I find the amount of official releases and advice on education overwhelming; I try and keep up with current advice but find myself feeling bewildered by the sheer volume of information. I’m returning to reading around education again – going back to some classic texts (music related and general education) and some new ones. However time is limited and reading a slightly abstruse book on aesthetics by Adorno – though fascinating – may not obviously improve my teaching.

Would it be better to look at secondary texts – and if so which ones? Maybe I should look to academics like Finney and Faulty or philosophers like Biesta? What about the great range of writing challenging racism and sexism – writers like Fanon, hooks, Spivak, Said and Achebe. If the neo- traditionalist bloggers are right maybe none of the progressive writers are any use and maybe I should focus my attention on how students learn and to cognitive psychologists like Willingham and Sweller et al. Or maybe the recent government pamphlets and advice do help? What about the more recent education bloggers like Bennett or Tom Sherrington or Miss Smith or Leedham? Sherrington has a book list he recommends maybe I should read those? Or how about those music education organisation – what about Musical Futures, ISM and TTM and other groups that produce blogs and advice? Maybe even the new culture white paper? Will the recent workload papers help?

And why? Why do I seek to find advice and improvement – do I really think I can change? Does this reading help and if so how?


The last few days have seen some recent releases to add to the sheer volume of advice and changes for teachers. The following is just a selection.

The white paper (Educational Excellence Everywhere) was released. My favourite response (which I imagine everyone has read by now) was from @disIdealist with his blog focusing on forced Academisation. I am very grateful to bloggers like this who take the time to spell out the dangers and ideological nonesense surrounding education.  There have been many other interesting responses – such as this one from @warwickmansell or this one from Professor Michael Bassey.

The white paper was followed by some developments in the Arts.

For example we have Nick Gibbs speech delivered at the Mayor of London ‘s Summit in School Music (Jackie Schneider’s blog is here – with very useful storify) and the government have produced a cultural white paper (no guesses for the instruments covering the front cover – the first cultural white paper in 50 years apparently) (ISM response is here) My response will follow soon….

(Though I don’t think music and the arts are short of advisory papers and calls to actionWhy is this?  Why so many people ready to comment on culture – why the constant advice? What is is about culture that needs so much regulation and direction? Not that these documents seem to be halting the slow demise of the Arts in schools as putting in place a “rigorous academic curriculum” slowly supplants all other curriculum considerations.)

Cultural Learning Alliance: Case For Cultural Learning

PHF – Inspiring Music For All (4th July 2014)

Warwick University : Enriching Britain   #enrichinggb 17th February 2015

Ofsted report on Hubs WhatHubsMustDo   15th November 2013

DFE   National Plan for Music   25th November 2011

DFE   The Henley Review for Music 7th Feb 2011

Henley Cultural Review      

DFE Cultural Review     5 July 2013

ABRSM Making Music Report   Sept 2014

http://www.musicmark.org.uk/sites/default/files/content-assets/pages/files/MM%2010%20things%20booklet%20NEW%20V2.pdf )


Shortly afterwards the government released a whole host of papers refining advice at assessment at KS1 and KS2. Someone counted 13 different releases.

From a leadership perspective we had a very interesting report on leadership and school improvement from the Centre for High Performance.

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 16.49.46

Then there came yet further releases from the DFE – this time some advice on workload.




Martin Fautley released a few highlights quoting




Of course schools may already believe they are asking for proportionate evidence – but at least the pressure of Ofsted was flagged as an issue. Ofsted’s simplistic approach to evaluation still remains an issue.  These reports will mean little in the current context – high stakes accountability and constant interference from central government continue to set the frames of the debate and everyday context for teaching in schools.


My own school received a letter asking the principal to produce a redraft of its improvement plan so that we could show even more “rapid improvement”. (It is currently defined as coasting due to not achieving the floor target) Such pressures and the threat of Ofsted (over due now) increase the SLTs need to provide “robust evidence” of rapid improvement. This can’t be seen in the results – they are under the floor target – so this can only be seen in the paper work produced to show the kind of evidence that might prove to an external visitor that students make rapid progress in individual lessons and over time. Schools, particularly those serving disadvantaged communities, have to produce paperwork to try and convince others they are moving at the appropriate speed in the right direction (the right direction being measured by outcomes in exam results.) I can’t see these documents doing much to change this.


Then there was a huge debate about posters responding to an article I didn’t get to read. This article about the debate I enjoyed – relating the issue beyond that of posters to a more fundamental search for meaning and purpose in education via a fascinating article from Biesta.

Meanwhile Jon Finney continues to post a series of excellent articles on the purpose of music education.

There is much to read and think about. However with the all-encompassing nature of work in schools much less time to engage. Thinking about purpose is slowly replaced with thinking about utility. How can I improve the learning?

Finding a place in education – a role that is meaningful to me is increasingly difficult. The current educational climate feels hostile to those who feel that the purpose of education is not synonymous with exam success, promoting Britishness or even maximising learning. I feel there is something hugely important about my own ethical and moral growth that is often put aside for more urgent considerations of things that immediately impact – such as the latest advice or research on how to make every second count in the classroom.

Maybe this is why reading those books that do have personal resonance and try to grapple with identity, consciousness and its relationship to society and inequality hold value to me even though they rarely tell me about planning for learning.



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