One giant leap?


If All Change Please!‘s recent One small step post suggested that the way forward for education was to try to get traditional and progressive teachers to try and come to a better understanding of what each are doing, then what would One giant leap for Schoolkind be like?

Well, it might not surprise you to learn that All Change Please! regular Tony Wheeler has some suggestions…

“I’m sorry to be the pouty one throwing my toys out of the playpen, and I really do want progressives and traditionalists to get closer together, but having spent the last 30 years pussy-footing around, tactfully making the connections and emphasising the similarities (in order to make progressive more palatable for traditionalists), all that happens is active/progressive/project-based teaching and learning gets more deeply compromised, misrepresented and sidelined.

The truth is that while it may be possible to identify some bits of evidence in some bits of lessons that look a bit similar, progressive and traditional both start from such utterly different intentions that unless you have felt/experienced/participated/enjoyed both, it is really really difficult to make meaningful comparisons.

As I do, most educators seem to value most what has worked for them, and this is the real problem. Everyone’s had good, bad and mostly mediocre experiences of traditional fact-based chalk-n-talk. Despite what Daisy, Gove, Toby and the Campaign For Real Education would have the media believe it’s still what kids get for well over 90% of the time in schools.  In contrast, at the same time well over 90% of people have never ever seen, let alone participated in effective, purposeful, contextualised active learning.

If I were managing a school (perish the thought!) I would want to work with a team that wanted to (amongst other things):

  • give young people as well as teachers, real power to participate in the design of new approaches to teaching and learning
  • stop using subjects as the key components of curriculum and attempt to replace them with something more like ‘teaching’ (not learning) styles to ensure a breadth of experience
  • talk about metacognition as being important for pupils and doubly important for teachers. I would negotiate a process involving pupils and colleagues to help all teachers contemplate and review their own strengths and weaknesses as educators
  • encourage all teachers to prepare and maintain a dynamic personal teaching and learning statement (i.e. ‘I think education is important because…’, ‘The role of our school is…’, ‘The capabilities/approaches I bring are…’, etc.) which they share and build into collective dialogues with learning teams
  • replace timetabling as a mechanistic process to manage resources/subjects completed by an administrator with a process to choreograph individual pupil’s daily learning experiences managed by experts in pedagogy.
  • ensure all children have equal access to ‘purposeful active’ and ‘knowledge transfer’ styles of teaching. As they progress through the system they can opt to specialise in one or other but they will always need some of both.
  • manage the range of style and expertise so as not force staff to teach/interact in ways they are unhappy to take on
  • as a community search for the similarities/links/connections across subjects and negotiate purposeful activities around these supported by appropriate knowledge transfer.
  • group students by interest, experience and capability, rather than age, ability or gender
  • encourage the local community (and teachers) to participate as learners, trading time/skills for learning participation
  • evidence progress using structured dynamic portfolios, building towards external individual presentation beyond school
  • accredit through international collective comparative judgements
  • agree more equitable and appropriate measures by which to report school effectiveness (i.e. emotional index, elective participation, community impact, range of destinations)

In the wasteland of the last 20 years of government tinkering and media misrepresenting, this would of course pose a significant CPD challenge and require a multi-million pound marketing budget to convince potential parents. But if we really want to create an education system fit for the 21st century, that’s what’s going to be needed.

In the meanwhile, maybe something we could do as a start is to identify, profile and champion compelling isolated exemplars of active learning and begin to devise possible strategies for scaling up across the whole curriculum and all schools.”

So, if you were managing a school, where would you start? Or perhaps you already are, and have done?

One small step


If teachers can’t agree on what schools of the future should be like, someone else is going to decide for them

In All Change Please!‘s recent “You Say Right and I Say Left, Oh No…” post, it concluded by suggesting:

“At the end of the day/lesson, the debate should not really be focused on whether traditional teaching is any better or worse that so-called progressive teaching, but simply whether traditional and more progressive methods are being applied well or badly in the classroom.”

This sentence was picked up and re-tweeted a number of times, so to extend this thought, here are some extreme examples of good and bad traditional and progressive approaches to lessons that All Change Please! has at some point had the fortune, or misfortune, to observe. Although they didn’t all occur in the same school at the same time, they are things that actually happened in real lessons.

A ’traditional’ teacher is sitting at his desk at the front of the class. He addresses the class, who have learnt to sit still and face the front in fear of being individually demeaned by the teacher’s penchant for sarcasm or informing them they are both stupid and failures. After pouring his considerable knowledge into the empty vessels before him, he writes some notes on the whiteboard (while still lamenting the removal of his blackboard) and tells the students to make some notes about what he has just said, which they do, in silence. He then asks a question and the children slowly begin to put their hands up, cautiously responding to his ‘Guess what I’m thinking’ game. Eventually he reveals the correct answer which, they are informed, is the one they will need to give in their final examination. Without variation, this approach continues to the end of the lesson, and homework – to ‘read the next chapter of the textbook for a test next period’ is set.

In an adjoining classroom is another ‘traditional’ teacher, standing at the front of a class. She has smilingly welcomed the students in and starts by re-capping the last lesson with them. A number of keywords have been written on the board, which are particularly checked for recall and understanding. By using more open-ended question and answers she is able to judge how much knowledge has been retained, and by whom. While she challenges those who have obviously not been listening or have not completed the set homework, she is positive and encouraging, and clearly has a good rapport with the class. Her explanation of the lesson content is enlivened by a PowerPoint presentation that highlights the key points with some strong, memorable images. She uses analogies and metaphors to help the students relate the concepts she is explaining to situations they will be more familiar with, and tellingly she draws on her own experiences of life outside school. During the lesson, the children are asked to briefly discuss an issue, either with a partner or in a small group, before making their own notes. To keep the pace of the lesson moving, there is a strict time-limit imposed. At the end of the lesson there’s a re-cap, as at the start, and she explains how today’s lesson has informed the next. Clear learning objectives have been set, and met. She sets the homework which is to study the next chapter and compare its content and presentation with a given web page on the same topic, ready to present during this next lesson.

Meanwhile in another part of the school a ‘progressive’ teacher is working with a class who are mid-way through a term-long project. They are working in groups. At the start of the lesson the teacher told them to get on with their work, and she is now circulating, becoming absorbed in sorting out in each group’s projects and problems one at a time. The rest of the class sit are round chatting and have little idea what they are supposed to be doing, and find working together difficult. They have done some research, mainly printing out pages from Wikipedia. Some students have decided what they are going to do, while others are still unsure, or claim they have finished. The teacher has no idea as to the extent and level of the problem-solving skills they have already developed in previous work, and as a result few children manage to extend their capabilities. During the lesson the teacher makes no whole-class input, or seeks to break-up the long double-lesson time. The room is noisy, with some minor instances of misbehaviour occurring, which the teacher ignores. The bell rings and the children dash off to their next lesson.

But next door, it’s a different story. Another ‘progressive’ teacher, working with a different class on the same project topic has started the lesson with a class review of progress to date from each group. He introduces some new content that he wants the class to consider and incorporate during the first part of the lesson, which they do while he goes round and quickly checks what each child has done for homework. He then asks the class to break off from their on-going work to reflect on how well their group is working and to establish some clear targets for the next fortnight. One group learns that one of their members is likely to be off sick for some time, so they re-allocate their roles amongst themselves accordingly. Back on their project, everyone is working and there is a busy, lively, purposeful atmosphere. Many of the children are talking, but the conversation is about their work. The teacher is circulating, but generally observing rather than directing, and being available as and when needed. Well before the end of the lesson the teacher stops everyone working and sets an individual research task, informing the class that simply printing off a page from Wikipedia will not be acceptable, and that they need to consult a variety of sources, evaluate the reliability of each and state their own conclusion. At the end of the lesson he asks one group to share an account of their progress with the whole class and uses what they say to ask some searching questions and highlight both positive achievements and where greater application is needed if they are to progress further.

In both the successful traditional and progressive teachers’ classes, there are some children who clearly shine and prefer either the more knowledge-based or more process/skill-based approach. What’s important is that children get the chance to experience both types of teaching and learning, and that they are properly supported in the approach they feel least comfortable with.

Meanwhile a striking feature of the two ‘good’ lesson examples is that they are not actually that different. As the new ‘academic’ (as opposed to practical?) year gets underway, isn’t it about time we stopped arguing amongst ourselves about whether traditional or modern educational methods are best, and start to develop a broader, more consensual approach to teaching and learning? We need to take the best of both approaches, and not be afraid to mix them up and make them nice. And in reality of course that’s what already happening in a lot of schools.

Meanwhile teachers are certainly are going to need to be singing from the same song-sheet if they are to successfully rise to the real challenge of the next few years and ensure that low-cost, second-rate, multiple-choice assessed computer-based teaching and learning systems do not become accepted as an adequate substitute for the real thing.

Why replacing teachers with automated education lacks imagination

or, as Timothy Leary didn’t put it in the 1960s:

‘Sit down, switch on and shut up!’


Image credit: Flickr/bsfinhull 

Can I see tea?


From the vaults. Dedicated to all teachers about to embark on delivering the new Computing curriculum…

Originally posted on All Change Please!:

Over recent weeks All Change Please! has posted about the draft National Curriculum requirements for Design & Technology, Art & Design, and History. Now it’s time to look at the new-fangled Computer studies (or as a DfE press release recently called it, ‘Computing Studies’), and to help us we’re delighted to welcome back the wondeful spirit of Joyce Grenfell, who is leading today’s Key Stage 1 lesson.

“Ok class, let’s all gather round. Today we’re going to learn about computers. I expect you already know a lot more about them than I do, don’t you? Well at least I’m rather hoping you do. Now, first make sure your smart phones and tablets are all switched off please – you’re not really supposed to have them in school are you? No, I’m sorry Larry you’ll just have to finish working on your facebook hacking app later – which reminds me, you…

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Now this is what I call a Textbook


In days of old, when teachers were bold, this is what a school textbook used to be like.

Before the not-missed-at-all Miss Truss was given her marching orders she made a number of speeches in which she advocated a return to the regular use of the  textbook. As such she was simply providing yet another example of the DfE policy-making process as being ‘Come up with a vote-winning bit of spin and don’t actually bother to think about the implications of implementing it’.

The problem is that the production of textbooks is now very different from the way it was back then in the days when everything was apparently wonderful. In those days school budgets were more bountiful and publishers could afford to employ armies of reviewers, editors, proof-readers, picture researchers and designers, and authors were carefully chosen as being recognised experts in their field. Their royalty rates, although never more than 10%, meant that reasonably good sales over an extended period of time would provide an adequate return on their considerable efforts. And there was a wide variety of small, independent publishers looking to specialise in a range of subject areas and age-ranges and to take risks on books that might or might not be particularly successful, providing something of quality and value had been produced.

But of course, like everything else outside the DfE, things have changed over the past fifteen or so years. For a start there are now just a couple of really big educational publishers, considerably reducing choice. Authors are now usually relatively inexperienced, foolishly hoping that being published will look good on their CVs and as a result prepared to work for next to nothing – often just a share of 5% on a work that will probably be out-dated by a curriculum change before its first reprint. Content is now all about delivering the narrow requirements of the specification with an emphasis on teaching to the test, rather than providing a broader, more pedagogically sound coverage.

Meanwhile manuscripts go through largely unchecked by subject specialists and desk editors. Picture research budgets have been slashed, and page-by-page design is a thing of the past. Titles are focused on the main subjects that have the biggest GCSE entries and the most extensive book-buying habits, such as science, maths and geography. And as prices have risen, classroom sets have become increasingly expensive and unaffordable. No wonder so many teachers have chosen to produce their own content more suited to the needs of their own learners and their preferred teaching styles.

There are, however, some things that Ms Textbook Truss might have suggested that would have been more worthwhile. The knowledge-base of most subjects has now become so extensive that it has become increasingly difficult for teachers to cram everything in to the limited number of periods a week they have with each class. As such, high quality independent study support resources of the electronic kind would be a valuable development. Unfortunately at present these are usually produced by new-media companies with little or no pedagogic experience, and more with the intention of winning an award for the cleverness of largely superficial so-called ‘interactive’ animation than with actually assisting learning. So something to improve the standards of electronic resources would have been something really worth speaking about. At the same time, there are teachers in many non-core subjects who could usefully be guided towards the more effective use of support resources within their lesson planning.

But wait, wasn’t Truss missing a trick here? Just think about it: ‘Text’ and ‘Book’, ie a Book of Texts. Not the ‘No need to think or plan, ready-made just pop-in-the-microwave, everything blended into in one easy-to-open package NC/GCSE/A level course of study’ that they all are these days, but surely if we are heading back to the golden age of the 1950’s, what’s really needed are books that contain a series of learned academic discourses on the subject in question? No engaging photos or artwork or course, except maybe four pages of black and white ‘plates’ placed on their own in the very centre of the book. And if these were produced as e-books they could be distributed very cheaply to all children to read on their smart phones on the bus on the way home…

If that doesn’t raise academic standards, All Change Please! doesn’t know what will…

On and on and on. That’s Life?



So, this summer more children have gained higher grades at GCSE and A level, and at the other end of the scale, more have failed. Sounds like Gove’s initiatives have paid off and academic standards are rising. That’s great, until you want to get your boiler fixed. Which is exactly what Carla, one of All Change Please!’s regular readers, recently discovered.

Friday 25th
Today I contacted Ariston as my electric boiler had stopped working. As it was just one month later than the warranty expiration date, they gave me the name of their repair company. I called them and explained the problem and that I needed an engineer. They booked him for the following Wednesday between 7am-1pm. They asked me to pay £85 +VAT there and then and £25 for any further 30 minute periods after the first hour.

Wednesday 30th
I stayed at home to wait for the engineer. By 1pm, as nobody had arrived, I contacted the company. They said that the engineer had come, rang the bell at 9:45 and left a message on my mobile to say that they will call to rearrange appointment. This seemed strange as I had not heard any bell and there was no card on the doormat.

Strangely, half an hour later the engineer arrives, but he was told that it was a gas job hence he has no parts! He has to come back again with the part. I told him that I had already paid for an hour’s work and I had clearly told Ariston what the problem was and I was not going to pay any extra, He said he will tell the company he had only spent 10 minutes. So, still no hot water tonight as well and another day to wait for them to come.

Thursday 31st
Having heard nothing further I call the engineers to check what’s happening. Apparently the engineer will come on Monday if I pay £186 now for the part, which I reluctantly agree to.

Monday 4th
Waited in. The engineer arrives, but has brought the wrong part, despite the fact that it is clearly numbered, so goes away again.

Tuesday 5th
Waited in. A different engineer arrives with the correct part. Unfortunately he is unable to remove the heating element. Why they had not done this the first time, I do not know. We would have realised that the boiler needed replacing and I could have saved £189 of parts. All at an added £25 per half-hour. For the third time, I call Ariston to complain. I am now leaving it to the landlord to sort it out

Wednesday 6th
Waited in. My landlord’s plumber arrives and is able to quickly remove the heating element, but he does not have any spare parts.

Thursday 7th
Waited in. Some new parts arrive, but the plumber informs me they are not the correct ones.

Friday 8th
Waited in. The correct parts arrive, the plumber fits them and departs. Looking forward to bath tonight! Unfortunately the water runs cold.

Saturday 9th
Waited in. We are still battling with the water heater. After three botched up attempts, one just to diagnose the problem, one with the wrong part, one with the right part but unable to remove the heating element, one with the landlord’s plumber that removed the element in just a few minutes but had to wait for the parts, one with the wrong part to be redelivered, one with right part in hand but not plumber, this morning the landlord’s plumber and an electrician come to check the boiler. After spending an hour checking the system they discover that the newly-fitted thermostat is faulty.

Monday 10th
Waited in. A plumber arrives from Ariston and replaces the Thermostat. Finally, seventeen days after reporting the fault I have hot water again!

Back in the 1990s Ariston used to have a clever advert that kept repeating: ‘Ariston And-on-and-on-and-on-and-on’ . I always thought that was meant to refer to the length of time their white goods lasted, not how long it would take to get them repaired…


There’s a catalogue of failures going on here. First are the workforce themselves who don’t seem to know what they are supposed to be doing and have not been trained well enough to identify and sort the problems out. As well as the boiler, the management and communication processes seem to have completely broken down as well. Then there is the manufacturer who doesn’t seem to care very much at all about customer-care.

There’s clearly something wrong in a world in which we can transmit video signals across the world in an instant, but still can’t get a boiler fixed without a great deal of hassle. What we clearly don’t need right now are more students studying academic degrees at university, while anybody who does something that involves anything useful or practical is deemed to be a second-class citizen.  As Natasha Porter writes here

“Unfortunately, “better with their hands” all too often suggests “not very bright”, or “poorly behaved”. We need to stop seeing vocational education as the option for non-academic students. The modern plumber, for example, needs to have strong arithmetic skills in order to understand complex pricing and measurements, as well as having excellent communication skills and scientific reasoning.”

And finally in true ”That’s Life’ style All Change Please! is indebted to Jenny, another regular reader, who recently posted about her recent unfortunate experiences trying to get a repeat prescription from her doctor.




The Importance Of Being Ignorant



Lady Bracknell. …I have always been of opinion that a man who desires to get married should know either everything or nothing.  Which do you know?

Jack.  [After some hesitation.]  I know nothing, Lady Bracknell.

Lady Bracknell.  I am pleased to hear it.  I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance.  Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone.  The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound.  Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever.  If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.

From The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People by Oscar Wilde. First performed on 14 February 1895 at the St James’s Theatre in London.


I know one thing, that I know nothing.”  Socrates, 5th Century BC


“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”  Albert Einstein, 1929


“There are a lot of facts to be known in order to be a professional anything — lawyer, doctor, engineer, accountant, teacher. But with science there is one important difference. The facts serve mainly to access the ignorance… Scientists don’t concentrate on what they know, which is considerable but minuscule, but rather on what they don’t know…. Science traffics in ignorance, cultivates it, and is driven by it. Mucking about in the unknown is an adventure; doing it for a living is something most scientists consider a privilege.

Working scientists don’t get bogged down in the factual swamp because they don’t care all that much for facts. It’s not that they discount or ignore them, but rather that they don’t see them as an end in themselves. They don’t stop at the facts; they begin there, right beyond the facts, where the facts run out. Facts are selected, by a process that is a kind of controlled neglect, for the questions they create, for the ignorance they point to.”  Stuart Firestein, 2012


Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.”   Thomas Gray’s ‘Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College’ (1742)

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This post is dedicated to all those A level students who got low grades in their results today: you will discover there is more to life than going to University.


Photo credit: Flickr  adesigna

You Say Right and I Say Left, Oh No…

1s-3214197147_9752dd52df_oThe left side of the brain is often said to work in an organised, verbal, convergent and analytic way, while the right side works in a more intuitive, imaginative, emotional and holistic way. Or does it?

As anticipated, All Change Please!’s recent Daisy, Daisy… post prompted a digital sack full of comments from a Mrs Trellis of North Wales and a Mr J Peasmold Gruntfuttock of Peasemoldia. The issue was to do with the use of the terms right wing and left wing being applied in an educational context. Which, like so many things these days, got All Change Please! thinking.

And what it thought was that the phrases right-wing and left-wing are commonly used amongst today’s twittering classes without any real understanding of what they mean, or rather represent. To help unravel them, it is helpful to consider the views/politics of the so-called right and left wings. For example, the far ‘right’ are usually thought to favour the ‘survival of the fittest’ and look to the past. They are nationalistic, authoritarian, respecters of established hierarchies and military solutions. Meanwhile the far ‘left’ are more associated with equality for all, freedom from oppression, inclusivity, multi-culturalism, diplomacy and pacifism.

But these days, the politics of the nation are far less opposed, with the vast majority of people occupying the centre in which the distinction between left and right is much less visible, and an individual’s beliefs and values largely consist of a series of moderate left and right-wing approaches.

At the same time it is hard to observe many schools where extreme left or right-wing ideologies are prevalent. Except perhaps at the Colditz Academy. Most have a healthy mixture of the two. So in education the main debate at present is not so much about right and left-wing approaches but between those who champion so-called traditional education, and those who promote so-called progressive education. Confusion arises, because of course in practice ‘centrist’ left-wing teachers can be just as traditional in the classroom as ‘centrist’ right-wing teachers. And at the same time the idea promoted by the traditionalists that our schools are full of far-left anarchistic progressive educationalists is just complete nonsense.

All teachers want children from ‘deprived’ backgrounds to have the opportunity to access and benefit from education. Traditional teachers seek to achieve this by improving their academic performance, thus gaining them higher formal qualifications and potentially attending a Russell Group University, even though only relatively few will achieve this. More progressive teachers follow the idea that many children have other abilities and skills that are unrecognised by formal academic learning, and that they stand a better chance of success in life if these abilities are identified and developed while at school.

But as All Change Please! has observed before, most teachers are not driven by political ideological fervor, but more directly by their own personality which leads them to either need to feel they are in complete control of a situation, or that they find it more challenging to allow their students to take a greater degree of control for their own learning.

Meanwhile perhaps it’s more to do with left brain or right brain thinking, with (somewhat confusingly), left brain dominated teachers demanding a more logical, ordered approach in the classroom while right brain teachers are willing to take more risks?

But wait, what’s that I hear a traditional teacher saying?  “No, the left-right brain divide is yet another one of those many left-wing myths, which is why I just go on feeding kids facts from the front of the class…”

Well it seems it almost certainly is a myth, but that’s not really the point, because it has served a very useful purpose in getting teachers to be aware that the logical and the creative are equal partners that both need to be developed. What we really need to do is to teach all children to use all parts of their brain, wherever they may be, and get those parts to collaborate as much as possible

At the end of the day/lesson, the debate should not really be focused on whether traditional teaching is any better or worse that so-called progressive teaching, but simply whether traditional and more progressive methods are being applied well or badly in the classroom.

I don’t know why you say Hello, I say Goodbye.


Image credit: Flickr tza

Nicky Morgove – In The Nick Of It


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All Change Please! has somehow managed to obtain a transcript of a new BBC spoof ‘fly on the wall’ documentary intended as a replacement for the successful political satire ‘In The Thick Of It’ series. Here’s an excerpt…

Narr: “It’s the first day of term at the DfE Free Academy. As all the staff were made redundant at the end of last term, everyone is new.”

“Ah, you must be Nick. I’m Nicky Morgove, the new Headteacher.”

“Hi Nicky, yes I’m Nick. Pleased to meet you.”

“Nick, have you seen Nick yet? He’s late, and I think we all need to meet up together.”

“Hey Nicky, it’s me Nick!”

“Ah Nick. Great. You got here in just the nick of time.”

“Yes, and sorry I may have nicked your parking space.”

“So, Nick, let me introduce you to Nick.”

“Hi Nick!”

“Gosh, what have you done to your face?”

“Ah, I nicked myself while shaving this morning. I haven’t quite got the knack yet.

“OK, let’s begin. What are your thoughts Nick?”

“Well, without appearing to take the Mickey Gove, education seems in pretty good nick to me.”

“So, that’s a tick then?”

“Oh, hold on a moment, I’ll have to take this call. It’s from Clegg. Hi Nick!”

“This is going to get confusing isn’t it, I mean with us all being called Nick?”

“Yes, I agree. But I’m not going to get my knickers in a twist about it.”

“Wait I’ve got an idea. Why don’t we come up with nick-names for each other?”

“Ok. Good idea. Well I’m in charge so I shall be Nicky, but Nick, you can be Nacky, and Nick, you can be Noo. How about that?”

“Err. Where did you get the idea for those monikers from?”

“Well according to my intern who has just looked it up on the interwebworld thingy, the original phrase was used by Ken Dodd in the 1960s and went: ‘Nick nack nick nack nicky nacky noo’.”

“Is your intern called called Nick, by any chance?”

“No, actually, he’s a Dick.”

“Ah, Nicky, I was going to say – about the GCSE English set texts. I think all students should have to read Nicholas Nickleby, don’t you?”

“Yes, that’s a great idea!. Oh, in that case I also suggest A level students should study Lemony Snicket?”

“Well that’s all good then.  And quite enough work for today. Now we’re at the DfE I think we all deserve a nice long holiday, just like the teachers get. I’m off to Nicosia. I shall probably buy lots of souvenirs – I just can’t resist those little nick-nacks. And I’m looking forward to wearing my nice new Nike trainers and going off for lots of picnics.”

“Hmm – sorry, but there’s a slight problem with that in that someone will need to be here during August to explain either why lots more students than usual have failed their exams, or why the results have been massaged to make it look like they improved as a result of Gove’s reforms.”

“Being a bit pernickety aren’t you Nick? I mean, there’s no need to panic.”

Well it’s just that Dave has said we have to be nice to teachers, not nasty, Nick.”

“Gosh, this is going to be more difficult than I expected. Anyone got a cigarette? I really need some nicotine.”

“No, sorry. Smoking makes me sick, Nick. But you can have a bite of my Snickers bar if you like.”

“There’s something else I’m a bit concerned about, Nick. How do you think teachers will react when they discover we all went to private schools?

“Well, let’s just not mention it and hope no-one notices?”

“Err, I’m afraid it seems they already have…”


You just couldn’t make it up, could you? Anyway, at this point thankfully All Change Please! realises it just can’t take it anymore and leaves the room, takes its medication and has a refreshing cup of tea and a nice quiet lie down in a darkened room.

So, finally, hands up anyone who remembers John Patten? He was another somewhat deranged and abrasive secretary of State For Education who was in office from April 1992 until he was sacked on the 20th July 1994 – exactly 20 years ago.

Oh, and an extra mark for anyone who can name Michael Gove’s predecessor, who had a wider role, the good sense to leave things much as they were, and was in post from June 2007 to May 2010?

And one Special Scholarship Extension Question for Michael Gove only – Read this news item and write an essay entitled ‘Oh, dear what can the matter be‘ in which you describe exactly how it feels like to be seen as a complete and utter failure.


Image credits: Wikipedia, Flickr, and Wikipedia and Flickr



They Think It’s All Gover…

Just eight minutes before the end of extra time and a mighty roar rings out across the length and breadth of the land as teachers discover that Michael Gove is no longer in charge of education. England might not have won the World Cup, but at least Gove has been relegated, sent off, excluded, expelled, and hopefully given a lifetime ban from entering any structure in which education is taking place. Schools can now start to prepare for a long summer of content.

So what were you doing when you heard the news?” teachers will be asking each other in decades to come. July the 15th 2014 will long be remembered as the day thousands of children and teachers were liberated from Gove’s tyrannical four year reign.

Well, ding dong, the wicked Gove is gone. And isn’t it good to know that Cameron has clearly shuffled the cabinet entirely in the interests of the country, and not in any way an attempt to gain more votes in the next election. And that although Gove has gone from education, he certainly won’t be forgotten as apparently he will be making regular appearances on TV and Radio in his new role as Team Cameron’s ‘Ask Gove’ Media Minister.

I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone…*

So it also seems we must also bid farewell to Little Ms No Support Truss and wish her, well, in her new post. The truth is that All Change Please! was rather fond of her, or rather that is of making fun of her speeches, and particularly as in ‘There’s No supporting Truss’. And while Truss’s departure is good news for education, it’s doubtless bad news for the environment.

(*The geriatrics amongst us will of course immediately recognise the reference to Elvis Presley’s 1955 Sun studio recording)

And no more ‘Hancock’s Half-hour jokes either – Matthew Hancock is off to become Minister of state for energy, business and, err.. Portsmouth?

“There is a plan, and I’m part of it…”

Well it’s definitely a case of All Change Please! at the DfE for next term. But the really interesting question is exactly who is this plucky Ms Nicky Morgan (age 41¾) and why doesn’t she have a more interesting and unusual name that All Change Please! can easily make pun of?

Her approach will be interesting to watch as it unfolds. In order to extend her career into the next parliament, she has just ten months to persuade all those disillusioned teachers to vote Conservative, but at the same time not be seen as a so-called ‘soft minister’. Well, it seems we had perhaps better get on our knees and start praying:

Hmm. Not of course that All Change Please! has anything against committed Christians, providing they just refrain from imposing their beliefs on others – not of course that an Education Secretary would ever dream of doing such a thing. We will just have to wait and see if RE becomes a compulsory Baccalaureate GCSE subject.

Meanwhile Ms Morgan is a former solicitor and has worked as a corporate lawyer specialising in mergers and acquisitions, so we will doubtless  see various Academies and Free Schools being acquired and merged. Oh, and you had better watch out if you are gay.  However, apparently her husband is an architect, so perhaps schools of the future will have a few more curves in them.

But wait. All is not lost. Back in 1966 there was an excellent ‘New Wave’ film entitled ‘Morgan A Suitable Case For Treatment’, so let’s welcome Nicky Morgan ASCFT…


So who is replacing Truss and Hancock? It seems like Nick Glibb is making an unwelcome return, and here’s DfE newcomer Nick Boles, who has been appointed as minister of state at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education, to include equal marriage implementation, so that should go down well with Ms Morgan ASCFT.

JUST A MINUTE…. Surely that means that the DfE is now being run by Nicky, Nick and Nick…? Or as All Change Please! realises to its absolute delight ‘Nicky, Nacky Noo’, as it will now refer to them as!

And finally, in case you missed it last week, here’s a final chance to show your feelings for the dearly departed Michael Gove..

and to wonder if its popularity had anything to do with today’s announcement?

No, Stop Messing About!



As readers of a certain advanced age will know, Kenneth Williams was a cast member of the popular 1950s radio programme Hancock’s Half Hour.  And that his catch-phrase was ‘No, Stop Messing About’.  Fast forward some 55 years and the cast members of Matthew Hancock’s Half Hour seem intent on doing what they know how to do best: messing about with education.

Further to the examples they recently gave of their plans for new world-class 19th century vocational education, the DfE has since come up with another to add to woodwork, dressmaking and how to wire up a light bulb.

“In the past, too often they would learn some abstract theory at school. They might describe an engine, for example, rather than actually strip down and rebuild a motorbike. They would then struggle to find work, or an employer willing to give them the training they should have already received”.

Ah yes, good old motor-cycle maintenance. Yes, a lot of employers are currently looking for school-leavers able to plug one end of a computer cable into a motorbike so that the completely closed system can be automatically repaired and fine-tuned. Still All Change Please! supposes such a course might come in useful when they need to ‘get on their bikes’, Norman Tebbit style, to go to look for work in some other country.

Meanwhile, somehow the DfE have been messing about so effectively that they have somehow managed to completely miss this report from from the New Economics Foundation Innovation Institute, which clearly sets out the issues for STEM-related learning.

“The skills crisis is a well-aired issue, but forecasting the skills requirements tends to be based on immediate local or short-term priorities. There is no coherent vision and no national strategy.

The problem has been exacerbated by the rapid technological change that is sweeping through the workplace: 3D printing, robotics, nanotechnology, cloud computing, mobile technology and the internet are causing major disruption in many sectors. New roles are proliferating, while traditional skills are falling out of fashion.

Why, for example, are so many colleges focusing on carpentry and bricklaying and ignoring building information modelling software, which will become compulsory on all government construction projects from 2016?

We should also move away from outdated assessment and qualification models. These create artificial learning levels that can hold back a student’s natural pace of enquiry and development. Learning should be student-led, with the tutor acting as coach and facilitator. It should be grounded in real-life scenarios and placed into context.”

The full report can be downloaded here

And if it had recently heard from its collective brain instead of thinking about nothing else but the possibility of an extended playtime, the DfE would have surely studied this Infographic, provided of course that they had not got it messed up and completely obliterated by sawdust and engine oil.  It presents what it claims will be the 10 most important work skills in 2020. Driven by our increasing longevity, the rise of smart machines and programmable systems, a new media ecology, superstructured organisations and the diversity and adaptability of a globally connected, the skills our current generation of schoolchildren will require include: Sense making, Social Intelligence, Novel and Adaptive Thinking, Cross Cultural Competency, Computational Thinking, New Media Literacy, Transdisciplinarity, a Design Mindset, Cognitive Load Management and Virtual Collaboration. And All Change Please! would like to add its own ‘Quality Long-term Health Care’ for those of us who are actually old enough to remember Hancock’s Half Hour.

Of course no-one knows exactly what the skills of the future will be, but that’s the point – what we need to do is to ensure today’s students know how to acquire new knowledge and be able to learn new skills as they emerge during their lifetime.

In this age and culture of technology, surely what we urgently need is a technology-led rather than academic-led curriculum? Now that really would, as Kenneth Williams might have described it, be ‘Fantabulosa’.

But until that happy event, please DfE, just STOP MESSING ABOUT

And finally, if you haven’t already, do scroll back up to the top and watch at least the first couple of minutes of the video to listen to Kenneth Williams trying to pick up a female-impersonating Hancock…