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  • Writer's pictureTom Hopkins-Burke

The Weekly Review on Teachers Talk Radio: 28 January 2024

Missed the Teachers Talk Radio Weekly Review - the show where we review the week in education? Catch up with the headlines and the discussion here...


This Sunday on the Weekly Review, Lucy Neuburger discussed leaky classrooms, Ofsted loopholes and the AI digital divide with a Teachers Talk Radio panel of Hannah Wilson, Kathryn Taylor and Shaniqua Edwards-Hayde.

The Teachers Talk Radio panel of Lucy Neuburger, Kathryn Taylor, Shaniqua Edwards-Hayde and Hannah Wilson.


"The state of disrepair is disgraceful. I'm glad this is being shared. How can children learn and teachers teach in conditions like that?" Shaniqua Edwards-Hayde on the Weekly Review

A BBC Panorama investigation has found that the average primary school in England needs £300,000 worth of maintenance or upgrades, while the average secondary school needs an estimated £1.5 million.

In some schools, the BBC found that temperatures are so low that children keep gloves and coats on during lessons. One primary school in Devon teaches some children in unheated "sheds" (above) - temporary buildings that were built around 60 years ago. Temperatures dropped below 7 degrees Celsius, even with all the heaters on - workplace regulations say classrooms should be at least 16 degrees Celsius.

The National Audit Office (NAO) found last year that around 24,000 school buildings were "beyond [their] original design life" - or, in other words, more than one-third of the entire school estate in England. Furthermore, Parliament's Public Accounts Committee noted that schools in the north of England generally appeared to be in worse condition than those in the south.

The Building Schools for the Future programme, established in 2004, was cancelled by then-Education Secretary Michael Gove in 2010 as part of wider austerity measures. The programme aimed to rebuild or refurbish every secondary school in England over 15-20 years. The government's School Rebuilding Programme began in 2021 and aimed to rebuild 500 schools in England over the next ten years - but after three years, just four schools have been rebuilt.

In response to the BBC's investigation, the DfE said that £5.3bn is needed each year to maintain schools in England, but it has only been allocated about £3bn by the Treasury. In addition, £15bn of capital funding had been allocated since 2015 for essential maintenance and improvements, including £470m in 2023 "to address school buildings in need of immediate support as quickly as possible".

Our panel shared their thoughts on the BBC Panorama investigation...

Shaniqua Edwards-Hayde

"I watched the Panorama documentary yesterday and I was in shock... there was a headteacher who was 65 who said they wanted to retire but couldn't leave the school like this. This government has allowed schools and hospitals to end up like this... the state of disrepair is disgraceful. I'm glad this is being shared. How can children learn and teachers teach in conditions like that?"

Kathryn Taylor

"This isn't small signs - [the warning signs] are blatant and clear... I just wonder how much the money is really flowing. It's not just the old buildings that need maintaining, but the new builds too. The children and teachers in these building, their health and their academic progress is compromised because they are dealing with adversity. Something serious is going to happen"

Hannah Wilson

"The government needs to fund [school repairs] and get schools safe. We have so many vulnerable children in these places. In one school there are pots under the radiators and buckets outside for leaks! The work is being rushed in the summer holidays and not being done to a high enough standard."


Want to find out more about the condition of the school estate? Here's a show for you...

A futuristic interior of a school.

What does your typical UK school look like? What is the impact of space on learning? Do we get the choice in how a school is designed? These are crucial questions which research is just starting to explore. Our host Maud explores what space does to our learning and how to overcome design failures in our schools.


Schools Week exclusive: Ofsted tightens inspection early warning alert loophole

A website advertising 'Ofsted alert emails' for schools to gain extra notice of when they are to be inspected.

"If people are monitoring websites to see when Ofsted are visiting for a day or two extra notice, it just shows how awful the process is" Hannah Wilson on the Weekly Review

Schools Week has been running a long investigation into algorithms that can predict when Ofsted is looking at a school's website prior to notice of inspection. Ideas about setting up an "Ofsted early warning" system are published on the Internet as far back as 2015. Last year, website provider Greenhouse School Websites (above) signed up thousands of clients to its alert emails that trigger if a website user "is exhibiting behaviours typically associated with Ofsted". Ofsted inspection teams tend to look at key information documents from a school's website between two and fourteen days before inspections.

Ofsted's inspection system is based on the principle that schools should only be told about inspections the day before they happen - or with no notice whatsoever in rare cases.

While Ofsted claims to have shaken up how and when inspectors access school websites, they have provided scant detail on how - since they claim that schools will simply take advantages of new processes. The Schools Minister Damian Hinds has said that Ofsted is "continuing to consider proportionate technical options to hide or disguise its access to school websites prior to an inspection" - possibly including the use of VPNs (virtual private networks), according to Schools Week.

Hinds added that "schools do not need to take any extra steps to prepare for Ofsted inspections".

One solution could be to extend the notice period for schools for an Ofsted inspection so that inspectors review a school's website during the notice period. Here's what our panel had to say on Ofsted monitoring algorithms and potential solutions:

Hannah Wilson

"If people are monitoring websites to see when Ofsted are visiting for a day or two extra notice, it just shows how awful the process is. Ofsted should be a comfortable thing, where we're welcoming them in. There shouldn't bee this 24-hour stress. Schools need enough notice to present themselves in their best way""

Shaniqua Edwards-Hayde

"Schools are desperate. Ofsted has become people's lives in schools... [Minister for Schools] Damian Hinds says schools don't need to take extra steps for Ofsted but schools want that advantage."

Kathryn Taylor

"The website should be in a good condition [for Ofsted] because inspectors look at it, talk to the head to corroborate it, and talk to teachers to corroborate the head. You're never going to be able to fix the website quickly enough... I don't know what [Ofsted website monitoring] provides in terms of an advantage."


What is the current state of play with school inspection? We've got a Collection just for you...

The outside of a school

Collections are groups of four shows from the TTR archives grouped around a particular domain specialism. Our Collection on school inspection contains the following:

Life as an Ofsted inspector: Shaniqua Edwards-Hayde is joined by Ofsted HMI Dan Lambert to discuss life working for the inspectorate and visiting schools.

Ofsted: What could or should the future hold? Tom Rogers is joined by guests including Becky Allen, (co-founder of Teacher Tapp), Simon Kidwell (President of NAHT), and Shivan Davis (English teacher), to discuss the past, present and future of school inspection.

Ofsted pressure: Ed Finch reflects on the burden placed on Headteachers by Ofsted inspection with co-host Toby Payne-Cook. In the last fifteen minutes they are joined by Flora Cooper, who tried to prevent Ofsted inspectors from entering her school.

Ofsted reform: what are the options? Tom Rogers is joined by guests from Ireland and Finland to explore what schools inspection looks like there. Plus, Martin Hanbury shares his unique insight into the inspection process as an Ofsted inspector who resigned following the tragic death of Ruth Perry.


DfE: Open Innovation Team reports back to government on generative AI in education

"There's an awful lot of time-saving, but we have to be wise about what students are going to do with GenAI and the underbelly of it" Kathryn Taylor on the Weekly Review

Generative AI in education: educator and expert views, January 2024.  Authors: The Open Innovation Team, Department for Education.

The DfE's Digital Strategy Division has asked the government's Open Innovation Team to explore the opportunities and risks for GenAI in education. The report, published this week, contains insights from interviews and educators at 23 educational institutions, 14 interviews with experts from academia and EdTeach, quantitative data sources, and literature reviews.

The government has concluded that...

Technology works best as a tool used by great teachers, and it is important to take a joined-up pedagogical approach. Technology, including GenAI, is not a catch all solution to educational challenges and could never replace the valuable relationship between teachers and pupils. Similarly, skills like handwriting will continue to be important in children’s development and schooling in England. But technology can support and augment brilliant teachers’ teaching. Its use in the classroom should be informed by evidence and best practice, which is why the Department continues to build the evidence base for this technology. DfE and Open Innovation Team, Jan 2024

The Open Innovation Team has produced five key findings around GenAI in education:

  1. GenAI could change education models, including increasing the use of flipped learning in schools (where students build knowledge outside the classroom and apply it inside the classroom)

  2. Schools need funding to evaluate the impact of GenAI on student outcomes

  3. Research funding is needed to help teachers detect GenAI

  4. GenAI could exacerbate the 'digital divide' in education

  5. More research is needed to understand the intellectual property associated with GenAI

Our panel - all of whom are current classroom teachers - discussed how the findings of this report might impact their practice...

Kathryn Taylor

"We don't have an AI lead at the moment, but it comes under teaching and learning. I used GenAI to help mark my A Level mocks this week... the students are going to get something really comprehensive that I didn't spend hours writing. There's an awful lot of time-saving, but we have to be wise about what students are going to do with GenAI and the underbelly of it."

Hannah Wilson

"Having been at BETT 2024 this week, AI is developing faster than schools can manage with their leaky roofs. I still have students in my school without mobile phones - so they won't be able to access GenAI. There needs to be a level playing field."

Shaniqua Edwards-Hayde

"I feel a bit out of touch - maybe I should have gone to BETT 2024! I see AI everywhere but don't know enough about it. There needs to be more CPD especially at primary level. When it comes to coursework, people might use GenAI for cheating - including adults! So there's a lot more research to be done, but I don't know where I have the time to do it."


Interested in learning about how GenAI might impact on schools in the future? Here's a show for you from this weekend!

An AI-generated image of four robots surrounding a teacher writing on a blackboard with a book in their hand.

Talia Montaño Andrade, a teacher and trainer from Mexico joined Graham Stanley on Saturday 27 January to talk about generative AI tools and her experience of using them for teaching and learning languages.


Want to listen to the discussion in full? Catch up with the full show, plus a message from our sponsors John Catt Educational, here.

A graphic for our sponsors John Catt: educational publishers since 1959.

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