And what we should spend it on instead.

Did lockdown significantly impact upon children’s learning? That is the question on every educationalist’s lips.

The belief that it did presupposes that without school closures, children would have retained the knowledge they were due to be taught.

The other presupposition is that an immediate release of £1 billion — with almost no strings attached — will result in a significant difference to children’s attainment.

I think these are both contentious claims, for reasons I will outline below. I also have an idea for how the government might better spend that £1 billion.

Persuasive evidence?

I was intrigued by this article in the…

A list of do’s and don’ts

Skype is not the solution

If primary schools are to close down (which looks increasingly likely), the question of what to do will be weighing heavily on a lot of leaders’ minds.

I am very concerned about the amount of guff I have read online about deploying Skype and other such tools to carry on lessons ‘as normal’. While presumably well-intentioned, I think this would be a catastrophically bad idea.

Even if primary schools had 6 months to prepare how they were going to live-Skype their lessons, the overwhelming odds would still dictate that:

  • the tech would fall over on a regular basis
  • the attainment…

Part 1: The Problem

The Fundamental Question

Why are almost a quarter of children unable to write effectively when they leave primary school?

It’s worth noting that this ‘quarter’ could well be much more than that, given that writing is teacher-assessed and overwhelmingly not moderated (and in the 25% of cases where it is moderated, the evidence suggests it is done poorly).

For a quick reminder of expectations for children’s writing at the end of primary school, click here.

Beyond our grasp?

I can’t be the only teacher who looks at that list and thinks, almost every time, “This is a lot more basic than I remembered.”

It seems a…

Introducing the £1m Kingsnorth Prize 2020

Ok, let me be completely transparent from the outset:

  1. There is no denying it: I am, in my current thinking, heavily prejudiced against reading comprehension strategies (RCS) when it comes to improving children’s long-term reading comprehension. I’ve written extensively about this prejudice both here and here.
  2. While I am placing all my chips on a heavily-biased view, I am also ready to publicly repent and change my mind in the face of overwhelming evidence. It will hurt, but I am genuinely ready.
  3. I don’t actually have £1,000,000. Sorry.

The Problem

Reading comprehension strategies (or skills) are often lumped together and presented as…

Here’s a 2 minute summary of this post, for those in a hurry:

  • Don’t be fooled by the backslapping: the country’s GCSE results are pretty terrible (and no: warm-strict, knowledge-rich schools don’t seem to be doing much better).
  • After 12 years of school, 75% of pupils got 60–100% of their answers wrong on this year’s maths exams.
  • 42% of pupils — almost half of all entrants — could not score more than 17% on their maths paper, getting 83–100% of answers wrong (read full blog for more details).
  • Even a score of 56% was a monumental struggle for most pupils…

Walk away from the madness — you’ll never look back.

Some of you might have seen me tweet recently about a friend who called me in tears, on the verge of quitting teaching forever.

In this short blogpost, I want to address one of the more pernicious aspects of her workload and appeal to the headteachers and assessment leads who are still demanding that teachers use trackers to record vast swathes of nothingness.

The problem

I’ve tweeted before about something I call the ‘Data Evilness Index’ (DEI).

All schools that use trackers (to tick off curriculum objectives for each child) automatically generate a Data Evilness Index. Some are worse than others.


We are radically transforming the way we teach reading comprehension.

Blog outline:

  • How we used to teach comprehension
  • Three problems with the old approach
  • The assumptions that underpin our new approach
  • Summary of the new approach
  • An explanation of why we are moving to the new approach
  • A checklist for teachers using the new approach
  • An example of the new approach (contrasted with the same lesson using the old approach).

What we‘ve always done

This is part two of my ‘Small is Beautiful’ series on the need to radically reduce the primary curriculum to ensure fluency in the core areas of reading, writing and maths.

In part one, I re-wrote the maths curriculum. It can be found here (along with a 60-second summary of the blog), but you don’t need to read it before reading part two.

Here’s a 60-second summary of this post (part two), for those in a hurry:

  • Children in primary are not doing very well in reading (see stats below).
  • The current curriculum wastes time on dubious comprehension strategies and encourages the belief that skills such as ‘inference’ can be divorced from content with…

“Whenever something is wrong, something is too big.” Leopold Kohr, The Breakdown of Nations

“Any intelligent fool can invent further complications, but it takes a genius to retain, or recapture, simplicity.”
Ernst F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful

Here’s a 60-second summary of this post, for those in a hurry:

  • The aim of any curriculum should be for every child to master every objective with as close to 100% fluency as possible.
  • The bloated size of the current primary curriculum in core subjects is holding children back from mastery and fluency.
  • Getting 45%-49% of the questions wrong in the new…

The best that has been thought, said and…grown?

I’ve learned a lot from traditionalist teachers: the effectiveness of direct instruction, the relevance of cognitive science and the importance of knowledge.

These are the mainstays of my teaching practice, and I’ve always liked one of the more common traditionalist refrains — that we should focus on teaching the ‘best that has been thought and said’ (as problematic as such a thought may be).

However, there is something missing in almost all of the traditionalist discourse, and that is…nature. Or more specifically, the importance of children spending time in and learning about nature.

Before writing this blog, I began a…

Solomon Kingsnorth

Teacher / Blogger

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