The people who’ve influenced me in 2015

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In my day-to-day working life, there are several key people who I look to for solutions, for inspiration and for wisdom.  I’m lucky that my immediate team now comprises people who I respect enormously; people who will tell me what they think and offer alternatives; people whose perspectives matter to me a great deal.  There are also several weather-vane teachers, governors, parents and students whose opinions I value hugely – I know that if they’re happy, we’re doing things well and if they’re not, we probably aren’t doing enough.  At home, my wife is a massive influence on me; she’s an AHT and Head of Science who has achieved impressive results in her department in a school just up the road from mine.  If she has an idea, I’m going to listen; if she says one of my ideas is crap – I’m going to need a very good reason to proceed.

There is a long list of people in the world of education who influence me in a general sense – commentators, practitioners and colleagues who make me think; who support what I’m doing or challenge me or offer alternative views worthy of consideration.  However, this post is a list of some of the people who have influenced my thinking in specific areas in the last year. These are people who have contributed ideas with practical value; tangible ideas that have found their way into discussions at my school.

Ken Spours and Ann Hodgson:  Professors at the UCL Institute of Education.  They’ve both been studying and promoting baccalaureate curriculum models for decades. Their paper written for the National Baccalaureate Trust convention in June nicely captures their ideas; they’ve been massively influential in helping to get the Nat Bacc for England off the ground.  Read their paper here: Developing a national baccalaureate system in England: A policy learning approach

Jamie Brownhill: Charismatic, inspirational Headteacher of Central Foundation Boys’ School. Jamie has been Head for several years now, having previously been Deputy in the same school.  Under his leadership the school has delivered phenomenal results.  Working with him in the Islington sixth form consortium has been one of the joys of working in Islington and I’ve learned a great deal from my visits.  His success is down to a relentless focus on delivering on high expectations in the details of classroom practice with impressively efficient follow-up systems.  We’ve borrowed aspects of CFBS’ approach to behaviour management and teaching maths.

John Tomsett and Alex Quigley: These two need no introduction. I visited Huntington in April this year and came away full of ideas.  We’ve adopted an identical CPD model and exchanged ideas about KS3 assessment.  More generally, I’m influenced by the intelligent and human approaches they both adopt to solving the challenging problems we all face.  John’s Love over Fear is one of the best education books there is.

Daisy Christodoulou: I had the pleasure of hearing Daisy talking at ResearchEd and the Wellington Festival this year. Her blog series on assessment relays similar ideas about the nature of tests, teacher assessment and the value of comparative judgement and multiple choice tests.  Her dismissal of can-do statements and level descriptors has reinforced my views on this subject.

Andy Tharby and Shaun Allison: In addition to their blogs, Andy and Shaun have written the best book about teaching of the year. It is intelligent, evidence-rich and grounded in the practicalities of classroom life.  I ordered copies for everyone in my team – with more to come once it’s in paperback. This is one of my all-time most tweeted tweets:

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Martin Robinson: Martin’s book Trivium 21st C, is still my favourite education book of all time.  This year we have had the privilege of working with Martin as he helped us shape our framework for teaching and learning.  Most specifically, we’ve done a lot of work on explicit knowledge (grammar) and structured speech events (rhetoric) across the curriculum.  It still feels like we’re at the beginning of something but it’s exciting.  I enjoyed sharing  a stage with Martin at the Wellington Festival, sharing the story of how our ideas came together.

Michael Fordham: Assistant Head at West London Free School, Michael’s blogs about curriculum, assessment and pedagogy have influenced my thinking  a lot.  In particular I’m interested in his view that senior leaders should think more about what is being taught, versus focusing on how it is being taught.  He is one of several prominent advocates of traditional approaches to teaching that I find myself increasingly drawn to and persuaded by in the context of Highbury Grove. Our new SLT structures are partly determined by a desire for senior leaders to work more closely with the content of the curriculum in future.

Katie Ashford: The Head of Inclusion at Michaela, Katie’s blogs on reading and literacy have made me think a great deal.  In particular, she has made me realise that we need to plan for our students to engage in reading across the curriculum systematically. This blog from the Michaela site sets out a diet of reading that I want for my students.  It’s now on my agenda for Highbury Grove to raise the daily reading word count for all of my students.

Dianne Murphy: As I have documented in this post about literacy research and research literacy, I’ve been influenced by Dianne’s work in developing the Thinking Reading scheme.  We’ve now had our staff trained so we can roll out the programme in earnest in January.

Greg Ashman: Greg is prolific as a blogger and tweeter; his blogs outnumber all other contributors on my wordpress reader.  His determination that educational discourse should be more strongly evidence-informed is hugely valuable.  His style of writing  forces you to question your own position and the extent to which you’ve based it on evidence or hunches.  A recent blog that I was pleased to read was about the validity of book sampling.  He shows how flawed the whole process is.  I don’t always completely agree with Greg but his contribution to our discourse is vital and he always makes me think; you need a pretty good reason to disagree with him.

Summer Turner:  Summer gave an excellent presentation about the need to promote feminism at our teachmeet earlier this year.  She wrote it up here.  This is just one of many superb blogs that Summer has written this year.  We had a good online debate about character and knowledge and my support for ‘Educating Ruby’ that she couldn’t accept!  Summer and I also met at an Education Foundation event; we agree on most things but not entirely – that’s a good basis for influence.  I listen when Summer speaks.

Bodil Isaksen. Bodil’s blog is one of many I’ve found very useful since I started teaching maths this term.  Her views are grounded in sensible practice and, more often than not, I find myself in total agreement.  One particular example was her blog about giving detentions to a student without a pencil.  It reflects what we do at HGS. On the back of Bodil’s blog, I used this question for a recent round of interviews: Do you give a detention to a seriously underprivileged child without a pencil  – or not? 

Chris Waugh.  Chris is one of the people who influences me most at the level of spirit, ethos and purpose.  He embodies a set of educational values that is infectious and inspiring.  However, he’s also a genius tech-wizard who uses his tech-infused ideas to great effect.  At out teachmeet he outlined his use of digital badges to reward students for completing specific tasks – e.g. reciting a Shakespeare soliloquy.  I’m interested in exploring this further – setting out specific bits of knowledge and finding ways to reward students for completing short-term learning goals.

Philippa Cordingley, Rob Coe et al:  This superb report by Philippa, Rob et al was given a preliminary airing at Highbury Grove before its publication.  The results are fascinating and have had a direct influence on our CPD model.  It’s worth  reading and acting on the findings.  David Weston should take some credit for commissioning the project and bringing it all together via TDT.

Thanks to everyone here for the contribution you’ve made to my thinking this year.


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