Category Archives: blogsync

Blogsync Sept. 2013 The Purpose of Education

I saw a link to Chris Waugh’s entry and realised 30/9/13 and less than an hour to deadline. So here is a rushed entry post. No fancy quotes just straight from the Mish or Mash.

I teach in a school, I teach people skills elsewhere- in the home, on a bike ride, out for a walk finding our way. I am a learner, a lifelong learner I will never claim to have all of the answers and nor should I.

So what is this enterprise, industry, job I invest myself in that names itself “education”?

We all develop as individuals over time, many influences affect us and we take what we fancy, need, told we need from those experiences. We learn skills, knowledge, characteristics. We share those with others through friendship, relationships, work.

I see education as the scaffolding to our lives. It is personal. We take many things from it in many forms. Yes there are formalised aspects of it that may help us exist in a society where we mix with others. We live in a natural world full of awe and wonder that some want to understand more than others.

The word central to all this is LEARNING .

My purpose for education- to scaffold and support part of the ongoing lifelong learning that we pass through. Some we will open our eyes to, others we will ignore, but as we live learning is all around us, let education celebrate that experience.

My brief and rambling contribution – does it strike a chord for you?

June #Blogsync an example of a great classroom explanation

OK, several people have read my previous blog posts about the SOLO taxonomy.

So in the second half of the Autumn term (UK) 2012 and I needed to move my focus with classes at Key Stage 3 from literacy skills to making progress and developing an integral model that they are full participants in.

So the decision was made to trial SOLO as an approach across the Geography department at Key Stage 3. Staff training would link to ActivInspire (Promethean boards) flip charts ( in June 2013 this lesson was modified to be used with Year 7 ICT as well).

The second unit for each year group is the study of an area of the world. Year 7- the UK; Year 8 – Kenya and Year 9 – Japan. We study a range of themes across the countries including location of places at a range of scales.

OK a standard lesson to ground the idea of Solo.

A standard format differing only by the country studied. The introductory lesson starts with a plain A4 sheet to identify own prior knowledge with an emphasis on “secret squirrel” and not sharing answers with others. The classes in all cases focused well from the individuals who said – what shall I write if I don’t know anything? Reassured that a start of a unit that was perfectly ok. Others wrote a range of facts, even surprised when told that anything goes … Japanese cars for example. The sheet was then turned over, a resource to return to later.

Lesson details were now shared:


An introduction to SOLO as an idea and simplified history including a reference to Pam Hook, New Zealand, Twitter and sharing about it at Teachmeet Essex on the 19/11/12. Then we moved onto watch the clear YouTube clip on explaining SOLO taxonomy using lego. by Emily Hughes.

An idea that was easy for all classes to relate and easy for me to add to anecdotally from a lego user and father’s perspective. The video was paused after each stage and some discussion took place and links were made to expectations for written answers in class from single words to lists to simple sentences to paragraphs. The extended abstract skills that several of most classes were capable of was praised – …” If only we could get you to use words as comfortably and creatively as you do with lego bricks!”. The plenary of the taxonomy within the video was used with some groups but not with others.

Then back to the 5 stages and how Sir would be using the terms but the symbols are what we will use in flipcharts and on their work.


Now to return to our facts from our sheets, each pupil was issued with a tracking sheet. They were to enter the lesson’s date and identify which stage they felt their knowledge is at the moment. Some additional questions were asked on when they were crossing the unistructural / multi structural boundary – this provoked some good discussions across table groups and the classes. We have several pupils new to the school whose EAL needs vary, the following pictures include the original sheet and two translations in Thai and English / Romanian. I have moved away from putting translations onto the whole class flipchart and now provide a translated or side by side language comparison copy for TA’s and the child – currently I use Google Translate which may not always be accurate but which allows me to engage these pupils sooner (if thy can read their native tongue!).




The concept of using the sheet to compare progress at the end of the unit is introduced and the classes sheets and initial thoughts sheet held by the teacher in their Planning/Assessment records. An additional form of evidence involved an informal survey and plotting of stages now.


The graph’s outcomes are then compared with the classes projected levels for the year indirectly and a prediction is made where they are capable of reaching by the end of the seven week unit. A link is also made to the first report cycle – if they feel at the end of the unit they are still Pre- or Uni- structural then report comments will pick up on a lack of involvement and input in their learning (subject to professional judgement).

Plenary questions return to identifying the 5 stages and what they involved in the Lego clip and class written work expectations. In 9 lessons the amount and quality of pupil discussion and involvement was very encouraging.

This lesson has been shared with three departmental colleagues, two have had direct training about what SOLO involves in our interpretation so far. The idea has also been shared with a drama colleague to look at application to practical drama skill acquisition as well as written work developing detail at GCSE. As stated above the lesson and SOLO approach was used to introduce Year 7s final ICT unit, I led the first lesson with three departmental colleagues observing. Later in the day I modelled the lesson for the remaining member of the department.

This post is a modification of the post first published in November 2012. It has proved to be a clear starting point to progress measured through the Solo stages and moving away from the language of levels which was discussed on Th 27/6 for #ukedchat on Twitter. I am using it as my June 2013 Blogsync contribution ( ).

Wasted investment? Why do so many teachers leave the profession in the first 5 years?

I’ve read, met and listened to Edutronic speak now on a number of occasions and am inspired by his drive and innovative ideas to develop his students. In that light I have chosen to contribute to #blogsync.

2013 marks my 25th year full time in my chosen profession of teaching. Always happy and fulfilled? No definitely not, yet I’m still here – how is that? To be honest I’m really not always sure how. My wife identifies that I love working with the pupils – surely all teachers do? No I fear that is not always the case.

So what have been the moments where I’ve considered departing from teaching?

There have been periods in my career like many colleagues where my life has been subsumed by work to the detriment of myself and others around me. Physical health has been neglected leading to years of steroid treatment for my asthma. Mental health has fluctuated and been balanced at times by exercise, talking therapies, CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) and through the use of anti- depressants. like Robert Crampton who writes in The Times, that input has become a constant that provides the cushioning when life threatens to bottom out.

Pressures have been multi faceted and have not just come from work, transitions,changes, have all affected me. But, outside school I have had my own pressures. These have combined on a number of occasions to make me question my competence, ability to change and whether I am cut out to perform in this demanding role. When others suggest I leave teaching however I fight tooth and nail to remain. It completes me, I get to learn new things most days, I challenge myself to keep up to date. The last two years have been strengthened by Twitter and the attendance at Teachmeets. I am one of the lucky few that have discovered this mass of keen and supportive people.

But enough of me, why train then leave?

Fellow PGCE students back in the 1980s left the profession after training – too much to take on. Burn out on a personal level. Lives subsumed and spat out if they could not adjust to the pace and demands of change. Support for new staff has always varied and it is having the freedom to seek support and often to admit weaknesses openly that many find very hard, or even safe to do so without being judged and condemned. They withdraw into themselves. Alcohol provides a nice crutch but one that can destroy as well.

The teachers life is multi – faceted, demands come in many forms from the marking, the behaviour of challenging individuals – staff and pupils. The demands of employers, parents, communities which overlap.

Our governmental support – woefully lacking for teachers – we are often accused of incompetence, not ambitious enough for our charges, too liberal…friends who criticise the holidays, yet where are these people when it comes to stepping up to do the job in this improved version? I’ve yet to meet them.

Why train and leave within five years? Because sadly the profession is a target to beat for many outside it and some within it. While that continues turnover shall remain high – is this the future we want for our pupils? Really??