Uniform or not?

School uniform is mandatory isn’t it?

The oldest School Uniform in Britain

Actually in a primary school it’s not – any child can wear anything and the school can’t really do anything about it.

I believe school uniforms set a level playing field, of course that is assuming that you can afford it in the first place!

Price aside I think it is important that (at school) children are treated equally and one of the ways is of course by clothing, no rich or poor…just the same and for this too work everyone needs to abide by the school policy.

However, a mother has shared her anger that girls at a secondary school are being told to stop wearing “tight” black trousers because they are reportedly “distracting teachers” and that they were not part of the school uniform.

Mrs Moule said her 15-year-old daughter Beth has been put in detention because of a “ridiculous” uniform clampdown over how tight girls’ trousers should be and more than 200 parents have backed her petition calling for staff at St Peter’s School, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, to “stop harassing” female pupils by dishing out the punishment for not wearing “baggy” school trousers.

She went on to say “The kids are being told they are distracting teachers and students,” said Moule. “It’s atrocious, it’s not the right calibre of teacher at the school.”

Maybe but from that should we also say the right cailbre of pupils as they are distracted – here Mrs Moule has nothing to say on the issue.

As for teachers being distracted – I find that somewhat disturbing and an odd choice of words to put in a letter from the school.

However, they are not uniform and should not be worn and that is the school policy.

I’m afraid if a parent does not like it then of course they are free to place their child in another school but you sign up to follow the school policy when you accept the place.

School uniform for all with no exceptions.








Trips and Visits

School VisitOne of the things you will come across as a Teaching Assistant is the inevitable visit to somewhere of educational value.

These are tiring but generally (I have found) quite good fun.

The main rule here is this: Don’t lose any children

On any trip the ‘Don’t lose any children’ rule comes above everything else. These young minds you are helping to shape are (on the whole) the parents most important thing in their lives so we need to take care.

Alright, I am being a bit flippant and it is obvious but you do have to count and recount, keep a close eye on the children you have been assigned.

You will know you class and can probably guess who is likely to cause issues because they tend to do it in school, in the classroom or playground. To be though fair they do get excited and who can blame them, a day out from school and I get excited.

So where might you go?

Well that depends where you school is, the financial side of it and a number of issues that you may have within your class.

I have been on local visits to say somewhere like Hampton Court for Tudor Workshops,  up the London for Greek Workshops and a variety of others but the rules remain the same.

Make sure you understand where you are going as it may be on bus, train or coach. Your teacher should have done a risk assessment and will be looking at:

  • Age and number of pupils involved
  • Pupils’ special educational or medical needs
  • Degree of responsibility and discipline shown by the group
  • Type of visit and nature of the activities
  • Level of risk
  • Location and travel arrangements

There may well be other concerns that need to be factored in so please ask and be aware.

It is always worth reminding any children that they are on their best behaviour and that they represent their school.

Make sure you have all the contact numbers you need (Teacher, School etc.) and carry first aid (or any other medication needed).

The children will be excited, join in their fun but also keeping an eye on behaviour and keep a lookout for any children who are quiet and withdrawn – there may be an issue you need to deal with.

Oh and don’t forget the main rule here Don’t lose any children!

20 Years of Educational Fads?

Here are 20 years of Multi Ethnic People Holding The Word Trendseducational fads…what do you think?

1. Learning styles:

… audio, visual and kinaesthetic learning styles. Research from both ends of the spectrum state that there is no such thing as ‘learning styles’ (Riener and Willingham 2010) whilst other academics continue to post years of research. This report (Coffield – ‎2004) examines 13 models of learning style and concludes that it matters fundamentally which model is chosen. There is a helpful summary by @HFletcherWood.

The result? Gimmick.

2. Lesson objectives:

The framing or copying of lesson objectives in still commonplace today; “All students will; most students will; some students will …” meant that teachers had to record three variations of their lesson aims on to lesson plans and on to the blackboard/whiteboard (depending on how long you have been teaching). The intention meant that you were planning to ‘predict’ differentiation from various outputs from groups of students, despite having 20-30 students in every class that would produce that number of varied results. Debra Kidd recently renounced this as a waste of time in her book.

The result? Fad.

3. Learning outcomes:

… once the lesson was taught, students were required to write what their learning outcome was. This was further proof for the observer and for the inspectorate that teaching and learning were synchronised in perfect harmony. However, there is nothing wrong with sharing with students where they should be going. After-all, which one of us would start out on our degree or driving lesson, not knowing what the desired outcome should be?

The result? Myth.

4. Rapid progress (OfSTED):

… stipulated in the School Inspection Handbook, that students must show rapid progress, before this myth was busted, school leaders were interpreting the handbook and teachers were expected to show ‘students making rapid progress’ in lesson observations. This soon became a requirement to show in a 20 minute observation! Why? Because this was the period observers – school leaders and OfSTED inspectors were anticipated to be in any classroom.

The result? Hearsay.

5. APP (Assessing Pupil Progress):

When I first came across Assessing Pupil Progress in 2008, an enthusiastic teacher demonstrated how assessment was measured using a fancy piece of software. I looked on in horror at the countless sub-levels of data, entered into a database to record knowledge and skills demonstrated by a single child. (APP) was developed for use in schools to enable them to apply Assessment for Learning (AfL) consistently across both the secondary and primary National Curriculum. Initial development of APP was undertaken by the National Strategies but is now overseen by the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency. The coalition government has got rid of it in 2010. Good riddance. No wonder Dylan Wiliam is frustrated with how schools are using AfL.

The result? Fad.

6. Chinese teaching:

The television series ‘Are Our Kids Tough Enough?‘ was entertainment and was never going to provide us with a true perspective. Despite research, high-profile celebrities and politicians proclaiming the wonderful work of our Shanghai counterparts, at no point does anyone proclaim that in order to achieve these high-standards, teachers only teach two lessons a day. Over the past 18 months, I have received frequent invitations to events, marketed by teaching alliances, MATs and corporate organisers to attend schools hosting Chinese teachers, teaching in their schools. The promise of ‘maths teachers and Shanghai teaching methods showcased to UK teachers in [a school near you].’ I kid you not, they all appeared in my work ‘inbox’ on several occasions throughout the year. I eventually did attend one event. I also sent my maths teachers to 2 or 3 events and so far, we have done nothing to change the work we are already doing. ‘We [are] blindly following the Chinese approach to teaching maths’ says The Guardian. Oh, and each of these supported by exemplar text books, already hand-crafted for subject teachers waiting to consume another promised silver bullet.

The result? Fad.

7. PLTS (Personal, Learning, Thinking Skills):

Consigned to the National Archives – that says it all really – PLTS provided a framework for describing the qualities and skills needed for success in learning and life. If only we knew the secret for adulthood, teaching and successful relationships too? Nice idea, but impossible to put a framework in place to determine the skills a child needs to become successful. Maybe now replaced by ‘character education’?

The result? Gimmick.

8. Textbooks:

Nick Gibb is obsessed with textbooks being used more widely by teachers in classroom, but it was advocated long-before the not-missed-at-all Elizabeth Truss was given her marching orders. She made a number of speeches in 2014 in which she advocated a return to the regular use of the textbook. The problem is, 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! You only need to take a closer look at the publishers and their relationships with those that promote them to find this ideology is all a little incestuous.

The result? Fad.

9. iPads:

I’ve yet to find myself working in a school that uses iPads extensively in all subjects with all students, but that’s not to say I don’t advocate technology in the classroom. It has a place, but it certainly should not replace the role of the teacher. Using iPads in the classroom is expensive and I have seen it work well, but I’ve also seen it lead students down the ‘garden-path’ and have seen teachers get frustrated with the technology and students turn to ‘Google’ for the answers all-too-often. Show me the research please.

The result? The jury is still out … 

10. Sitting in rows:

I have seen teachers sit students in rows in all sorts of subjects. Maths, technology, art and English. Some are great, some not-so much. Either way, whatever works for those teachers and their students is what’s best. It is the duty of colleagues observing/coaching to intervene if they believe the techniques a teacher is using in their classroom – even the seating plan – is detrimental to the teaching and learning of the class. 

The result? Fad.

11. Group work:

Every subject requires collaboration. To say a teacher should always have students working/sitting in groups to explore and discover has a place in the classroom, but it certainly should not be the default method for teachers. Direct instruction and teacher clarity has the greatest impact on student progress. To allow students to discover learning for themselves in project-based learning serves its purpose, only if students have the prerequisite knowledge and skills in order to do so. If you first achieve this objective with students working in rows or groups, that is the teacher’s prerogative.  

The result? Fad.

12. Zero-tolerance:

Every school should have a behaviour policy that is rational, flexible and simple enough to cater for all students. Most work on the basis of a ‘ready, respectful, safe’ methodology which is simple and offers clarity for everyone. In schools where I have seen over-complicated policies, even teachers are confused by the rules and the series of consequences to action! In every school, when not imposing appropriate sanctions, students will find the gaps and sift out teachers who bend the rules and undermine colleagues.

If a school promotes a ‘zero tolerance’ approach, how confident are these institutions in helping young people to learn from their mistakes? How do their permanent exclusion figures read? Every school should have a behaviour policy which promotes learning and aims to cull disruption or defiance. To say you do have a ‘zero tolerance’ approach, or something quite the opposite such as an ‘inclusive approach’, is just lip-service for parents and visitors. Every school requires students to learn in a safe and respectful environment. To promote that a school is tough on discipline, and better than any other, is in-line with ideologies promoted by those that look to commercialise education via the academies and free school movement.

Every school wants good behaviour.

The result? Fad.

13. Brain Gym:

The program has been criticised as pseudoscience, designed by Paul Dennison who worked as a public school teacher in the 1960s, researching more effective ways to help children and adults with learning difficulties. The studies themselves have received polemic feedback from supporters and critics. The consensus is Brain Gym activities are poorly designed and that the work is not supported by peer-reviewed research. When questioned, Dennison said that he “leaves the explanations to the experts.”

The result? Gimmick.

14. Four-Part Lessons:

Including 3 and 7 parts or whatever number of parts you’ve been told! There is little or no evidence to suggest any suitable model works other than quality first teaching from the outset.

The result? Gimmick.

15. Lollypop-stick questioning:

It is absolutely essential that you ask the correct question in the first place, and then use a mechanism to find a student to answer. If you do it the other way round, first, all the other students can relax, and second, you will probably merely replicate your existing expectations of the student. Used by many teachers in their fast-track induction, lolly-sticks are a neat little trick to ensure that every child takes part in the lesson to appease observers. But, what are they learning and what is the teacher assessing by doing so? Overall, whatever mechanism you use to ask questions, it’s the quality of your question – who it is targeted to and why – and the quality of feedback that counts.

The result? Gimmick.

16. Teacher talk:

I once blogged about teacher-talk; traditional versus progressive methods, false dichotomies or otherwise, might make for an interesting debate when it’s underpinned by evidence, but in most classrooms teachers do a bit of both these days. Put another way, children need facts but also need to develop the skills to use those fact. We know that it is the quality of direct-instruction and teacher-clarity that has significant effect on student progress. Talk badly for a long or short period of time, and you’ll leave your students with no direction. 

The result? Myth.

17. Lesson planning:

Yes, believe it or not, teachers were required to write detailed lesson plans (2-3 A4 pages) for every lesson and submit them to their teams and/or the inspectors for lesson observations. Although the myth of writing detailed lesson plans is largely debunked, there are strong rumours that 1,000s of primary schools still ask their teachers to submit weekly lesson plans to their headteachers. The result, teachers spend their entire Sundays writing weekly planning sheets, to submit on the Monday morning for people who won’t be in the lesson!

I’d say stop doing it; focus on long-term curriculum plans and let teachers get on with their job.

The result? Hearsay.

18. Verbal feedback stamps:

Stamping in a student’s book to indicate that verbal feedback has taken place, adds no value to learning. It has little or no impact! If the stamp is merely to serve as an indication to an observer when looking through students books, then those teachers have lost their way in the classroom. To evidence that some sort of verbal feedback has taken place, is undermining the value of a teacher’s work. We know verbal feedback serves an important purpose, but let’s keep the verbal feedback for what it is intended: teachers having quality conversations with their students.

The result? Fad.

19. Triple marking:

This idea was originally designed to reduce marking and make more of key assessments. Step 1: students check work and eliminate the mistakes. Step 2 – teacher marks! Step 3 – students act. The triple of TIM came from it being three parts. The other bit came from 2 parts student to 1 part teacher. Triple marking may have stemmed from some senior leaders interpretation of the School Inspection Handbook.

After posting this blog, the origins of the idea have come to light and have been clarified by the person who claims to have promoted the idea. Thankfully, OfSTED have started to publish their own misconceptions and they could not be clearer. “Ofsted does not expect to see a particular frequency or quantity of work in pupils’ books or folders.”  Acting on feedback is yet to stand the test of time and for now, it may have replaced triple-marking.

The result? Fad.

20. Starters, Middles, Plenaries:

We’ve all created them, acted them out for observations and inspections, when in reality we’d rather just get on with teaching! Why? Because we have so little time and starters, middles and plenaries stemmed from OfSTED preferences to engage students in learning from the start and checking what progress had been made 20-minutes later, or at the end of the lesson. Typically, teachers use resources that works well time and time again, and to avoid wasting time planning, often magpie another person’s resource so that they can satisfy observers. I’m not going to say anything else here.








The result? Fad. Although the jury could still be out on this 

WOW!…well wow days!

What, you may well ask is a Wow Day?

Well a a WOW day in my school and my year was a day dedicated to one particular subject. In this instance the theme was ‘Viking and Anglo-Saxon’.

We have been learning about Myths, Vikings, Anglo-Saxons and the times they lived in, how they lived, what they wore, their beliefs and more.

So on our WOW day the children all come in dressed up as Vikings or Anglo-Saxons. For any child that didn’t have or make a costume we improvised with whatever we have in the school – no one should be left out.

Our cardboard Norse Longboat

My teacher (who is a big broad chap) came as a viking with horned hat and myself, I came as an Anglo-Saxon druid, white robes, potion bags and plastic sickle. I believe it is important that Teaching Assistant joins in, some don’t and this strikes me as rather standoffish and we need to lead by example.

We had to activities planned for the day.

By the morning of our WOW day we had assembled a fair amount of cardboard in preparation for our Longboat project. So we spent the morning building our own Norse Longboat.

It was a little chaotic at first so I appointed one of the more level headed and mature pupils to lead which they did well but it was noisy which upset one child. I took the pupil outside into our library area, chatted with pupil who was very quiet and clearly doesn’t like noise or may even be very sensitive to it (our classrooms are usually fairly quiet) which can be easily overlooked and can (but not always) be part of the autistic spectrum.

Something to keep an eye on.

The boat took shape with a bit of help from myself and our teacher and the results were very pleasing for all of us and some parents who came in for a look at the end of the day (see image above).

The afternoon saw some cooking.

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The recipes we used were authentic Anglo-Saxon Recipes I found on the web. We made shortbread and Oatcakes – remember your pupils cannot taste any food without consent forms because of possible allergies.

I tasted them, they were good and we did a good job cooking, weighing, mixing and molding tasty cakes.

These days are brilliant fun and as a Teaching Assistant you have plunge fully into the day. I try and bring something of myself, what I like about Anglo-Saxon history, learn something that you can impart.


Is segregation in UK schools acceptable?

It surprises me that in the 21st century in the United Kingdom that a school of whatever religious persuasion chooses to segregate. Of course the Al-Hijrah school an Islamic faith school has a policy of segregating boys and girls in lessons, breaks in fact in every aspect of school clubs and has been found to be ‘unlawful sex discrimination’ a court has now ruled ruled.

alThe case was heard at the Court of Appeal as Ofsted challenged a High Court ruling clearing the  in Birmingham of discrimination. Ofsted’s lawyers argued the segregation left girls “unprepared for life in modern Britain” and I tend to agree. It is society and that includes both parents and schools to help shape our children for life living in a modern industrial country and to be able to look after themselves and understand the complex world ahead of them.

Appeal judges ruled the school was discriminating against its pupils contrary to the Equality Act.

Ofstead have known about this for about 20 years but appear to have only now decided to challenge this discrimination. Our children, our boys and girls need to learn how to interact with each other, to be aware of the differences. This is modern Britain and if that is not to your liking then I would suggest that one may relocate to a place where this is still practiced.

The case came to court after Ofsted produced a summer 2016 report that found there was discrimination under equality laws.

At an earlier hearing, judge Mr Justice Jay said books discovered in the school library clearly treated women “as subordinate to men” and this is not acceptable at any level, school or otherwise.

Councillar Bennett said: “The school has, to say the least, a tarnished reputation and, with it once again having been rated inadequate, it is beyond dispute that the council’s efforts have failed to bring about the necessary improvements.

“It really would be in the best interests of all concerned, not least the pupils who have been failed by the school and the council, if the school were closed down in a managed and orderly fashion.”

And I tend to agree. We cannot and shall not treat our children differently because of their gender.

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman said: “Educational institutions should never treat pupils less favourably because of their sex, or for any other reason.

“The school is teaching boys and girls entirely separately, making them walk down separate corridors, and keeping them apart at all times.

“This is discrimination and is wrong.

“It places these boys and girls at a disadvantage for life beyond the classroom and the workplace, and fails to prepare them for life in modern Britain.

Opening Up

Today, I took one of the children out of class for their daily Maths/English intervention. These take about 15 minutes and the term used for them is Precision Teaching.

627447040However, he decided with children milling around us to tell me something of his life.

The child has been in interventions with me for couple of years. I knew a little of his background but today was the day that I got too know a whole lot more.

Obviously I cannot go into any detail suffice to say it was one of the most moving moments I have experienced in a school or possibly in my life.

I asked some open ended but gentle questions about how the child felt and what did it mean to them and when finished I was told that ‘I was the first Teacher he had spoken too about all this’. I have to say that I had a tear or two in my eyes at the end of it.

It is important that you have no secrets at school, it is part of Safeguarding and with that in mind I spoke to my teacher who suggested that I spoke to the head. I explained everything that was said and because of the nature of it she followed our protocol of writing all the details, signing and dating.

This will also go to the SENCO and will be kept on file.

Days like today make my job worthwhile.

Playground and break duty

The playground.

We’ve all been there.

BDP7AN_restricted_school-xlarge_trans_NvBQzQNjv4Bqeo_i_u9APj8RuoebjoAHt0k9u7HhRJvuo-ZLenGRumAIt is a busy, noisy and dynamic place, it can seem chaotic but in general any school worth it’s salt will have playground staff which is usually (but not always) are the trusty Teaching Assistants.

There are specific rules for the playground. For each KS1 (Key Stage 1) class of 30 children there must be 1 adult.

Interestingly for KS2 (Key Stage 2) there are no set number of adults required!

Our job is to ensure the safety of the children and differing schools have different rules. The school will have a safeguarding policy and it should be on their website, you need to understand the safeguarding rules.

I cannot emphasize how important this is.

Back to the playground though and what to look out for:

Bumps, Scrapes, Grazes and Bruises:
All we can really do is clean with a wet wipe (we are not allowed to use any form of antiseptic) and possibly a plaster but you need to check and make sure the child does not have an allergy to the materials found in the common plaster.

Many will not need anything, so calming the child down, making them feel cared for and distraction can also help.

Head injuries:
There can be very serious and ANY head injury should be treated as such. I look for a mark or a bump, check to see if the child feels sick or dizzy and (at my school and at many) send the child with an older child into the school office when the school staff will make a further assessment of any injuries. The parents will always be informed of any head injury.

We cannot remove them anymore.

Nose bleeds:
Take the child to the office.

Broken Bones:
I have never seen a broken bone in any playground but we never know so any injury must be taken seriously because it does happen.

Calling an Ambulance:
That will most likely be down to  the office staff but as a First Aider (your school should have you trained – I am Level 3 Paediatric First Aider) you should give your opinion.

Rough Play
This has to be stopped as it can escalate and injuries are inevitable.

Any form of bullying in unacceptable and should be reported immediately and should be logged on the behaviour log.

Children sitting by themselves
Children tend to sit by themselves for a number of reasons. They may have no one to play, they may be upset, home life may be hard or they could be SEN (Special educational Needs). Get down to their eye level, ask them open ended questions with care and concern and report anything unusual or suspicious.

Hitting or kicking
Physical violence is not acceptable under any circumstances and should be stopped and reported immediately.

Bickering and Disagreements
You will come across many of these and will need to make a decision on what you are told. Most are just silliness and a few words will usually help.