Monday, 23 November 2015

#Michaela - Debating Education (21/11/15)

Another Saturday, another education event... Am I an edu-geek or an edu-loser? Regardless, it was a chance to meet up with my 'edu-Twitter/blogger friends' and share a day of discussion, debate, reflection, beer and curry. 

The day was held at Michaela, a free school that divides the edu-Twitter world (Read about David Didau's visit <here>). It is a shining example of how schools could be or has Katharine Birbalsingh and her neo-trad collection of Teach First-ers got education totally wrong? Perhaps, thankfully, that wasn't on the days agenda. 

Due to a prior engagement (baptism preparation for my son Tommy' forthcoming initiation into all things Catholic), I could only make 3 of the 5 debates, but the trip to Wembley was still well worth it. We were polled in advance, presumably so Bodil (the data cruncher) could see if we changed our minds. The key questions that were to be discussed were:

1. Was Michael Gove a great Education Secretary?
2. Should Ofsted be abolished?
3. Is Sir Ken right? Does traditional education kill creativity?
4. Does mixed ability work?
5. Should character be in the curriculum?

For me, yes / no answers were tricky:
1. Not great, but had a good vision, just maybe poor execution.
2. Only if it is replaced by a better regulatory body.
3. Not really, as I don't agree with his definition of creativity.
4. Maybe in some subjects, but not all?
5. It has to be, but not in separate lessons.

I think I went with:
1. No
2. No
3. No
4. Yes
5. Yes

My final thoughts were:
1. Still not great, but Jonny had done a fine job of selling him as such. Would I go back to pre-2010 education? No. Did Gove drive up standards and expectations, especially for the poor? I think so.
2. OFSTED is not fit for purpose; it may need a new name, aims and form to have any kind of impact. However. I also don't really trust teachers or schools to be self accountable.
5. If I need character lessons, I am not carrying out my pastoral responsibility properly in the everyday interactions with my students. 

Did I bring anything practical back to my class room for Monday? No. Did I change my mind about any topics? Not really. Do I think the day was useful? Absolutely. So many seeds were sown. The conversations, interactions (both face to face and via Twitter), questions and reflections are still settling. I want to read more about Hirsch and his effect on Gove, I want to consider my contributions to character education as a head of year, I want to consider further the accountability within schools. This was NOT a TeachMeet with a whole series of shiny ideas to magpie (and don't get me wrong, I love those). This was not a panel debate with 5 minute soundbites. This was something a great. A space, and a time to think about some of the most important issues in education.

Big thanks to Katherine for hosting us. Huge gratitude to the speakers for giving up their time and leading us in a really excellent series of debates. Thanks for Bodil for awarding my chocolates. And of course to Andrew for organising the curry - thank goodness Moore Spice delivered! 

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