Estelle Morris: Classroom problems cannot be solved entirely by outsiders

Writing in the Guardian, Estelle Morris says that while there’s much to learn from initiatives such as the military ethos project, collaboration with teachers is essential.

…Two initiatives have been reported in recent weeks. The first comes from former armed services personnel who have developed and provide a programme, known as the Military Ethos project, aimed at disadvantaged and disengaged young people. They work with teachers in schools but bring their own style and experience to support and motivate the children. The activities include developing positive relationships in the playground and dining room, as well as mentoring and working with students in class…

The second initiative is the Shanghai maths teaching project. A favoured project of current ministers, it includes teacher exchanges to Shanghai as well as Chinese teachers in UK schools…

There is much for us to learn from Shanghai – the importance placed on textbooks, rote learning and traditional teaching styles. Yet Shanghai children also get maths teachers with five years of university training, subject specialists at primary level and the teachers have timetabled sessions for discussing and debriefing lessons they have taught…

One of the most striking differences between these two projects is the relationship each developed with the staff in the schools. The ex-services teams worked with teachers rather than trying to replace them. The success of the project depended on collaboration and cooperation. This contrasts with the maths project, which seemed independent of what was already happening in schools with far less collaboration between the two sets of teachers…

More at: Classroom problems cannot be solved entirely by outsiders


Estelle Morris makes the point that it is important to look beyond schools for answers to challenges they are facing, but we have to be very carefully to ensure robustness in evaluating any kinds of initiatives where ‘outsiders’ are involved in classroom solutions.

Clearly she believes it is crucial that initiatives are set up work in close collaboration with schools and their existing staff – something not necessarily the case with the Shanghai project.

What do you think? Do you have experience of initiatives in school where partners are brought in from outside and, if so, where have they worked well and where less so?

Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter…


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  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Whilst Estelle Morris is right it does seem that ministerial positions are more about “making a mark” before being promoted

  2. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Ministers are keen to make a difference (good or bad) as quickly as possible and consulting only slows that process down

  3. Mr_Haines

    SchoolsImprove Shanghai teachers: 5yrs uni training, primary subject specialists, timetabled sessions 4 discussing & debriefing lessons!:)

  4. Mr_Haines

    SchoolsImprove not to mention significantly different culture and societal pressures, which we could well do with addressing too!

  5. Mr_Haines SchoolsImprove And far less class contact time allows for instant marking and feedback.  Plus NCETM found ‘Shanghai maths’ wasn’t the rote learning, memorization favoured by Gibb and other ministers.

  6. KitesConsulting

    SchoolsImprove It is most effective when everybody works collaboratively – including all external partners.

  7. neil_play

    SchoolsImprove I’m sure BaronessMorris will find the report (out October) from APPG on a Fit & Healthy Childhood of interest on this issue

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