What primary teachers say...and what they really mean

Education English is subtly different from the English everyone else speaks. Michael Tidd provides a glossary

Nerd with dictionary

Whenever a new governor joins a governing body, or a new person joins the admin team of a school's staff, it’s handy to be able to provide them with a list of acronyms. It’s possible that they’ll never need a SEF or the SDP to understand the Sats results’ link to GCSE qualification for PPG pupils – but you can guarantee that barely a conversation will go by without at least one initialism.

You’d think, though, when it came to words and phrases we’d be all right. It’s very unusual to find a new member of the team who isn’t familiar with English, so what possible barrier could there be? But time and again I find that what we all think we mean by various phrases can vary so much. And so, I offer a dictionary of words and phrases for those new to primary education – with alternatives.

Accurate adjective

1. True; a fair representation. Giving a precise and correct interpretation of the situation at hand. [Often applied to assessment results.]

2. Providing the most helpful numbers to ensure that whole-school targets are met.

Broad and balanced adjective

1. Used to describe a curriculum that provides clearly sequenced programmes of learning over the full duration of the school year, to ensure a real breadth and depth of knowledge in all subjects.

2. A curriculum that includes some brief snapshots of history when it helps to provide a nice context for the writing tasks.

Check noun

1. A government-funded opportunity for schools to evaluate the success of their programmes by comparing their pupils’ skill-levels with those of their peers nationally.

2. A test.

Collective worship noun

1. A gathering of like-minded religious believers sharing in praise of their chosen god or gods.

2. Fifteen minutes’ respite, with a story, which may or may not contain a vague moral message.

Free school noun

1. Like an ordinary school except…well…you know…just called something different.

2. No. That’s really it. It’s just a school.

Greater depth noun… or is it an adjective? Not sure really.

1. More thorough knowledge and understanding of a particular field, which allows increased flexibility of thought and application to novel contexts.

2. Seems quite bright.

Level noun

An outmoded and unhelpful form of assessment, by which pupils were allocated to bands according to a vague set of descriptors with arbitrary cut-off points. [Obsolete; see instead: standard]

Moderation noun

1. A rigorous process of reviewing teachers’ judgements against an agreed framework to ensure close adherence to the requirements of the assessments.

2. A meeting of teachers from neighbouring schools where each brings the books of the child with the neatest handwriting in their class, and then all discuss how many playground duties teachers have to do in different schools.

Outstanding adjective

1. Something that stands out from others of its type through excellence in some form, usually consistently so.

2. A place that had a good couple of days 10 years ago and has tried to keep quiet since.

Standard noun

An outmoded and unhelpful form of assessment, by which pupils were allocated to bands according to a vague set of descriptors with arbitrary cut-off points [formerly level].

Support noun

1. A programme of help designed to enable improvement matched to the needs of the improver.

2. A warning shot across the bows to a difficult or expensive person. [See also: monitoring]

Teaching assistant noun

1. A trained auxiliary, offering additional support for pupils to ensure high attainment for all groups.

2. Like a supply teacher, but cheaper and doesn’t need telling what time assembly is.

Michael Tidd is headteacher at Medmerry Primary School in West Sussex. He tweets as @MichaelT1979

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