Matt Bromley’s Blog

When is a blog not a blog? Blog: noun (informal) an online journal. Contraction of: web-log. This isn’t really a blog; it’s a repository, an archive of everything I write for various newspapers, magazines, websites, newsletters and books. Occasionally, I’ll feel inspired to write something exclusively for these pages, too.

Selected blogs…

NEW! The learning process – 10-part series for SecEd magazine

What is learning? It’s a simple question, isn’t it? And surely, as teachers, our understanding of what we do – the act of teaching – is contingent on having first developed a fundamental understanding of what we are paid to produce – learning. After all, we wouldn’t attempt to assemble a flat-packed cabinet without first looking at a picture of the finished product and without then following step-by-step instructions that take us from flat-pack to fully assembled furniture. In short, if pedagogy is a process whereby teaching is the input and learning is the output, then we need to know what the output should look like in order to decide what raw components to use and in what sequence to put them together… READ MORE

NEW! The problem with the Key Stage 3 curriculum

It’s not difficult to understand why school leaders prioritise Key Stages 4 and 5 over Key Stage 3 because this is where external accountability sits and it takes a brave, perhaps foolish, headteacher to focus on Key Stage 3 at the possible expense of – in the short-term at least – GCSE and A Level outcomes. But putting all your eggs in one GCSE basket – including starting Key Stage 4 in Year 9 and using GCSE assessment criteria from Year 7 – is clearly short-sighted and makes a mockery of Key Stage 3. Key Stage 3 must not be regarded as a poor relation to Key Stage 4 for this will only prove to be a vicious cycle… READ MORE

NEW! How to deal with an Ofsted invasion 

An Ofsted base room is the beating heart of any college inspection. It is the nerve centre (as well as a centre of nerves); it is the war room from which battles are planned and troops are sent forth; and it is the barracks to which loyal soldiers return, war-weary, to be debriefed and readied for their next attack. Get the base room right and half the battle is fought and won… READ MORE

Why I wrote Making Key Stage 3 Count

I started writing the first edition of my book, Making Key Stage 3 Count, in the summer of 2015 – having, over the previous decade, first as a teacher then as a school leader, become increasingly convinced that pupils in Years 7, 8 and 9 got a rough deal from our education system. But life and work got in the way and I was forced to put the book on the back-burner. In the autumn of that year, however, Ofsted published a report called ‘Key Stage 3: The Wasted Years?’ which had me scrambling for my manuscript… READ MORE

Welcome to the greatest job in the world. Yes, teaching is tough. It involves long days and lots of stress. It is emotionally and physically draining. In the days when I taught a full timetable, after five lessons back to back in an inner-city comp – punctuated only by bus and break duties, and running a lunchtime club and after-school detention – I was absolutely spent. I had to ingest wine intravenously whilst lying comatose on the carpet, mumbling about WALT and WILF. WTF. It was not pretty… READ MORE

La rentrée – make going back to school as easy as ABC…

The French have a term for it: la rentrée. If you ever visit France in August you’ll probably find it closed. Schools and clubs are what they call en congé; the government is in recess; and many businesses will have shut down for the summer too. As colleagues, family members and friends go their separate ways for the holidays, they depart uttering the special valediction “à la rentrée”, which can be loosely translated as “see you in September”. So far so familiar, you might argue. After all, we too wind down for the six weeks of summer. But, for the French, ‘the return’ in September – la rentrée – is much more than a ‘back to work’ ritual: it marks an entire country’s return to normality after a long summer break. It’s not only a time for children and teachers to go back to school as it is in the UK, but also for most adults to return to work, and for people to see their family and friends again, and begin attending clubs and teams once more. La rentrée, therefore, refers to returning home and getting back to reality, to a normal way of life. It means abandoning the carefree attitude and easy way of life that became a signature mark of the summer months and, instead, stitching yourself back into a starched shirt and tie, shackling yourself to a nine-to-five existence again… READ MORE

The rise and fall of the robots

I love technology but I’m not what you’d call an early adopter. I use technology when it can make my life easier and more efficient but, when a new gadget comes to market, I wait patiently for it to be tried and tested, and then – perhaps my biggest motivator – for it to come down in price before committing to a purchase. The same principle applies to other realms of my life, too, such as clothes and music where I can hardly – without a sarcastic lilt – be described as ‘on trend’. I’m not so much a la mode as a la commode… READ MORE

Closing the literacy gap

In their 2012 report ‘Moving English Forward’, Ofsted said that “There can be no more important subject than English in the school curriculum.” Why? Because, they said, “English is a pre-eminent world language, it is at the heart of our culture and it is the language medium in which most of our pupils think and communicate. [As such,] literacy skills are crucial to pupils’ learning in other subjects across the curriculum.” READ MORE

The importance of reading fluency 

I’ve recently discovered Instapaper, an app which collates reading material – newspaper articles and webpages, say – and converts them into audio so that I can listen to them on my daily dog walks. Text-to-speech technology allows me to ‘read’ articles, research papers and blogs whilst on the move, thus helping me to catch up on the backlog and ease my guilt somewhat. But there’s a problem… READPART 1 | PART 2

A leap of faith – a year of self-employment 

LinkedIn lit up this week. Unbeknown to me, I’d reached a ‘work anniversary’. I can’t believe it’s been a year since I set up shop as an education consultant, trainer and writer. You know what they say: those who can, do; those you can’t, teach; and those who can’t teach, become education consultants. I’ve certainly met a few snake-oil salesmen in my time; ex-school leaders who haven’t seen the inside of a classroom in twenty years but insist on telling practitioners how to teach. I was determined not to do that… READ MORE

Bridging the gap between school and college study

Last year I wrote a book on transition but, like most literature on this subject, it focused on pupils’ transfer from primary to secondary school, as well as between the various years and key stages of compulsory schooling. However, whilst working with FE colleges across the country, it’s struck me just how important the transition from school to FE is and how unprepared students are for this change… READ MORE

Transforming a failing school

Although genuine, sustainable school improvement is a slow, incremental process, time is often in short supply. The unrelenting cycle of inspection can put huge pressure on school principals and senior teams to demonstrate rapidly rising standards. What, then, is the secret to turning around an underperforming school in a relatively short space of time, whilst laying down the foundations for sustainable improvement? …READ MORE

School funding crisis? What crisis?

School leaders are facing the biggest challenge of their professional lives: they’re simultaneously trying to balance the books amid a national funding crisis and provide the resources required to bolster teaching and learning and improve outcomes for learners. According to the National Audit Office schools face an 8 per cent real-terms cut worth £3 billion by 2020. And what is the government’s  response? Ministers insist, mantra-like, that school investment stanks at a record £40bn. But to say that school investment is at a record high is to make a mockery of the figures… READ MORE

Teacher explanations and modelling

Amid a focus on active learning approaches whereby students take the lead in the classroom and teachers act as mere facilitators, the art of quality teacher explanations – sometimes called “direct instruction” – has been, if not exactly lost, then denigrated and devalued. But here’s the unfashionable truth, the elephant in the room, the secret hidden in plain sight: the most effective, expedient way for students to learn is for the teacher – that educated, experienced, expert at the front of the room – to tell them, then show them, what they need to know. Rather than designing convoluted ways of enabling a student to “discover” new knowledge for him or herself, perhaps as a result of engaging in a range of group activities, teachers should take the shortest, simplest path: they should just tell them then show them what they need to know. In short, we should make effective use of teacher explanations (telling) and modelling (showing)… READ MORE

How to demonstrate the impact of Pupil Premium funding

One in four children in the UK grows up in poverty. The attainment gap between rich and poor is detectable from as early as 22 months and continues to widen throughout the education system. Children from the lowest-income homes are half as likely to get five good GCSEs and go on to higher education as the national average. White working-class pupils (particularly boys) are among the lowest performers. The link between poverty and attainment is multi-racial. The effective use of pupil premium (PP) funding is an essential aid in closing the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their non-disadvantaged peers. Schools need to ensure that they are making the best use of the school’s money and demonstrating its impact on pupil outcomes. The progress of every pupil who is in receipt of the funding should be monitored and interventions should be put into place in a timely manner as soon as their progress falters. Schools need to be sure that those interventions are the most effective strategies they can use and offer the best value for money for the public purse… READ MORE

Libraries gave us power

I left primary and started middle school aged nine unable to construct a written sentence. It was only thanks to my burgeoning love of books – plus the dedicated, determined – if not scary – teacher who pushed and pushed me hard – that I first caught up and then overtook most of my peers. Books were my saviour and my escape.  Books provided me with a ladder of social mobility.  Books educated me in life and love.  Books were my passport to world travel.  Books were the haute cuisine on which I dined, the elixir from which I sought succour… READ MORE

What makes an effective exam post-mortem?

Exam analysis meetings go by many names, most of them aptly funereal in tone, such as ‘post-mortems’ or ‘rapid improvement panels’ (RIPs). One by one, middle and senior leaders step forward, heads bowed reverently, to get a grilling from a grim reaper in the guise of academy sponsors, school governors and headteachers who form part of the post-exam review panel. The primary purpose of these meetings is to interrogate a school’s summative performance data, celebrating success where it occurs (recognising departmental improvements as well as individual accomplishments) and questioning under-performance or significant deviations from predicated outcomes in the hope that the same mistakes can be avoided next year… READ MORE

How do you learn the tricks of the teaching trade?

I bought a Border Collie pup recently and, at eight weeks, have just begun training her. I don’t want to sound disparaging but the experience has reminded me a lot of my NQT year: it is full of highs and lows. Sometimes the good advice I read in books and online works, sometimes it does not. Sometimes things go my way, sometimes they do not. Sometimes I am the very picture of patience and calm, sometimes I bop her on the nose and shout at her and then feel utterly remorseful when she stares at me with her puppy-dog eyes (never has that phrase meant so much). Sometimes Meg is obedient and attentive, quick to pick things up and respond; sometimes she is tired, hungry, naughty, bored, distracted, incontinent, and noisy. Sometimes I am the best teacher and she is the best student, sometimes we are neither of us these things… READ MORE