Habits of Studiousness – Part 1

How do some people get the run in to an exam or high stakes assessment so wrong? Why are some people less successful than others? Perhaps it could be any one or a combination of the following:

  • Not having a sense of purpose in learning the material/processes covered and/or taking the exam and being successful.
  • Not wanting to or not being able to put the time in – sometimes due to leaving beginning to study until it is too late when the volume of material is overwhelming.
  • Not having the best resources to help them succeed and/or ineffectively maintaining and organising the resources they do have.
  • Not knowing or not using the strategies which will help them in preparing best for that specific exam.
  • Not approaching the exam positively due to a perception of or anxieties about their past levels of performance.

She’s actually hidden her phone inside the book to play Candy Crush. Sugar rush!

Clearly, with each of these barriers to success there could be all kinds of contributing factors. Many students overcome these issues or never have to confront them at all. Over the next few posts, I’d like to explore how schools and students overcome or even avoid these barriers altogether. Exploring this should help inform a strategy to support even more students to be successful in terms of their academic outcomes and help them develop a set of habits of studiousness.

Please do let me know if you think I’ve missed any key barriers to success.

Bold Report Reading

Here are seven things I’ve learnt from watching the debate about the Bold Beginnings report this week. They are not a critique of any one individual, but rather a reflection on the errors I think we can make in responding to official education reports.

I saw the opposite of each of these things being done by different people in reaction to the Bold Beginnings Report, but I think they are applicable to the way school leaders and education experts interact with official reports more generally.

  1. It’s probably best not to assume the whole of a report is about the part of the education provision for which you are personally responsible – this applies to the positive and negative aspects.
  2. If something is mentioned as a positive in the key findings or executive summary, it’s less likely (though not impossible) for it to also be mentioned as a recommendation.
  3. If the report writer doesn’t mention a strength as a recommendation, then it doesn’t mean they’d like everyone to immediately stop doing that thing.
  4. If you read a recommendation and think to yourself, I do that already, it doesn’t mean everyone else does it.
  5. Exemplification is just that. Exemplification is not the same as a further recommendation.
  6. Some people will use extreme readings of recommendations in a report to further their own careers. Read the whole report from start to end yourself before making decisions based on it. The business of school leaders is being strong enough, knowledgeable enough and confident enough in their own vision to make decisions about what will benefit the students in their context.
  7. It is worth considering how recommendations which challenge your current beliefs may be beneficial to some or all of the students you work with.

Lessons from Practice Perfect

Following on from Lessons from Fierce Conversations, here are some lessons from the book Practice Perfect by Lemov, Woolway and Yezzi. In the book, they set out forty two principles for effective talent development through practice. The book crosses a number of areas of talent (sports, music and medicine for example) but focuses in particular on how to develop effective teachers.

The summary notes below, which I made whilst reading the book about five years ago, outline the forty two principles. The concepts are based around a model of whole staff practice in training sessions, practice during coaching sessions and practice during actual lessons.

Looking back, I now realise that this book was pivotal in terms of influencing how I’ve attempted to develop the CPD process for teachers at our school, just as Teach Like a Champion was vital in informing our teaching model. It’s been exceptionally helpful in returning to this list as it’s reminded me of some of the principles we’ve yet to crack. It should also help in the work we’re doing currently in terms of supporting the development of our leaders.

Rethinking Practice

1 Encode success

Establish what success looks like, breaking it down into small parts. Watch for it, checking constantly and addressing where it isn’t happening (responding to failure). Don’t double the difficulty of success before the person/organisation you are coaching is ready, but focus on the fastest possible correct version and the most complex right version possible.

2 Practice the Twenty

Focus eighty percent of your attention on the twenty percent of skills which will have the most impact. This is essentially the Pareto Principle. Keep practicing and drilling these at a mastery level, even when you’ve mastered them.

3 Let the mind follow the body

Look to make processes automatic through repeated practice and reflection.

4 Unlock creativity…with repetition.

Drill to develop automaticity and free up your brain for more creative tasks.

5 Replace your purpose with an objective.

We should set ourselves objectives which are SMART, just like we do for our students. These should integrate already mastered objectives so that mastery doesn’t fade or become rusty.

6 Practice Bright Spots

Keep practicing things you’re already good at and make them even better.

7 Differentiate drill from scrimmage

Focus on practicing small parts/skills both in isolation and in a version close to the real thing. This is similar to rehearsing lines to memorise them and dress rehearsal in a play. Neither are the real performance, but they bring you closer to it.

8 Correct instead of critique

Don’t just give guidance (critique). Instead, ensure participants redo the work or task, but with improvements as swiftly as possible (correct the issues) following advice which is as private as possible.

9 Analyse the game

Use data to pick top performers or elements of performance. Analyse what skills top performers have in common. Use this to provide a clear map for others to perform at the same level.

10 Isolate the skill

Break skills down into small parts and practice each part in isolation before practicing the skill. Sometimes a strength in one skill area can hide or mask the need for practice in another.

11 Name it

Name each skill and ensure people stick to these names to ensure precise feedback is given, rather than accepting terminology can be changed.

12 Integrate the skills

Create practice opportunities which are as close as possible to “real” situations, including environments and human reactions. Ensure people you are coaching learn to match the right skills to the right situations.

13 Make a plan

Plan with the performance of your classes in mind. What will make the biggest difference to your classes’ performance. Plan down to the last minute for your area of development. Rehearse and revise the plan. Record yourself and reflect on your sessions.

14. Make each minute matter

In whole staff or group training sessions, cut back on wasted time by using do now tasks. Use opportunities through the day to cut back on wasted time by using it to drill strategies. Turn ways you save time into routines.

Using Modelling

15 Model and describe

Use modeling to help learners (including teachers who are learning) replicate, but use description to help then understand. Use both to ensure they can more flexibly apply.

16 Call your shots

When you send people to observe or shadow someone else, make what you want them to observe explicit.

17 Make models believable

Model in a context that is similar as possible to the one in which the people you are coaching must perform. Modelling in person is often more believable than modelling by video.

18 Try “supermodeling”

Model the way you want learners to perform explicitly with the skill you are looking for learners to develop, but also with other skills.

19 Insist they “Walk this way”

When asking people to follow a model, a useful first step is for them to imitate the model exactly.

20 Model “skinny parts”

With complex skills, model one step at a time. Play games of copycat with initial learners.

21 Model the path

Don’t just provide a model of the product. Talk through the process you went through in learning the skill.

22 Get ready for your close up

Use film as an easy way to capture models.

Feedback

23 Practice giving feedback

Build a culture where people give feedback a lot. Cause people to put the feedback into practice quickly. Observe feedback being put into practice to see whether your advice works.

24 Apply first, then reflect

Spending too long on reflection during whole staff training can become a barrier to further practice. This:

1. Practice

2. Feedback

3. Practice again

4. Possibly practice this multiple times

5. Reflect

Is better than this:

1. Practice

2. Feedback

3. Reflect and discuss

4. Possibly practice again

25 Shorten the feedback loop.

Give feedback right away. A simple, small change implemented right away can be more effective than a complex rewiring of a skill. Often the simple change will have a domino effect on much broader skills.

26 Use the power of positive

Use praise:

• To identify specific successes and help people see what they have done right more clearly.

• To make a statement of replication to tell the person to drill the same thing again, possibly with a slight amendment to improve it or just to build it into muscle memory.

• To make a statement of application to indicate where else they might use the skill they are now experiencing success in.

27 Limit yourself.

Limit the amount of feedback you give, individually and as an organisation. If more than one person is coaching someone, make sure there is a system in place to track feedback, so people aren’t being overloaded.

28 Make it an everyday thing

The more you make a habit of feedback, the more normal it becomes. Use sentence starters when you begin to help everyone give both positive and constructive feedback. Experts begin by copying pastmasters.

29 Describe the solution, not the problem

Try to move from “Don’t…” Or “You shouldn’t…” To telling the person what to do. Make sure actions are specific and actionable. Look for ways to abbreviate commonly given guidance in your organisation. For example.

30 Lock it in

Summarize the feedback. Prioritize the actions. Ask recipients to restate the feedback to check for understanding.

Practice

31 Normalise Error

Push people beyond any current plateaus by pushing them beyond their current performance in practice sessions.

Don’t ignore errors in practice sessions. They’ll become ingrained.

Help performers identify their own errors.

Practice your techniques for responding to errors.

32 Break down your barriers to practice.

Anticipate that some people will feel awkward practicing.

Identify and name the barriers.

Overcome these barriers by diving in.

Use these phrases to help:

33 Make it fun to practice

Make use of friendly competition at training.

Don’t allow fun to detract from or take over from the objective of the training.

Encourage encouragement.

Incorporate elements of surprise in your training by, for example, putting a post it note under the chair of the next person to practice.

34 Everybody does it.

Be willing to model yourself as leader of a workshop.

Ask for advice/feedback on your modeling.

Use language that is inviting and assumed everyone will practice.

35 Leverage peer to peer accountability.

Allow your team to self-identify particular skills and areas of growth they want to focus on, based on feedback.

Encourage teachers to see themselves as Academy teachers, rather than classroom teachers. “Together, we are the teachers of all the students at the Academy.”

36 Hire for practice

Before employing someone, carefully consider the practice tasks in the interview process. Use the opportunity to gauge their openness to feedback. Get them to repeat part of the task.

37 Praise the work which exceeds expectations.

Normalise praise which supports good practice. Praise actions, not traits. Differentiate acknowledgement from praise. Acknowledge when someone meets your expectations with a thank you. Praise when Simeon goes above and beyond expectations with praise.

Post practice

38 Look for the right things

After practicing, observe for the practiced skills in the final performance. Allow leaders to practice observing for discrete skills which have been practiced.

39 Coach during the game (don’t teach)

Don’t try to teach new material during a performance. Coaching during a game should only cue and remind people to use what they have already learnt.

40 Keep talking

Name all the discrete skills and drills you practice. Use the names when discussing the skills to keep them alive in your organisation.

41 Walk the line (between support and demand)

Frame feedback, not as helpful advice, but as something required to improve performance. Move away from “You could…” or “Try…” towards “This week we’re going to…”Next week, when you…” Communicate a sense of urgency when improvement is necessary. Be transparent about your role as evaluator when it is necessary.

42 Measure successes

Use teaching over time information – books, learning walks, assessment/progress data, staff self assessment – as a gauge of the effectiveness of practice sessions and to decide what needs to be practiced next.

It’s Rude Not To Point – Analyse This Part 5

Over the past four parts in my Analyse This series, I’ve explored the barriers to analytical writing about literature and established, I think, that we should stop reinforcing the idea that every paragraph should contain the same elements.

Though I think this is the case, it would be exceptionally difficult (more likely impossible) to craft a successful analytical response to a text without building it around a sequence of relevant and developed points. These do not necessarily have to come at the beginning of every paragraph, though you might initially teach students to position them in this way to develop a habit.

What’s the Point?

At what point in the sequence of instructions below do we stop if we wish to get the best out of our students?

“Make a point about the text.”

“Make a point about the character in the text.”

“Make a point about how the writer presents the character in the text.”

“Make a point about how the writer presents the character, ensuring it’s relevant to the task.”

“Make a relevant point about how the writer presents the character as a representative of upper class society in the 1940s.”

“Make a relevant point about the way the writer uses the character to support the view they seem to have of the upper classes in the 1940s.”

“Make a relevant developed point, including a reason, about the way the writer uses the character to support the view they seem to have of the upper classes in the 1940s.”

“Craft four relevant and developed points about the way the writer’s presentation of the character links to the view they seem to have of the upper classes in the 1940s.”

Careless talk costs lives.

The instruction seems to move, during the sequence, from being vague, to being helpfully supportive and on to being overly wordy. To teach point making well, we have to consider which point in the sequence we will lose our students. Careless talk costs lives.

A question worth asking, therefore, is what makes a well crafted point?

The answer is dependent on:

  • The quality of the wording of the task.
  • The student’s ability to decode the requirements of the task.
  • The student’s knowledge of the aspects of the text(s) which are relevant to the task.
  • The student’s knowledge of the aspects of context which are relevant to the task.
  • The student’s knowledge of vocabulary and ability to select from their vocabulary precisely.
  • The student’s knowledge of grammar and punctuation and ability to express themselves accurately.

Where students are week in any of these areas, they will struggle to craft what we might think of as being a good point.

To exemplify this, as well as to give a sense of progression from a very basic point to a more developed one, I’m going to share what Matt Pinkett (@positivteacha) describes as the evolution of a point. This photo shows how a three word point that gives the impression that the student views Scrooge is a real person, moves through a number of steps to become far more developed. The steps Matt has taught are:

  • Adding the writer’s name.
  • Using a conjunction to encourage further thinking about the point.
  • Including the first piece of evidence in the same sentence as the point.
  • Including terminology in the same sentence as the point.

I would add to this a development relating to the world outside the text. This would take the final point to:

Prior to his redemption, Dickens uses the simile “solitary as an oyster” to present Scrooge as a lonely man who lacks emotional attachments to friends or family, thus conveying the impact of greed on social cohesion.

To take this further, have a read of this post from Chris Curtis Beyond the Show Sentence. Chris’ post is based on one from Katie Ashford which she has currently taken off line as her school are amending their approach.

Alex Quigley has written this post on How to Train a GCSE Essay Writer which is also very useful in this area.

Other Posts in this Series:

Analyse this Part 1 Thoughts Feelings And Actions

Analyse this Part 2 The Higher You Build Your Barriers

Analyse this Part 3 PEE-Nuts

Analyse this Part 4 Baking Up An Essay

Lessons from Fierce Conversations 

This is the first in a sequence of posts which I’ll call “Lessons from…” in which I’ll outline how a range of texts I’ve been reading inform my thinking. Some of the lessons are, I think, useful reminders of things I knew already, some build on previous thinking, whilst others are new insights. It’s also likely that some of the ideas I reflect on are things you’ll think are just common sense or perhaps not even worth noting. If that’s likely to bother you, I should stop reading now if I were you. However, if there’s something you disagree with, then please let me know your thoughts.

To begin with, I’ve recently been reading Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. It’d been recommended alongside High Challenge, Low Threat by Mary Myatt, Leadership Matters by Andy Buck and Radical Candour by Kim Scott as a starting point for putting together a framework for the development of leadership in an academy.

Fierce Conversations is sold as “a way of conducting business, an attitude, a way of life.” Quite a claim. It outlines a range of conversation frameworks which people can have – both internal monologues or dialogues with colleagues, bosses, loved ones or clients.

Susan Scott, the author, has worked with CEOs and other leaders in some of the world’s biggest organisations across a wide range of countries and has set up the company Fierce.inc to further this work.

Although the title of the book might suggest a level of brutality, the fierceness really lies in the honesty which Scott requires the people she works with, her readers (and presumably her family) to have with themselves and the people they are connected to – at work and in their everyday lives.

There are two main conversational frameworks in the book.

The first follows seven steps and is similar in pattern to a number of other, frequently used formats of coaching conversation. The seven steps are:

  1. What’s the most important issue we need to be talking about today?
  2. Describe the issue? What’s going on?
  3. How is this currently affecting you? Who else is it currently affecting and how?
  4. What are the implications of nothing changes?
  5. How have you helped create this situation or issue?
  6. What is the ideal outcome and, when this is resolved, what difference will it make?
  7. What is the highest impact action you can take to change things? What are you committing to do and by when? When should I follow up on this with you?

The second is a further seven phase structure for a potentially difficult or challenging conversation with someone else. The seven steps here are:

  1. Define the issue
  2. Select an illustrative example of the issue
  3. Describe your emotions about the issue
  4. Clarify what is at stake if the issue is not solved
  5. Identify the part you play in the issue
  6. Indicate you wish to resolve the issue
  7. Invite the other person to respond

These kinds of frameworks are helpful in establishing principles. My experience is that those who are best at using them grasp these principles make them their own and can improvise around them, like great blues musicians.

Here’s a picture of lots of fancy mirrors to use as a metaphor for reflecting on who you are

Lesson 1. You have to be honest with yourself first.

In order to get the most out of both conversational frameworks, Scott argues that you have to be willing to confront what the main issues are in the organisation or part of the organisation you are responsible for. If you try to cover up or hide away the issues from yourself and/or from others, then the issues will not be resolved and whatever it is that you’re responsible for won’t flourish. In a school context, this issue could be anything from someone in your faculty producing a shoddy medium term plan to missed deadlines or persistent lateness to work on the part of a long term supply teacher.

Lesson 2. Trust requires honesty

Why are teachers not trusted by leaders?”

“Why are leaders not trusted by Ofsted and the DfE?”

“Why are the government not trusted by the electorate?”

We inhabit a world where we often experience or feel a deficit of trust and yet we often contribute to this too. Sometimes we expect trust to be given automatically yet we are often slow to trust others. When I consider the people I trust most, there is a close match with those people who communicate most honestly with me at the appropriate moment. Scott identifies that the way we deliver the truth – what you say, when, how and to whom – are equally important, but without truth and honesty trust is built on very flimsy foundations.

Lesson 3. Know the gaps between the values you claim to hold and the behaviours you exhibit. You get what you tolerate.

If you’ve been on any kind of leadership training, you’ll have heard that vision and values are vitally important in being a leader. You’ll possibly even written your own vision and defined the values you hold important. A key difference between the best leaders I’ve worked with and the worst is that the most effective leaders have been able to see where the organisation they run falls short of the vision they have for it and where the values they claims to hold aren’t being met. Having done this, they take action to close these gaps. As schools are built on relationships, this invariably requires them to have one or more conversations of the kind Scott outlines. Where leadership has been less effective in the schools I’ve experienced in the now distant past, there has been a disparity between what leaders have said the school is like and the reality. Due to this, the leaders have lost their credibility , integrity and the trust of other members of staff.

Lesson 4. Implementing change effectively requires an understanding of the impact on the different individuals or groups involved.

To implement a plan that affects the whole organisation, which is what school leaders do, Scott argues that you need to understand the way it will impact on the whole organisation. You need to know what processes are genuinely being used on the ground. Scott calls this the “ground truth” and contrasts it with the “official truth” – what leaders say happens on the ground. This is clearly linked with the other three lessons above as you can be honest but deluded. Again, clarity of communication plays a vital part here. However, this also highlights the need for school leaders to be out and about experiencing what the school is really like rather than what they believe it should be like.

Lesson 5. Sometimes you need to adapt and react quickly – especially when implementing change.

Scott highlights that, when your plan collides with reality, the plan may need to change. Sometimes our circumstances or the circumstances of others alter in a way that means we need to amend our plan. Sometimes we find glitches in the plan or, in the case of schools, students find the loopholes in systems we naively believed student-proof. This can be frustrating when you’ve spent a long time preparing your strategy, but makes school leadership simultaneously challenging and exciting.

Radio Times Educational Supplement

Bringing the Magic: BBC’s 2017 Christmas ident.

9.00am Carols from Michaelamas to Christmas

Enjoy the best traditional festive hymns and carols sung by the best school choir from the best school. Note how the children have learnt these best carols by heart from the best knowledge organisers rather than having scrappy hymn sheets to sing from, like those other schools do. They will be smiling too, but someone will probably be making them do that, I’m sure. Other schools have choirs and sing carols but these are the best carols and this is the best school choir.

10.00am Homes Under the Hamer Christmas Special

Martin Roberts and Lucy Alexander present this Christmas special in which several old schools of teacher training thought are auctioned off to Marie, from London, who wishes to refurbish them into swanky new models to be used in some kind of institute which probably makes teachers in test tubes or something.

10.30am MOVIE Monsters’ INC 3 – School of Tough Love

Mike and Sully help their new pal, Barry, set up a school of monstering. At first, Barry seems quite frightening with his seemingly super strict rules and routines, but everyone comes to realise he’s just a big, fuzzy-wuzzy, fluffy, softy, cuddle-monster really.

12.00pm Top Of The Pops

Festive special, featuring the latest tracks from bands you can pretend you’ve heard of, including: Nick Gibb and The Traditionals, Permanent Exclusion and indie favourites, Cold Call (feat SLANT).

1.00pm BBC News

Probably includes reports on some educational guidance the government have released over the festive period.

1.30pm Pointless Edu-Celebrities Special

Rounds include naming a pointless disagreement on edu-Twitter from 2017.

2.00pm DIY SOS Christmas Special

Nick Knowles and the team issue a call to arms to help Kelly, a teacher from Hemel Hempstead. At 36, Kelly is struggling to cope with the tragic discovery, in the run up to Christmas, that there has been some damage to her wall displays. Thankfully, the team step in with some heavy duty wall staplers and a new border from the teacher in the next classroom along – one of those corrugated ones.

3.00pm The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast

This year, the Queen is expected to focus on one of the great tragedies of modern Britain – the plight of deprived children not even allowed to look out of windows during their lessons in British schools. Tragic.

3.30pm Charlie Cook’s Favourite Text Book

This year’s Julia Donaldson adaptation features a small boy disappearing deeper and deeper into the depths of a range of substandard text books before emerging triumphant with copies of un-graffitied Tricolore and Deutsch Heute.

5.30pm Doctor Who – An Earthly Child

In his final outing as the Doctor, Peter Capaldi finds himself on a festive, dystopian trip to a planet inhabited by fictional teachers from film or television having a perpetual debate about progressive and traditional educational philosophies. Capaldi’s Doctor is finally able to bring peace through promulgating a shared understanding that Mr Miyagi should not be allowed to voice his extreme opinions as he is merely a personal tutor rather than a teacher. Co-stars Egg from This Life as himself rather than that character he played in Teachers.

6.30pm Great British Bake Off – Christmas Special

Mary Berry returns to judge the this special in which previous runner up, Stuart, returns to cook up a Christmas treat to look like Noel Fielding’s the moon in The Mighty Boosh.

7.30pm Strictly Come Dancing Teachers’ Christmas Special

Latest professional dancer, David, and his partner, 2016 X-Factor contestant, Honey-G, are up against Oti Mabuse and her partner Tom, who will be dancing a jive to Saturday Night Fever.

Some strict dancers.

8.30pm Call The Midwife Christmas Special

The midwives are concerned that their work will be undermined by a new, not-for-profit organisation being set up by some ex-Teach First types in an attempt to get more first class university leavers into midwifery in areas of deprivation – Gradu-Tots.

9.30pm Christmas Dinner Line of Duty Christmas Special

Tensions rise in this tense thriller as two tense teenagers push in to the school dinner queue for Christmas dinner just as a tense Mr Jenkins begins his lunch duty.

10.15pm Top 100 Lessons to Teach Of All Time

C-List celebrities, assorted reality television stars and Ken Robinson offer their thoughts on the top 100 creative activities they have no personal experience of, so that you can use in your classrooms next year to liven things up. Someone called Lauren Goodger suggests using wacky shaped post-it notes, whilst the cast of Geordie Shore make the educational case for the use of mobile devices.

Baking Up an Essay – Analyse This Part 4

I’m going through a phase of wondering whether we’ve got hung up on the paragraph as the unit in an analytical response, as if every paragraph needs the same internal parts.

Writing an analytical response to literature should be more like baking a moist fruitcake than a dozen identical cup cakes displayed on a cake stand. There are ingredients which need to be evident during the response but not in every mouthful.

I’ve written about this previously here and here when I looked at the barriers to students crafting an analytical response and here when I looked at some potential faults in PEE.

Below, I’ve merely listed the potential ingredients of this kind of writing. In coming posts, I’d like to explore how we might support students in writing a really tasty essay.

In Part 2 of this sequence, I outlined that not all GCSE questions require every one of these ingredients as the responses expected are more like essay-lets than full essays. However, over time, students need to learn how to manipulate and handle each of these parts separately as well as blend these parts together. I’d be really grateful for further suggestions or amendments if you’d like to offer them.

  • An introduction
  • A sequence of points (sometimes referred to as topic sentences) which are relevant to and address the question
  • Contextualisation linked to the task and text. As explained here, this could be ideas, perspectives or relevant historical, political, cultural and social events
  • Evidence – the manipulation of relevant quotations
  • Exploration of the impact of the language on the reader/audience in a way that is relevant to the question
  • Evidence – references to aspects of structure or form which are relevant to the question
  • Exploration of the relevant impact of form or structure on the reader/audience.
  • Evaluation of how far the writer has impacted on the reader/audience
  • Exploring links, similarities and differences between texts which relate to the task.
  • A conclusion

PEE-Nuts – Analyse This Part 3

I wanted to explore what the differences are between the way “normal” people write about poetry without exam training and how we expect our students to respond to poetry in their GCSE English Literature exams.

To find out, I did a bit of an experiment.

It could be a bit nuts as it’s not very sound in terms of linguistic research. However, the dubious results are, I think at least, quite interesting.

What kind of nutter would agree to write an analytical response to poetry in their own time?

To do this, I asked four people to read Shelley’s Ozymandias and Blake’s London. I then provided them with some background reading and links to a number of videos about the language, structure and form of the two poems, though I had obviously selected the sources of information. As far as possible, I wanted to remove myself from the teaching input on the two poems. In particular though I offered them no material linked to how they were to structure their answer to the task.

What are Ozymandias and London in a nutshell?

Two weeks later, I sent the respondents the following question and told them to spend no more than forty five minutes answering it in the way they saw fit.

Compare the ways Shelley and Blake present ideas about power in the poems Ozymandias and London?

The first two writers both have university degrees, so they have a record in academic writing, though only the first has an A-Level in English literature. They both completed their degrees over a decade ago. The second pair don’t have a formal academic background, though they do read regularly and have an extensive vocabulary. All four had been out of formal education for well over ten years and, in the case of the latter pair, over forty years. This all made it likely that they would have a good level of general literacy, but unlikely that any of them would have been explicitly taught a formulaic approach to paragraph writing such as PEE, which became more prevalent after the turn of the millennium. What I really wanted to unpick was whether something like PEE emerged in their writing or whether some other commonalities in structure became apparent.

I’ve typed up all four scripts below for you to examine further if you wish to read them. However, based on this clearly limited sample, here are my hypotheses. These are based on the differences the responses display between each other and the differences between them and the AQA exam board’s only openly accessible exemplar script. Unfortunately, this exemplar script is based on Ozymandias and My Last Duchess but it is the structure more than the content I wish to look at:

  • All four responses below include an introduction of some kind. Two of these make a statement of intent. One makes a straightforward comparison of the two poets before launching into some contextual information about Blake. The fourth makes a generalised point about poetry before a linked opinion on these two poems. Only Response 1 uses its introduction to offer a specific direction to the essay as a whole. The exemplar from the board has no sense of introduction beyond a first sentence which makes a link between the kind of power presented in the two poems. The rest of the initial paragraph reads as if it is the first comparative point and focuses on the arrogance of Ozymandias and the Duke. Introductions are rarely done well, in my experience, under exam conditions. I’ve heard a number of people recommend not including any kind of introduction. The theory is that introductions don’t tend to include the kind of content credited most highly by examiners. I want students to do well, but I want them to write academically so I think we need to consider the kind of introduction which could help them to do both.
  • Only two of the responses wrap up with a conclusion and, in the case of response two, the style of conclusion suggests it has been included as the writer felt it ought to be there rather than having a clear sense of what a conclusion to a literary response might contain – either that or they’d run out of time. Response four has a sense of an ending as it works through the poems in sequence from stanza one to the final stanza. Again, it would be worth considering whether students ought to include a conclusion and, if so, the kind of conclusive statements which would be most highly credited but also well constructed.
  • All four responses, to varying degrees of success, comment on language and structure.
  • There is a greater focus on contextual information which is disconnected from the question in responses three and four. In retrospect, there was a disconnect between these two things in the materials I distributed, highlighting a need to ensure that, when we expose students to contextual information, we carefully link it to and interweave it with students understanding of the text itself. Interestingly, there is no social, historical or political contextual details at all in the example offered by AQA. It does cover, however, AO3 in terms of discussing ideas (see here for my take on this). If you’re still teaching context as if this were the old specification, this is worth some really careful consideration.
  • Responses three and four also took less notice of the phrase “the ways” in the task, focusing more on context. It’s possible they didn’t fully know what “the ways” tends to mean language form and structure in literary analysis, didn’t realise it was as important as it was or that they took more of an interest in the contextual than the literary content of the materials I shared. These are certainly important to consider.
  • Finally, none of the four responses here use a PEE structure or another similar approach. Neither does the AQA exemplar – though it is arguably more formulaic in its style. Despite this, the vast majority of the paragraphs are coherently structured. There is a very strong argument that, instead of teaching students to write formulaic paragraphs which all contain the same ingredients, we should teach the ingredients of a successful whole response to them.

Here are some pretty salty responses to those two poems.  

Response 1:

I want to explore how Shelley and Blake present ideas about power through the lens of empowerment. I aim to show that it was Blake’s intention to reveal how disempowered, downtrodden and oppressed the people of London had become at the time he was writing while I believe Shelley was trying to show a more optimistic response to conventional portrayals of power.

Blake’s adoption of more traditional, regimented iambic tetrameter and a regular rhyming scheme lends a physical, concrete and regimented quality to his poem which reinforces the overriding sense that the inhabitants of London are themselves locked into a social hierarchy and an exploitative relationship with institutions: the church’s exploitation of young orphans as chimney sweeps, the monarchy’s exploitation of young men in the military and young women working as prostitutes.

Blake’s use of language throughout the poem seems intended to sadden and leave the audience as miserable and hopeless as the Londoners themselves – there is no anger or call to action – he seems to be painting an image of neglect, hopelessness and apathy.

Whilst there are brief attentions to the major social institutions of the “palace” and “church” his final stanza where he “most” hears the “youthful harlot” is focused on the impact of social breakdown on the institution of marriage and the family itself with the quasi-oxymoronic “marriage hearse.”

Contrast Blake’s dismal presentation of the citizens of London as victims of power with the sculptor in Shelley’s fizzing sonnet, Ozymandias. Here, the king can be interpreted as being the victim of the ravages of time as “the lone and level sands stretch far away” serving (aside from the fragments of the statue) as a sign of just how little of his “works” remain to be looked upon.

In spite of it being a “colossal wreck” the statue does partially remain and this fact, coupled with the mention of the sculptor reading the “sneering,” “frowning,” “cold commanding” “passions” of Ramases II suggests that Shelley feels art, imagination and creativity outlive earthly power which stamps on lifeless things like stone.

In a sense, Shelley is presenting an alternative view of power to the claims made by the arrogant text on the pedestal which we are led to believe are spoken by Ozymandias but which are actually conveyed by Shelley, relating the tale told by the “traveller from an antique land” but originally carved by the sculptor.

To look upon the works of the king is to see almost nothing and therefore realise the irony of the claim. His works have all but been destroyed: all except the limited remains of the statue. And, technically, the works are those of the unnamed sculptor.

In presenting the power which creativity has over traditional concepts of hegemonic power held by tyrants and dominating rulers Shelley is also surely speaking to his own time – much as Blake was. In the context which both poems were written power was in flux across Europe, with the French Revolution causing upheavals and social unrest in many parts of the continent. However, where Shelley appears to see art and truth as a means to answering traditional power dynamics within the social hierarchy, Blake seems to only witness despair, apathy and powerlessness: his men cry, his children cry, his faces are marked with weakness and woe.

Blake does not appear to have any answer to power in this poem. His Londoners are shackled to their fate with “mind-forg’d manacles,” tethering them to existing orthodoxy with no visible means of improving their lot. But, in that crucial time (and, in contrast with Ozymandias demand for those who look upon his works to despair) perhaps Blake’s “manacles” do offer hope of a change to the Londoner’s victimhood. The allusion to the “mind-forg’d” nature of their chains is a suggestion that all that needs to change is their imaginations, beliefs and mindsets for them to see a new way to live, free from the exploitation and misery and tyranny.

Response 2

Shelley and Blake seem to share a number of the same ideas about power, I feel. Through looking solely at their two poems, London and Ozymandias, I hope to explore some of these similarities and differences below.

To begin with, the poems are written from different perspectives. London is written from Blake’s one point of view as an observer of the impact on the ordinary man of the actions (or failure to act) of those in power. Ozymandias on the other hand is written as if Shelley is recounting a story he was told whilst travelling.

Blake’s point of view as observer puts him close to his subject matter and he uses emotive language to describe the sights, sounds and feelings he experiences. This can be seen in lines such as “cry of fear”, “hapless soldier’s sigh” and “harlot’s curse.”

It could be suggested fact Blake!: decision to write in the first person and be so critical of those in power is somewhat daring or even a dangerous thing to do. In contrast, one could suggest Shelley has been clever by separating himself from being a critic of power by suggesting that he has written a story told by a “traveller from an antique land.”

The criticisms of those in power to which I allude above can be seen in London in the following ways: In the opening stanza, Blake refers to the streets and river being “chartered” or owned and yet the faces of the people he meets display “weakness” and “woe.” The wealthy elite own the city, yet all the other people in it are powerless and sad.

The third stanza stands out as being critical of the church and the monarchy. The first two lines could be interpreted as suggesting religious authorities should be standing up for the chimney sweeps, often child labourers with few rights and terrible working conditions. Whilst the third and fourth lines suggest to me that Blake feels many soldiers are being used as pawns by the monarchy to fight unnecessary wars. The soldiers themselves have little say.

Shelley’s criticism of power can also be said to relate to the church and monarchy but he looks less at the impact on people and more on the futility and brevity is absolute power. The poem tells of the crumbling away of a statue erected by Ozymandias and how nothing remains of his works.

The criticism could be said to be a little more subtle in Ozymandias than in London, but to me it stands out in the negative language used to describe the facial expression of the statue. For example, “wrinkled lip” and “sneer of cold command.” Also in the final description of what is left, “decay”, “colossal wreck” and “boundless and bare.”

I would suggest further subtlety from Shelley in his use of the form of a sonnet. Typically, this is a form used for love poetry. Shelley has subverted this to show his dislike for the monarchy and religion – “King of Kings” being an ironic reference to royalty as well as a biblical term used to refer to Jesus.

Whilst Shelley uses the sonnet, Blake has used a four stanza, four line form with alternating rhyme scheme. It could be suggested this form constrains him somewhat, mirroring the constraint placed on the people within his poem by those in power and echoing the “mind-forg’d manacles he refers to.

Overall then, these are two poems with similar subjects and criticisms of society but written from different perspectives and with different styles.

Response 3

Blake and Shelley lived at roughly the same time and both were radicals and romantics.

Blake was born into a moderately poor family and was only educated until he was ten years old, subsequently being home educated but later attending the Royal Academy. He became a writer, artist and printmaker, was against organised religion but found the bible an immense source of inspiration. He was heavily influenced by the French Revolution but later moderated his views on it when he saw the violence and bloodshed it engendered. In the first verse of the poem, London, he is decrying the fact that people aren’t free, buildings and streets are “chartered” and therefore owned by the rich. Even the Thames, which should flow freely, is chartered. He is struck by the fact that “every” face he meets is marked (or stained) by weakness or sadness – even saying every three times.

In verse two he is appalled by the plight of the chimney sweeps, children as young as five years old who are sent up chimneys to clean them and often got killed. Blake appears to blame the church for not doing more to save them. He also mentions the “hapless soldiers” who were helpless and had to obey orders. The blood running down palace walls I think is a metaphor linked to the French Revolution where the poverty stricken were trying to overthrow royalty. Blake did not agree with royalty.

He then goes on to London at midnight in verse four. In his eyes it was a blighted place with young prostitutes affected by syphilis infecting their children and clients causing blindness and other symptoms being passed on to the innocent wives of their clients. Blake was not a fan of the way marriage worked in his lifetime. He thought of it as a form of slavery although he himself seemed to have a relatively happy marriage.

Shelley was also a radical and romantic, though he was born into a wealthier family. His father was a peer and also an MP. Shelley would have been heir to both these things had he not been disinherited due to his elopement at the age of 19. He had an unconventional love life, losing his first wife possibly to suicide and his two children died in infancy. He travelled Europe extensively. Some of Shelley’s writing was quite radical and influenced Marx and Tolstoy.

Shelley’s poem, Ozymandias, is about the pharaoh Ramases II. For some reason, Shelley has given him his Greek name. He is trying to tell us that power doesn’t last, especially when it is despotic. He describes to us what he has been told by the traveler from the ancient land about a very large, ruined statue which is in pieces and covered in sand. It is a statue of Ramases, king of kings, who obviously has a very high opinion of himself as he declared “look on my works ye mighty and despair.” He is described as having a “sneer” and a “frown” so is obviously a very arrogant king but, as Shelley tries to tell us, nothing lasts for ever, life moves on and Ozymandias’ statue is now covered in sand, obliterated. Unfortunately, Shelley was wrong as many of Ramases’ colossal works are still standing today.

Overall, Shelley and Blake have very similar views on power, though they present them in different ways. Blake’s ideas are presented in a woeful way, decrying the way people are downtrodden and kept in poverty by those who chartered everything and Shelley is pleased by how the mighty have fallen. Strangely, neither were famous during their own lifetime, only becoming well known after their deaths.

Response 4:

All poetry is intended to be read aloud and both poems have some very powerful sounds, both in the words used and the consonants in those words.

When examining poems by different poets, the context in which they were written is important. These poems were both written at a time when the country was in turmoil, undergoing many wars. All such wars are costly and those that paid were mainly the poor who were paid a pittance while the rich got richer.

Shelley was one of the privileged, coming from an MP’s family and likely to follow in his father’s footsteps. Educated at Eton and Oxford, he had a bright future, but he was a rebel. He became a staunch atheist and wrote papers, distributing them to all the bishops of the church. He ran away at 16 to get married to his first wife, but a few years later, ran off with Mary Wollstonecraft. Soon after his first wife was found drowned, he married her and she later went on to write Frankenstein.

Shelley was one of the romantics. He was not well-known during his own lifetime (short lived as he died at 29).

In writing Ozymandias, he can be seen to be being critical of those in power, but was clever to distance himself from the criticism by employing the trick of saying, “I met a traveller in an antique land Who said” and thus he goes on to narrate what he was told. Could that person have been the Egyptologist, William Banks from Kingston Lacey?

The poem is written in an old sonnet form with the first octet of eight lines and a sestet for the last six. What he says about power in the first part is to look upon what has been a powerful Egyptian regime, possibly ruling at the time of Moses! Clearly the Pharaoh Ramases II, also known as Ozymandias, had been a very powerful man in his own time and the artist who sculpted the face showed the “sneer of cold command” which, in allowing the erection of the monument, overlooked the fact that maybe a sculptor foresaw that ultimately a desert devours everything, including monuments and particularly arrogant kings and powerful states.

In the sestet, we wonder if Shelley is also being critical of the church as “king of kings” is an expression appearing in the bible, referring to God. Is he saying that the church should look out for and take a more caring attitude to these less powerful people?

William Blake was a well known and respected figure who made money from his published work, including not only poetry but also art. Again, London was written at the time of the French Revolution when a lot of blood flowed – but whose blood, the poor soldier used as mere canon fodder?

This poem is written in a different rhyming style, but is equally powerful when read aloud.

Blake is commenting on the state of the world around him – a state where the huge bulk of property and wealth is vested in a tiny minority (nothing changes!) whilst the workers are languishing in poverty. He paints a picture where even the River Thames and the highways are owned or “chartered.” The people are mere slaves. The poor, tiny children are used as chimney sweeps who sometimes got stuck and would die screaming all because child Labour was cheaper than brushes.

The repetition in stanza 2 reinforces the power exercised over those poor wretches. “Every ban” means every law preventing something through the invisible “mind-forg’d manacles” which chain people like slaves. He has a swipe at the church which looks on at all the squalor and poverty but walks on by, having allowed itself to be blacken’d by the factories. He also takes a swipe at the seeing perhaps the need for a revolution having seen blood run down the palace walls.

The last stanza condemns the state of marriage. The men go off to enjoy the prostitutes but then bring venereal diseases to their wives, causing them either to be barren or to suffer appalling illness or death in the last line “plagues the marriage hearse” – a hearse being a vehicle used at a funeral to carry a coffin rather than at a wedding to carry a bride.

Context Lenses

Both my elder and younger brother were prescribed glasses from a really early age. Despite the fact that they were 1980s, thick sepia rimmed NHS style spectacles, this marked me out as being different so, being the middle child and being fixated on believing everything had to be fair, I really wanted glasses too. I was often tempted to lie to the optician when I had my eye test in an attempt to get a prescription myself. It was the weighty combination of a deep rooted, Catholic upbringing of guilt and a sense of pride in being able to reach the tiny bottom line of the letter chart which prevented me from doing so.

You want me to touch my eye? Give me the NHS specs any time.

Amongst other things, this ability to see, I think, leads me to a sense of frustration when I can’t see, grasp or understand. Hence, when I sat down with the mark scheme for the AQA English literature GCSE the other day, a sense of aggravation built – I couldn’t see the bottom line about context clearly.

My initial (relatively pleasant) problem stemmed from the fact we had under-predicted grades for literature last year. We weren’t expecting our 2017 cohort to do as well as they did. I’m coming to realise that this was because we hadn’t fully understood AQA’s more inclusive definition of context and this was resulting in us believing, when marking our mocks, that more of our students were committing a rubric infringement than was actually the case.

Though I’ve now been told marks are awarded holistically, the mark scheme is divided into three strands along the lines of the Assessment Objectives. AO3 for literature relates to the student’s “understanding of the relationship between the text(s) and the context(s) in which they were written.” In the mark scheme, for each level this means there is always a bullet point which says “ideas/perspectives/context” and “context/text/task.” In the top level this appears as “exploration of ideas/perspectives/contextual factors as shown by specific detailed links between context/text/task.” In the lowest level, meanwhile, the descriptor is “simple comment on explicit ideas/contextual factors.”

As with other mark scheme descriptors for English, there is a need for further explanation and, in particular, exemplification here. This is even more so the case when you’re trying to differentiate between responses that lie on the boundary between levels of the mark scheme which are closer together – how do you know the difference between “some understanding” of these things and “clear understanding” of them?

These aspects of the descriptors were particularly flummoxing:

  • What, specifically, do AQA now mean by context as the definition has definitely shifted?
  • What constitutes an “idea” and what are “perspectives” in the mind of an examiner?
  • In the mark scheme, do the obliques in the bullet points for context mean “and” or “or.”

What is context?

This is what AQA have to say for themselves:

This expands on the mark scheme bullet points and starts to answer the question I have abound a definition of context. It is also, I think, an attempt to sensibly guide teachers, and therefore students, away from the kind of response which looks at context in isolation rather than weaving it into the fabric of the student’s answer. However, it doesn’t offer anything in the way of exemplification and isn’t as full an explanation as I’d really like. My second and third question remain unanswered. It’s also a little hazy in terms of what is meant by context including the “setting” of the text – its “location, social structures and features.” Thus sounds like the text itself to me, rather than the context.

AQA have clearly had similar feelings as they’ve gone on to produce two booklets which link to this issue.

The Further Insights into Teaching Context booklet provides some additional advice and guidance in terms of the kinds of content that can be considered applicable to AO3. The Further Insights – Extract to Whole booklet examines the tasks set for extract questions in more detail. A potentially useful element of the Teaching Context booklet is this set of questions which could support planning for the teaching of context.

These questions are helpful in that they clarify the bullet points further.

What are ideas and perspectives?

Perspectives, it seems, include:

  1. The views of the writer which are arguably expressed through the text
  2. The views which were held by other individuals or groups at the time the text was written or received and on which the writer may be commenting through the text
  3. The views of the reader or audience about the text (potentially at different points in history)
  4. The way the text may have influenced the views of the reader or audience.

Ideas, meanwhile, appear to include knowledge which it is useful to retain that informs your interpretation of the text such as:

  1. Literary, political, philosophical, religious or other concepts that have likely influenced the way the writer crafted the text.
  2. Ideas which influence and/or support the way the text has been perceived by the reader or audience (potentially at different points in history)
  3. Ideas which further our understanding of the world of the text and the characters which inhabit that world.

Here are some examples of what AQA say ideas might include in a response to a task about Macbeth:

This leaves context which, we can infer, means:

  1. The ways historical, political, cultural, social and everyday events influenced its writing.
  2. The ways historical, political, cultural, social and everyday events influenced its reception by the reader or audience.

A really useful resource would be a developing list of “contexts” which students could revise for each of their core texts.

One of the most useful nugggets from the Extract to Whole booklet is that “students will always be given a contextual clue to help them” in the question. What this means, in practice, is that there will be a phrase in the task which will lead students to a contextual reading. They will not be asked how Shakespeare presents Lady Macbeth, but may be asked how he presents her as a powerful woman. They will not be asked how Dickens presents the Cratchits, but may be asked how he uses them to present Victorian poverty. This is useful in as much as, if we teach students to unpick and respond to the question, then they will also be responding to the context. However, looking at the currently limited range of example responses, the highest levels will require students to draw on the range of contexts listed above.

Are the obliques in the mark scheme “and” or “or?”

Helpfully, the @AQAEnglish team on Twitter responded to my request for clarification here by saying it’s an “or.” This makes it far more likely that students will be credited for referencing context if they can explore (detailed) links between relevant ideas or perspectives and the text or the task. In the Level 4/5 (not Grade 4/5) AQA exemplar, the two bits which are annotated as being relevant to context are “shows both sides of the war between good & evil and the duality of Victorian society” and “seems unusual and may suggest that this is what everyone in Victorian society was like and creates a sense of negativity to the surroundings.” This seems encouraging for currently middle to lower performing students as it means students don’t have to write reams about context, it doesn’t need to be built into every paragraph of their response and they should only really refer to it when it effectively adds to their response. It should also be encouraging to higher attaining students as there is plenty of space in the mark scheme to do better than this.

I know that I’m beginning to see

the bottom line

about context.
I hope you are too.

Thanks to @AQAEnglish and @theenglishline for this blog on context: https://t.co/89WZJQgwvR

The Lone and Level Sands Part 3

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I established a set of questions relating to English curriculum design and considered what the barriers to delivering on the aims of an English curriculum might be.

“Took us ages to make them sand sculptures Fred and all he’s bloody gone and done is used them as a metaphor for shaping the curriculum in different ways. Travesty!”

I’d like to move on now to identifying what we might call the elements of English. In order to do this, let’s try to imagine, only for a moment as it might hurt our heads, that there were no limitations: that time weren’t an issue; that all aims were possible; that everyone could have what they wanted in the curriculum; that we could focus on knowledge and the application of that knowledge; that students studied texts that were culturally significant as well as relevant to and engaging for them; that we could cover all genres and periods and cultural contexts so that the curriculum were representative of the scope of English Literature. In this utopian (or dystopian) school, what would students be able to do by the end of Year 11 and what knowledge would they require to be able to do these things?

Most importantly, how would we divide up this knowledge to make it coherent?

Beyonce says hold up so you’d better hold up.

Before we do this and drill down into the detail, it would be worth looking at how this has been done by others. The division of knowledge in English is quite telling in terms of the preferences or biases of the designers. These are important as there is only a finite amount of time in a school day for the study of English, which means, if we decide to add one thing, another thing has to either disappear, be studied over a shorter period of time or be studied more shallowly.

The 2014 English National Curriculum

The divisions in the National Curriculum shift, dependent on which Key Stage you examine. At Key Stage 1 and 2, alongside a strand which covers spoken language from Year 1-6, we have:

  1. Reading – Word Reading
  2. Reading – Comprehension
  3. Writing – Transcription (spelling)
  4. Handwriting
  5. Writing – composition
  6. Writing – vocabulary grammar and punctuation

Once we move into Key Stage 3 and 4, a number of the reading and writing elements are amalgamated so that we are left with:

  1. Reading
  2. Writing
  3. Grammar and vocabulary
  4. Spoken English

The Scottish Curriculum for Excellence

The Scottish Curriculum for Excellence in literacy and English is similarly organised, covering:

  1. Listening and talking
  2. Reading
  3. Writing

The framework is similar to the English curriculum though the emphasis is different once you move beneath the surface.

There are also four overarching aims in the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence which aren’t matched in England’s National Curriculum. These are that students should become:

  • Successful learners
  • Confident individuals
  • Responsible citizens
  • Effective contributors

Once you add layering in like this, there is a risk – or benefit depending on how you perceive it – that time is spent focusing on these aspects of a curriculum over the content of the subject.

The 2007 English National Curriculum.

The 2007 National Curriculum is similar to the Curriculum for Excellence in that it took the interesting step of introducing four concepts which appeared before the usual framework of speaking, listening, reading and writing. These were:

  1. Competence
  2. Creativity
  3. Cultural understanding
  4. Critical understanding

This was in line with the drive for broadly transferable skills, over and above subject domain specific knowledge. The elements of English still appear in the document but the fact these generic aspects appear first, implies they should take precedence.

NATE – An Alternative Curriculum 3 – 19

This curriculum document from the National Association for the Teaching of English is divided into six key areas:

  1. Talk
  2. Writing
  3. Reading
  4. Grammar and knowledge about language
  5. Drama
  6. Media

The addition of drama and media here are telling as part of an English curriculum. Media disappeared from the National Curriculum and the GCSE English Language exams as the predominant view at the time of its publication was that many of the GCSE text choices were transitory. Greater value came to be placed on 19th and earlier 20th century non-fiction in the form of journals, letters and broadsheet articles than the work of late 20th and early 21st century tabloid and magazine journalists, bloggers or web designers.

Interestingly though, numbers of students taking Media Studies GCSE and the proportional share of the total entry have remained relatively consistent, as can be seen on page 87 of this document. The same is true at A-Level. There arguments which might be made for the inclusion of media studies in the earlier Key Stages:

  • That students need an understanding of the ways media is used to influence us
  • That students should grasp the ways in which different groups are represented in the media
  • That students should be prepared for higher study at GCSE and A-Level

There are other subject areas which are rarely the focus of substantial study prior to GCSE though so an alternative view might be that leaving media our of the English curriculum does students no harm.

Drama, meanwhile, has seen a slight decline between 2010 and 2016 in entry at GCSE and A-Level. Though some would, I think it’s too early to attribute this fully to the implementation of an EBAC curriculum in schools. To draw this conclusion, we’d surely expect the same decline in Media Studies and all arts subjects and this is not yet the case.

It’s worth reiterating that, if we are to include either drama or media studies or both in a curriculum, the teaching should be given adequate time rather than detracting from the teaching of writing and a focus on reading.

What’s the betting he does a footsteps in the sand metaphor in this last paragraph?

In the next of these posts, I’ll take a look at the elements of English, attempting to rake over the footsteps some people have had to plant into the sands of the curriculum.