Education review abstracts


Vol. 16 No. 1, 2002 — Innovation and autonomy


Evaluation of innovation

David Bell, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools in England.


Apprehension about inspection can mean that schools prepare what they think inspectors will want to see, rather than taking risks and using the opportunities of the moment. This article sets out the steps that OFSTED is taking to encourage schools to highlight innovative and effective practice.


Professional with a heart

Delphine Ruston is Staff Development Co-ordinator and English teacher at Richmond School, North Yorkshire. She is currently taking a year’s sabbatical.


Using her involvement in the NUT’s CPD programme, the writer examines the particular characteristics of why the programme is so appropriate and successful for teachers. She then identifies the generic aspects necessary for successful CPD and the subsequent benefits for students of having teachers who are fellow learners.


Providing space for innovation and autonomy

John Atkins is an independent education consultant who has worked on education research projects with the NUT for a number of years.


The quantity of work that teachers are now expected to do means that they have no time to do anything more than the treadmill of essential tasks. This article argues that if we want to encourage innovation in schools we need to provide recognised guidance on how much work teachers should be doing and create the space that they need to explore new methods of teaching and learning.


Innovation and the next phase of educational reform

David Hopkins is Head of the Standards and Effectiveness Unit at the Department for Education and Skills.


This article outlines the need for Government education policy to move towards “informed professional judgement” and the necessity for innovation to be defined and facilitated. The multi-faceted roles of the newly-established Innovation Unit at the DfES are outlined, which should empower the teaching profession to raise standards of teaching and learning.


An innovation too far?

Neil Fletcher, Head of Education Policy at the Local Government Association (LGA).


This article questions the Government’s real motives in encouraging innovation in the education system. It suggests that the urge to control from the centre operates against the natural tendency to innovate that exists naturally among large numbers of educators, and inhibits the best prospects of innovating imaginatively. Government only encourages the development of modest and severely constrained innovation on the part of other individuals and organisations and misses the challenge posed by the factor of “social class” and underachievement.


Teaching Assistants – a national survey

Dr Sean Neill is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Warwick.


The Government plans to increase the number of teacher assistants in schools, partly to address problems of teacher workload. This article outlines the results of a survey commissioned by the NUT from the University of Warwick which provides information from teachers on what teaching assistants do, what they might do and whether there is a correlation between more teaching assistants and less teacher workload.


Innovation and specialist schools

Elizabeth Reid, Chief Executive for the Technology Colleges Trust.


Specialist schools are an important part of the Government’s “diversity” agenda for secondary education. This article charts their development and the role of the Technology Colleges Trust in providing advice and information and also networking opportunities for specialist schools to share innovative practices which work with other schools.


Innovation in schools: giving trust back to teachers

James Walters, a researcher at Demos, the independent think-tank.


The concept of innovation in education is regarded with suspicion by teachers following years of “top down” reform which has also placed a huge burden on pupils. Teachers’ time and energies must be freed to enable them to be innovative, often working collaboratively with colleagues in their own and neighbouring schools.


Making innovation stick

Maureen Burns, Director in the Innovation Unit in the DfES.


Years of Government reform have left many teachers feeling alienated and undervalued. This article argues that it is now time for the teaching profession to move forward and to concentrate on the future. It outlines a number of proposals that could contribute to the development of teaching as a modern profession and looks at how the profession can gain autonomy.


Teachers: from victims of change to agents of change

Martin Johnson, the Institute for Public Policy Research.


Teachers face unprecedented and unnecessary levels of accountability, which are destroying their professionalism and autonomy. This article argues for a significant reduction in these layers of accountability which would rejuvenate schools and make teaching an attractive profession.


Thinking through teaching: professional development for innovation and autonomy

Vivienne Baumfield, Steve Higgins and Mei Lin, of the Thinking Skills Research Centre at the University of Newcastle.


Participants in the NUT Teacher Research Scholarship programme report a positive impact on their pupils and on their own professional development. The authors argue that the programme is an effective way to work in partnership with teachers to engage with aspects of pedagogy as part of a constructive professional dialogue. In making these claims, they draw on several sources of information including feedback from the seminars and workshops during the programme and discussions and reflections with Union and University staff.


Using ICT for innovation in schools

Jerry Glazier, a member of the NUT Executive and chair of the Advisory Committee for Equal Opportunities – Race.


If computer technology is to be effective in schools teachers must see it as being a useful, accessible and enabling tool. This article outlines the experience of schools taking part in the South East of England Virtual Education Action Zone and explores how ICT can be used to foster new and innovative ways of working.


The National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth

Professor Deborah Eyre, Director for the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth.


Managing the needs of pupils at the extremes of the ability range will always be a challenge for the education system. This article outlines how the newly established Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth will use innovative practice to encourage and support the learning of gifted and talented children and young people.


Mantra rites of passage: teaching and nurturing our boys to be men in the 21st Century

Dr Richard Majors and Sara Nance Dewar.


This article outlines the work of Mantra, a rites of passage project that is designed to help smooth the transition from adolescence to manhood for both Black and white working class boys. Since boys are disproportionately at risk of exclusion, underachievement, involvement in truancy and criminal behaviour the goal of the project is to focus on macho value systems to divert boys from negative behaviours and steer them towards making more positive lifestyle choices.


A view from the bridge – but is it the Santa Maria or the Titanic?: A personal perspective on the Surrey experience of “privatisation”

Colin Caswell, Division Secretary of the Surrey Division, National Union of Teachers but writing in a personal capacity.


In 1998, after calls for an innovative and new approach to tackling underachievement, Surrey LEA decided to use the private sector to manage a failing school. Since then two more schools have come under private management. This article looks at the impact that Surrey’s experiment with the private sector has had on schools.


From staff room to innovation strategy room – can it be done?

Gemma Blaker, deputy SENCO in a North London comprehensive school.


Are schools the best places to encourage innovation? This article provides an insight into the difficulties that teachers face when trying to explore new ideas for teaching and learning. By citing examples from her own experience of teaching the author identifies the changes that need to take place if schools are to become environments that foster innovation.


Professional development — it’s Union work

Amy M Hightower, an Assistant Director at the AFT, focusing on accountability and professional development.


Professionalism is the linchpin for improving practice and increasing the performance of teachers and students alike. This article explains the context behind the AFT’s growing commitment to professional development and the professionalisation of teaching, highlighting the scope of that commitment and offering some examples of professional development activities provided by the AFT. The article concludes with a set of recommendations and next steps developed by the AFT for enhancing the professional skills of educators.


Transforming the School Workforce Pathfinder Project – freeing teachers to teach: an individual school’s experience

Stewart Harris of Phoenix School, a member of the East London Schools Initiative.


The DfES Transforming the School Workforce Pathfinder Project aims to reduce teacher workload by encouraging schools to explore new ways of making the best use of people, technology, time and space. This article provides an informative account of one school’s experience of taking part in the Pathfinder Project and details how the Project came about.


SchooLets/Time Banks for SchooLs: An innovative approach to engaging parents and the wider community in the school

Joe Hallgarten and Jodie Reed.


The DfES Transforming the School Workforce Pathfinder Project aims to reduce teacher workload by encouraging schools to explore new ways of making the best use of people, technology, time and space. This article provides an informative account of one school’s experience of taking part in the Pathfinder Project and details how the Project came about.


Curriculum innovation in Education Action Zones

Marny Dickson is a Research Officer in the Education Policy Research Unit at the Institute of Education.


Introduced as a flagship policy by the New Labour Government, Education Action Zones were encouraged to develop “innovative” approaches to teaching and learning in order to raise standards and reduce social exclusion within areas of social and economic disadvantage. This article considers the nature and extent of curriculum innovation within EAZ schools and identifies some of the barriers to more radical curriculum change.


Book reviews



Vol. 16 No. 2, 2003


The Government’s plans for a modern profession

David Miliband MP


Whilst there are many ways in which the Government is working with teachers the overriding focus of effort and investment is the quality of teaching and the promotion of teaching as a modern, vital, thinking profession. This article examines the key issues that affect the development of modern professionalism and argues that it is only by embracing reform that we can create the teaching profession we need.


Getting the right literacy and numeracy skills for the 21st century

Alan Wells.


Despite improvements in literacy and numeracy standards, children continue to leave primary school with inadequate basic skills. Moreover, standards of literacy and numeracy in secondary schools are proving more difficult to shift. In this article Alan Wells draws on his visits to more than 1,000 schools to suggest how teachers might further raise standards. He argues that we need to adopt a reform agenda that builds on the best aspects of the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategies and gets rid of the worst.


Class sizes and teacher workload: teachers’ views

John Atkins.


Whilst much research has drawn on teachers’ perceptions of how variations in class size affect their pupils’ attainment and achievement there has been less investigation of how teachers’ own workloads vary with the sizes of the classes they teach. This article examines the complex relationship between the amount of time teachers spend on planning, preparation and assessment and the sizes of the classes they teach. It concludes that smaller class sizes bring more direct benefits to pupils rather than to teachers.


Redefining the profession – teachers with attitude

Kathy Riley.


“Is teaching a trade or is it a profession?” This is a question which governments ask around the globe. Drawing on a broad-based GTC study, “What does it take to be a good teacher in the 21st century?” this article examines views about the skills and attributes needed to meet the challenges of the 21st century and asks whether the current policy climate is conducive to their development.


From pioneers to champions

Richard Stainton.


This is a teachers’ success story, which provides important lessons about how changes in teaching and learning can be promoted and supported effectively. It also shows how the “hallmarks” agreed at the start of the NUT’s pilot professional development programme have proved themselves suitable to remain the guiding principles to underpin the long-term CPD Programme now offered by the NUT to all teachers.


Education for all – widening access to higher education

Will Straw.


This article examines the Government’s efforts to widen access to higher education. It argues that, whilst the proposal to widen participation is to be welcomed, the Government’s interpretation of what needs doing is mistaken. It details the outreach work carried out by universities to target state schools and argues that it is the erosion of maintenance grants and the principle of free education, rather than university admission policies, which is contributing to the failure of a shift in the social make up of universities.


Teacher Leadership and School Improvement

Alma Harris.


The collaboration and collegiality fostered though teacher leadership has been shown to lead to an enhanced capacity for change and improvement at the school and classroom level. This article emphasises the importance of distributing leadership throughout the school and details the important role that teachers can play in sustaining school improvement.


National Curriculum Tests

Sean Neal.


Since the late 1980s governments have put a high priority on raising standards in education, and much of the policy effort in this direction has involved higher levels of inspection, testing, examination reform and the use of the results from these in league tables. As a result, currently children are being tested more frequently than was the case in the past. This article argues that the frequent changes in the assessment regime have made it more difficult for teachers to build up a coherent set of strategies to improve results and have distorted the educational experience of children.


Teachers and Leaders - NCSL’s part in developing the teaching profession

Heather Du Quesnay.


This article sets out the role that the National College of School Leadership hopes to play in helping teachers rediscover their confidence, creativity and sense of professional freedom. It details the work that the College is undertaking to meet the development and learning needs of all leaders and argues that leadership does not start arbitrarily when you start a formal leadership role for the first time.


What role can CPD play in supporting the needs and priorities of future teachers?

Philippa Cordingley.


This article addresses the nature of the teaching and learning process, the consequences this has for CPD and the potential for particular approaches to CPD to make a practical and strategic contribution to the future of the profession.


Future perfect

Alan McFadden.


An increasingly test based culture means that school performance is ascertained by very limited measures. Both the current and previous governments have subscribed to the same wrong-headed idea that the effectiveness of what is put into a school can be evaluated simply by what comes out. “Wrong-headed” because what comes out is being measured solely by the results of external assessment: SATs, GCSEs or AS and A levels. In this article the author examines the effect that this culture is having on both pupils and teachers and sets out his thoughts on how we can raise standards for all pupils.


Literacy for the future

Sue Palmer.


Literacy in the future will make higher demands on oracy skills, particularly the ability to speak in a “literate” way. This article looks at how current practice in primary schools may be contributing to, but also inhibiting, the development of such skills. It also considers the effects of changes in primary school staffing policies on the spoken language models available to children.


Gender stereotyping and primary schools: moving the agenda on

Christine Skelton.


This article explores how many of the current approaches taken to tackle boys’ under-achievement are unhelpful in breaking down gender stereotypes. It reviews the outcomes of nearly 30 years of equal opportunities policies in schools for pupils and teachers. An alternative approach, based on gender relational theory, is suggested in order to challenge boys’ and girls’ ideas of what it means to be a “proper boy” or “proper girl”.


The needs and priorities of future teachers – a psychological perspective

Jane Phillips.


In a fast changing world, some future needs and priorities will change dramatically but many will remain precisely as they are today. People have a need for both stability and change. Governors have an interest because governing bodies have both a strategic role and a duty of care to employees at their school. Knowledge of chaos theory and scenario planning can give insights into possible futures. Knowledge of the psychological impact of change can give people the tools they need to embrace beneficial change. If head, staff and governors together take control of their destiny, they can be party to inventing the future for their school.


Getting the climate right

Gloriana Moorehead.


This article outlines the benefits of introducing a school management model that encourages genuine participation in school decision-making. Creating an environment where teachers feel valued and able to contribute to the management of their schools will lead to professionally fulfilled staff who give their all for the education of children in their care and gain the job satisfaction needed to remain in their school and within their chosen profession.


Learning and creativity

Brian Edwards.


Creativity is a central ingredient and condition of successful teaching and learning. Through creative action we confirm purpose, and develop the skills and critical faculties to continue learning throughout life. This article outlines the work that Gateshead LEA is undertaking to encourage creativity and innovation in its schools and stresses the importance of creating a culture of trust and openness in schools.


Effects of the General Agreement on Trade in Services on the education systems in Europe

Ulf Fredriksson.


During spring 2003 the negotiations concerning the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) move into a more intensive phase. Many people think that trade has no link to education policies. Developments related to GATS prove that this is a false assumption - education policy in the future may be increasingly linked to trade policies. This article will outline some thoughts on the likely effects of GATS on the education systems in Europe. In order to do that it is necessary to look at what is meaningfully described as a growing education market.


A “tight loose” profession or a two tier workforce

Martin Allen.


The nature of secondary school and the work of secondary teachers will continue to change as the twenty first century progresses. The issue however, is whether the direction that these changes take will be in the interests of teachers and their students. This article argues that we should be extremely critical about key aspects of “modernisation” in secondary education.



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