It may be a shock to some, but 2017 is nearly over. Though, as always, the year may feel like it has flew past surprisingly quickly, the sheer amount of great educational blogs might suggest otherwise. To mark the end of the year, we’ve put together our list of the best primary Maths and school leadership blogs in 2017, to celebrate the fantastic work teacher-bloggers do to share good practice with others.
From Ofsted, to teacher workload, SATs and more, below is our roundup of the top educational blog posts from primary teachers and leaders in 2017. For our picks this year, we’ve focused on blogs based around Maths teaching and primary school leadership, as that is where our speciality lies.
It is worth noting that these blogs are not ordered from best to worst, they’re all brilliant and all worth a read!
Top Blog 1: Clare Sealy – Confessions Of A Primary Headteacher: Why My School Banned Marking
We don’t like to brag too much too often, but the blog we asked Clare Sealy to write for us on banning marking was one of the most read and shared blogs of the year.
In it, she describes how she went from “introducing a rigorous marking system, involving green pens, stickers, dialogic marking, the lot…” to banning marking for the summer term.
She also discusses the negative impacts of marking: massive workload, an erroneous conflation of marking and feedback, and lack of impact in Maths. As well as the benefits to minimal marking policies, and why headteachers shouldn’t be afraid to make changes to school policy.
Perfectly blending theory and practical approaches, Clare’s writings are an essential read for any school leader or teacher:
We look forward to seeing what she puts to task next year!
Top Blog 2: John Tomsett – This Much I Know About…Treating Teachers Well and Helping Them Manage Workload
In his recent blog, Headteacher John Tomsett summarises a DfE Delivery Unit review of teacher workload in his school in Huntingdon. Detailing how his school helps teachers manage their workload.
The school’s approach to teacher workload is so positive it led Sean Harford to describe it as such:
I am currently reading a summary of a school’s approach to teacher workload that is thoughtful, caring and highly effective. So effective in fact that it is one of the driving forces in this school recently being judged outstanding, not despite it! It can be done.
— Sean Harford (@HarfordSean) December 5, 2017
Which makes it all the more valuable when John shares the summary notes of the visit, containing observations on how they manage workload so well.
Top Blog 3: Brian Walton – Breaking Heads, How Far Is Too Far?
A stalwart of the #Edutwitter blogosphere, @OldPrimaryHead1 (a.k.a Brian Walton) is known for his honest and open accounts of life as a school leader.
However, his recent post, ‘Breaking Headteachers‘, on the stress of teaching and his subsequent impotency struck a chord with many in the profession. It’s truly an an excellent (and often upsetting) read.
Frequently calling out the education system with great #OfstedMusic song lyrics and even better blogs, Brian’s blogs include:
• The Power Of Sorry – School Leaders Who Dare To Apologise
• Confessions of a Headteacher: Keeping It Simple, The Secret To Primary School Leadership
• So Much Rides On Today’s SATs Results – It Threatens My Wellbeing As a School Leader
Topical Maths Festive Pack: Years 3-6
Includes a range of problem solving activities to boost your pupils' problem solving and reasoning skills, some with a festive twist!
Top Blog 4: Sue Cowley – SATsholm Syndrome
I’m sure we all remember the #SATsShambles of 2017, who could forget? Sue Cowley’s blog, ‘SATsholm Syndrome’ took the DfE’s SATs marking to account, for marks like this:
Please tell me that they shouldn’t be this harsh! pic.twitter.com/QX8gclmGaT
— Mrs Dolby (@MrsDolby) July 4, 2017
Fortunately, this child’s KS2 SATs writing marks were appealed (alongside other ‘similarly harsh’ marks), and the appeal was accepted!
Covering what Sue describes as ‘the convoluted mess our accountability system is in’, as well as the wider issues of a narrowed curriculum and teaching to the test, we suggest you give it a read!
Top Blog 5: Tom Sherrington – Y6 And Y11 Take Up Too Much Strain, Up The Ante From Y3 And Y7
Another latecomer to 2017, Tom Sherrington’s blog, ‘Up The Ante From Y3 and Y7’ is a recommended read for the primary and secondary inclined.
Written from his of ‘having the opportunity to see lessons in all years [over the past six months]’, the blog asks us to question our assumptions about year based expectations and standards.
Voicing a very real need to take the pressure of Year 6/Year 11 pupils and teachers, Tom also proposes some practical strategies to help make every year count towards helping pupils meet expected standards.
His suggestion also also aligns with our strong conviction that Maths interventions should start before Year 6, not at! Plus, if you’re hungering for more from Tom, his blog ‘10 Low Impact Activities To Do Less Of – Or Stop Altogether’ is a great next read.
Top Blog 6: Chris Dyson – This Is What Teachers Need: Smiles And Love
For those who might not have encountered Chris Dyson – a passionate wellbeing advocate and Headteacher – he is quite simply a ray of sunshine.
Whether describing how wellbeing is a ‘vital resource paramount to a school’s success’, or offering crucial advice Ofsted on how to make the most of your Ofsted inspection, Chris unabashedly brings a sense of positivity to the table.
In his blog, ‘This Is What Teachers Need’, Chris highlights why staff need empowering, training in the new curriculum, and to be ‘trusted and believed in’. Before detailing exactly how you can run a school where ‘in just over two years, 21 staff have had 30 days off sick.’
Top Blog 7: Flora Barton – Ofsted, The Visit…They Came And They Went…
In a recent post on her blog Headsmart, Flora Barton summarises a recent Ofsted visit. More specifically, she describes how Ofsted reacted to recent decisions in her school such as:
– Removal of levels within school
– Minimal marking of books and verbal feedback approach
– Efforts to free up teacher time and reduce workload
Flora also discusses the pressure that comes with Ofsted and how a school’s journey should be about ‘putting the children and staff at the centre of our decisions’.
After all, in her words, ‘if it’s right for our children, if it’s right for our staff, then surely it will be right for Ofsted’.
For another great read from Flora, take a look at her blog ‘Feedback – Workload And Impact’. Or if you’d like more advice on Ofsted read our blog with Chris Dyson, ‘How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love My Ofsted Inspection’.
Top Blog 8: Hywel Roberts – What To Do About The Ghost Child
From the ‘travelling teacher’ who has seen it all, comes a blog in which that one ‘shadow pupil’ finally finds their voice.
Detailing a micro-transaction on the smallest level between teacher and pupil with the biggest of meanings, Hywel’s ‘What To Do About The Ghost Child’ is a hugely cheerful read.
A great one to bookmark and read/re-read on a rainy day, or tough marking evening, we recommend this post highly.
Top Blog 9: Aidan Severs – SATs Results 2017: What They Mean, What They’ll Never Tell You & What To Do Next
Another prolific wellbeing advocate, Assistant Principle Aidan Severs is known for offering clear and data driven SATs guidance.
This year, he didn’t disappoint with his breakdown of the 2017 SATs results in reading and writing. Covering pretty much everything you need to know about your SATs results, from understanding and learning from them, to explaining them to teachers, parents, and pupils, it’s a must read for 2017.
On the wellbeing side of things, Aidan’s note to his Year 6 teachers floored twitter, see this quote for what I mean:
‘Thank you for all the times you felt you were on your own, but you kept on going anyway – you truly do put the children at the centre of all you do.’
Full of kinds words and honesty – it will quite rightly cheer any teacher up!
Aidan has also written several blogs for Third Space, such as:
• How To Target Your Year 6 SATs Revision in 2018 By Looking At The Data
• Maths Tricks Or Bad Habits: 5 Mathematical Misconceptions We Still Teach Pupils
• The Ultimate Guide To Bar Modelling [Free Resource]
Top Blog 10: Solomon Kingsnorth – The Extraordinary Case Of Mr Yamazaki
This September, Solomon published an incredible blog on ‘what happened when a Japanese headteacher important his “Hitaisho” teaching method to a rural Cornish primary school’.
Taking a tour of the school, Solomon gains insights from Reception, to Year 1 and beyond. The results are fascinating. The conclusion is is utterly genius.
We won’t say much more in case you haven’t read it, but would recommend this to the reading list of any teaching professional, from NQT to Headteacher!
Top Blog 11: Tom Rees – Stopping The Marking Runaway Train
Another blog to feature marking, Tom’s writings are methodical, insightful and witty.
For the wit in particular, see his summary of ‘10 things I know about marking’ that concludes with the final point: ‘It is still impossible to write a feedback or marking policy without quoting Dylan Wiliam.’
That aside, Tom’s blog critically appraises the key misunderstandings around marking that the teaching profession have made. He also suggests a process for how to change approaches to marking, and offers a great bibliography for extra reading!
For another great read from Tom, take a look at his post-SATs blog, ‘Some Perspective On KS2 SATs Data’.
This blog on ‘The New Minimal Marking Policy In My School And How It Works’ from Clare Sealy is also well worth a read.
Top Blog 12: @PrimaryY6Teach – The Myth of Expected Progress in KS1/KS2
In this brilliant read from earlier in 2017, PrimaryY6Teach takes on the ‘myth’ of expected progress.
From what ‘progress’ actually looks like, and what Ofsted do (and don’t!) expect to see, to how to track progress without using levels.
Summarising that we should ‘create a system where teachers are trusted and supported, and we gather assessment information which helps us to know who is falling behind and – crucially – what we are doing to support them’, they’re sage words indeed.
Top Blog 13: Debra Kidd – Teaching In 2030
Since her thoughtful, honest blog on the decision to leave teaching, many of us have followed Debra Kidd’s blog with avid interest.
This year she published a short, but sharp blog titled ‘Teaching in 2030’. In a satirical examination of what education could look like in the future, Debra critiques what she feels are its current problems.
Not exactly happy reading, but definitely a blog to make you think!
Top Blog 14: Daisy Christodoulou – How Often Do Ofsted Expect Primary Schools To Assess
‘How Often Do Ofsted Expect Schools to Assess’ is a great blog for those worried about frequency of measurement, and presenting ‘fresh data’ to Ofsted.
In it, Daisy expertly summarising recent statements from Sean Harford and Amanda Spielman on how you should provide evidence to Ofsted.
Among other things, Daisy has also written a great blog on giving specific feedback which you can find here. It’s short, sweet, and really highlights the benefits of comparative marking.
Top Blog 15: Graham Andre – No More Boys And Girls
While this is an educational programme, not a blog ‘No More Boys and Girls’ simply couldn’t be kept out of this year’s roundup.
A hugely interesting, and often surprising watch, Graham bravely confronts the internal biases we all struggle with, and acts as the perfect every-man teacher that we can all relate to.
As an author involved in the creation of our topical Maths problems, we are hugely proud to have worked with the subject of such a fascinating show.
So that’s it for our top 15 education blogs of 2017 roundup! Naturally, there’s many more we’d love to include, e.g; anything by Niomi Roberts (see this classroom culture blog), this great blog from Quirky Teacher, and John Bee’s excellent work on reasoning. The list is unending.
To summarise: though these themes of this year seem to cover a broad range of often worrying topics, from SATs pressure, to wellbeing, marking and workload, what remains constant is the desire to share excellent advice to improve teaching practice for everyone.
In fact, Michael Tidd’s ability to sum up what is so great about the blogging teachers of Facebook and Twitter in one great tweet:
I *love* Twitter for the ability to see someone mention something in passing, ask questions, steal ideas, and really think about significant change to teaching, learning, curriculum… just about anything.
And all from the sofa.
— Michael Tidd (@MichaelT1979) December 7, 2017
Ultimately this drive to share great practice and teach as well as we can (without sacrificing what matters) is at the heart of education blogging. After all, without the push for superlative teaching standards, pupils wouldn’t receive the support they deserve.