The PTE Newsletter – Friday 7 May

We hope everyone’s week has gone smoothly. It’s a busy time for everyone involved with schools, this year especially so. Wherever you are, and whatever your role with young people, thanks for everything you’re doing to keep the show on the road.

The PTE Philosophy: Knowledge Rich

PTE, and the educational movement it seeks to support, wishes educational excellence for every child. We believe that this is achieved when all schools have a strong culture and a great curriculum, underpinned by four key mantras: Warm/Strict; Knowledge Rich; High Ambition; Wide Curriculum.

So, what do we mean by… “Knowledge Rich”?

How to help children develop into smart, creative individuals who are able to lead fulfilling happy lives and play a full part in, and shape, society? There is a schism in educational circles between people who believe the best way to do this is with only generalised student-led supervision, versus a careful, structured approach to teaching, in which building blocks of knowledge – facts, ideas, techniques – are taught in a planned and sequenced manner.

As many educational commentators have pointed out, the case for a Knowledge Rich approach is always proved superior. However, as time passes and memory fades, another pied piper appears with a new ‘learning for learning’s sake’ approach, leading for a time, in country after country, to a massive worsening both in the way children are taught and – inevitably – in their resultant skills, level of understanding, and life chances.

In the Knowledge Rich approach, curriculum leaders have carefully and deliberately planned the focus and sequencing of the baseline information that their pupils need to absorb and remember in order to learn, later, the more complex aspects of any topic. A series of building blocks lays a solid foundation on which can be constructed layers of more detailed, complex and specific information, in such a way that key links and connections can be easily understood so as to facilitate a secure grasp of subject matter.

The Knowledge Rich movement has demonstrated, over and over again, that without such a foundation the child’s ability to go on to learn more complex and advanced ideas, techniques and topics is fatally compromised. READ MORE

Latest news & views

The Telegraph reports that the Prime Minister will announce on Monday that secondary school children will no longer have to wear face masks in class. Apparently he will confirm that the Government guidance is changing from May 17, when England moves into the next stage of the reopening roadmap.

There will be mixed reactions to this news. Many teachers will agree with Louise Lewis, who writes in today’s TES “with news headlines reporting increasing numbers of cases abroad, and national absences from school for Covid-related reasons remaining in their thousands – it is apparent that we are far from out of the woods.” And given that the major trade unions have already written to the Secretary of State asking for the requirement to remain for now, it will be interesting to see how things play out.

On a related note, new attendance data from the DfE shows that the number of pupils absent because of potential contact with a Covid case in school has almost doubled in the past week. Just under 47,000 pupils were off last Thursday because of potential contact in-school, up from 25,000 the previous Thursday. The number of confirmed cases only rose from 2,400 to 2,700.

Unions are calling for the government to pay teachers an extra amount this year to recognise the work they are doing to create teacher-assessed grades. Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said that teachers “absolutely deserved” a £400 bonus for the extra workload like their counterparts in Scotland.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said “Instead of recognising their efforts through improved pay, the government has signalled its intention to do the opposite by imposing a pay freeze.”

Hopefully this grades situation will be avoided next year, as Ofqual Chair Ian Bauckham has said that teachers will be made aware of any “significant” changes to the 2022 GCSEs and A level exam series before the start of the next academic year.

The Times reports on the exam board OCR’s consultation asking whether the title of one A-level module, “women in literature”, should be replaced by “gender in literature”, “representing gender” or any other suggestion. It says that this would help pupils better understand the topic. Deputy Head David James disagrees, saying: “To subsume ‘women’ into something vague like ‘gender’ is reductive, but also meaningless because all literature is ‘gendered’ because it is written by human beings. We have to protect what is distinctive about the female experience throughout the centuries. Once lost it will be difficult to reclaim.”

It’s all very interesting stuff.

Have a wonderful weekend!