Via @BloggingAP: Hands up if you think this is just good practice (or not)!

Recently, a school came under fire for ‘banning’ children from putting their hands up to answer questions.  Leaders at the Samworth Church Academy in Mansfield claim the traditional method of answering teachers’ questions is outdated and fails to challenge pupils effectively.

Whilst the leaders at the school in question chose to change their approach based on sound educational research and, as is the case with all leaders, with their pupils’ best interests at heart, the decision has been branded ‘controversial’ and decried by parents, teachers and Teaching Unions.

How can a decision, made in good faith, in order to improve teaching and learning and with the children’s best interests at heart be questioned so widely and doubted by so many?

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Parents at the school took to social media to state their concerns with one writing “Surely a teacher can ask other children to answer without the need to ‘ban’ putting up of hands? Some kids don’t want to be put on the spot, and it’s ok to be quiet or shy.”

And another “It’s going to be awful for kids who are naturally anxious if they spend all their classes scared they will be picked, and if they don’t know the answer they might be ridiculed by other kids.”

Michael McKeever, a former headteacher of nearby Trinity School in Aspley, Nottingham, told The Times the decision was a “step backwards”.  He said: “It is totally unnecessary because a good teacher wouldn’t go back to the same person, you make sure everyone in the classroom is engaged. This is an issue of teacher professionalism, not a rule change. It’s a bit gimmicky in my opinion.  Putting your hand up is showing enthusiasm, if you’re suppressing that then it’s not good.”

NUT spokesperson Jane Crich said the move was “strange”, and insisted it should be the teacher’s choice as to whether or not they adopt the rule within the classroom.  She said: “Any professional teacher should be trusted to teach a particular topic in a particular style according to the class they have.  Teachers are never backwards in discussing new educational techniques but banning one from the classroom is strange.  Ms Crich added: “I don’t know if there was a discussion before the decision was made but it shows a lack of respect to the teachers at the school.”

How can a decision, made in good faith, in order to improve teaching and learning and with the children’s best interests at heart be questioned so widely and doubted by so many?

School leaders do not make decisions lightly. They do not make decisions simply because they are bored and they don’t make decisions without thought, research and information gathering.  I am sure that this is the case here and cannot understand why it is being questioned as much as it is!

In any other industry in the world it would be good practice to highlight and copy the best features of the most successful companies; why shouldn’t that be the case in education?

For as long as I can remember mentors, experienced teachers and school leaders, have helped me develop my practice by modelling and suggesting ways to ensure that all pupils are ‘active learners’ and the most common method is to move away from encouraging children to put up their hands – today I am an ITT and NQT mentor and coach and I firmly believe that it is best practice to develop a range of classroom management techniques; this belief is confirmed by skimming through OFSTED reports of some ‘highly effective’ schools, there is a common theme – “Good questioning, especially when not reliant on ‘hands up‘, ensures that pupils understand ….”, “… rather than a ‘hands up‘ approach keeps pupils on their toes…” and “Through strategies, such as “no-handsup”, pupils’ interest and motivation is sustained.” 

In any other industries in the world, it would be good practice to highlight and copy the best features of the most successful companies; why shouldn’t that be the case in education?

Schools and educators are experts at creating a climate of safety, confidence and where pupils support each other – where schools achieve this, children are not afraid to try, not afraid to make mistakes and therefore a ‘no hands up’ approach is the most effective classroom management tool available.


How can you encourage a ‘no hands up’ approach in your setting?

  • Simple approaches such as using lollypop sticks with children’s names on them can help you choose, at random, who is to answer a question/share their view etc (if you wish to make this slightly ‘less random’ you can colour code the sticks!)
  • Giving children ‘talk time’ is a great way of helping those quieter/less confident members of the class to form answers. This could be in pairs (talk partners) or small groups.
  • To mix children up and give them opportunities to work with different children try making pairs of number bonds cards – children select a number card at random and then find their number bond partner.  Similarly, cut lengths of string to different sizes (ensuring that there are two pieces of each length) and allow children to find their new partner – the person with the matching length piece of string.
  • Try speed dating – give children 30 seconds to talk to a partner before ringing a bell to move them on to a new partner to discuss the same question – in a minute they have heard at least two different peoples ideas and shared their opinion with two different people.
  • Give children 3 match sticks at the start of a session, children can put away a matchstick each time they ask a question, answer a question or offer an opinion – children must have used all of their matchsticks by the end of the session.
  • Provide different ways for children to show their level of understanding/the level of support that they feel they require eg happy/sad face cards on their table or traffic lights in the top corner of their book which adults can easily spot as they move around the room.

How do you encourage a ‘no hands up’ approach in your school/classroom?


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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

1 Comment

  1. Our leaders tried to introduce a ‘no hands up’ approach. It created a bit of controversy but died out after a couple of months. Personally, I think as a whole school policy: totally rediculous. But no hands up has application as an occasional teaching tool. As my dad used to say, ‘everything in moderation.’

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