Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Universal Panacea? Trusted to improve
If I had the power to change one thing in the world of education in the UK, I would put trust at the centre of everything we do…
It all started about six years ago. I was running a Comenius school project and was invited along with two other colleagues and four students to meet with our partner schools in Finland. We were visited by OFSTED the week before and when asked about differences between educational systems, it was hard not to mention our inspection.
The headteacher enquired: “Do you mean, you still have school inspections?” I nodded. “Isn’t that a little archaic?”. I stopped dead and looked at him. “We don’t have these any more… very old-fashioned…”.  And then, the killer : “Why don’t they just trust you?”. All three of us started laughing nervously… but we could not really provide any immediate answer.
Why indeed? Is it really such an airy-fairy idea that the vast majority of teachers do a good job and want to constantly improve what they are doing? Maybe the vast majority is not enough, I will accept that, but more disturbing was the opinion from some of my colleagues that OFSTED could not be done without. I mean… How do we know we are doing OK? How do we know how good we are?
My response to that is that if we do not know deep down whether we have tried our utmost with a set of students or not, then our ability to reflect professionally is seriously lacking. Accountability is also a double-edged sword. It does safeguard children’s interests but it also dictates rules all have to play by as well as make attractive any loopholes and shortcuts to get to the same end result.
As for the second question, how good we are does not matter as much as how much better we can become. There is something dangerous about wearing an outstanding badge and not trying to change things for the better any more…
Trust does not just happen. It feeds through everything we do. Students should be able to trust us to be professional, prepared and constantly striving to get them to learn in more effective ways. Respect relies on trust, mutual trust, as that goes for students as much as it goes for staff.
Hyper-accountability can cause extreme stress and damage confidence, self-image and performance. The impact is negative all around but trusting is not providing excuses for poor performance. Trust contributes to setting up a context where improvement takes place not because it has to happen but because groups of individuals want it to happen. If improvement does not happen as planned, then the group agrees on further steps to be taken to rectify this rather than drop the whole process as it was unsuccessful and not meaningful.   
Acknowledging  context is not providing excuses, it’s humanising data. We do teach human beings who are probably at their most vulnerable emotionally and nothing saddened me more than the following comment I heard made by a student  “I am not a person, for some people I am just a walking A Grade”. 
Allowing committed teachers to sometimes feel disappointed rather than guilty is essential as guilt is a destructive downward spiral that affects teachers’ health and children’s education. Guilt erodes enthusiasm, energy levels as well as the willingness to take risk and be creative.
We don’t teach numbers, we teach children whose potential to learn can go up and down.
Simple but daring-Trust is the only way to improvement, a policy of openness where trying to paper the cracks is not a way forward.

Many more blog posts on "The Universal Panacea? The number one shift in UK education I wish to see in my lifetime" can be found on 

Enjoy the conversation...

Saturday, 5 January 2013

ICT and Languages Conference, University of Southampton, 9-10 February 2013

I am hugely looking forward to the third #ililc conference to take place at the University of Southampton. This year's programme offers a wide range of sessions aiming to meet all participants’ individual needs and giving them lots of opportunities to really get to grips with the new ideas being demonstrated and share good practice in a nurturing environment.
To register you can use the link at the bottom of this post or click here.
This event is renowned for its friendly and supportive atmosphere and whilst many sessions have an ICT focus, there are plenty of other sessions which will exemplify many aspects of creative and inspiring MFL teaching and learning.
Read all about #ililc3 speakers here: About our Speakers  
Joe Dale will be delivering the Saturday Keynote speech and I am delighted to have been invited to deliver the Sunday Keynote.
You can also find out more about JohnConnor, Amanda Salt, Helen Myers, Lisa Stevens, Jo Rhys-Jones, Jen Turner, Helena Butterfield, Claire Seccombe, Samantha Lunn, Dominic McGladerry  and John Bald via their blogs (just click on their names).
This year will include sessions on:

Mobile technologies Using iOs android Apps for interactive learning, iTunes, Podcasts and other for personalised learning, designing an MFL App, ‘Animating’ grammar. peer and self assessment through mobile technology
Social Media Using Twitter and other social media tools such as Edmodo & Posterous, effective Blogging, WIKIs and using online tools to record & share learning
Making the most of Web 2.0 Technologies A range of workshops to showcase how to get the best
learning from Web 2,0 tools such as exploring Google Apps, using Tarzia, Vocaroo, and Voicethread to name but a few
The Global classroom Developing and using international links effectively, eTwinning, using authentic materials, developing ICU through online resources, setting up a WIKI to promote your department, using Edmodo, the changing face of CPD
Developing Speaking Explore ways to develop pupils speaking skills through social media, on line tools, A level debating ideas, recording methods and more
Closing the gap Way to support SEN students using technology, supporting speech and language development, promoting Solo taxonomy, developing Maths skills through MFL, understanding the learning process, subtitling for learning

There will another fabulous Show and Tell Event on Saturday 9th February from 7.30 pm in Suite 104 at Jury’s Inn Hotel, Charlotte Place, Southampton, SO14 0TB.
Kindly hosted by main #Ililc3 sponsor Televic, places are free but limited. Guests will need to sign up in advance via the Show and Tell wiki.
The idea of the MFL Show and Tell session is to give teachers an opportunity to share good  language learning and teaching practice-ICT-related or not-in a relaxed informal environment. We will have access to a data projector, a screen for presentations and one to display the event's Twitterstream, plus wifi connectivity of course. If you don't normally speak at such events, do come along to have a go and share what you are doing in the classroom.  Last year’s efforts included quite a few songs and many laughs…
Prices have been frozen at last year’s rate and the fact that the conference is at the weekend also makes it a fantastic value quality CPD opportunity.
£175 for both days
£125 for one day
Concessionary rates available for PGCE students:
£100 for both days
£75 for one day
(name and contact details of your tutor needed when submitting your registration form).
Schools can also pay to attend both days and send a different person each day - please make this clear when booking if you would like to do this.
The conference is also supported by a sizeable exhibition including top publishers, software companies and other resource providers. If you want to take part as a sponsor, please click here.
See you there!