BREXIT – initial thoughts on effects on our schools

Alea iacta est, the die is cast! With 5am last Friday morning it was obvious that a majority (51.9%) of the UK electorate had voted for BREXIT. By lunchtime it was clear what BREXIT means for the leadership of the country as well as the conservative party: change. Change is approached differently by all of us, some of us are anxious and some are embracing change and try to see the opportunities change will bring. However, considering BREXIT there are so many unknowns; some of us might still be hoping that the European Union might offer the new prime minister a better REMAIN deal, an option that has been particularly featured in some of the German speaking press. We won’t know immediately what this change called “BREXIT” means. We have entered a period of waiting, and a period of leadership discussion. The optimist in me is looking forward to a more factual, scientific and less emotional debate in preparing for the negotiations with the EU when the UK government finally decides to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Considering these future negotiations, education, without doubt, might not be on the highest of the agenda. Chris Husbands opened his BERA blog last week with the words that the EU referendum “has nothing to do with education – certainly not with schools”. In the course of his blog, Husbands makes a strong argument why the referendum does actually have to do with education but doesn’t refer back to schools. As an educator, teacher trainer and someone who has been working on teacher supply policy over the past five years, I would argue that BREXIT is likely to have quite a bit of an impact on our schools.

Teacher supply, and the lack of it in some subjects, has been part of the education debate in this country for at least 20 years. Through the freedom of movement arrangements within the European Union it has been possible for the Department for Education to rely on teachers from European countries to fill some of these vacant posts. In fact, we even welcomed them by accepting their European teacher qualifications and attributed them the status of “Qualified Teacher”.

These teachers are not just a solution to the staffing problem but they are also an invaluable asset to the school and its community; they bring a new perspective, new culture, new approaches and often alternative ways of working and thinking to the community. At a time where ‘otherness’ is leading to anxiety and fear in our society, it is our moral responsibility as educators and policy makers to ensure that our learners are actively engaging with people from different nations, cultures and customs. Yes, one might argue that this might not be of such an importance when we have disconnected ourselves from the European Union, I would argue that it will be much more important, as we won’t be automatically part of it. We will have to negotiate partnerships for ourselves rather than being part of a European Union scheme, such as Comenius or Erasmus+.

Erasmus+, and previously Comenius, have enabled school leaders to have access to additional funds to motivate, engage and most importantly develop their young learners as well as accomplish innovative school improvement initiatives. One headteacher reported to me that he received over €490k by applying successfully to different EU schemes over an eight-year period.

And then there are those educational activities that I would argue are vital for a child’s development, i.e. trips and exchange programmes to European Union countries. Yes, some might argue school trips in recent years have declined anyway – but this is not due to the European Union, this is a purely UK self-inflicted decrease by constantly increasing the red tape and highlighting the risks rather than the opportunities of such mobility programmes. Practical schemes such as the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) have not just reduced the costs of international trips but ensured that our pupils and teachers are able to access adequate medical care while travelling within the EU zone.

All these are examples of how the UK has benefitted from being part of the European Union. Yes, the die is cast! However, this does not mean that all is lost for the country, its partnership with the European Union as well as for education and schools more specifically. It is now essential that we all, politicians, experts, embassy representatives, school and business leaders, unions, subject associations and parents work closely together to identify ways forward in a partnership with the European Union in order to ensure that this BREXIT referendum outcome does not negatively affect our next generation – a generation that would have so much more wished to be part of a united Europe than a potentially isolated and de-united (Great) Britain.

Taken from BERA


Husbands, Chris (2016): Yesterdays and tomorrows: what the referendum says about education. BERA Blog, Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Written by:

René Koglbauer

René Koglbauer is Senior Lecturer in Educational Leadership and Director of the North Leadership Centre at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University. René is currently also acting head of the school. René is President of the Association for Language Learning and Director of Network for Languages North East. He is member of a number of regional, national and international policy groups. René represents the UK at the International German Teacher Association and is chair of a number of competition and teacher award panels. Prior to his university appointment, René held a number of roles in secondary education in the UK, Hungary, Russia and his country of origin, Austria.

René can be contacted by email or via twitter @Rene_Koglbauer

For more information see:

CERA-UK Conference 2016

From 24 June to 25 June 2016, I attended an annual conference held by Institute of Education, UCL, called CERA-UK Conference 2016, and presented the draft findings of my doctoral research in Session D – Higher Educational issues. And the title of my presentation is “Internationalisation strategies and the international students’ experiences: two approaches of internationalisation of higher education (IHE) in universities of the UK and China”.


I received many useful feedbacks and suggestions from this presentation experience. To be more specific, I received critiques on “sampling” issues and realised the necessity of further declaring the criteria and considerations of choosing participants in my study. Also, I had a further discussion on the IHE framework with audiences during the “Question and comments” part of my presentation.

Also, at the end of each session, there was a panel discussion. And all presenters in that session were sitting in the front, answering more questions and discussing any other related topics in details. In the session D I was presenting, the key topics also covered “intercultural perspectives”, which is another key issue involved in my own project. Although the research context of Prof. Dervin and Harkonen’s study is different from mine, I still learnt a lot from listening to their presentations and the discussing with them in the panel discussion.


Also, as an international conference looking at educational issues and relationships in both China and the UK, there were several keynotes that intensively looking at globalising issues. For example, Simon Marginson from UCL gave a Keynote speech “Towards future world society: Some thoughts about China-UK relations in education and research”. In the keynote, he suggested that in every country, the approach to internationalisation is shaped by historical, cultural and political-economic factors. And he further suggested that more needs to be done in the UK to develop internationalisation on a world-wide scale and practice the China-UK engagement, thus to make the transition from the imperial past to relations of global equals within the unity in diversity of world society. His speech broadened my research horizon, as I am only focusing on “institutional level” of IHE. As a result, for further revising work on my literature review, I would like to consider the IHE issues within a broader background.

In addition, it was really an enjoyable and inspiring conference, and a good chance to get connections with other international scholars, either from the Britain, China or worldwide. For instance, during this conference, I met the Minister-Counsellor Shen Yang, Embassy of the People’s Republic of China TBC, Department for Education, UK, who gave the opening speech. And I got to know more Chinese scholars who are doing educational research in the UK, such as Yongcan Liu, University of Cambridge, who gave a keynote speech named “Dynamic Assessment for the Language Development of Disadvantaged Migrant Children with EAL”.

About the blogger

Written by Coco Lu LIU, 4th years PhD candidate in Applied Linguistics and Education in the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University.

The Case for a Community Curriculum Making

Picture the scene, it is Monday afternoon and twenty 14 year olds are listening with rapt attention to a group of elderly men and women.  Some are writing furiously while others are using their mobile phones to record what is being said.  Back at school with the guidance of their teacher the students will spend the week crafting beautiful stories. The spelling and punctuation will be accurate, the presentation stunning.  On Friday, the students will revisit their new friends and present them with their Story. There will be tears on both sides and teachers and care workers will look on with pleasure as they see the generations collide in an exquisite display of affection and understanding.


This is CCM in action and is a real example taken from Park View School; I could give you many others.  The students are Year 9, the teacher is Alison Moore.  Alison has planned everything meticulously. She has talked to the care home manager and the residents.  She has briefed the students and worked with them to plan how they will conduct their interviews and the importance of listening with respect and understanding and of course of being dressed smartly.  She has discussed with the students how they might present their finished work and has helped them plan their return visit.

Alison has planned for all eventualities however, she could not have anticipated how emotionally engaged the students would become and how their desire to represent the lives of the residents would drive their desire to ensure that they produced beautiful, meaningful and honest work.  Nor could she have anticipated the emotions that would overwhelm both residents and students when the stories were presented framed and gift wrapped.  There were laughter and joy but also tears and sadness for a life once lived but now gone. Rarely do young and old have the opportunity to share something so powerful.


Such an experience enriches the lives of both young and old and is at the very heart of why CCM is so important.  If we wish our communities and our young people to grow and prosper to be compassionate and kind we must make this part of the way we organise our schools and plan our education.  This is how we build social capital and never has that been so important. Building social capital is absolutely critical in our increasingly complex and chaotic world, a world in which young people and their families are faced with evermore challenging economic and social circumstances. At Park View 26% (and rising) of our school population are Pupil Premium and increasing numbers of them are ‘Looked After’. Yet hidden behind these statistics is a darker story, the families who do not qualify for Pupil Premium but are struggling to cope with the demands of daily life and the many young people and their carers facing the catastrophic fallout from declining mental health.

Ron Berger (The Ethics of Excellence) talks about the need for authentic audiences to inspire young people to create beautiful work, which is what Alison enabled.  Keri Facer (Learning Futures) talks of the need for schools to really be the centre of their communities and Mick Waters (Thinking allowed on Schooling) tells us that it is social capital that will rescue children and their families from poverty not ‘intervention and catch-up’. Waters passionately believes that schools should give young people the skills and the courage to network to challenge themselves to meet their aspirations.  They need to be able to be able to present themselves with skill and confidence.  They need to experience the richness of their cultural heritage, just as their ‘better off’ peers do.  Money and connections may not buy happiness but it at least makes prosperity more likely.


I would like to say that the scene I painted in the opening paragraphs was the everyday story of Park View.  It is not.  You will find examples of such richness throughout the year as teachers fight to preserve the joy in learning, but general such experiences take place at the end of the Summer Term in ‘Enrichment Week’.  They do not inform the mainstream curriculum which is increasingly constrained and restricted by a government hell bent on returning to the 1950’s.  The teaching profession must stand against this and CCM is a powerful method of reasserting our independence and our commitment to nurturing creative and compassionate young people.  If we choose to accept this ‘Impossible Mission’ I have no doubt that together schools and their communities can build a fairer society in which all are valued and all can succeed.   The case for ‘Community Curriculum Making’ has never been so strong.

Written by Kim Cowie
May 2016 – Park View School
Kim Cowie has recently been appointed as Lecturer in Education specialising in Professional Learning and will join the ECLS team in September 2016. 

Whole-class I-R-F: Confronting the ‘Pseudo-differentiation’ Issue

The practice of ‘differentiation’ in a whole-class setting is an established concept and regarded as being an essential feature of effective pedagogy. As Kerry (2002, p.82) points out:

“This skill operates in a context of challenge and support for the pupils to bring out the best learning in each individual, and that learning has to be set against a context of cognitive demand.”

It is difficult to disagree here since intellectual dissonance is an essential precursor for cognitive development.

My recent doctoral research included a consideration of ‘differentiation’ during whole-class questioning, a process commonly referred to as I-R-F (Initiation-Response-Feedback). There appears to be a general consensus amongst teachers (and Ofsted) that ‘effective’ differentiation involves matching up the cognitive demands of the question with the ability of the student selected. This philosophy appears logical, yet there is an inherent problem; a question may be appropriate for the selected student but what about the rest of the class? As an NQT insightfully remarked, “you can’t ask 30 questions to 30 kids, because that would take too long.

Okay, this may be rather simplistic and there may be some other students in the class with similar ability, but point made; for the majority of the class, the question will be either too easy or too hard. However, that is not to say that authentic whole-class differentiation is not possible during I-R-F routines. My rationale is based on two essential pre-requisites:

  • The question needs to be ‘referential’

Display (closed) questions generally cannot be differentiated on a conceptual level. For example, in History, when asking “What were the five different stages of the Black Death?” the students will know either all, some or none of the stages. However, this does not represent a conceptual differentiation since the question is based purely on re-call or memory skills. Conversely, referential (open-ended) questions allow all students in the class to formulate a response in line with their ability; potentially, a range of answers is possible from basic and simplistic to complex and sophisticated. An example of this type of question might be, “How can we link the Treaty of Versailles to the cause of World War Two?” However, I should add that, in terms of cognitive development, there is a caveat to this.

  • Students need access to additional support

Whilst referential questions may at least allow students the opportunity to function at the appropriate conceptual level, this alone will not instigate cognitive change since students will simply produce what they are already capable of at that point (as in differentiation by ‘outcome’). So how do we ‘move’ students onto the next ‘cerebral’ level?

Not surprisingly, this issue immediately brings into play Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), defined by Adey and Shayer (1994, p.119) as “the extra intellectual power that is available to a child through social interaction with adults or peers.” Traditionally, during I-R-F routines, this “extra intellectual power” mostly comes from the child passively observing other teacher-student interactions and answering the occasional question. Yet one must question how effective this random and chaotic process is in helping students to successfully negotiate their own specific ‘zone’.

An alternative is to use peer collaboration or ‘Talking Partners’ (Clarke, 2005, p.54) which allows students the opportunity to jointly construct and rehearse a mediated response to the teacher’s question. As a student succinctly remarked, “If none of you know the answer, then you can just put together the knowledge you know and build an answer from that.” Thus the “extra intellectual power” can be arrived at through a customised process of co-construction, where students can challenge their own and their partners’ thinking in a private, ‘risk-taking’ environment away from the torment of whole-class scrutiny and accountability. Even if this process malfunctions, the teacher still has the last word!

Whilst there is still a place for the use of display questions, there needs to be a much greater degree of authentic differentiation during whole-class I-R-F to meet the conceptual needs of students. However, this will require an epistemological shift from the ‘status quo’ of teacher-dominated behaviourist practice towards a position more concomitant with social constructivism, where there is a much greater degree of student autonomy. With the unrelenting ‘standards’ agenda currently prevailing, this is probably unlikely, but one can hope.

Taken from BERA


Adey, P. and Shayer, M., 1994. REALLY RAISING STANDARDS: Cognitive intervention and academic achievement: Routledge.

Clarke, S., 2005. Formative Assessment in Action: Weaving the elements together: Hodder Murray.

Kerry, T., 2002. Learning Objectives, Task Setting and Differentiation: London, Nelson Thornes.


Dr David Brand recently retired as an Assistant Head at a secondary school in the North-east of England, teaching Mathematics for over 31 years. He recently completed a Doctorate in Education at Newcastle University. His doctoral research centred on whole-class I-R-F (Initiation-Response-Feedback) and how to improve teachers’ ‘Interactional Questioning Competence’ (IQC), with a particular focus on developing a greater degree of student autonomy during such routines.

My journey to India

The experience I had with ‘The Future of Learning’ module with Professor Mitra and Dr Stanfield instigated my enthusiasm to conduct my educational research around the Self Organised Learning Environment approach. This stimulated my visit to India as I wanted to see how the Self- Organised Learning Environment approach works in a developing country context where the availability of qualified teachers and quality education continues to be a problem.

On the 6th March, I set off on my journey from Newcastle Airport terminal at 1pm.  Having left Newcastle snowing that morning, I was looking forward to a warm weather ahead. I arrived in Delhi the next day and this was the beginning of my mysterious journey to the School in the Cloud in Kiageria Village, Chandrakona in West Bengal. After an internal flight to Calcutta and a four-hour car journey, I arrived at the village of Kiageria.  I spent the next few days acclimatising myself with the environment and trying to build a relationship with the children and the people I lived with as I observed Self- Organised Learning Environment (SOLE) big questions sessions and Granny Cloud Sessions.


For my dissertation research, I looked at the children’s perspectives of the minimally- invasive learning approach. I collected data through conducting focus groups and interviews with the children and the Lab facilitators and I also met with parents at their homes within the village. In addition, I visited the local school, Bala High School which was 3 km away.  This is where the majority of the children in the village attended school. By immersing myself in the environment and blending well with the community, I learnt a lot about the Bengali culture and language which enhanced my awareness and sensitivity towards a different cultural background. I also realised how quickly I could adjust to any environment. This a strength I had never known about myself before!

I had a rewarding experience in the Lab as I saw how the School in the Cloud was being used as a research facility as well as a facility to obtain new knowledge in a world where children have very limited opportunities. I also had a first-hand experience of how poor people in remote areas in West Bengal live during my stay in the village. By the time I successfully completed my task, the children had become so attached to me that it was an emotional moment for all when I had to leave. I certainly felt that time had rushed far too quickly and that I had not had enough time to see more of this beautiful country.


A Self- reflective journey

On my return journey, my flights were delayed both in Delhi and Dubai and I ended up spending 18 hours on transit. I therefore had plenty of time to reflect on the journey I had been on! My journey to Kolkata, my journey to the village, the time I spent in the village, trying Bengali cuisines, my journey on a train to Agra from Delhi and visiting the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, the Agra Fort, the Itmad-ud-Daulah tomb and the beautiful Taj Mahal.  I simply had the most memorable experience of my life!

About Khadija

Khadija is a postgraduate taught masters’ student in International Development and Education in the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University.  You can read her blogs at