Consciously Cruel ‘no-excuses’ policies…in the Job Centre and at School.

Those of you who have got to know me on twitter over the last few months may have been aware that there was a charity screening in Norwich recently of the film I, Daniel Blake. I'll be honest with you, I had not actually seen the film before seeing it at this screening, and although …

Continue reading Consciously Cruel ‘no-excuses’ policies…in the Job Centre and at School.


Responding in kind

Primary Musings

The thing about educators is that they love helping people learn and this often includes the desire to teach other teachers. Sometimes this comes in a nice, helpful guise, like “Hey, this is working really well for me, you could try it if you like.” Sometimes it comes in a less helpful guise, such as, “If you don’t do it my way, you obviously hate children and are actively trying to destroy their future.” And sometimes, this responsibility for helping others to learn positions us to react to things on their behalf. So we sit in a CPD session on behaviour management and think, “I hope Miss Smith is listening to this because her class are terrible.” Or we listen to a talk on values and think, “Thank goodness they’re emphasising teamwork because last week Mr Jones was mean.” Or we read a blog post on kindness and make a list of…

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The Emperor’s New Pedagogy

Vince Ulam


The False Dichotomy

There is a modish crowd abroad who believe that psychology is the cloth of gold from which pedagogy is to be spun and tailored. While it is true that psychology informs good pedagogy, wanton appeal to it as a cover for self-promotion, private consultancy and pedagogical reform should not go unchallenged.

To give an opening example, decades worth of very significant research by leading psychologists into the role of memory in learning processes has been used to persuade hundreds of people teaching thousands of pupils across the country that a flashcard scaled to A4, laminated and called a “knowledge organiser” is the ultimate product of cutting edge cognitive science and every pupil’s passport to Oxbridge. Persuaded of this, you are a “traditionalist“, a champion of knowledge and all-round good sort. Sceptical and you are a “progressive“, brainwashed by Marxist constructionist ITT mandarins you…

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Meaning v decoding, is it really v?

This makes a lot of sense to me. The search for meaning is the essence of life, and as you have clearly explained this is what every child is created to do. I can remember doing just that when learning to read. Trying to link things in a myroad of ways, and certainly phonics was a very minor part of what was useful to me as a child. In fact, I would go far as to say that phonics, on some level, only made sense AFTER I had already leant to read. It has it’s place, but it was more of a tool in a much much wider tool-kit.



This blog is about the relationship between decoding and meaning in reading. There will be no attempt to undermine or insult anyone who believes that children should be taught to focus more on one or the other. I have read a lot of research about reading, but I won’t quote it here. I might not quote any Greek philosophers either, sorry. There is research about reading and there is research about learning to read. I’ve read lots of both. I’ve acted on some of it. I write what I write here based on teaching my own children to read before I began teacher training; my training as a class teacher, and my special training as a specialist teacher of reading including the teaching of phonics, systematically. I write what I write also, mainly, because I have sat all day every day for the last 10 years next to struggling readers…

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