In the middle - Criticise like Len, not Craig

14th November 2008 at 00:00

Did you read the comment piece on primary school children playing The X Factor (TES, October 17)? Richard Wharton, a head from Southampton, voiced concerns about the model we give students on how to deliver bad news. Like him, I am bemused by the glee with which judges on this programme and my personal favourite, Strictly Come Dancing, tell competitors that they are rubbish at what they attempt so bravely to do. I am not of the school that believes praise should be heaped upon those who do not deserve it, but what happened to the old rule of positive criticism and the ever-effective assessment for learning?

Surely it is one of our most important jobs to model effective ways of pointing out youngsters' downfalls while leading them to improve? The same goes for giving staff feedback on dodgy lessons we have observed or a parental complaint that appears to be justified.

Unlike Strictly, we do not have to deliver the bad news in front of a salivating audience. Instead, we can ask to see them privately, booking them into a slot that allows them time afterwards to either hide in the loo or phone a friend.

Once this meeting has been arranged not to coincide with break duty or the next pressing lesson, explain the problem clearly, then offer ways in which things can be put right. Don't do a Craig Revel Horwood: "That was clumsy and dull." Try more of a Len Goodman: "The backwards fleckerl is a very difficult step, so next time try the easier natural fleckerl."

Remember, we are not in the business of entertaining the audience; we want the best possible teachers in front of our children. So assure the errant teacher that the joy of our job is that we, "Keeeep learning!"

Diane Beddow, Deputy head, Hinchingbrooke School in Cambridgeshire.

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