Whack-a-mole results analysis!

So, the results are in and the number crunching begins. As I said in my last blog, whatever the results some action will take place. But, what action should take place? There are so many actions that could be done in reaction to a set of results. That’s it, we are never being examined with that board again. That’s it, we are never doing that again. That’s it, we will definitely do that thing again. Inaction is bad. Action is good. Everything is about the action-plan. Do you have an action-plan? What is you action-plan? What are you doing about such and such?

I am in the process of developing an action-plan for improving results. I was happy with them, but there are still things to improve. My brain is formulating ideas and thoughts to improve things. I am scrutinising the exam paper and looking at things question by question. But, here’s the rub (as in me rubbing my head): the peaks and troughs of the exam marks reflects only one cohort. The analysis of results would help the current year group immensely if they knew the issues on the paper. Yet, in a form of alchemy we apply the issues and problems with the next year group to go through the exam system. It is as if they are and exact match. Supposedly Timmy in Year 11 is like Johnny in Year 10. It is as if we are dealing with the same student, but we have changed the name.

We are also trying to infer the teaching quality from an exam paper. We know Ofsted do it. Bad results (not accurately) reflect ineffective teaching. We look at what teaching worked and what didn’t. To be honest, that can be like me deciding the colour of the paintbrush a painter used in a masterpiece. We can guess. We can interpret. But, can we really know the truth? 

Of course, a lot of this is looking at patterns. We are looking for ‘trends’ or ‘patterns of behaviour’ like someone looks at tea leaves. I see that you are going to marry a man with a beard who looks after ducks – no, I mean, your results will improve if you read more newspaper articles. However, isn’t the problem endemic in English. The problem-fix issue. We look at the problems and then we look for solutions.  

If I am honest, a lot of my teaching revolves around this. I take work in and look for patterns in the mistakes. I then teach the students how to avoid those mistakes. I build the problem-fixing into every part of my teaching. Hell, I even name the blog after it. But, doesn’t this ‘mind set’ actually hinder progress.  If our focus is always on the problems, then aren’t we likely to neglect the bigger things. If I obsess over the use of apostrophes for a whole lesson, I could be missing out on developing the students’ use of cohesion in a text. One thing gets selected over another. Its priority changes. It moves to the top of the peaking order. You might think: the problems are very important or students will not know how to improve. However, isn’t our teaching primarily concentrated on this aspect?

This week, I was reminded of a conversation with Jill Berry at the fantastic Pedagoo event organised this year in London. Our discussion led to, strangely, problem solving. I assure you I wasn’t using Jill as an agony aunt – which I think she would be good at, if the need arose.  For the life of me, I cannot remember the book cited by Jill, but she discussed this idea of how we deal with problems. It was simply: start with the successes and look at those first and identify what worked well there and then apply that to the issues.

For me, it is a great way to look. It avoids that pessimism that often occurs when looking at work. These students can’t possible do blah and blah. How do they expect us to get them to do X when they can’t event do Y? But it also prevents that rose-eyed optimism that follows some work. These students are just so naturally gifted. Instead, it gives you a wider picture of what could be done.

One of our successes has been our Literature results. So, instead of looking at the issues I am analysing what made the Literature results so successful. What worked so well for the students? Was it the texts we used? Was it the approaches in teaching we used? Was it how we taught Literature over time? Was it the teacher’s enjoyment of the topics? Was it the students’ understanding or enjoyment of the topics?

Once identified, I can then explore the use of this in relation to the issues or weaknesses on other parts of the exams. Rather than say, a lot of students did not do so well on Question 8, so we need lots of practice and more focus on Question 8, I am saying: The way students explore poetry in lessons reflects well in the exams, so let’s get us exploring non-fiction texts in the same way. Ultimately, this could avoid the infamous ‘whack-a-mole’ that happens in education. Here’s problem. Here’s a strategy. It is fixed. Here’s another problem….

Results time can be a bit like the dodgy wine stain on the carpet you can’t wash out. You might put a lovely rug over it or move the coffee table to disguise it. Nonetheless, it is still there. We might phrase things like: ‘I know that this happened, but look at X – isn’t it brilliant?’ We become our very own spin doctors. What if the lovely rug could teach us something about the dodgy wine stain? Ok, you have to admit some analogies don’t work. No matter how much you try.

Ultimately, it boils down to the ‘what’ and the ‘why’, but changing them to the successful elements.

What went wrong? Why did it go badly?  

What went well? Why did it go so well?  How can we repeat this with other areas?
 
The last three questions are the ones I will discuss with my department and form the basis of any action-plan.
Failure often is the driving force for change in education. What if success was the driving force for change? This works well, so let’s apply it to something that isn’t working so well.  
 Thanks for reading,

 Xris

Learning from my mistakes: an English teacher’s blog

Diet Drama

Out of all the different texts studied in the English classroom, drama, I feel, is always the one that is undervalued. I have poetry coming out if my ears. I enthuse with passion about the novels we study. I continually shove articles I have found in newspapers under students’ noses. Yet, drama is one thing that I really struggle with.

Why do I struggle so much with drama? In theory, I shouldn’t have that much of a problem, given that my degree is an English and Drama degree. Yet, I do have a problem. The latest version of the New Curriculum has made this problem surface again. In the ‘lovely’ new curriculum, it states that students should study drama. That’s it. Nothing else. The previous curriculum stated some stipulations, but now we have nothing. Nada. Zilch. Just the word ‘drama’.


The problem I have is that KS3 drama texts are so insipid and boring. I have searched endlessly with colleagues for a text to study with Year 7, 8 and 9. I have read endless scripts and all have left me cold. There are hundreds of play adaptions of texts, which are simply a dumbing down of the original prose text with the hope of saving a student from actually reading some really difficult prose. I have taught them nonetheless and still have found no joy. The issue I think is that all the scripts I have read lack drama. I know, the irony of it all. The scripts have become a way for students to read a play with a plot but the drama has been sanitised. Diet drama plays.

 
GCSE is when drama gets interesting in English and the students love it. I have seen weak students engaged in ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller and they are angry with the resolution. I have had classes curious over the ending of ‘An Inspector Calls’. Last year, I read Arthur Miller’s ‘A View from the Bridge’ with a set of students and they were transfixed for the whole time. The plot, the events, the ideas and the characters were all sparks to the students’ interest. Could we lift a chair up with one hand? What is Beatrice and Eddie’s relationship? It was a full sugar play. Photocopy one page and it is rich with ideas and techniques. Photocopy a page of a diet drama script and you’ll be left scratching your head.


One of the most powerful performances I saw in a theatre was ‘The Crucible’. It was performed in the round by a group of university students and it was brilliant. But, for me, the defining moment of it was the minute where I felt I needed to get out my chair and get involved in sorting out John Proctor at the end of the play. I was part of events and I was compelled to act. I was thoroughly engaged. Do students get this similar level of experience when they read drama at school? They might with some of the GCSE texts, but I would struggle to engage with some of the dross that exists out there.

This year I am studying William Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’ with a class and for the first time I am treating it like a play. We are studying it for GCSE and we are watching it like a play. I have found a stage version and we are experiencing the drama as a real audience. We are in the moment. So far so good.

The students have engaged in the plot and the discussion is mainly about the stagecraft rather than spotting language features. All too often when our students write about Shakespeare it is always about characterisation and language features, but rarely do they talk about the staging of the play or the decisions made to affect the audience’s feelings. Yes, they will mention dramatic irony because you taught to them and they feel, like something akin to guilt, they must mention it. However, I have noticed students making astute points about the staging of the play that you just don’t get from a mixture of easy Shakespeare version, original texts and scenes from a film version of the play. They are starting to see the tone changes, the shifts in pace and the manipulation of the audience’s thoughts and feelings.  

It goes without saying: to get students to talk about a play effectively they have to see it as a play. The analysis of a play is very different to the analysis of a novel. Sadly, all too often we treat them in the same way.  I am not one of those teachers that insists on acting all plays out. I don’t – I feel for the quiet and shy students in class. I think students should see it as a play, or the nearest equivalent, like a filmed version of a play and not a film version of the story.

Let’s bin the diet drama scripts!

Thanks for reading,

@Xris32

Learning from my mistakes: an English teacher’s blog

Every child still matters; Communities still need cohesion

Colorful  solidarity design tree

Every Child Still Matters; The Community Still Needs Cohesion

 

As most readers will know, until Michael Gove came along, government policy was to make schools more explicitly responsible for tackling a range of social issues under the two umbrella strategies of Every Child Matters and Community Cohesion.

As a reminder, the five strands of Every Child Matters were:

Be healthy; Stay safe; Enjoy and achieve; Make a positive contribution; Achieve economic well-being

This was a policy that aimed to co-ordinate activities across all the relevant services to prevent cases such as the Victoria Climbié case in 2000. It forced schools to initiate a range of activities and generate channels of communication to tackle each strand in partnership with local agencies.

In parallel with ECM, the Community Cohesion agenda was also developed.  OfSTED had a responsibility to inspect schools on:

the extent to which the school has developed an understanding of the religious, ethnic and socio-economic characteristics of its community in a local, national and global context

This three-by-three matrix presented schools with a challenge to reach out to the community in a pro-active fashion, educating students explicitly about a range of issues.  Isn’t this what ‘teaching British values’ should look like, at least in part?

When Michael Gove came to power, he decided to dispense with these strategies.  There was an attempt to slim down OfSTED’s remit but also these ‘nanny state’ initiatives ran counter to his philosophy.   Some schools would have been relieved.   Some Heads argued that it took up time and energy; it felt like a lot of hoops to jump through to satisfy the criteria and it was a distraction from the main agenda of improving standards of teaching and learning.   I had mixed feelings when they were scrapped. We’d just undertaken a major community cohesion audit and felt that it helped to identify areas of activity where we were lacking.  We’d done a great deal of work on the ECM agenda and it meant something to us.  However, for sure, the scrutiny and inspection aspect was intimidating and overwhelming; we’d question whether we were doing things because we believed in them or because we had to.  In some ways, removing the frameworks allowed to focus more fully on Child Protection procedures and training – the single most important aspect of ECM.

As I’m looking ahead to my new job at Highbury Grove, I’ve been thinking about these issues a great deal.  As an educationalist, my expertise lies in my knowledge of teaching and learning and in working with teachers, students and parents on the core business of raising standards. But I am deeply aware that my responsibility as a Head goes far beyond that.  Community Cohesion is still critical and my school has a vital role to play in serving a phenomenally diverse community in holistic manner.  And, of course, Every Child Still Matters!  We’ve got a student body that encompasses every conceivable issue – health, economic deprivation, social fragmentation – and my school is the focal point for much of what goes on in their lives; we have a role to play.

I understand the argument that the best thing schools can do is to simply ensure that every child is as well educated as possible; a strong education with a broad curriculum is what every child needs most and, perhaps, if schools just focused on that, the rest would follow.  In fact, if there is one single priority, it is literacy.  Above all else, I want to establish what ever is the state-of-the-art practice in this area, whatever it takes.  However, even exemplary work on literacy won’t be quite enough.  There is still plenty more we can and should be doing. Without the frameworks of ECM and Community Cohesion to work with, beyond the imperative to put Child Protection front and centre, we have plenty of freedom to select our other priorities (arguably too much freedom).  Here are some of mine:

Equalities:  Despite legislation designed to protect staff and students from a range of minority groups from prejudice and discrimination, there remains a major challenge in changing attitudes at a fundamental level.  Racism, sexism and homophobia need to be tackled continually.  I’m going to be raising the profile of LGBT rights very early on, following some of the advice from Stonewall as profiled in this post.

Sex and Relationships:  I don’t know how well this is delivered at my new school but I’m aware that, in general, SRE is delivered badly across the country. I want to explore this and make sure that all SRE is delivered by people with the confidence and skill to do it well; it should be a strength of what we do.  We need to look at behaviours around internet pornography, peer pressure and consent as well as the routine business of answering young people’s questions about how it all works and what is appropriate and normal at any given stage in their lives. I’m keen to find out how different cultural sensitivities play out in this area – but I’m not one to go easy on the opt-out clause.

Health:  Healthy Schools is another of the strategies that helped to make things happen; now we need to do this more or less under our own steam.  Headline issues are around obesity and mental health – both of which can be addressed to an extent through school ethos and provision, working with families and other agencies. I want to explore participation in sport, curriculum provision for PE and the food we serve in the canteen.  I also want to look at the PSHE programme to see what the content is and how well we deliver it.  There are other areas that concern me; the whole issue of female genital mutilation (FGM) is one I know we need to be pro-active about but, as yet, I don’t know what we can or should do in practice.

Special Needs: In July the new SEND Code of Practice was published.  I’ve got a 280 page document to absorb and act on – and of course this isn’t optional; it is statutory. It’s a big issue that will take some time to fully implement across the school as we put new Education, Health and Care plans in place. The question is how big a profile this gets relative to other agenda issues and to what extent we can take it in our stride.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/342440/SEND_Code_of_Practice_approved_by_Parliament_29.07.14.pdf

International Dimension:  I’ll be looking to insert a very explicit ethos statement around  developing students as Principled Global Citizens just as we did at KEGS. In practice this means looking at things like Model United Nations and the British Council International Schools Award alongside assemblies and other activities that give international current affairs and global poverty issues a high profile. It’s a long haul to really embed this kind of thinking but we’ll need to persist, building on what has been successful in the school already.

Information, Advice and Guidance. This is another important area that can be given low or high priority, and done well or badly depending on how a school functions. With a mixed cohort, universal messages won’t work so the trick will be to give multiple messages about opportunities for college, university and employment that combine raising aspirations with realism and practicality. No easy task. Again, it’s got to be on the agenda.

 

I’ll stop there. If it didn’t make it onto that list, we are unlike to go far with it early on. The fact remains that Every Child Matters and Community Cohesion are still important aspects of school life. Even if the frameworks have fallen away, the issues remain as important as ever.


headguruteacher

This much I know about…why ResearchED 2014 made me a little more doubtful than ever

Foreword

Below are the slides and video clips from our ResearchED 2014 talk yesterday. You can watch the video of our talk here.

If you are interested in our EEF project then please contact Alex Quigley at aj.quigley@huntington-ed.org.uk.

Rise

View this document on Scribd

 

 

 

I have been a teacher for 26 years, a Headteacher for 11 years and, at the age of 50, this much I know about why ResearchED 2014 made me a little more doubtful than ever.

Perpetual self-doubt is a relatively healthy condition in which to exist. At an event like yesterday’s I look to take away some learning and what I took away yesterday made me doubt myself and our developmental priorities just a little bit. Here’s why…

I have learnt more about my English subject specialism since I have been a teacher than at any other time in my life. I think I learnt my core texts at A level in some depth. I came across a huge range of literature at a surface level during my degree at York and was inspired by the English Department, 1984-87, which comprised, amongst others: Jacques Berthoud; Derek Pearsall; David Moody; Nicole  Ward-Jouve; Pippa Tristram; Geoff Wall; Hugh Haughton; Sid Bradley; Bob Jones; Michael Cordner; Tony Ward; RC Hood; Stephen Minta; Hermione Lee and Alan Charity – the Golden Generation, a kind of academic Premiership Select XI with a cracking subs bench to boot! But it wasn’t until I began my career at Eastbourne Sixth Form College and taught five A level classes in my first year that I began to comprehend fully the fundamental relationship between form and content which underpins the analysis of literary texts.

What matters most: pedagogy or subject specialism? I’ve always thought the former, largely because when I teach English, even at A level, in terms of subject knowledge I call upon a small corner of what I know about English literature. And when I have taught photography, PE, Travel & Tourism, mathematics, Media Studies, ICT and Economics over the years I have learnt the relevant core knowledge of those subjects and then called upon my experience and pedagogic skills to teach. But Philippa Cordingley surprised me yesterday when she discussed her research paper for Teach First, co-authored with Miranda Bell, entitled Characteristics of High Performing Schools and explained how subject knowledge appeared to be a higher priority within exceptional schools. The research paper claims that in at least four of the exceptional schools, subject knowledge was regarded as very important across the school – and the schools consistently used subject specialists to support subject knowledge development, whereas in strong schools Teachers…put subject knowledge fairly low down their list of Professional Learning priorities…leaders [of strong schools] said they felt that they tended to take subject knowledge for granted. This evidence contradicted my long-held belief, based upon experience, that, whilst both were crucially important to truly great teaching, pedagogy just about trumped subject knowledge.

With apologies to Seamus Heaney, but when it comes to the current educational debates I am neither internee nor informer; /An inner émigré, grown grey-haired /And thoughtful. The more I read and hear and think and talk about education, the more doubtful I become, but I guess that is a natural process. I certainly heard many people express similar views yesterday, including such luminaries as Professors Coe and Wiliam. Despite what Philippa Cordingley’s paper says, I’ll continue to teach Economics; however, I’m not ignoring the evidence and stubbornly sticking with what I know because that would be foolish. I’ll ask Alex, our Director of Research, to look again at our CPD offer and review the development priorities of each subject area to ensure that we have the subject specialism/pedagogy balance spot on and what I’ll do, personally, is work even harder at planning lessons and developing my subject knowledge. As Brecht said, The world of knowledge takes a crazy turn when teachers themselves are taught to learn.

POSTSCRIPT

Every cloud and all that…for the last few weeks of the holiday I was laid low by a lung infection. Not feeling up to much, at a car-boot sale I happened upon an antique fly fishing rod made of split cane. It was in a poorly state so I decided to renovate it. Several Youtube videos and a lot of gentle graft later (for days on end I sneaked out of bed at 6 am and, once, when my wife asked why I was getting up so early, my whispered response was I’m off to varnish my rod…) I took my resurrected piece of craftsmanship to a local fishery and third cast, on a small black gnat, here’s the outcome…

trout on split cane

I’m sure there’s a learning-ethic of excellence-Berger blog post there somewhere, but not everyone wants to know what a typical 50 year old bloke gets up to…luckily there’s not enough space in our back yard to build a shed.

 

 

 

Stuart Simmonds on Recruitment
Stuart Simmonds on Teaching

johntomsett

10 Things To Avoid in INSET

At the start of a new year teachers face at least a day of CPD. Here is my attempt to identify the worst possibilities (with thanks to all those who suggested things on Twitter or told me what hadn’t yet died out).

  1. Anti-education videos. In the old days it used to be “Shift Happens“. Now it is more likely to be Ken Robinson’s Animate. Both are quire explicitly arguing that kids should learn less.
  2. Teaching programmes. These are a mix of theories and activities that are meant to indicate a different way to teach. Some are expensive, others largely in the public domain. The ratio of bullshit to insight provided by the methods is remarkably high but they tend to have a cult following that will throw money at them and force them on other teachers. The biggest one is Building Learning Power. Others include TEEP, Kagan Structures and Mantle of the Expert. The most ridiculous programme of the lot, not even deserving the name “teaching”, was the (still not completely dead) Brain Gym.
  3. Taxonomies. This can be a way to subdivide learning. If so this is usually Bloom’s (in either original or revised versions) or its close relative SOLO. The idea is that there is a generic structure to learning that can be applied across disciplines to understand one’s subject better. Perhaps they fit some subjects better than others, but, inevitably, they are no substitute for actually knowing your subject and its structure properly in the first place. Far worse is where it is a way to subdivide thinking, like Thinking Hats (below) or teaching methods (like the learning pyramid/Dale’s Cone of experience). And the absolute worst of the lot is when it is a way to subdivide learners by “learning style” (again, something which is still not dead despite being utterly discredited) or “left and right brain”. 
  4. Pre-determined discussions. Often in groups with somebody senior monitoring each table, this is a way of manufacturing “buy-in”. The idea is to have a discussion where ambitious people just repeat what those in charge wanted to hear. Flip charts and post-it notes feature heavily. The big craze a few years ago was having to write answers about what students should be like around an outline of a person. The correct answers were “independent”, “resilient”, and “motivated”. Any attempt to say “clever” or “good at maths” was considered a joke.
  5. OFSTED training. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times they claim that they don’t want to see a particular teaching style, or even that they won’t grade teaching, nobody believes them. So schools are still telling teachers how to game inspection.

    A list of “what OFSTED want”

  6. Sensible things made into gimmicks. I really don’t have a problem with Carol Dweck’s concept of a “Growth Mindset” if it means kids are encouraged to work hard by telling them they will get smarter. I do have a problem with the “weaponised” versions involving stickers and questionnaires. This seems like a rerun of AfL, where perfectly sensible ideas about feedback turned into compulsory mini-whiteboards and insane levels of differentiation.
  7. Objective Mania. I don’t have a problem with learning objectives. I really don’t. A few words clarifying what kids need to know or practice can only help with my planning, and is unlikely to hinder their learning. However, multiple objectives to be copied down are a pain. These include “WALT and WILF”, “All/Most/Some” and “Must/Should/Could”. This is not differentiation, it is obstruction. And the worst of all is having to put levels or grades on objectives.
  8. Behaviour Training that blames teachers. Teachers need to be taught how to use the procedures and where to get help. Also useful to tell them a few tricks appropriate to the school, and warnings about what won’t work. However, too much behaviour INSET, particularly from outsiders, is about making teachers feel they are to blame when they face bad behaviour. Planning well, being nice, making lessons fun, will not sort out behaviour problems. Being told to keep them to yourself (“swallow your own smoke”) will make them worse. And don’t get me started on anything with “restorative” in the name.
  9. Bad SEN. Don’t know why but nothing seems to attract nonsense like SEN. The most common types of nonsense are in the descriptions of the conditions. Claims are made about the causes and characteristics of conditions that have nothing to do with how they are diagnosed (like claiming dyslexics have better spatial awareness, or we know which part of the brain causes ADHD). Worse, is when bogus treatments are publicised, like changing the colour of paper or ink for those who can’t read.
  10. New marking policies. If your marking policy is so complicated people have to be trained in it, then it is too complicated. And I include in this (in fact I make a special effort to include this) those policies that are introduced that will “save everyone time”. They won’t. Set a minimum standard. Don’t expect everyone to be able to keep to it.

I realise that this is, no doubt, terribly negative. But it shouldn’t be difficult to get INSET right. Just do the following:

  • Give teachers plenty of time for their own preparation during the day. Preparation is training.
  • Let departments have time to help those with deficits in subject knowledge.
  • Make some things optional.
  • Concentrate on essential information.
  • Make sure any training on how to teach is evidence-based and relevant to your school.

and most of all

  • Don’t make anybody sit through something you wouldn’t sit through.


Scenes From The Battleground

Do your homework: Acting on evidence from educational research #rED14

These are the slides from my talk at ResearchEd 2014.

The aim of the talk is to look at four different kinds of research and to consider the extent to which teachers might accept the findings and then allow them to influence their practice.

I’ve chosen four contrasting forms of research.

1. John Hattie’s meta-analysis of research into homework.  I’ve written about the detail in this blog post.  Here 160+ studies are compiled to generate a relative effect size but, if you engage with the detail, there is actually no neat conclusion.  The effect depends on numerous variables; to make simple statements about homework in general is lazy.

John Hattie made the following comment on the blog:

John Hattie's comment.

John Hattie’s comment.

2. Robert Bjork’s research into memory is fascinating but what kind of evidence does he have?  Many of his ideas derive from experiments where people (often university students) are engaged in controlled trials where they are asked to learn and recall material in various formats.  This paper ( Birnbaum_Kornell_EBjork_RBjork_inpress)  sets out one example where information about  birds and butterflies is presented in a blocked sequence and then in an interleaved sequence and the subjects’ capacity to use that information at a later time is assessed.

Here the findings are analysed for statistical significance and give grounds for suggesting that, on average, people learn more effectively when material is either interleaved or spaced, even if they perceive that they’ve learned better through learning material in a block.  It provides evidence that the human brain functions in a particular way. Even though the sample sizes seem small – 100 or so  and sometimes less –  the experiments are repeated with similar results.  There are grounds for considering the results as indicating some truths about how we learn.  Should we take this on board in our pedagogy and planning? It seems sensible to look at interleaving and spacing in course planning if there are clear advantages in terms of longer term memory.  However, are there issues around the transferability of these findings from learning specific sets of discrete information (as in these studies) to more complex synoptic learning tasks such as those students encounter in many curriculum areas.?

3. The third example is taken from a book by Mary James et al about Learning to Learning ( 2007).  There is a whole section dedicated to the research evidence.  In one study reported by Bethan Marshall (Kings) et al,  37 teachers were interviewed of whom 27 had lessons recorded on video and analysed.  From this evidence, numerous conclusions were drawn including the idea that a few (20%) showed ‘the spirit of AfL’ in their lessons whilst the others modelled a more rigid ‘letter of AfL’ approach.  This is linked to various other attitudes and beliefs; those showing ‘the spirit of AfL’ not only are judged to have delivered more effective lessons but, on interview, are seen to be more likely to accept their responsibility for overcoming external pressures; they see themselves as the source of the solutions – referred to as holding ‘incremental views of learning’.

Very significant conclusions are drawn from the research; there are some bold claims made based on a relatively small number of interviews and observations; these are discussed in the analysis as if they hold true for many more teachers than the data set allows.   The values of the researchers are clear – their belief in the superiority of ‘the spirit of AfL’ is evident throughout.  However, although there is a potential credibility gap, their conclusion that, in teacher development, “beliefs and practices need to be developed together” sounds sensible.   It’s worth thinking about.  The more specific analysis regarding AfL really depends on whether you belief that ‘the spirit of AfL’ is inherently a positive attribute.  There’s a strong values component required to accept the findings.

4. The fourth example is an MA Thesis written by a former colleague at KEGS (a selective boys school).  The subject of the research was the impact of extended dialogue as the precursor to writing.  The process was to engage students in  extended dialogues with the teacher regarding the text they were analysing and their plans for a piece of writing.  The writing that was produced was considered to be superior than previous pieces. The teacher interviewed three students about the process  seeking their insight into how the dialogues has helped them with their writing.  The conclusions were insightful – especially to colleagues in the same school teaching similar students.  Above all, the findings were useful to the teacher herself;  the process told her something about her own practice and her students.

With a sample of three students in a specific context, is there any hope that this work could yield conclusions of general significance or are the insights only valid within the very specific situation from which they were obtained?

Each of these pieces of research has value and limitations and different people will absorb them in different ways. The large-scale study with averaged out findings is set against very small-scale studies with detailed findings relating to one context.

In order to engage with any research it seems that numerous questions need to be asked. There are no easy answers. The purpose of the talk is to encourage teachers to get behind any research findings to examine the details rather than taking headlines at face value:

  • Is the initial research valid enough to base decisions on? How specific were the conditions? How well-defined were the parameters of the measures? Has the nuance been averaged out?
  • Is there a specific values-system at work that informs of dominates the measured outcomes?
  • Does the outcome have general significance suggesting specific actions that should be taken because of the universal insight into human brain function and behaviour?
  • Does the outcome provide insights and/or raise questions that practitioners should ask about the learning in their context, even if the origin is from a small sample or specific context?

 


headguruteacher

This much I know about…why I’m excited about the new school year

I have been a teacher for 26 years, a Headteacher for 11 years and, at the age of 50, this much I know about why I’m excited about the new school year.

imagesH3T9PSCO

I’m stuck. I’ve been writing a book called, HEAD Teacher: Why headteachers should be the HEAD teacher in their schools, and I can’t finish it because it all seems so bleedin’ obvious. What else should Headteachers be doing than being actively involved in improving teaching in their schools? By writing this short post, I’m hoping that I’ll unstuck myself!

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How do students learn? At the moment I’m struggling with the sense that, until now, I’ve never properly understood the cognitive processes which occur when students learn. And if that is true, how can I have been planning lessons which create the best conditions for learning? I’m excited about returning to school because I think I can become a much better teacher this year.

Real student learning isn’t anything very exciting to watch; so said one of my most experienced colleagues recently during her Performance Management review. And after reading books by Willingham, Nuthall and Berger I reckon she’s about right.

I think it is good to live in a constant state of uncertainty. Chris Husbands warns that whatever one piece of research claims, there will be another piece of research making contradictory claims. There is a lot of discussion at the moment about the role of memory in students’ learning: Willingham claims that, Memory is the residue of thought; according to Eric R. Kandel, M.D. recipient of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on the molecular basis of memory, There is no memory without learning but there is learning without memory; and the School of Public Health & Health Professions, University of Buffalo claims that, Without memory, there can be no learning.  I’ve always subscribed to the view that there is no learning without memory, but, as you can see, it’s all so much more complex than that!

If I do something new this year, then it will be to challenge students to improve their memories. Combining all I’ve read with all I have learnt about learning after 26 years of teaching, I think we can all develop our memories; it just takes some effort. The University of Buffalo link gives some great tips about improving memory and Willingham’s book is good on the implications of all this for pedagogy.

Method of loci works for me. I know the Electro-magnetic spectrum through attaching its elements in the correct sequence to locations on the journey from my bed to my car, beginning with the radio which wakes me up (Radio Waves) the Microwave oven which cooks my porridge (Microwaves) etc. I love this short clip from Sherlock as he secures key information in his memory using his Mind Palace:

My priority for this year is nailing the day job. And that starts with becoming a better teacher myself.


johntomsett

Screams of Work

I have never ever found a scheme of work that suits me.  In fact, I hate practically every scheme of work ever invented. There, I have said it. It is out there, so feel free to judge and criticise me. I don’t hate what they represent; I just hate the bleeding things and the obsession people have towards them.  Somewhere in the dark recess of your teachery brains we have this notion that if everything is encapsulated in a couple of printed sheets of paper we are safe, secure and confident. I am starting a new topic: phew, I feel better as have some markings on a piece of paper.  As we use garlic and crucifixes to ward off vampires, we also have schemes of work to ward of OFSTED. Look, here’s our scheme of work. Be gone, it’s in our scheme of work.  

Every summer it is the same. Endless streams of teachers plan their schemes of work. They plan every second and every space in a series of lessons to microscopic detail. I have seen pristine booklets produced to support the SOW (I am now going to abbreviate from now on) and they have lovingly produced memory-stick bursting PowerPoints to support each lesson. I have seen the military detail that teachers have planned lessons weeks in advance of the term starting. Right, it is week 4 so in the third minute the students must be completing the card sort that links to the lesson in week 2 and week 8.

I plan. I write plans and for years I have written SOWs. Each new topic has its own SOW typed and planned by me and my fingers. I know what I am going to do and when I am going to do it. However, each year the same thing happens. I get to about lesson two and I realise that everything needs changing. The resource I spent four days laminating are not needed, because I could cover it in one sentence in a lesson. The work producing a SOW does not seem proportional to the time saved. I can guarantee there are teachers out there who have spent days writing a SOW, and if they were stubborn like me, they will teach them irrespective of the fact they don’t work.

This year my department are trying something new. We have tried an approach recommended to me by a friend and I am indebted to them for this idea. We have transformed our SOWs and turned them into ‘Learning Journeys’.  The problem with having SOWs in department is that you need to have billions of the things for everything to be covered in a department. Each year group might have a number of sets. Each year group will have a number of topics. The list of SOWs needed then doubles and quadruples. This then further changes when new curriculums are introduced or the exams are revised.
 

Here’s what one of our Learning Journey’s looks like:
Learning Journey

Year 8: Horror Writing





 

Teaching structure

Big question / objective

Resources

 

 

1

Features of horror

What are the typical features (character, settings) of a horror story?

 

 

 

2

Gothic horror

What makes gothic horror different to horror?

 

 

 

3

Tension

How do writers create tension?

 

 

 

4

Narrative perspective

Why do horror stories select a first person narrative instead of a third person narrative?

 

 

 

5

Senses

 

How do writers make the reader identify with the protagonist of the story?

 

 

 

6

Settings

How important is the setting in a ghost story?

 

 

 

 

Atmosphere / mood

What can you do to create a particular mood in your writing?

 

 

 

7

Choice of adjectives

How can adjectives suggest something about a place?

 

 

 

8

Personification

How can personification be used to make a setting creepy?

 

 

 

9

Character

How can I create a believable character?

 

 

 

10

Similes / metaphors

How do writers use figurative language to make writing effective?

 

 

 

11

Showing not telling

What is scary?

 

 

 

12

Action – Verbs

How can verbs be used effectively to create drama?

 

 

 

13

Action – Sentences

How can I vary the sentences that I use?

 

 

 

14

Use of dialogue

How do you use dialogue effectively?

 

 

 

15

Paragraphing

What is a paragraph?

 

 

 

16

Structuring a story

What different ways can a story be structured?

 

 

 

17

Dramatic devices – foreshadowing / dramatic irony / tricks

How can I manipulate the reader’s thoughts and feeling?

 

 

 

18

Clichés

How can I make my story original?

 

 

 

19

Planning

What should I write?

 

 

 

20

Drafting

What do I have to do to improve?

 

 

 

21

Demonstrate skills

What have I learnt?

 

 

 

  


A teacher’s role often is to provide a narrative to the learning. Or, simply an order of aspects to learn. The beauty of the Learning Journey is that the narrative is up to the teacher, but the content is the same between staff. I teach differently to other people in the department I am in, yet this way I can enable the department to have the same points of learning. There can be some form of consistency. Too many times have I junked whole aspects of a SOW, because it didn’t make sense to me or how I want to sequence a lesson.

The 21 points are just things to cover. They could be covered in one lesson or a number of things can be covered in one single lesson. The coverage is up to the teacher. There is just an understanding of what they cover. Now, the beauty of this is that some things will apply for your Set 1 only, and some will apply only to other sets. But, rather than keep the Learning Journey like a SOW and only reviewing it when it comes to the next time we teach the unit, we are going to evaluate the journey and review which components relate to which set and what needs adding or removing.

I am really enjoying planning this way and I feel the rest of the department agree with me. It’s a simpler way of planning which places a stronger emphasis on what you want the students to learn or experience. Plus, teachers don’t have to translate the SOW for their group. Too many hours of my life have been wasted on thinking about how I am going to dress up a lesson to be interesting to a student. This way, I am focusing on the learning first and then the way to deliver the learning second. Teaching can become easily cluttered and often the way dominates the what.

Oh, and with this way of planning is quick.


Thanks for reading,

@Xris32  

Learning from my mistakes: an English teacher’s blog

The Behaviour Delusion (or “Why do Kids Kick Off?”)

Those who work in schools seem to spend a lot of time asking themselves questions like:

  • Why do Mrs Jones’s classes always behave well?
  • Why are students worst behaved in the afternoon?
  • Why does Ryan get into trouble in geography and not in maths?
  • Why is behaviour worse on rainy days?
  • Why does no child do what I ask without the threat of a detention?
  • Why is Tammy-Lee so polite and pleasant one-to-one but awful in  lessons?
  • Why do students act as if it is a surprise that I punished their poor behaviour?

The answers a lot of the worst school managers like to give to these sorts of questions tend to involve two bad assumptions. Firstly, that students are like automata, they respond automatically to certain input (rain, being shouted at, having to work hard) and what follows is an unavoidable reaction to a specific situation not a deliberate choice influenced by the consequences of previous such choices. Secondly, that the input students get from their teachers is far more important than the input they get from their peers.

I was reminded of this by some of the discussion following my last post. Probably the most controversial part of it was my disdain for schools in which teachers have to run their own detentions. I should probably say that I don’t mind if teachers ask students to stay in for 5 minutes at lunch, break or after school to talk to them, or hear their apology, but I do have a problem with expecting teachers to set and run half hour (or more) detentions. The usual justification for what seems like an unproductive use of time is that it can (in some way) be used to discuss what happened and repair the relationship between  student and teacher. Where these justifications have been made the assumptions I described above have usually come into play. Firstly, it is assumed the student behaved as they did in reaction to a particular situation, and the specific situation has to be addressed rather than the principle that the student should behave in all situations. Secondly, it is assumed that the teacher, and their relationship with the student, is the key to what happened and the student cannot have been set off by factors unrelated to which teacher was present. It is because I think these assumptions are based on an inaccurate model of how students behave that I don’t think detentions set by individual teachers can be the basis of a discipline system.

What is being missed, with regard to the level at which detentions are organised and by anyone asking the questions above, is that students rarely act independently of their peers when they misbehave. Most poor behaviour stems from interaction between students and shared expectations held by students. Students coordinate their behaviour. They behave badly when their peers behave badly. They behave badly when their peers expect them to behave badly. They behave badly when it will increase their standing with their peers. They behave badly when their peer group thinks they will get away with it, or when they think they should get away with it. Behaviour incidents do not happen uniformly across the school. They cluster. Certain lessons, certain teachers, certain times of the day, certain times of the year or certain combinations of students will prompt more bad behaviour than others. Kids work together when they misbehave. Sometimes they test the boundaries together, at other times they convince themselves that the boundaries should never have existed and that any attempt to impose discipline is unfair. One student’s behaviour or attitude will set off others. That is why seemingly insignificant things, like the weather, can result in large amounts of bad behaviour, because it only takes a small change to prompt major problems. That is why some departments have more problems than others. That is why some year groups are worse than others even when comparing their entire time at the school. That is why some teachers get targeted and others see little poor behaviour. That is why management being seen to be unsupportive over one incident can sabotage a teacher with every class they have.

If the approach to discipline is piece-meal and ad hoc then you are more likely to move poor behaviour around rather than reduce it. If you try to devolve all behaviour management to the lowest possible level, the teacher, behaviour will start breaking down in some classes. The clustering effect means that some teachers will have to deal with more poor behaviour than others, making consistency with setting detentions or calling parents impossible. Good managers ensure those teachers don’t have to manage the detentions or call parents themselves and say, “You are doing the right thing, keep following the behaviour policy and they’ll eventually get the message” while also helping to confront the students. Bad managers assume that the teacher must have done something wrong and start trying to change the teacher, often by getting them to lower expectations. They’ll even assume that getting involved directly to improve expectations will undermine the teacher.

It is true that teachers can make a difference to which teachers get the worst behaviour, but this can happen in good or bad ways. Good classroom management and following up incidents thoroughly can help deter bad behaviour, but so can appeasing ringleaders and making lessons less demanding. If teachers are working to make sure they are not the one that gets the hassle, rather than ensuring that nobody gets the hassle, the school as a whole will not have great discipline. Students will change who they target so individual teachers may feel they are making progress, but they will still act up somewhere. Perhaps for new teachers; perhaps for those that simply don’t have time to set enough detentions; perhaps for certain subjects; perhaps for those that SMT have failed to support. I have seen schools go into an academic nosedive when it becomes the teachers that make kids work hard who get the worst hassle. It’s not that teachers can make no difference to behaviour in their own classroom; it’s that the biggest factor in behaviour is student expectations and these can be set outside the classroom.

The best behaviour management is about setting universal expectations in a school. It is about creating a situation where every student sees their peers behaving. Some of the biggest mistakes in behaviour management involve digging too deeply into the reasons individual students behave or misbehave. People start imagining that if a student behaves only out of fear of sanctions then it is a bad thing, or that if they behave in lessons where they like the teacher then every teacher should try to win them over. However, in my experience, most poor behaviour has something to do with the expectations of the peer group. There’s no point asking “well why did this student misbehave today?” when the reasons are sitting all around them. Most students behave in the way they think is normal, for somebody of their status, according to the values they have arrived at in collaboration with their peers. Discipline systems that work on a whole school level have a much better chance of changing what is normal across the school than leaving every teacher to compete to be seen by kids as one of the teachers for whom behaving is normal. It also gets the best out of teachers if they know there is a standard to maintain, rather than an ordeal to be avoided. No headteacher should want teachers to be asking before a lesson, “What can I do for a quiet life?” rather than “How can I get my class to learn a lot?” but this is what happens where the workload for dealing with behaviour, and the responsibility for setting expectations, falls mainly on the classroom teacher.


Scenes From The Battleground

Seven Signs of a “Good Enough” Discipline System

Last time I talked about what made a school discipline work. I was glad to see a really positive response from a number of headteachers and SMT members about the post, there were really only one or two disappointing ones. A few years back any suggestion that discipline was a management responsibility rather than about classroom relationships was highly controversial. It does feel like there are now just too many schools that have become effective on the back of sorting out discipline properly for that kind of denial to continue to be widespread, particularly among those members of SMT who are active on social media and can be challenged by hundreds if they make the types of excuses for poor discipline that we still often hear in schools such as: “kids like these cannot be expected to listen quietly” or “if lessons were engaging there wouldn’t be any discipline problems”. However, it is not so long ago that a committee of heads (and a few other establishment figures) were asked to look into behaviour in schools and produced a report concluding that there was nothing much wrong, and I do think that this has a lot to do with the idea I mentioned in my last post of a school with “good enough” discipline.

A school with “good enough” discipline is a school where it is possible for those in authority and those who are well-established to have no real difficulties with discipline, particularly in lessons. It is one where OFSTED is more than likely to say behaviour is “good” on the basis of how students behaved for the day and a half when they visited the school. It may even be that less established teachers who have low expectations of effort or concentration may also thrive, never really needing to confront behaviour. However, at the same time, it is a school where a certain proportion of staff are going to faces classes which do not expect to work or learn. The most obvious people in these categories will be new staff and supply staff. But it might also be teachers who are newer to the school, or younger teachers. In some schools it may be teachers of particular subjects. Or it may be teachers who are singled out for their gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Sometimes it may just be teachers who have got on the wrong side of a particular ringleader or clique among the students. In the worst cases it may be those who have been undermined by SMT, as if one student is let off for treating you terribly, others will usually try. Tom Bennett refers to this situation as the “two schools“, the one with the good behaviour inhabited by the powerful and the lucky, and the one with the poor behaviour inhabited by the marginalised and the unlucky. I think of it as the “good enough” school. It tends neither to be a school with a really challenging intake (they would collapse into anarchy without a decent discipline system) nor a school whose intake have really high expectations (they can implement even quite complex discipline systems without too much effort) but one that is somewhere in the middle. It is one where there are enough challenging students to terrorise some staff, but not so many that those who are powerful or influential within the school cannot protect themselves from the worst of it and consider behaviour to be “good enough”. There is neither too much risk of immediate disaster, nor ambition to stand out for being excellent.

The basic feature of the school with “good enough” discipline is seen in the direction of travel of the workload relating to behaviour. Responsibility is always pushed downwards to those who are less senior and have less power. If you want to spot the signs of a “good enough” school discipline system, you are best looking to see if most, but not necessarily all, of the following apply:

1) The headteacher (and other SMT members) would not consider discipline their top priority. It would probably not be in the top three. They simply don’t seem to be part of the system either in terms of leadership (telling staff what is expected of them) or management (actually making sure things happen). In schools with decent discipline systems, even those with a very well-behaved intake, SMT are really keen on telling staff to enforce the rules and to raise their expectations. They feel that if there is a classroom in the school where the teacher cannot or will not enforce the rules then it is a problem for everybody and they will exhort teachers to punish more, ask for support and to refer incidents upwards. Managers also have a very clear role in the discipline system dealing directly with the worst offenders and a strong presence around the school site

2) There are two discipline systems. I wrote about this here. Reflecting the “two schools” there is a paper discipline system that will be shown to governors and inspectors that seems very thorough and supportive and there is what staff are actually expected to do, which will often involving lowering expectations and leaving struggling colleagues to sink. Often discipline is very informal, and sanctions are highly arbitrary. Students know that what they do is less important than who they do it to. Teachers who follow the letter of the system are seen as “inflexible” and lacking in behaviour management skills. If you could end up being complained about, or told off by managers, for following the behaviour system then you are most likely to be in a school with “good enough” discipline.

3) Departments have a major responsibility in the discipline system. The capacity of school departments to deal with behaviour varies massively. They differ in size; they differ in experience; they differ in available time. One department might consist of two part-timers, another might consist mainly of full-time staff who have been at the school for two decades.  One department might include two members of SMT and three year heads, another might be mainly NQTs. One department might teach every child in the school, another might mainly have sixth-formers. No school can ever hope to have a consistent discipline system if departments are heavily involved. Even delegating too much to year heads can create inconsistency, but at least year heads have a clear jurisdiction. Detention systems run by departments struggle because the same student can be in detentions in more than one department. Systems of removing students based on departments can be worse than useless if everyone is teaching at once, or you have multiple challenging classes in the department at the same time.

4) Teachers have to administer most sanctions themselves. What goes for inconsistency between departments is multiplied many times for teachers. Leaving it to teachers to supervise their own detentions, or call parents, guarantees that some staff will be unable to comply with the system. Schools might have a policy where you put every student who doesn’t do their homework in detention, but it is not a serious policy if in the first week of term a teacher finds that they have fifty students who haven’t done their homework. Asking teachers who have suffered verbal abuse or physical assault to call parents is idiotic, it just makes the whole experience even more stressful. Even the most dedicated staff will have to limit themselves to enforcing only those rules that they know they can enforce without running out of time in the week.

5) Inadequate sanctions. There are certain policies that will never work. I can give multiple examples but here I will mention a few of the most obvious ones. One is a policy of “telling them to put it away” in response to use of mobile phones in lessons. It has to be at least a detention, where practical it should be confiscation of the phone as well, although that will need an effective behaviour system to enforce. Anything less will ensure that the benefits outweigh the costs and students will invariably have their phones to hand. Another place where sanctions are often inadequate are those for being sent out of the classroom. It has to be significantly more than a detention (particularly if detentions are hit and miss). The gains in terms of establishing a reputation and getting out of work from being removed from a lesson are such that a detention is not enough of a deterrent. Also, problems exist where the discipline system allows for multiple warnings without a punishment. There seem to be a remarkable amount of schools that have adopted systems in which punishments are administered on the third warning, that have also decided that every warning should be given only for prolonged and repeated misbehaviour rather than low level disruption. Warning systems work where behaviour management involves multiple students misbehaving and you need to ask them individually to comply. They do not work when a warning is considered a sanction rather than a sign that a sanction will be coming without immediate cooperation. They do not work where they simply make it harder for teachers to punish wilful and persistent misbehaviour.

6) The existence of “outlaws”. Outlaws are students who exist outside of the normal constraints of the discipline system. Some exist simply through how much of their behaviour is ignored because there is no capacity to deal with it. They will never attend the detentions that they have earned because there is nobody to chase them up or schedule them. They are the sort of student who owes forty detentions which are then written off when they attend just one. They have tested every system to the limit, have found the gaps, and now walk through them knowing precisely who to act up for, which days to be absent, and which detentions to run away from. The other sort of outlaws are those created directly by well-meaning intervention. Often on the SEN register, it has been decided that they cannot be held responsible for their actions and teachers are deterred or prevented from enforcing normal discipline with them. Any attempt to enforce normal classroom rules will result in protest, such as walking out or swearing at the teacher, and teachers will be blamed for having provoked them. These students already know their rights and privileges and will often tell you they have “anger management” in order to intimidate you before you ever try to enforce a rule.

7) Behaviour INSET is not about using the discipline system. If you want to have effective behaviour management then everyone needs to know exactly what they are meant to be doing and how the behaviour system works. It is not a good sign, then, if INSET on behaviour management is not aligned to that aim. While new teachers might need more training than that, it is never a good sign if whole school behaviour training is not about rules and sanctions. If managers hire somebody who will tell teachers that if they were just nicer to the kids, or made their lessons more engaging, then their problems will go away, then you can guarantee SMT has lost the plot on behaviour and are looking to ensure that those they are not supporting will blame themselves. The consultants who spread this message, some who actually make a living from this sort of nonsense, are no help at all and nothing would delight me more than seeing schools have the sense to put them out of business by concentrating on raising expectations not spreading blame.

Behaviour is about expectations. Students behave in the way they think is normal. Over time effective teachers (particularly in smaller schools) can raise those expectations. That is why, even in some of the worst schools, you will find veteran teachers who everybody behaves for. Sometimes a single department in a school manages the same thing and the students just know that is the subject they must behave in. But for a whole school to be effective then the expectations are part of a culture which has to be set across the board and consistency is what matters most. This is dependent on leadership setting a high standard, but also on well-managed systems that ensure everyone can easily maintain those standards even in the most trying circumstances. Judging by the reputations gained by those schools that collapse into chaos and those schools which crack discipline, most secondary teachers face schools with “good enough” discipline, where plenty of lessons are disrupted but there is enough order to protect key staff and to pull the wool over the eyes of inspectors. Though many schools seem to maintain this situation indefinitely, allowing this situation to continue risks spiralling into decline. Those schools that don’t settle for this, that push for better behaviour than the conventional wisdom accepts, and do so on principle rather than as a response to failure, usually become celebrated examples of high achievement.


Scenes From The Battleground

Employment figures for 2014 in the UK

Employment is the most basic requirement for the development and growth of an economy and United Kingdom is not an exception in this regard. From the past few decades, the world economy is in the grip of unemployment and even the economically developed country like UK had to face the brunt of this situation. However with the arrival of the year 2014, there seems to be a lot of improvement in the employment situation of UK. In the recent report drawn by the Statistical Authority, it was found that the unemployment rate in UK has reached its all time low of 7.1%. It is pertinent to know that this rate was 7.4% in the last three months of 2013 and economists around the world had anticipated for a decline of merely 0.1% which is very low as compared to the current reports.

According to office of National Statistics(ONS), there is a fall of 167000 people who’ve been affected by unemployment in the current year. Now there are just 2.32 million people in UK that are devoid of employment. The decrease in unemployment rates in the present year even indicate that now maximum number of people in the UK are having work and are capable of supporting their families. This value even indicates the biggest ever quarterly increase in the employment levels of UK. Despite of all the predications made by labor markets around the world, today Britain is experiencing an economic revolution that certainly needs more fuelling from the government.

This rate of unemployment at 7.1% is the best so far, ever since the economy of UK has started recovering from economic depression. According to ONS, following statistics relating to employment in UK in the year 2014 have been generated so far:

  • The rate of unemployment among the active population in UK is around 7.1% in January, 2014.
  • The total number of people that have a job and are actually working comprise of the 30.15 million of the total population.
  • UK government grants certain allowances to the unemployed population and it is astonishing to know that the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s allowance in January 2014 fell by 27600 people. So now the total number of people claiming such allowance is just 1.22 million.
  • The ONS conducts employment and unemployment survey every month but compares between data of three months i.e. quarterly comparisons are made.
  • In 2014, the economy of UK experienced a major change because the employment rate jumped by 280000 points to reach the biggest quarterly high of all times to record a number of 30.15 million. An important thing to note down is that such an increase in employment was last seen in Britain in the year 1971. The employment though increased well, it was the wage growth of people that drew attention of various governmental agencies. The wage growth in UK is going flat at 0.9% from the past 5-6 months which is not even at par with the current inflation rate of 2% here. Thus much of work is required to be done in this regard and a lot of major policy changes could improve the same numbers.

    There are many learning based employment apprenticeships schemes in Birmingham available for young people (aged 16 - 19 etc) - one provider of apprenticeships (Gordon Franks)