1. Introduction
  2. Book review of Civitas’s book on the history of UK education.
  3.  Please see after section [2] for a summary of the history of UK education and the role of  Ofsted, Bloggers, Twitter and  the Think tanks ‘Policy Exchange’ and ‘Civitas‘ in the massive changes to UK education and Ofsted policy in the last couple of years since 2012/13 and especially this year.

1. Introduction

The history of UK education is the retreat of Traditionalism and the rise of Progressivism since the ‘Plowden report’ of 1967.

As Cognitive Science has emerged into mainstream education over the last 10 years or so Progressivism is in slow retreat and shows no sign of re-emerging, this is happening globally, its Uk advocates are;

Authors: public figures: ‘Daisy Christodoulou’ is the most prominent promoter of Cognitive Science approaches. (I have not included ‘John Hattie’ or ‘Geoff Petty’ as Hattie’s maths is wrong and Petty uses it to support his propositions). ‘Andrew Old’ who is a Labour Party member and ‘David Didau’ are bloggers who have in excess of 500,000 visits each on their blogs and amongst others have critiqued the Progressive ideology and its implementation through Ofsted, Universities and School training.

Organisations: ‘Civitas’ commissioned a book written by ‘Robert Peal’ one of its research fellows, a historian and ex-history teacher on the history of UK education, it focuses on the period from the Plowden report up and until the present day. Peal claims to be neither a Labour or Tory but a centrist swing voter. ‘Civitas’ is a independent think tank (see here), whilst ‘Policy Exchange’ is a right wing think tank (see here).

2. Tradtional teaching and a summary of the two ideologies -see table




A. [ Go here] If you have a little time only for a full précis it will take approx. 40 mins.

B. 7 Progressive education myths (there are many more) .

C. In the news 2014 changing paradigms – move to cognitive science approach – favours traditional teaching.

D. The 2014 Think tanks reports on Ofsted – in favour of traditional teaching.

E. Implications for Ofsted.

F. TLA - My own approach.

G. Educational theories that have no scientific basis and are essentially ideologies

H. Implications for teaching English and Maths

[A] If you are short on time then the following 2 programmes provide a précis of the issues, I’m almost in full agreement with the summary of the research presented.

1. 2 mins, Daisy Christodoulou Ex-teacher: 'You can't teach skills without facts' 7 May 2014  -

R&D Manager Deputy Head for ARK schools – Politics show video clip VIDEO

Ex-teacher: 'You can't teach skills without facts'

a. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-27297914

b. Memory is vital for learning, and modern education should learn that lesson, says a former teacher speaking up for traditional teaching methods.

c. Daisy Christodoulou, who now works for the Ark Schools group said those who know their times tables will find it easier to solve a maths problem, and using the internet for research was not always the answer. In her personal film, drawing on her experience working in secondary schools, she said: "There are some facts you simply have to learn before you can progress any further."

d. She will be a guest on Wednesday's Daily Politics around 12:40 BST on BBC Two, and will debate this film with Conservative Nigel Evans and Labour's Sadiq Khan - the full programme will be on iPlayer for seven days.

2. 30  mins, ‘Daisy Christodoulou, The Educators Episode 4 of 8’ –

Excellent summary of the issues and Cognitive science approach Mon 15 Sep 2014 21:30


a. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04fzd9h

b. The only issue I have is she mentions higher order thinking, which I cannot find evidence for,

my TLA touched on this due to the lack of evidence for Bloom’s taxonomy as neither being effective or representing with any accuracy how the brain functions.

1. The mind as a ‘hierarchical problem solver’ model cannot explain the use of ‘higher order’ thinking of  brain damaged patients and / or autistic or otherwise mental developmentally damaged human beings.

2. Instead thinking (skills) seem to  work in parallel, factual recall is just as hard for the brain as analysis or evaluation.

See here http://inside-the-brain.com/tag/noam-chomsky/

c. I’ve just emailed her today for clarification.

[B] 7 Progressive education myths (there are many more) .

3. Daisy Christodoulou Ex-teacher

a. Please see her latest blog here

a. http://thewingtoheaven.wordpress.com/about/

b. In her blog, author Daisy Christodoulou discusses her book Seven Myths About Education...


c. [click on the list to go to the summary for each of the 7 myths]

1. Facts prevent understanding

2. Teacher-led instruction is passive (includes myth of active and passive learning / teaching)

3. The 21st century fundamentally changes everything

4. You can always just look it up

5. We should teach transferable skills       

6. Projects and activities are the best way to learn

7. Teaching knowledge is indoctrination

d. In this  latest post (7th February 2014), Daisy discusses 'The Evidence Base, Part 1':


"In Seven Myths about Education, I make two claims:

1. first, that in English education, a certain set of ideas about education are predominant;

2. second, that these ideas are misguided.

3. Finding the evidence to prove the second point was relatively straightforward. It is scientifically well-established that working memory is limited and that long-term memory plays a significant role in the human intellect. This has clear implications for classroom practice, implications which others have made and which I was happy to recap."

4. In her blog post (26th January 2014), Daisy discusses Ofsted and her book:

"The main thesis of my book is that child-centered education is the orthodoxy in English schools. The Ofsted lesson descriptions are one of main sources of evidence for this claim, and are also one of the main ways in which such an orthodoxy is maintained, and indeed enforced."

"There are seven chapters and each chapter discusses a different myth about education. I had the idea of structuring a book like this because so oftentimes in conversation about education I found that the discussion would end up being about one of these ideas.”

"First, I try to explain clearly the theoretical evidence behind this myth.

Second, I show the practical implications of the myth, and I show that such practice is prevalent in English schools today. Third, I explain why it is a myth." 

(both quotes from blog article on 11th June 2013)

e. [John Hattie The Educators Episode 2 of 8 also has a mention, Mon 25 Aug 2014]

Shockingly the massive errors in the effect size calculations which are used as content of the programme are  

never mentioned (see previous email regarding this). This is well after the critiques mentioned in my other email and so he appears to be ignoring the flawed maths.

For this reason although he advocates Cognitive Science approaches his analyses /rankings cannot be recommend as they are mathematically wrong].


[C] In the news 2014 changing paradigms – move to cognitive science approach – favours traditional teaching.

1. Return to traditional teaching – teacher led lessons.


2 Bloggers who have national prominence with 500,000+ views

1. Andrew ‘Old’ Maths Teacher - Blog Stats 1,054,898 hits 12.10.14


a. BBC Thur 14/2/2014: A Radio 4 programme about OFSTED, in which I feature, can be found here.’


b. BBC Tue 17 Jun 2014

I used to spend blogging. One of these, from a few weeks back, was an appearance on a Radio 4 programme called “One to One” that was broadcast this morning. The programme can be found on iplayer.


c. My Meeting With Sean Harford, OFSTED’s National Director for Schools Policy,July,30,2014 http://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/my-meeting-with-sean-harford-ofsteds-national-director-for-schools-policy/

d. First Impressions of the New OFSTED Handbook July 31, 2014


2. David Didau English teacher and former Deputy Headteacher see here over hits 600,000+ as of 12.10.14:


His blog


& meeting with OFSTED National Director for Schools Policy, Sean Harford in Birmingham on Friday 25th July     


[D] The 2014 Think tanks reports on Ofsted - in favour of traditional teaching.

Civitas report on Ofsted by Robert Peal and his blog

a. For a review see here


b. The report can be read here


c. Robert Peal’s Book on the History of UK education

a. http://www.civitas.org.uk/education/PW.php

b. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Progressively-worse-Burden-British-Schools/dp/1906837627

c. A  easy to read summary of the history of the uk education system can be read here


d. &



"It should be essential reading for anyone who wishes to engage with an argument that has raged for over a century, and shows every sign of continuing. For those unfamiliar with educational politics, appropriately it will be an education. For those who have only seen the disagreements over education described from the perspective of progressive educationalists, it will be a shock. For those within the education system who are already sympathetic to his cause, it will be a call for subversion"

Andrew Old, Scenes From the Battleground

Foreword here by Andrew Old blogger see above is a Labour party member

d. His rebuttal of the critics part 1 of 5  can be read here


Policy exchange report on Ofsted

e. http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/publications/category/item/watching-the-watchmen-the-future-of-school-inspections-in-england

f. The report can be read here


g. Think tanks like (independent) Civitas and (right wing) Policy Exchange are hypothesising that such an agenda is responsible for the decline in the international PISA scores over the last 15 years for STEM subjects. (I mentioned that Civitas were left wing in my previous email (mainly due to the number of left wing members), I was wrong, they are actually independent).



[E] Implications for Ofsted.

1. Gove allies say ‘Sixties-mired’ Ofsted should be scrapped Published on January 24, 2014


2. 8 mins NEWSNIGHT: Just who is in Gove's "blob" and who isn't? Published on 4 Feb 2014


Ofsted Culture

i. http://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/ofsted-culture/ April 12, 2014

ii. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2696737/How-Ofsted-marks-teachers-actually-teaching.html  18 July 2014

iii. http://goodbyemisterhunter.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/some-thoughts-on-the-ofsted-style/ 24 April 2014

iv. And many more

3. Fascinating blogs on the spat between Ofsted and DfE –

1. http://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/that-govewilshaw-spat/ February 13, 2014

2. http://www.learningspy.co.uk/tag/ofsted/

3. 40+ bloggers listed here


[F] TLA My own approach is best summarised in  [1] & [2] these subsume the link in this email into their analysis and conclusions.

1. ‘The methods we use to achieve our democratic vision are pragmatic’


‘What we call civilization--the accumulation of knowledge which has come down to us from our forefathers--is the fruit of thousands of years of human thought and toil.

It is not the result of the labour of the ancestors of any separate class of people who exist today, and therefore it is by right the common heritage of all.

Every little child that is born into the world, no matter whether [s]he is clever or dull, whether [s]he is physically perfect or lame, or blind; no matter how much [s]he may excel or fall short of his [her] fellows in other respects, in one thing at least [s]he is their equal—[s]he is one of the heirs of all the ages that have gone before.’

We believe that it is wrong that some pupils have been excluded from understanding the great advances of civilisation.

We believe, along with William Beveridge, that such exclusion undermines democracy: ‘Ignorance is an evil weed, which dictators may cultivate among their dupes, but which no democracy can afford among its citizens.’

- See more at: http://www.thecurriculumcentre.org/our-thinking/core-beliefs/#sthash.xSdqP87h.dpuf



 The scientific consensus is that intelligence is far more knowledge-bound than we ever thought. Although educationalists like to talk of transferable skills such as problem-solving and creative thinking, in actual fact there is very little evidence that it is possible to teach such skills in the abstract. It is possible to be a good problem-solver in the domain of mathematics and a very poor one in the domain of literary analysis. Skills are domain-specific: that is, the content of the problem you are solving will have a big impact on your ability to solve it.”

2. I am in full agreement with Prof of Physics Frederick Reif on how human beings actually learn – this Cognitive Science paradigm has had the biggest influence on me in the last year.

a. Applying Cognitive Science to Education Thinking and Learning in Scientific and Other Complex Domains by Frederick Reif MIT Press,

b. Summary


B. his book can be previewed here


C. Here a short review of the book. – the best explanation I’ve read so far for why STEM subjects are not understood by students.


3. Also see

http://pragmaticreform.wordpress.com/    It is my belief that we need to change the way we think about planning and instruction.

“We should focus instruction on rigorous, content-led, subject-specific tasks that ensure students think hard about subject content”.                  

4. Putting it together


interesting ideas here.

[G] Educational theories that have no scientific basis and are essentially ideologies

1. Here is a debunking of Brain gym on Newsnight. - Brain Gym (from 5.30 mins on for the Scientific criticism)

a. Part 1


b. Part 2


2. Part a wider debunking of learning styles / preferences  – the scientists whose research had been misused came out against VAK/B Gym –

“VAK Each to their own The government espouses the theory of learning styles with scant regard to the evidence, says Phil Revell 2005


3. Learning Styles Debunked: There is No Evidence Supporting Auditory and Visual Learning [Kinaesthetic], Psychologists Say 2009


4. Everything You've Ever Been Told About How You Learn Is A Lie (Brain gym / Left Brain Right brain/ VAK etc) 2013

Three myths your teachers told you about how your brain learns, debunked By Shaunacy Ferro Posted 09.12.2013


5. Constructivism

a. in Education: Sophistry for a New Age Professor Martin A. Kozloff. May 1998


b. ”Contrary to the rhetoric, constructivism, if taken seriously, is only a hindrance to good teaching. Teachers need to take children over the divide between their haphazard, largely narcissistic, beliefs arising from experience and everyday life to the realm of scientific (or mathematical, or historical, or literary) knowledge.         

The core constructivist idea that, as Beverley Bell once put it, ‘knowledge is the personal construction of an individual and does not exist externally to be transmitted’ (Bell, 1986, p. 6), is philosophically dubious and educationally unhelpful. It does nothing to bridge the conceptual gulf between science and children’s ideas that everyone, constructivists included, recognise”.


2010 EURASIA, Eurasia J. Math. Sci. & Tech. Ed., 6(4), 287-309

[H] Implications for teaching English and Maths

1. Fluency in Mathematics: Part 1 October 4, 2014

“I gave a talk on fluency in mathematics in March at Pedagoo London (my first public appearance) and again last weekend at the La Salle Education maths conference. This post is based on those talks and so, inevitably it is long enough to take several posts and revisits some old ground”.


a. I (SPV) and others have contacted Andrew Old for his use of Hattie’s data which he has acknowledged if you read the comments section and will be in the future commenting on himself. Given the type of error he made a re-calculation will give even weaker effect sizes for the things that Andrew Old criticises.

2. Fluency in English: , 2013


UK Education a History