancebased on self-evaluation by professionals in the system.  It builds a sustainable, capacity building model of professionalism. Conversely, I see the effects of quality control, by those from outside, leading to a dependent workforce awaiting the judgements of more powerful others.  So, I have been arguing long that we should speak up more - to awaken the giant. (see The Giant Awakes - Third Age of Evaluation )

There are good signs that others sense this too.  HMCI Sir Terry Wilshaw's comments last week are intriguing!  He said, "We are in the process of reviewing the way we operate, whether demands we are making are inhibiting teachers from teaching.” Now that's a massive admission and it has to be good news.  For more on this see Graeme Paton's piece in the Telegraph  

Sir Terrry was almost certainly referring to the English report Ofsted itself has published stating that there are dangerous myths about what inspectors want and too many teachers are trying to second guess.  Second guessing and looking for approval are the classic responses of those who are hectored.  See for "Learning Spy's" excellent piece on this.  

A debate about evidence and not opinion. 

We think we know we know best.   We must be sure we know best.  Then we'll know, they know, we know best!   In inspections, reviews and performance management we must argue calmly based on our own evaluation of impact over time.  We must use qualitative as well as quantitative data.  We must spend time, working together to build our evidence base.  Then when others come from outside to judge us we will have more, better, triangulated evidence than they can ever collect, let alone analyse, in two days.  This way in situ professionals will be more powerful and ironically that is what Michael Gove and Sir Terry Wilshaw say they want too.... A debate about evidence and not opinion.

But John they get it wrong!
Yes, Ofsted, Senior Leaders, teachers, parents, everyone indeed, sometimes get it wrong. What happens when  Ofsted's do?  Well, there has been a history of just having to accept the judgement even when we disagree.  But we must continue to speak up and, if we are sure of our evidence, challenge the judgements.  And there is a developing trend here too...  A recent challenge, from a brave head about an Ofsted report resulted in "Mr Justice Collins declaring that the key ‘Inspection judgements’ from the inspection were “untrue and unfair”.  and there asre others prepared to take Ofsted and others on.
See what I mean?  The professional giant awakes - now is a ripe time for proper debate, proper challenge, less name calling and jibes. 

So, yes I'm sorry for the cheap shot Michael...but colleagues - let the fierce conversations begin!  

Send ideas, examples of others doing it and thoughts about how  we do this to  or twitter @johnpearce_JP 


Sunday, 4 March 2012

The waiting game

My father always used to say. If someone does a bad thing, or upsets you, wait, just wait, a golden moment will come.

I'm upset at the way you seem to have destroyed the morale of teachers Michael and at some of the company you keep.. So, I'm waiting...