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IOE Blog


Expert opinion from IOE, UCL's Faculty of Education and Society


Belonging, part 5: Young people are put in our path to teach us new lessons

Blog Editor, IOE Digital27 July 2022

Jubilee performance by children at Cremer Randall Primary, Hackney

Jubilee performance by children at Cremer Randall Primary, Hackney

Kathryn Riley.

The guests at the best bug hotels – I learn from my five-year-old granddaughter – can be ladybirds, beetles, even butterflies. While this is not my vision of luxury hotel living, her tutorial reminds me that young people are put in our path to teach us new lessons, and to remind us of what we may have long forgotten.

This blog – the last in a series of five about Belonging – was inspired by a recent visit to a school in Hackney – Cremer Randall Primary. My aim in visiting the school was to gather material for the final instalment of the podcast series, Let’s hear it for School Belonging. This is a story of possibilities told by young people, school leaders and experts from around the world, with insights from Rapper Jamie Pyke.

I have known the headteacher of Cremer, Jo Riley (no relation), for some time. She is one of the 16 headteachers I worked with during the Covid-19 Pandemic. I learned much from her and her peers about the importance of  ‘compassion’ which contributed to my thinking in Compassionate Leadership for School Belonging. You can download this book for free ­– a (more…)

Belonging part 4: Zero tolerance or compassion – which way is school leadership heading?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital20 July 2022

Kathryn Riley.                                    

If you want a few moments of unbridled joy, watch Flakefleet Primary School, Fleetwood perform their 2019 audition for ‘Britain’s Got Talent’. Next, dip into Michele Obama’s autobiography Becoming and find out about one of her favourite schools, Elizabeth Garret Anderson (EGA), and why it ‘touched her heart’ (p.320).  This exploration will give you some insights into the leadership of Flakefleet and EGA.

Pupils from Flakefleet Primary audition for Britain’s Got Talent, with headteacher Dave McPartlin in the background (screenshot)

Scanning the leadership terrain of late, I have been trying to make sense of what is going on. Two widely different models of school leadership seem to be emerging at opposite ends of the spectrum. One is relational and compassionate and focused on belonging; the other is about command and control, with ‘zero tolerance’ of misdemeanours. Each approach reflects a different view about what motivates people in an organisation. Broadly speaking these are that people want to contribute and be part of an enterprise versus that they are unwilling to deliver and need to be closely supervised.

In the Podcast Zero tolerance or a sense of us we brought together the headteachers of Flakefleet Primary and EGA (Dave McPartlin and Jo Dibb) to talk about their leadership. The conversation is electric. (more…)

Belonging part 3: ‘This is how we look, this is how we talk…’

Blog Editor, IOE Digital13 July 2022

 Illustration by Kristy Campbell

Kathryn Riley.

There is a curiously British aversion to talking about matters that might upset the neighbours. This feeling lurks at the back of many a staffroom, like some unwelcome spectre at the feast, or an aged parrot on the shoulder, grown weary by the passing of the years. Yet, disturb things we must. If schools are to become places of belonging, then some difficult conversations need to take place. This blog – the third in the ‘Belonging’ Series – is about how.

In 1981, I was teaching in a South London secondary school when the Brixton Riots erupted. In their wake, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher brought in senior judge Lord Scarman to examine the causes. His excoriating report pointed to (more…)

Belonging part 2: from alienation to connection and calm

Blog Editor, IOE Digital1 July 2022

Kathryn Riley.

‘I belong when I drift through the wind, peaceful and calm when I belong’ is the opening chorus of a ‘belonging’ song, written and performed by children from an International School. Their belonging experiences include ‘acts of kindness in the playground… friends who keep you above the water… pride in my work … people who are willing to find out something new… being included in things everyday… a sprinkle of joy and acts of trust…’

This blog is the second in a five-part series which tracks the impact of exclusion and the power of belonging. It’s linked to the podcast series, Let’s hear it for school belonging and the UCL Press book, Compassionate Leadership for School Belonging.

In these difficult times, we all need to have a place where we feel we belong. Whether young people experience a sense of school belonging and agency will not only influence (more…)

Belonging part 1:  the ‘red card’ of exclusion

Blog Editor, IOE Digital22 June 2022

Kathryn Riley.

‘You must shun (this girl) .. avoid her company, exclude her from your sports, shut her out of your converse… (she) is a liar’.  So pronounced Mr Brocklehurst, proprietor of Lowood School. His venom was directed against Jane Eyre, the eponymous heroine of Charlotte Bronte’s novel.

Some time ago, I interviewed young people who had been excluded from school. They drew pictures of how they felt. One image has long haunted me. At the center is a small child looking distraught. The caption around the drawing reads:

      You’re thick..  You’re stupid..  You don’t belong here..  Get out of my school… (more…)

Leadership: how schools can build on their creative, community-based responses to the pandemic

Blog Editor, IOE Digital15 April 2021

annawaldl / Pixabay

Peter Earley.

The pandemic has brought schools’ vital role at the heart of their communities into sharp relief, says visiting professor and former Chief HMI Christine Gilbert in the first of a series of Thinkpieces published by the UCL Centre for Educational Leadership (CEL). The paper will be followed by a public online forum on Tuesday 27 April from 5-6-30pm.

Gilbert’s ThinkpieceComing Back Stronger: Leadership Mattersargues that the pandemic provides an excellent opportunity for the education system to build our learning from the crisis into collaborative thinking, planning and action. Schools’ creativity in managing the disruption and complexities of the pandemic provides important lessons. It is now essential for school and other educational leaders to find time for reflection on that learning.

Her Thinkpiece identifies five leadership opportunities for building a (more…)

To be transformed by research-informed practices, schools must have the right leaders

Blog Editor, IOE Digital11 February 2021

Qing Gu  and Simon Rea.

What does it take to transform practice, culture and outcomes in the schools that need it most? Our evaluation of the Education Endowment Foundation’s Research Schools Network shows that the essential ingredient is committed and strong leadership.

This national network was launched in September 2016, and the research schools (RS) are funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) to share what they know about putting research into practice, and lead and support schools in their regions and beyond to make better use of evidence to improve teaching practices.

These schools’ primary purpose is not to conduct academic research in classrooms or schools. Rather, they help schools to access, understand, critique, and apply external evidence in their own contexts through disseminating newsletters, blogs and other materials. They also provide CPD and training in their areas. In essence, RSs are brokers between the EEF’s evidence and school practice.

Our evaluation report on the experiences of the first five RSs in their initial three years provides clear and (more…)

School accountability: why multi-year measures would be fairer to everyone and how they could be implemented

Blog Editor, IOE Digital29 November 2019

John Jerrim.

School league tables produced every year by the Department for Education currently use a single year of test score data in the headline measure. Based upon how a school’s most recent cohort of Year 11’s performed on their GCSEs, schools get labelled with terms such as “above” and “below” average.

This is not a smart thing to do. It would be much better to use the average performance of a school across multiple years instead.

This blog recaps the reasons why – and then suggests how this could be done.


School leaders: who sits at your table? And four more questions for the new year

Blog Editor, IOE Digital3 January 2019

Zachary Walker. 
Every generation brings new faces, new ways of thinking and new challenges into our classrooms. In order to prepare students for the dynamic, exciting world they are entering, it is important that we understand and honour this generation of learners. We can do this, in part, by questioning our own ways of thinking. As school leaders prepare for 2019, I’d like to propose you ask yourselves the following five questions:
Are you acknowledging reality?
The number of unique mobile users (individuals owning a mobile device) was up again in 2018 and now 75% of the UK population owns a mobile phone. We use mobile phones for social activities, directions, work, entertainment, shopping, and countless other activities. But schools are often the one place we do not allow the use of mobile devices.  (more…)

The tensions between economic and educational choices for schools have never been sharper

Blog Editor, IOE Digital3 July 2018

Toby Greany and Rob Higham.
The economic and regulatory incentives facing state schools in England are increasingly in tension with an inclusive, broad and balanced education for pupils.
Since 2010 the Government has used the language of a ‘self-improving school-led system’ to characterise its reforms, arguing that these are ‘moving control to the frontline’. Our research shows that this is a partial and idealised account: while some higher performing schools are benefitting, the system as a whole is becoming more fragmented and less equitable.
Schools have been strongly encouraged (and sometimes forced) to become academies, which are independent of local government, on the premise that they will be freed from red tape.
Yet schools and academies have faced greater regulation… read the full article on guardian.com.
See our new report here.