Scoop – back to school edition

My termly newsletter,

We have all been besieged by articles on ‘how x will change post COVID-19’. I am yet to read anything really convincing on what will change in education: teaching; curriculums; exams; schooling in general: I’m not saying they shouldn’t change but I’ve seen little to convince me that they will. 

Keystone Scholarship

We successfully ran our first Keystone University Programme, helping bright children from under-resourced backgrounds apply to some of the UK’s top universities. One participating student wrote,

“I just want to say a big thank you to you and the rest of the team for the abundance of support, time and dedication in making the course intriguing, beneficial and educational, but also the time that has been spent simply on calls with me trying to help me make the best decision for myself! I really do appreciate the time you all have taken out of your busy schedule to help me.”

Having a team of full-time tutors allows us to pursue and commit to such projects, as well as support others. We were delighted to partner with Godolphin & Latymer’s Bridge Programme over the summer too.

‘Webbies’

Over the next few weeks, we have webinars on,

Please do push through that Zoom fatigue and come; and please feel free to pass on to anyone who would find them interesting.

We’re attracting good audience numbers, and are really keen to do more – so please let me know if you’d be interested in being involved in further events and we’ll do our best.

Homeschooling / Learning Pods

Are these an indication of innovations to come?

The New York Times and BBC reported on the phenomenon in the US of families setting up their own small schools with their neighbours, bringing in their own tutors and teachers. 

Our own homeschooling is growing, and we are offering our own version of the Pod service; it will be interesting to see what uptake is like.

Some pieces in the Critic

I took advantage of having a bit more time in lockdown (and the fact that the Critic is a new magazine on the lookout for new writers) to try to crystallize some inchoate thinking on the direction of independent sector today. They provoked a good response: mostly favourable but some trenchantly hostile! Do shout if you want to discuss any of them further,

If you want to read really good writing on education, David James, newly appointed Deputy Head of LEH, wrote some blistering pieces in the Critic here.

Career Education

I’ve been reading more about education & employability skills since a webinar we ran on the subject over the summer. I remain skeptical as to what employment has to say to the -18 curriculum for most schools, though David Goodhart’s recent book and Gavin Williamson’s rejection of Blair’s 50% university target does herald some fresh thinking on the subject of vocational education. 

My #1 source for all things graduate recruitment, James Darley, provides this update: 25% of Graduate Employers (ISE, June 2020) say they will be reducing their intakes in 2021. Let me know if an introduction to him would help with your work.

More broadly, with respect to the nexus of higher education and career support, it is hard not to conclude that HE faces headwinds on almost all fronts. I thought this news that Google is getting into the degree certification game was fascinating, but spells more trouble ahead for a beleaguered sector. 

David Attenborough in your classroom – first come first served opportunity!

I have been closely following, and in a very small way assisting with, the development of a new educational service for families called Itza. Here is an opportunity to get involved in their initial launch. Says the Founder,

“We’re about to launch Get Set, which includes a fun online quiz for schools – the GET SET GLOBAL CHALLENGE – which teaches children about sustainability and how to preserve the natural world.  Students prepare independently online by using footage from the new David Attenborough movie A LIFE ON OUR PLANET which is in cinemas next week and then comes out on Netflix next month.

We’re selecting 100 schools from around the world for this test and plan to have only 40 schools from the UK.   School registration is now OPEN and it’s first come, first served:

https://www.getset.school

Materials are released to children in November and the final quiz will be on Friday December 4th and can be staged in the classroom as a live event or completed by students in their own time later that day.”  

Please do let me know any feedback.

Did you know?

Biden/Harris is the first Democratic ticket without an Ivy League degree since 1984.

(Biden was at the University of Delaware and Syracuse; Harris at Howard University and UC Hastings College of the Law.)

Educational Dispatches

  • Wild Research has a new report out on Exporting Educational Excellence featuring articles from many of the leading figures who have opened UK schools overseas.
  • I much enjoyed Harry Mount praising of ‘useless knowledge’ in the Spectator: how to avoid ‘the sort of mess you end up in if you’re constantly adapting your child’s education to a constantly changing world.’ (And this was a good, rare paean for Year 12!)
  • I find Daniel Markovits’ critique of meritocracy so compelling (he’s not the only one at it: David Goodhart and Michael Sandel’s recent books make similar points). Here is he talking about competitive schooling in the age of human capital. 
  • Ashbourne College is offering 100% bursaries for talented students in Music, Drama and English Literature. Very generous of them, and what a civilized choice of subjects. 
  • It was sad to see the passing of two titans of UK education, from somewhat opposite ends of the spectrum (although, in many ways, not as much as you’d think), Sir Eric Anderson and Sir Ken Robinson
  • Oh and it seems ages ago now but this was the best piece I read on The Mutant Algorithm. But will lessons be learned for next year? Hmmm.

Transforming the Elite

Rather than fear the return of the spectre of public benefit, the aim of the sector should be that when the subject is raised, it is laughed at by all but the most militant vandals – no one but a fool could see what a service they and their products are doing. These schools and their alumni are interwoven with this country’s history. It is time that they take up the mantle and interweave themselves with its future.

Read the rest of the piece at The Critic here.

The National Tutoring Programme

Last week the government announced a new £1bn package for schools. £350 million will pay for the establishment of a National Tutoring Programme, which will give schools access to subsidised tutoring sessions. The rest will be spent whichever way headteachers best believe will catch their pupils up on education missed during the pandemic and might itself be put towards further tutoring.

Read the rest of the piece at The Critic here.

We should celebrate, not mourn, the cancellation of exams

“Surely now is the golden opportunity for schools, untrammelled by all that gruesome nomenclature of ‘exam specification’, ‘assessment objective’, ‘rubrics’ and so on, to set their pupils’ ‘love of learning’ truly ablaze.”

Full piece published on Medium here.

Private Education & Public Benefit

Institutions inextricably bound up with their localities. National treasures with long histories of public service. Sites of collective memory and ritual, loyalty and love. What’s a communitarian not to love about private schools?

Regrettably all too much.

Read the full piece at The Critic.

Scoop – COVID edition

Below is my termly newsletter,

Online teaching and learning webinar

We have been teaching online for 10+ years and stand ready to help any educators who are doing it for the first time. We shall be putting on a webinar, hosted by me and our Director of Education Ed Richardson, on Friday 24th April at 3pm to answer any questions you or colleagues might have about online teaching. Click here to register

Ed has put together this acrostic summarising 10 tips for teaching online and this infographic with suggested ground rules for students. Please feel free to use them if helpful.

GCSEs and A levels 2020

We are trying to keep an FAQ on the changing picture, to the best of our knowledge, here. I hope it’s helpful; do get in touch if you spot any errors or want to discuss any implications.

Small group classes (free for children of key workers)

Branching out from 1-on-1 classes, we have been running live small group lessons to children aged 7-16. These have been priced at a considerable reduction of our usual rate, and free for children of key workers, so as to help the widest number of families. Do pass on to any friends or colleagues stuck at home with the children who might be interested. More details here

Keystone University Scholarship Programme – going ahead 

In my last Scoop, I mentioned that we are offering 12 fully-funded scholarships on our Top University preparation programme. Details here. As above, we have fully tested our online teaching capacity and so will be delivering this online if we are still in lockdown in the summer. Please do continue to forward on to anyone who might be able to put the opportunity in front of the right candidates.

Tutor News

Our English tutor Imogen is having her debut novel The High Notes, about a young singer struggling to make it in London, published by Bloomsbury after a 4-way auction. Well done her.

Other educational dispatches

  • EdTech. Covid has led to much discussion of the future of education. I have found Ben Williamson’s research especially on point: he shows that the big technology companies are already using the crisis to disrupt the school and university sectors perpetually in their favour. I have also been really benefiting from Daisy Christodoulou’s newly published book Teachers vs Tech. This blog, on why remote learning hasn’t worked in the past, and this interview with Craig Barton, are especially good.
  • I had long suspected that the Sugata Mitra’s research on the ‘hole in the wall school’ looked like wishful thinking, even to a Romantic like me. These articles demolished any lingering doubt.
  • My colleague, Harriet, drew this beautiful Easter picture puzzle about London private schools. How many can you get? 
  • The amazing story of a wonderful school I’ve visited in New York that is ‘more English than the English’ and the plot to oust its much-loved headmaster. 

“The world felt big”

The autodidact is a rare creature these days. I really enjoyed listening to this Talking Politics interview with Tara Westover, who grew up in rural Idaho as one of seven children in a strict Mormon family. Her father did not allow her to go to public school, but she taught herself, ending up studying at both Harvard and Cambridge.

I loved this passage, describing her first year at Brigham Young University, which captures her hunger for knowledge and the way education can ‘set one’s feet in a large room.’

I learned about Margaret Thatcher and the Thirty-Eighth Parallel and the Cultural Revolution; I learned about parliamentary politics and electoral systems around the world. I learned about the Jewish diaspora and the strange history of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. By the end of the semester the world felt big, and it was hard to imagine returning to the mountain, to a kitchen, or even to a piano in the room next to the kitchen.

What sort of knowledge..?

From H W Household’s Reminiscences about Charlotte Mason, courtesy of Charlotte Mason Poetry:

What sort of knowledge? Well, they want to hear of Odysseus and Nausicaa, to read the immortal stories of Herodotus, and Plutarch’s Lives; they want to listen to the tale of Thermopylae and Salamis and to learn how democracy raised Athens to her height of glory and then ruined her, and why; to learn about the majesty and fall of Rome, and the meaning and heritage of both for good and ill; about Merovings and Carolings, Seljuks and Ottomans, about the Crusades and the making of Europe (for he who knows not history, as Cicero said, remains a child); about Buddha and Mohammed; about Rembrandt and Beethoven; about Edmund Spenser, Dr. Johnson, Ruskin and Carlyle; about the wonders of the heavens and the earth, and all the romance of science—which the laboratory too often misses.