The Devil’s Educational Glossary M-Z

Multi-Academy Trust

A private enterprise group that has acquired a whole herd of cash cows, making up into a very nice little earner indeed, and never mind the olfactory and climatic effects of the resultant methane emissions.

National Literacy Strategy

A set of ideas about the teaching of reading and writing of extraordinary longevity, complexity and contradiction that successive governments compelled schools to implement.  The final version nominally fixed all bugs of earlier versions, none of which quite worked in the desired way, but each of which claimed to fix the bugs of earlier versions without acknowledgement of any culpability for the earlier issue of faulty products.

“If a million people believe a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.” – Anatole France

Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT)

A well-intentioned ingénu(e) who has not yet grasped the disconnect between their vision of teaching as a way of helping to make well-rounded future adults and the education system’s lack of interest in this goal; an inexperienced, more readily pressured and cheaper alternative to a teacher who has served several years in profession; a dwindling resource.


Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.  Body consisting mainly of senior ex-teachers, which acts as the Government’s enforcement wing in keeping the teaching profession under constant and unnecessary pressure through school inspections with a fundamentally threatening tenor.  These lack scientific validity, and differences in school quality (as per Ofsted ratings) have little relation to students’ individual outcomes.  

Ofsted inspectors withhold their knowledge and expertise from schools whether commending or castigating them – under no circumstances do Ofsted inspectors ever model that which they wish to see performed by those being scrutinised, and it has to be taken on trust that they were ever able to.  It should be noted that while all Ofsted inspectors have taught, all have decided subsequently to teach either less, or not at all, and to do something else instead.  (See also ‘Learning’ for an explanation of Ofsted inspectors’ imaginary powers of observation.) 

“There are some people you like immediately, some whom you think you might learn to like in the fullness of time, and some that you simply want to push away from you with a sharp stick.” (Douglas Adams)


Relating to the health, safety, wellbeing and personal development of pupils, all of which are considered by governments to be wholly subordinate to all things academic, whether in pandemic times or otherwise.


The fundamental building blocks of knowledge and understanding in learning to read and write in English for the great majority of children, first recognised as such within the National Literacy Strategy – which prescribed to schools how literacy should be taught – some seven years after its introduction. This level of ineptitude-married-with-compulsion has brought about a generation of learners who have largely become literate despite, rather than because of, the way that they were taught in schools.


A passage of text which serves as the rhetoric in ‘rhetoric-reality gap’, describing practices that are not always observed, in practice.

Professional development

An opportunity for staff who work with children not to work with children for a set period and to gain new skills and knowledge, or not.  Incidental benefits to participants often arise through the exchange of bitter experience, about which it’s acceptable to laugh within the confines of the professional development / training environment, except in the presence of the provider.

Pupil Referral Unit

A school for children who have shown that what schools offer does not meet their educational and developmental needs.  PRUs are nominally a form of ‘alternative provision’, but because of the twin terrors of the national curriculum and Ofsted, they are often set up in exactly the same way as other schools, albeit with a particularly lively and interesting intake of pupils who continue to demonstrate that what schools offer does not meet their educational and developmental needs.

Progress 8 (see also ‘League Tables’)

A complex device which serves the simple purpose of allowing for comparison between schools against one another, rather than against any criterion or academic standard, in order to ensure that there will always be schools whose performance is below average. 

Progress 8 guarantees that half of schools will have positive results and half will have negative results.  It was designed to ensure that annually, a proportion of schools would not be able to achieve the minimum standard expected by the government, but now contents itself with identifying a proportion of schools as ‘well below average’, without reference to any objective standards of attainment. This positively dystopian construction is almost certainly the source of particular pride to its architect, because it is such nonsense, in such plain view.  What a wheeze! 

School Librarian

A librarian who has found the level of noise in public libraries unnervingly low and the conduct of users disappointingly compliant.


An artificial construct invoked by governments and inspection bodies as evidence of their own effectiveness in improving pupil performance, but without the superfluity of using any objective criteria or consideration of whether what is nominally being measured  correlates with any other form of performance or has any intrinsic value.  Standards have never fallen under any Government’s tenure.  (See ‘Drive up’)


(English – prescribed in law).  Adjective usually paired with ‘duty’ to describe a requirement in law that applies to all parties except to the appointed agencies (e.g. Local Authorities) of those who introduced the laws.

Statutory assessment

One of the great bureaucratic illusions of our time or anyone else’s, selling the belief that children with the most significant learning difficulties and needs can only have these understood by an expensive, time-consuming and frequently adversarial bureaucratic process.  This culminates in the conclusion either that such children should be supported in some way to follow exactly the same curriculum as the rest of the pupil population, rather than be supported to learn anything that might be of individual relevance and benefit, or that they don’t need additional support or resources to follow the same curriculum as everyone else..

(SEND) Tribunal

A device which holds out the hope of justice for families seeking to secure the right educational support provision for their children but which enables Local Authorities to use previously discredited reasoning repeatedly as a way of delaying making any provision (or even making an assessment of needs) for many, many months.

Vocational qualifications

A set of syllabuses, assessments and certification relating to real life skills that have value and application in a wide range of employment sectors, but which were effectively abolished for those in compulsory education at the whim of a Secretary of State for Education. 

Much type has been tapped in relation to why he should have done this, but the primary motivation seems to have been to ensure that only a fixed proportion of each year group – those earmarked as ‘academically able’ – is able to succeed in formal education, thus helping to consolidate social inequality.

Zero tolerance policy

A particularly tight corner into which schools are wont to back themselves, especially when the policy relates to children’s undesirable behaviour (as it usually does). 

Having a zero tolerance policy may do nothing to affect the incidence of the proscribed behaviours, which may continue unchecked and unabated (sometimes because the child is not capable of modifying the behaviour) – but at least they are not tolerated. Schools with multiple zero tolerance policies tend to be proud of their intolerance, which excuses them from seeking to understand why children continue to exhibit the proscribed behaviours.

One comment

  1. I agree completely. Today’s education system is symptomatic of the kind of thinking of Tory and totalitarian governments. Firstly, they want a Gradgrind system of ‘facts, facts, facts’. This is in line with teaching in public schools. I compare it with preparing for being on a TV Quiz show. Learn it all off by heart and spout the answers when required. In schools, it’s children being fed with ‘facts’ which they regurgitate in tests and exams. If the style of teaching and learning doesn’t suit, children feel like, indeed will be labelled, ‘failures’. Think of this in terms of KS1 SATs tests and it’s a recipe for disaffection and lacking a sense of worth at a young age. No wonder children suffer from mental health problems. I could rant on…………

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