60% of Andrew Carter’s ITT review panel have no experience in ITT at all. Does it matter?

As you may remember, in May 2014 Michael Gove (remember him?) appointed Andrew Carter, Headteacher of South Farnham School, leader of a school-centred initial teacher training (ITT) provider and ITT lead on the Teaching Schools Council, to chair a so called ‘independent’ review of the quality and effectiveness of ITT courses.

He asked Carter to look across the full range of ITT courses and will seek views from those involved across the sector to:

  • Define effective ITT practice;
  • Assess the extent to which the current system delivers effective ITT;
  • Recommend where and how improvements could be made;
  • Recommend ways to improve choice in the system by improving the transparency of course content and methods.

To support him in his work, Carter has appointed a review panel comprising a diverse range of expertise in June. The group will provide expertise and support in developing the review’s conclusions and recommendations.

Members of the group are:

  • Professor Samantha Twiselton, Director of the Sheffield Institute for Education (SIoE) at Sheffield Hallam University;
  • Sir Daniel Moynihan, CEO of the Harris Federation;
  • Dr Louise Walker, Director of Undergraduate Studies and Peer Mentor Co-ordinator in the School of Mathematics at the University of Manchester;
  • Judith O’Kane OBE, Executive Principal of Melland High School and Director of Education at Bright Futures Educational Trust;
  • Daisy Christodoulou, Research and development manager at ARK.

Sadly, this is nothing short of a scandalous selection of political appointments, the  majority of whom have little if any meaningful experience of ITT.

Thankfully, Sam Twiselton and Judith O’Kane – two strong women I’ve heard – are on the panel. I hope they will add some sanity to discussions. I have no problem with their appointments.

Firstly, Daniel Moynihan (remember him – he’s the CEO who earns north of £320k and can’t even find time to fill in his own profile on his own website). He has some pretty scary views on education that you can read here. The performance of his own organisation in turning around ‘failing schools’ is equally poor. You can read about that here. What’s his main qualification? Lord Harris, whose company he works for, is a close friend of David Cameron and his companies have donated a little over £2m to the Tory party in recent years. What’s in this appointment for Moynihan I wonder? An online PGCE run by his organisation? Don’t bet against it.

Daisy Christodoulou is a well known and controversial figure in education. Since the demise of Katherine Birbalsingh she seems to be the new Tory female ‘expert’ on education that is wheeled out on occasions such as these. Research and development director for ARK, let’s hope her contribution to this review is more productive and positive than her book which has been heavily criticised by many and contains more myths than it seeks to dispel. What’s her main experience in ITT? She did the Teach First programme. She’s also written a short article for The Spectator on a related issue (but really all she was doing was promoting her book). That’s good enough it seems. However, Daisy seems amply qualified when considered against the next reviewer.

This leaves us with Louise Walker. What’s her background. A quick read of her profile at the University of Manchester (and it didn’t take long) reveals that her research interests are ‘geometries and graphs related to finite simple groups’. Yep, that’s it! Apparently she teaches on three units and has a grand sum of three co-written publications, the last of which was in 2006 and none of which have anything at all to do with ITT). Here’s a link to the third part of the ‘saga’ (sounds like Lord of the Rings doesn’t it, but without the plot, characters, setting or, in fact, anything hobbit-like at all). It begins:

The main object of our attentions is G, the point-line collinearity graph of G. Here we shall be concentrating almost exclusively upon D3(a), the third disc of a ¡ a is a fixed point of G. For further details, background and notation, not to mention statements of the main theorems we are endeavouring to prove, see Sections 1 and 2.

I hope you are staying awake class? If I was Louise, I’d step down from this appointment out of embarrassment. I’m sure she is a great mathematician and leads the undergraduate programme at the university brilliant. But she has no experience or expertise in initial teacher education.

So, 60% of his panel have no experience in initial teacher training at all. So, why have they been chosen? That’s a good question and one that I would urge you to ask Nicky Morgan via Twitter. Sam Freedman, Gove’s ex-advisor and now research director at Teacher First, when asked yesterday by myself about these appointments, said that ‘it’s a good group of people with innovative ideas about ITT’. However, good ideas without experience of the sector is a recipe for disaster. I’ve got good ideas about loads of stuff but I’d never want to sit on a Government review. There has to be an alternative agenda here and I think anyone who has followed policy in this area for more than a few months will know what this is.

My only hope is that their report will be completely ignored, being published as it will be in December in the run up to the next general election. Whilst I respect two of the appointments, the remaining 60% of the panel have no credibility in this sector and deserve no serious attention from those submitting evidence to the panel. If Nicky Morgan has any sense, she should immediately dismiss them and find some people with appropriate expertise, independent minds and innovative ideas for ITT. Here’s one suggestion from me – Andy Jones, ex-Dean of the Faculty of Education at MMU, but now working at a private agricultural university in Shropshire who has bucket loads of experience in this area, no political axe to grind and no vested interests either.

Really Andrew it’s not that hard to find good people if you look carefully and don’t get bullied by DfE officials and ministers.

Further good news regarding the funding of music education

In a separate Ministerial Statement given by David Laws, there is some good news for the future funding of music education through the Educational Services Grant. This is a direct quote from the statement that can be found in full here:

The Department received a large volume of responses to the consultation relating to the provision of music services. Many were concerned that any reduced local authority support for music services would impact on the overall quality of music provision and in particular on the opportunities for disadvantaged children.

We strongly believe that all children should benefit from a good music education and have given £171million to music hubs since 2012. We have also announced today that central government funding for music education programmes will increase by £18m in 2015-16, and funding for music education hubs will rise to around £75m in total. Local authorities will continue to have total discretion about whether to spend any of the ESG they receive on providing music services

This final sentence is key and should be welcomed. In reality, though, the number of Local Authorities that will continue to support music education through the allocation of ESG funding remains to be seen. Most Local Authorities that I am aware of are withdrawing their funding at a significant rate as they prioritise other things. As I wrote before, the Government will claim a victory whilst the reality is they have cut funding to music education massively over 4 years whilst blaming Local Authorities for the mess that results.

Is this really an additional £18m to support music education?

The Government have announced an additional £18m of funding to support music education during 2015/16. This funding will go direct to music education hubs to help them fulfil their core roles. As Alan Davey says in the press release, this will help them plan with more confidence for the next year or so.

I welcome this additional funding. However, there are a couple of provisos. Firstly, this ‘additional’ money comes after significant cuts of around 10% every year to music education funding over the last few years. This additional money still means that music education funding is woefully short of where it was when this Government came to office.

Secondly, the spectre of significant reductions in Local Authority funding for music education still remains given the ongoing consultation into the Educational Services Grant. I wrote about this back in April yet the Government have still given no assurances that music education services will remain a core part of this grant. The potential loses to music education as Local Authorities withdraw their support will make this ‘additional’ £17m pale into insignificance. As many of us know, across the breadth of our country, music services are shutting or restructuring as their core funding from Local Authorities diminishes year by year.

UPDATE: See my recent post about another announcement today (22/7/14) through a ministerial statement by David Laws. Local Authorities will retain the right to use ESG funding for music education should they so wish. 

You might call me naive, but I think the crux of the argument is this. During the forthcoming election campaign, the Government can now say they have increased funding for music education (whilst in reality, over the whole term, they have decreased it).

The Government can now also blame Local Authorities for cutting music education funding and still maintain that they have supported it fully through this ‘increase’ in funding for music education hubs.

As usual, Tories cut and cut, privatise and then blame others when things go wrong. It’s pretty cynical but there you go.

A tribute to Michael Gove?

How will you remember Michael Gove? The Guardian has published an opinion piece answering this question today. Within it, I’m quoted as saying the following:

I’ll him remember as a divisive figure – somebody who had a radical programme of reform and succeeded in alienating almost everyone in the educational world. Sadly, I think he’s left us with a fragmented and incoherent education system. In many senses, there’s chaos.

Wherever you look in teacher training, there are problems. We’ve got universities – traditionally the main vehicle for training teachers – withdrawing their provision because vice-chancellors are fed up with the lack of security within teacher education. Both Bath University and the Open University have scrapped their PGCEs. Large numbers of potential teachers were lost as a result of the changes and it’s going to be difficult to recover them. There used to be an independent organisation that managed teacher education but this was abolished by Gove and the function was brought under the DfE. I don’t think that move gave it the impartiality and strength that it needs. This is something that needs to be reconsidered – there needs to be an agency that has oversight of teacher training. We now have a real shortage of teachers, especially in specialist areas. Unless something is done by Nicky Morgan, we will live with the consequences of these reforms for years.

Want some help with your lesson planning? Look no further!

lesson_planning I’m delighted to say that my new book for Routledge - Lesson Planning: Key concepts and skills for teachers - is published today. The book describes a simple, staged process of lesson planning that includes:

  • Defining learning objects and outcomes;
  • Considering various different structure for lessons;
  • Creating a suitable environment for learning;
  • Assessment processes;
  • Differentiating and personalising your teaching;
  • Evaluating your work;

and, most importantly, a large chapter on pedagogy which is, for me, an integral part of the planning process.

For anyone who has read my blog and other writings over the years, there will be no surprise that one of the central arguments of the book is built on Stenhouse’s phrase that ‘there is no curriculum development development without teacher development’. This is as true today as it was in the 1970s when he first penned it. Lesson planning is not a dry and dull process. It is about your development as a person, as a teacher, and, when done well, is a highly creative and enjoyable process that is at the heart of all excellent teaching.

Gove is gone!


Gove is gone! Reshuffled, demoted or sacked, however you want to put it, he is no longer the Secretary of State for Education. Personally, I’m delighted.

Gove was always a divisive figure. His radical programme of reform, conducted vivace con moto, took no prisoners and succeeding in alienating large portions of the academic and educational establishment. However, I agree with the TES opinion piece today which stated that Gove ‘mistook change of improvement’. Quite right. Education in the United Kingdom today is in far worse a state that it was before Gove took office.

I was asked what Gove’s legacy was on BBC Radio Five Live this afternoon. In a nut-shell, it is one of fragmentation and incoherence. Wherever one looks:

  • in the field of school governance, autonomy and local accountability;
  • in the provision of school meals for pupils in Key Stage 1;
  • in the slashing of schools’ sports budgets;
  • in the allocation of school places across the country;
  • in the demise of LA support services and the rise of for-profit organisations ‘supporting’ schools;
  • in the imposition of a National Curriculum which isn’t national in any meaningful sense;
  • in the complete lack of support and guidance to schools in how to implement curriculum change at any level;
  • in the mess surrounding the reform of GCSE and other qualifications in the 14 – 19 sector;
  • in the closure of vast swathes of university teacher education provision and the unregulated rise of School Direct;
  • in the random handling of subject allocations for initial teacher education courses which will result in teacher shortages in many areas for years to come;
  • in the weakening of Ofsted’s credibility and political interference in how it operates its inspection regime;
  • in the blatant de-professionalisation of music education and its associated workforce;

and no doubt in a whole range of other areas that I have failed to mention, Gove’s legacy is one of fragmentation, incoherence, alienation and, to a large extent in many areas, chaos. Many elements of our educational infrastructure are already privatised or ripe for privatisation, and profit has become an acceptable motive for educational ventures during his watch. One can only hope that Gove’s successor, Nicky Morgan, has a good stash of cleaning products available. She is going to have to do a considerable amount of cleaning up.

But perhaps the singularly most dismal failure of Gove has been his inability to inspire individual teachers. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t meet a teacher who is stressed, considering retirement or moving to a job outside teaching, who is fed up of being ground down by an educational rhetoric inspired by Gove’s pernicious policies. Many teachers will be raising a glass tonight to Gove’s dismissal.

What’s the bottom line? Gove was a bully. He’s been moved to a job as Chief Whip where being a bully is the first line of the job description. David Cameron recognises his qualities; schools, teachers and others have had to put up with his heavy-handed and bullying approach for the last four years. I’ll be raising a glass with the vast majority of teachers tonight. Good riddance Gove. And good luck Nicky Morgan. Let’s hope you can do a better job through a more collegial approach. Everyone deserves a chance, but we’ll be watching carefully to see whether you are able to adopt a different approach to the handling of our country’s educational system.

The latest Love Music Trust newsletter

I’m delighted to be a trustee of the Love Music Trust. The latest newsletter from the Trust is now available from their website or you can download it here. I’m particularly looking forward to six fantastic concerts at Gawsworth Hall near Macclesfield over the coming weekend. The work of the Love Music Trust is inspirational and deserves to be supported by all schools in Cheshire East.

An open invitation to all schools to work in partnership with Roland and UCan Play

Roland UK and UCan Play are looking for new schools to become ‘Roland Champions’ for the next academic year. We will consider applications from any school that would like to work in partnership with us to develop innovative approaches to the use of Roland technologies within their curriculum. Please provide details of your own ideas in the appropriate place on the application form. Each Roland Champion School is asked to complete a short case study of their work throughout the year. Further information and the application form can be found here.

All successful Roland Champion Schools will receive highly preferential pricing on all Roland and Boss technologies. These prices also extend to staff and students at these schools.

The deadline for applications is the 31st August 2014 and the selected schools will be announced around the 7th September 2014.


Some personal reflections on the recent Ofsted advice on assessment

I first met Martin Fautley at the University of Cambridge in the late 1990s. He was studying for a doctorate there; I was teaching at Stowmarket High School. We were both attending a seminar/study group on music teaching and research led by our colleague Pam Burnard. Martin’s doctorate was focusing on a process of assessment for music education. It was, and still is, a fascinating read. Continue reading