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  • Writer's pictureTom Hopkins-Burke

The Weekly Review on Teachers Talk Radio: 5 May 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 week saw a change of month but no change to our Sunday morning schedule as our panel reviewed the week in education. Lucy Neuburger was joined by Hannah Wilson, Paul Hazzard and John Gibbs.

Lucy Neuburger, Hannah Wilson, Paul Hazzard and John Gibbs

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A person holding a magnifying glass

"The Ofsted Big Listen does not address the one-word judgements which lead to devastating outcomes" Paul Hazzard on the Weekly Review

An alternative consultation on Ofsted was launched this week by former inspectors who believe that the inspectorate's Big Listen does not go far enough in asking questions about the future of school inspection.

Set up by Colin Richards and Frank Norris, the Alternative Big Listen is supported by ten other former HMIs, and other individuals like headteachers Dave McPartlin and Glyn Potts, CEO Jonny Uttley, Caversham Primary governor Edmund Barnett-Ward and Professor Julia Waters, sister of the late Ruth Perry. It focuses specifically on Ofsted's school inspections rather than the inspectorate's wider work.

The Alternative Big Listen asks questions that are not touched upon by the 'official' Big Listen, including asking respondents to agree or disagree on the following:

  • Ofsted should use one- and two-word judgements to characterise the overall effectiveness of schools

  • There should be a moratorium on routine school inspections until a fundamental review has taken place

  • Overall, Ofsted is fit for purpose

The creators of the Alternative Big Listen urge respondents to their survey to also complete the official Big Listen consultation.

An Ofsted spokesperson said:

"Our Big Listen consultation offers plenty of space for everyone to have a say on any issue to do with our work, and of course we're expecting plenty of people will have a view on judgements. "The questions we've included cover a whole range of topics, but respondents can choose to answer as many or as few of them as they want. And if they want to talk about something else entirely, then there are free-text boxes specifically for that purpose." Ofsted spokesperson

Here's what our panel had to say on the merits of the Alternative Big Listen...

Paul Hazzard

"I've been in a little bit of contact with Frank Norris for some clarifications. I don't think we need a survey to work out that Ofsted is not fit for purpose. It doesn't matter who it comes from. Education is a human endeavour. The language and the management needs to be human and to be compassionate. The Ofsted Big Listen does not address the one-word judgements which lead to devastating outcomes."

Hannah Wilson

"It's important that the Alternative Big Listen is being done by ex-HMIs. Sir Martyn Oliver said that teachers need to stop complaining. But their Big Listen doesn't include the issues with Ofsted that teachers aren't happy with. Inspection should be a positive process to celebrate the school. It shouldn't be something that has such a negative impact on leaders' mental health that it leads to suicide."

John Gibbs

"The fact you can conjure up an alternative Big Listen that asks the questions that everyone's crying out to be asked shows the first Big Listen isn't fit for purpose. I may have been naive once to think consultations were good. But they are a sham - there's nothing about this Big Listen that's asking the right questions."


The Alternative Big Listen: LIVE!

Frank Norris

On Thursday 9 May, join Brent Poland and Adam Spence in conversation with Frank Norris, live on Education Tonight from 8pm. Send us your questions for Frank via our social media channels or email them to


A mother walking her two children into a French school

"The situation sounds pretty horrendous, but is this the best thing for the young people in France?" Hannah Wilson on the Weekly Review

The French prime minister Gabriel Attal has launched a sweeping crackdown on teenage violence in and around schools, promising a "surge of authority" to combat the "addiction of some of our adolescents to violence".

In a speech in Viry-Châtillon, where a 15-year-old boy was beaten to death by four teenagers as he walked home from his school, Attal vowed that schools must establish "a contract of rights and obligations" signed by parents each year, with harsh penalties in the event of non-compliance.

Attal also said that compulsory school hours will be extended and disruptive children should be sent to boarding school, as well as suggesting that offenders over the age of 16 should be treated as adults by the criminal justice system.

In France, if a teacher wants to reprimand a pupil for disruptive behaviour, the school's leadership must first summon the family, then wait at least two working days before holding the first interview aimed at clarifying the facts, then wait another two days so parents can prepare their defence and see a lawyer. It then takes another two days to impose any sanction, while the student remains in class.

What did our panel think of this crackdown on violence across the Channel?

Hannah Wilson

"I watched a show about gang culture in France. There's a lot of issues with teenagers, knife and gun crime. Washing blood off the pavements is quite normal. But a lot of young people can't find a job anywhere so they have little choice. Is this the right action? They can't go out, they can't do anything? The situation sounds pretty horrendous, but is this the best thing for the young people in France?"

John Gibbs

"Definitely do not learn from this example. This has altogether got more to do with politics than education... this is about societal problems that politicians can't deal with."

Paul Hazzard

"I'd like to condemn all this violence in France. People are dying. This is a political issue and schools are microcosms of society... the attempts to quell this are very typically French: that kind of abrupt, impersonal solution. Parents are the primary educators. They are the ones who need to instill a sense of discipline in their children. When I taught in France in 1985-87, if a child got three detentions the parent would lose child benefit."


What's behind the rise in violent behaviour in Scottish schools?

A boy sitting on the floor with his head in his hands

Over £500,000 was paid out to EIS members in personal injury claims in 2023 - with more than 40 per cent of settlements related to teachers being assaulted in the workplace.  So what's behind the rise in violent behaviour in Scottish schools? Tom Hopkins Burke spoke with Anne Keenan, the EIS's Assistant Secretary for Education and Equality, to find out more.


Year 8 students reading A Christmas Carol

"We've done something appalling to make a naturally enjoyable subject not enjoyable" John Gibbs on the Weekly Review

A Guardian editorial has accused curriculum changes of causing a fall in the popularity of English in schools.

The article claims that lower numbers of English graduates, leading to a decline in applicants for English places on teacher training courses, can be traced back to changes to the subject in schools along the model of subjects like Maths and Science.

Phonics and grammar also take some of the blame, according to the Guardian: the editorial suggests that a more flexible approach in classroom, making more use of literature rather than grammar, would produce stronger talkers, readers and writers.

Social media certainly had its say...

GCSE language has as little joy as it's possible to hve. Exams where speed and pressure combine to destroy hope with AQA wanting A Level quality ideas in 10 minute bursts we have to drill them on it or get hauled over the coals for data and the kids are failed and doomed to resit
The erosion of teachers' autonomy should also be reversed, if enjoyment in language and ideas is to be strengthened. Absolutely, along with schemes of work that limit children's voice and creativity.
And who do we think a retreat from explicitly teaching reading and grammar will favour? This paper is the pits when it comes to edu-opinions.

But what did our panel think?

John Gibbs

"There is a perennial debate in education about content vs enjoyment. I loved English Literature - it was my favourite A Level. We've done something appalling to make a naturally enjoyable subject not enjoyable. We have the reverse engineering of exams - how to say the right things - which is no way to teach. What a terrible thing we've done to extract the joy from English."

Paul Hazzard

"We need a broad and balanced curriculum. There's been a big focus on STEM, but we need the Arts too. Cultural industries have grown twice as much as the general UK economy. It makes fundamental sense to bring creativity into the curriculum."

Hannah Wilson

"I hated English at school. I found it really difficult. But I recently got back into reading with my Masters. My son sees me reading and really loves it. He'll read over FaceTime to family members! I read Animal Farm at school - why are we still teaching the same books? Do we need to make it more relevant and exciting for the kids? I get we still need to teach the classics but the students don't necessarily connect with it."


Keeping writing great between KS2 and KS3

A teacher helping their child with writing

Sean Mackay speaks to Shelley Francis, an English teacher and Literacy Coordinator based in North Wales. Shelley has been working with her feeder primary schools to create a framework for the teaching and assessment of writing across the transition.


Want to listen to the discussion in full? Catch up with the full show, plus a message from our sponsors Teach Well Toolkit, here.

Teach Well Toolkit: award-winning school support for mental health

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