Category Archives: transition

I love you secondary teachers, honest!

You know you haven’t made your point clear enough when Laura McInerney – Queen of Nuance – starts rebutting an argument you haven’t made!

Late last night I posted a tweet asking how many secondary schools (note: not teachers) had contacted feeder primary schools over the past few weeks. Inevitably it became a bit of a them-and-us squabble which was never my intention.
Rather, my intention was to raise the possibility in teachers’ minds – especially those with pastoral responsibility. This wasn’t because I think secondary school teachers are negligent; it was because I genuinely think it doesn’t always cross the minds of busy staff.

However, the responses I got, including from the always-very-reasonable Laura, all centred around the same few points:

× “we did it all before the summer”
× “teachers are too busy teaching”
× “we talk to parents and students”
× “we’ve got 300 students…”

The latter of these was the most frustrating, because it struck me as a way of saying that individuals weren’t important enough. It’s something I hear primary teachers imply too often about secondary schools and I don’t think it’s true at all. But using the argument of numbers implies it just as much. What quickly became clear was that people really meant that they couldn’t ring about every one of 300 students… And I never suggested that they would.

I’ve written before about the importance of conversations, but the focus on pre-transition work worries me. We know that some kids will find the transition hard. Sometimes we can predict who might find it tricky, but other children surprise us – and they are often the hardest to crack. All I want to suggest is that when a child crops up who seems not to have any prior note of difficulties, it would make sense to get in touch with the relevant primary teacher. Not because we can fix things, but because we might just shed some light. Maybe we know something because of a younger sibling; maybe we know something from years past that we thought was dealt with; maybe we just screwed up and forgot to mention something in our previous conversations. We’re not perfect.

Of course, in most cases kids settle well and thrive. I like to presume that no news is good news. The trouble is, I know sometimes that’s not true. I know of the child who was put on a part-time timetable in their first year of secondary because of attendance issues (!), yet no-one ever asked what we’d done to improve their attendance from around 40% to 88% in their time with us. I know, too, of the girl who was suspended in the Spring term having never had any bother in primary school. Only when I heard on the grapevine did I get in touch and point out what I knew had happened with the family over the summer months. The cases are few, but the consequences can be enormous for those few – and the effort to contact one or two primary teachers each year is surely negligible by comparison?

I don’t blame secondary teachers for being busy. I don’t blame them for asking students and parents first. I don’t blame them for focusing on pre-transition arrangements. I dint expect every subject teacher to be in touch. But I also don’t think it’s acceptable to spend so much time and money on promotional events for new students each autumn, while ignoring the individuals among the 300 who have just arrived. Sometime must surely have overall responsibility for the care and well-being of these children – I’m just offering them an extra tool. And for free. With a smile!

I don’t want to hear about every child. I don’t need to hear about every problem. I just want secondary colleagues to know that if one of those few cases crops up, any primary teacher in the land would be only too happy to help if we can. And sometimes we can’t, but it might be worth making that one call just in case. It could transform a child’s life chances, and save you a while lot of bother in the long run. And even if it didn’t… Wouldn’t it be great if we all just chatted from time to time anyway?

(It’s worth noting that primary teachers are not exempt from this call: as Starlight McKenzie pointed out on Twitter, primaries are not that always great at calling other primaries when kids transfer between them either)


“Key Stage 3: the wasted years?” – the wasted report?

I had no idea that Ofsted was preparing such a report, and when I first commented on its existence, I’d not even seen the full document, so I was aware that it would be unpopular, if not exactly how and why.

As it is, I think a good many more schools than I originally imagined would have reason to be disappointed – including primary schools. And I’m not convinced that the report has done much to improve the landscape.

The reality is that Key Stage 3 is patchy. There are some schools that use it well, work well on transition and should probably be praised for it. There are some where it is neglected, undervalued and wasted. The vast majority of schools probably fall in that middle ground, so it is unhelpful to tar all with the “wasted years” brush.

Moreover, the report is such a wasted opportunity, as it could have offered so much more clarity, direction and purpose, without rubbishing the entire sector.

But first, let’s face facts: in too many schools, transition is weak and KS3 is the poor relation. For too many school leaders, transition is a synonym for promotion: events and activities are organised to attract an increasing roll, rather than to support the progression of learning; too much energy is invested in the months around the admissions submission date, while the key early weeks in Year 7 are neglected; too much focus is on engaging enthusiastic parents, rather than dealing with the professionals who have been working with the new students for some years.

And in Key Stage 3, there can be a perception that any teacher will do; that Year 7 English or Year 7 Maths can’t be that hard to teach. That opinion still holds water in too many schools, and leaves unqualified and incapable teachers, delivering lessons rather than teaching for learning.

But what Ofsted neglected to note was the pressures and challenges that secondary schools face: increasingly – as a result of parental choice among other things – schools are dealing with tens rather than a handful of feeder schools; increasingly – as a result of a whole host of external factors – schools are struggling to recruit sufficient teachers for those vital KS3 classes; increasingly, intervention and effort is necessarily focussed on KS4 and KS5 as government change after change affects courses, modules, curriculums and punitive accountability structures.

None of that negates the issues, but they are all factors which ought to borne in mind.

I’m the first to say that transition is rarely as effective as it ought to be. The improvements in pastoral arrangements are tangible; the issue of trust between primary and secondary sectors is still significant. But the solution cannot simply be to say “do it better”. What’s more, on this occasion the report seems to acknowledge the issue of a lack of faith in KS2 results, but then does little to suggest any solution or explanation.

Let me state again, as I have done many times in the past, that as a Key Stage 3 teacher of many years, I had no issue with KS2 test results in Mathematics. I found them a very reliable indicator of broad ability, and a good predictor of future outcomes. They don’t tell you the ins-and-outs of what a child can do, but they’re a good starting point. Reading test data, on the other hand, was hopeless for anything other than a broad indication of those falling well below standard. Level 5 Reading results in KS2 were close to meaningless for a secondary teacher, and this long-standing problem was never addressed. And I have no doubts that too many schools have worked in ‘mysterious ways’ to achieve the best possible writing levels in Year 6, without much regard to the reliability of the data. But nor will the scrapping of levels resolves those problems.

In fact, the current shambles of KS2 assessment arrangements will only make things worse in the short term. And crushing financial settlements will do nothing to enable secondary schools to improve the work they do in liaison with primaries, any more than slating them all will. Too many teachers will be irritated by the tone, will continue to blame unreliable KS2 data, and little will change.

The truth is that effective transition that encompasses academic information takes time and people, both of which cost school budgets dear, and neither of which is in easy supply. So while it’s true that transition isn’t yet good enough, and progress in KS3 could be better, slating schools without acknowledging the myriad external factors only serves to make Ofsted appear as a bogeyman once again.

There are some creditable strategies in the accompanying good practice guide – and some very dubious ones too – but what schools really need is guidance on what is really needed, and the time and money to get it right. And I’m pretty sure that Ofsted can provide neither.

10 things you might not have realised about the new Primary Maths curriculum

Other posts in this series:

Having produced a list of key changes for Primary English aimed at secondary English teachers, I thought it was worthwhile creating a similar list for Maths. It strikes me that the maths changes have been more widely publicised (perhaps because they’re easier for the press to understand), but there may be one or two things here that have slipped people’s attention.

1. Mental Arithmetic has lost its hallowed place.

From 2016 there will no longer be a mental arithmetic test in Key Stage 2. Instead, a written arithmetic test has been added both for 7- and 11-year-olds. It’s not really clear yet what difference this might make to outcomes, as the increased focus on knowledge of number facts may make up for it, but it will certainly lead to a change in the tests that are practised throughout Year 6.

2. Written methods are set in stone.

Many secondary colleagues will welcome this, as I would have done when I was teaching KS3. No longer will there be a free-for-all on methods used for standard calculations. The expectations of the curriculum clearly set out that by Y6 all children should be taught the standard written methods of column addition & subtraction, and short and long multiplication and division. In fact, on the written arithmetic test, where questions imply the long methods of multiplication or division, no method marks will be available if any other method is used.

3. History becomes cross-curricular.

After years of trying to crow-bar maths into History, the historians have got their own back. Now at primary school pupils must be taught about Roman numerals into the thousands, conversions between imperial and metric measures, and to know an approximate factor to convert between miles and kilometres.

4. And calculators are history!

For the past few years, calculator tests have been restricted to the highest-attaining pupils aiming for level 6. As the extension papers are removed, there will no longer be any calculator test at KS2, and so the already small amount of calculator-use teaching will quickly diminish.

5. The averages confusion may dissipate.

One of the trials of Year 7 often used to be trying to unravel the confusion between mode, median and mean averages. Perhaps in an effort to avoid such misconceptions, only the latter is expected to be taught at primary level now. Of course, primary teachers love a mnemonic rhyme, so it may still crop up in many classrooms.

6. Probability is gone.

It was always a slightly odd feature of primary maths, given that the expectations for level 5 in probability were quite limited. As such, it was often an easy way of gathering evidence or picking up marks to imply the higher level where perhaps it wasn’t justified. That problem disappears now as probability disappears from the KS2 curriculum.

7. Fractions are very much there.

In the old attainment descriptors, all a child had to do to with fractions to reach level 4 was to use simple fractions to describe approximate proportions of a whole. In the new curriculum, that’s expected in lower Key Stage 2. By year 6, to reach the new expected standard pupils will be expected to become more confident with addition and subtraction of fractions along with a range of other fraction skills. Expect the bar model slowly to gain currency here. But very slowly.

8. They still won’t be able to draw graphs

As a Year 7 maths teacher, I once complained to Y6 colleagues that children seemed to have no idea about how to construct a basic set of axes to plot a graph. The explanation was, of course, that it would never occur on a test. That remains the case, and in fact the new curriculum focuses most of its statistics attention on interpreting rather than presenting data. There is some mention of plotting graphs in the (untested) Science curriculum.

9. Some things have been left until later

There’s been a lot of hype about things being moved earlier (tables secure by Y4, etc). But there’s also a whole vat of content in the new Year 6 maths curriculum. Much of it is is familiar; some represents the new higher expectations – including introductory algebra for everyone. But in addition, there are some elements that previously were more spread across the Key Stage. Ratio hardly gets a look-in before Year 6, yet in the Year 6 Programme of Study pupils will be expected to solve ratio and proportion problems.

10. Nobody’s too sure about the ‘mastery’ thing

The word has become almost ubiquitous, and yet seems to mean different things to every user. In some schools, mastery has become a descriptor for the highest-attainment pupils, in others it relates to the old Ma1 Problem-solving type tasks almost exclusively. In essence, don’t put too much weight on any judgement a school makes about mastery – they may not mean what you think they do! (I have written about this in some more detail on the Rising Stars blog)

Secondary teachers may find it informative to take a glance through the expectations of the new primary curriculum. You can find it all set out by year group at

Five myths about the old National Curriculum levels

So here we are, four weeks into the new National Curriculum and what’s everyone doing with assessment? In primary schools, it seems that the ostrich approach is the most popular. The temptation to stick with what we know is understandable, but I want to clear up some of these common myths about the old levelling system.

Myth 1: The government set out the assessment programme for schools

Plenty of teachers are concerned that the DfE is no longer going to tell schools how it should assess progress during the Key Stage. In fact, it never did. There was never any statutory requirement for schools to use levels, much less sub-levels, to track progress during the academic year. In fact, the only statutory requirement was to assess using whole levels at the end of Key Stage 2 (and admittedly later using 2c/2b/2a at KS1). Everything else schools did using optional tests and APP and the like was not legally required. Of course, Ofsted expected schools to be tracking progress, and levels worked as a way of doing it, but it would have been perfectly legal to create another system. So in fact, the legal situation hasn’t changed; all that has is the clarity that schools are now free to choose their own approaches to suit their own curriculums.

Myth 2. Parents understand them

I think this is a common misunderstanding of what it means to understand the levels. It’s probably true to say that parents had come to understand the progression of sub-levels (i.e. that 4c comes above 3a, but below 4b) and perhaps even the expected ranges (i.e. that a Y4 child should be around L3), but there were very few parents who had any idea about what that meant in terms of attainment. Even fewer could take anything from the information to support their child’s learning.

Myth 3. They aid transition

I can see how this one came about. In the absence of any other information, I’d be grateful to receive sub-levelled information if a new child joined my class. But receiving a child who had been graded as a 4b writer told me relatively little. It doesn’t explain whether their use of in-sentence punctuation is secure; it doesn’t explain if they can paragraph appropriately; it doesn’t give me any clue about the strength of their spelling. In essence, it just tells me that they’re broadly average in my Y6 class. Perhaps we could all save time by just passing on below/above or around average as indicators.

Equally, for the transfer between schools we know only too well how little agreement there was about levels. It’s beyond a myth to suggest that receiving schools took anything more than cursory note of levels provided at transfer.

Myth 4. They helped measure progress

It’s true that levels, and their evil sub-level counterparts, gave us a nice comfortable system for implying progress. However, we’ve already noted the discrepancies between key stages. And the suggestion that the levels provided some sort of smooth indication of equally-sized steps is laughable. Certainly on tests we were able to divide level thresholds by 3, but consider the relationships between them at KS2: in maths the difference between the 3a and 4c thresholds could be around 10 or 11 marks; in reading the same thresholds were often as little as 2 marks apart! How could these possibly demonstrate equal steps of progress? Even within Reading itself, the gap from 3a to 4c could be 2 marks, yet the gap from 4c to 4b would be 6!

Certainly the steps could give an indication of tracking towards outcomes at KS2, but that’s not the same as being a reliable measure of progress!

Myth 5. They can be adapted for the new curriculum

This is perhaps the most dangerous of the myths. Because of the widespread mis-information from the DfE that the new expectations would be broadly in-line with the current level 4b requirements, many schools have presumed that the levels could be retained and ‘tweaked’ to provide an adequate assessment system.

One look at the fractions requirements of the new Y6 curriculum makes the flaws in this argument clear. This section shows the new requirements, with an indication of the approximate level from the old curriculum, based on APP statements:

  • use common factors to simplify fractions; use common multiples to express fractions in the same denomination (L5/6)
  • compare and order fractions, including fractions >1 (L5)
  • add and subtract fractions with different denominators and mixed numbers, using the concept of equivalent fractions (L6)
  • multiply simple pairs of proper fractions, writing the answer in its simplest form (L7)
  • divide proper fractions by whole numbers (L7)
  • associate a fraction with division and calculate decimal fraction equivalents for a simple fraction (L6)
  • recall and use equivalences between simple fractions, decimals and percentages, including in different contexts. (Level 5/6)

The same approach could be applied to comparing the new grammar requirements, or looking at expectations in arithmetic strategies. The reality is, the new curriculum is not only substantially different in its organisation and content, but also in its expectations. And while it may be true that a similar number of children are expected to “pass” the new tests, as currently score enough points to achieve 4b or higher, it is clearly not the case that knowing the content that would currently attain 4b would be enough to “pass” the KS2 tests in 2016.

What should the primary curriculum really look like?

Or: What is the point of teaching them all this stuff anyway?

I’m firmly of the belief that a majority (perhaps the large majority) of primary teachers share the same view: that we force-feed the kids in our classes a diet of breadth over depth because the curriculum, or the tests, or Ofsted, or SLT’s demand it. I think most primary teachers – particularly in infants and lower juniors – find themselves teaching things that they think are being delivered ‘too soon’ for the children in their care.

This is not an argument for the molly-coddling of children, or the lowering of standards. Rather it is an argument for a rationalisation of what we try to teach.

Coming from a middle school background, I have long wished that the 9-13 Middle Schools of the 70s had really taken off. I wish that the National Curriculum from its first inception had been built around the three main phases of first, middle and upper schools. Then, we might perhaps have had a different approach. Perhaps not in 1988, but maybe by now we might have recognised that very little really matters in the curriculum for children under 9 unless they are already confident with number and language.

I raise this point because of a brief discussion I had with Heather () on Twitter this evening. She quite rightly pointed out that starting to teaching persuasive writing in Year 1 didn’t seem to be contributing to a significant growth in the transferability of such skill at GCSE level. And if the skills aren’t transferable after 10 or 11 years’ teaching, then what’s the point? My response was both complete agreement and disagreement.

I disagreed because I think the point of teaching persuasive writing at KS1 is not to enhance the persuasive writing skills of 16-year-olds. In fact, I think the only purpose for any form of writing at KS1 is the practice of the basic skills of writing itself: the building of sentences; the use of capital letters; the simple formation of the symbols. However, I agree that expecting the teaching of varied genres at KS1 to have much impact on the ability of children to write for different purposes is frankly erroneous.

So, what then, is the point of any such work?

Looking back at the three-tier model, I’d be quite happy to see a curriculum substantially different to the one we have in place at the moment. This links in with Michael Fordham’s (@mfordhamhistorypost on an altered Secondary curriculum (which is well worth a read). In it, Fordham argues that English as a separate subject (as distinct from Literature) ought to be removed from the curriculum and its various aspects be properly addressed in domain-specific subject lessons. A genuine approach to Literacy across the curriculum. I’d be happy with that model, and what’s more, I think that it should be balanced by the inverse approach at first school age.

Given the choice, I’d happily see a three-tier curriculum (as in first, middle and upper stages) that broadly followed this pattern:

First School (age 5-9): Only English, Maths and Modern Languages would be statutorily prescribed programmes of study. All other subjects currently in the National Curriculum would become part of required areas of study (Arts, Humanities, Sciences, etc.) which were intended to provide breadth of experience and support the core subjects. Physical Education would also remain statutory, with no programme of study.

English and Maths programmes of study would be re-shaped to focus on Literacy and Numeracy. That is, all children would be expected to focus on developing oracy, and reading and writing basics (comprehension, building sentences, vocabulary, paragraphs, etc.), without concern for genres or required areas of study.That’s not to say that children wouldn’t meet other genres, or contexts, but that these would merely be to support the core teaching aims, rather than becoming additional goals in their own right.

Similarly, in Maths the requirements would focus largely on number work with relatively brief forays into shape as appropriate. To be fair, the new Maths curriculum has moved a good way towards this. I have often heard many secondary maths teachers say they’d be happy to teach Y7s who came to secondary secure with number bonds and tables and relatively little else. I’d agree, but think we could move to that sooner. Let’s have all 9-year-olds ready for the next level.

By removing the requirements to study particular programmes of study in all areas, it ought to be possible to move towards a system where the current Level 4 expectations could be met by the majority of 9-year-olds, rather than 11-year-olds. As Mark McCourt (@EmathsUK) said this weekend at the maths conference: Maths is like Jenga – pupils don’t fail because of weaknesses in the blocks at the top!

Middle School (age 9-13): The current subjects of the National Curriculum would remain, although English and Maths would be radically re-shaped to reflect the changes in the first school range. English could now begin to focus more on literature, although as Michael Fordham suggests, ought not to need as much curriculum time as at present (often 7.5+ hours a week in primary schools) as literacy should be mastered by age 9. There would still be study of language and some genre-linked ideas, but the shift towards domain-specific writing should be reflected in a shift in timetabled hours. I would argue that Middle Schools used to do this, until the KS2 SATs demanded that they narrow their timetables to focus on meeting the odd demands of the tests.

This model should leave more time in this phase for the study of subject knowledge. It would be far more sensible, for example, to begin a study of chronological history at age 9 and maintain it until at least age 16, rather than the current 7-14, and would be far more successful if students had already mastered the required literacy skill. Of course, this also would be combined with the middle school approach to specialism. We should expect all teachers of first school-age children to be expert in the teaching of early reading, writing and mathematics. We simply cannot expect that to apply right up to the age of 11 any more. It isn’t working.

Upper School (13+): The model that Michael Fordham suggests seems to make a good deal of sense to me here. By this stage children should have a broad experience of all the subjects, underpinned by their ability to access and use texts and a secure knowledge of number work. Ideally I’d argue for greater breadth until the age of 18 as well


Of course, none of this is rocket science. Indeed, most of it fits with what many primary teachers already think: if we spent less time ploughing through genres, or tackling history concepts with 8-year-olds, we could focus more on the things that really matter, and give those kids the freedom to access all matter of higher level material as they got older. Surely that’s got to be better than the current system which tries to build all curriculum areas from age 5… and too often leaves interventions at 16 to try to plug the gaps the system leaves?

Addendum: I ought to note that it wouldn’t necessarily be a requirement to change the whole system to a three-tier model. But I would argue quite strongly that expecting any primary teacher to be an expert in all areas of the curriculum up to Y6 level is never going to provide us with the best system; middle schools present a good solution to this; specialisation in small primaries is much harder.


Dear Secondary school teacher…

Dear Secondary school teacher,

Hello, I know you don’t really know me, but I was the primary school teacher who spent  a year of my life helping to get those first-years ready to come to you. I know… I didn’t do a perfect job, did I? That pains me more than it does you, believe me. For every 90 minutes you spend having to struggle with Ethan, remember I probably spent nearer 1000. Maybe if you’d seen how he was doing a year ago, you might feel differently? I know I did! You have no idea how proud I was of what he and I achieved last year, nor how scared I was about sending him off unguarded into your territory. I hope that his fears were as unfounded as I promised him they were.

But that’s not why I’m writing. Every cohort will have its Ethans, and I’m sure that this time last year I was tearing my hair out, too, wondering what had been happening over the past few years for him along with others. Such is life.

I am a bit concerned, though, to hear that you’ve re-tested every student we sent to you. You see, it just seems such a great demand on your time – after all, you could have been using that time to get to know those kids, and to start teaching them, and I’m sure you’d rather have been planning exciting lessons than marking tests, wouldn’t you? It seems a shame for the kids, too. I’ve spent a year telling them about the opportunities that secondary school has to offer, and the options that will be open to them. And your colleagues gleefully came to tell them all about the hour-after-hour of excitement and engagement that you were going to offer them, so it seems a bit harsh to bombard them with assessments in week one.

Rumour has it that you feel you have to do it. After all, Ofsted are breathing down your neck and you’ve got to demonstrate progress. But no-one has explained to me yet what the baseline testing is meant to achieve. After all, Ofsted will look at the KS2 data whether you like it or not, won’t they? So, I’m not sure what the rush to test is for?

Perhaps you’re worried that our results aren’t reliable. Well, to be honest, so am I! I’ve seen the quality of marking sometimes, but we’ve also tackled it where necessary. And it’s true, there are a couple of results that raised eyebrows with me when they arrived too. I never thought Callum would achieve Level 5 in Reading, but that test paper all about Pokémon rather played into his hands. But then, I did explain that to the Head of Year who came down to meet me. Did those notes ever reach you? I must admit, she didn’t seem to note much down as I was explaining, but I did give her my detailed information about each of them so if you take a look at Callum’s you’ll see it there. I also explained to her that we were disappointed that no-one from your English department was available to support our moderation of Level 5 and 6 writing. We did draft someone else in eventually, but hopefully next year, eh? It’d be good to finally get that transition programme you keep mentioning on the open evenings really underway, wouldn’t it?

While I think of it – did you sort out that problem with Anna? Her mum explained to me the confusion the other day. Again, I did tell the Head of Year who came in about her absence during the tests, but I suppose it’s understandable that a missing score gets counted as a zero on your system. Hopefully you’ve managed to pull her out of the SEN maths set and put her up in the G&T group where she belongs. Mrs Carter said she only noticed it when you sent home her targets and said she was on track for a grade D. It seemed a bit odd since she’d got enough marks in the Level 6 test to get that, if it hadn’t been for the wretched broken leg that morning.

Well, as ever, like I’ve said to every member of staff who’s ever deigned to speak to me from your place: if you ever want any background information on any of the children we’ve sent to you, I’m always at the end of the phone, or you can drop me an email. Or I’d still be happy to come up, like I said. I suppose it’s hard to imagine being prepared to do that when you only see them for a few hours a week, but do remember, they were my focus five days a week last year. I know them inside out and miss them hugely. I’d be only too happy to help you in moving them on as quickly as you can.

After all, I suppose really, we’re all working towards the same thing.
Aren’t we?

Best wishes

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: