Nurture 2014/15

Tricky one this…I’ve had a few goes and scrapped each one as not striking the right balance, mainly because, whilst I share some personal details on twitter, but not a great deal…this one cuts a bit close to real life, not just education life. But here goes, forgive me if it bores you or simply stop reading.


Well, I didn’t set any goals. There, I’ve said it…I had some in mind but simply didn’t have the wherewithal to give them the clarity of thought or passion they required until later in the year. 2013 was difficult…Listening while your mother is told she has stage 3 lung cancer having already had breast cancer twice is something that makes your world pause. I eventually went for a long walk, sat on a nearby beach and fell asleep, awaking to feel snow falling on my face then went about my business and looked after my family with lots of drives from London to Norfolk…we anticipated celebrating Christmas 2013 as a family, but it wasn’t to be and after 10 days in a hospice in November she died and I was privileged to have those days and nights with her alongside my sister. It might have seemed odd to anyone watching, my Mum in that hospice, my daughter playing her flute and other visitors by day, but increasingly at night my sister and I giggling and drinking prosecco all night long in an effort to keep our memories of Mum alive even as she slipped away (slipping away doesn’t really do it justice in any form). Driving the long 25 minutes to their house to wake my 86 year old father and tell him that she had died, his wife and love of nearly 50 years was possibly the longest 25 minutes of my life, probably not helped by the fact I sat in my car outside for nearly an hour trying to find the words…in the end I blurted it with no finesse whatsoever. Useless git.

Why do I tell you this? Well, because 2014 was about holding the family together, relishing my growing children and my brilliant wife, about keeping my Dad a) alive, b) with a life worth living and about doing work that needed doing, supporting staff, being ofstedded…(we got a 1 in all areas, something I wanted for the staff and Head but actually isn’t the aim of what we do…odd eh?) Completing PQSI, and my MA, But, somehow, I had left myself behind. What did I want? Seriously? I don’t know…and that has to be wrong doesn’t it? Again, why do I tell you? Well, this backstory from 2013 has informed what will be 2015…and it won’t all be about me…

1. In June, a group of my staff will, along with myself, attempt to do the 3 Peak Challenge for Cancer Research.
This will help me in several ways.
A) I’ll need to shed some pounds and get fit…something that has to be good
B) In the process of doing so, I will hopefully leave some of the less important work behind and I bet that that the world will not tilt on its’ axis and cause a new ice age!
C) I will get to attempt something that I narrowly missed out on in my 20s due to fog on Ben Nevis…
D) Most importantly, I hope to raise cash for a charity, fighting a horrific disease that I know in some way will touch everyone of us. I have two colleagues currently undergoing treatment for forms of cancer…it will feel better to be doing something concrete.

2. I make possibly one of the biggest decisions of my life…I’ve already decided that it is time for me to to take on the challenge of headship, but where?
Do I stay in London, where I’ve taught for 20 years or head to Sussex or Kent near relatives and the lure of the coast? Roll the dice!

3. I want to share my experience of inspection training with school leaders and continue to make a difference within the possibilities available…I’ve had discussions with various people within Ofsted regarding training and I have to say that they are aware of the limitations & difficulties of the process, changes are afoot but will take time to implement, but I have to say that today’s blog by Tom Sherrington rang largely true for me. I don’t agree with all, but lots made me nod and was passionately argued. We need this so much in education instead of the usual mouthpieces the media seem to find! I went into inspection training to learn and hone my analytical skills but actually found they were fine as they were. I also wanted to improve the process, whilst I cannot say that any discussions with Ofsted hierarchy have had any impact whatsoever, I can say that I will continue to ensure whenever I do inspections I will at least know what I’m doing, be able to analyses the data, be open to discussion and above all fair – things often criticised on social media.

4. I am challenging myself to hear 3 year 1 children read every day for the next year…we have a bulge class and it has thrown up issues, but I don’t know them as well as other year groups…this has to change. I love teaching…why divorce myself from this?

4. …I want to ensure that my staff are insulated from the idiocy of the revolving door of policy change from within the DFE…the pace of change is idiotic and irresponsible. It aids no one and will harm many. I have blogged about my concerns with the new assessment in EYFS and have still not heard any answers as to who set the standards, how they came about them and why they felt 85% seemed an appropriate floor target???or how it was decided upon. Perhaps @miss_mcinerney might be able to help! (Despite the fact I will forever link her with cane toads…#REd13) I want my staff to be able to teach and nurture their children. They are incredibly talented and work so hard, they deserve a little more respect than the sound bites and thoughtless policy by announcement or whim that oft issues from Whitehall. We need to continue to challenge this and become heard more.  I reread The Waste Land yesterday and this made me ponder our profession and their acceptance of policy whilst quietly gnashing our teeth;

Unreal City,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.

I’ve learnt and benefitted a lot from colleagues on twitter, I want to meet and collaborate with even more…perhaps run a Teachmeet…and look forward to visits from near & far…more welcome…and encouraged- particularly interested in cross phase!

And above all, enjoy my life…spend time with my wife, children, father, sister & extended family…it is precious. I have a lot to be thankful for…perhaps I should remember that a little more frequently.


The Gillette problem in Education

Ramblings of a Teacher

When Dave Gorman launched his second series of “Modern Life is Goodish”, he did so with a trailer mocking the increasing number of blades attached to our razors.

The Dave Gorman Razor trailer The Dave Gorman Razor trailer

The whole thing’s very amusing when it’s dealing with the humdrum of shaving life. But this same inflation appears to be infiltrating our education system as increasingly complex systems of assessment become available. And the DfE are at least in part to blame.

Its recommendations for an end-of-key-stage assessment system are to replace the simple system of 4 main levels of outcome (cunningly named level 3, level 4, level 5 and level 6) with 5 descriptors which seem to cover a narrower range of ability. But to what end? Why do we need to differentiate between children in this way at the age of 11?

The government’s preferred “mastery approach” to teaching suggests that we should be…

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Growth Mindset?


(“Growth Mindset is not new. It’s what good teachers have been doing for years”- Ming the Merciless, Swansea restaurant, November 2014.)

As always I’m writing this blog to clarify my thinking on something (in this instance it is Growth Mindset). My whole school assembly last week mentioned the term Growth Mindset for the first time (even though I hope the message was similar to previous assemblies).


I have been suitably inspired by blogs on GM by @johntomsett here, @shaun_allison here, @dan_brinton here, @ewenfields here, @pekabelo here, @fullonlearning here, @HuntingEnglish here and @chrishildrew here. If you want to know more about Growth Mindset then please read them (all of them)!
All good schools will have a growth mindset ethos and I really liked how the above mentioned colleagues are implementing the ideas of Carol Dweck. More importantly was how the message of growth mindset was…

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Ultimate Growth Mind-Set…School to School Support and …Ofsted!


Our last week’s school post ‘Growth Mind Set-Not just for Xmas’ seemed to gather more interest from colleagues at other schools with regards to how staff might develop their mind-set, rather than just the students. From the responses we had, most interest seemed to focus on the effect that removing grading from lesson observations has had on the ‘risk taking’ aspect of planning an observation lesson and the impact of lesson study on the planning and self-analysis of the lesson in all of its stages from thoughts, to planning ‘big’ questions, to delivery and feedback. Both of these factors link to the development in staff of the mind-set of thinking positively that anything is possible for our students [with our teaching and support], that honest critique should be sought and acted upon to support professional development, that we should celebrate the success of others and actively seek to develop…

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