Digital Newsletter Monday 10 February 2014 – The Rising Damp edition (fingers firmly crossed).

“Avast there me hearties” or some such Tosh of a greeting, from the Island Republic that is East Maidenhead. Those that know the senior boys site of Claires Court will know that it nestles gently some 800 yards away from the River Thames at Boulters Lock. Some 12 years ago, following the completion of the Jubliee River, our area was declared now rather better protected than beforehand from the dangers of flooding. In 2003, the Jubilee was first called into action, found slightly wanting yet largely did its job. Of protecting Maidenhead. People who live in Windsor, Wraysbury, Datchet and Weybridge just feel we shipped our problem their way. Such has been the deluge this winter that we now have unprecedented flooding upwater and downwater, and our fingers are crossed that despite that, we’ll stay dry. The photograph does not show our new rowing lake, but the main road north of the school to Cookham. Gulp.

Global warming is here to stay, and a brand new resource that may assist us in schools with our work has just been opened up:


“Big Facts is a resource of the most up-to-date and robust facts relevant to the nexus of climate change, agriculture and food security. It is intended to provide a credible and reliable platform for fact checking amid the range of claims that appear in reports, advocacy materials and other sources. Full sources are supplied for all facts and figures and all content has gone through a process of peer review”.

Driving us to Drink

Full of rain is the recent Tullimore Dew whiskey advert, in which which pals honor a friend at a graveyard.  It is worth the view simply for the happy ending, which seems impossible for most of the short 2 minute film. Bells have also done well with a great South African advert, in which an old man celebrates learning to read. OK, probably politically incorrect to suggest Drink companies are assisting those of us in education with materials to literally raise the spirits, so here’s one from Guinness that raises our ‘hops’ instead, as they celebrate the 2014 Winter Olympic sisterhood of twin U.S. biathletes Tracy and Lanny Barnes. Cheers.

A new College of Teaching

I attended today the launch party of the proposed new College of Teaching, which MP Charlotte Lesley introduced us to at the Autumn Study conference. The event was held in the Merchant Taylors Hall in the City of London, as was very well attended indeed by pretty much every interest group in English education. The work has recently been driven by the Prince’s Teaching Institute, and I found the various sections of the presentation really quite heartwarming. “The College of Teaching will aim to devise evidence-based best practice in teaching, accredit teachers and offer them rigorous professional development. It is hoped that 80,000 teachers will join up, with one in five promoted to the status of “fellow”, following the tradition of other professional bodies such as the Royal College of Physicians.” Here’s the Telegraph’s take on the day –

How do you teach Critical Thinking?

Here’s a clear website that highlights these issues really well, and is worthy of a wider audience methinks. Elisapiens is Spanish by origin, and published in a wide variety of languages. I like the look because it is underpinned by coherent values. “To educate an individual in critical thinking is to educate him or her to be capable of governing or controlling their own personal and professional life and to be able to find answers and solutions to problems.”

Even more from the PISA people at OECD

The Huffington post this weeks highlights a little GEM from the 2012 data, that being that attendance at pre-school improves performance in the PISA exam, by about 20 marks. The graphic below (which I can’t find from PISA direct) tells the story.

What’s happening in your school to prepare to teach Computational Thinking sometime soon?

Here’s my friend Miles Berry, the principal lecturer in Computing Education at the University of Roehampton, talking about the new computing curriculum, and suggesting ways in which teachers can prepare for the changes ahead. Published 6 Feb 2014

Useful links:

Computing in the national curriculum – a guide for primary teachers –…

DfE expert panel resource site –

Future Learn MOOC (free online course) –…

Building a new school from the ground up –

Many of you know that I am planning the building of a new campus with my colleagues to look after the whole of Claires Court (yes and pleasingly it is out of the flood plain!).

In researching ideas, I have come across all sorts of empowering research, and if you want to find someone even more tireless then me, then go to Larry Ferlazzo’s site for an amazing cornucopia of delights. As Larry makes clear himself, he is discovering more each day than he can keep up with, so sometimes it is nice when you find a research team that has done just that – surveyed global knowledge and come up with the answer. Here’s the Odyssey Initiative’s headlines:

1. Inquiry works at all ages – use the interests and passions of the youngest learners to drive learning

2. An Integrated curriculum is powerful – let different disciplines help children think in new ways.

3. Multiple assessment give a fuller picture – there’s no one set of assessments that work

4. Built In professional development sustains teachers – make collaborative reflection part of the normal way of working.

5. Open ended Technology use is the way forward (ration its use appropriately, but avoid it completely for the under 2s). Never use ‘Drill and Kill’ programmes.

6. Learning should be grounded in place – use your physical location to enhance learning

And finally, a cautionary tale. As The Harvard economist Sendhil Mullainathan and the Princeton psychologist Eldar Shafir argue in their book, “Scarcity, why having so little means so much”, Poverty is a matter of willpower and bad decisions.. It’s not that foolish choices make you poor; it’s that poverty’s effects on the mind lead to bad choices. Living with too little imposes huge psychic costs, reducing our mental bandwidth and distorting our decision making in ways that dig us deeper into a bad situation. And rather oddly, that’s why us work rich, time poor teachers sometimes can’t be trusted either – our cognitive skills can plummet below the basement!

Have a good week, and enjoy half-term when it arrives.

James Wilding,

About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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