PaJeS Blog

Food for thought, curriculum planning and future leadership

Posted by Simon Goulden - 11 Jul 2016

The annual UJIA conference on Jewish education research is always fascinating.  The sheer variety of topics and level of academic research is breathtaking and the opportunity to meet old friends and to share with them is most welcome. Although you might think that the subjects would be theoretical, I felt that they could have a real impact on how school leaders think about curriculum and teaching.  Thank you UJIA.

This years’ conference was no less of a treat. You may have read about some of the talks in the Jewish press, so I won’t go over old ground, but there were a couple of lectures by good and valued friends which really resonated with me and I thought that I would take this opportunity to tell you about them.

First Class Coaches

Posted by Simon Goulden - 22 Jun 2016

Over the past few weeks there have been a number of articles in both learned journals and more popular publications, such as The Economist, about the challenge of teaching the teachers. Now, we are told to forget small classes, lavish resources (iPads for all) and perhaps even new school buildings – designed to win awards if not make it easy to teach and learn. Amazingly, the secret to outstanding grades and thriving students is............ teachers!

It seems that we have been slaves to the assumption that good teachers are born, not made. In the recent past, government policies, of all stripes, have sought to raise teaching standards by attracting high-flying graduates to join the profession and by encouraging poor teachers to leave. Teach First, modelled on Teach for America, has certainly done that whilst some others will tell you that if only teachers were set free from a centralised, top down ‘straightjacket’, learning excellence would surely follow.

But there is a problem...

Hey Nicky, leave those teachers alone!

Posted by Simon Goulden - 06 Jun 2016
I promised to return to the education White Paper ‘Education Excellence Everywhere and the subject of Initial Teacher Training gives me just that chance.  Over the years our community has developed a range of teacher training programmes, delivered both at LSJS and through school led initiatives. The Jewish Teacher Training Partnership, JTTP, has been running for a number of years and is rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted. Its Schools Direct programme, in both primary and secondary modes, is nationally recognised. For example, the Jewish Primary Schools Consortium, the partnership of over 20 North London schools, represents the whole spectrum of Jewish practise and within the consortium schools with similar ethe (I’m no Greek scholar!) operate in clusters. Put at its simplest the mission of the JTTP has always been to increase the number of teachers delivering high quality education in the Jewish sector. What is unique, of course, is the opportunity for specialist teachers of Jewish Studies / Limmudei Kodesh and general primary practitioners to develop their teaching, personal and professional conduct within our schools. But each trainee has the opportunity to match the school placements with his or her own ethos. At the end of the programme, trainees obtain QTS, Qualified Teacher Status, the guarantee of standards and experience, which is accepted throughout the system. What on earth could be bad with that, you may ask?

Listening, U-turning and burying bad news

Posted by Simon Goulden - 10 May 2016

It used to be said that the best way for a government to ‘bury bad news’ was to announce it when the electorate was distracted by other events. So perhaps it was just coincidence that Nicky Morgan announced on the day of the London mayoral and local government elections that HMG was ditching its controversial plans to require all schools, good or bad, to become academies by 2022. Indeed, we have all read and heard the chorus of disquiet and derision since they were somewhat strangely announced in the recent Budget by George Osborne, a man not previously known for his educational expertise. We were all made aware by teachers and heads that they were ‘bemused’ by the idea of forcing change on high-performing schools. "If it ain't broke, why fix it?" they seemed to be saying. But it was when fury exploded from the usually loyal Conservative MPs and councillors, that the education secretary began to look very uncomfortable. With the EU referendum on the horizon, perhaps the Prime Minister felt that he had enough to deal with.

So, the lady IS for turning

Posted by Simon Goulden - 12 Apr 2016

We all recall (well, at least those of us of a certain vintage) the famous Conservative party conference speech by Margaret Thatcher where she said, to an enraptured audience “the lady’s not for turning”. And so, dear reader, it might have stayed, until a few days ago, when it seems that ladies are indeed rotatable. Let me explain.

Expected, Emerging, Emerging, Expiring

Posted by Simon Goulden - 30 Mar 2016

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, there was something called the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) profile. It worked like this:

Developed in 2007 and overhauled in 2012 by the DfE, reducing the number of Early Learning Goals from 69 to ‘just’ 17, the EYFS Profile and assessment levels were divided into four age bands, called Development Matters Bands at 16-26 months, 22-36 months, 30-50 months and 40-60 months.

Putting the fun into school funding: part 1

Posted by Simon Goulden - 16 Mar 2016

Last week, before its announcement ending the world of the VA school as we know it,  the DfE launched another consultation exercise. For any of you looking forward to reading the four associated documents, adding up to over 120 pages, which make up the consultation, I can thoroughly recommend it.   The language is clear and the arguments well set out. For others, who want to know more, but do not have the time or strength to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest, here is a very personal view on it.

Putting the fun into school funding: part 2

Posted by Simon Goulden - 16 Mar 2016

The case of the Assistant Rabbi’s egg

As I wrote before, the DfE has launched a new consultation, just Stage 1 mind you, into changes they are seeking to the National Funding Formula for schools in England by 2019-20.In a nutshell, the DfE wants to support the idea of extending opportunity for all pupils through a system which is fair (whatever that means), efficient and gets the funding ‘straight to the schools’ as the DfE says and is transparent, simple and predictable so that schools can plan better for the future. Those of us versed in the ways of governments must be thinking ‘what’s the catch’ but in truth, this broad brush consultation contains little which will raise too many eyebrows: perhaps that is why it has been drafted this way. This was, of course, before the announcement of the end of VA schools by forcing ALL schools to become academies by 2022. Although this will take us into the next parliament, I suppose the Conservatives are banking on another five years. We shall see.

Educate against hate - and then what?

Posted by Simon Goulden - 21 Jan 2016

This week I was invited to the Bethnal Green Academy, a superb secondary school, Outstanding in Ofsted terms but from where last year three teenage girls absconded and left secretly for Syria.

So it was no surprise that this was the school at which the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan MP, announced a significant escalation of Ofsted investigations into unregistered, illegal independent schools, following the closure of three unregistered schools in Birmingham in late 2015. She also announced a new tougher approach to prosecuting illegal unregistered schools, including publishing details of when the government will take forward prosecutions and she issued a call to local authorities to identify any settings of concerns that Ofsted can follow through, with a commitment to strengthen closure powers

Dr Passmore bows out with prescriptions for us all

Posted by Simon Goulden - 31 Dec 2015

Over the past few years, Dr Elizabeth Passmore has led the Office of School Adjudicator with care and scrupulous fairness. I have had the opportunity to see her and her dedicated team of part timers at work and no one can say that they have been anything but superb examples of professionalism. Dr Passmore’s annual reports are always awaited with interest as we, in our little corner of the school world, can only ever hope to see a small part of the ‘big picture’. Her final report, as she is retiring shortly, is as ever, well worth a thorough read.

GCSE teachers, watch this space

Posted by - 03 Dec 2015

The late Harold Wilson used to say that a week is a long time in politics. Goodness only knows what he would have made of the conniptions going on over the new GCSE in Religious Studies. He would also perhaps been impressed by the alacrity with which the British Humanist Association can fill the media.  So let me start at the very beginning – a very good place to start.

An Unholy Mess? You Bet!

Posted by Simon Goulden - 23 Nov 2015

The anti faith based school drum beats ever louder and leading the band, as could be expected, is the British Humanist Association (BHA).  They offer to the public three nominally separate organisations: themselves, the Accord coalition and the Fair Admission Campaign (FAC), but the suspicion that they are all really pretty much the same group of activists, wearing different hats, is only fuelled by them sharing the same contact address. ‘And’, you might ask, ‘so what?’

But on the other hand...

Posted by Simon Goulden - 26 Oct 2015

By the time you read this, Shabbat UK 2015 will have come and gone, and already the grumbling has started. Of course, we have moaning built into our very DNA, as anyone who has even a passing knowledge of the stories in Chumash about the gratitude of the Israelites in the wilderness will attest. And yet, I just cannot help feeling that Mr and Mrs Grumpy have missed the point.

Let us briefly look at some of their arguments...

No time to rest

Posted by Simon Goulden - 20 Aug 2015

It used to be a well worn joke, with more than a grain of truth to it that “those who educate our community neither slumber nor sleep”. So it was that, holidaying in the USA, I found myself discussing Jewish schooling with community leaders there. They simply could not believe that the government funds most of the costs of schools in the English VA and Academy / free school sectors and that parents are only asked to help fund the Jewish Education of their children. They were even more dumbfounded when they learned that the constraints of the National Curriculum meant that many schools could only offer 25% of the school day in Jewish education or could only afford to, as parents were not making the funds available to employ more teachers for longer. When I told them the sums being sought from parents they shook their collective heads, as tuition fees in America and Canada are at least comparable to top schools in the private sector here. Parents here simply do not appreciate how lucky they are and the fact that some parents choose not to pay (won’t pay, rather than can’t pay, which is of course a very different matter) is a matter of shame for them, their children and our community.

The Power of Play

Posted by Orah Azose - 30 Jul 2015

In anticipation of the forthcoming early years conference we are please to be publishing an article entitled the Power of Play.  Written by Orah Azose this thought provoking piece bases it comments on a collection of essays edited by Sharma Olfman and discusses the importance of play as an educational tool in early years education.   

Orah Azose is a recognised early years educator who has been teaching for 12 years in the Chicago Public School System and is currently a tenured preschool teacher at Budlong Elementary School in Chicago, IL. 




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