A universal panacea? Not quite!

I love the idea of the #blogsync project, and have enjoyed reading blogs – especially concurring with Chris Curtis’s blog and Simon Warburton’s post on building some form of professional body that really represents teachers and education.

But with that key topic covered, my mind wandered away from the unachievable panacea to the second part of the #blogsync statement: The number one shift in UK education I wish to see in my lifetime. And for that, my viewpoint is very much based on my experience as a middle school teacher.

Doubtless many readers (if I reach numbers that can be called ‘many’) will be thinking “I thought they closed all the middle schools. Well, rest assured: they’re still trying! And I’ve long given up on the possibility that we might eventually recognise the wisdom of middle schools for what they were and turn back the clock on thousands of closures. But actually, there’s something more important about one of the problems they were once intended to solve. The matter of the “bridge” between primary and secondary education.

FrostReportClassSketchI never cease to be astounded at the ways in which our two sectors have diverged. (I’ll confess now to being a secondary-age-range teacher in a primary middle school). How many secondary teachers can honestly say that they know what goes on in their subject in the average primary schools classroom? Maybe they once spent a few days during training visiting and observing a Year 6 class, or perhaps have attended a few liaison meetings over the last few years, but is there any real understanding? Or more importantly, is there ever any real sharing of knowledge, experience and understanding of the ways in which we work?

And fear not: I know that this cuts both ways. Being in a primary middle, I spend a great deal of time reminding KS1 and KS2 colleagues that much of our work is not about achieving SATs goals, or mastering a creative curriculum, but about preparing students for what they will do in their 4 or 6 years at secondary school. But as with the reverse, the average primary school teacher hasn’t spent a day in a secondary school since they were 16.

Of course, there are examples of great practice all over: teacher exchanges, curriculum forums, shadowing arrangements, shared Inset… all sorts. But that’s it. It’s small-scale local projects which work with success or otherwise, but never amount to much more. Where is the national programme, led by teachers and teaching organisations that really gives credence to the oft-spoken words that we should be learning from one another?

I’m not proposing an organisation, or society (although if a Teaching Council ever emerges, I hope that it will see as part of its role to make use of the expertise we have in each sector). Rather, I would like to see a cultural shift. One in which colleagues in pyramids but also more widely begin to recognise and maybe even give life to the maxim that we’re all in this together, for the good of our students.

And who knows? We may even like what we find…!


This post is a response to the #blogsync topic for January suggested by Edutronic. You can find other blogs on the issue of “The Universal Panacea? The number one shift in UK education I wish to see in my lifetime” here: http://share.edutronic.net/

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9 thoughts on “A universal panacea? Not quite!

  1. Richie Dunk (@Richie_Dunk) 26 January 2013 at 1:41 pm Reply

    Nice post – As a middle-school educated secondary-school teacher (that was hard to say) I love middle schools. I feel awful sometimes for poor little year 7’s thrust into “big school” under the shadow of 18 year old sixth formers.

    Perhaps we could look to arrange a #blogsync teacher-swap topic?

    • Michael Tidd 26 January 2013 at 7:30 pm Reply

      I know exactly what you mean, Richie. It’s always struck me as odd that we feel it appropriate to treat some 11-year-olds just like we do their 5-year-old fellows in primary schools, before suddenly jumping to an entirely different model that we use for 18-year-olds. If we can have middle schools, let us at least have the graduated progression!

  2. Chris Curtis 27 January 2013 at 8:39 am Reply

    Loved the blog. Raises some interesting questions. As a secondary school teacher, I can see how the transition is not great. There seems to be a sink or swim philosophy going on somewhere. There needs to be a graduated progression. A move to being more independent for learning, rather than chucking them in at the deepend.

    Failing that, why not have secondary teachers marry primary school teachers? That way they get to see how the other half lives. I did. 😉

    Thanks for the nice comments on blog,

    Chris Curtis

    • Michael Tidd 27 January 2013 at 2:46 pm Reply

      Aha! Maybe you’ve struck on something here. Arranged marriages for teachers. That should solve the “how are you ever meant to meet someone in this job” issue, too. Inspired!
      And there was me thinking it would be harder to find a solution 😉

  3. The Universal Panacea | Monkeymagic 29 January 2013 at 7:47 pm Reply

    […] and idealistic, are his universal panacea. John Tomsett, Chris Hildrew, Clare Fenwick, and Michael Tidd to name a […]

  4. […] Michael Tidd: A universal panacea? Not quite! The Primary – Secondary divide. […]

  5. […] Michael, like Martin, was unable to join us but I was very pleased that he was able to supply us with a ‘video walk through’ of his website designed for primary teachers starting to work with the new primary curriculum. This website is invaluable and I recommend it for all primary teachers. Michael’s blog […]

  6. […] Michael Tidd: A universal panacea? Not quite! The Primary – Secondary divide. […]

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