Monthly Archives: January 2014

Mogadishu in GCSE!! WHAT!!!

Well I’ve seen quite a few blunders in my time, but this one really jumps out at me.

For those who aren’t aware, Mogadishu is a play by Vivienne Franzmann, herself a former teacher, in which a white teacher attempts to prevent a black student from being expelled after pushing the teacher to the ground. Well this all seems fine, so what’s the problem you may ask …

Well the problem is there are a lot more themes in this play than simply school. The F word is said a reported 218 times, and the play also features violence, self-harm and suicide. Not exactly suitable for teenagers in any school.

Well, parents of children at Teddington School in West London were outraged when they found out that their children were actually studying this play for their Drama GCSE! One mother, Gerardine Stockford, says: “It beggars belief. It is completely unsuitable for young teenagers.”

Mrs Stockford, a former social worker, said that her daughter had studied the play from last Spring until Christmas. She said: “I’m no prude but this play was absolutely saturated with swearing. I counted almost 400 expletives. On top of that the play deals with some very dark themes and includes racist, sexist and homophobic language. I think it is very irresponsible of the school to teach this kind of material to a class full of 14-year-olds.”

Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said yesterday: “Mogadishu’s excessive use of foul language and its treatment of such themes as racism, bullying, violence, self-harm and suicide may prove profoundly disturbing to some youngsters.”

Jeremy Law, Teddington’s acting head, said: “The play deals with a lot of challenging contemporary themes and asks the audience to challenge and judge the values and behaviour of the protagonists. The responses from our students were very mature, thoughtful and well considered. Students allowed themselves to be moved by its themes rather than be hung up on the sometimes gritty vernacular.” Not going to beat around the bush here, I think this acting head might have a few screws loose. It’s one thing taking on contemporary plays instead of simply doing age old plays like Shakespeare, but it does need to be appropriate to the kids, and this one simply isn’t.

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‘I was bullied at school and now I support new victims’

I saw this article in the London Evening Standard on the train yesterday and was quite surprised.

One of Britain’s best loved children’s authors has revealed that she was bullied at school and praised children nowadays for being willing to talk about the problem.

Jacqueline Wilson, who did not tell anyone about her own experience, said she receives more letters from victims of bullying than ever before. The Tracy Beaker creator said she tries to answer letters “like a kind auntie” so children know that somebody sympathises with their plight.

Speaking to the Evening Standard to support the Get London Reading campaign, she said: “I went through a term where I was bullied by some other girls and I didn’t dream of telling anybody, even my parents or friends at home. It was something I put up with miserably. It’s a good thing it is more out in the open now and we can discuss things. Adults are far more concerned about children’s welfare, too.”

Wilson added that there were not necessarily more bullies around nowadays but victims were more willing to seek help. She said: “More children are writing to me about bullying. Some of them are having a rough time and it’s horrible. Sometimes a kid might have said ‘you look stupid’ to them. Children are much more conscious of teasing and bullying, so stuff that 20 years ago may have been considered banter between children now sometimes children worry about it more.”

Wilson’s 100th book will be published this year. Her trademark theme is young people struggling with less-than-perfect lives, covering topics such as bullying, divorce and alcoholism.

She added that despite the letters about bullying, children are still “resilient and eager to have a good time”.

Wilson spoke out on a visit to St Monica’s Roman Catholic Primary school in Hackney, where she read to children as part of the literacy campaign. The school has seven reading volunteers funded by the Evening Standard and the Mayor’s Fund, and trained and selected by partner charity Beanstalk.

Backing the campaign, Wilson said: “Reading is my greatest pleasure and anything that enables children to enjoy books too is a winner. I am a great believer in reading aloud to children, right from when they are toddlers you can share stories together. It is difficult now because most families are terribly busy… so volunteers coming into schools who are not there to try to impart information but just there to be a friendly person to help you enjoy reading is a brilliant idea.”

Wilson, 68, who continues to write two books a year, said the key to getting children to read was to find one book that they love.

Now it has to be said, I’m not heavily familiar with Jacqueline Wilson’s works, aside from Tracy Beaker, which I remember reading when I was in Year 5 as part of a Literacy topic we were doing. When I was of that age, I found it hard to appreciate it. But it seems that looking at this I might have to pick up a couple of her books. If anyone has a favourite let me know!

Teacher in every school dedicated to ‘maintaining order’

Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt has today announced that he promises that every school in England and Wales will have a teacher dedicated to maintaining order.

He said these specialist discipline teachers will be required to add simulated exercises to their training to ensure all who qualify are “classroom ready”. This almost seems like a response to Sir Michael Wilshaw’s recent comments about NQTs entering the profession unprepared.

Hunt is known to believe that discipline is the single biggest issue that motivates most voters about education, and in an article designed to court readers of the Sun, he promises to outflank the education secretary, Michael Gove, by being tough on classroom behaviour. “For any great teacher, at the heart of it is behaviour management and concentration in the classroom,” he writes, adding “standards in our schools and kids getting jobs depend on it”.

Successive education secretaries have promised to act on discipline with policies ranging from quicker expulsions of disruptive children to improved pupil referral units.

It is not clear how much substance lies behind Hunt’s promise, made in a speech in which he sets out his plans for teachers to be subject to relicensing. He called for teachers to have a 2 year license, which could be revoked if they under-perform. To me this seems a bit extreme given the fact that we are trying to get teachers in the profession. Knowing they could be out and trying to find another career in 2 years is a real issue.

Hunt writes in the Sun: “Playing on smartphones. Wandering around the class. Chattering on the back row. Then there is the more extreme stuff. On average, 55 assaults take place in our schools every day. Five minutes stamping out disruption in every lesson taught means [each] pupil loses around 130 hours of learning a year,” he adds.

Hunt points out a recent report by the school inspectorate Ofsted revealed weak classroom discipline as one of the biggest blocks for children’s progress – sparking bullying, absenteeism and worse results. He asks: “Surely the very least we can expect as parents is that teachers have had training in teaching and how to control a class? No child can concentrate amidst chaos. And no teacher should have to fear for their safety. So Labour would put improved behaviour at the heart of all teacher training. We would train up a new generation of behaviour experts to boost classroom discipline.”

Teachers stop moaning!

Well Sir Michael Wilshaw really does like to cause controversy, that much we know. But this is so controversial in a weird way I find it amusing.

Teachers should stop “moaning”, as they risk putting off potential recruits to the profession, Ofsted’s chief inspector said today.

Sir Michael Wilshaw claimed that too often the main classroom unions “endlessly list” the problems involved in teaching and “ignore its triumphs”.

By portraying teachers as “perpetual victims”, Sir Michael added, teachers’ leaders risk “infantilising” the profession, while also “depressing recruitment”.

“Far too many of those who claim to represent the profession endlessly list its problems and ignore its triumphs,” Sir Michael said. “Of course, teachers have their complaints. Of course, there are grievances. But there is a difference between a professional with a legitimate criticism and a serial complainer with another moan. One tends to be listened to; the other does not.”

He also adds that teaching can be ‘pure magic’ and called for the workforce to celebrate it’s profession. I don’t know about anyone else but for me, this current government and Ofsted aren’t necessarily giving us a lot to celebrate about at the moment, with a new curriculum coming in and a host of new schools that don’t adhere to the National Curriculum in the first place, almost breaking down our national education system into a series of local education systems, in a similar way to the US have varying laws for differing states.

His remarks drew stinging criticism from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), which said that the chief inspector needed to concentrate more on turning Ofsted into a more effective inspection agency.

“[Sir] Michael Wilshaw needs to stop picking fights with the teaching profession and focus on making Ofsted an inspection agency that is remotely fit for purpose,” Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, said.

“What’s putting off people from entering the workforce is the fact teachers have excessive workloads, and mounting bureaucracy created by Ofsted. If anybody is undermining the profession, it is Her Majesty’s chief inspector who is too busy picking fights.”

Sir Michael was speaking at the North of England Education Conference in Nottingham, where he also questioned the quality of teacher training on offer in many universities and criticised the support given by schools to newly qualified teachers (NQTs). Too often, he said, training providers were sending NQTs into the classroom unprepared.

“It is a national scandal that we invest so much in teacher training and yet an estimated 40 per cent of new entrants leave within five years,” Sir Michael added.

The figures mean that Ofsted will be “much tougher” on training providers, as well as schools, who do not support NQTs starting out in the classroom. From September, every Section 5 inspection will seek the views of NQTs to hear how well-supported they are by their school and their training provider, which will then be reflected in the provider’s overall inspection grade.

One response to this I found particularly striking was a tweet I saw from GuardianTeach writer Mike Britland, who wrote: ‘Not a staff room moaner but why doesn’t Wilshaw look at current pay, conditions & talking down of teachers as a reason for the dropouts?’ It is no secret that teaching is a heavily underpaid profession, given how important it is to the economy and jobs market. It doesn’t help that we are relentlessly being attacked by Wilshaw, which will reduce our morale. But Wilshaw in a way does have a point. Training providers must be able to support NQTs etc, but what he said isn’t true for all providers. I would love to see him go through a current teacher training course and see how ‘unprepared’ he is after he leaves. Might be quite a shock. I would love to see him and Gove in a classroom and observe them teaching a lesson, given that they determine how our profession works.

Good news for free school fans

Well they may have been put under serious scrutiny by just about everyone in the profession since they came in, and had plenty of mixed reviews, but today brings some good news for the government about their Free School programme.

A school in one of the poorest parts of Britain is sending six pupils to Oxford or Cambridge University, putting it on a par with some of the most famous public schools.

The performance of pupils at the London Academy of Excellence — known as “the Eton of the East End” — is as good as Millfield achieved last year, where six pupils accepted Oxbridge places. The academy, based in Stratford, east London, also compares well with schools such as Gordonstoun, where Prince Charles was a pupil, according to Janette Wallis, editor of the Good Schools Guide.

The academy has secured more Oxbridge offers than all the schools in the borough of Newham managed last year. Michael Gove, the education secretary, is likely to hail the result as a triumph for his free school programme, even though there are clearly failures in the system as some are set to close and some have very high profile incidences of failure, such as the Al-Madinah school in Derby.

The academy, which has been open for only 16 months, is the first free school to be backed by private schools, including Brighton College, Eton, Roedean, City of London and Highgate. Teenagers must wear business-style suits and the school day ends at 5pm. It was set up with the aim of getting bright children from poor families “into the very top universities”, it offers only “hard” A-levels such as maths, history or physics and half its teachers are Oxbridge graduates.

The pupils celebrating their success last week are from the first year of the sixth-form college to take A-levels. Nearly all said they had thought Oxbridge was out of their reach.

Audrey Walela, 18, the daughter of an immigrant nurse, has an offer from Oxford to read human sciences while Onkar Singh, 18, the son of a builder, is going to Downing College, Cambridge, to read modern languages. He sat by the window for three hours waiting for the postman to deliver the letter offering him a place and says his mother “started crying immediately” when he broke the news…

The academy was the brainchild of Richard Cairns, head of Brighton College, whose work as a governor of Kingsford Community School in Newham had convinced him of the area’s need for a college to prepare pupils for the top universities. “My ambition was for it to secure as many Oxbridge places as a typical independent school. I’m thrilled this has been achieved at the first time of trying,” he said.

Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the governors and former head of Harrow, said: “We are very pleased with these results which suggest there is much untapped potential in the state sector. But we have only been open for four terms: this is just the beginning.”

Tony Little, headmaster at Eton, said one of the next challenges would be to encourage more white working-class children to apply to the academy. Only time will tell if this school gets stronger and stronger. It does help to have some very high profile backers though.

Government secretive about free schools: One woman’s battle for the truth

We all know that free schools are being approved up and down the country whether we like them or not. What we don’t know is how the government choose which ones to approve and which ones to reject. Well the Guardian published an article by Laura McInerney, who is taking on the DfE in a legal battle to force the government to release this information under the Freedom of Information Act. Here is what she says;

I never intended to involve the lawyers. Really, I didn’t. I made a simple request for information from the Department for Education, expecting they would just hand it over. But, rather than release it, Michael Gove, the education secretary, has told MPs he will do “everything possible” to stop me getting it. In the coming months, his department is taking the Information Commissioner – and me – to a tribunal in an attempt to block its release under the Freedom of Information Act.

This whole saga started 15 months ago, when I submitted what I thought was a simple request for information to the DfE. What explosive material did I want? A surprisingly dry package: the application forms sent in by people applying to run free schools, and the letters later sent back explaining whether or not they were successful. Hardly the Pentagon Papers.

To say I am surprised the DfE is behaving in this way is an understatement. I thought the request was a no-brainer.

For the uninitiated, the free schools policy, introduced in 2010, allows any group of people to apply to the DfE for funding to open a state school. The government talked at the time about the policy’s prior successes in America and Sweden, but the lesson of the American experience is that some US states do it well and some do it badly. To further research the topic, I took a break from my job as a secondary teacher, and in August 2012 accepted a Fulbright scholarship to study at the University of Missouri.

It quickly became apparent to me that implementation matters – and the application process is critical. If taxpayer money is being handed out to members of the public, we need the government to be savvy about which groups they back and why.

So I decided to ask for the applications and the basis of the government’s choices – a process that is otherwise entirely opaque. Prior to 2010, the opening of new schools was far more transparent. The reasons for accepting or rejecting all new school bids were routinely published on the Schools Adjudicator website. Local authorities published school bid information when running new school competitions. Naively, I assumed the government would maintain this level of openness.

The information, however, was nowhere to be found.

I therefore asked for it from the DfE, using the Freedom of Information Act. The act is not well known, but it embeds in law the presumption that information held by public authorities is open to anyone who asks for it, unless there is a specific reason not to disclose. And, usually, even if there are reasons why the government would prefer not to give the information, those reasons must be balanced against public interest. As I saw it, if this sort of information had been available before, why not now?

Yet the DfE rejected my request – twice. Among the reasons given was that releasing the information “would allow opponents of free school applications to attack applications more easily and could undermine local support”. But why shouldn’t the public know about any issues with the applications? It is our money paying for the schools and our children walking into them. It also claimed the amount of information released would be “overwhelming”. Given that the department trusted me to teach people’s children, I’m fairly certain I can handle reading some application forms.

Nevertheless, the department disagreed. When a public authority turns down a request even after you have appealed to it, you can then appeal – free – to the Information Commissioner’s Office, an independent authority whose job it is to uphold information rights.

I was reluctant to go down this route, but was encouraged by FOI campaigners. As one pointed out: “A response is not a favour to be granted, it is a legal obligation. You are a member of the public, and you are paying their wages. You have a right to the information.” In the past 15 months, I have repeated this point to myself time and again.

Getting an ICO judgment was not quick, but their officers were extremely helpful. My case worker constantly and professionally explained the legal oddities and remained upbeat. Yet each time there was progress, the DfE would raise a new point – dragging the whole process on for months.

In July 2013, I was finally told the ICO was near a decision. Nothing. By September, the draft notice was apparently ready. Still nothing. In October, I wrote asking for an update. Nearly there. By mid-November, I had practically given up when an email from the ICO dropped into my inbox.

I had won, and then some.

Figuring it out was not easy. Flicking through the 17-page judgment, written in legalese, I struggled to understand what it meant, but the following line made it all worthwhile: “The Commissioner considers that the public interest factors in favour of the disclosure of the withheld information are very strong.”

This was not a half-hearted judgment. The ICO argued that the case for disclosure was “very strong” and it would provide “considerable information about the implementation of a relatively new and very important education policy”.

The news was timely, arriving hot on the heels of troubling free school developments. Al-Madinah free school’s Ofsted report labelled it “dysfunctional” and inadequate in every category. King’s Science academy in Bradford is being investigated for fraud. Discovery New School, Crawley, is considered so problematic that it must close before the end of the academic year.

And these free schools have been no small cost to the taxpayer. A recent National Audit Office report price the policy at over £1.1bn. Of this, more than £700,000 was spent on schools that passed the application stage but never opened, and £241m went on schools that opened in areas with lots of spare local school places. The NAO report also noted that some high-scoring free-school applications were rejected, but some low-scoring ones were accepted. Why? On what basis? No answer is given.

How can the public be sure ministers weren’t waving through applications from their mates and turning down those whose faces didn’t fit? We can’t. Without the applications being public, there is no way of knowing if the process was corrupt, or not.

Also, school applicants must include evidence of local “demand” or “need” for their proposed school, usually gathered during a required local consultation. But how can residents know that the reported results of the consultations are fair? There is nothing to stop applicants from writing that everyone was positive at the event even if the exact opposite is true.

Of course, amid this mess some free schools are doing marvellously. I recently visited Greenwich free school, one of the most over-subscribed schools launched under the policy. I was impressed with the teaching, and the pupils, and I spent time discussing with school leaders how the school might continue being great. In fact, it is precisely because I want free schools to be great that transparency is so important.

No one benefits by having applications locked in a dusty vault. In fact, in the US, supporters of the policy – such as the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools – actively press for total transparency around the process. In this country it would build public support, prevent cronyism and allow prospective applicants in areas with huge primary school place shortages to learn from the best applications and improve their chance of getting the school they need.

And so I ended 2013 much as I finished 2012 – sitting down, for the second New Year’s Eve in a row, to write an appeal against the DfE’s counterproductive desire for secrecy. This one, however, will be sent to a judge in the First-tier Tribunal, who will hear the case brought by the DfE against the ICO and me. These courts are designed with lay people in mind, and no legal aid is available, so I am likely to be representing myself.

Surrounded by highlighters, guidance documents and notes, I veer between feeling like Erin Brockovich [the US activist – played by Julia Roberts in a movie – who fought an energy company over contaminated water] and a 12-year-old trying my best with a history project. Still, parents, teachers, pupils and local residents deserve absolute openness in the operation of our schools. I plan to do everything possible to make sure they get it. After all, as I have told myself for the millionth time, transparency is a right – not a favour.

The tribunal is expected to take place in the summer of this year, and I will of course be bringing you the outcome as and when it happens.

Get Gove in the classroom!

While, Michael Gove remains wrapped in a battle over his analysis of World War One, he may soon be encouraged to return to the classroom to brush up on more than just his history.

A petition on 38degrees.org has gathered almost 100,000 signatures, calling for the Education Secretary to return to the classroom for a term to see how the teaching profession really works.

Amy Neill, who started the petition, is a teacher herself. She wrote: “We would like you to teach a class of primary children for at least half a term in order to appreciate and respect what a challenging job we actually do. It is absolutely absurd that, in this day and age, the secretary for education, who has the power to make important changes, has no grasp on the education system and what teachers do.”

At the time of writing, the petition had gained over 96,000 signatures, and looks set to reach its six-figure target within days.

A range of teachers, students, journalists and members of the public have got on board with the petition, which was started six months ago.

Sam C, who signed the petition two days ago, commented: “Gove telling teachers how to teach is like a child telling a surgeon how to remove an appendix because they’ve played a game of operation.”

Hilary N said: “I wouldn’t want my child to be in his class!”

Ian C said “The Right Honourable Gentleman really should have a clue what he’s talking about, rather than the busking he does basked on 1/2 remembered episodes of Grange Hill.”

Well we all know Gove’s employment history. Before entering the cabinet, he was a journalist. We know how biased journalists can be dependent on the political party their paper supports. I signed this petition because I want to see the look on Gove’s face when he realises that he cannot do the job he governs, and thinks he knows how to solve the problems which he knows very little about.

A no nonsense attitude towards cyberbullying

Well I have to say it’s not very often I find an article that’s from Fox News. But I saw this circulating round on Facebook so I thought I’d spread the word. Ironically Facebook is part of the topic.

Two girls have been arrested in the death of a 12-year-old central Florida girl who authorities say committed suicide after being bullied online by several girls for nearly a year, a sheriff said.

A Facebook post from one of the girls saying she didn’t care about the suicide of 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick led police to the arrests, according to Sheriff Grady Judd. The suspects, ages 12 and 14, have been charged with felony aggravated stalking, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. “We decided, look, we can’t leave her out there,” Judd said. “Who else is she going to torment? Who else is she going to harass? Who is the next person she verbally and mentally abuses and attacks?”

Judd held a press conference on Tuesday morning and said authorities acted fast because even though the accused girls’ parents were contacted by police about Sedwick’s death, the parents did not cooperate with police and the girls were still able to use their social media accounts.

“The parents were not doing what parents are supposed to do,” Judd said. “My goodness, wake up, girl.”

He said police moved in and made the arrests because it was unclear if the girls would pick a new victim. Judd said Sedwick was “terrorized” by as many as 15 girls who ganged up on her and picked on her for months through online message boards and texts. Some of the girls’ computers and cellphones were seized in the investigation. He said the two girls arrested were the major culprits. One of the suspects had been dating Sedwick’s former boyfriend. The two had gone to the same school where, at one point, there was a physical confrontation between the girls.

The girl who had been dating Sedwick’s former boyfriend went to friends around the school and tried to have them turn on Sedwick, Judd said. The girl posted comments on the Internet saying Sedwick should “drink bleach and die,” Judd said. The second girl arrested was a former best friend of Sedwick’s who was influenced by the other girl to turn on her, Judd said.

A man who answered the phone at the 14-year-old’s Lakeland home identified himself as her father. He told The Associated Press that his daughter was “a good girl” and he was “100 percent sure that whatever they’re saying about my daughter is not true.”

Judd said the girls face felony charges because of Sedwick’s age. Though Florida has adopted a bullying law, Judd said the sheriff’s office was not likely pursuing any other charges against the girls. Judd said he released the names and pictures of the girls who were arrested because they’re accused felons. Fox News is not releasing their names or pictures because they are minors.

A 12-year-old girl was also arrested in the case. A message left at her Lakeland home was not immediately returned.

Sedwick’s mother removed her from the school after the 2012 school year, but the bullying continued on the girl’s cellphone via social media, Judd said. On Sept. 9, Sedwick climbed a tower at an abandoned concrete plant and jumped to her death, authorities said.

After the suicide, police looked at the girl’s computer and found search queries for topics including “what is overweight for a 13-year-old girl,” “how to get blades out of razors” and “how many over-the-counter drugs do you take to die.” One of her screensavers also showed Sedwick with her head resting on a railroad track.

Florida has a bullying law named after a teenager who killed himself after being harassed by classmates. Amended July 1st to cover cyberbullying, the law leaves punishment to schools, though law enforcement also can seek more traditional charges.

Both girls were charged as juveniles with third-degree felony aggravated stalking. If convicted, it’s not clear how much time, if any at all, the girls would spend in juvenile detention because they did not have any previous criminal history, the sheriff said. “Time may not be the best trainer here. We’ve got the change this behavior of these children,” Judd said.

We wouldn’t see that in this country at the moment would we? All we are seeing is the government wanting social networks and other webs to provide stronger filters to stamp out access to pornography, but the rest of cyberbullying seems to be prevalent, and the answer is simply tell kids about it through education. It is important to remember that cyberbullying is rife in our world at this moment in time, largely due to the amount of access through smartphones, tablets and other technology. The question needs to be asked is who monitors children’s access to the internet. I am aware that we do not wish to literally look over our children’s shoulder, but it is quite clear that there isn’t enough out there. It’s very easy to hide behind a username or a false facebook name to target someone, but it’s much harder to hide typing it if they are unsupervised. I personally would like to see more kids being arrested and made to suffer the consequences of their actions.

How to prepare for exams properly

Exams are often a taboo word for many who have to take them, mostly due to the obvious pressure that they involve and the fact that it requires revising often a year’s worth of work (two years when these new GCSEs come in) to regurgitate in the exam room.

Revision is often varied in it’s approach too. There are some who are methodical in their revision, planning breaks during time and making concept maps. Others decide to revise everything the night before, which in the profession we give the term ‘cramming’. I’m sure we all know people who have done both of these.

Well research published from Sheffield University provides bad news for those who choose the latter approach. It showed leaving a day between practice sessions was a much better way of gaining skills than continuous play. Researcher Tom Stafford says this reflects how memories are stored.

Prof Stafford, a psychologist from the University of Sheffield, was able to analyse how people around the world improved when playing the Axon computer game. He found a clear pattern showing that people were more successful when gaps were left between sessions of playing.

Leaving a day between sessions did not weaken performance, but strengthened it, says Prof Stafford. This is because it makes better use of how the brain stores information, he says.

Cramming for long intense stretches ahead of a test might feel like more is being learned, says Prof Stafford, but this is illusory. A better way of revising or learning is to plan over a much longer period, with substantial breaks between study sessions. For instance, practising a skill for two hours and then taking a day-long break before practising for another two hours was more effective than practising continuously for four hours.

Prof Stafford, who analysed the data with Michael Dewar from The New York Times Research and Development Lab, says this study of such a big sample of online game players provides a useful template for understanding other types of learning. It suggests that the volume of learning is less important than how that time is structured.

“The study suggests that learning can be improved. You can learn more efficiently or use the same practice time to learn to a higher level,” says Prof Stafford.

One might also choose to apply this to our school day. Does this research mean that being in school from 9am till 3pm every weekday with possibly up to an hour and a half break mixed in there is not conducive to effective learning for our children? I would imagine those who homeschool their children might look at this and feel a sense of support for their decision. I guess the long break in terms of school timetables could be the weekend. Either way it’s an interesting dilemma.

The truth behind performance related pay

Performance related pay is just one of the many factors causing some teaching unions to launch waves of strikes. What they don’t actually look into is what this might mean for wages. Let’s take a good look at them and see what those who went on strike think about it.

The best-performing teachers could earn higher wages within a much quicker time frame than under a time-based system, according to research by the right-leaning thinktank. But implementation must be fair, transparent and reward real excellence, it said. In a paper released on Friday , the thinktank welcomes the move, which came into effect in September, but recommends the system include an evaluation based on several measures, not just test or exam scores. Financial rewards should be based on increases in base salary, rather than through bonuses, and performance-related pay must be used as a real reward for excellence and not as a way of holding down the overall pay bill, it said.

So what wages can you earn as a teacher at present? Well, qualified teachers in maintained schools currently earn a minimum of £21,804, or £27,270 in inner London. Senior teachers can make up to £57,520, or £64,677 in the capital, while headteachers can expect a salary of between £42,803 and £113,303. What we can see from this is that the longer you are teaching, the more you earn up to the point you retire.

Under a performance-related pay system, rather than a time-based system, teachers would be able to earn up to £70,000 a year within an estimated five to eight years compared with 12 years to reach a salary of £52,000. This could attract more graduates to the profession, driving up the quality of teaching in schools. What this actually means is that teachers could earn a greater amount of money within a shorter time frame, so long as they perform at the level they are capable of. Am I mistaken or wasn’t ‘pay and conditions’ cited as the reason for all these strikes? I wonder if any teacher who went on strike actually thought about this.

Despite vocal objections from unions, most teachers welcome the principle behind it. A YouGov poll for the report published in September found that 89% of teachers want to be paid based on the quality of their teaching.

Jonathan Simons, head of education at Policy Exchange, said teachers should be treated like professionals, and schools allowed flexibility to reward their best teachers. “That’s why we believe that performance-related pay is necessary in English schools, and why we think so much of the ideological opposition to the reforms is misguided. But we agree with the thoughtful teachers who support this in principle but are cautious about how it will be implemented. To see the benefits we need to have a carefully designed system that works properly and which is transparent and fair.”

We are of course yet to see how this system will work as it is only entering it’s 5th month of activity so we’re yet to see any results. What will be interesting is how many of these unions will regret the disruption and carnage that they caused to our profession’s reputation with all this industrial action when they find their wages have gone up! If we truly are performing well as teachers, we will earn more, and why shouldn’t we. The best deserve more money. I’m not motivated by money but I certainly would want be paid more if I was a teacher who gets results than a teacher who doesn’t, although I can definitely see a sense of rivalry developing in the staff room.