Thursday, 15 November 2018

UK Education PLC simply cannot complete in a Global Marketplace.

Teacher recruitment is top of the agenda for the senior leadership teams in most schools in the UK, but what hasn't been recognised in the debates in the UK media is that Britain is not alone in struggling to find suitably qualified school leaders and teachers to stand in front of classes. There is a worldwide teacher recruitment crisis at every level from classroom teachers through to school Principals: middle and senior leaders are in short supply, and specialist teachers in STEM subjects are at a premium.
Despite all the chest-beating depression about the state of UK education at home, the British education system is held in the highest esteem around the world. UK education is one of the great British exports with the number of English medium K12 International schools growing from 2,584 schools in 2000, to 9,626 in 2018 (up 372% – source ISC Research, May 2018).
UK trained teachers are increasingly in demand and short supply around the world. 
The UK Government seems slow on the uptake that the teacher recruitment crisis is a global rather than a local challenge and are yet to recognise that it is not well placed to complete with the packages on offer around the world. Britain immigration policies make it difficult for talented teachers around the world to move to the UK; and the levels of taxation and the cost of living mean that teachers’ salaries in the UK mean that it is too expensive. There simply are better options out there. Let me illustrate: A UK teacher on U3 earns £40,570 in England and Wales (£48,244 in Inner London); even on U3 with a maximum TLR1 (£13,288) a teacher earns £53,858 (£61,532 in Inner London). After tax, this means that in Inner London a U3 teacher is taking home £35,997.40 per annum and a colleague on U3 + TLR1 is earning £43,704.44 p.a. In contrast, equivalent classroom teachers in Dubai can be on a package of over AED 400,000 p.a., which is over £80,000 p.a. tax free. The living costs in Dubai are comparable to that of living in London, and the lifestyle is, arguably, significantly better. The contrast is even greater in senior leadership roles. Turning further East, salaries are even better with schools in Hong Kong and mainland China are offering even better annual packages.

Teaching abroad has become much more normal as commercial school chains (such as Nord Anglia and GEMS) have spread their reach, and as UK Independent Schools have established franchise schools around the world (e.g. Dulwich International, Harrow International). Today, working overseas, far from being seen as a hardship posting, increasingly is considered a desirable career move. These factors have meant that working abroad has never been a more attractive career step for teachers. Some estimates but a figure of 15,000 on the number of teachers leaving each year to teach outside the UK. As yet, not much has been done to persuade teachers to stay. And the problem is only going to get worse. 

The rapid expansion of UK curriculum schools around the world is set to continue and this means that British curriculum international schools will be looking to recruit an estimated 180,974 more staff within the next 5 years and 428,963 staff within the next ten [ISC Research Data – May 2018]. This expansion will create even more opportunities for British teachers abroad . . . and place an even greater strain on teacher recruitment and retention in the UK.

A version of this article appeared in the Tes 13/11/2018 Double your money abroad: why the recruitment crisis is a global issue.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

What is Digital Governance and why do I need it?

A presentation on Digital Governance given at the JESS Digital Summit on Sunday 4th November 2018 with my good friend Jim Stearns from VISS.


Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Some thoughts on how to implement an effective school digital strategy - CenturyTech Video

A training video made by CenturyTech for their teacher and school leader CPD site in which I talk about how to Implement an effective school digital strategy.


Thanks to CenturyTech for making this video.
You can join the CenturyTech CPD Hub here:

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

#FutureSchool - How AI, VR and Robots are transforming how children learn

Presentation given at the Middle East Schools Leadership Conference on Wednesday 10th October 2018


Saturday, 4 August 2018

The Fourth Education Revolution – Anthony Seldon – Book Summary - Part One

The Fourth Education Revolution is about likely impact of Artificial Intelligence on society. Sir Anthony Seldon, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham and previously Headteacher of two top HMC boarding schools, Brighton and Wellington Colleges, not only discusses the (AI) on education, but, perhaps more importantly, explores the philosophical and moral debates about the place of AI in society. Thus, this is an important book not just for those of us in education, but also beyond the profession. We could not be in better hands.
The book forms a logical structure argument for change. The first six chapters set the context for the debate by:
  1. reviewing the first three educational revolutions; 
  2. discussing what it means to be an educated person; 
  3. discussing Five Intractable Problems with Conventional Education: 
  4. discussing What is Intelligence? 
  5. discussing What is Artificial Intelligence? 
  6. reviewing the state of AI in the USA and the UK 
(Each of these chapters is worthy of consideration and is an interesting introduction and summary of these important areas)

The key chapter for secondary school educationists is his discussion of ‘The future of AI in Schools’ (Chapter 7). Here Seldon’s methodology (after Suskind and Suskind) is to establish a ten-part model for education by aggregating the tasks of the teacher and the student:
Five Traditional Tasks in Teaching: 
    1. Preparation of material; 
    2. Organisation of the classroom/ learning space; 
    3. Ensuring that all students are engaged in learning; 
    4. Setting and marking assignments; 
    5. Preparation for terminal examinations and writing summative reports. 
Five Traditional Activities in Learning: 
    1. Memorising knowledge; 
    2. Applying the knowledge; 
    3. Turning knowledge into understanding; 
    4. Self-assessment and diagnosis; 
    5. Reflection and the development of autonomous learning.
He then argues how each of five traditional factors in teaching will be transformed by AI over the coming decades: 
  1. Preparation of material will be done by ‘Curation specialists . . whose job it is to work with AI machines to author and identify the most appropriate material for particular student profiles.’ p.189 
  2. Organisation of the learning space: ‘Separate classrooms will disappear in time and replaced by pods and wide open, flexible spaces which can be configured for individual and flexible collective learning. Sensors will monitor individual students, measuring their physiological and psychological state, picking up on changes faster and more accurately than any teacher could.’ p.191 
  3. Presentation of material to optimise learning/deeper understanding: ‘The flexibility of visual representation with AI allows material to be presented to students which renders much teacher exposition redundant.’ p.192 
  4. Setting assignments and assessing/self-assessing progress: ‘Advances in real-time assessment enabled by AI will virtually eliminate this waiting period [the time lag between students being assessed and them receiving feedback on their performance} and ensure feedback comes when most useful for learning.’ pp.194-5. 
  5. Preparation for terminal examinations and writing summative reports: ‘All this will be swept away by AI. . . . In its place will be attention to continuous data reporting, and real time feedback that will help students discover how to learn autonomously and how to address any deficiencies on their own.’ p.196 
And so to the $100.000.000 question: Will we need teachers in the future? Seldon is clear ‘We do not believe that it is either possible or desirable for AI to eliminate teachers from education’ but he goes on to point out that ‘the application of AI places more responsibility for learning in the hands of the student, for how their time is spent and on what, even from a young age.’ p.205. ‘AI will change however the job of the teacher forever. By supporting teaching in all their five traditional tasks, AI will usher in the biggest change the profession has ever seen.’ p.206. Interestingly Seldon recognises that remote teaching is a distinct possibility: ‘Imminent advances in virtual technologies will mean too that teachers no longer have to be physically present to offer their services.’ p.206

This is well drafted and highly informed argument. It was a joy to read. The only surprise and disappointment for me was that he did not address the 'Elephant-in-the-room' questions of how the traditional examination structures (especially GCSE and A-level in the UK) will be dismembered and on what time-scale. We can all see that the direction of travel is that GCSE and A-level will probably 'will be swept away by AI ' in twenty years' time, but how we get there and what the drivers will be is one of the greatest questions facing UK education over the coming years. These are essentially political questions and ones on which he, given his intimate knowledge of UK politics, Sir Anthony is uniquely qualified to comment - let's hope he does in due course.

Part Two to follow

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

International Baccalaureate, grade Inflation and the Importance of Educators setting policy for schools

Today sees thousands of students in the UAE who study on the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) receiving their examination results. The IBDP is undoubtedly one of the most demanding sixth form programmes in the world that extends well beyond the academic. The International Baccalaureate is not so much an examination system as an education philosophy enshrined in a curriculum. Students are required to study six subjects (including English, mathematics, a science, a language and a humanity), learn critically to evaluate knowledge in the mandated Theory of Knowledge course, research a 4000-word extended essay in an area of interest and engage in a series of self-directed supra-curricular experiences under the umbrella of the ‘Creativity, Activity and Service’ component of the programme. 
The International Baccalaureate is unique amongst the fifteen curricula in the UAE, because it, alone, is not a national curriculum. Rather, the IB system was created by and is governed by educators. It is fully independent of any political control and influence and is not crippled by the burdens of league tables and political agendas changing over time or the vested interests of corporate conglomerates. The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO), which celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year, was founded in Geneva as a not-for-profit organisation by a group of educationalists with a mission ‘to create a better world through education’. The IB Diploma was devised “to provide an internationally acceptable university admissions qualification suitable for the growing mobile population of young people whose parents were part of the world of diplomacy, international and multi-national organizations" (IBO Website) by offering standardized courses and assessments for students aged 16 to 19. 
It has been a feature of Governments around the world over the last century that they wish to use education as a vehicle for driving social and economic agendas. The very existence of the IB programme opens up the debate about whether or not this is best for pupils educationally. The difference between a system run by educators and a system run by a government can be illustrated by comparing levels of grade inflation at IBDP and A-level over the past 40 years. 
Research by the University of Buckingham Centre for Education and Employment Research (CEER) analysing A-level grade inflation found that the percentage of A grades rose steadily from 9% in 1984 to 27% in 2010. Indeed, 8.3% of students achieved an A* at A-level which is approximately the same percentage that achieve an A grade in the years 1964 to 1984. There is little doubt that the politicisation of education in the UK from the late 1980s was a significant factor in this. 
Smithers A-levels 1951-2014 CEER 2014, p.2
The same cannot be said for the International Baccalaureate. The IB Diploma has not suffered from the excesses of grade inflation that characterise A-level. The IB Diploma grade average has remained at 30 points ± 0.3 for the past forty years. IB Diploma results are effectively a zero-sum game: for a school to do better than previously, other schools will have to do worse. It is understandable that this would not be popular with governments or schools. 
Indeed, grade inflation is almost inevitable in educational systems which are run by governments, especially where the examination boards are commercial entities. Any attempt to maintain standards is faced with an alliance of government, schools, Exam Boards, parents and pupils all of whom want higher grades. Governments and schools want improved results to prove that they are doing a good job; profit-making examination boards want to attract more customers; and parents and children want to do well to gain access to good universities and jobs. 
The IB Diploma students who receive their grades today will be able to compare their scores on a level with their parents (and, potentially, even their grandparents!). 30 points today is exactly the same as 30 points 40 years ago. 
The comparison in grade inflation between A-level in the UK and the International Baccalaureate Diploma reminds us that there is much to be gained from educational policy being set by educationalists rather than politicians. While we celebrate the success of those who got their results today get their results this week, let us also congratulate the International Baccalaureate Organisation on celebrating fifty years of taking the lead globally in educational integrity.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

How Virtual Reality is transforming how children learn.

A presentation given at the COBIS annual conference on Sunday 13th May 2018 in London. The presentation tracks the journey of JESS Dubai through the four stages: Learning, Enhancing, Innovating and Disrupting.


Tuesday, 1 May 2018

How will AI transform the classroom of the future?

A presentation given that the Dubai Future Technology Week in Dubai on 2nd May 2018


Wednesday, 14 March 2018

#FutureSchool: How technology can help us educate the 263m children in the world who currently are not in education

The Challenge 

The greatest challenge in facing global education today is that there are an estimated 263 million children who are not in education (UNESCO Institute of Statistics Fact Sheet October 2016, No.39). Furthermore, the same report estimates that the world will need 3.3 million more primary school teachers and 5.1 million more lower secondary teachers by 2030 to meet future demand. 
The traditional model of one teacher taking a class of 20-30 pupils is unsustainable. 
What is clear from these projections that the traditional model of one teacher taking a class of 20-30 pupils is unsustainable – it is a luxury form of education which most societies cannot afford. We need to look for alternatives and, if we are to be successful, technology undoubtedly will have to have a large part to play. 

How Technology can make education more widely available 

Zero Marginal Cost 

One of the great advantages of digital technologies over traditional industrial models is that as a product becomes more widely available the marginal cost of producing additional units approaches zero. Compare, if you will, the costs associated with producing and distributing a print edition of a daily newspaper and a digital edition. For both formats there are a number of fixed costs (e.g. the salaries of the journalistic staff, the cost of running their offices etc.) However, for the print edition there are many more variable costs (e.g. more rolls of paper will be required to print more newspapers) which do not exist for the digital version. For the print edition there will always be an additional marginal cost of producing an additional newspaper; but it makes next to no difference if the newspaper distributes one digital copy or one million copies. We can apply the same principle to education: once a digital lesson has been produced, the marginal cost of distributing it around the world is almost zero. 

Online Learning Platforms 

Online learning programmes are becoming increasingly sophisticated. These platforms are driven by intelligent systems which promise to offer personalised learning experiences. Typically, the program ‘teaches’ a topic (through online videos and interactive exercises); then uses low-stakes testing to assess the student’s knowledge and understanding, high-lighting areas of strengths and weakness; before recommending which courses or units to do next. These platforms are still at a formative stage but there is no doubt that they have potential to be the true disruptor of education. As with all disruptive technologies they will initially be established at the margins of the educational sector, but, in time they will become accepted into the mainstream. 

Blended Learning Programmes 

There is little doubt that most Governments around the world will be attracted by online learning platforms in order to reduce the overall cost of education and to address concerns about teacher shortages. However, it must be recognised that schools fill other important social functions: they provide significant child care, thus releasing parents to participate in the work-force; they are places of socialisation, where young people learn to interact with each other and to become good citizens; and they ensure that all children within the system reach a minimum standard of education. It is very difficult to see how an education system that is wholly online will fulfil these functions at scale.
Blended Learning Programmes combine online learning with ‘brick-and-mortar’ education where the student attends a physical school with teachers so that there is a coherent programme of study. This combination of a traditional school experience with online learning has real potential to be the best of both worlds: providing a more cost-effective form of education which is more personalised than the present model, whilst maintaining the important social functions that schools fulfil. 

Remote Teaching and Virtual Reality Teaching 

One of the great benefits of the Internet is that we are now able to connect with people around the world typically through video-conferencing apps such as Skype or FaceTime. Communication technologies may also be harnessed by schools to allow ‘Remote Teaching’ i.e. live school lessons that taught by a teacher video-conferencing into the classroom. The problem with this is that it is difficult for a remote teacher to engage the pupils. 
360 Degree Camera in French Lesson
Virtual Reality Teaching
At JESS, Dubai we are taking this idea to the next level. ‘Virtual Reality Teaching’ (VRT) has the potential to allow children in Calcutta to feel as if they are in a classroom at JESS, Dubai. Earlier this year, we conducted a “proof-of-concept” test of VRT aiming to give students an immersive experience of being in a classroom, rather than passively watching a video-conferencing screen. This involved putting a 360-degree camera in the second row of a classroom and running a live stream to a classroom next door where three students wearing VR headsets ‘participated virtually’ in the lesson. The experience was so real that the pupils found themselves putting up their hand to answer the teacher’s questions! (A video of the experiment is on the JESS Digital YouTube Channel.) We are confident that it is only a matter of time before students will be able to attend class at JESS remotely via VTC. 

Robots and Supporting Personalised Learning 

Technology is doing to have its greatest impact in personalised learning by making highly specialised support more widely available. A great example of this is the way in which robots are being used to deliver lessons in a way that promotes engagement in learners with Autism. The Robots4Autism project which has built Milo, a humanoid robot, can walk, talk and even model human facial expressions; and never gets frustrated or tired. Milo helps these learners improve their social and behavioural skills and thus to gain the confidence to succeed academically and socially. 

Final Remarks 

New technology has promised for the past thirty years that it will entirely transform education and I suspect that it will be a number of years before it delivers on that promise. However, there is huge potential here to get much closer to educating those 263m children who presently are not able to go to school.

This article was written for the Edarabia Network

Sunday, 4 March 2018

How JESS Dubai is using MidYIS to raise pupil attainment at GCSE

JESS, Dubai is using MidYIS to raise pupil attainment at GCSE. Here's how we are doing it:


MidYIS is a very powerful management tool for JESS, Dubai, where we are using it as the key way to drive school improvement at both KS3 and KS4.
One of the greatest strengths of MidYIS is that this CEM project based at Durham University has been running over quarter of a century and has analysed the performance at GCSE of millions of children. Its longitudinal nature combined with the extensiveness of the data set means that MidYIS has the capacity to generate meaningful predictions about pupil performance at GCSE. This mechanism means that schools are able to use MidYiS to drive school improvement in a number of important ways. At JESS, Dubai, we use MidYIS in three ways:
  1. to set realistic aspirational targets for young people, which we can share with parents so that we can marshal additional support from home; 
  2. to monitor the performance of departments and individual teachers; 
  3. to benchmark as a school against other schools both in the region and in the UK.

Raising Aspirations 

When the young people join the school they have a baseline test in year 7 at secondary level. We then have data from that which would produce a series of chances graphs for each of their subjects. The strength of the MidYIS system for predicting outcomes is that it does not pigeon hole children to a single grade. Rather it offers a range of grades which a pupil of a given ability might achieve in the form of a 'Chances Graph'.
Figure 1 is a Chances Graph for French GCSE
Figure 1 outlines the percentage of candidates of a given base-line performance who achieved respective grades in their GCSE French. In this example,

  • 2% got an E grade 
  • 8% got a D grade 
  • 21% got a C grade 
  • 29% got a B grade   (= Most Likely Grade)
  • 26% got an A grade (= Aspirational Target Grade)
  • 13% got an A* grade 

At JESS we share set “Aspirational Target Grades” (ATG) for each subject in January of Year 7. The AT is calculated as one grade higher than the most likely grade achieved by pupils from Independent Schools in the UK. In the example above the most likely grade is a ‘B’, so the ATG would be an ‘A’.
The ATGs are set in January of Year 7 and published to pupils and parents. We have incorporated the ATGs into our reporting structure so that teachers report on progress against these grades, so parents and pupils know whether they are on track for their aspirational target or working towards it, or how far short are they. Accumulative reporting data is then analysed centrally. Thus tracking data can be a really useful tool which allows Heads of Department, Heads of Year and School leaders to know the proportion of a particular year group or subject group are on track to meet their aspirational target. So, for example, the Head of History can identify how the Year 10 GCSE group are doing and can put in place intervention strategies at an early stage.
Tracking pupil progress against ATGs also enables the Head of Year or School Leaders to informed conversations with parents. A typical conversation might be:
Mr and Mrs Smith, Amy’s most likely grade in History is to get a B grade, so we are aiming at a target of an A; her current performance indicates that she in on track for a C grade, which we feel is a little low. So, we need to work with you on this one and need to support to help Amy to put a greater effort into her studies in History. 
 ATGs are a great way to change the mind-set of key players in the educational process. Tracking pupil progress against ATGs it gives schools data which they can use to marshal the whole community of stakeholders: whether it is raising the expectation of teachers for their pupils; or raising the aspirations of parents of the child herself. That triangulation of classroom, pupil and home is really important for the whole way in which we use MidYIS here at JESS.

The Impact on GCSE Results

Figure 2. JESS GCSE Results 2013-17
We introduced MidYIS tracking and target setting two years ago at JESS and our performance at GCSE has gone through the roof; particularly with our brighter students. The proportion of A*s at GCSE has gone from 20.3% to 33.2% A* and our A*A has gone from 54.4% to 65.9% in two years. Tracking pupil progress against ATGs is a tried and tested way of raising school attainment by raising aspirations.