Nutty code was hard to crack

3rd April 2009 at 01:00

I've just received my copy of Learning Matters, our local authority's latest pamphlet of news and information. Since it's intended to be a regular way for education officials to keep in touch with their schools, and a bit of a morale-booster to boot, I applaud the idea.

But when I settled down to give it a thorough read, I became a little concerned. A piece on the back page entitled "Work smarter not harder" (Dear God, how we constantly murder grammar these days!) purports to explain the benefits of joining something called the Teacher Learning Academy.

Frankly, I'd never heard of it, so I was intrigued to learn more. The first paragraph says that "it underpins collaborative working and learning, building on strengths of the past to influence and achieve the aspirations of the future". OK, fair enough, but . well, what is it? And what does it do?

I read further. I learn that it gives schools a "portable four-stage framework". Pretty exciting stuff so far, and yet I still don't really know what it is. The next sentence attempts to tell me. At the end of a long day, it made as much sense to me as a primer in Serbo-Croat. I quote it in full: "It is a system which advocates for promoting action research by teachers based in their own professional practice which affords recognition of existing activities within their classrooms and schools."

I read this six times, but it didn't help much, so I read on. It seems that schools can register with the academy, and once things are "embedded", they get "connection between pupil and teacher learning" and "alignment between school improvement and teacher development". There was even a quote from a head: "I want to work with other schools so that the total outcomes are more than the sum of the parts." Wow.

At this point, I checked the date on the cover. Was it April 1? No, this was all deadly serious - and there was I, a head with 30 years' experience at the coalface, unable to decipher what I'd read.

Then I decided to do an internet search for the academy, and up came a colourful website with other snippets of information. It was all about having a personal programme for "practice-based learning", which would enhance "teacher recognition". (You're a teacher, aren't you? Thought so. I could tell by the cadaverous pallor brought on from reading indecipherable pamphlets .)

Then, after another half-hour, I was pretty sure I'd cracked it. I think of a useful idea, such as giving children a pencil to write with. Then I join the academy, become accredited, pay a fee, have a mentor, write some stuff, and then share it with the world. I'm not yet sure how .

But wait. There are lots of little tabs across the top of the screen and one of them is labelled "case studies". And there are seven of them. Now I can really find out what these schools have undertaken and how exciting it all was. Unfortunately, only one of the schools, a business and enterprise college, has written anything - and even then it doesn't tell me what they've done.

Disappointed, I click on the tab that lists some of the topics that academy enrollers have opted to investigate. One says "use of the LASC wheel to develop independent creative learners". LASC wheel? No, I haven't a clue either.

And then I spot a tiny subtitle at the top of the home page. It reads: "Led by the General Teaching Council for England." And, of course, that explains a great deal .

Mike Kent is headteacher of Comber Grove Primary School in Camberwell, south London. Email:

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