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Episode 136: Voices from the choir

51d8b139a859dc5e8456da8808c6e81f_biggerAddicted as we are to well informed and influential guests, tonight we are delighted to welcome back on to the podcast, the Real David Cameron.  Matthew introduces us to a story about gaming and the curriculum, and before we know it our conversation takes in the purposes of education, the curriculum, and assessment.  Matthew, despite suffering some horrible echo in his headphones, asks David to talk about how issues with assessment and Curriculum for Excellence can be simplified.  Following his ‘tour’ with Sir Tim Brighouse that took in a TeachMeet or two, David has  grounds for optimism that some headteachers and classroom teachers are not prepared to be buried under the deadweight of audit data and their focus on learning will bring about innovation and change.

For those who like that sort of thing, some links:

Gaming – Minecraft project opens up new worlds of creativity

NAHT: “Profession takes lead on assessment after the end of levels”

Richard Garner, Independent, “Government to set stricter new literacy and numeracy targets in primary schools”

David mentioned Goodison Group in Scotland and Kenny Piper’s blog

Episode 135: A hard road to travel

photoTonight we enjoyed a rich conversation with Bruce Robertson: Twice Director of Education both in Highland Council and in Aberdeenshire, Bruce Robertson joins us to explore the challenges of strategic leadership at a local level. Bruce currently consults for the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland.  A verse from the song made famous by Jimmy Cliff fits the tenor of the podcast well as Bruce points to hard decisions to be made but does so with an obvious determination and faith in the job ahead:

 I’ve got a hard road to travel and a rough rough way to go
Said it’s a hard road to travel and a rough rough way to go
But I can’t turn back, my heart is fixed
My mind’s made up, I’ll never stop
My faith will see me through
Bruce has written an opinion piece for the TESS recently, entitled (weirdly?) “Let’s join the middle ages”.


Also talked about tonight: Saving Private Gove, or the Secretary of State for Education makes another ‘interesting’ speech.

“Gove calls for state schools to be more like private” BBC story

Shameful and sad state of lack of primary education around the globe. UNESCO report here and BBC story : “The 70-year wait for primary school” By Sean Coughlan BBC News education correspondent

EP 134: The Sunlit Uplands Matthew welcomes back Jay Helbert (@learningjay), a podcast stalwart making an all-too-rare appearance, and we are joined by Bill ‘The Literacy Adviser’ Boyd (@literacyadviser) to look at what’s fresh on the educational news front. First up though, Jay has been reviewing the latest project from educational guru Sugata Mitra (@Sugatam).  Mitra is the instigator of the ‘Hole in the Wall’ project, which showed the amazing ability of children to learn when presented with a single, isolated, internet-connected computer – lodged literally in a wall in India. The “School in the Cloud” project is taking it to the next level by creating 5 ‘schools in the cloud’ or self-learning environments (SOLE), 3 in India and 2 in North-East England. Mitra himself says he is not sure where the experiment will lead but asks us to imagine a world where you ask a child ‘Do you go to school?’ and he replies ‘I don’t know.’

Watch Sugata Mitra talking about Schools in the Cloud on YouTube

Back on earth and well below the clouds, attention turns to three apparently connected news stories. Bill looks at ‘the strange case of the vanishing GCSE pupils’, a Guardian report which investigates the story behind a school’s dramatic improvement in examination results, to discover that the practice of removing low-achieving pupils from school rolls before exam time is more widespread than commonly thought ( with some 5,500 secondary pupils mysteriously disappearing from the records in 2012 alone).

Staying on the examination theme, the CBI have been making news in The Independent with their claim that schools are increasingly becoming ‘exam factories’ and failing to provide school-leavers with the ‘behaviours and attitudes that are vital for success – including determination, optimism and emotional intelligence’, while the TES were highlighting a report from teachers across the globe which suggested that young people are leaving school without the critical thinking skills required for university or the world of work.  The research, from Cambridge International Examinations, also revealed that 85% of teachers interviewed ‘thought it was the skill their students most commonly lacked when they began their post-16 courses at school’, a worrying statistic, given that the same teachers are at least partly responsible for developing the said critical thinking skills.

So there you have it. Exam factory schools turning out unthinking zombies completely unfit for work, study or life. How true is it, and even if it contains an element of truth, what can be done about it? Tune in and find out what our panel thinks.

With all that, a dash of Seth Godin, and a look at Malcolm Gladwell‘s latest offering, David and Goliath, tonight’s podcast offers a substantial dish of food for thought to help sustain you through the long January nights. Enjoy!

Thanks to Asbjorn Floden for the Creative Commons image. Beautiful!

Lynne Jones - February 1, 2014 - 6:29 pm

Hear more from Dr Deirdre Torrance on distributed leadership on a recent podcast from Radio EduTalk at

Ep 133: Not the Ready-Brek School of Education

0103951Tonight we are delighted to be joined by Mike Russell, taking time out from a busy schedule especially to talk to us.  Mike is Scottish National Party MSP representing the region of Southern Scotland.  His current government position is Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning.   In this conversation with Mike he clearly demonstrates that he is passionate about the power of education and optimistic about the strengths of the Scottish education system and reforms going forward, especially Curriculum for Excellence.  There were a lot more questions we would have liked to ask him, but there is a lot of learning in this conversation.

These biographical details appear on the Scottish Government site: ” He joined the Scottish National Party in 1974 and held a number of senior party posts before becoming the party’s first full time Chief Executive in 1994. Mr Russell was the campaign manager for Alex Salmond’s leadership campaign in 1990 and he contested the SNP leadership in 2004.

He was elected to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 as a Regional Member for the South of Scotland, was a founding member of the Parliamentary Bureau and then served as Shadow Minister for Children, Education and Culture. He won ‘Debater of the Year’ award in 2000 and was short listed for ‘Scottish Politician of the Year’ title in 2002.

Mr Russell lost his seat in 2003 and returned to a media career but was re-elected for the same region in 2007 when he was appointed Minister for Environment.

He was Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution, with responsibility for the National Conversation and the White Paper Your Scotland, Your Voice, from February until December 2009 when he was appointed Education Secretary”.



Episode 132: Myth, Heresy and Misconception

macbeathTonight we enjoy a rich and stimulating conversation with Professor John MacBeath, prompted by the publication of his new book: “Education and Schooling: Myth, heresy and misconception”.  John talks about some of the big themes from his book, tells some wonderful stories, reads some passages and embarrasses Matthew in one of them!  The podcast showcases John’s talent for picking up really important themes and conveying them in an engaging manner, drawing as he does on a wealth of international experience with education policy and schools.


John MacBeath is Professor Emeritus at the University of Cambridge, where he held the Chair of Educational Leadership from 2000 to 2012. From 1997 to 2001 he was a member of the UK Government National Schools Standards Task Force. His consultancy work has included the OECD, UNESCO, the International Labour Organisation, the Bertelsmann Foundation, the European Commission and the Education Bureau in Hong Kong. More recently in his role as Project Director of the Centre for Commonwealth Education he has, in collaboration with the University of Cape Coast, helped embed leadership for learning in government policy in Ghana.  He was awarded the OBE (Order of the British Empire) for services to education in 1997 and an honorary doctorate from the University of Edinburgh in 2009. He has authored and co-authored 20 books in education, including most recently A Common Wealth of Learning (Routledge, 2013) with Mike Younger and Learning in and out of School: the selected works of John MacBeath (Routledge, 2012).

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