Enriching Lives and Communities with Education

Norah Colvin

Education has the power to enrich lives. By education, I mean all of life’s experiences that contribute to learning. Sometimes these experiences occur in school. Mostly they don’t.

Schooling is but a small part of ones’ education, and its ability to enrich varies depending on:

  • an individual’s circumstances and attitudes to school and learning.
  • the school culture and attitudes to children and learning.
  • and the teacher’s attitude to children and learning.

Over the years I have been aware of enrichment programs offered in some schools. The programs were available to children considered ‘brighter’, having greater potential and, possibly, even ‘gifted’. The children were those who pleased their teachers with compliant behaviour and diligent work, and whose well-to-do families contributed to school facilities. Often, the program was a reward for children who needed neither incentive nor enrichment (their lives already had both) and an easy way for schools to say they…

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What is the perfect education?

Opher's World

a. The Setting

Education should take place in a setting that is friendly, warm, secure, safe and beautiful. The building and rooms should be cheerful, artistically interesting and full of stimulation. The grounds should be a haven of nature.

b. Education should be fun

c. The Teachers should be warm and caring and devoted to their students.

d. The curriculum should be broad and all encompassing. It should also be fluid.

e. There should be no facts – just opportunities to explore and discover and concepts to understand.

f. There should be all manner of equipment to enable that exploration.

g. Teachers should be facilitators to assist and guide.

h. Lessons should be discussions, investigations, experiments.

I. Creativity should be at the core of everything that happens.

j. The curriculum and syllabi should be flexible to enable children to explore

k. Testing should be diagnostic.

l. Basic skills and knowledge…

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Why School INSET persistently fails to raise teaching and learning standards. #Education #Books #Schools #INEST

I would preface my remarks here by saying that the basis for my observations in this article come from practice in the UK. However, conversations with colleagues in Australia, Canada and the United States suggest the same features appear in their systems.

In the UK 1988 was a decisive turning point in education history. The Education Reform Act introduced by Kenneth Baker introduced many new features to the learning and teaching landscape and has shaped development for the last thirty years.

The first and possibly most negative aspect was the introduction of the National Curriculum.  This attempted to codify WHAT was to be taught to every student across their student career. It set the education direction as being primarily concerned with curriculum content.

The world, his wife and all their relations were invited to contribute to the National Curriculum and the result was an overly bloated curriculum, often lacking relevance or coherence. The mantra of the time was that the curriculum should be ‘broad and balanced’, which it was. Unfortunately everyone knew what they wanted in the curriculum, but no-one could agree what should be dropped to accommodate it!

The second great innovation was the advent of five days per school year set aside for the In Service Training of Teachers (INSET). Initially, this was a very popular innovation with teachers, as it recognised their requirement to have days of professional study, development an interaction (this was less popular with parents who had to find five extra days of childcare!).

Having previously had no statutory professional development days, school leadership teams were free to invent their own professional development programme and some were very innovative. Initially there was some funding called TVEI (Technical and Vocational Educational Initiative) designed to encourage collaborations and some schools coordinated their INSET days to enable staff to attend events in a number of schools.

Within that sentence was the major issue with INSET days. They became a stage-managed EVENT which, for the most part still holds true today.  Rather than addressing issues at a fundamental cultural level, the pattern of the day fragmented around what came to be a familiar pattern. The school, apart from those staff on externally accredited external courses, would have their professional development opportunities constrained to this five day model.

The first element, usually occupying the early part of the day was an inspirational visiting speaker, the content of whose talk may, or may not have had any bearing on the development priorities of the school. The talk element meant that the teachers for the most part were passive participants in the process.  Many would describe the experience of the guest speaker as seeing their favourite comedian live… intensely engaging, compelling, humorous and insightful. But the next day, they could not recall what they had heard and it certainly was not going to impact on their practice on a daily basis.

Following the talk there would be some pressing whole school based business such as the implications of new national initiatives on school processes, or some urgent training related to pupil welfare or health.

The afternoon session, when most people were soporific after a good lunch, tended to be devoted to curriculum/departmental time when rather than moving the school forward, teachers were engaged in preparing for the term starting the next day, or closing down the term just past. Important administrative work indeed, but not work designed to professionally challenge and develop teachers.

There was no PROCESS in these events, no reflection and development, little sharing of practice, good, developing or bad and no centrality of the learner in planning.

I’ve observed this as a trainer, guest speaker, school leader and departmental head across the country. The same meagre developmental diet served up repeatedly despite the lack of impact.

Given these experiences I began working on a different approach to teacher professional development. You will notice I avoid the word training from this point, as I believe training has unfortunate connotations and impacts.

Over several years I pulled a template together for a model of Continuous Professional Development that any school could adopt and adapt to suit their development purposes.

The model works irrespective of context, cultural, national or sector.

I’ve been able to condense over a decade work of development work into a coherent whole in a book to be published in March 2019.

Please contact me if you would like to know more, including some sample templates for how to implement the model to address the quality of teaching and learning in your school.

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New approach to personalised learning helps to close gap for disadvantaged pupils #sparx #learning #schools #education #homework

A new approach to personalised learning could be the solution to halting the increasing educational gap between under-privileged and privileged children, according to one of the country’s leading education business experts.  

Personalised learning – an approach involving tailoring education to each child’s needs – should be the answer to ensuring every child fulfills their potential. But critics say it has previously done the opposite, with overburdened teachers struggling to differentiate for each and every child and disadvantaged pupils becoming trapped by low predicted grades.

Now Dan Sandhu, CEO of socially focussed learning technology company Sparx, says a new form of personalised learning can deliver the right results: “Sparx has spent 7 years working with schools to research this new approach. The impact on pupil progress, and particularly on disadvantaged pupils, has been staggering in the schools which have adopted it. Free School Meals (FSM) pupils are now making equal progress to non-FSM. As well, a recent test showed one of our schools, with nearly 50 per cent disadvantaged pupils, had the highest rate of progress in Yr 7 and 8 maths among 16 schools across their county.*”

Sparx is working with schools across Devon including many of those in the Ted Wragg Trust and Education South West, and has just started working with Westcountry Schools Trust.

Dan explained: “Together we have developed a platform – initially for maths homework – where the best of modern technology works in harmony with the essential skill of the teacher. The system carefully assesses what level a pupil is at and sets and marks bespoke homework for each student. It adapts to ensure they are being stretched and provides insights for the teachers which help them support each pupil.”

The approach, which involves pupils completing both online tasks and bookwork, is proving extremely popular with teachers and students alike. It is saving each teacher around two hours a week on admin, planning, and marking and students are more motivated and confident in the subject. One school, which had previously reported lower than 20 per cent homework completion rates, saw that figure jump to 98 per cent after introducing Sparx Maths Homework.[1]

Dan, who was voted as one of Education Technology’s top 100 most influential leaders globally, feels confident Sparx’ rigorously tested approach can have a big impact on pupil progress across the ability range. “Our aim is to improve life opportunities for over 5 million learners by 2030. For us there are no shortcuts. We believe in supporting students for the longer term – making a real difference.”

Headteacher Stephen Farmer, whose school Cranbrook Education Campus in Exeter came top in the progress test after piloting the platform, believes it is the way forward in teaching:

“This approach to personalised learning is so much better than anything before. The live nature of it is what makes it stand out from the crowd. It adapts as the pupil uses it, making it harder or easier according to how pupils are doing. With other systems everyone gets the same questions and it doesn’t adapt to get the best out of each pupil.

“Our pupils love it. It’s really built their confidence. And the analytics side of it has been really important for the teachers. It gives them specific detailed information on how each student is doing and what they’re struggling with. We would like a Sparx for every subject!”

12 Teaching Podcasts Every Teacher In The UK Should Listen To At Least Once (And 2 To Help You Learn And Laugh Together!) #Teachers #Podcasts #Education

Teaching podcasts – UK, America or wherever you are in the world – are a great way for teachers to gather some free and fantastic teaching ideas for the classroom and for SLT to get advice and guidance from school leaders who’ve been there before them.  

However, the vast library of educational podcasts available nowadays can be a little overwhelming, and as a teacher we know that you don’t have the time to trawl through the charts to find the one you want. That’s why, to save you time, we have taken a look through all of the charts and lists that are out there, and found the 12 best UK teaching podcasts you should be listening to (and have thrown in two that you won’t be able to stop laughing at for good measure!)

Teaching Podcast 1: The Edtech Podcast

Sophie Bailey’s podcast is all about improving ‘the dialogue between ed and tech through storytelling’ with the aim of having an impact to better innovation in UK schools. This dual focus means that she roams widely in both content and guests. One week you’ll hear the thoughts of Geoff Barton, the General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, the next week there’ll be an in depth explainer on the implication of Blockchain technology for learners, education providers and employers. What more could you want?

Need to know

• The length of the episodes are driven by the topic and the setting, so be warned, some of them can run for well over an hour.

• As a listener you will be given the chance to eavesdrop onto round-table discussions with some of the bigger players in education or sessions from education festivals and conferences from around the world.

• It’s often the first place you’ll hear from new teachers and entrepreneurs using technology to improve educational outcomes.

• 2018 also saw the first ever Edtech podcast festival – one to watch out for in the future.

Who should listen?

Anyone who is interested in education or technology! There is a fantastic mix of topics included in these podcasts, so they are great for everyone.

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HOW TO WRITE AN OUTSTANDING PERSONAL STATEMENT FOR POST 16 STUDY #UCAS #University #Personalstatement #contributedpost

Originally Published and Written by
Write On Ejaleigh!

In my teaching role, I am often asked to assist students in preparing their personal statement for education at 16+. Today’s blog post looks at how you can write an outstanding personal statement. This statement will ensure that you stand the best possible chance in your application. Sadly, I can not write the statement for you, but I am going to try and help you through the process, so that it will feel as if you have your own private tutor!

portrait of young woman against white background
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We don’t want clunky language. Be clear, simple and to the point. So many students think that they need to be over wordy. You don’t. All you need is to tell the person reading your statement why you would be a good choice. Avoid clichés like, I am a team player, I have excellent communication skills, I have good attention to detail, I am a perfectionist.


Instead of saying that you are something, then show me in terms of your experience. I don’t want to hear you are a team player if you can show me by your experience playing in a football team.

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Why have you chosen the college – flatter them – but not too much? Make sure that you can put something in your statement that shows that you have researched the college and its course.

I have chosen Fitzwilliam College since it has an excellent reputation, especially within Science. I particularly like the specification of the A Level courses offered, and I look forward to the residential trip to Lincoln Science Centre, where I would relish the opportunity to make a fieldwork study.

woman standing in hallway while holding book
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Start with your academic achievements over the past two years, your predicted grades and why you want to study at 16+ and possibly where you want to go eventually. If you are not sure then still, try and think of something that you really love, or which enthuses you.

I am currently studying nine GCSES and I have predicted grades of 7 and 8. I aim to study three A levels in my preferred choices of Maths, Biology and Chemistry, as these are the subjects that I enjoy most and in my mock exams, I scored the highest. I aim to go onto higher education where I would like to continue my study of science. I intend to go into science research and aspire to be a forensic scientist. I find the subject fascinating and I read widely on it.

man in black and white polo shirt beside writing board
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Mind map activities in your past such as hobbies. Explain what you have done and what you have gained from the experience. Again SHOW ME.

I am a keen sportsman. I have always been interested in keeping myself fit and healthy. From a young age, I have been involved in amateur football leagues. I have played in teams from the age of seven. I still play in an amateur league twice a week and in addition, I coach a younger team of seven- and eight-year olds. In this role, I liaise regularly with visiting teams, parents, managers and the children.

close up photo of a soccer ball
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Work Experience

This can be anything from babysitting to a week spent helping your Dad at his office. Make it sound realistic but relevant.

I contacted Asda Technology Centre and I undertook work experience there for a fortnight. I learnt how to input data, financial transactions, how to respond to consumer concerns and how to produce literature to explain operations systems.  I used my own initiative to write a help guide for future users.

I also work part-time in a restaurant where I take orders, serve customers and clean tables. I have enjoyed all aspects of working in a very popular and busy establishment.

ballpen blur close up computer
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Any other relevant skills / hobbies? This is just to show that you are human really and it is often something to discuss at interview.

You might not want to write here that you play a computer game for three hours a day, but you certainly should put in any hobbies that you may have that have enabled you to acquire additional skills. For example. visiting old people in a care home, playing the piano for relaxation, learning about a genre of cinema.

I am an amateur stamp collector and my love of stamps has enabled me to meet many people from different cultures and countries. I regularly attend conventions in order to meet other collectors and to buy and swop stamps.

In my free time, I am a huge fan of the Doctor Who series. I regularly go to conventions where I meet other fans and actors from the show. This provides a welcome relief from my studies.

woman lying on green grass while holding pencil
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End your application in a polite and formal manner.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Here is an example of a personal statement for 16+

I would like to apply to study for A levels at Roundhay College. In addition to my application form, I should like to submit the following in support of my application.

I am a student at Cornfield Community College where I am studying for nine GCSEs, including two sciences, history and drama. I have taken my mock examinations and my predicted grades are level 5 and level 6. I would like to study at Roundhay College for a BTech in Performing Arts with a view to studying for a Higher Education degree course in acting. It is my intention to work in the theatre or to teach at a drama school. Roundhay College offers a more hands-on course with continuous assessment.

Drama is my passion. Since the age of three I have attended classes at the Pauline Quirke School of Performing Arts. I have performed in many shows organised by the Academy, including lead roles in Oliver, and Annie. I recently passed my Grade VI acting certificate with distinction. I also like to help at the Academy, and I assist the teachers with drama classes to younger children.

In June 2018, I completed a week’s work experience at Roundhay Playhouse, where I worked with the stage manager. I had to source and buy props as well as act as assistant to the stage manager during performances. I was fortunate to be asked to work with the lighting director in designing the lighting for a new production.

I love singing in my spare time and I visit a care home regularly with my friends to perform songs from the musicals. We have relished the opportunity to bring happiness to the residents and it has also helped many who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. I have also been fortunate to be asked to sing at many local fundraising events such as Notwheel Carnival and Bespoken Fair.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully,

Sarah-Jayne Smith

Good luck and if you have any further questions then do feel free to leave them in the comments below.

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50 quick lesson ideas for substitute teachers #teaching #learning #lessonplanning #education

If you’re looking for substitute teaching inspiration, look no further! Whether you’re a seasoned sub or a total newbie, we’ve got you covered with these 50 tips, tricks and ideas from our very own WeAreTeachers HELPLINE! and around the Web.

1. Kids getting antsy with those last awkward ten minutes? Try one of these ideas from Love, Teach.

2. Stay on task, and leave a record. “Follow the lesson plans as much as humanly possible, leave detailed notes for the teacher about what got done or didn’t get done, which students were awesome and not so awesome, and leave your number if you really enjoyed the class.” —Dawn M.

3. Need a break? Try one of these quick popsicle-stick time-fillers from Journey of a Substitute Teacher.

4. If you don’t have anything nice to say… “Be pleasant in the faculty room if you eat there. Never say anything negative about the school, teachers, or students.” —Donna N.

5. Kids won’t stop texting? Put their phone in cell phone jail for the period.

Image from Buzzfeed

6. Dress in layers. “Some rooms are freezing and some are hotter than heck!” —Edith I.

7. Don’t be afraid to be picky. “I have a list of teachers I won’t sub for because no matter what, they always seem to have ‘that’ class. In other words, not very good behavior management which means subbing for them is a nightmare.” —Eric D.

8. Subbing for second? Here are some quick and free emergency substitute activity ideas from Second Grade Locker Room.

9. We love these classroom management tips especially for substitutes from The Cornerstone.

10. Bring your own supplies, either in a backpack…

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Ten good reads for teachers #Teaching #Books #Education

Plato’s Republic, Rousseau’s Émile and Dewey’s Democracy and Education – there’s a strong case to be made, as Dennis Hayes has, that these are the only books on education that teachers need to read.

But if I was about to enter the classroom as a teacher for the first time or was looking to improve my practice, I would probably want to read something with more practical advice on what I should be doing and, more importantly, on what I shouldn’t.

Much of what happens in a classroom is highly variable and hard to define, but over the last 10 years a wealth of books has sought to draw together evidence from other fields and provide a series of “best bets” on what might have the greatest impact on student learning. Here are just a few of them.

Read on from The Guardian

Top five qualities of effective teachers, according to students #Teaching #Learning #Education

Students are most affected by the quality of their teachers. Not only do they interact with teachers every day in the classroom, but the quality of that interaction matters for our students’ future. In fact, Stanford University economist Eric Hanushek has noted that the difference between a good and a bad teacher can be a full level of student achievement in a single school year. But students are rarely asked what they think makes a great teacher.

So, we asked. Pearson surveyed students ages 15-19 across the U.S. about what they thought made an effective teacher. Their responses highlight just how important a student-focused approach is to the learning experience. The top five qualities of a great teacher, according to students, are:

1. The ability to develop relationships with their students

The most frequent response is that a great teacher develops relationships with students. The research literature agrees with them: Teachers need to be able to build trusting relationships with students in order to create a safe, positive, and productive learning environment. For example, a student in Boston told us that great teachers are “Willing to listen to students when there is a problem.”

2. Patient, caring, and kind personality

Personality characteristics related to being a compassionate person and having a sensitivity to student differences, particularly with learners, was the second most frequently reported quality. Again, there is research to support that teacher dispositions are strongly related to student learning and development.

3. Knowledge of learners

This is a broad category that incorporates knowledge of the cognitive, social and emotional development of learners. It includes an understanding of how students learn at a given developmental level; how learning in a specific subject area typically progresses like learning progressions or trajectories; awareness that learners have individual needs and abilities; and an understanding that instruction should be tailored to meet each learner’s needs. One student eloquently described it as: “The teacher understands the pace and capacity of the student.”

4. Dedication to teaching

Dedication refers to a love of teaching or passion for the work, which includes commitment to students’ success. Responses often referred to loving the subject matter or simply being dedicated to the work. To a student, this means a teacher should be “always willing to help and give time.”

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8 TIPS FOR NEW TEACHERS #Teaching #Learning #Schools #NQT

Once the summer is over and September is on the horizon, the anxiety and excitement of becoming a new teacher can be a little overwhelming. If you are about to graduate from your teaching degree and you are slightly apprehensive about what to expect, here are 8 top tips to keep in mind before you start your new teaching job:

1. Seek advice and guidance

One of the best things you can learn as a new teacher is to seek help from veteran teachers who have been in the profession for a number of years. Learning from experienced staff may give you a little more confidence than walking into a new environment without any help or guidance. Ensure that you ask as many questions as possible to gain as much information as you can. Learning from co-teachers in particular would be highly beneficial once you start the role, as they are already aware and understand the strengths and weaknesses of particular students. Trust their judgements should they make any remarks and allow them to guide you with your planning and preparation in the first few weeks. Guidance is God send in the first few months as a new teacher.

2. Don’t take bad behaviour personally

The life of a teacher is a wave of mixed emotions and learning to deal with bad behaviour can certainly be a challenge. Learn to distance yourself away from bad behaviour and don’t take it personally. This is especially relevant if you are becoming a teacher in a high school, as teenagers will often have major flare ups – which is often subject to hormones. Try and remain calm even in the most stressful situations, so the student doesn’t pick up on the fact that you are flustered or anxious.

3. Keep students engaged

As a new teacher, there is no doubt that you are aiming to keep students engaged through the work you have planned. There is a high likelihood that if students are bored or have little to do, they will become disengaged and begin to misbehave. Try and keep a balance between theoretical learning and practical learning as a way of engaging both visual learners and practical learners. Aim to encourage each student’s individuality. If you believe that a task would work well for one particular learner, try it out. Being diverse in your teaching strategies gives students the chance to express themselves in their own way. A good teacher will adapt their lessons to correspond to the vibes and energies within the classroom.

4. Have the courage to learn from mistakes

As a new teacher, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. There is no doubt that you will come across hurdles which you may never have expected – but that’s okay. You are still on the learning journey yourself and shouldn’t beat yourself up about errors. As you become more experienced, you will learn from these mistakes. Aim to try new ideas to get the best possible response out of the students. If you don’t change up your techniques, you will get bored of teaching extremely quickly.

5. Set aside enough time for preparation

Organisation will be an important factor within your first year of teaching, therefore ensure that you set aside enough time for lesson planning and marking. This will save you a great deal of time and pressure in the long-term. You may decide to dedicate your Friday evenings to your prep time, or a couple of hours each weeknight. It all depends on what works for you. However, knowing that you are all set for the week ahead will be a great feeling.

6. You’re the adult in the room

There may be times when you feel intimidated by students who wish to push your buttons and the boundary between student and teacher becomes blurred. Remember that you are the power force within the classroom, therefore don’t bow down to difficult students.

7. Don’t try and be too controlling

Although point 6 states that you should remember your power authority within the classroom, try not to come across as too overpowering, as your students may hold back from contributing or having the confidence to express themselves openly to you. The more they feel as though they are being controlled, the higher likelihood that they will rebel. Aim to be on their side without allowing them to overstep the mark.

8. Set rules and enforce them

If you plan on setting classroom rules, ensure that these are enforced at all times. Perhaps choose three or four core rules which are memorable and remind students of these rules on a regular basis. State the consequences for any students who break the rules and follow your action through, otherwise there is no point in setting rules to begin with. The risk of that behaviour pattern will worsen if there are no consequences.

Impact Teachers