Archive of Curriculum Pedagogy and Assessment stories

Toughening up young teachers: Is Teach First really the answer to perceived problems in initial teacher education?

From January 9th BBC 3 began broadcasting a six part series on Thursday nights called ‘Tough Young Teachers’, which follows the experiences of six graduates as they train to teach in challenging schools under the Teach First programme. Reaction from the media has been predictable – in a recent Sunday Times article titled ‘School of Hard Knocks’, Sian Griffiths  championed the cause of these beginning teachers under the strapline ‘An army of high-flying, idealistic young graduates is winning a tough battle to raise standards in some of Britain’s most deprived schools’. Depictions of the schools in which these new recruits train are uniformly bleak, as are most of the pupils they encounter; in direct contrast to the schools in which the trainees were themselves educated (Charterhouse in the case of one of the main trainees featured in Griffith’s article, Charles Wallendahl).

The statistics about Teach First are interesting: following the charity’s launch 11 years ago some 5,000 teachers have trained under its auspices. Trainees receive six weeks’ leadership training followed by two years of ‘on the job’ experience, which will gain them a teaching qualification. The target for recruitment in 2014/15 is 2,000, of whom just over 50% will stay in teaching following qualification (based on trends revealed in previous data from Teach First).  The Chief Executive of Teach First is Brett Wigdortz, a management consultant who established a similar programme in the US under the banner ‘Teach for America’ – he is obviously someone who is driven by the ways in which children in disadvantaged circumstances can be better taught. Tellingly though, as Griffiths makes clear in her article, ‘Teach First is backed by leading companies including Accenture and Deloitte, and an undoubted lure is the chance of a job with one of the sponsors after the first two years of teaching’.

Clearly it would be nonsensical to dissuade high flying graduates from coming into the teaching profession. What is less clear is whether models of initial teacher education (ITE) which focus on the ‘training’, rather than ‘education’, of new teachers – often without the significant involvement of higher education – are the most appropriate in preparing them for life in the classroom. School-led models of training have ideological roots (as, of course, may university-based courses) that can have a damaging effect on the future growth of the teaching profession. Clyde Chitty (2009) is characteristically unambiguous when he asserts that ‘’education’ is all about transforming the mind so as to equip us for independent judgement and rational action; whereas ‘training’ should be directed towards practical skills for particular ends’. Acquiring a toolbox of skills as a teacher is not enough; and, as such, being a good teacher ‘cannot be achieved by a short stint of ‘on-the-job’ training’. The choice of routes into teaching is wide, but arguably they are not of equal quality (and, worryingly, possession of a teaching qualification is not an essential attribute of those who teach in free schools or academies). Partnerships between schools and universities have served generations of new teachers well in their preparation for the classroom – the experience of learning to teach requires appropriate support and is, in part, an intellectual endeavour. Surely a route into teaching that requires additional reserves of toughness from new recruits, while at the same time exhibiting a reductionist view of teaching as simply a ‘craft’ that has no need of either theory or research, is far from ideal?

Graham Butt


Chitty, C (2009) Initial Teacher Training or Education? ITT or ITE? Forum, Vol 51 (2) p.259-261

Wednesday lunch Time Seminar Series

Beginning on 27th November 2013, the School of Education will be hosting a weekly lunchtime research seminar on Wednesdays, 12-1pm, in the Glasgow Room. The intention of the seminar series is to provide an informal space for discussion and dialogue in which staff can present and share on-going research activities. This is a free and open platform for discussing research, and colleagues are encouraged to bring any research items to the meeting, from raising initial exploratory questions, to seeking advice about developing conceptual ideas, to on-going methodological questions, to fully-formed research presentations. Each session will begin with a short (10-25 minute) presentation from a member of academic staff, followed by discussion. Feel free to bring your lunch!

More information here.

Engaged Reading


How much do you read? What do you read? What is your experience of reading?

How does reading for pleasure differ from academic reading? Does the experience of higher education take the pleasure out of reading?

What are the barriers to academic reading? Is reading an uncomfortable experience?

How much do you read for modules? How valuable are module reading lists?

What is your perception of the importance of reading for learning in Higher Education? How do you perceive the connection between reading and academic success?

Does academic literature have the power to transform the reader? What would this mean?


The ‘Engaged Reading’ project aims to investigate these questions in collaboration with students at Oxford Brookes University. We want to work with you to develop course materials and approaches that explore the transformational potential of reading.


If you are interested in becoming involved in the project, please email David Aldridge:

Funded Research Scholarship, School of Education, Oxford Brookes University

The School of Education at Oxford Brookes Universty is looking for strong candidates to apply for one three-year, full-time PhD studentship. The studentship is intended for a candidate who will pursue a PhD project that falls broadly within one of the School’s key thematic research areas:

Learning, Identity and Culture
Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment
Childhood, Families and Community
Educational Purposes, Ethics and Beliefs
Partnership, Policy and Leadership

The closing date for applications is 17.00 on Monday 25th November 2013, with interviews being held during the week of 9th December 2013. The start date for the studentship is January 2014.

Further Details

Call for Papers – Annual Research Conference

School of Education
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Call for Papers
Annual Research Conference
What Counts as Educational Research :
What could it be and what is it for?

Friday July 12th 2013
9 – 4 pm

We are expecting a range of presentations from those who might be just setting out on their research journey (and are therefore still in dilemma over ‘what’ and ‘how’) as well as those who will be experienced (and able to share final outcomes and recommendations of a rigorous study or well justified ‘thought’ piece).

If you have any queries about whether your paper would be appropriate or not please contact one of the conference committee.

The conference committee also welcomes symposia from research groups (that is a collection of short papers taking juxtaposed views on a particular issue).

All paper presentations should be 20 mins (with up to 10 minutes for Q & A).
Symposiums should last a total of 1 hour.

Please send in a document with the following information (below) if you intend to present.

It is intended that all papers presented will be collated as a collection and published through the SoE.

Deadline for submission : June 10th (to be emailed to Christine Gahan

Further Information

Physical classroom activities to boost the brain and enhance children’s learning: pseudoscience or a credible approach?

Dr Elizabeth McClelland, Move4words Community Interest Company

Wednesday 20th February 5pm (Glasgow Room)

A new not-for-profit innovation in Primary Education, called Move4words, has been developed in Oxford. It is based on the principle that children’s learning can be enhanced through physical classroom activities undertaken in curriculum time. Schools use the programme as an inclusive intervention for the whole class.

Results of 7 years of development and trials in schools across the UK show large impact on KS2 results, reading age and speed, and concentration levels. Almost all children seem to benefit although the greatest impact is seen with pupils performing below the 25th percentile.

In a recent trial in 5 underperforming Oxford schools, following the Move4words programme 40% more children achieved the expected KS2 level in English and Maths than in the three previous years combined.

Participating teachers commented on children’s improvements in concentration and attention, reading, confidence and even punctuality during the 12-week programme.

The Move4words intervention teaches concentration, attention and self-control via progressive and sequential physical, visual and auditory classroom activities. The intervention design is based upon a wide range of academic research which demonstrates that physical, visual and auditory skills are significantly related to good literacy. Physical elements include rhythm/timing, fine and gross motor control and automaticity training.

Some authors have condemned the use of physical classroom activities to improve academic performance. However, recent published research indicates that exercise promotes children’s executive function and enhances learning and academic performance. Furthermore, cognitively-engaging exercise programmes like Move4words appear to have a stronger effect than non-engaging exercise on children’s executive function.

Funded Research Scholarship, School of Education, Oxford Brookes University

The School of Education at Oxford Brookes Universty is looking for strong candidates to apply for one three-year, full-time PhD studentship. The studentship is intended for a candidate who will pursue a PhD project that falls broadly within one of the School’s key thematic research areas:
Learning, Identity and Culture
Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment
Childhood, Families and Community
Educational Purposes, Ethics and Beliefs
Partnership, Policy and Leadership
The closing date for applications is 17.00 on Monday 4th March 2013, with interviews being held during the week of 25th March 2013.

For further details, please see the further information.

The art of the possible…

The next meeting of the Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment Research Group will be on Tuesday 15th January at 12.30pm in BG/29:
Please come along …. and bring your lunch!

Given that people found it difficult to attend the last CPA session before Christmas, I will be repeating the previous seminar entitled :

‘The art of the possible’ – what might be a feasible research project?

This session is designed to discuss ways forward for your research, given your teaching constraints and other work demands.

Besides thinking about research projects, there will also be some time at the end of the session to think about :

1. The most convenient times (and days) to meet in future, and
2. The most effective way to spend our research funds.

We would like to plan ahead to ensure maximum attendance at future meetings. We will also discuss ideas and presentations for future seminars, including those to be led by outside speakers.

What can university philosophy learn from primary philosophy?

Philosophy Society: Peter Worley (Philosophy Foundation)

The event takes place Wednesday 14 November, 4-6pm in FG/01, Harcourt Hill campus.
What can university philosophy learn from primary philosophy?


 Peter Worley (BA MA FRSA) will clarify some key differences between approaches to doing philosophy with children and briefly introduce his own work. He will also briefly answer the question ‘can children do philosophy?’ but will then turn to the question of whether philosophy at tertiary level can learn anything from philosophy at primary level. He will look at the presentation of information, the role of dialogue, assessment and teaching.

The SoE Doing Research “Drop-In”

We propose to launch an SoE ‘Doing Research Drop-In. This would, in the first instance, run as a ‘drop in and chat’ opportunity open to any academic colleagues in the SoE. It is intended to offer advice/share in discussion on any matter pertaining to research activity ranging from scholarship and academic writing to research project management and knowledge exchange partnership. It is open to all academic staff in the SoE.

The drop-in might for example seek to work as an academic brokerage as well as provide support for colleagues interested in joining or forming an academic writing group. The reasons for visiting the drop-in might include; a wish to get specific in-put into a set of ideas or interests for a particular project, feedback for a piece of writing; information about an aspect(s) of research; and more generally simply a desire to talk and think about personal or professional development in relation to research, writing and scholarship.

There should hopefully be no reason for colleagues to feel alone or bemused about options for developing their own personal research plan and scholarship. It would be useful if you have some specific topic or issue to discuss that you email before hand indicating what it is so that some preparation might be organised by the member of the drop-in group before the conversation.

We propose to run a pilot this semester. In the first instance, the drop-in is to run once a fortnight as the SoE Doing Research Drop-In. The team will comprise: Professors Steve Rayner, Graham Butt, Deb McGregor, Simon Catling, Mary Fuller, Marlene Morrison.

The venue is will be D4/104 [the room next to mine above the PGR Study Room. The proposed schedule/rota [this may be subject to change] for this semester/term is as follows:

November 06th 1100-1200 Steve Rayner
November 06th 1200-1300 Deb McGregor
November 13th 1100-1200 Marlene Morrison
November 13th 1200-1300 Graham Butt
November 27th 1100-1200 Simon Catling
November 27th 1200-1300 Mary Fuller
December 11th 1100-1200 Deb McGregor
December 11th 1200-1300 Graham Butt