The Pedagogical Dementors

Some of the improvement drives that we’ve seen in teaching have been an absolute waste of time. None of these comments in this blog are new; they’ve been blogged about and Tweeted about for years. I’m just reflecting on my 16 years’ experience and putting some thoughts down in one place.

As a Head of English, I was insistent on the idea that if something had a positive impact on students’ educational experience, attainment, progress, and/or life chances, then we’d do it. If it had a disproportionately negative impact on workload, or no positive impact for the kids, then it was a no from me. These initiatives, often written into policy, suck the life out of our profession.

If you have a reference to a blog related to these, @ me on Twitter @mssfax and I’ll update with a link and a reference. Thanks.

Copying out the learning objective

Who ever thought this was a good idea? Time-consuming, onerous and implies that there is just one thing to learn which can be neatly condensed into one sentence, a bit like Twitter. What a joke. Copying out learning objectives for students with anything other than optimal literacy is also a slow and strenuous activity. Most learning objectives are clumsy and don’t really express the nature of what we’re doing anyway.

Making students know their target grades and areas for improvement

Another nonsense move. They study 8 to 11 subjects. Can you imagine having to memorise this many numbers, correlating to this many subjects, all for nothing? It doesn’t make any sense. And don’t get me started on making them learn phrases related to ‘what I need to do to reach a 4’ – is there any subject in which each level on the mark-scheme could be condensed into one narrow domain?

As for putting target grades into books, this is an essential piece of reading from Ben Newmark: and Ben’s second instalment can be read here:

Hand-made annotated seating plans

I have no problem with schools who have purchased software that automatically populates this data. We use MINTClass and I have recently heard excellent reviews of Class Charts

If you are being asked to produce these independently, then it’s another albatross around the neck of the profession, which contributes to teacher workload and has no discernible purpose. Seating plans? Fine. Probably useful. They bring about a consistency and a routine. They support the organisation of the lesson and can help us to consider who sits where, and why. But the annotated one is another kind of animal. Looking up the PP/SEND/EAL/LPA/MPA/HPA is burdensome. We know who these students are – and our implicit knowledge of our groups informs our choices of where they sit. We shouldn’t have to source and duplicate this data for external visitors.

Triple impact marking

You mark it. They respond. You respond to their response. Living the dream. The sweaty, surreal, traumatic dream from which you never wake up because no sooner have they written ‘thanks miss I’ll use quotations next time’, it’s time to start again and they haven’t even followed the advice and we’re onto the next part of the concentric circle of hell.

Just teach them, give them feedback (verbal and instant is just as effective) and if your SLT don’t think that’s the way to secure a Good or Outstanding then direct them to Michael Tidd’s (@michaelt1979) blog:


This is probably a much longer blog post (and I have no doubt it’s already been done) but since when did we stop and wrap up our learning after one hour? This is ridiculous. I’m not even massively in favour of writing the date at the top, although I appreciate the need for humans to time-stamp our existence and associated activities. The round-up, for me, comes at the start of the next lesson, when we remind ourselves of what has come before. And while retrieval is important, I am concerned by the murmurings of schools insisting on ‘a retrieval exercise’ at the start of every lesson. This is why we can’t have nice things. It should be at the teacher’s discretion to pinpoint the crucial moments for retrieval, and if schools are using retrieval then they need to properly educate their teachers on (EduTwitter Bingo Klaxon Alert) the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve. The minute we insist on this happening in every lesson, we’ve lost the game. This is peak deprofessionalising. At my school, we have it as part of our strategy and we are absolutely able to use it or not use it as is appropriate for each lesson’s context.

Labelling features of the pedagogical approach in the books

Anything that is labelled as an approach in books is probably labelled for observers or scrutineers, rather than for any impact. No impact, no point.

Again – feel free to send me links on Twitter and I’ll update this. Thanks for reading.

Image of Dementors found here and labelled by Google as available for noncommerical reuse.