Shaping Education For The Future

My Secondary School Experience

I have been, in one way or another, a secondary school teacher of English, drama and media for nearly 40 years. My experiences began back in 1970 when, as a very raw graduate, I introduced classroom drama and a rudimentary form of film studies to a very conservative grammar school English department! I have always been interested in the possibilities of an English curriculum that embraces a wide range of textual forms beyond the study of written literature – although, I love reading and its pleasures as much as any devoted bibliophile.

My inspectorial role, spending many lessons in classrooms in a variety of secondary schools helped me realise that only the most limited ‘teaching’ of READINGwas taking place in the majority of schools. English teachers certainly encouraged and planned many activities to do with literary texts, but few of them contributed to a sense of developing progression as readers by the students. For nearly 20 years I have been demonstrating and modelling a range of strategies to develop ‘teaching of reading’ practices with all students. Some of these new methods include the study of picture books, graphic novels and cartoons which are popular media in this increasingly visual age. But I have also been particularly interested in the further progression of more able readers, who – because of their obvious attainment – seem to be regarded as the ‘finished article’, when I believe that they are all capable of developing other skills and abilities beyond the commonplace.

Similarly, I am interested in secondary students having different sorts of opportunities to CONSTRUCT TEXTS in a variety of media, including WRITING. So many different text forms are now available to all young people, across an expanding technological landscape, and I believe that much learning in the near future will depend upon those making communications being able to select the most appropriate form of text to fully convey the meanings it was designed to transmit. Therefore, it is just as important to know how to make a short animation, or a podcast, or a PhotoStory 3 presentation, if such a platform would more effectively support the demonstration of learning within different contexts.

The close study of MOVING IMAGE TEXTS in the English classroom is another growth area, where English teachers are recognising that students’ critical skills are often enhanced by the immediate engagement that seems to be achieved with the showing of film, television and other visual media. Large numbers of boys make significant progress in those circumstances, and then transfer their newly acquired attainment to written texts. There are many newly published resources that I introduce to teachers to enable them to tackle this area of study with increased confidence. I also support and encourage students in making moving texts of their own, as part of their own understanding of the process and as vehicles for their own learning.

Amongst the most interesting and personally satisfying commissions I have received from schools have been to do with ENGLISH DEPARTMENT IMPROVEMENT. I have worked alongside the staffs of a number of departments in a number of LAs to tackle problems of teaching, or resources, or planning, which have hampered standards. This work has usually involved monitoring lessons, making recommendations for change, supporting the writing of new Schemes of Work, and being involved in the subsequent planning – with some further monitoring to ensure that improvement has, indeed, been achieved.

I have been a regular trainer of English and middle management matters. My long-term research into MORE ABLE LANGUAGE STUDENTS has encouraged me to look more closely at MORE ABLE PROVISION IN ALL SUBJECTS. I have supported schools and More Able /G&T co-ordinators to; devise policies; implement monitoring and registering strategies; review resources and classroom provision; undertake curriculum development and encourage new approaches to more able students.