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Blinks: High quality reviews and training
Blinks: High quality reviews and training
High quality reviews and training
High quality reviews and training

Roy Blatchford's Column

Roy Blatchford
Contact: royb88@gmail.com

Before Coronavirus (BC).... After Coronavirus (AC)

There was a time Before Coronavirus (BC), though it already seems months ago. Lenin got it right when he said: ‘There are decades where nothing happens, and weeks where decades happen’.

We are all armchair critics and soothsayers now. None of us can be right or wrong because nobody has the answer – at the moment. There is no doubting the gravity of the situation as nations act locally and think globally.

Some pundits are arguing, maybe correctly, that the cure is worse than the problem. Infamously, the President of Belarus says tractors and vodka are the unique survival recipe - and top flight football is still being played in the country.

To date, Sweden, Singapore, Taiwan and some Australian states are keeping their schools open. Are they right to do so? What is the trade-off between herd immunity and premature deaths? Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell commented: ‘We all know this is going to go on for months. You can’t keep schools closed for months.’

In this country the school system has more or less shut down, apart from the vital care provided for vulnerable and keyworkers’ children. Parents speak of a mixed picture of engagement with on-line learning (PE guru Joe Wicks apart), though so much is being learned in a compressed period of time about distance learning.

And what are students doing and saying? One headteacher in the north east reports that ‘the boys have gone underground, or stayed under their duvets, while Year 11 girls are polishing their history essays’. As so often, we are not hearing from the many thousands of disadvantaged and dislocated students for whom school matters so much.

Talking ‘distantly’ to children of friends and neighbours, I detect that there is a palpable resentment amongst many 16 and 18 year-olds that they have been denied the opportunity to show what they are really capable of: ‘I know I can get an A but my assessments show only a B’ is typical of A level students who have dedicated eighteen months to their studies.

Teachers have properly reassured A level students that universities will take an understanding approach to admissions this year; the sector, with usual self-interest, will open its doors to all those who want to enter in October.

Equally, education leaders have reassured GCSE students that Ofqual will deliver fair, moderated assessments and award grades accordingly. We are fortunate to have an internationally respected examinations framework in which students and parents can be confident.

So much for the present. What about life After Coronavirus (AC)?

In 2014 I made a programme for BBC Radio 4 celebrating the 70th anniversary of the 1944 Education Act. I recounted the tale that in March 1943, Rab Butler, the young president of the Board of Education, went to Chequers to see Winston Churchill.

The meeting with Churchill – leaning back on his pillows in a four-poster bed, night-cap on and with a large cat at his feet – was an unlikely beginning for the most fundamental reform of the English education system, but that night the prime minister signed off on what became the 1944 Education Act.

Conceived during the Blitz and the Normandy landings, it is remarkable to think that civil servants and ministers were focused on post-war reconstruction in order to build, as they saw it, the new Jerusalem.

Last year I chaired The Forgotten Third, a national commission for the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) The Forgotten Third: full report

We recommend fundamental reforms to GCSEs, in particular to how English Language and mathematics should be examined. To take the example of English, we advocate the inclusion of 50% oral and written coursework, alongside 25% online testing, with 25% for a final examination. How might such an arrangement have been of value this summer, or for any future year when terminal examinations are interrupted?

Further, we recommend a new approach to examining language and maths at the end of the primary years (SATs), and a radical rethink of current accountability systems in the best interest of all students. The regulator Ofsted will be a key player here.

Without wishing to draw unlikely parallels between the Churchill-Butler partnership and the Johnson-Williamson pairing, what might the current Secretary of State for Education set in motion during the months ahead? He could then take some landmark decisions.

In the eye of the vicious virus storm, leaders across our social, political and health systems are rightly focused on preserving precious life ‘at this moment of national emergency’. In turn, our children are watching leaders learn great lessons.

There will be renewed life After Coronavirus. There will be a vibrant and changed society ahead, perhaps with a different values system.

In education, as in many aspects of life, we should begin to give thought to what that ‘levelled up’ change could look like - not least for our young population who are missing their teachers and their daily school lives.

Roy Blatchford’s latest book is ‘The Three Minute Leader

Before Coronavirus (BC).... After Coronavirus (AC) (April 2020)

Roy Blatchford
Contact: royb88@gmail.com


The Three Minute Leader: ROOM 101
I taught in a central London comprehensive in the 1980s at the height of the IRA’s bombing campaigns. The distinguished headteacher told me years later after she had retired that during those years she received by phone daily bomb threats.
The Three Minute Leader: ROOM 101 (March 2020)
Read Roy Blatchford's latest book: The Three Minute Leader

Artificial Intelligence (AI) beckons
The word 'robot' comes from a Czech word robota meaning 'forced labour'. It was first used to denote a fictional humanoid in a 1920 play. By the 1940s Isaac Asimov started popularizing robots and intelligent machines in his great science fiction short stories.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) beckons (February 2020)

A New Year's resolution for leaders: prevailing scepticism
A new, predictably unpredictable decade begins. The German poet Goethe wryly observed that everything has been thought of before - the challenge is to think of it again.
A New Year's resolution for leaders: prevailing scepticism (January 2020)

PISA in purdah
With politicians on doorsteps and civil servants in purdah, this month's publication of PISA results has not been accompanied by the usual idle chatter around rising and falling standards.
OECD's PISA tests have been running since 2000. They measure the ability of 15 year-olds to apply their skills and knowledge to real life problem-solving in reading, maths and science.
PISA in purdah (December 2019)

It's not what you say, it's the way that you say it
According to new research from Yale University, when we hear someone speak we form near-instantaneous conclusions about their social class. It takes just seven random words they claim.
The Professional Speechwriters' Association suggests that content only accounts for 11 per cent of our impact when we talk. Passion, expertise, voice and presence are all twice as important in making a first impression.
It's not what you say, it's the way that you say it (November 2019)

Why independent schools enjoy being independent
The Labour Conference votes to abolish independent schools. Social media have come up with witty suggestions about what to do with the great estates of Stowe, Eton, Wellington and Winchester once they are requisitioned.
Anyone who has attended the annual Festival of Education at Wellington College will know what I mean.
So as minds turn to thinking the unthinkable, let's pause to reflect on why the independent sector rightly values its independence.
Why independent schools enjoy being independent (October 2019)

The 'Forgotten Third' deserve the dignity of a new type of qualification
It is a remarkable statistic in the home of the English language, and in one of the world's top economies, that one third of 16 year-olds, after 12 years of compulsory schooling, fail to achieve what the Department for Education describes as a 'standard pass' (grade 4) in GCSE English and maths.
This was the starting point for the independent Commission on 'The Forgotten Third' which was established by the Association of School and College Leaders...
The 'Forgotten Third' deserve the dignity of a new type of qualification (September 2019)
The Forgotten Third: Final report of the Commission of Inquiry

Reading for the summer recess
Radical Candour Kim Scott, Machines Like Me Ian McEwan, Sandettie Light Vessel Automatic Simon Armitage, Average Is Over Tyler Cowen, India Connected Ravi Agrawal and Why We Dream Alice Robb.
Reading for the summer recess (August 2019)

End of academic year reflection (July 2019)
This past year I have visited nearly 50 schools in the UK and overseas. Sometimes it has been as a reviewer (Blink), sometimes as a leadership coach, sometimes to work with students and teachers, sometimes to listen to headteachers' views on a range of educational matters.
End of academic year reflection (July 2019)

Eight Leadership Maxims
With acknowledgements to the headteachers and principals across the UK and overseas I have worked with this academic year.
Eight Leadership Maxims (June 2019)

It's the curriculum, stupid!
Bill Clinton's successful 1992 presidential campaign slogan memorably read 'It's the economy, stupid'. His lead strategist James Carville hung a sign with these words in the Little Rock campaign headquarters: what was intended for an internal audience rapidly became the election signature tune.
In the contemporary schools landscape, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector has hung up the sign: 'It's the curriculum, stupid'.
It's the curriculum, stupid! (May 2019)

Postcard from Shanghai
Away from its gridlocked, elevated highways the largest city in the world works. Shanghai: a modern, socialist, international metropolis.
Contrast frenetic New York, chaotic Mumbai, the bedlam of Cairo - Shanghai hums with purpose. Twenty-six million souls occupy countless high-rise towers cheek by jowl with the stylish housing and municipal legacies of the French, British and American Concessions. The Huang Pu river bends through the downtown like a proverbial dragon's tongue.
Postcard from Shanghai (April 2019)

The Forgotten Third
Each year in England over half a million 16-year-olds take their GCSEs. A third of these students do not achieve at least a standard pass (grade 4) in English and mathematics.
Why is it that a third of 16-year-olds, after twelve years of compulsory schooling, cannot read or write English at what the Department for Education (DfE) describes as 'standard pass' level?
Why is there not proper recognition of the progress these young people have made as they move on to further education and employment?
The Forgotten Third (March 2019)

The tarnished jewel of Higher Education, UK
I encounter many senior politicians, top civil servants in education departments, principals of schools and colleges across the globe who have spent what they describe as memorable and enjoyable years in British universities.
The tarnished jewel of Higher Education, UK (February 2019)

A Happy New Year from Ofsted
Roy Blatchford drafts HMCI's New Year Message

An important tipping point in this country has now been reached. In 2018, approaching 90% of state-funded schools were judged good or better at their most recent inspection. That should be recognised as a fair achievement for the nation.
A Happy New Year from Ofsted (January 2019)


Roy Blatchford CBE

Roy Blatchford is founder of www.blinks.education - working with schools, academy trusts, colleges and universities in the UK and internationally. He has spent the past three years implementing education system reform in the Middle East.

He recently chaired ASCL's Commission 'The Forgotten Third', and currently chairs the East Sussex Secondary Board.

Roy was Founding Director (2006 - 2016) of the National Education Trust. Previously he served as one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools (HMI) in England, with national responsibilities for school improvement and for the inspection of outstanding schools.

He has extensive experience of writing inspection frameworks, nationally and internationally, and has reviewed over 1000 schools and colleges in Europe, USA, Middle East and India.

For 30 years Roy has been an international trainer and conference speaker on English and literacy, school improvement, leadership and curriculum development. He has been an adviser to various UK governments, including Deputy Chair of the DfE Teachers Standards Review (2011) and of the Headteachers Standards Review (2014).

Roy began his teaching career in London, moving to be Principal of schools in Oxfordshire and Milton Keynes. He is Visiting Fellow at Reading University, was a visiting university professor in the USA, and is co-founder of the Mumbai-based education foundation Adhyayan. He is the author/editor of over 150 books.

Roy was appointed CBE for services to education in the 2016 New Year Honours.

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