FORUM
ISSN 0963-8253


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Volume 62 Number 3 2020

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CONTENTS [click on author's name for abstract and full text]

 

WHAT THE VIRUS TAUGHT

Patrick Yarker. Editorial. What the Virus Taught, pages 305-309 FREE ACCESS VIEW FULL TEXT http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2020.62.3.305

Diane Reay. English Education in the Time of Coronavirus, pages 311-322 FREE ACCESS

Dena Eden. The Resilience of Maintained Education in England in the Face of a Worldwide Pandemic, pages 323-334

Hilary Povey. Thoughts on a Playful, Curiosity-Led Curriculum: a walk in Sheffield in May 2020, pages 335-344

Jo Byrd. Imagining a ‘New Normal’ Free from Judgement and Blame: creating sustainable partnerships with students and parents, pages 345-352

Fiona Carnie. Levelling the Education Playing Field: involving parents to make the difference, pages 353-359

Helen Trelford. Fear, Hope and Making the Best of It: reflections on working in initial teacher education under lockdown, pages 361-369

Patricia Floriet. Where Do We Go from Here? A Postcard from France in the Grip of the Pandemic, pages 371-372

Peter Cansell & Pip Marples. Could This Be the End of Schools as We Know Them? Another Way Is Needed, pages 373-377

Kathryn Spicksley. The Centre Cannot Hold: primary teachers, educational purpose and the future, pages 379-392

Scherto Gill. Beyond the Tyranny of Testing: towards a relational orientation to educational evaluation, pages 393-403

Nigel Gann. Recapturing the Castle: looking to the de-corporatisation of schools and a post-viral revival of educational values, pages 405-422

Peter Kelly. Neither Technicians nor Technocrats: pluralism and democratic accountability in schools, pages 423-431

Mary Bousted. Ofsted: a problem in search of a solution, pages 433-443

Chris Smith. Reciprocal Responsibility: why teachers should be the people to inspect schools, pages 445-453

Richard House & Richard Brinton. When Their Only Tool Is a Hammer: a school’s traumatised parents take on Ofsted, pages 455-467

Alan Parr. ‘Children and Teachers All Felt He Was a Friend’: the early years of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Schools, 1837–70, pages 469-476

Julian Stern. The Real Reason Neo-liberalism Became Extinct: a curious educational history of 2020, pages 477-487

BOOK REVIEW

Pushing Back to Ofsted: safeguarding and the legitimacy of Ofsted’s inspection judgements – a critical case study (Richard House), reviewed by Patrick Yarker, pages 489-493 VIEW FULL TEXT http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2020.62.3.489


 

English Education in the Time of Coronavirus

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2020.62.3.311

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This article looks at the consequences of COVID-19 for English education and the injustices it has illuminated. Homeschooling under the pandemic has revealed significant inequalities of class and race. The article maps these, particularly in relation to online learning and the differential class and racial access to education during the school lockdown. Drawing on R.H. Tawney, it then explores the barriers raised by the pandemic for socially just education in the future, and the possibilities opened up.

 

 

The Resilience of Maintained Education in England in the Face of a Worldwide Pandemic

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2020.62.3.323

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The author has drawn on interviews conducted with 24 education professionals in Norfolk to present an overview of teachers’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The teachers address the immediate aftermath of school closures from a logistical and emotional point of view. They also discuss the different strategies that schools have adopted for remote learning, and how both staff and students have been affected. Throughout the exploration of responses runs a thread of concern around well-being, as well as the possibilities for education change in the future.

 

Thoughts on a Playful, Curiosity-Led Curriculum: a walk in Sheffield in May 2020

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2020.62.3.335

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This is a meditative piece generated by a walk in Sheffield during the pandemic. The author explores the notion of curiosity and considers what a curiosity-led curriculum might be like, contrasting it with current schooling practices in England. She links this to playful pedagogies and echoes the call for a pedagogy left in peace, then concludes with a discussion about the need for utopias and for hope.

 

Imagining a ‘New Normal’ Free from Judgement and Blame: creating sustainable partnerships with students and parents

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2020.62.3.345

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This article is a reflective piece. It asks questions to support discussions in staffrooms and team meetings about what a ‘new normal’ could look like in schools. The author advocates a better partnership between teachers, students and parents in which they adopt a more equitable relationship built on mutual respect and trust – a partnership where they really examine what ‘good’ learning looks like. The author would like readers to consider the harm done by current derisive discourses around ‘lazy teachers’ and ‘incompetent parents’. The widespread and overwhelmingly negative attitude to children being at home for this extended period and the assumptions about the ‘damage’ it has done to children and young people are not conducive to building positive, healthy partnerships. The author writes as an educator and as a parent, drawing on her experiences of school closure during the current pandemic.

 

Levelling the Education Playing Field: involving parents to make the difference

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2020.62.3.353

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Following the nationwide lockdown, one thing is clear: the progress that children have made in terms of their learning varies hugely, further entrenching the educational inequity that exists and which fuels the lifelong social and economic divide. Drawing on research indicating that parental involvement in their child’s learning makes a difference of two to three years to that child’s progress, Fiona Carnie asks whether schools in the United Kingdom, and particularly in England, could do more to build a genuine partnership with parents. Citing examples from elsewhere, she argues that it is time to take parent participation in education seriously if we are to have any chance of levelling the playing field.

 

Fear, Hope and Making the Best of It: reflections on working in initial teacher education under lockdown

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2020.62.3.361

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This article illuminates and reflects on the vicissitudes of home learning and online teaching. It focuses on challenges which confronted those whose work on initial teacher education courses was disrupted by the pandemic and subsequent lockdown. It underlines the value of creative writing and empathetic relating as mainstays of the post-viral recovery.

 

Where Do We Go from Here? A Postcard from France in the Grip of the Pandemic

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2020.62.3.371

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Patricia Floriet, who taught for 22 years at the Institute for Political Sciences in Grenoble, sends these observations and reflections on the way the pandemic has affected all those connected to education in her village in south-east France.

 

Could This Be the End of Schools as We Know Them? Another Way Is Needed

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2020.62.3.373

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The crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic opens an opportunity to reconsider fundamental questions about education and society, and to remake schools as more vital, life-enhancing, humane and creative places dedicated to benefitting the child rather than fitting the child to the system. What is education’s purpose? What are the best learning environments for our children and young people? How should we understand equity in relation to our education system?

 

The Centre Cannot Hold: primary teachers, educational purpose and the future

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2020.62.3.379

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As part of a wider research project, early career primary teachers were asked to rank various teacher responsibilities and characteristics in terms of importance. The participants showed a high level of attachment to the concept of ‘the future’, and struggled to perceive education as disassociated from preparedness. The future was firmly at the centre of their teaching practice. A year after conducting this research, the future was suddenly interrupted. With the arrival of COVID-19 came the cancellation of phonics screening tests and national curriculum assessments (SATs), and a realisation that the future in teaching is perhaps less predictable than previously assumed. In this article, the author listens again to the voices of the participants in order to illuminate a future orientation within the teaching community that she believes, in the light of recent events, cannot hold.

 

Beyond the Tyranny of Testing: towards a relational orientation to educational evaluation

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2020.62.3.393

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During the COVID-19 lockdown, schools are closed, exams have been cancelled, and teaching and learning are taking an unprecedented form. In this process, two realities are brought to light. On the one hand, the pandemic highlights the widening gaps in society and the part that the educational system plays in privileging students from advantageous backgrounds, and discriminating and marginalising other students who are already vulnerable. On the other hand, it also illustrates that without the constraint and pressure of exams, students and teachers are provided with an opportunity to collaborate and co-create meaningful learning experiences. In this article, the author suggests that the gaps can be addressed and the potential of innovation can be enhanced if post-COVID education is liberated from the system of production, marked by standardisation and supported by tests and grades. To move beyond the tyranny of testing, the author proposes a relational orientation to educational evaluation which is formative and transformative.

 

Recapturing the Castle: looking to the de-corporatisation of schools and a post-viral revival of educational values

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2020.62.3.405

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In earlier issues of FORUM, Nigel Gann has written on the impact of academisation on state-funded schools and the growing democratic deficit in educational leadership. In 2018, Andrew Allen and Nigel Gann wrote on the dismantling of the English education service and offered some suggestions for a new representative model. This article explores some of the outcomes of the fragmentation of school provision and identifies the seven deadly sins enabled by the corporatisation of English schooling. It draws some parallels between the academisation process and the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. It goes on to propose an ethical platform for an opportunistic relaunch of state-funded comprehensive community-based education following the pandemic.

 

Neither Technicians nor Technocrats: pluralism and democratic accountability in schools

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2020.62.3.423

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Whether the relationship between policymaking and science has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic remains unclear. The success scientists have enjoyed in dealing with the virus and hopes they will develop a vaccine may increase the status of some experts whilst damaging populist anti-science sentiment. Some may call for increased technocracy, where experts run the state. However, the opposite is also possible, as science is exposed as a combination of evidence and opinion, and tarnished by its association with untrustworthy politicians using it to justify their policies. This, then, would seem like a good time to clarify the scope and limitations of science in developing public policy. The author’s interest is in education, where managerial practices dominate whilst a new science modelled on evidence-informed medicine has emerged, which promises to find out ‘what works’ to raise student attainment. But evidence has limitations and politics often influences its selection and interpretation – concerns that could undermine public confidence and play into populist hands. Instead, decision-makers should acknowledge these difficulties, take a more pluralist stance to research-informed practice, and act transparently to allow public scrutiny and support democratic accountability.

 

Ofsted: a problem in search of a solution

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2020.62.3.433

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Established in 1992, Ofsted is championed by government ministers as the guardian of educational standards in schools and colleges. Ofsted has never produced any research on the validity of its inspection judgements. Ofsted has no evidence, other than rising percentages of schools being awarded positive Ofsted grades, to support its assertion that inspection ‘raises standards and improves lives’. Questions are increasingly being asked about the extent to which Ofsted judgements are a fair reflection on the quality of education provided by schools serving disadvantaged pupil intakes. The very poor teacher retention rates in early career lead to further questions about the extent to which Ofsted increases teacher workload and stress. Ofsted’s attempts to react to criticism of its practices and outcomes have led to the agency adopting multiple inspection frameworks in a short period of time. There is no evidence, to date, that Ofsted has found adequate solutions to the serious problems its inspection practices and outcomes have with regard to standards of education in English schools.

 

Reciprocal Responsibility: why teachers should be the people to inspect schools

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2020.62.3.445

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At a time of great threat to the education of the current school cohort caused by the prolonged COVID-19 lockdown, the phrase ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’ sounds apt. Education will have to change to meet new demands. The author wishes to advance the case for teachers, fully recognised as the key workers they are, to have their professional agency afforded greater respect in relation to school inspection. Teachers should become the inspectors. The article examines the current rationale for the inspectorate – one informed by politicians who have presided over reforms to public services which incorporate the logic of the free market. The author questions how appropriate such logic is to the provision of education. He advances the case for an alternative approach to ensuring high standards in schools – one which draws on the professionalism of serving classroom teachers and resembles a collaborative learning and professional development exercise. It is argued that this could be more efficient than the current approach, which strips teachers of their professional agency as part of a political agenda of deskilling that aims to make teachers more compliant and less costly. The author hopes to stimulate debate about how the assessment of teaching can be conducted and how the voices of serving teachers can be better heard.

 

When Their Only Tool is a Hammer: a school’s traumatised parents take on Ofsted

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2020.62.3.455

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In early 2020, Wynstones School, a Steiner Waldorf school in Whaddon, Gloucestershire, was required to close by the Department for Education, following a damning Ofsted inspection report. The report reads like a horror story of educational malpractice and ineptitude. Here, the authors tell the story of this saga, focusing in particular on the highly contestable nature of Ofsted’s report and the subsequent legal case brought by traumatised Wynstones parents against Ofsted, seeking a judicial review. The authors also situate Ofsted’s judgements within a wider paradigmatic discussion of what are arguably incommensurable educational-pedagogical world views – and Ofsted’s determination to impose its own world view on a pedagogy that rejects its narrow audit-culture proceduralism. Grave questions are raised about the impossibility of achieving educational justice for wronged or abused schools through currently available legalistic means.

 

‘Children and Teachers All Felt He Was a Friend’: the early years of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Schools, 1837-70

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2020.62.3.469

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In the 1830s, England began to see the introduction of schools targeted at the whole population, and soon the first inspectors were appointed. Although they came from privileged backgrounds themselves, the earliest members of the Inspectorate were remarkably quick to recognise and address the challenges faced by teachers in elementary schools. Inspectors were welcomed for the advice and support they offered, so much so that – in what was to become a familiar story – they were attacked and subverted by politicians and officials. This article offers a fresh and vivid insight into the nature of school inspection at that time, and the inspectors who carried it out.

 

The Real Reason Neo-liberalism Became Extinct: a curious educational history of 2020

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2020.62.3.477

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There is a Gary Larson Far Side cartoon entitled ‘The Real Reason Dinosaurs Became Extinct’. It shows three dinosaurs surreptitiously smoking cigarettes. Why would such a peripheral habit like burning some leaves cause an extinction? Like dinosaurs, neo-liberalism has had a bad press. There have been plenty of critiques of neo-liberalism, and plenty of models of post-neo-liberal societies. The author proposes that 2020 will be the year that – surprisingly – marks the extinction of neo-liberalism. The future is for everyone to make, but from the perspective of the future, looking back, it may seem obvious that 2020 marked not only the deaths of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people as a result of a new virus, but also – oddly, accidentally – the death of the whole system of neo-liberalism. This article therefore presents a very brief history of educational changes from a long-distant future, a history pivoting around the year 2020. It describes how curiosity killed the SAT, how it was miraculously rediscovered that people care, and how schools prioritised care and curiosity in community. It is possible for everyone to dream.

 

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