Teaching and learning Gem #44 – post-it collaboration

This week, we have a post-it note activity that is all about collaboration between students. Morven’s Year 9 DT students considered the impact of physical disability on individuals’ lives using post-it notes to share ideas. Using post-it notes is quick in terms of teacher preparation time, but can be really impactful. Plus, the physical (rather than digital) nature of this makes the most of being back in the classroom together.

This is how Morven’s post-it collaboration worked:

  • Students were on their feet in groups of 4.
  • On different tables there were disability fact files.
  • Each group had 2 mins to read the disability fact file on their table. They then had to jot down ideas on post-it notes of activities that their user might struggle with.
  • At the end of the allocated time, they then moved onto the next table and repeated the activity.
  • Each group had a different colour of post-it note.
  • After groups had rotated round all tables, Morven chose one student from each team to give a brief overview of their fact file. Then as a group they evaluated all the post-it notes from across the groups and chose the three post-it notes which jumped out at them to share back to the class
  • Morven took photos of the post-it notes and put them on Teams.
  • Next lesson they will begin to design potential solutions for these scenarios.

Benefits

  • Peer evaluation is built into the feedback process – students need to review other groups’ ideas and weigh them up.
  • The pace kept students focussed and on task.
  • The physical nature of the activity capitalises on being back in the physical classroom.
  • Students were thinking for themselves using stimulus information.

Neurodiversity considerations for this activity from Isabelle and Catherine

Be aware of sensory sensitivities:

  • Touch: Some students might find the close proximity of collaborating on the same sheet of paper difficult.
  • Noise: Some students might find the group talking section of this too loud.
  • Be aware that the time allocation may not suit students with different processing speeds, so ensure that thinking time is built in to make the pace manageable.
  • Please be aware that it is important to set boundaries for some students who might have hyper-activity tendencies.

School Life outside the Curriculum, is it important?

Ms Jenny Cox, Director of Co-curricular and Partnerships considers ‘School life outside the curriculum, is it important?’

“I need 3 A*’s to get to where I want to be. That means more focus on work less time on other things.”

I’m sure we have all heard this or possibly said this at some time in our lives, particularly when we feel under pressure. I’m pleased to say that Wimbledon High bucks the trend with the approach that promotes work, work, and more work, as being the key to success. We see the drive to achievement as a more rounded and fulfilling experience. However, is everyone convinced of this?

Anxiety, self-confidence, motivation and concentration can play a huge role in our mind during day-to-day life. How we choose to deal with these can affect our well-being and our ability to function effectively. Cognitive anxiety can exhibit itself as Fuzzy Head Anxiety, sometimes also known as Brain fog anxiety, which can occur when a person feels so anxious, they have difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly. At times, high somatic anxiety can lead to sickness, upset and a lack of appetite. Whilst it is normal to experience occasional cognitive and somatic anxiety, especially during times of high stress, it important to have strategies to help us lift ourselves out of this, as the worries about grades, about covid and about not being good enough, are all very real concerns as we ease ourselves back into ‘normal’ life.

Look beyond yourself

It has long been acknowledged that acts of generosity raise levels of happiness and emotional well-being, giving charitable people a pleasant feeling known, as a “warm glow.”

In the Medical News Today, Maria Cohut (2017) wrote an article on how ‘Generosity makes you happier’. She reported on a study of forty-eight people, all of whom were allocated a sum of money on a weekly basis for four weeks. In short, one group were asked to spend the money and the other group asked to make public pledges and all participants were asked to report their level of happiness both at the beginning and at the end of the experiment. The results found that all participants who had performed, or had been willing to perform, an act of generosity – no matter how small – viewed themselves as happier at the end of the experiment. It is studies like this, alongside others, that convince us that our partnership and charities work, so heavily and generously invested in by our students, is vital to maintaining a sense of perspective and our sense of well-being.

Students performing music at Friday Jammin

Work hard and play hard

In 2020, 98% of the top ten highest achievers in Years 7, 8 and 9 at Wimbledon High took part in at least five sessions of co-curricular activities per week; is this a coincidence? Previous research has also revealed positive and significant relationships between higher physical activity and greater academic achievement (Chih and Chen 2011; Bailey 2006; Chomitz, Slining, McGowan, Mitchell, Dawson, and Hacker, 2009). There are a multitude of benefits to taking part in a balanced programme of co-curricular activities. Whether they are in school or externally organised, both appear to be hugely beneficial.  

All the feelings of immersing yourself in the activities you love will again enhance feelings of well-being and start to reduce levels of stress, should they be high. The well documented moments of Flow (Csikszentmihalyi, Harper and Row, 1990) refer to those times when people report feelings of concentration and deep enjoyment. These moments maybe found on the hockey pitch, in orchestra, chess club, debating, GeogOn, Femigineers, whatever is your passion. Investigations have revealed that what makes the experience genuinely satisfying is a state of consciousness; a state of concentration so focused that it amounts to absolute absorption in an activity. People typically feel strong, alert, in effortless control, unselfconscious, and at the peak of their abilities. Both a sense of time and emotional problems seem to disappear, and there is an exhilarating feeling of wholeness. This can be controlled, and not just left to chance, by setting ourselves challenges – tasks that are neither too difficult nor too simple for our abilities. With such goals, we learn to order the information that enters our consciousness and thereby improve the quality of our lives.

Life outside the curriculum, is it important?

Evidence seems to point in the direction that a well-planned and attainable life outside the curriculum will enhance academic studies, promote feelings of well-being, and give a sense of perspective on day-to-day anxieties.  Having said this, we have decided to research this ourselves. Look out for the opportunity to be part of a piece of research later this year, conducted by Ms Coutts-Wood and I, where we shall dig deeper into life at Wimbledon High. Specifically, we will be investigating the impact of our co-curricular and partnership programmes on academic progress and well-being.


References:

  • Csikzentmihaly, M. 1990. Flow: The psychology of optimal experience, Harper & Row
  • Bailey, R. 2006. Physical education and sport in schools: A review of benefits and outcomes. Journal of School Health, Vol. 76, No. 8.
  • Chih, C.H. and Chen, J. 2011. The Relationship between Physical Education Performance, Fitness Tests and Academic Achievement in Elementary School. The International Journal of Sport and Society, Vol. 2, No.1.
  • Chomitz, V.R., Slining, M.M., McGowan, R.J., Mitchell, S.E., Dawson, G.F., Hacker, K.A. 2009. Is there a relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement? Positive results from public school children in the Northeastern United States. Journal of School Health, Vol. 79 Issue 1, P30.
  • Cohut, Maria. 2017. Medical News Today ‘Generosity makes you happier’

Does money actually grow on trees?

Alexia P. Head Girl, analyses the historic and future impact of trees on the economy.

‘Money doesn’t grow on trees’. A cliché I’m sure most people will have heard when they were younger; when they had no understanding of the true value of money.  However, is this cliché wrong – are there economic benefits to trees?

As of 2020, there are approximately 3.04 trillion trees on the planet, made up of 60,065 different species. Their uses vary, from being produced into something tangible, such as paper or furniture, or providing intangible services, such as the carbon cycle or retaining nutrients in biomass to aid farmers in growing crops. Over time, although their uses may have changed, trees have always been a vital part of our economy, in ways that at first, may not be apparent.

Photo by zhang kaiyv from Pexels

Let’s jump back in time. The year is 1690, and the global dominance of the British Empire is growing. In Britain, most of the population are in the primary sector of employment, particularly in agriculture, growing trees to help build houses, or to trade for an animal to increase income for the household. As timber and fruits were traded amongst farmers, incomes increased. However, as more villages were established, space that was previously forestland was cleared of trees, and the supply started to diminish. The navy – at the time, the biggest in the world – relied on the timber for their ships; to continue to expand their fleet, they had to travel further abroad. Ships then travelled to America, India, and Europe to gain resources, power, and valuable influence to create trading alliances that are still in place today. This extra money and resources gave Britain an advantage when The Industrial Revolution hit in 1760. This allowed for a quick and smooth integration of the new, more efficient way of life that asserted Britain further as a global power and further boosted its economy. And all of this stemmed from the reliance and resources of trees, without which, the roots of our economy would not stand today.

However, as countries developed, their reliance on single resources and tangible products have decreased, particularly in ‘advanced’ countries in favour of services and jobs in tertiary and quaternary sectors. As a result, agriculture – such as timber production – has steadily decreased.

But trees still play a vital part in the growth of our economy today. In LIDCs and EDCs, such as Brazil, logging and mass production of wood has become part of the economy. Although the industry is environmentally frowned upon, it has an estimated worth of $200 billion annually, allowing many developing countries who produce this material to place money into developing infrastructure and technology further. There are not only economic benefits. In some societies, such as in parts of Indonesia, trees and wood have been used as currency on a local scale, allowing people to trade wood for farming animals, or clothes, encouraging economic movement in smaller villages, that may not have reliable national trading routes. Paper, furniture and fuel are just some other ways that trees have become so heavily relied on in people’s lives, with few other ways to substitute the valuable resources they produce.

Photo by mali maeder from Pexels

However, the rate at which tree resources are exploited is becoming too high. In the quest to become economically developed, forest sustainability has been forgotten. Increasing tropical deforestation rates account for loss of biodiversity and reduction in carbon intakes,affecting further tree growth in surrounding areas as nutrients are removed.

There have been recent attempts, however, to preserve the trees and rainforests. In a recent study by Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, it was determined that rainforests store around 25% of carbon dioxide, with the Amazon alone strong 127 billion tons. To release these gases would heavily increase the enhanced greenhouse effect, changing the balance of the Earth’s ecosystems.

Sustainable income from trees is becoming more apparent, particularly in countries where deforestation rates are highest. In Bangladesh, where fuel industry relies on 81% wood, the logging industry has been encouraged to collect dead trees, wood waste and pruning rather than felling increased sections of forest. This still allows for an income, whilst ensuring trees remain part of the ecosystem. Furthermore, there has been a global effort to move away from the use of wood entirely. Reusable energy, such as solar power, makes up 26% of the global energy used and is expected to rise to 45% by 2045. Although this means the usage of trees in the economy will decline, it allows for new income sources, such as eco-tourism that encourages more environmentally aware holidays; for example, Samasati lodge, Costa Rica. The lodge uses rainwater instead of transporting water through pipes; is built on stilts rather than the ground as not to disrupt run-off water to rivers; and blends in with surroundings to ensure not to disturb local wildlife in attempts to make holidays more environmentally sustainable, whilst still taking economic advantages of trees.

‘Money doesn’t grow on trees’. Well, since 2016 in the UK, it hasn’t. Our bank note system changed from paper to plastic, showing the progression from a society that once relied on a single produce, to a new, man-made source. This well represents our economy today and our declining reliance on trees: what was once the roots of our economy will soon become a thing of the past.

Friday Gem #43 – teacher/student collaborative experimentation

Teaching and learning Gem #43 –  teacher and student collaborative experimentation – promoting student instinct, braveness and wider philosophical questions

Phoebe in the Art Department shares an activity in which students and teacher are all involved in a process of collaboration, making and responding. The activity makes teacher and student part of the same process, a democratising process and one which explores a fundamental philosophical question: what is the role of the artist, teacher and pupil. Who is the artist?

How it works:

  • Phoebe instigated a process of making and responding with the instruction ‘Respond to this piece. You have 5 minutes. When you are finished, give your response and a new canvas to the next person with these instructions’. 
  • Phoebe provided the rules and parameters to stimulate production, yet each individual had the autonomy to intervene, influence and change the ‘chain of making’.
  • Phoebe’s own responses started and finished the process.

Neurodiversity considerations for this activity from Isabelle and Catherine

  • Encourage students to trust their gut instinct – a good explanation is key as you might get nervousness from students who might want to be perfectionists.

Benefits – Phoebe explains that:

  • The students found that the time limit forced them to work without thinking too much about it, allowing them to trust their instincts and be braver than if they had time to plan.
  • This was really beneficial at the start of year 12 where experimentation is vital for their development as artists.
  • It was also rewarding for them to see how their work could inspire each other.
  • Through group collaboration, we are exploring the role of the artist, the role of the teacher and the role of the pupil, raising the question: Who is the artist?
  • I want to repeat this activity in the coming weeks and see how much their work as grown and compare them with their initial responses. 

What role can schools play in tackling violence against women and girls?

Deputy Head Pastoral, Ben Turner, questions what role can schools play in tackling violence against women.

The killing of Sabina Nessa, a 28-year-old primary school teacher, has again brought the media spotlight onto how the government, and wider society, is protecting women and girls against violence. Six months on from Sarah Everard’s murder, questions are rightly being asked about whether women are any safer.

As we acknowledge the grief caused by the loss of another young woman, we must also look at our continued work to help safeguard young women in our own school community. While the spotlight has focussed on other areas, Wimbledon High has been busy outlining the pillars of the Wimbledon Charter. A set of principles around protecting young girls from sexual assault and harassment, as well as taking a proactive, preventative approach with both sexes in meaningful partnership with Kings College School, Wimbledon, and other prospective partners. 

The Charter seeks to outline the key role every member of our and other school communities can play in safeguarding young people, as we seek lasting change in the way that girls and women are seen, recognising our role in wider society to protect and inform.

A safeguarding culture where voices are heard and protected

The Everyone’s Invited movement caused seismic shifts in the way that some institutions acted around reports of sexual assault and harassment. In our own school we have asked hard questions of how and when students are able to disclose what may have happened but also how those voices have been protected. Fundamental to the Charter is the acknowledgement that this is not solely a boys’ school issue. The importance of specialist training for staff, but also an acknowledgement and protection of peers, is essential in single and mixed sex institutions.  

As a school we have taken some definitive steps to ensure we continue to reflect an open and overt safeguarding culture. The appointment of a Lead Counsellor, with a specialism in sexual trauma, has been an important step. Making that role clear to students and staff is equally important however and adding another ‘space’ that girls can go has been vital. Building on the safeguarding update that all staff receive, we will also seek to train at least four key pastoral staff as specialists in sexual violence and harassment in partnership with Lime Culture, which will be mirrored by KCS.

We must always ensure that we are working in partnership with those agencies that can affect change beyond the school gates. We are working closely with our Police Liaison, and other partners in Merton, to ensure that the sharing of information around risk and vulnerable students is always our first priority.

Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels

A proactive and synchronised programme of Relationship & Sex Education

The time for tea is over, was a line I wrote at the time of EI and the murder of Sarah Everard. I wrote it out of frustration with the manner in which PSHE can often be forgotten or diminished by teachers, and therefore schools, who are more focussed on the scholastic integrity of their subject than paying credence to a curriculum outside of their own department. Instead, schools have often deferred to experts, experts who come in for thirty or forty minutes, finishing with the notorious ‘cup of tea’ consent video, and ‘job done!’. The Charter is a call to arms for all teachers, to recommit to the knowledge that discussion of these topics, uncomfortable as they might be, is just as important, if not more so, than the discussion of an historical text or Maths equation. Moreover, it is so important that we have a candid conversation with ourselves, and our Year Teams, as to what topics we are comfortable teaching, and how we need to be supported in order to deliver the best RSE provision that our students deserve, and require.

Even more important is the knowledge that, through contextual safeguarding, we know that teens need to learn about relationships and sex earlier. It is too late to be addressing these issues at GCSE, when wider society and peer group are much more influential to teens than their parents or their school. ‘Age appropriate’ needs to be rethought, and our long-term partners in the RAP Project, and It Happens Education, are at the forefront of changing the landscape of conversations within schools. Together we want to tackle such topics as dating, partying, sexting, lad-culture & revenge porn. Teenagers are vulnerable to any number of these issues, and we seek to empower them with the law, the power of practicing discretion, mutual respect, and mutual consent.

This, however, is all very well if we are not ensuring that the same conversations are happing with boys of the same age. We are working with KCS, and other prospective partner schools, to ensure that we are following a programme that is synchronised across year groups, across schools, to ensure that teens are given the same information, earlier.

Meaningful and diverse partnership

There are two crucial partnerships that the Charter hopes to formalise. The first, recognises the vital role that parents play, individually and collectively, in supporting what is happening within schools. Parents face any number of individual challenges with their teenagers, and as they age, we know that school and home are far less influential than peers and wider society. Through parent consultation we know that there is a great deal that can be done by giving all parents a set of guidelines around parties, social time and curfews. We are believers in ‘elastic parenting’ and empowering teens to make decisions within clear boundaries. Parents, however, need the support of schools, and most importantly, each other, to ensure that they can put those boundaries in place, consistently.

The second partnership, and what I believe is the long-term key to our education’s role in preventing violence against women, is diverse and meaningful partnership between boys and girls. It is essential that men see women as more than mothers and potential girlfriends. Intellectual and social interaction, formalised across year groups is vital if we are to change endemic attitudes. That is why the Charter is committed to links like debating competitions for Year 10, leadership conferences for Sixth Formers, and transition activities with Year 7.

So, what next?

We hope to launch the Charter before Christmas and ensure that all steps have been taken, by both schools before launch. We hope that when the media spotlight once again leaves this issue, we will continue to be at the forefront of advocating for the safety and protection of women and girls, and the Charter seems like a meaningful platform to widen our fight.

Friday Gem #41 – ‘Reflect’ check-in app in Teams

Teaching and Learning Gem #41 – ‘Reflect’ check-in app in Microsoft Teams

Helen, Misha and Suzy trialled the new ‘Reflect’ app in Microsoft Teams with some of their classes this week. It allows teachers to ‘check-in’ easily with how students are feeling. We used it for academic purposes to encourage students to reflect on how they feel about their progress. Watch this video to find out more about it.

How it works

  • Once you have installed the app in Teams, you click on the ‘Reflect’ icon when you start a new conversation in the general channel.
  • You select a question from the drop-down list i.e. ‘How are you feeling about the material we covered today?’  or ‘How do you feel about your progress in this class?’ or ‘How do you feel about your last assignment.’ There are lots of options.
  • Students then select an emoji to represent their feeling.
  • They can further select from some adjectives i.e. ‘motivated’, ‘confident’, ‘ambitious’, ‘creative’, ‘happy’ etc.
  • You can set it so that only the teacher can see the responses (see below some screenshots from Helen for what the teacher sees):

Benefits

  • It is super quick and easy to use for both teachers and students.
  • The student is encouraged to reflect.
  • It makes every student’s feelings visible to the teacher.
  • The teacher can monitor the whole class spread of feelings, as well as dig down into individuals.
  • The teacher can review the responses using Insights to see patterns across the class and to track students attitudes over time.
  • The teacher can then adapt teaching if necessary or arrange one-to-one meetings with any student of concern.
  • It can be an opportunity for students almost to give feedback to the teacher.

Drawbacks

  • You can’t write your own question – you have to use one from the list (although the consistency in question does allow for tracking over time).
  • Students can’t add any further comments themselves (again, this keeps it quick and not onerous, but could be perceived as a drawback).
  • It is fairly broad-brush and definitely requires teachers to be proactive in digging into why a student might feel a certain way. It could be a good springboard into that discussion, though.

What does it mean to decolonise the English curriculum?

Director of Studies, Suzy Pett, discusses how the WHS English Department has started to decolonise the curriculum, including introducing a new A Level unit on postcolonial writers.

Rallying cries to decolonise the curriculum have been building for a while now. It is one of the most important conversations in education today and our recent alumnae have been vocal about it.

In a 2018 interview for Varsity magazine, Wimbledon High alumna, Mariam Abdel-Razek, speaks about her experience studying English at Cambridge. She says that, “sometimes it feels like I can’t be heard unless I’m shouting.”[1] In 2020, recent alumna, Nida, set up Wimbledon High’s first POCSOC (People of Colour Society). However, she emphasises that discussions need to be built into the curriculum, otherwise the “the burden is placed on the students of colour in schools to lead the conversations.” And, in a 2020 podcast at Oxford University, alumna Afua Hirsch raises the need to “[disrupt] the racket of positioning anything non-European as alternate”[2] as she discusses the role of the curriculum in structuring alternate worldviews and knowledges.

Alert to this vital dialogue and convinced of the necessity to make change, the English Department at Wimbledon High wanted to rethink the A Level course, among other elements of the curriculum. Our new postcolonial coursework unit explores the writers Kiran Desai and Derek Walcott. We are excited by the way our politically savvy students will respond and the impact it might have for them both as readers and citizens of the 21st century. The course carries with it weighty concerns that couldn’t be more important to our lives today: politics of power; societal alienation; belonging and dislocation; migration; diaspora; and identity. These are a complex nexus of issues that resonate for all of us in our lived experiences. This is a course that extends far beyond the A Level classroom, and as English teachers, that fill us with excitement and, to be honest, some nerves. 

Our new course has been a year in the making. So, how have we gone about it and what are the issues at the front of our minds when teaching postcolonial literature?

  • Naming the course

Whilst we are referring to our unit as ‘postcolonial’, this is a controversial term. Some suggest that it implies we have moved beyond colonialism, when clearly this is far from the case. Keen to learn from other educators, we set up a Zoom call with teachers in US. We heard it was for this reason that they had renamed their course ‘de-colonial literature.’  However, for us this is equally problematic. It seeks to politicise texts by non-white authors by positioning them as ‘writing back’ against colonial oppression. It risks distracting from the other aesthetic or experimental modes important to an author. Certainly, this was the view expressed by the brilliant writer Irenosen Okojie, who spoke candidly to our Year 12s and 13s last year about her experience as a black author. Alumna, Nida Ahmed, also suggested that the term ‘postcolonial’ risks singling out these groups of writers, signalling that they are ‘alternate’ to ‘official’ literature. Of course, these debates are all useful to have with our students. We are using ‘postcolonial’ not to imply that colonialism is a ‘completed’ act of the past. Nor does it suggest that the only intention of this literature and our reading of it is socio-political decolonising.

  • Interrogating our own default settings: Unpacking our own ‘ways of reading’ the world/texts

As John McLeod writes, “the act of reading in postcolonial contexts is by no means a neutral activity. How we read is just as important as what we read.”[3] As individuals, we need to unpack how we are approaching the texts. If you think you are approaching the texts from a ‘neutral’ perspective, then you are aligned with the dominant white culture. This approach to literature maps onto our approach to ‘reading’ our world. Understanding our ‘default settings’ to texts and life is important, and so revisiting our own identities throughout the course is essential if our reading practices “are to contribute to the contestation of colonial discourses.”[4]

  • Risks of intellectualising lived experiences 

We were interested to read the article of Edinburgh lecturer, Michelle Keown, who works in a similar socio-economic environment to Wimbledon High. She warns that in a predominantly white context, reading about other cultures could become “a form of intellectual or cultural tourism.” The risk is that students use the texts “to learn more about other cultures, which bespeaks well-meaning, liberal sentiments, but also the highly problematic assumption that one can gain knowledge of a culture by reading [fiction].”[5] To avoid this, we will be asking students to actively engage self-reflexively with the complex racial problems seen in the texts: How do those social problems manifest within their own circle of social connections? Students need to engage with their immediate contexts. We do not want to “tinker around the edges” in our teaching of postcolonial fiction with students “[failing] to really connect with racism as something that impacts them.”[6] For us, it is important in our reading of postcolonial fiction that, through self-reflexive thought and criticism, the social problems are relocated from “over there” to “here”.

The power of this course is undeniable. It involves a radical rethinking of our teaching practices and raises far-reaching questions about what it means to ‘read’ English literature. We’re intending to be bold and disruptive. In self-consciously re-examining how we ‘read’ literature, we are re-examining how we ‘read’ the world. By understanding the complex relationship between text-reader-author, we can similarly hope to better understand the complexities of our lived relationships.


[1] J. Chan, ‘Rethinking the canon: the burdens of representation’. Varsity, 16 November 2018, https://www.varsity.co.uk/features/16578

[2] Discussion: How does a curriculum introduce and structure alternate worldviews and knowledges? [online podcast initially held at TORCH], University of Oxford Podcasts, February 2019, http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/discussion-how-does-curriculum-introduce-and-structure-alternate-worldviews-and-knowledges

[3] J. McLeod, Beginning Postcolonialism, Manchester University Press, 2000, p. 33

[4] McLeod, p. 34

[5] E. Denevi and N Paston, ‘Helping Whites Develop Anti-Racist Identities’, Multicultural Education, vol. 14, no. 2, 2006, p.70

[6] M. Keown, ‘Teaching Postcolonial Literature in an Elite University: An Edinburgh Lecturer’s Perspective’, Journal of Feminist Scholarship, 7 (Fall), 2015, p.103

How did the 2016 EU Referendum come about?

Cara H, Editor of Unconquered Peaks, looks at the key reasons that led David Cameron to hold the 2016 EU referendum.

In this essay I focus on the factors which led to the 2016 Referendum being held, rather than the result. David Cameron called the 2016 EU Referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union (EU) in 2015, giving the British public the right to decide whether their future would be in or out of the EU. They chose to leave the EU by a margin of 51.9% leave, versus 48.1% remain. The UK-EU relationship has always been complicated and fraught, ever since joining in 1973. Factors analysed are ‘important’ as they led to Euroscepticism in British politics or the British public, and/or led to political pressure on Cameron to hold a referendum on EU membership.

I argue that the UK’s historic relationship with the EU contrasts sharply with their current aims. As for immigration, general anti-immigration sentiment, and the rise of UKIP (which are very much linked) strongly contributed to Euroscepticism and political pressure on Cameron. I also touch on Cameron himself, and his decision making around quelling his backbenchers.

A transactional vs political relationship

Britain has always viewed the EU differently to our European friends. Whilst most of Europe see themselves as European, Britons are the least likely to have Europe form part of their identity (see graph below), and do not have the same allegiance to Europe in comparisons to the German or French. Instead, we view our relationship with the EU as transactional, through a cost-benefit, economic analysis. This can be clearly traced back to our original reasons for joining.


(Eurobarometer, 2015)

In the late 1950s, Britain was experiencing a post-war economic rut, while Germany and France were experiencing strong growth. Britain’s spheres of influence were declining, and trade with the USA and Commonwealth had decreased. This led to the belief that joining the bloc might remedy the UK’s economic problems. Macmillan, the UK Prime Minister at the time, “saw the European Community as an economic panacea… here was a way in which the British economy could overcome so many of its problems without resorting to a radical and painful domestic economic overhaul” (Holmes, n.d.) This analysis of Britain’s reasons for joining contrasts sharply with the EU’s increasingly political aims. Though Britain arguably shares the aims of the European Project, it does not share the same desire to become one with Europe and is interested in the EU only economically. Having joined the EU for economic reasons, and later being faced with political integration, increased tensions.

These tensions between an economic, free trade-based union and a political integratory one, have been the backdrop of the UK’s interactions with the EU. For example, the Eurozone Crisis in the UK especially damaged views towards Europe, not simply because of what happened, but because the ‘cost’ of remaining a member became highlighted. The heightened tensions within the political establishments of the UK and the EU have seeped into the general public psyche. Therefore, the dual nature of the EU as a trade-bloc and a political union had a negative impact on the UK’s relationship with the EU, by increasing Euroscepticism, and in turn increasing political pressure on Cameron to hold a referendum in 2016.

Immigration concerns conflated with EU

Freedom of movement is enshrined in the EU’s ‘DNA’. As stated in 1957 in the Treaty of Rome, it can be defined as ‘EU nationals having the right to move freely within the European Union and to enter and reside in any EU member state’ (Bundesministeriums des Innern, 2015). Non-EU immigration levels have always been higher than EU immigration levels. Meaning that the argument around freedom of movement as a cause of unsustainable immigration has been greatly exaggerated. It is the perception of EU immigration that has stuck; the EU became synonymous with immigration of any kind, whether this is misguided or not.

The increased level of non-EU and EU immigration put pressure on aspects of British culture which are not so open to those perceived as ‘non-British’. Integration is often difficult for those of a different culture. For example, differences in language, traditions and skills, can lead to those with a strong sense of British national identity perceiving immigrants negatively, as they threaten what some see as British culture. And yet this immigration concern is incorrectly conflated with the EU, as the majority of immigration to the UK has little to do with the European Union (though one could also argue that all British anti-immigration sentiment is largely unfounded, regardless of the place of origin). An excellent paper by Chatham House presents a cross analysis of people’s voting choices (leave vs remain), compared to their attitudes towards immigration (both non-EU and EU). The trait that most divided the ‘leavers’ from the ‘remainers’ was their attitudes towards immigration and British culture: nearly ¾ of ‘outers’ agreed that ‘Immigration undermines British culture”.


Social background of ‘inners’, ‘outers’ and undecided voters. (Chatham House, 2015)

Therefore, this cultural negativity towards immigration manifests itself in many ways, one of which is opposition to the EU, through the conflation of (any) immigration with EU membership. One of the EU’s most sacred principles is freedom of movement, and the growing number of immigrants since the UK’s membership of the EU has only increased this Euroscepticism, which increased the likelihood of EU-UK referendum.

UKIP’s sudden rise

UKIP was founded in 1991 and can be categorised as a single-issue party, with the sole aim of bringing the UK out of the EU, via a referendum. Once Nigel Farage became leader of UKIP in 2006, it grew in popularity, with gains in the 2013 local elections (22% of the vote), two Conservative Party defections to UKIP in 2013, and impressive results in both the 2014 European Parliament elections (largest number of seats with 24) and the 2015 General Election (12.5% of the popular vote). They were most certainly on the up.


Table to show distribution of seats in the European Parliament in 2014.

UKIP’s rise led to Cameron’s electoral position becoming increasingly threatened: UKIP is a right-wing party, whose voters were more likely to be white and older than that of Labour’s electorate. Therefore, UKIP was able to split the Conservative vote (Martill, 2018). In 2014, UKIP managed to gain over a quarter of votes in European Parliament elections, outnumbering the Conservatives. Understandably, this was a clear threat to the Conservative Party at the time. Though support for UKIP was clearly influenced by other factors, (i.e factors that pushed voters towards UKIP), UKIP managed to harness Euroscepticism in the general public, and transform this into meaningful political pressure on David Cameron to hold a referendum. The nature of UKIP’s rise – sudden, large, and at a time when the Conservatives did not have a majority (pre-2015 General Election), was a very important factor in leading to the referendum. Arguably, UKIP’s pressure on Cameron led him to hold an election, lest he lose public and potentially party support, and inevitably, a general election. Therefore, due to the rise of UKIP, a party based on support for a referendum on the EU, Cameron was incentivised to put a referendum promise in his party’s manifesto in 2015 and hold one in 2016, in order to keep his Conservative Government in office.

Cameron’s desire for a quick fix

The Prime Minister is by far the main source of authority over whether to hold a referendum or not, so analysing Cameron is important in answering this essay’s question. Cameron’s decision around party management was an impactful factor in leading to the 2016 EU Referendum.

The promise of a referendum can be seen as a ‘quick fix’ method of appeasement to the Eurosceptic backbenchers. As is clear from the rise of the Conservative Eurosceptic faction, heightened tensions were forming in the Conservative Party from 2013 onwards, and this threatened the Party’s ability to govern. Hence, Cameron felt compelled to manage his party over Europe, by delegating the decision to the public. When the referendum was initially promised in June 2013, Cameron was concerned with stopping the backbenchers rebelling in the coalition. He wanted to silence the Eurosceptic wing of the party that had caused so much trouble for the party over the years; an ‘easy fix’ to a longstanding problem (Martill, 2018). A comment that encapsulates this, is from Donald Tusk (former President of the European Council), recounting his meeting with Cameron after the referendum was announced in 2013:

“Why did you decide on this referendum, [Tusk recounts asking Cameron this] – it’s so dangerous, even stupid, you know, and he told me – and I was really amazed and even shocked – that the only reason was his own party… [He told me] he felt really safe, because he thought at the same time that there’s no risk of a referendum, because his coalition partner, the Liberals, would block this idea of a referendum” (BBC, 2019).

Clearly, party management was very influential in Cameron’s decision-making. Therefore, the decision desire to repair the divide in his party, was hugely impactful in leading to the 2016 EU Referendum.

In conclusion, the nature of our relationship with the EU, immigration sentiment, UKIP and Cameron’s decision making were the most important factors in leading to the EU Referendum. Especially impactful was UKIP’s ability to harness Euroscepticism into political pressure. But arguably, the end of our EU membership was spelt out from the beginning.


Works Cited

BBC, 2019. Inside Europe: Ten Years of Turmoil. [Online]
Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0c1rjj7
[Accessed 29 06 2021].

Bundesministeriums des Innern, f. B. u. H. B., 2015. Freedom of movement. [Online]
Available at: https://www.bmi.bund.de/EN/topics/migration/law-on-foreigners/freedom-of-movement/freedom-of-movement-node.html
[Accessed 29 06 2021].

Chatham House, 2015. Britain, the European Union and the Referendum: What Drives Euroscepticism?. [Online]
Available at: https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/default/files/publications/research/20151209EuroscepticismGoodwinMilazzo.pdf
[Accessed 9 20 2021].

Eurobarometer, 2015. National versus European identification, s.l.: s.n.

Holmes, M., n.d. The Conservative Party and Europe. [Online]
Available at: https://www.brugesgroup.com/media-centre/papers/8-papers/807-the-conservative-party-and-europe
[Accessed 9 20 2021].

Martill, B., 2018. Brexit and Beyond: Rethinking the Futures of Europe. London: UCL Press.

Friday Gem #40 – Quiz Quiz Trade

Teaching and learning Gem #40 –  Quiz Quiz Trade

This comes from Jess in our Geography department, who shared the idea in a WHS TeachMeet last year. It’s great for getting students out of their seats and learning from each other. Now that restrictions have been lifted, embrace the freedom and see if this idea could be adapted for your subject.

Jess writes:

What is Quiz Quiz Trade?

  • The teacher gives each student a question and the pupil writes the answer on the other side. Alternatively, the pupil can write their own question.
  • Once this has been completed the students pair up and they then ask each other their question (Quiz Quiz).
  • Once the questions have been answered correctly, the pupils then swap questions (Trade), find a new partner to repeat the process.

Neurodiversity considerations for this activity from Isabelle and Catherine

1. Allow and encourage a pause before students answer…this is not about speed!

2. This sort of activity might be trickier for autistic students. Allow students to hold up/show the question rather than ask it, and allow answers to be written on mini whiteboards. Alternatively they might prefer to sit this out and answer the questions on paper individually.

You can use Quiz Quiz Trade at any point in a lesson:

For example:

  1. Before introducing new material to tap into prior knowledge
  2. After a unit to review terms/case study material/languages vocab/maths symbols and equations
  3. Before pupils begin a written task, such as an essay to gather ideas or understand processes

Quiz Quiz Trade is good in the classroom because:

  1. It is brilliant for retrieval practice, strengthening memory by recalling information from long term memory and putting it in their working memory.
  2. Students are working with peers and building confidence: It encourages co-operative learning and engagement.
  3. It is based on low stakes quizzing, allowing students to get things wrong and get immediate feedback from their peers in a non-threatening way.

Examples of how Jess used this activity:

When I did it, I used it as revision for case study material. This then fed into some case study exam questions to consolidate their learning. Exampled below.

Does sharing your passion for your subject enhance teaching and learning?

Clare Duncan, Deputy Head Academic, looks at the impact sharing passion for your subject can have on learning outcomes and STEAM.  

‘Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire’ W.B Yeats 

I’m guessing that most, if not every, teacher came into the profession, not because they had a love of assessment and report writing, but because they had a passion for something – whether that be the writing of W.B. Yeats or, in my case, the beauty of the Fibonacci sequence. I find it fascinating that such a simple recurrence sequence, where each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two numbers, is found so often in the natural world. The sunflower seed formation – from the centre outwards, of 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13… and so on – is one such stunning example.  

As educators, we have the envious position of having a captive audience on whom to unleash our enthusiasms. As teachers we are always reflecting, always thinking of ways not just to impart knowledge but also to spark pupils’ interest in our subject. By demonstrating passion and curiosity ourselves we allow pupils to do the same – surely a worthy aim in itself, particularly if we want them to become lifelong learners. 

Even more than this, students modelling your behaviour can assist them in their next steps. It’s clear that the university applications that achieve the greatest success are those in which students demonstrate their deep enthusiasm for the subject, whether through their personal statement or at interview. In a recent Telegraph article about the application process, Peter Claus, the new access fellow for Oxford, discussed this idea:

‘Naturally we’re crazy about our subjects as tutors – so we look for people of equal fervour. Demonstrating independent intellectual fervour around your subject is much more important than any Duke of Edinburgh awards. We need to see that students have gone above and beyond and are aware of the culture of their subject.’ 

Our own Sixth Form Review reinforces that what teachers say and how they say it is hugely important, particularly in terms of the expertise and interest they themselves demonstrate. One student commented:  ‘(it’s) impressive when teachers know their stuff‘ and described taking the time after such a lesson to ‘let things sink in’.

So my tips for teachers to think about would be to:  

  1. Impart your passion to your students. By showing your excitement you may ignite it in them. 
  2. Find resources that fuel your passion and allow you to show them what excites you about your subject. (For me one such example is the BBC’s More or Less1 where the presenter explains – and sometimes debunks – the numbers and statistics used in political debate, the news and everyday life.) 
  3. Don’t underestimate the power of interdisciplinary learning. It is at the heart of our STEAM+ agenda. The best way to help reinforce a student’s passion is to show them that it can be applied to, and enriched by, multiple subjects.  

And why is instilling passion in students important? Here are words of Sara Briggs.  

‘When students are passionately engaged in their learning – when they are mesmerized by their learning environment or activities – there are myriad responses in their brains making connections and building schema that simply would not occur without that passion or emotion.’ 2 

So what will I be adding to my lesson plans this Autumn? The Year 13 Further Maths students will be introduced to the beauty of the catenary curve and how it can be modelled in using hyperbolic functions.

Footnotes

1. BBC More or Less: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qshd

2. S. Briggs, ’25 ways to institute passion-based learning in the classroom’, 2013. Originally published on opencolleges.edu