Sonia Blandford's Masterclass


Sonia Blandford

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Dedication

    To my mother, Pauline, whose weekly reading and commentary with May came as a welcome surprise.


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    Much of what is reported in each column has been observed in classrooms across Europe. To all practitioners, my thanks and appreciation for your dedication and commitment to learners of all ages.

    The Masterclass columns would not have been written without the invitation and subsequent encouragement of Will Woodward, Education Editor of the Guardian, an experience that has been enjoyable and rewarding. Further thanks to my colleagues at Canterbury Christ Church University, particularly Dr Viv Wilson for advice and editing and to Sue Soan for proofreading. My thanks to Charlie Eldridge for his support and assistance with preparing the text.

    Finally my thanks to Jude Bowen, Senior Commissioning Editor, for her encouragement in the development of this book.

    Author's Details

    Professor Sonia Blandford is Dean of Education at Canterbury Christ Church University, which is one of the largest providers of initial teacher training and continuing professional development in the United Kingdom. Following a successful career as a teacher in primary and secondary schools, Sonia has worked in higher education for ten years. She has been an education consultant to Ministries of Education in Eastern Europe, South America, South Africa and also to the European Commission. In the UK, Sonia has worked as an advisor to LEAs and schools and co-leads the Teach First initiative. As an author of a range of education management and special needs texts, Sonia has a reputation for her straightforward approach to difficult issues. She writes in an accessible style, communicating ideas in a pragmatic manner as illustrated in Masterclass and her columns written for the Guardian.


    The opportunity to write Masterclass began with a phone call to the Faculty of Education. Given a hectic summer of press involvement with Teach First and the National Association of Gifted and Talented Youth Summer School, it was not unusual for local and national editors to make contact. A few days later, Will Woodward, Education Guardian Editor, proposed the possibility of writing a weekly column for teachers and lecturers that would inform their practice while engaging with current issues.

    The Education Guardian had been reformatted with a new feel and the directive for my column was to explore a variety of issues in a light-hearted way with a central tenet that readers would feel confident with the comments or advice given. Readers' responses were gratefully received; mostly these were positive but some felt particular columns appeared to criticise (though this had never been the intention). Many responses welcomed the common-sense, down-to-earth approach that mirrored real events in practitioners' lives; these comments were echoed by colleagues and friends who found the columns relevant and amusing. Cliff Allen (Higher Education Academy), Mary Stiasny (Head of Education, British Council), Hugh Baldry (Teacher Training Agency) and Margaret Wallis (Director of the University Centre Hastings) are representative of the range of educationalists who were among the column's regular readership.

    The intention of this book is for readers to reflect on their own practice and that of others. The majority of the columns are not time bound but address core issues that have and will continue to inform learning and teaching across all phases of education. Throughout the book, readers are encouraged to look to the future while being informed by the past. Under a broad heading, each chapter guides readers through a particular topic with an introduction that relates the chapter's content to practice. Summaries entitled ‘Questions for discussion’ provide reflective questions while interrogating the individual practitioner's experience.

    I believe that leaders, practitioners and educators will value a moment's reflection on how a mix of places and people can provide environments in which all can learn as practice without theory is just a performance. Most of the columns draw on personal experience that occurred at the time of writing and as such provide an opportunity for readers to reflect on how the everyday can inform and stimulate educational practice. Hopefully, this collection of columns will convey the pleasure and fulfilment of teaching. Focusing on the practice of learning and teaching (pedagogy), the book creates an ethos of teaching that is celebrated in practice. While looking at the past and the present, many columns will provide a platform for the future. Though methods and theories are mentioned, readers are encouraged to develop their own framework for practice that will take them beyond established texts: to look to the future, to challenge and excite and to participate in their own Masterclass.

    Chapter 1 provides an introduction to Masterclass encompassing the notion that all members of schools, colleges and higher education institutions are learners. To engage with learning is central to education, therefore every teacher has the task of instilling a passion for learning in all those who participate in their class regardless of gender, age or social, ethnic, cultural or economic background.

    Readers might reflect on their own ability to learn from theory and practice; lifelong learning is a principle that enhances teachers as practitioners. The two columns provide a stimulus for practice that could generate principles for each learning community.

    Chapter 2 addresses a number of issues in education: teaching; the creation of consistent policies; schools and colleges as communities; and the importance of planning. The columns are written for teachers and those who work alongside them. In every sense, a teacher is a pedagogue: a professional who practises learning and teaching.

    I believe that a holistic approach to learning is the most appropriate and inclusive as described in Every Child Matters (DfES, 2004b). What learners experience in their place of learning extends beyond the classroom to interactions with others encountered throughout their lives (Street, 2005). Of equal importance is a sense of place – of placing the school within the community. As the government agenda continues its progress towards multi-agency community schools, a range of facilities including health, welfare and education with the school as a place of learning is paramount (DfES, 2004b). Underpinning this agenda is the ideology of inclusion so that all members of the community are able to access learning.

    Chapter 3 focuses on leadership – a term that seems to have replaced management and administration. Most readers would agree that there is more than one leader within a learning community (Thomas and McNulty, 2004). Effective leadership is evident if the leader(s) knows when it is appropriate to hand over to those with greater expertise. Jazz players are well-rehearsed in such practice: individuals pass the sound from one performer to the next as the sense of the music dictates. Reference to teams is made on more than one occasion in the context of leadership, particularly those who come together to generate the best performance. This is similar to conductors of larger ensembles who are able to direct each section or player to lead in a performance as determined by the interpretation of a composer's score.

    Chapter 4 concentrates on classroom practice. Much has been written in the secular and educational press about behaviour management being at the core of active learning. At Canterbury Christ Church University, Professor Janet Tod and colleagues have developed the concept of Behaviour for Learning, which I endorse within these columns (Powell and Tod, 2004).

    Vygotsky (1962) is one of many theorists whose thinking has informed and prepared the way we teach. His concept of scaffolding learning has underpinned curriculum and assessment throughout the last 50 years. Educationalists and practitioners might question the relevance of such theories to the classrooms of the future, when technology will feature more predominantly in the process and delivery of learning (TES, 2005), yet behaviour management and engagement with learning remain fundamental issues in schools and colleges.

    All learners in being included in education participate in assessment. Assessment for learning is a recurring theme, as various columns show how clarity of direction, instruction and engagement with the purpose and function of assessment will assist the learner.

    When learners are assessed, it is their teachers who are accountable for perceived levels of achievement. This is one of the many factors that make teaching a stressful profession. Practitioners are professionals who are often advised on the need to remain calm. As the final column recommends – be a turtle and lead a balanced, healthy life! (The Teacher, 2005).

    Chapter 5 brings together a selection of writings that relate to the curriculum. As a music teacher, music dominates the columns, for which I make no apology. Much can be learnt from one area of the curriculum and applied to another; purists may disagree. Confidence to discuss and reflect on practice within a subject is a notion that transcends any perceived differences in pedagogy.

    Chapter 6 on professional development is at the heart of my own educational philosophy. I believe that engagement as a learner facilitates effective teaching. Teachers who are limited in their own learning are in danger of being limited in their teaching. In this chapter, many aspects of professional development are explored.

    Leaders are taken to task on the importance of managing professional development in their schools, as are those teachers whose ability to engage in learning stops when and where they gained their qualifications. Fortunately, these are few in number and the teaching profession is largely one of committed professionals who welcome the opportunity to engage in professional development on a regular and informed basis.

    Chapter 7 considers the future of schools and colleges. For schools there is an opportunity to create a new workforce. The challenge is to create a balance between recruiting and retaining teachers while accommodating the 22 aspects of the remodelling agenda (DfES, 2003a). Workforce reform is prevalent within the public sector and the government's agenda is influencing every aspect of our practice (DfES, 2002).

    The North American model of community schooling is becoming commonplace in the UK as schools and colleges become the location of community resources for education, health and welfare. Multi-agency working will provide the framework for our future practice as qualified and unqualified practitioners work together to provide an environment for learning. The impetus for change is ideological; the outcome is a set of policies, supported by government, unions, school and college leaders and a wide range of agencies, that have gathered momentum and focus on the child and other learners.

  • References

    Anno, M. (1986) All in a Day. London: Hamish Hamilton.
    Blandford, S. (1991a) ‘Arts and the Environment’, in Remnants. London: English Heritage.
    Blandford, S. (1991b) Modular Curriculum. London: Centre for the Study of Comprehensive Schools.
    Blandford, S. (1997a) Middle Management in Schools. London: Pitman.
    Blandford, S. (1997b) Resource Management in Schools. London: Pitman.
    Blandford, S. (1998) Managing Discipline in Schools. London: Routledge.
    Blandford, S. (2000) Managing Professional Development in Schools. London: Routledge.
    Blandford, S. (2004a) Professional Development in Schools Manual (
    3rd edn
    ). London: Financial Times Management.
    Blandford, S. (2004b) School Discipline Manual. London: Pearson Management.
    Blandford, S. (2005a) Middle Management in Schools (
    2nd ed
    ). London: Pearson Management.
    Blandford, S. (2005b) Remodelling the Workforce. London: Pearson Management.
    Blandford, S. and Blackburn, N. (2004) Financial Management in Schools. London: Optimus.
    Blandford, S. and Duarte, S.J. (2004) ‘Inclusion in the community: a study of community music centres in England and Portugal, focusing on the development of musical and social skills within each centre’, Westminster Studies in Education, vol. 27, No. 1, p. 97.
    Blandford, S. and Shaw, M. (2001) Managing International Schools. London: Routledge Falmer.
    Blandford, S. and Welton, J. (1999) Restructuring: The Key to Effective School Management. London: Routledge.
    Carter, D. (2004) The Key to Future Innovation. Nottingham: National College of School Leadership.
    Dahl, R. (1988) Matilda. London: Penguin.
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    Department for Education and Skills (DfES) (2003d) The Future of Higher Education. London: HMSO.
    Department for Education and Skills (DfES) (2004a) Removing Barriers to Achievement: The Government's Strategy for SEN. Nottingham: DfES Publications.
    Department for Education and Skills (DfES) (2004b) Every Child Matters: Change for Children in Schools. London: DfES Publications.
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    Department for Education and Skills (DfES) (2004f) Barriers to Inclusion. London: HMSO.
    Gibson, S. and Blandford, S. (2005) Special Educational Needs Management in Schools. London: Sage.
    Guaspari, R. (1999) Music of the Hear. New York: Hyperion.
    Gunter, H., Rayner, S., Thomas, H., Fielding, A., Butts, G. and Lance, A. (2005) ‘Remodelling the school workforce: developing perspectives on headteacher workload’, Management in Education, Vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 6–11.
    Hayes, D. (2004) Debates in Education. London: Routledge Falmer.
    Hughs, S. (2004) Subject Leaders: Resource Management. London: Optimus.
    OfSTED (2004a) Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Disability: Towards Inclusive Schools. London: OfSTED.
    OfSTED (2004b) Provision of Music Services in 15 Local Education Authorities. HMI 2296. October.
    Powell, S. and Tod, J. (2004) A Systematic Review of How Theories Explain Learning Behaviour in School Contexts?London: Institute of Education.
    Street, P. (2005) Extended and Full-Service Extended Schools. Extended and Full Service Schools Conference, 17 March, London.
    TES (2005) ‘What is education for? Part one: the future’, TES Supplement, 21 January.
    The Teacher (2005) ‘That work life balance: the law and you’, The Teacher, February, p. 36.
    Thomas, A. and McNulty, T. (2004) Remodelling the School Workforce. Nottingham: National College of School Leadership.
    Vygotsky, L.S. (1962), Thought and Language. Ed and trans. E.Hanfmann and G.Vakar. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
    Warnock, M. (1978) Report of the Committee of Enquiry into Education of Handicapped Children and Young People (The Warnock Report). London: HMSO.

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