Smarter Than a Smartphone?

Screenshot 2015-09-16 21.31.42Is the OECD trying to wash its hands of new technology?

The OECD, and the Media, seem to be suffering a bit from OCD at present.

Just in case you are wondering – the OECD is The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that promotes policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world. And OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder which is a mental health condition where a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive activity.

According to the media, the OECD recently published a report of a global study in which it claimed that:

‘Investing heavily in school computers and classroom technology does not improve pupils’ performance….Those students who use tablets and computers very often tend to do worse than those who use them moderately.’

The think-tank says frequent use of computers in schools is more likely to be associated with lower results in reading, maths and science.

“If you look at the best-performing education systems, such as those in East Asia, they’ve been very cautious about using technology in their classrooms,” said Mr Schleicher, who, according to Wikipedia, is no less than a German-born statistician and researcher in the field of education and the Division Head and coordinator of the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment and the OECD Indicators of Education Systems programme. So there. It is thought that a long time ago he once attended school himself, so of course knows everything there is to know about teaching and learning.

But the real problem is that, like most of the world, the OECD is obsessively, compulsively, desperately clinging on to the idea that what we need is higher and higher standards of memory-based, essay re-called 19th Century Academic education for everyone because that’s the only way disadvantaged people will ever get a decent job – and seem to want to wash their hands of the whole messy business of real learning.

But wait – is this yet another example of media spin? Yes, of course it is. Because if you actually read the rest of the article, and maybe even the report itself, it continues:

“If we want students to become smarter than a smartphone, we need to think harder about the pedagogies we are using to teach them. Technology can amplify great teaching but great technology cannot replace poor teaching.”

Well that sounds fair enough, although of course what the OECD still doesn’t get is that teaching needs to change as a result of the technology – it’s not just about amplifying what’s already there. Mp3 files never made the music any louder…

Still ‘Smarter than a Smartphone‘ is a really catchy catch-phrase (despite the fact that children are already far smarter than any actual smartphone), and apparently what the report actually discovered was that Technology can be a useful tool in class, enabling teachers to ‘tap into specialised materials beyond the standard textbooks and to run innovative learning projects in class’. Well, after 30 years or more of the use of IT in schools, who would have guessed that?

Meanwhile, according to the BBC’s coverage of the report, Keysborough College principal John Baston said there was no point using technology in schools if teachers were not taught how to use the devices effectively in class.

“The computers are there to enable you to help improve teaching, but it can’t create by itself quality teaching,” he wisely said.

Then Mark Chambers, chief executive of Naace, the body supporting the use of computers in schools, said it was unrealistic to think schools should reduce their use of technology:

“It is endemic in society now, at home young people will be using technology, there’s no way that we should take technology out of schools, schools should be leading not following.”

While on the Surface Microsoft spokesman Hugh Milward said:

“The internet gives any student access to the sum of human knowledge, 3D printing brings advanced manufacturing capabilities to your desktop, and the next FTSE 100 business might just as well be built in a bedroom in Coventry as in the City.

Even Tom ‘I never said we should ban iPads‘ Bennett is reported to have said:

‘There might have been unrealistic expectations, but the adoption of technology in the classroom can’t be turned back.”

And apparently in a rare moment of common sense never witnessed before, England’s own schools minister Nick Glibbly said:

“We want all schools to consider the needs of their pupils to determine how technology can complement the foundations of good teaching and a rigorous curriculum, so that every pupil is able to achieve their potential.”

Though All Change Please! suspects he didn’t understand what he was really saying and probably had his fingers crossed behind his back.

But anyway, now that the blame can as usual be laid clearly and squarely with the teachers, let’s hope now that there’s a proper review of the way in which new and emerging information and communication technologies can be effectively used in the classroom to promote and enhance 21st Century learning in schools, along with a substantial investment in CPD to help teachers adapt to the new methods and how the curriculum will need to substantially change as a result.

All Change Please! is keeping its fingers crossed in plain sight, but doesn’t hold out a great deal of hope as it continues to obsessively and compulsively write more and more posts about the subject.


Image credit: Flickr/Tina M Steele

Schools should keep children away from the Daily Mail

8074294232_4e69b89084_k-1s“What do you mean, where’s the switch to turn your slates on?”

Up to its usual trick of simply re-drafting articles written by other newspapers, that devious, despicable, malicious Daily Mail recently produced some shouty headlines proclaiming:

Screenshot 2015-09-10 12.41.35

The subsequent article states that Bennett said that the cost to taxpayers when iPads are broken is ‘horrific’, and that he even believes there is ‘absolutely no need’ for children to have access to the Internet, adding: ‘Kids are kids – they will see things you don’t want them to see.’

Apparently Bennett also criticised teachers who told children to use the internet to complete homework, which he described as like ‘sending them to a library without a librarian‘. He also added that it was a teacher’s duty to point out mistakes on the web.

However, a few days later, the Great Behaviour Saviour ‘Please don’t call me a Tsar’ Tsar took to the TES to earnestly inform us that he didn’t actually say any of those things the Daily Mail said he did. Which makes it all a bit confusing – who is All Change Please! to believe? Anyway, based on the Tsar’s myth-busting TES article here’s All Change Please!’s surprising suggested set of alternative up-dated attention-grabbing headlines…

Screenshot 2015-09-12 18.47.20

But of course it’s all come too late to prevent the Df-ingE getting all excited and using it as an excuse to launch an investigation into the impact of allowing mobile phones in the classroom, which apparently includes ‘tablets’, even though they are somewhat different devices with far more educational benefits. Quite why an investigation is needed is a bit of a puzzle to All Change Please!, because it seems fairly obvious that if lessons and the curriculum are relevant to children’s needs, interests and abilities and are well planned and delivered then they won’t have any desire to become distracted in the first place? And if a teacher can’t manage to insist that mobile phones must be kept switched off during lesson times, then maybe they shouldn’t be in the classroom in the first place? Perhaps it’s the impact of allowing teachers in the classroom that needs to be investigated, and it’s the poor teachers who should be banned instead of the mobile phones?

Meanwhile there has also been the Mail’s stunning ‘right to know’ expose about the exact same Behaviour Tsar’s alleged misbehaviour in allowing the nightclub he managed to become too noisy, even when it wasn’t open.

Screenshot 2015-09-10 12.40.40

Interestingly though the headline writer somehow failed to add a final, and rather important, bullet point taken from the article, which should have read:

• However he denied all charges and accepted compensation for unfair dismissal.

Meanwhile in other news that proves that you don’t have to be mad to be a headteacher but it probably helps, it seems that these days what really matters is the size of one’s pencil case and ruler. And then there’s this suggestion that all children should be learning the same thing and the same time in the same way.

All Change Please! decided to undertake some virtually unreal digging, and somehow managed to convince itself it had found the following letter in the archives of the Times newspapers.

Dateline: September 1915. The London Times Letters page.

Sir. – It has come to my attention that schools are now in the habit of providing children with these new mass-produced pencils and notepad devices which seem to becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to the tried and tested slate. I have been so informed that they often use them as a distraction to play noughts and crosses on, and to write messages to each other which often contain offensive words and rude comments about their teachers. In some of the worst and most unruly schools they have also used them to draw rude depictions of famous women on. It is my opinion that they are used far too often as a pacifier by teachers who can’t control classes. Whilst I am convinced these new pencil and paper devices are no more than a passing fad, writing on them should only be allowed with the greatest caution and only when supervised and directed by an academically well-qualified and experienced teacher. Of course it will also be essential to regularly check that pencils and associated carrying devices are of the correct length and of uniform colour, adding significantly to the teacher’s workload.

There is no research evidence to support ideas that using pencils and paper aids a child’s education, and the cost to taxpayers of replacing these throw-away items on a regular basis is horrific. There are those who say children should be given pencils and paper because they enjoy learning with them, but the reality is that they just enjoy using pencils and paper. Parents who allow their children to stay up late writing and drawing with the result that they arrive at school tired should have scholarship money withdrawn.

The traditional slate is of the ideal size, proportion, weight and appearance to work with, and it is my sincere hope that one day schools will sensibly return to some sort of similar device that can be used with or without one of these new ‘pencils’.

Meanwhile I am also of the firm belief that there is absolutely no need for children to have access to encyclopedias from which they are likely to learn about things we do not necessarily want them to. Teachers must cease telling children to refer to them to complete their homework, which is like guiding them to a library without a librarian. Teachers also have a duty to point out the frequent mistakes that occur in them.

Finally I would like to support the appointment of the new schools’ behaviour tsar, despite the fact that he was apparently previously sacked from his position as a Soho ’Free and Easy’ Drinkshop manager after he allegedly failed to control the disorderly working classes who refused to sit still and in complete silence whilst enjoying the specified refreshments and entertainment made available at the correct time, and as defined by the National Consumption Curriculum. Apparently the complaints all came from a single teacher who routinely complained about noise coming from adjacent rooms, even when they were empty.

Yours, &c.,

No Change Please!


Image Credit: Flickr/Angus Kirk


New A level D&T: Dull & Tedious?

Screenshot 2015-08-18 19.15.35There are a lot more things in A level Design and Technology than are dreamt of in the current DfE proposals

Just when you were sharpening your pencils ready for the start of the new term and feeling pleased with yourself for getting your DfE GCSE D&T Holiday Homework (see Fixated by Design) out of the way at the start of the holidays instead of leaving it until it’s too late like everyone else, along comes another assignment…  This time it’s the draft specification for AS and A level Design & Technology, published in late July and which needs to be responded to by the 24th September – holiday dates doubtless chosen by the DfE and Ofqual to be as inconspicuous as possible in the hope that no-one will actually notice them. You can download the documents on content here and assessment here.

But after the encouraging noises of the proposed GCSE D&T spec., these documents, to put it bluntly, are far from being at the cutting edge and are utterly unimaginative and unenlightened. They read more like a narrow description of 3D design and technology as it was in the latter half of the 20th Century, still rooted in the demands of 1960s industrial, mass-production engineering and management methodologies. For example, references to Critical Path Analysis (1950s), Six Sigma and Scrum (1980s), which are about making large product volumes efficiently according to plan, are now widely disregarded as they conflict with the current movement towards agile processes that focus on an ability to change to meet rapidly evolving needs and demands.

Further thought also needs to be given to the specialist areas of knowledge. Today, the disciplines of product design, engineering and textiles are increasingly intertwined, not separated out. And why is it fashion design and development, and don’t they have to meet needs and wants in the same way that product designers do? And anyway the content is not about fashion, it’s about textiles. Who writes this nonsense?

Meanwhile there’s only brief passing reference to iterative design, marketing, sustainability, smart materials and 3D printing – aspects that should now be taking centre stage – along with the critical need for designers to have a rigorous grasp of the psychology of visual and tactile aesthetics and user experience interfaces that drive customer purchase and satisfaction. Another major, almost unbelievable omission, is an emphasis on the importance of developing a designer’s ability to communicate effectively with a variety of clients, users, manufacturers, public bodies, manufacturers, venture capitalists, etc., using a wide range of traditional and digital technologies, appropriate to their intended audience. It’s one thing to come up with a creative, innovative idea, and quite another to persuade others of its potential.

And nowhere is there a mention of the early 21st century methodologies behind Design Thinking, User-centered design, Service design, Architectural and Communication design, Branding and marketing in the social media age, participation and collaboration, cross-disciplinary digital making, the possibilities and impact of the ‘internet of things’, interaction design, and the necessity for understanding potential sources of funding, or indeed the ways in which the very notion – let alone employment opportunities – of the professional designer will change substantially over the next ten or so years. And what about some coverage of the history of design & technology and material culture as a source of understanding and inspiration? Or a knowledge of contemporary designers and design practices? As such – and surely the most important comment to make in any response – the proposed specification fails to provide a suitable progression from the proposed GCSE D&T and towards meeting the emerging requirements of working in the design and creative industries.

We need Designers and Technologists to initiate future change, not to have an academic knowledge of the manufacturing processes of the past. Somehow the Df-ingE have managed to take the most amazing, exciting and compelling subject on the curriculum and rendered it a grey, flabby and lifeless list of random bits of content with all the good bits squeezed out. Do they honestly think that Vivienne Westwood, or Johnny Ive or Zahid Habib would have blossomed after being subjected to all this dreariness at the age of 17? If All Change Please! were a bright young teacher or prospective A level student today it would never ever want to teach or study or go anywhere near this course. If this specification remains as far behind the curve as it is, it will never catch up.

And finally, while D&T A level might be the next step on the pathway for a small number of future professional designers and engineers, All Change Please! can’t help wondering if it currently offers enough as a component of the more general education of all those students who take the exam but decide to go off in other directions?

Is the A83 the way to go?


No, not that A83..

Most of the proposed new specification for D&T could easily have been written forty years ago. Which, by an amazing co-incidence, is exactly around the time in the 1970s and 80s when we already had a highly regarded, forward-looking world-class D&T A level examination. It was offered by the Oxford Board of Local Examinations (long ago absorbed into OCR), and widely recognised as a demanding, rigorous and exciting course.  Sadly it’s unlikely that anyone currently working at the DfE will be aware it ever existed.

You can download a .pdf copy of the Oxford A83 / 9883 examination syllabus here and as far as All Change Please! can tell, this is the first time it has ever been made available on this new-fangled interweb thingy which as we all know will probably never catch on…

The first thing you’ll notice is how short it was, as most exam syllabi were in those days when less was clearly more. But it’s all there, because a lot more was left up to the school to build into their courses. Then there’s the wonderfully open ‘definition’ of a designer  – ‘anyone who consciously seeks to determine some part of man’s environment in a way most suitable to man’s purpose‘ – provided of course one now substitutes the word ‘human-being’ for ‘man’ – and of the broad intention that the syllabus is concerned with the ‘physical, rational and emotional nature of man, as well as with the shaping of materials and the production of well-designed goods within the total environment‘.

And then the breadth of the examined content – no long tick-box lists of detailed requirements or endorsement sections, and in essence covering much the same – needs and wants, ergonomics and anthropometrics, design methodologies, production methods and the properties and characteristics of a range of materials. A particular feature of the written paper was the requirement to include extensive specific references to existing and contemporary products and designers.

Not to mention the entirely open-ended coursework requirements, which, although not detailed in the main syllabus document, required a major project and a number of supporting short coursework activities which included a dissertation in which candidates were required to analyse their growth of understanding and application of design and designing with reference to their practical work. And the assessment for coursework – completed by the teacher and externally moderated – was holistic in approach, not involving the awarding of a series of micro-marks, but involving placing a tick on a line against half-a dozen descriptive criteria.

The range and quality of work produced by candidates was often extraordinary, and certainly equivalent to the first year of a degree course. Many students were readily accepted onto University courses in schools of 2D and 3D design, architecture and engineering, and indeed, having kept in contact with them, some of All Change Please!’s own have since gone on to become highly successful professionals, now often running their own UK design companies. Perhaps one day we’ll finally get back to something as good?

But of course, the Oxford syllabus must be placed in context. In those days there were only something like 300 to 600 candidates, and it was only offered where there was a good teacher who knew what they were doing, i.e., able to develop their own course based more on a philosophy than a tick-box checklist. And today, sadly, there are probably not enough teachers with the necessary confidence and experience to do that.

Mind you, with D&T candidate and teacher numbers dropping the way they currently are, maybe it won’t be long before they fall to the levels of the 1980s again..?

In the meanwhile, it’s absolutely essential that you tell the DfE and Ofqual exactly what you think of the current proposals.

With thanks to Tony and Jane.

Image credits: Top, Dan Pledger, Head of Design, Simon Langton Boys’ School Canterbury.

Middle:  Flickr: Stephen Mackenzie


Mirror Mirror on the Wall

1-141247338_bd29e3064c_oWho writes the most ridiculous nonsense of them all?

This week’s prize for the most irresponsible piece of journalism has been awarded to 61 year-old blonde bombshell Carole Malone from the Daily Mirror, who obviously knows all there is to know about schools as she probably recently drove past one.

So, as an avid Daily Mirror subscriber who faithfully believes everything it reads, this is what All Change Please! now firmly knows to be true:

1. England’s top 500 state schools are now better than the top 500 public schools. Despite the use of just a little bit of statistical distortion.

2. That’s fantastic news.

3. Children from deprived, working-class areas are now getting as good an education as kids at Eton. Yes, really.

3. Teachers viciously opposed Michael Gove, and were responsibly for him being unjustly sacked.

4. Now there’s no such thing as grade inflation anymore.

5. And students now only take serious, traditional academic subjects that enable them to find jobs. Well anyway, to get to university and keep the unemployment figures down a bit while they run up a huge debt.

6. In the past some children who could have got A*s only got G’s or U’s, probably because teachers used so-called ‘progressive’ methods.

7. However, at the same time, these teachers mysteriously managed to beat the exam board system and somehow got them to award the ‘thickest’ kids A* grades just for turning up to school.

8. Jeremy Corben is ‘stupid’ because he thinks academies have failed, because a single set of highly dubious manipulated statistics undeniably prove once and for all that they are a great success.

9. Teachers believe that all exams should be banned on the basis that no pupil should be made to feel shame or disappointment for getting a low grade.

10. Shame drives children to work harder.

11. What we need are Chinese teaching methods.

12. Children need to be studying for 12 hours a day, and shouldn’t expect to enjoy any of it.

So, thanks Carole for feeding your readers all that misinformation. But maybe in a few years’ time, instead of their children getting accepted into Oxbridge, they are going to be just a little bit disappointed when their children fail their new more academically rigorous GCSEs and find there’s no other option other than to become a NEET. Still, never mind, it will all be their teacher’s fault won’t it?

Meanwhile it was good to see in the online vote that around 70% of your readers didn’t believe you when you claimed that state school kids now get an education to match private schools. But what is disturbing is that you seem to have managed to convince some 30% that they do. Oh! Carole…


But wait! It seems Carole is not alone. Here’s the Express’s James Delingpole, who obviously also knows all there is to know about schools because he’s read Carole’s column in the Mirror. He seems to be a rather confused man, because he’s celebrating the success of fellow parents’ children in passing some GCSEs and thus gaining entry to exactly the sort of useless non-academic vocational courses that the Government so despises. And then there’s the usual nonsense:

“It was all such a far cry from the bad old days of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, when the main job of the education system seemed to be to teach your kids virtually nothing, reward them with absurdly overgenerous exam grades, and then pack them off to run up huge debts at “uni” reading something utterly pointless like media studies.

Our schools were hijacked by progressives in thrall to trendy theories like “child-centred learning”, “non-competitive sports days” and the “all shall have prizes” ethos.

…It is terribly old fashioned – and that’s why we parents like it: because it has restored to education an almost Victorian sense of purpose which we thought had been destroyed forever.”

“That same sense of purpose from a long-lost golden age when the majority of children left school at 10 and went straight to work in the factories”, he didn’t add. Oh! James…


Background image credit: Flickr/starleigh


Fixated by Design


Final reminder – GCSE D&T responses due to be handed in by the 26th August. Have you done yours?

Originally posted on All Change Please!:


So as the academic year desperately drags to its inevitable conclusion and teachers’ thoughts turn to escaping for a long, hot summer somewhere nice, it’s kind of the DfE and Ofqual to set everyone some holiday homework. Yes, with typical impeccable timing, the latest draft GCSE D&T specifications have just been published for consultation, due for return by the 26th August.

Along with the consultation forms, the specifications can be downloaded from here and here.

Generally, for Product Design-fixated teachers everywhere, the draft looks very encouraging. There is a clear approach to the use of explore/create/evaluate iterative design processes and of multi-materials and technologies. And the slightly odd jumble of proposed contexts from the previous drafts has been replaced by a list of suggestions for ‘contextual challenges’ that essentially read as ‘anything that does not prompt the use of a specific material, technology or discipline’. As expected though, coursework, or…

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GCSE? It’s as easy as ABC


From the archives…

Originally posted on All Change Please!:

“Mind your own business, mate…”

So at last it’s GCSE results day, and yet again we are being treated to the TV spectacle of seeing groups of ever-so-clever students opening their plain brown exam envelopes only to discover that they’ve all got A*s.

Can we please see someone on TV open their exam results and discover they have ‘failed’ their A levels or GCSEs? How well have schools prepared them for this disappointment? It must be really distressing for them to witness the joy and delight of the great academic know-it-alls of their schools and anticipate that they are missing out on the glittering careers that must surely await them after they succeed with their A levels and eventually graduate from university. The problem is no-one has told them it’s not like that anymore, and that many graduates a degree and a large debt is probably the last thing they…

View original 93 more words

Mark My Words… Please!

Screenshot 2015-07-27 20.05.47Spot the difference: marks will be awarded for reference to differences in age, gender, class and ethnicity.

All Change Please! was, in its own strange way, amused by this recent article about the latest unthought-through consequence of Michael Gove’s new tougher GCSEs. It seems that as a result of the move away from coursework to formal written examinations, more examiners are going to be needed to mark them – now who could have possibly anticipated that happening? And for some even stranger, inexplicable reason there does not appear to be a ready army of suitably qualified people available and willing to do the work.

What the article doesn’t mention though is that one of the many reasons for teachers not wanting to spend their spare time marking exam scripts (beyond the fact that they don’t actually have any spare time), is that the rates of pay – about £2 a candidate before tax – are derisory.

Now in the good old days, and when the last half of the summer term was a great deal more relaxed, Awarding Bodies, or Exam Boards as they were known in those days, were a very different animal. To begin with, there were many more of them, and often more regionally-based, e.g., SE Region, London, Midlands, Oxford Local, Cambridge, Oxford and Cambridge, JMB, etc. They tended to be university-based and their primary function was to produce high-quality examinations and assessment, and so, apart from the insights into the examination process and the fact that it looked good on one’s CV, the reason for becoming an examiner was to be associated with a respected academic body, and because it was a worthy educational thing to do. The pay wasn’t marvellous, but that wasn’t the point.

Things are different today, All Change Please! hears every teacher say, because two of the three main awarding bodies that are left are strictly commercial corporate global companies whose primary function is to make loadsamoney for their shareholders and senior executives (OCR being the exception in this respect). And one of the ways they do this best is by exploiting examiners by paying them peanuts rather than pounds.

So perhaps the solution to this problem lies in a generous pay increase for examiners? And with a little creative thinking, given that apparently –  according to the article – many teachers enjoying taking cruises during their summer break, perhaps the offer of cruise vouchers might tempt them to take pen to paper (or these days mouse to screen) to earn a little extra pocket-money to pay for that cabin upgrade and drinks package?

Meanwhile, in other news, it seems Schools Minister Glibly has got his Nickers in a twist having been disappointed by the standards of sample GCSE history examination questions, with the newspapers gleefully doing their usual trick of highlighting one of the first questions on the paper – deliberately easier than the later ones – and thus suggesting that all questions involve a ‘Spot the difference’ picture quiz. Of course, what he, and the journos, doesn’t seem to realise is that questions like these are probably the only ones that the majority of candidates, forced to take the subject as part of the EBacc, will be able to answer.

Or is there a plan as cunning as a fox that used to be Professor of Cunning at Oxford University* at work here? After all, if the scripts of the majority of candidates only take a few seconds to mark, then the examiners will be able to complete their marking that much more quickly, and be paid even less?

Meanwhile, did you manage to spot the difference between Gove and Glibb? There was a clue in the question. Yes, Gove is wearing a tie with spots on. An unused History GCSE if you got it right!

*Courtesy Baldrick

Alas Schools & Journos: Beginners Please!

alas-smith-and-jones2Once more, All Change Please! is privileged to eavesdrop on Mel Smith, as the man who thinks he knows everything, and Griff Rhys Jones, as the man who knows he knows nothing, as they discuss the latest developments in education.

As the scene opens, Mel Smith is reading his newspaper – the Evening Standard – and speaks in a posh voice:

Smith: “Ah have you seen, there’s a new Stoppard opening at the National, I must book”.

Jones: “A new what at the where?”

Smith:“It’s a new play by Tom Stoppard – you know he did ‘Jumpers’ and ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead’.”

Jones: “No, I can’t say I do.”

Smith: Well there you go then, that proves Nick Glibly’s point, you haven’t had a proper education unless you can appreciate the sort of plays they put on at the National Theatre.

Jones: Oh, the National Theatre, I thought you meant the Grand National and there was a horse called Stoppard who was a good jumper, and there were two other horses they’d had to put down.

Smith: No No No! What old Nick Glibly said the other day was that studying English at GCSE was crucial to enable people to enjoy the theatre as adults.

“I think it’s hard to really appreciate a play at the Donmar [Warehouse] or the National Theatre if you haven’t studied English to GCSE…Studying English literature to the age of 16 helps you to understand a demanding play by David Mamet”.

And he also said that schools must teach pupils the “fundamental principles” of core subjects in a way that will enable them to read around the subject for leisure as adults.

“That’s the purpose of education in my judgement, in every subject. Can you read a geography book after you leave school, can you read further history books by famous historians after you leave school?

“The purpose of school is to provide that grounding to indulge and read around those subjects as you go through adult life.”

Jones: But I always thought the purpose of education was to learn useful things, get some qualifications and then a job serving coffee somewhere?

Smith: Well, not according to him. Apparently the core EBacc subjects are ‘the primary colours of an educated person’s palette’, which makes it a bit strange that they’re not including Art as one of the subjects.

Jones: He doesn’t know what he’s talking about does he?

Smith (losing the posh voice): No, you’re absolutely right, he’s obviously got no idea at all. In fact he’s stark, raving bonkers. The whole education policy is a complete farce, and he’s just an understudy behaving like a prima donna, trying to upstage Nicky Morgove to put himself into the limelight by making a scene. I wonder who prompted him to do it?

Jones: He’s really not thought this through, has he? I mean let’s face it, if everyone in the country wanted to go to see plays at the National or this Doner Kebab Warehouse place, they’d get booked up so far in advance it would be donkey’s years before anyone could possibly get a ticket. And anyway, as Drama isn’t included in the EBacc there won’t be any actors around to play the parts will there?

Smith: Still you can’t blame him for jockeying for position, even if he has fallen at every hurdle.

Jones: No I suppose not. Anyway, can’t hang round here chatting all day.

Smith: Where are you off to then?

Jones: I’ve got a ticket to see Warhorse run in the 19:45 at the National…





What, do you mean you’ve never been to the Donmar Warehouse in Covent Garden? Or never seen a play by David Mamet?

Fixated by Design


So as the academic year desperately drags to its inevitable conclusion and teachers’ thoughts turn to escaping for a long, hot summer somewhere nice, it’s kind of the DfE and Ofqual to set everyone some holiday homework. Yes, with typical impeccable timing, the latest draft GCSE D&T specifications have just been published for consultation, due for return by the 26th August.

Along with the consultation forms, the specifications can be downloaded from here and here.

Generally, for Product Design-fixated teachers everywhere, the draft looks very encouraging. There is a clear approach to the use of explore/create/evaluate iterative design processes and of multi-materials and technologies. And the slightly odd jumble of proposed contexts from the previous drafts has been replaced by a list of suggestions for ‘contextual challenges’ that essentially read as ‘anything that does not prompt the use of a specific material, technology or discipline’. As expected though, coursework, or NEA (Non Exam Assessment) as it is curiously now known, is reduced to 50%, with a 50% completely inappropriate written paper: if Art and Design can be 100% NEA, why can’t D&T?

All that really remains is for one or two important details to be sorted out and clarified, and for the Awarding Bodies to get busy over the summer starting to develop user-friendly final specifications and examinations. Oh, and of course over the next couple of years, an awful lot of CPD to help the more traditional single-material specialist teachers who will have to develop a somewhat broader approach to delivering coursework, and to work out what the word ‘iterative’ actually means.

Obviously it’s up to each individual to decide for themselves how they wish to respond to the consultation, but here is All Change Please!‘s list of things it thinks would be worth mentioning, which you may or may not agree with, but you are welcome to include in your response if you wish – though do make sure you suitably personalise your comments!

1. It’s important to send a positive message supporting the multi-material, iterative design approach, and the specification as a whole.

2. On page 3 the explanation of the word ‘prototype’ is generally helpful, but the understanding of ‘product’ less so. A prototype might not need further design development as such, but simply require the use of manufacturing technologies not available in a school workshop. The final ‘outcome’ of design practice is likely to be a ‘proposal‘ rather than an actual finished, saleable object, except perhaps where the item is a ‘one-off’.

3. On page 5, point 7, there is a requirement for ‘at least one prototype and at least one product… based on a brief they develop..’. This lacks clarity, and possibly confused thinking on the part of Ofqual. It needs to be replaced with ‘at least one prototype or one product’ (which is how it is expressed in 2. in the Introduction).

4. In the Technical knowledge and understanding section the content seems a bit muddled. Ideally there would be a clearer distinction between the general, broad core of knowledge of materials and tools and a more in-depth knowledge of certain areas or aspects, chosen by the student.

5. In Designing and making principles (9) again some clarification is required. Ideally it should read:… ‘one design brief and at least one design specification‘ (as distinct from a manufacturing specification). It would also be useful to add.. ‘even though the design requirements might change during the development of the design’.  And presumably they mean ‘from their own consideration of…, supported by those identified by others‘, rather than a separate brief and specification for a problem they have identified and a separate brief and specification for a problem someone else has identified? Are students expected to undertake one or two pieces of coursework?

6. On page 7, re. ‘use different design strategies’, the term ‘design fixation‘ is not currently in common usage in D&T. It does of course mean fixated by a single design idea, rather than with design and designing itself!

7. Then, still on page 7, ‘design and develop at least one product…’ Again this needs to read one prototype or product. The explanation of innovation, provided at the bottom of the page, needs improvement. It would be more appropriate to use the word ‘creative’ to cover something new or novel, and perhaps unusual or unique. The word ‘innovation‘ indicates a design that will potentially lead to the widespread adoption a new type or class of product as a solution to a problem.

8. And re. ‘appropriate materials and components…‘, again there is the confusion between ‘one prototype and one product.’

9. While it is good to see the links with Science and Maths at the end, thus helping establish the contribution of D&T to STEM, it’s a shame there are no links with Art & Design (the clue is in the name!). This would help identify the important aesthetic dimensions of design, which are not otherwise directly mentioned.

And last, but by no means least, while the specification potentially succeeds in encouraging a high quality, rigorous, intellectual and academic learning experience in design & technology, it does little for students who have traditionally sought the D&T department as a refuge where they can make potentially useful artefacts and develop valuable workshop skills. What’s also urgently needed are alternative specifications to meet their needs and wants.

Please forward this post to any D&T teachers you know!


Image credit: Flickr/ ji young Yoon

Pirates of the DfE

Screenshot 2015-06-28 14.50.19 Yo Ho Ho!  A Pirate’s Life for Me!

Swashbuckling Pirate Queen Captain Nicky Morgove has recently vowed to board so-called coasting schools, make the headteacher walk the plank, and academise the lot of them to within an inch of their worthless lives. With Nick Glibb, her faithful parrot, perched on her shoulder squawking ‘Progress 8, Progress 8‘, her only problem is how does she identify such schools coming up on the horizon? Indeed All Change Please! would be delighted to hear from anyone who can follow this method.

First, here are some definitions of ‘coasting’:

‘Performing a natural deceleration of a motor when the power is removed, or in railroading, the act of allowing a train or a car to run upon a down grade by its own gravity, without steam or electric power.’

This suggests that a ‘coasting’ school should be one which is running without any energy, and therefore gradually losing momentum, i.e., getting increasingly worse academic results year by year, however good or bad its intake.

However, in 2011, swash-buckling Davy-Jones ‘Cutthroat’ Cameron defined coasting schools as those:

“..whose results have either flat-lined…or where they haven’t improved as much as they could  have”.

(But there again, what does he know?)

Meanwhile Ofsted’s ‘Man-O-War’ Mr Michael Offshore offered:

“coasting” schools – where performance, often in well-off areas, is not necessarily inadequate but has failed to impress.


But then just today, the DfE’s very own little treasure chest, Mad Cap’n Morgove finally announced her own, dictionary-defying definition of a Coasting school as being one where, whatever their intake, more than 60% have failed to achieve 5 A*to C GCSE passes and would as a consequence be doomed to be turned into an academy, despite the fact that no-one at the DfE has yet had the courage to tell her that many schools defined in this way will already be academies.

So until Mad Cap’n Morgove removes both her eye patches, checks the manual and sees what the issues and solutions really are, here’s All Change Please!‘s alternative Full Steam Ahead, Left-hand Down-a-bit, Shiver me Timbers, Shipshape Guide to our current Fleet of Schools…


The Sinking School

2514328801_01f84a3b1a_oThe main priority in this type of school is simply getting the kids to attend. The mainly supply staff do what they can, but have essentially given up on trying to significantly raise levels of academic achievement, because they know it’s a complete waste of time. Things are slowly falling apart, and if it’s not already, it will soon become an Academy – not that this will make much difference of course. However the school does form an essential part of the provision of social services in the area, and the parents will generally say that their children are very happy there.


The Coasting School

10765354003_1d72127287_zCoasting schools are making some effort and covering the basics fairly well, but over time, standards are starting to fall and there is no sense of pressure to improve. The engine has been switched off and they are happily drifting along. Expectations are moderate, and the staff seem content to remain where they are and avoid change as much as possible. There is probably an emphasis on the relationship with the local community, and it describes itself as a ‘caring’ school.


The Chugging School

779944771_6946b79a3a_oIn a chugging school, the standards achieved by the majority of children remain fairly constant. Some years the results are slightly better, or worse, than usual. Staff and students work steadily without exerting too much energy. There may be a moderate number of academic high-flyers who do extremely well. The headteacher and the SMT have been there for some time. Everything feels very secure and settled and there is no great sense of urgency or disruptive change. The parents say their children are quite content there and doing well enough. However, there is a growing concern that the school is likely to get turned into an Academy.


The Cruising School

16836198555_757a757e50_zIn these schools the students are relaxed, but there are good expectations of what they can achieve within their own capabilities. Examination success is important, but not the only aspect of life that is valued and encouraged. The staff and students get on well together and there is a positive, friendly atmosphere. The school is steaming ahead with the just the right amount of effort, and there are some exciting initiatives being led by the staff. When there’s a storm brewing, intelligent changes of course are taken, with the result that interesting new ports are visited.


The Overheating School

527182264_7cb9e0f2b3_zAcademic exam results, University entrance and League Table position are all that matters here. There’s a lot of steam, or rather hot-air emanating from Senior Management. The pressure is intense with every lesson placed in the context of fear of failure, based on an approach of shame and bullying of staff to ensure students succeed. The sense of competition is fierce. While most students pass their exams there is a significant drop-out rate at 6th form level, and absence due to the excessive pressure to perform. There is a high staff turnover, and the school is running close to breaking point due to the level of stress and strain on the infrastructure. The parents add to the pressure by demanding to know why their children are not all gifted and talented geniuses.


But, avast, me landlubbing hearties – it may be time to batten down the hatches, take to the crows nest and splice the mainbrace, but let’s not forget that one day in the not too distant future, all these ships – and the pirate politicians who sail them – are surely destined to be broken up in the great schoolyard in the sky?



Flickr Image Credits

Pirate:  Flickr/June Yarham and Tristram Shepard

Sinking: Paul Vallejo

Coasting: stcriox360

Chugging: duluoz cats

Cruising: Carlos SM

Overheating:  Scott Schmitz

Ship graveyard: korafotomorgana