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In another thread on the forum I reported on:

a section in yesterday's TES which stated that the phrase 'personalised learning' is on the lips of every government minister but few seem clear about its meaning.... but despite the lack of clarity the phrase is spreading like a virus, with schools advertising for teachers with experience and understanding of personalised learning'.

... Yet another band wagon? ...New Labour's next 'Big Idea' for trying to persuade voters that they have something really cutting edge to introduce into schools during their next term of office (when they are elected of course!)?

I have just found that David Milliband has made a speech on the subject which apparently makes it all clearer...

David Miliband has given the clearest exposition yet of what the government means by personalising learning. (SHA)

Here are few extracts:

The Five Components of Personalised Learning

First, a personalised offer in education depends on really knowing the strengths and weaknesses of individual students. So the biggest driver for change is assessment for learning and the use of data and dialogue to diagnose every student’s learning needs. 

Is this new??

Second, personalised learning demands that we develop the competence and confidence of each learner through teaching and learning strategies that build on individual needs. This requires strategies that actively engage and stretch all students; that creatively deploy teachers, support staff and new technologies to extend learning opportunities; and that accommodate different paces and styles of learning.

Or this?

Third, curriculum choice engages and respects students. So personalised learning means every student enjoying curriculum choice, a breadth of study and personal relevance, with clear pathways through the system. So in primary schools, it means students gaining high standards in the basics allied to opportunities for enrichment and creativity. In the early secondary years, it means students actively engaged by exciting curricula, problem solving, and class participation. And then at 14-19, it means significant curriculum choice for the learner.

Or even this?

Fourth, personalised learning demands a radical approach to school organisation. It means the starting point for class organisation is always student progress, with opportunities for in-depth, intensive teaching and learning, combined with flexible deployment of support staff. Workforce reform is absolutely key. The real professionalism of teachers can best be developed when they have a range of adults working at their direction to meet diverse student need. It also means guaranteed standards for on-site services, such as catering and social areas. As I was told in Hartlepool two weeks ago, only if we offer the best to pupils will we get the best. And it means a school ethos focussed on student needs, with the whole school team taking time to find out the needs and interests of students; with students listened to and their voice used to drive whole school improvement; and with the leadership team providing a clear focus for the progress and achievement of every child.

What about this?

Fifth, personalised learning means the community, local institutions and social services supporting schools to drive forward progress in the classroom.

And...?

I'm none the wiser really! Aren't we doing these things already? Or am I missing something? :hotorwot

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Where DO they get this rhetoric from? It sounds exactly like the stuff that's being thrust down our throats here, only we're going a step further with a new curriculim that contains no actual mandated knowledge. But, as long as we're "caterng for the individual" and "promoting life-long learning" and "creating pathways" and "going on exciting journeys" and "embracing the future", we'll be OK. Heavens, I've just realised I could write this stuff myself!!!!! : :hotorwot

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The experience of successful schools shows us how. Decisive progress in educational standards occurs where every child matters; careful attention is paid to their individual learning styles, motivations, and needs; there is rigorous use of pupil target setting linked to high quality assessment; lessons are well paced and enjoyable; and pupils are supported by partnership with others well beyond the classroom.

This is what I mean by “Personalised Learning”. High expectation of every child, given practical form by high quality teaching based on a sound knowledge and understanding of each child’s needs. It is not individualised learning where pupils sit alone at a computer. Nor is it pupils left to their own devices – which too often reinforces low aspirations. It can only be developed school by school. It cannot be imposed from above.

The question facing us today is simple: what do we need to do to make personalised learning the defining feature of our education system? I think it requires a new relationship between the Department, LEAs and schools, that brings a sharper focus to our work at national level, and strips out clutter and duplication through stronger alignment of all activity, in order to release greater local initiative and energy.

The aim is, and I am determined that the result will be, schools with more time to focus on what really matters, more help in identifying their weaknesses, and more tailored and coherent support in putting them right.

Some say that achieving excellence and equity is impossible. That ‘more will mean worse’. But excellence and fairness are not opposites that have to be traded. In fact, they are the twin engines of progress. Giving every single child the chance to be the best they can be, whatever their talent or background, is not the betrayal of excellence. It is the fulfilment of it. The challenge for education in the 21st century is to give the common basics of citizenship and working life to every pupil, while developing and nurturing the unique talents of each pupil.

There are five key processes that make this possible:

- Assessment for Learning that feeds into lesson planning and teaching strategies, sets clear targets, and clearly identifies what pupils need to do to get there;

- a wide range of teaching techniques to promote a broad range of learning strategies, facilitated by high quality ICT that promotes individual and group learning as well as teaching;

- curriculum choice, particularly from the age of 14, and the development of subject specialism;

- the organisation of the school, including the structure of the day and of lessons, using workforce reform to enhance teaching and learning and to ensure consistency;

- and links to services beyond the classroom, involving the wider community and families, parents providing strong support; and the engagement of LEAs in the agenda set out in the Every Child Matters Green Paper.

We want schools to challenge and support pupils, recognising that everybody has a different starting point and different aspirations. Yet to deliver personalised learning schools need challenge and support as well, tuned to the different needs of primary and secondary teachers, and the different needs of different schools.

The model of challenge and support, at the heart of the new relationship with schools, has to be built on solid foundations and clear principles:

- Nothing is possible without strong institutions that are the champions of high performance, and have the confidence to innovate and collaborate thus generating further momentum of reform;

- Progress depends on alignment of local and national priorities, programmes and activities, so that all parts of the system are working in common cause and with maximum effect;

- And we will really achieve take off when there is a maximum use of data and benchmarks by all those with an interest in pupils’ progress, combined with a minimum of clutter and noise so that people can get on with the main job of teaching children.

This requires a concerted approach to whole school improvement. Over the last six years excellent teaching has been supported by some outstandingly successful innovation in our system, forged by programmes such as Specialist Schools, Excellence in Cities, Gifted and Talented provision, extended schools, or the Key Stage 2 and 3 strategies. We should collectively be proud of these. But at the same time we should realise that the overwhelming evidence from Ofsted is that these programmes are most successful not as stand-alone initiatives, but as part of a coherent approach to whole school improvement. Building this coherence is at the centre of the new relationship with schools; it is fundamental to further advance.

The three key aspects to this are: first, an accountability framework, which puts a premium on ensuring effective and ongoing self-evaluation in every school combined with more focussed external inspection, linked closely to the improvement cycle of the school; second, a simplified school improvement process, where every school uses robust self evaluation to drive improvement, informed by a single annual conversation with the education system on targets, priorities and support; and third, improved data flows, including to parents.

BELFAST, 8TH JANUARY 2004

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It has been claimed that David Milliband is New Labour’s leading intellectual. (His father, Ralph Milliband, was one of the leading critics of Old Labour - his attacks came from the left rather than the right). Ralph’s book, Parliamentary Socialism, is a real tour-de-force. However, David is not in the same class (in more ways than one). As Maggie points out, his writing is full of simplistic platitudes. In fact, they are dangerous platitudes.

Professor Frank Coffield of the Institute of London has carried out research into “personalised learning” (commissioned by the Learning Skills Development Agency). He claims that many of the methods or instruments used to identify pupils’ individual learning styles were unreliable, and had a negligible impact on teaching and learning. He points out in his report:

“Some learning styles instruments – many of them well-known commercial products – make extravagant claims of success which are not upheld when subjected to scrutiny. People who use these instruments may come to think in stereotypes – for instance, by tending to label vocational students as if they are all non-reflective, activity based learners.”

http://www.lsrc.ac.uk/

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John

Where do I find the research on their website, I've looked but can't find the link - no doubt it's quite obvious to all but me!!

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John

Where do I find the research on their website, I've looked but can't find the link - no doubt it's quite obvious to all but me!!

This is this website but they don't appear to have uploaded the report yet. I assume they will or maybe they hope to charge for it.

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Dear ‘David Miliband’,

In response to your speech regarding the variety of government strategies to support ‘whole school improvement and personalised learning’ (BELFAST, 8TH JANUARY 2004) I would like to make just a few observations.

Firstly, I seem to have read this same stuff only last week – you can’t get the script writers these days can you? Secondly, I understand every word you say – unfortunately when put together the words don’t seem to make a lot of sense. I thought, therefore, that some ‘translation’ into normal speak might be helpful to our readers in this forum.

Building this coherence….. is at the centre of the new relationship with schools; it is fundamental to further advance.

I don’t think so …..The relationship with schools is not new and I suspect that the only sort of advance will be one of increasing mistrust and control. The only way you will get it to advance, David dear, is to let schools get on with the job of teaching children rather than having to jump through yet more quango-produced, highly costly hoops, of little educational value.

The three key aspects to this are: first, an accountability framework, which puts a premium on ensuring effective and ongoing self-evaluation in every school combined with more focussed external inspection, linked closely to the improvement cycle of the school;

I think you actually mean ‘make sure that every school should regularly tear itself apart looking for faults which may or may not be there. When they have done this make sure that they are as fearful as possible of being ‘inspected’ by Ofsted at a moment’s notice, in the knowledge that the ‘new framework’ is untried so no-one actually knows what to expect. When faults are found, as undoubtedly they will be, make sure that they are written down in every conceivable place and discussed ad nauseam, just to make everyone feel part of the blame culture. Above all, hold up a few examples of ‘good practice’ so that everyone else feels totally inadequate, but make sure that you don’t look too closely and find that some of these icons are frantically papering over the cracks in other areas.

...second, a simplified school improvement process, where every school uses robust self evaluation to drive improvement, informed by a single annual conversation with the education system on targets, priorities and support;

Oh that! Roughly translated I believe you mean keep tearing apart everything you ever do in schools but ensure that every bit of measurable data about every child in the school is fed regularly, but remotely, into the DfES’s super dooper, number crunching, fantastically expensive computer system. Then you can have loads of pretty graphs and tables produced, showing whatever you wish (after all statistics are so pliable aren’t they?), and tell everyone who will listen what an amazing job New Labour has done to raise standards. When schools don’t live up to the required standards, make sure there are armies of ‘advisers’ on hand, preferably escapees from teaching, commanding vast fees, who can go in and tell them all how to toe the line! Clever stuff eh?

...

and third, improved data flows, including to parents.

Parents? Do they have a say in all this? Of course! They are the electorate so they must have some sort of carrot to encourage them along. So, feed them vast quantities of the pretty graphs and tables, dish out glossy booklets from time to time, tell them they have a choice about where their offspring are educated, but make sure that most of them go where they are told because there aren’t enough places in the schools they choose. Very neat!

Well, I think that about covers it all for now Davy boy. Do keep us posted of your next cunning plan won’t you? ;);)

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Oh dear, what's that song? It's the same the whole world over!!

The speech could have been given here in Oz and noone would have noticed it came from the UK. Well, at least not the bureaucrats and politicians.

We've just done a survey of our 5500 teacher members about change in schools and new curriculums. The responses are overwhelmingly consensual:

1. the only people who will make a difference in schools are the teachers

2. they can and will do it if given proper incentives and support

3. top-down system change will be resisted and is therefore never properly implemented

4. they are completely cynical about continuous system reform which they know will be out the day after tomorrow if either the head bureaucrats or the govt change places

5. continuous measurement and testing achieves nothing except a few more jobs for bureaucrats

Dear David

Find the April edition of "Phi Beta Kappan" and read the article about systems change. It's spot on.

But will any of this common sense make any impact on these people? Of course not, because common sense as someone once said, "butters no parsnips" or fills any back pockets.

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Hello,

I'm a newcomer to this forum and must admit that I have been 'lurking' around the site with great interest. At the risk of sounding cynical and harping on about the good old days I feel, like you Jay, that just as learning should be child-centred (and I don't think that's what David M. understands it to be) similarly teaching should be teacher-centred and of course, no-one has been listening to them. Meaningless jargon and wonderfully caring sounding phrases, (platitudes, as you say, John) do not wash with anyone seriously involved in the mammoth task of sorting out the dreadful mess that has been made of education. I have seen this from several sides, as a creative and fulfilled primary teacher for 30 years, a firm believer in drawing out a child's strengths and talents, being flexible and giving children truly memorable learning experiences, as a teacher now in special education, partly and also a tutor in a college. The constraints of the tightened curriculum and standardised tests began to make that impossibly difficult even for the most rebellious among us. Does David M. want us to go full circle and resume where we left off? Would we be trusted?That makes me very sad because so many resources have been wasted along the way, human ones too.

At the other end of the spectrum I have been teaching Art and D&T to PGCE students who constantly ask me about the good old days and how great it must have been to be able to pursue a creative arts project for a week etc. Many of them have been very disheartened on TP when they've realised there is no place on the timetable for them to integrate the foundation subjects they had so carefully and creatively woven into their planning. I am pleased to say that there has been some encouragement on these courses and some moves towards topic based cross-curricula ways of working but still within the narrow confines of the prescriptive NC. Don't think I am against teachers being utterly accountable and thoroughly prepared - but yes, they have to be given space and time to re-develop what was once beginning to become a workable system.

I would like to ask David M. how he perceives 'personalised learning' running alongside the sort of testing which turns Heads, staff and now, children and parents, too, into competing factions and which denies opportunities to so many. There's nothing worse than sitting on wonderful ideas and watching as dreary repetitive programmes are enforced. He mentions 'curriculum choice', a 'school ethos focussed on student need,' etc, etc. Am I going to see a new cycle of positive change in my lifetime? I am sad for the younger teachers now and for the kids who miss out. I hope for change but I weep for the waste.

Edited by belle
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I have seen this from several sides, as a creative and fulfilled primary teacher for 30 years, a firm believer in drawing out a child's strengths and talents, being flexible and giving children truly memorable learning experiences, as a teacher now in special education, partly and also a tutor in a college. The constraints of the tightened curriculum and standardised tests began to make that impossibly difficult even for the most rebellious among us. Does David M. want us to go full circle and resume where we left off? Would we be trusted?That makes me very sad because so many resources have been wasted along the way, human ones too.

Great posting Belle. You highlight the dilemma of child-centred teachers in the UK. I have seen many of them take early retirement rather than compromise their educational ideology. They taught with a passion that did not fit into any set formula. If fact, it was because they had such a unique style that they were such good teachers.

I was not against the introduction of a National Curriculum (as long as it was not too prescriptive) but was always opposed to the idea of creating a national blueprint of how to teach. This has been disastrous and as well as forcing so many creative teachers out of the profession, but is also influencing the type of people entering the profession.

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We've gone one further here - we're being told exactly how to teach in terms of pedagogy, methodology and school structure, but with no mandated curriculum whatsoever. Kids may very well be doing Egyptian mummies and/or dolphins in every grade from Kinder to Yr 10. But they will "be able to think" and "know how to learn"!!! So, that's all right, then!! ;)

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