What I blogged about in 2014

I’ve been blogging for just over a year now and when I started I had no idea what I would write about, how it would go and whether I’d want to continue. A year on, I’m much clearer about the sorts of topics I want to explore and very heartened that there is a readership out there, and not just in the UK. Blogging has now become an integral part of the way I explore and develop my ideas and it straddles both professional and personal worlds which are in any case closely intertwined. I’ve also learnt a great deal from other bloggers I read regularly.

Most read posts of 2014:

1. My top post of the year: Election 2015: Labour’s draft manifesto (April). 5 months from the election, the concerns I expressed about the coherence of Labour Party education policy and the need for a genuine one-nation approach are even more urgent. I have written more on this including One nation education (January), Labour’s vocational vision (July), Finding Labour’s Education Mojo (August), The oath and the compass (October) and Labour’s disappearing National Bacc (December) amongst others. There will be much at stake in the 2015 election for public services, not least education, and we need  to scrutinise the plans of all the major parties and continue to ask the awkward questions that arise.

2. My second most popular post: Can we celebrate success without rewriting history? (August). This was a response to claims by a competitor sixth form that before they had opened there was nowhere in our borough for students to study ‘traditional’ A-levels. This re-writing of history required rapid rebuttal as did other claims about our colleges’ respective success in getting students into Russell group universities. I had already touched on these issues in: Celebrating success or manipulating data? (March), Russell group offers: hype and reality (April) and A tale of two boroughs (May) and I followed this up later in August with Comparing like with like. I will continue celebrating our students’ successes in 2015 (eg: Investing in East London’s Future from December) but I really hope that I won’t have to respond to any more inaccurate hype or spin.

3. Guest blogs: the ‘My NewVIc Story’ series also proved very popular. These are written by talented NewVIc alumni who have achieved success in a range of fields. I hope the current 5 posts will be joined by many more in 2015, there’s certainly no shortage of inspirational former students out there – so get writing! The current featured students are: dancer and choreographer Joseph Toonga, Oxford History undergraduate Rumana Ali, UCL engineering project management student Zakiyah Qureshi, Cambridge Law graduate Husnain Nasim and start-up entrepreneur Airey Grant.

4. Fourth most read was Drop the aspiration tax (January). This was a critique of the deeply unfair 17.5% cut in funding for full-time students who happen to be 18 rather than 16 or 17. It’s now been implemented and has cost my college £300,000 this year with more to come next year. It’s an irrational and unjustified measure and I coined the phrase ‘aspiration tax’ which I hope will catch on as the ‘bedroom tax’ has done. We need to keep highlighting this inequity as long as it exists and other posts on this included: Targeted by the ‘aspiration tax’ (February), Aspiration tax for the many, jackpot for the few (April) and Post-16 funding: making the wrong choices (April) which intriguingly starts with the words: ‘I agree with quite a lot of what Michael Gove says about the purpose of education…’

5. Blogging in French. My fifth most read post was: Socrate et le Numerique (July) one of 3 in French and the only one which is a translation of an existing post in English: Socrates on e-learning (January). I find these much harder to write but they have found an appreciative audience in France and I intend to keep these up as I think educators in both countries can learn more from each other. The other two are: Le numerique en questions (October) and L’inspection en Angleterre (December). I also want to introduce some French educational thinkers to an English-speaking audience starting with What is learning? Philippe Meirieu (July).

Posts which I’d like more people to read:

1. I’m quite pleased with my ‘Market Madness’ series. These are short posts which each look at an aspect of the impact of markets in education. There are 6 so far with more to come: 1. Oversubscribed? 2. Choice and diversity 3.The well-informed educational consumer 4. A good system can help schools improve 5. Qualifications as currency 6. Students as commodities. Post-16: education’s wild frontier (July) also addresses similar issues.

2. I also think Progs and Trads: is a synthesis possible? (March) could appeal to a wider readership at a time when the progressive / traditional divide seems as unbridgeable as ever. I have suggested points for further discussion and agreement leading to a possible new synthesis.

3. I want to help build a consensus about the value of a broad liberal education for all young people, and have written about this quite a bit, particularly after reading Martin Robinson’s excellent ‘Trivium 21c’. Trivium 21c (August), Learning to love liberal education (October) and Debating the liberal arts (October). The other strand of this work is the campaign for a National Bacc, highlighted in Building the Bacc from below (December). These will certainly be continuing interests in 2015.

4. Posts which explore educational ideas and thinkers rather than policies, such as: James Donald on Gramsci’s grammar and Dewey’s dialectic (December), Maxine Greene: resisting one-dimensionality (June), Blob and anti-blob (May), Culture, tradition and values in education (March) and my very first post: 10 principles to shape education (October 2013).

5. More personal posts, for example about music or my own learning, such as: 10 things music teaches us about life (November), The keyboard and the music (December) and Mastering my Zenit (October). Finally, if you’re interested, there are also 3 posts on Corsican themes, with more to come: Village wisdom, Conrad in Corsica and Seneca in Corsica (all from August).

Global reach

The map of global reach shows a very widespread readership with very few countries still at zero (Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Bolivia…). While the UK accounts for 79% of all views, the French language blogs helped to take France into second place with 6% of total views, pushing the US into 3rd place with 5% of views. The rest of the EU accounts for 2%, the BRIC countries another 2% and the rest of the world the remaining 6% with Canada, Australia, Singapore, Pakistan and the Philippines topping the list.

Thank you for reading and I will post in early January about my post-16 hopes for 2015.


About Eddie Playfair

I am a Senior Policy Manager at the Association of Colleges (AoC) having previously been a college principal for 16 years and a teacher before that. I live in East London and I blog in a personal capacity about education and culture. I also tweet at @eddieplayfair
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