ResearchEd 2014 Matters

The first weekend back from holiday found me in London at the ResearchEd14 Conference. This was the first ResearchEd event I attended but won’t be the last if I can help it!

Firstly, I did a bit of celebrity spotting!

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I also managed to join the lunch queue at a quiet moment and got my lunch (no easy task this, I assure you!).

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Deciding which session to attend was very difficult. Maybe this was part of some research Tom was conducting! In the end I went along to listen to the following sessions. Where available I’ve added links to the presentations so you can read about them yourself.

1. Rob Coe, John Tomsett and Alex Quigley Slides and video

The highlights for me were

  • Thinking hats? Don’t go there!
  • John said his SDP isn’t reams and reams of paper. There is improvement of quality of teaching and growth mindsets and that’s it!
  • Prof Coe said we get excited about a lot of stuff that doesn’t work!
  • PRP creates a climate of fear. (I think as we are now obliged to have PRP it is up to us to remove or reduce this fear).

2. John David Blake

John told us that he, like Nicky Morgan, is a working parent! John argued that FSM is proxy for poverty, not for working class. John wanted us to talk about poverty in an academic way rather than an emotive way. Someone from the floor said that personal statements are about cultural capital! (Admission tutors need to think about this.)

3. Andrew Old interviewing Mike Cladingbowl and Sean Harford, the Ofsted big cheeses!

Andrew started by asking if in the future the Ofsted inspection handbooks would be written by politicians! Sean Harford thought that the idea that Ofsted would say a school was RI based only on the fact that it doesn’t enter students for the EBaac or doesn’t practice setting was “bizarre”! Mike added that although it was important that Ofsted walked instep with the government it was really vital that it remained an independent organisation and that if it disagreed with the government it said so. As far as EBaac was concerned what was important for Ofsted was the choice of curriculum (especially for schools who didn’t have to follow the National Curriculum) and accountability measures.

Andrew then went onto talk about data and how inspectors either ignore data and reach perverse conclusions or rely on it to too much and start the inspection with preconceived ideas. He wanted to know how important was the data and was it used consistently. Mike said that one couldn’t rely only on data because it was out of date and may be imperfect. Having said that, as one of the purposes of schools was to make sure students did well in public exams we need to keep an eye on the data. He said he knew some inspectors who relied too much on some aspects of the data. But equally he knows of some heads who do the same. Sean quoted one of his colleagues who says data is a signpost and not the destination.
One of the questions concerned the fear of inspections. Mike agreed that that was the case but said a system like the present one did need a stick. Mike accepted that people need to have confidence that they would get a fair deal. Sean said he knew of cases where teachers and deputies had contacted Ofsted about things which were going wrong. Andrew asked if the consequences of doing badly in an inspection were disastrous for teachers. Mike thought that more often it was heads and sometimes governors who suffered serious consequences. Mike also said that there were many more complaints about schools than about Ofsted! If you were a teacher or parent worried about education of a child Ofsted is who you would go to and there has been a spike in the number of such complaints. Andrew asked the audience if they would complain to Ofsted and a few hands went up!
In response to Andrew Mike said that he and Ofsted will continue to engage and not only with people on Twitter.

Mike said that the starting point of an inspection should be to see if the Head, staff and governors know where their school is at. Removing lesson grades mean that teachers won’t feel they’ve let their school down if their inspection doesn’t go well.

In response to a question about how the reports are written, Mike said that there is very little “copy and pasting” though trying to get consistency between reports may make it feel that way. Having said that they agreed that it sometimes does happen and when it does action is taken (2 inspectors were fired!).

4. Jonathan Simons talked about politics and politicians. Politicians aren’t necessarily experts and usually they aren’t in post for long. Implications of this are obvious! Jonathan also told us how reshuffles work (not like you may think!). He thinks Nicky Morgan’s remit is to calm down things at DfE! Power of social media was evident during the whole compulsory setting fiasco. Pre-social media this would taken a much longer time to turn around and kill. This was an example of informed, immediate feedback.

5. Tristram Hunt said that Labour is deeply uncomfortable with our international standing. He thinks that improving teaching standards is the best way improving student achievement and would like to see world class teachers in every classroom. He supports the idea of a royal College of Teaching. Under Labour teachers would be expected to undergo re-validation and qualified teacher standard would be the minimum requirement.

6. Mike Cladingbowl spoke about changing inspections. This was a popular session and the room was overflowing  which meant that teachers were sitting at the feet of Ofsted! Mike acknowledged that inspection is an emotive subject as we all have a stake in education and we all agree that our students need a good education. Ofsted has a statutory duty to promote improvement. Mike said that come election time they brace themselves to hear calls for Ofsted’s abolition! Mike said that there will be more focus on training received by inspectors. Ofsted will be talking with heads, teachers, governors and parents. The questions they want to explore are

  • What should Ofsted inspect?
  • How should they inspect?
  • When should they inspect?
  • How should good schools be inspected?

Mike thinks that inspections should be like a dance rather than a battle! Mike then said that he would plead to people to suspend their disbelief and respond to the consultation. The engagement with various stakeholders will continue but we do need to respond to the consultation. The other important points he mentioned were

  • If things aren’t be done correctly, its everyone’s problem so do let Ofsted know
  • Some heads will continue to grade lessons. That is up to them. What they can’t now say is that they are grading lessons because of Ofsted!
  • If your school has good leadership and management we will leave you to it.

What I really liked about both Ofsted session was the fact that governors got a mention!

7. The last session I attended was by Laura McInerney who talked about common mistakes people make while talking and writing about research and how to avoid them. She said we must

  • When talking about research do include the when, who, how and outcome
  • Select a few pieces of research and also admit weaknesses
  • Present the research as a story as its more likely to stick!
  • Use the correct word. Don’t use significant and important as interchangeable words. They aren’t that!
  • Not go on for too long!

I may have committed the last mistake in this blog! I hope if Laura reads this, she’ll forgive me!

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2 thoughts on “ResearchEd 2014 Matters

  1. Pingback: Governors Go To researchEd Cambridge! | Governing Matters

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