My random thoughts, musings, rants and stories will appear here over time.

Brainwashed Teachers

Written by Mark McCourt on Saturday, 01 November 2014.

Words were repeated time and time again as though deviation from the script was forbidden – perhaps Big Brother was listening. 'Progress', 'Plenary', 'Inquiry', 'Fun', 'Outstanding', 'Kinesthetic'... and on and on it went. I could have played National Strategies Bullshit Bingo and got a Full House every time.

Progressive vs Traditionalist vs Professional

Written by Mark McCourt on Sunday, 09 February 2014.

A couple of decades ago, I found myself standing at a bar in a downtrodden pub on the outskirts of Derry, Northern Ireland. There had been no Good Friday Agreement and the Troubles were still very much alive and real. Not a great place for an Englishman to be whiling away the hours, but the friend I had agreed to meet and who lived locally had failed to show. So there I was, supping a jar, minding my own business.

A hand fell on my shoulder and a voice from behind asked "are you Catholic?"


Non-Specialists Judging Lessons is Wrong

Written by Mark McCourt on Sunday, 17 November 2013.

The past 15 years or so have convinced me more and more that discovering learning through classroom observation is incredibly difficult and nuanced. I am a mathematics specialist, but have inspected lessons of all subjects. My first ever inspection was a PE lesson – the kids were trampolining. All jolly good fun, but I didn’t have a clue whether or not the 12 year olds were bouncing at a height and with an aplomb suitable to their age.

An Ofsted Outstanding Mathematics Lesson

on Thursday, 04 July 2013.

I have this little theory.  The Ofsted criteria is not responsible for most of the dumbed down teaching that I see when I visit schools.  In fact, it is far more likely to be the head teacher's screwed up interpretation of some course they went on 5 years ago.  So I continually see the same old things.

But why can't schooling be better than that?  Why can't we re-instill some intellect?

The Ofsted criteria isn't stopping us.

Below is the criteria for outstanding, alongside what I typically see when inspecting or visiting schools.

But it doesn't have to be this way... why can't the bar be a whole lot higher?  Here are some suggestions:


The Education World is full of Dicks

Written by Mark McCourt on Tuesday, 25 June 2013.

Let me make this perfectly clear, I am not one of those people who think that you must have been a teacher to be allowed to talk about teaching and education. Indeed, some of my senior staff had never taught, yet were incredibly insightful about teaching and learning.

But, in the same way that I think politicians really should have had a real job (preferably a few real jobs) before becoming an MP, I believe that to set the direction of education does require an in depth knowledge of its workings.

The Office Staff

on Wednesday, 12 June 2013.

Too many teachers seem to forget that schools are not staffed purely by teachers. Often, in a large secondary school, the teaching staff are actually outnumbered by all those other members of staff who make the school what it is: caretakers, dinnerladies, cleaners, lab technicians, IT support, playground supervisors, teaching assistants, reprographics, art and technology technicians, the staff room tea lady, and the school office staff.

The Local Authority

on Thursday, 30 May 2013.

Some local authorities are sanctuaries for the unhinged, loopy or incompetent. But, of course, such is the cosiness of local government employment that you can be as stark raving mad as you like without any risk of losing your job. So, as though put out to pasture from the schools from which they came, scores of men and women in ill-fitting cords, checked shirts, shapeless frocks or aging suits, plod around the dusty corridors of county hall with the pressures of a real job long since lost in the memory.

This would all be fine if they were simply left to amuse themselves with crosswords and lovely cups of tea, but alas they are sent out in to the world of schools to irritate teachers.

A Private Education for All?

on Sunday, 19 May 2013.

An argument that bounces around a lot in education is whether schools should be able to be privatised and particularly whether they should be allowed to make a profit (interestingly, this argument often ignores the fact that there are already schools in England that make profits).

As a conservative, I do believe in the market. I believe that individuals should be at the heart of their own lives and should be trusted to make decisions for themselves.

So what if, instead of the socialist, top-down approach, we said that every single child can have a private education? What would this do to education and standards?

It's Behaviour, Dummy

Written by Mark McCourt on Saturday, 27 April 2013.

Working in schools is the greatest job in the world.  But it should not be underestimated how much of a decline there has been in the last 15 years in terms of both pupil behaviour and the attitudes of parents.  If Dr Atkinson wishes to peddle such crap, my personal opinion is that she should first have to endure the humiliation that some teachers face on a daily basis.  She should have to lie awake at night with palpatations, unable to rest, with tears in her eyes.  She should have to lose her appetite and have family life destroyed.  At that point, then feel free to come back to headteachers and make recommendations about how they should deal with the tiny minority of children who cause this distress.

Every Single Child Can Pass Maths

Written by Mark McCourt on Wednesday, 27 March 2013.

I often refer to mathematics as a giant Jenga. At the top, the wooden blocks represent those mathematical concepts that we want the kids to be able to do at the end of their schooling, aged 15 or 16. The GCSE topics. But they are not failing mathematics because they don't know these topics. They are failing because the blocks much further down, the foundations, are loose, wobbly or completely missing and so the whole tower tumbles.

Paedophile Nation

Written by Mark McCourt on Sunday, 03 February 2013.

Child protection in the UK seems to be focussed on everything other than protecting children.

Barking up the Wrong Tree?

on Monday, 17 December 2012.

Many people I know (and some I even like and respect), are forever banging on about 'Singapore Maths'. This approach to teaching mathematics is one based on mastery and mathematics results in Singapore are great. But are those results great because of the approach they take to teaching mathematics? Well, no.

Goodbye Britain

on Monday, 10 December 2012.

How I adored the days when a drive to the coast would be preluded by hours and hours checking the car, filling up with coolant and oil, adjusting the tyre pressure and fiddling with the engine. Only, of course, to break down along the way just the same.

Speech at Nesta, 15th November 2012

on Thursday, 15 November 2012.

This speech was given at the Nesta Digital Education Report launch on Thursday 15th November 2012 as a panel member response to the report.

Are A Levels Getting Easier?

on Thursday, 16 August 2012.

To all those who got their results today, well done. Your achievement is equally as great as those in 1972 and don't let any sod tell you any different.

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