Teaching and Leadership Costs

Follows up my latest blog nicely!


Is it possible to have a work life balance when leading a school or for that matter when teaching in one?  #SLTchat produces a frenetic thirty minutes of tweets, re-tweets, likes and comments.  Maybe the people who give up a Sunday evening to be part of it are not best placed to comment; it’s a lovely irony.

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The role of teacher should be privileged over any leadership role.


One of the dominant narratives in contemporary education is the ubiquitous assertion that everyone is now a leader. Not only are all teachers now leaders, but even the kids are leaders whether they like it or not. Within such a climate we might want to ask; if everyone is now a leader, then what distinguishes the role of leader from any other, and who now leads the leaders? The other serious question is what does this say about teachers who just want to remain in the classroom?

Of course, on an abstract theoretical level all classroom teachers are leaders in the sense that they ‘lead’ a class of young people, but in reality they are not ‘leaders’ in the same way that effective senior leaders or heads of departments are. They aren’t making difficult decisions on a need-to-know basis about confidential pupil welfare issues, they are not organising whole school timetables and assemblies, they are…

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Choosing Knowledge

Summer Turner

Like many fellow Twitter users, I’ve become fairly bored with the knowledge vs. skills debate; not because I think it’s a false dichotomy or not worthy of discussion but because I want to move the debate forward. There are now a number of people, schools and institutions for whom the knowledge vs. skills debate has been answered and the answer is: knowledge for the win. So what next?

I’m of the opinion that, even amongst the knowledge community, there is no shared clear definition of ‘knowledge’ and teaching a ‘knowledge-led/knowledge-rich curriculum’. Perhaps we can determine that there doesn’t need to be one way to view this but we should be having the debates and discussions which unpick what is being meant when we talk about knowledge. This is as important for those wanting to continue the knowledge vs skills debate as it is for those who wish to embrace a…

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Don’t Look Back in anger

I went to a conference once…I saw a headteacher that made me think, he distracted me…I was meant to be talking in a small break out group about parental engagement, I think I did ok, but I was a bit distracted, thinking about his talk…and the small fact of having @michealT1979 and @Jack_Marwood on the front row writing notes and grinning at me. However, he’s done it again…he’s only gone and made me think…and some people might consider that a bad thing, as it tends to precipitate action.  Which makes people around me nervous.

So take a bow Simon @smithsmm this blog which followed on from this by John Tomsett made me think and act.

I’ll keep it short. Read their blogs, then come back to mine.

As a new head, following on from someone I admire hugely who was head for 26 years, the past term has been challenging, with more than a few curve balls thrown in for good measure. I left my local MPs office on Friday and headed home a great deal earlier than I usually headed home…it was a good start and I felt pleased that he was so engaging and eager to help with a rather huge issue I have regarding the local council – more to follow if they don’t stop being unfair and aggressive in their approach to our differing points of view.  Then I read his blog and reflected.

Last Sunday, I had gone through my usual routine, ending with family dinner.  My wife pointed out that I was much more distracted now, even during dinner as I adopted a rather vacant stare and smiled politely…THAT went down well. She also pointed out that she felt the Governors had taken the proverbial when setting out my starting salary despite raising it when I pointed out that it amounted to an extra £20 per month after tax. But in these troubled times a raise is unlikely & not something to consider when looking at “efficiencies”! (A job interview for Dubai still lies on my desk offering £20k more tax free, with accommodation, flights and school places for my children, but I won’t be going.) She also pointed out that the meetings started too late for me to be effective and that it destroyed me for the rest of the week – all fair. Something I am also mindful of when considering that my governors are volunteers with young children and full time jobs too! It must be hard for them too!

So, when I read Simon’s blog, it made me consider a few things…but I didn’t engage fully in the thread that it started, despite some people I know to be brilliant taking part.  I felt guilty, but why? I mean, for goodness sake, I was taking my children swimming! I spent a lovely 90mins with my children and then had lunch with them…twitter? 45 notifications. ..all valid, all worthwhile, but I starred a couple and then wondered what on earth I was doing!  I tried to make a couple of comments but couldn’t keep up, so let it slide.  We had friends visiting, so the rest of the afternoon went by in a blur of teaching my children how to chop vegetables properly without losing digits…and me drinking beer with a friend, despite the fact that he supports Spurs, the first team to make me cry over sport! (think 1981 FA cup final replay and you have it!)  It was a wonderful evening filled with red wine, lasagna, light sabres, the boys (us included) making dens and lots of laughter.  Today continued with coaching hockey to my daughter’s age group at 9am, although, I will admit to wistfully looking at the Whatsapp thread, hoping for a cancellation as the boys had had at a different site.  It didn’t come. But I loved it and ran around like a man possessed, because, having had shoulder reconstruction surgery, I can now exercise fully. I had a great time.  One of the coaches remarked that I had decent skills – she has no idea that I played top division National League in 1992 or for British Colleges, nor do the girls – they don’t need to know. I came home and we read books, played chess and watched films in the afternoon – no work…. despite the fact that my wife is hugely stressed with her work teaching pupil premium children who all have additional needs and keeps being reminded that as she is UPS3 she needs to offer more…so we both have a tendency to eat, breathe, sleep work.

But what brought it home to me was my daughter. She is just 11, works hard and is unassuming, but has talent to spare in writing, music and some sports. (I’m a bit proud of her) She made me stop and think today. Everyone had gone out and I didn’t hear them come back, I’d tried everything to get rid of my frustrations, running, drinking and finally, playing my guitar badly, but was just letting loose…I was singing. (I have history with singing…I changed school in Y5 having nearly being expelled…new school the Ht decided that I couldn’t sing, and told me as much in front of everyone – I knew better…his face when seeing me do a solo in Salford Cathedral was priceless!)  yes…I was singing, and I’m ok…no better, but I was letting rip. All my frustrations , all my anger, pain and grumpiness was being expressed at top volume…(4 Seasons in one day if you must know!) As I wailed, I turned around to see them looking at me…my son clapping, my wife smiling wryly and my daughter pensive.  At bedtime we talked.  We talked in a way that we haven’t since I’ve taken on a headship, and she has grown up in that time.   She effectively said that I limit myself.  She saw me in a different light today – she has never seen me display my skills at hockey and was proud of me.  She certainly has never heard me pour my heart out singing and said that I should do it more and stop hiding…yep…stop hiding.

Where do you go with that as a Dad and a Ht? STOP HIDING? STOP HIDING? STOP HIDING!

I don’t know…but I do know that they & I come first.  Much as I love the school, the children and the staff, I come first, because in being fulfilled, my family benefit, I’m happier and the school/children benefit.

BUT, stop hiding?

Brutal in the way only a pre teenager can be.

How many of us do this as we get older? How many of us limit ourselves because of fear of failure or fear of peers and their opinions? We have so many talents but smother it in fear…let it loose…

Please, don’t look back in anger and wish things different, don’t look back in anger I heard you say.




Who are you? Yes! You! My MEP!

If this is a bit clumsy, forgive me, it has been dictated rather than written due to my recovery from shoulder reconstruction surgery!

What a tawdry state of play. Neither Leave, nor Remain covered themselves in glory with their approach to this momentous decision, not the politicians, the media nor the electorate. And as for the leadership in a wider sense of both Labour & Conservative- utterly pathetic and cowardly. A damning indictment of the state of play in politics in the UK. I mean, I watched PMQs, Cameron has clearly thought, sod you then! Johnson (don’t call him Boris – he’s not your mate, or the nations’ cuddly toy mascot,) wasn’t there, neither were many of the shadow cabinet, as they had abandoned their leader for, well,  the shadows.

I’ll happily state outright that I voted to Remain, but did take my time reviewing the case for and against, family, friends and colleagues were wavering up to the last moment and I suggest that this will have been the case for a great many people. Lots will be written about the whys and wherefores and the future ramifications of this vote- especially as neither side had a plan for what was to happen in the event of a Leave win…ludicrous! I mean, even Baldrick had a plan!


We seem to have forgotten that our actions impact on others and our politicians have let them down too not just us. This uncertainty and damage to the FTSE etc is global in its impact…but we have no thought to this, or rather our politicians didn’t.

It concerns me to see the bitterness, post result, particularly from Remain voters. Many of these voters are not stupid, not racist, nor the pond life being ascribed to them. Their opinions and vote means just as much as mine. Besides, this deepening entrenchment of people in their position is not going to solve the issue with a back and forth squabble in the playground of “told you so!” What we must do is stand shoulder to shoulder against the imbeciles who have taken this as acceptance of their racist and xenophobic views.

In the last week of the campaign, I felt hugely underinformed, as did many. What exactly does the EU do? How do we benefit? An alternative on the question I ask prospective colleagues is, “what will we miss out on if we don’t employ you?” What exactly could we expect from the EU by remaining…and wow, was the answer difficult to find! And herein lies some of the problem. There is much ambiguity about this and the organisation is about as transparent as the shenanigans at BHS.

I wonder how much of our difficulties lie in our lack of real engagement with Europe over the years? For 30 odd years all I can remember are negative headlines regarding the EU.

I mean, if you travel to some EU countries you see information about redevelopment funded by EU…but not here. I mean, what has the EU ever done for us? https://youtu.be/7Oor7fAmmiQ

Headlines have often taken a jingoistic slant and tapped into same sense of nationalism that Brexit has…


Politicians from all sides have played the, “don’t blame us, it’s the EU!” Card when it suited them, like a weak deputy head who nods in agreement supinely as they pass on the bad news of an unpopular policy to teachers, with a shrug and apologetic look as if to say, I understand and I quietly agree, but it is what the Head wants.
How much do we know about our MEPs? Do we even know their name?
Do we know how often. They attended the European Commission, which meetings they attended and their record of voting?
How can we be influential in Europe if politicians like Farage attend a minuscule number of votes and miss key ones which pertain to our fishing industry…I mean, he was in the building at the time,  just didn’t take part in debate or vote on an occasion when something was passed that had direct impact on our fishing industry. Our voice was not being heard- we were the silent partners, complaining quietly and politely in the corner but lacking influence because our elected spokespeople didn’t do their job. Britain’s Ukip is Europe’s laziest major political party. Between July 2014 and May 2015, its 23 MEPs have on average participated in only 62.29% of votes in the European parliament, according to data provided by VoteWatch Europe. The Greens and Conservatives are only marginally better! Even Eurosceptic parties from other countries participate in 80%+! And THAT is at least part of why Europe didn’t work as well as it might have for us, and why we felt like we had a sense of loss of sovereignty- real or imagined. How could we hold these politicians to account, when we don’t know them, cannot see their impact or lack of it, and only 20% at an all time low to 34% in 2014 or so bother to vote for them? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/events/vote2014/eu-uk-results
This is a good site for more information, http://www.votewatch.eu/ interesting post Brexit detail that if our media had done their homework properly in the past in run up to MEP elections etc, we might have viewed these elections less like a lowly version of Eurovision and actually like something resembling the importance that they should have had!

Ultimately, we were naive, whether we vote Leave or Remain. As were the politicians who set this up.

We expected the media to report accurately and represent the possible scenarios why?


Interestingly age plays a role in greater trust of media outlets in the US- wonder if it the same here in UK?

We expected our politicians to act with integrity and to have planned for the two possible outcomes…why?

Outcomes from an Ipsos Mori poll in Jan 16 are interesting but not unexpected!

Just 21% of Britons trust politicians to tell the truth compared with 25% trusting journalists and estate agents and 42% who trust builders. Despite this, the picture for politicians has improved since last year, when just 16% of the public trusted them to tell the truth.

This question has been asked consistently since 1983, making it the longest-running series on trust in key professions in the UK. It shows that public trust in politicians has always been low: at no point since 1983 have more than a quarter of the public ever trusted politicians to tell the truth. The lowest trust score was recorded in 2009 in the wake of the expenses scandal, when only 13% said they trusted politicians. So quite why we expected them to be honest is beyond me. Perhaps it is a self fulfilling prophecy or are our perceptions tainted by satire like Spitting Image, Yes Minister and The Thick of it?

The sad truth is that too many of us didn’t really care until it was too late and we are all a bit to blame for our current state of affairs.

It is time we reengaged fully with politics, hold both politicians and media to account for the duplicity and incompetence.

It is time we cared enough to be fully informed and view politicians and media through a critical eye.

It is time, that we encouraged our young adults and children to be interested in politics and explain why it matters…and perhaps look at 16yr olds being given the vote.

It is time, that we accept that we often get what we vote for and only understand the consequences later- after all, did anyone voting Tory in the last election really foresee this?

Whether or not Article 50 is triggered, we need to approach politics differently as a country…time to start acting on this.


Hmm…taken a bit of time to do this one…mainly because, well, it turns out that left handed only typing on an iPad is somewhat slow…and, I’m really really hoping that the nonsense about whatever you are doing at midnight on New Year’s Eve sets a precedent for the coming year is exactly that. Nonsense. Otherwise one of the first things on my targets might are longer than expected.  Get rid of this sling, get my shoulder sorted with the help of Drs and an osteopath (at the advice of a very wise and respected @japenn56 and take an old sporting injury seriously having largely ignored it for 14 years. 

So, last year. Mixed bag, if I’m honest. Completed Aspiring Headteacher course and very useful it was too, completed my Ofsted Inspector training, with my MA in school leadership aspects scoring 96 & 98% respectively…then reread my Nurture blog and the comments, in particular the ones from @chemistrypoets to reconsider my career path; decided to go ahead with plan and apply for a HT post.  I applied without a huge sense of optimism, which for me is unheard of and was distinctly unnerving for people close to me.  It was a local school and some people with a great deal more experience than I were shortlisted for it, two existing HTs and my DH from when I was an NQT 20 years ago. As it was, I threw everything at it as I genuinely thought that I could do a good job there,  it had some difficulties that were apparent as soon I I spent any length of time there.  As it was, the panel were split, but the tie breaker vote didn’t go my way. So, the hunt for the right school is still on.  I am hugely concerned by the current treatment of teachers in this country and by proxy the education system that our children experience and the onwards trends that are evident; however, surely the best way to deal with this is from within and help this teaching our children to do a truly great job, challenging them, yet supporting and looking after them. That is target 2- HT job and supporting staff & pupils.  Just because I have a different views on how education should be to our glorious leaders, please don’t mistake it for a lack of ambition for the children or lack of high expectations.

Review of 3 peak challenge….scuppered by injury (again) and by events at home and school meaning that timings just weren’t feasible…but this year…this year I will do something along these lines.  Perhaps, more along the lines of climbing Helvellyn, swimming across Ullswater and walking around Windermere in 24hours….

I’ve had some success though in the past year.  I’ve had someone homework books published (albeit after wrestling with conscience as I have mixed views towards homework – but at least I know that they are decent!), I am in the process of writing for Marvel, which is pretty exciting.  An article in TES about some of our innovative work with pupil premium funding was well received. All of which has meant that a novel has been started and With my ill gotten gains I managed to escape with my wife for 5 days without kids to Croatia for a much needed rest. And so I come to my next targets, to continue writing and also to rest more. Do they seem incompatible? Maybe, but I find writing enjoyable and it is some time just for me…without anyone asking me a question or 57. I attended ResearchEd again, but this time speaking on a panel with some great colleagues (Sinead Gaffney, Bill Lord, Jon Brunskill and Ric Farrow) about research in primary, an area that we really need to consider in more depth. More importantly the post conference discourse in the pub as as valuable as ever! Later in the year saw me talking to a room full of teachers at an Optimus conference where I had to follow from Michael Tidd, who shamelessly stole much of my thunder, but had already warned me en route to conference…so that was alright, I also found myself in the company of Stephen Lockyer and Leah Sharp, who made me laugh and brought out the worst in me…

Most of all though, 2016 will be a year when I make big choices with my family.  My daughter will head into Year 6- my place of work will impact on where we live.  We are pondering at length; London or outside the big city? Or even abroad? Mixed school or single sex? (Importantly for my daughter, do they play hockey and if not why not?) Whatever we decide, life will be interesting and there to be grabbed hold of and do to our utmost, even if it is resting…or perhaps that should be, especially if we’re resting.