Tes - The education podcast The Tes podcast brings you all the latest news, reviews and opinion from the world of education

July 18, 2018  

Executive function is like an air traffic controller, directing the focus of our brain, says Lucy Cragg, associate professor in the Faculty of Science at the University of Nottingham. This is what makes effective executive function crucial to how we learn.

"Some people liken it to an air traffic control system or the conductor of an orchestra, where you are drawing on the resources of the brain and coordinating them towards the goal that you want to do," explains Cragg.

Executive function, also known as cognitive control is "the set of skills we use to control or adapt our behaviour".

“For example in the classroom, a teacher might give a child a task. The child has got to keep that task goal in mind, they’ve got to ignore any distractions that are going on, either internally or externally that might distract them from that goal and they’ve also got to be flexible and adapt their behaviour.” 

According to Cragg, executive function can be split into three subprocesses:

1. Working memory

This is the ability to "hold information in mind and do something with it in your head or hold it there in the face of distractions".

2. Inhibition

This is the ability to ignore all forms of distraction, whether that is ignoring information in the environment or "suppressing responses or actions that are not appropriate in that situation". 

3. Flexibility

This is the ability to adapt and shift between different mental processes in the face of unforeseen circumstances. This means, for example, understanding that you need to try a different approach to solving a maths problem if the first method you try isn't getting you anywhere. 

For children who struggle in the classroom, poor cognitive control is likely to be a key factor, says Cragg.

"In any child that is struggling in the classroom, there is likely to be some element of an executive function problem," she explains.

However, identifying interventions that can help students to improve their executive function has so far proved difficult.

“We know that these skills are really important in the classroom and for learning, but actually trying to pinpoint interventions that can work – there’s still a lot of work to be done." 

In the podcast, Cragg explains how further research can help and how increasing teachers' understanding around cognitive control could be the best way forwards for now.

"One approach is just generally increasing awareness and being aware of the executive function demands and working memory demands that there are in the classroom," she says. "So, when you are giving instructions and things to take those into account."

July 16, 2018  

In this week's podcast special edition, Dr Peter Shukie, lecturer in Education Studies at Blackburn College's University Centre, and creator of Community open online courses (Coocs) chats with columnist Sarah Simons about the democratic teaching and learning ethos behind the technology. 

July 13, 2018  

Join the Tes team as we talk about some of the biggest topics of the week.

We discuss this week's SATs results, and ask whether there is any point to Ofsted any more.

We also talk about one teacher's advice on how teachers can do their job brilliantly while still having a life.

Tune in and enjoy.

July 11, 2018  

In this week's episode Sam Jones, lecturer in initial teacher education at Bedford College and Founder of FE Researchmeet, chats with Tes columnist Sarah Simons on the week's FE news and views. They discuss fat cat salaries paid by training providers, how reputation is the key to the sector's future - and the best plan of action if your end-of-year CPD turns into a spectacle.

July 6, 2018  

Join the Tes team as we talk about some of the biggest topics of the week.

We discuss what the future holds for small village schools as the Church of England asks the government to make it easier to close them.

We also talk about concerns that the preoccupation with the 'word gap' is backfiring, and ask whether schools should re-schedule events if they clash with big World Cup ties.

Tune in and enjoy. 

June 28, 2018  

Join the Tes team as we talk about some of the biggest topics of the week.

We discuss why new evidence of the teacher recruitment crisis means the government can no longer say there are record number of teachers in the system.

We also hear why teachers need to be aware of the impact of trauma on their pupils, and expose the dramatic fall in council support for school improvement.

June 27, 2018  

In this episode of the TES FE Podcast Maria Wilkinson, Faculty Director at Buckinghamshire College Group joins TES columnist Sarah Simons for a chat about the week's FE news and views. They discuss the prospect of T level pathways being delivered by a single awarding body and how to best prepare students for exams.   

June 27, 2018  

“Roughly two children in every classroom will have significant language needs,” explains Courtenay Norbury, professor of developmental language disorders at UCL. “[But] a teacher may not always recognise it as a language problem first, it may be spotted as a difficulty with learning, or with peers, with reading or behaviour. But very often it is a language difficulty.”

Norbury is on a mission to find better ways of diagnosing language problems and more comprehensive interventions for teachers and specialists to support these children. In this week’s Tes Podagogy podcast, she explains that the first step was to give these language issues a name.

“Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) is now used as the term when children are not developing language as you would expect them to be - they will use shorter utterances, they may struggle to understand what you have said or asked them to do, they have difficulties with communicating with people. They say less and what they say is less complex. They tend to not understand context.”

Currently, children with DLD tend to be seen as “lower ability” or wilfully naughty. Neither, she says, is true.

“The assumption is often that they are naughty, but it is actually that they do not understand what you have asked them to do,” she explains. “Behaviour is communication - if you can’t express your need, or they have misunderstood you, then children try and express that in another way. It is perceived as naughty behaviour but the child may simply not have the language skills to negotiate what they want.

“[But] if you were to speak to a young person with DLD, they will say the hardest thing is that people think they are ‘stupid’, and they are not, they just cannot explain themselves easily.”

Interventions for children with DLD tend to be “variable”, Norbury says. And the evidence suggests there is no cure for DLD, rather that it is persistent throughout school.

“Language disorder is persistent, you can make a lot of progress in primary school but it is likely these children will still go into secondary school with a gap to their peers and in secondary the challenges will become greater because the language you need to access the curriculum becomes more complex,” she explains.

As for what might work to help, the research is ongoing, but teaching of specific skills seems to be the most effective strategy - which is why Norbury is wary of the rush to see vocabulary teaching as some sort of catch-all treatmen.

“Vocabulary is hugely important, it is the building block of language, but while we can teach children vocabulary, there is no real evidence this cascades down into reading comprehension,” she explains. “For example, you can teach children the word they need to understand an inference, but unless you teach them how to inference specifically, it may not come naturally to them.

“What we are learning is that kids are very good at learning the things you teach them, but that does not necessarily transfer to these other things we would like them to, and that is particularly true of children with language disorders. You should not assume that just by teaching high quality vocabulary, which is very important, that that will have transfer.”

In the podcast, Norbury goes onto discuss the pros and cons of diagnosis labels, the fact the causes of DLD remain largely a mystery and also the fact that a screening programme to spot DLD early may prove counter-productive in that it diverts cash away from much-needed interventions for older children with DLD, who tend to be more likely to experience SEMH challenges.


June 22, 2018  

With a Tes investigation uncovering that foreign teachers are being forced to leave their jobs - and the UK - this week we discuss the issue of teacher visas. The Tes team also talk about whether school leaders should play the role of 'headtrepreneurs' raising money for their schools, and we look forward to the 2018 Tes School Awards. 

Tune in and enjoy:

June 15, 2018  

With the World Cup now underway, the Tes team don their boots and shin pads for a kick-about with the week's education news.

The team explore whether international football depresses GCSE results. They also discuss why grammar school expansion could prove an anticlimax for Number 10, and whether psychology could bring an end to the reading wars.

Tune in and enjoy:


- Older Posts »