Five Star!

Education secretaries may come and go, but All Change Please! goes on forever. Yes, exactly five years ago today, as All Change Please! hit the Publish button for the very first time, it was someone called Ed who was making a Balls up of education. And today, in our distopian post-Govian nightmare, it’s Teacher’s Friend Nicky Morgove and opposition spokesperson Tristram (no relation) Hunt who are carrying on the long tradition of knowing so much more about how to improve standards in schools than anyone else who has actually ever done any real teaching.

As is usual for this date each year, All Change Please! takes the opportunity to look back and wallow in the success of some of its most popular posts.

Top of the Posts for the last 12 months has to be One Small Step in which it dared to suggest that perhaps traditionalists and progressives should put away their differences and focus on communicating a more coherent and united message to its Daily Mail-reading armchair critics. ‘One Small Step’ was of course a follow-on to All Change Please!’s second most read (or at least most clicked-on) post: Daisy, Daisy.. in which it attempted to counter the myths regularly being de-bunked by traditional teachers by identifying some myths of its own.

Meanwhile on the comedy circuit, What Ho! Gove was a hit, a very palpable hit, along with PISA Takeaways and the Chandler-inspired Curriculum Noir: Who stole the Arts, not to mention There’s No Supporting Truss. And speaking of Ms Truss, did you see her hilarious stand-up routine at the Tory Party Conference? And to think, just a few months ago she was an education minister.


Along the way, All Change Please! managed to come up with a few good one-liners too, such as:

“Meanwhile outside on the school field someone was quietly stringing together a Daisy chain of academies”.

And while discussing the need for urgent debate on the future of On-line Computer Learning Systems:

“…or, as Timothy Leary didn’t put it in the 1960s: ‘Sit down, switch on and shut up!’

Or on the current debate about traditional and progressive teaching methods:

“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.”

Then following the proposal that retired politicians, lawyers and bankers should be recruited as teachers:

 “Meanwhile All Change Please! would like to propose a parallel scheme in which recently retired teachers would be retrained as politicians, lawyers and bankers in attempt to sort out the complete mess the country is currently in.”

Or on the need for some magic to return to our classroom:

“As I drove, I found myself recalling the words of that great crime writer Raymond Chandler that somehow seemed to sum it all up:

Without magic, there is no art. Without art, there is no idealism. Without idealism, there is no integrity. Without integrity, there is nothing but production.”

Because that’s exactly what our schools have become – factories of mass produced memorisation of out-dated facts. What’s needed right now in education is a little bit of real magic and a lot less political sleight of hand.”

This is what Alas Schools and Journos! had to say about PISA statistics:

“But I thought the reason the Chinese and South Koreans did better than us was because they only put their cleverest children in for the test?

Exactly. That just goes to show how much smarter they are than us, doesn’t it?”

And here’s Bertie Wooster:

“You mean essays in Art are where you’d really draw the line, eh?”

What Ms Truss didn’t say out loud in her Policy exchange speech:

“This is just so much fun isn’t it? All I have to do is to speak these words out loud and it will all just happen as if by magic. Won’t it?

And a quiet moment of self-reflection:

“When it was young, all All Change Please! wanted to do was to change the world. And as it grew into middle age it still wanted to change the world, although it had decided that changing education would probably be enough to be getting on with for now. And now, as it eases into retirement and becomes ever closer to being no more than a long forgotten series of ones and zeros drifting blissfully unaware in The Cloud, it still has vague hopes that someone, somewhere is still reading its rants and raves.”


And finally, in response to The Gove Legacy… it seems there has been a reported sighting of Michael Gove. He obviously needs help, urgently…


Image credit: Flickr/Itdemaartinet

LearnFirst – TeachLater


OperateFirst: a new six week course for aspiring brain surgeons?

You may have read or heard somewhere that to really master a skill you need to practise it for 10,000 hours. The source of this story goes back to an article published over 20 years ago and has been the inspiration for a number of books and further studies.

With the current obsession with Myth-busting, it’s perhaps not surprising that this is one of the myths that’s being challenged: The 10,000 Hour Rule Is Wrong and Perpetuates a Cruel Myth

At one level, the message of the original study – that anyone can master any skill given 10,000 hours – is of course inaccurate and misleading. But what is important to grasp that even if you have the interest and ability it will still take an awful lot of practise to become a master of your trade or profession. And we’re not just talking about in music or painting or sport, but in just about every area of life.

It’s worth applying this thought to teaching. Clearly there are many people who are quite unsuited to the classroom and even if they spent a lifetime, let alone 10,000 hours in a school, they would never become proficient at it. Fortunately however there are also many people who can teach. For the sake of argument, let’s suppose a teacher spends 42 weeks a year working for 50 hours a week – that’s 2,100 hours a year, which, if we follow the 1000 hours guidance suggests that for most teachers it’s going to take around five years before they are really on top of their game in the classroom. There will be exceptions of course, at both extremes, but generally that sounds about right.

So the notion that someone can undertake a six-week summer holiday course and then be successfully let loose on a class-full of children is highly suspect. We clearly need to see the process of becoming a professional teacher as a five-year experience, and that’s not including the years spent at university gaining a first-degree in an academic subject.

Knowing stuff is not the same as being able to teach it. Amongst many other things successful teaching requires adept classroom management and the acquired ability to engage and inspire children, plan effective lessons, set achievable targets for all and assess individual progress and achievement – and those are things that can easily take five years to master. A few newcomers might achieve quick results, but in most cases for a whole academic year their pupils are going to be deprived of the quality of teaching and learning they need and that parents rightfully expect.

There are many other professions where a similar ‘fast-track’ approach would be deemed totally unacceptable. And with that in mind, here are some suggestions to that effect from who else but Tony Wheeler:

“I suggest we urgently press for similar rapid entry courses for all Upper Second graduates in the following areas:
OperateFirst for brain surgeons
GlowFirst for nuclear power station managers
CrashFirst for pilots (with a 3 week short course for those flying helicopters military jets and all air traffic controllers)
BetFirst for bankers and financial advisers (with a subsidiary StealFirst short course for senior bankers and hedge find managers)
LieFirst for politicians (with a BullyFirst short course for cabinet ministers and CEOs)”

Meanwhile back in school, during those first five years new teachers need to be monitored and supported far more closely than they are at present. Over that time they also need to be regularly attending further professional development courses, reading widely on approaches to pedagogy and moving around between a number of schools, and perhaps undertaking some practical school-based research. At the end of the five years they should be rigorously assessed by an external agency and, if they have reached the required standard, achieve some form of Master Teacher status coupled with extra pay. Until then they should not be let loose on our children.

None of the above will ever happen of course, but All Change Please! just thought it should mention it, along with the following:

“The problem with teaching as a profession is that every single adult citizen of this country thinks that they know what teachers do. And they don’t. So they prescribe solutions, and they develop public policy, and they editorialize, and they politicize. And they don’t listen to those who do know. Those who could teach. The teacher.”  Sarah Blaine

And just to prove her point, if you’d like to swear at Tristram (no relation) Hunt, here’s your chance:

BBC News – Labour’s Hunt urges ‘Hippocratic oath’ for teachers

And if more proof is needed that ministers have absolutely no idea what they are talking about, this will really make you Nash your teeth!

Save money by using standardized lesson plans, says schools minister.

Image credit: Flickr/slimjim

All Change Please!’s Little Read Blog


In All Change Please!‘s recent post A double McSpin and large McLies, it reported on the shadow education secretary’s early progress, or rather the general lack of it. Last week things went from bad to worse as Tristram (no relation) Hunt voiced his opinions on that lovable old dinosaur called Ofsted. While of course he agreed, as any sensible politician would, that pointless box ticking was by definition A Very Bad Thing, he completely failed to go on to say that Ofsted itself was also currently A Very Bad Thing, revealing his lack of understanding of what the actual problems were and the atmosphere that now exists in our schools.

No OFSTED Hope From Tristram Hunt

Instead he made it clear, at some length, and in a way that suggested the teaching profession as a whole might believe otherwise, that inspections were important and necessary and as a result are solely responsible for promoting high standards amongst Very Bad Teachers. What he doesn’t seem to grasp is that it’s not inspection as such that’s the problem but the way Ofsted are currently conducting them with their current ‘The Big Bogeyman Might Be Coming To Get You In The Morning’ campaign of terror.

As some All Change Please! readers will know, especially if the have they have read About This Blog, it was once an Ofsted team inspector itself, albeit a somewhere disruptive one.  Back in those days, after its initial round of inspections, the message from Ofsted was for inspectors to lighten up, be more friendly and transparent, and informally indicate positive ways forward – an approach that All Change Please! revelled in, with its main regret being that it never had the opportunity to return some six months later to see how well things were improving and to offer further suggestions. Then one day back in 2002, it finally saw the light, or at least the new guidance and revised EFfing form, or Evaluation Form as it was more formally known, and decided the time had come to abandon the sinking ship.

Sadly it seems things are not about to get better after the next election.

Meanwhile in another unconnected incident All Change Please! came across an article in The Torygraph by Janet Daily Mail, whose brief acquaintance it once made back in 1985 – but that’s another story.

Maoist class war wrecked our state schools

This really is offensive, irresponsible and quite inexcusable journalism. Apparently it seems the reason our education system is failing is not, as you might have possibly wondered, because of the abolition of grammar schools and the introduction of comprehensives. No, instead, warming to her ‘Politics and Journalism of Fear’ agenda, Daley wants us to believe that up to now our teachers have been following the Maoist ‘principle of pride’ towards our working class culture, rather than preparing our children to raise their aspirations in order to become bankers, judges, politicians and lawyers (Hmm.. Perhaps she is not entirely mistaken?). But, wait for it, despite Mr Gove’s best efforts, the really horrifying problem that is emerging is that the new generation of upcoming teachers on its way into our schools has already been brainwashed during their own education by the previous generation of Maoist teachers, thus perpetuating this sorry state of affairs, presumably forever.  And what makes this even more surprising is that All Change Please! has been working in education for the past 35 years and has yet to meet its first Maoist teacher.

So there we have it. Believe what the politicians and the media tell you, and our schools are full of Marxist Enemies of Promise and members of the Chinese Communist Party, all of whom completely refuse to have anything to do with raising standards and expectations, or with any form of accountability.

Finally then,  ‘读万卷书不如行万里路’ as they say in China, which apparently translates as ‘Reading ten thousand books is not as useful as traveling ten thousand miles’, or its closest English equivalent which is ‘An ounce of practice is worth more than a pound of theory.’ Or, as Wikipedia suggests, it means: ‘Even the most useful theories cannot substitute practice.’ These Chinese folk really do seem to know what they are talking about, don’t they?