Saturday, 31 December 2011

Review of 2011

2011 has been an adventure. It's been a long year (for nice reasons) and many things have made the year stand out. Here are some of the significant events:

Our baby, Lily, was born in April. To say she has turned our lives upside down has been an understatement. The first four months of the year was spent preparing for a baby - buying furniture and other baby stuff, painting a nursery and adjusting the time I spent at work. She arrived two weeks late. Then suddenly she was here! Starting a family really makes you consider your priorities and, although the amount of work you have to do doesn't decrease, you have to work differently to make the most of your time with your baby. I look forward to all the year ahead with my family.

Car crashes
My wife and I have both had (relatively minor) car accidents this year. Mine really scared me and it's not something I ever want to experience again.

Knee injury
I injured my knee in April when playing football and it's not been right since. I had an arthroscopy in August when a lot of my cartilage was removed and a tear to my ACL was identified. My consultant has said that he doesn't think it needs surgery but my physio wants me to seek a second opinion. It's really affected my fitness and it's annoyed me.

Changing year groups
At the start of the year I was beginning to feel settled in Year Three. At the end of the year I'm beginning to settle in Year Four. I've also moved classrooms twice. I've found the teaching year to be quite challenging.

I've realised after writing the above, that I feel fairly organised now. Things are settling down and I feel ready to make 2012 a successful year.

My favourite song of the year
Maroon 5 & Christina Aguilera - Moves Like Jagger

My favourite film of the year
Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 2 (to be fair, I've only been to the cinema twice all year. However this film was superb - the perfect ending to a brilliant film series.)

My favourite TV shows of the year
The Apprentice & The Young Apprentice and Boardwalk Empire.

Teachers' 2012 Blogging Challenge

After reading about the 50-day blogging challenge on @nicwwfc's blog, I thought it might be fun to try arranging a similar challenge for teachers. There's no way, however, that I could blog every day for 50 days, so I've decided to have a 52-week challenge!

The idea is that each week you write a blog post based on the theme for that week. I'm going to try to publish mine on Sundays.

2012 Teachers' Blogging Challenge

Write a blog post each week based on the following themes:

Week 1: Introduce yourself
Week 2: Make a bulleted list of every lesson taught this week
Week 3: Your favourite lesson when you were at school – what is it like to teach it now?
Week 4: A funny story from your classroom experience
Week 5: Your favourite film
Week 6: 5 attributes that you admire in your colleagues
Week 7: Your least favourite lesson when you were at school – what is it like to teach it now?
Week 8: Your opinion on one of the latest education news stories
Week 9: Your favourite ICT tool
Week 10: Your favourite song
Week 11: List some of your favourite bloggers
Week 12: How are your New Year’s Resolutions going?
Week 13: A photo of your classroom
Week 14: A letter to your MP about education
Week 15: Your favourite food
Week 16: 5 inspiring people that   you follow on Twitter
Week 17: Your career plan
Week 18: Something you would like to learn to do
Week 19: A description of your best lesson this week
Week 20: Your favourite TV show
Week 21: Something you learned this week
Week 22: A quote that inspires you
Week 23: Your least favourite lesson to teach
Week 24: A resource you have used from
Week 25: A YouTube clip that you find funny
Week 26: Something that makes you proud
Week 27: Send an idea to and share it your blog
Week 28: Things you have planned to do with your class before the end of the school year
Week 29: 5 pieces of advice you would give to an NQT
Week 30: Your hobbies
Week 31: Something new that you have tried this year
Week 32: Your favourite lesson to teach
Week 33: Give a great way for children to learn their times tables
Week 34: A Facebook page that you have liked
Week 35: Your ideal summer holiday
Week 36: What did you do during the summer holidays?
Week 37: A photo of your school
Week 38: Your CV
Week 39: A smartphone app that you use for school
Week 40: Your favourite book
Week 41: Comment on three blogs
Week 42: Something new that you want to try in the classroom
Week 43: The best bit of advice that you've ever been given
Week 44: A time saving tip for teachers
Week 45: Your favourite possession
Week 46: What three words sum you up?
Week 47: What would you like to see happen change in the new curriculum
Week 48: A resources you have used from www.primaryresources,
Week 49: What Christmas activities do you do in school?
Week 50: Things you love about Christmas at home
Week 51: What would you like to try in the classroom next year
Week 52: Your highlights of the year

Tuesday, 6 December 2011


One of my favourite tweets of 2011 was from @angelabishop: "Pixar, which #stevejobs helped build, has a staff policy.Leave on time every day cos you can't make family movies if you never see your own."

It really made me think, and I began to realise how relevant this statement is for teachers too. How can you teach children and help them to develop a love of life and learning if you get too busy to spend time with your own family. If ever there was a message to remind us about what really matters it is this:
"Leave school on time every day and switch off from work because you can't teach children about life if you don't make the most of yours."


Sunday, 4 December 2011

Monthly Review: November 2011

I have found this month very hard. For various reasons I've missed management time and so have fallen behind with work. I feel like I haven't stopped all month. At least December is now upon us, which is a good time to relax as things wind down at school *sarcasm*. 

Our school house football competition and an inter-school competition have both finished this month. The member of staff that runs the school football team is very underrated. The amount of time that is spent attending football matches after school is outrageous. In our school we will have almost 15 after school football matches this academic year (more if we do well). And this is in addition to running the actual football club. In my school I'm fortunate that the role is shared with a number of colleagues.

Visiting LEGOLand Discover Centre
We enjoyed a school visit to the Discovery Centre in Manchester.

Paternity Leave
I was owed a few days of paternity leave which my headteacher kindly allowed me to 'bank' and take later. We enjoyed days out in Manchester and Warrington. I felt terribly guilty about taking the days now, but everyone has told me that I mustn't, and that I must enjoy them. "You'll never get these days with your baby again."

Not striking
I chose not to strike on 30th November. My reasons for this are not appropriate to be shared here and I will write them in a different post.

Monthly Review: October 2011

This month started badly, with a car accident. I wasn't injured and, luckily, no one else was in the car with me. The car was almost written off but it lived to fight another day. The insurance company have been very good, though. 

Blogging for school
I've discovered Primary Blogger, which is a free blogging platform for schools. I loved it, and I have set up a blog for our year group. At the moment it is just for sharing items of news but ultimately it would be good for sharing work on it. I have also set up a blog for my role as deputy head. This blog is purely for school news so I will be keeping Primary Deputy going as a personal reflection. 

Spinning metaphorical plates
I'm not sure what the start of this year has been so busy. It might be because I'm now a dad, and my priorities have changed somewhat. I've found it very difficult to stay on top of things at school and at home. The half-term holiday was a welcome break!

Senior Leaders' Conference
I attend a conference for senior leaders which I will write about soon! Not only is it a great opportunity to learn, but also it is a real perk of the job, staying at a nice hotel and catching up with colleagues from other schools.

Visiting Lincolnshire
We enjoyed a short break in Lincolnshire, our second short holiday as a family. It wasn't great weather but it was lovely to get away from it all for a while.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Something to remember

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Data Handling

We made great use of two of my favourite Purplemash tools in our Maths lessons this week. 

We began by exploring the database on aliens that is included in Purplemash. The children found this lots of fun. They were able to create some nice graphs on paper and also by sending the data through to 2Graph which they used to interpret information about the aliens. Next time we do this we will design our own aliens and then create our own database. I want to link it to our Sci-Fi topic which we will be featuring next year.

We then created designed our own forms for collecting information. We wanted to find out things like our birth month, favourite football team and any other questions they thought were appropriate. We created a collaborative database in our table groups. The children then went to their own computers to enter their info into each database. I was pleasantly surprised that all of this took one and a half lessons and no more. That's how easy 2Investigate is to use!

We then decided we wanted to gather data from other schools. Our headteacher challenged us to find out how our class compares to others around the country in how we get to school. I decided to use a Google Form. I have never used Google Docs before (for no particular reason) and I couldn't believe how simple the process was. The children chose the questions that they wanted other schools to answer and then I used the power of Twitter to send out the link and see how many schools we could get to complete the survey. In the end nearly 20 schools did, from schools all over the country!! We used the data to make graphs and compare the information to our own school.

The maths we were doing in the project was not exactly earth shattering. But the children were enthused by data handling and the idea of working with real data!

I can't wait to use 2Investigate, 2Graph and Google Forms again!

Leadership Lessons from Henry V Part Five: Motivation

Part Five: How Henry motivated his troops towards victory

I recently attended a superb training session on Inspirational Leadership from Ben at Contender Charlie. The messages on leadership were based on Shakespeare's Henry V.
You can find handouts from the course here.

In this final post of a short series, I''m going to share some of my learning from the course.

Henry's most famous monologue goes like this:
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility,
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger:
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favored rage,
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect,
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon, let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a gall├Ęd rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swilled with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English,
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof,
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument.
Dishonor not your mothers. Now attest
That those whom you called fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture. Let us swear
That you are worth your breeding, which I doubt not,
How can we learn from Henry's motivational skills?

  • He was one of them - we're in this together! You're problems are my problems.
  • He believes in his troops - if you don't believe in someone you don't motivate positively, only negatively.
  • He displays real passion.
  • He creates a common identity behind which you can unite.
  • He honours his troops - he calls them 'friends'.
  • He reminds them of the big picture - why they're doing what they're doing.
  • He's realistic and says it like it is.
  • He uses vivid images, stories and metaphors. These can be worth far more than data.
  • He chooses his moment to inspire.
  • He also uses some negative motivation skills by saying if we don't do it well, this could be the scenario we face. The choice is yours.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Leadership Lessons from Henry V Part Four: Henry's Dark Night

Part Three: Henry's Dark Night - or the night before the battle.

I recently attended a superb training session on Inspirational Leadership from Ben at Contender Charlie. The messages on leadership were based on Shakespeare's Henry V.
You can find handouts from the course here.

Over a series of posts I'm going to share some of my learning from the course.

So, in the play...
Landing in France, Henry achieves some early successes before setbacks lead to his 8,000 exhausted men being surrounded by 40,000 mounted French troops. The French offer Henry the choice of surrendering (and paying a huge fine but he and his troops being spared) or fighting the following day on the field of Agincourt and being killed.

Like so many leaders before and since, Henry faces his own dark night of the soul. He confronts the possibility of failure and the crushing loneliness of his responsibility as he faces a decision that could lead to most of his men lying dead on the field of battle and his vision destroyed. It's a night of soul searching which is a metaphor for leadership in general.

Henry's night goes through the following stages. I've tried to describe how the lessons can be applied to leadership.

Visible Leadership: A leader should always be visible - particularly when facing a real challenge.
Private Truth: If you reveal your inner truth publicly it can have a damaging effect. Put on a front.
Time Alone: Take time out to think when necessary. Spend some time with your family.
Listen To The Troops: Without taking it personally, learn the views of your team. Have the strength of character to accept criticism.
Unload Burden: Where do you go to unload the burden? NOT in the staffroom. You need the chance to vent off, but shout at the car, not at a person!
Acknowledge Shadows: Fully recognise the challenges that are faced. Keep it real.
Core Values: Come back to your core values - your vision. This is what matters in the end.
Inspire Troops: Inspire the team - go for it!

Friday, 11 November 2011


I recently read 'How Successful Head Teachers Survive and Thrive' by Professor Tim Brighouse. It's available here. It's a really interesting read about the key tasks of being a headteacher and ways to manage the job.

There are nine levels of delegation:

  1. Look into this problem. Give me all the facts. I will decide what to do.
  2. Let me know the options available with the pros and cons of each. I will decide what to select.
  3. Let me know the criteria for your recommendation. which alternatives you have identified and which one appears best to you with any risk identified. I will make the decision.
  4. Recommend a course of action for my approval.
  5. Let me know what you intend to do. Delay action until I approve.
  6. Let me know what you intend to do. Do it unless I say not to.
  7. Take action. Let me know what you did. Let me know how it turns out.
  8. Take action. Communicate with me only if action is unsuccessful.
  9. Take action. No further communication with me is necessary.
Being consciously aware of this spectrum is a helpful guide to the need for extended professional development for others - or oneself.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Educating Essex

I'm never that keen on watching programmes about schools. They always seem to have some sort of gimmick, which usually tries to make out that there are issues in school that they are trying to hide from the public!

I did, however, watch and thoroughly enjoy the series of Educating Essex. I've never seen a programme about schools before which is so honest and real. This is surely the benchmark for all teaching programmes ever to be made. It was heartbreaking, funny and inspiring all at the same time.

I have such respect for the teachers at Passmores Academy who seem unbelievably dedicated to their children. Mr Drew, the deputy head, was my favourite 'character' and his consistent approach to discipline is sublime to watch. The pupils hold him with such high esteem. The head teacher, Mr Goddard, was an inspirational head. It is easy to see why the pupils and the teachers all have such respect for him. It's great to watch a head who is able to have fun with his staff.

I hope my little girl grows up to have teachers like Mr Drew and Mr Goddard.

I enjoyed reading this interview with them.


I've really started to get into the habit of recording quotes that I like. The quotes I like tend to offer advice, inspiration, interest or humour. I record my quotes at my Quotables page.

Monday, 7 November 2011

NPQH - What do I do now?

It has been announced that the NPQH is being overhauled. My understanding is that, from spring next year, the qualification is no longer statutory for headteachers. Instead it will become optional and will become almost like a status symbol where only, "The most talented candidates will get through."

This leaves things up in the air a bit for me. I'm giving my career plan a lot of thought at the moment. I really want to become a headteacher and I feel like I am ready to start exploring the next steps in the process. But do I need the NPQH? Am I automatically going to put on the 'no' pile because I haven't got it? Is anyone out there able to offer any guidance on this? I'd be very grateful!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Six Secrets of Change

I read about the six secrets of change at the Leadership Daily Blog. The writer poses the question, "As a leader, do you know the six secrets of change and do you know how to use them?" Let's have a look at how the secrets of change could work in a school.

1. Love your employees
Staff should be looked after and feel happy in their work. Meetings should be reflective and staff should consider what is working well and what could be improved. Roles and responsibilities are given according to strengths. Pride and satisfaction must be felt by every colleague and each person should feel valued. Everyone should see why and how the change will work.

2. Connect peers with purpose
The senior management team should build a vision and allow every member of staff to be part of it. Promote an understanding of the big picture - why do we do what we do? Bring everything back to this question.

3. Capacity building prevails
Audit the learning and development needs of staff and then plan training, create opportunities to develop skills and share expertise to build the capacity of every person.

4. Learning is the work
Training should be practical and must always be relevant. Opportunity must be given to share ideas/expertise with each other. We often learn more when in the classroom than in a staffroom. How will our learning make a difference to the children?

5. Transparency rules
Achievement and attainment (of pupils and staff) must be shared and celebrated. It should be regularly demonstrated how staff learning and development is having its effect in the school. Good practice should be shared. Keep people informed.

6. Systems learn
Systems and processes should be based on learning and a clear understanding. We learn by making mistakes.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Leadership Lessons from Henry V Part Three: Leadership Styles

I recently attended a superb training session on Inspirational Leadership from Ben at Contender Charlie. The messages on leadership were based on Shakespeare's Henry V.
You can find handouts from the course here.

Over a series of posts I'm going to share some of my learning from the course.

Part of the day was spent considering leadership styles. Whilst not directly related to Henry V, this was one of my favourite parts of the day. 

Parts of my research for this post is based largely on:

Carl Gustav Jung, the Swiss Psychiatrist and the founder of analytical psychology,believed that deep underneath our unconscious mind, lie character traits that can be certain models or roles derived from fables and mythology. He called them archetypes. Of all the archetypes he proposed, four are well known:
  • Great mother
  • Warrior
  • Good King
  • Medicine Woman/Witch
Jung was heavily into Eastern and Western mythology and believed these archetypal characters represent humanity's collective unconscious. Knowing our archetypal influences really helps to understand our leadership styles and our personality in interacting with people and teams.

A leadership continuum

The Autocratic style is more the warrior archetype and the Democratic style is akin to the Earth Mother approach.
Truth is, neither style is a perfect one. To be a good leader is to be polyphonic. You need to way up your situation, weigh up your team and the task, assess the immediacy of what needs to be achieved and then pick your approach.
Another way successful leaders execute tasks is to incrementally move from one end to the other. Some may start as Democrats and then move to autocratic approach as the deadline approaches and task completion needs to be imminent. Some may adapt a more autocratic approach initially and then offer support and counsel after the task is completed.
This approach is called Situational Leadership.

The Situational Leader

The Situational Leader knows the mood and the efficacy of the team. They observe, reflect, analyse and act. They have a variety of tools at their disposal. some they may be naturally good at, others they have learnt as a necessity.

Situational demands should influence a situational style. Sometimes a mixture of styles may be needed for the task to be completed, or for different team members!
Most leaders find one or more roles more comfortable to wear and may feel uncomfortable with the others. Therein lies the development of a leader.

They can choose to assume the traits of one of the leadership styles. Be aware that each style has a shadow - an extreme of the trait where good intentions may lead to bad results by overdoing it.

Leadership Style Positive Traits Characteristics Shadow (Negative) Traits Poor Leadership
telling, instructing, ordering, punishing, leading, visioning and ruthless in achieving the task, takes action, leads from the front, likes competition
Powerful, Decisive, Leading, Visioning, Determined, Successful, Inspiring, Rewarding, dynamic
Destroyer, collateral damage, others are expendable, win at all costs, selfish, Punisher
Great Mother
nurturing, guiding, mentoring, training, helping to grow, rewarding, emotionally intelligent, has rapport
Nurturing, supportive, encouraging, pastoral, protective, kind, shows empathy, listens
Overnurturing, supportive when challenge is needed, no discipline, no completion, poor growth due to low challenge, lazy team
Weak Mother
Medicine Woman
giving ideas, creating, visioning, inspiring, dazzling, mercurial, quick witted, lateral thinking, loves blue sky thinking, stretch/bend the rules
Mercurial, full of ideas, creative, visionary, lateral thinking, outside the box, innovation, thinks "what if?", innovative
Too many ideas, none completed, transient, incomplete, flitting, random, restless, distracted.
Mad Woman
Good King
delegating, sharing, participating, democratic decision making, involving, encouraging, strategic, considered
Democratic, Decisive, inclusive, benevolent, sharing, involving, encouraging, calm, balanced
Indecisive, slow, overindulgent, consults too many, insecure
Weak King
(Ideally I would use different colours to organise this table better, but I don't know how!!)

Friday, 4 November 2011

Work-Life Balance

I recently read 'How Successful Head Teachers Survive and Thrive' by Professor Tim Brighouse. It's available here. It's a really interesting read about the key tasks of being a headteacher and ways to manage the job.

Seven ways to hold on to your sanity when all around you are losing theirs:

  1. Manage your diary
    • Build 'down time' into your diary so that you can choose what you do in this time.
    • Make sure that every half term you spend some time off site to go and talk with another friend or acquintance doing a similar job.
  2. Find allies
  3. Have a 7-10 year service
    • Then take some time out before returning with a fresh pair of eyes, or consider moving on to another headship.
  4. Stop doing one of your regular tasks for a term to allow someone else to do them. Keep our of their hair and review things once at half term and then at the end of term.
  5. Remember to be the 'Jack' or 'Jill' of all trades and master of none
    • You need to be the utility player, who can fill in to do a leadership task in an emergency and you need to grow that capacity in others. Being the 'expert' can be very disabling for others and exhausting for yourself.
  6. Become an expert 'driller' and a lepidopterist
    • Drill right down on a particular issue that will allow you to see the whole operation of the school from a different vantage point. When you do you can find the things which cause irritation and loss of energy, both for you and others.
    • Spot the small things that make a disproportionate difference - 'high leverage and low effort practices'. The drilling down process exposes the reverse.
  7. Collect hyacinths
    • The explanation for this comes from a short poem:
"If of fortune thou be bereft,
And of thine earthly store have left
Two loaves, sell one and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed the soul."

    • Successful heads avoid stress and burn-out in themselves and their staff by being keenly aware of their hyacinths and ensuring they have enough of them.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

LEGOland Discovery Centre

Today we had a good day out with our Year Fours at LEGOland Discovery Centre at the Trafford Centre in Manchester.

The day began with a short tour of the 'factory'. We then had a go at Kingdom Quest, which is a shoot'em up game. This was my favourite ride of the day!

We had a workshop which was intended to teach the children about the forces of friction. It was a bit rushed for me and I didn't feel it stretched the children. They built race cars and then raced them against each other on tracks.

After lunch we explored the other ride - Merlin's Apprentice and explored Miniland. Miniland is a world of UK attractions built out of LEGO. The attention to detail is fantastic! We also watched a 4D film and gave the children chance to try the soft play area and complete a Master Builder course where we made a Red Arrow plane.

The members of staff were really helpful and looked after us well.

It was a good day out but I'm not too sure about the education value of the day, at least for our Year Fours.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Classroom Management

Ten Tips for Classroom Management is an interesting read. You can download it for free here.

The ten tips are:

  1. Build community
  2. Design a safe, friendly, and well-managed classroom environment
  3. Include students in creating rules, norms, routines and consequences
  4. Create a variety of communication channels
  5. Always be calm, fair and consistent
  6. Know the students you teach
  7. Address conflict quickly and wisely
  8. Integrate positive classroom rituals
  9. Keep it real
  10. Partner with parents and guardians
The advice is practical and there are links to resources for further support. It would be particularly useful for NQTs and trainee teachers.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Leadership Lessons from Henry V Part Two: Vision

Part Two: Vision
I recently attended a superb training session on Inspirational Leadership from Ben at Contender Charlie. The messages on leadership were based on Shakespeare's Henry V.

You can find handouts from the course here.

Over a series of posts I'm going to share some of my learning from the course.

Vision is the core of leadership. It's about spotting the talent in other people and helping them to achieve their potential. Vision must always deal with life's qualities, not with its quantities.

When building your vision, don't get vision and strategic targets mixed up. A vision doesn't necessarily change. Everyone should know it, and senior management should live it. It's the big picture. It's why we do what we do.

Ben explained that one of the best vision statements he had come across was in a hotel, where the care shown for its guests was exquisite. The vision for the hotel was, "We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen." It's simple and clear. It is not measurable by conventional standards. One of the most famous visions was shared in Martin Luther King's I Have A Dream speech. It wasn't measureable.

A vision should be entirely aspirational and is absolutely what we stand for. Everyone involved in the organisation should buy into it. They should connect with the vision. It should unite people.

"Whatever you can do
Or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius,
Power and Magic in it."

Friday, 28 October 2011

The Six Tasks of Headship

I recently read 'How Successful Head Teachers Survive and Thrive' by Professor Tim Brighouse. It's available here. It's a really interesting read about the key tasks of being a headteacher and ways to manage the job.

The six tasks of headship:

  • Create energy
  • Build capacity
  • Meet and minimise crisis
  • Secure and enhance the environment
  • Seek and chart improvement
  • Extend the vision of what's possible
The five time expenditures:
  • They sit on the wall not the fence - be visible
  • They are 'skalds' not 'scolds' - tell positive stories and remind people of great deeds and future triumphs
  • They teach, learn and assess for most of their time - continue to be involved in teaching and the day-to-day routines and workings of the school
  • They spend their evenings, weekends and holidays... working... socialising and being member of a family - manage time well within the school day so that time spent working outside school is enjoyable
  • They spend two hours a week in acts of unexpected kindness - showing the personal touch

Good advice for when I'm a headteacher

I gathered these pieces of good advice at a recent Senior Leaders Conference. The ideas will help me when I become a headteacher.

Managing People
Maintain professional relationships - it's better to have respect than to be a friend
Value your staff - value people; small things make a difference
Be fair
Be aware if someone feels undervalued
Pre-empt problems
Give people time for things that are import to them, e.g. to go to their child's school assembly
Buy the tea and coffee for the staff (it makes a big difference)
Value CPD and INSET - use professional venues
Go out of your way to give praise
Cards and flowers used appropriately mean a lot.

Time management
Prioritise your management time
Deal with things as they arise
Prioritise things you want to do
Pupils and parents always come first; then staff; then everything else
Have the ability to say 'no' and mean it
Find a way to switch off - this gives you time with your family which makes you a better teacher

Working with parents
Always get back to parents within 12 hours

Being a head teacher
You don't always get it right - particularly in the first year of headship (when no one likes you!)
Be yourself

Monday, 24 October 2011

Schools Fantasy football

Something that has gripped the pupils and staff in our school this year is the Schools Fantasy Football. This year it's free for anyone to take part. We paid £25 to set ourselves up as a school so you can enter a special PIN code so that you can become part of our school and compete against everyone else.

As well as just being lots of fun, I'm hoping it will provide real data for use in Maths, and provide a real stimulus for writing. I'm confident it will get everyone talking!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Leadership Lessons from Henry V Part One: Being a Leader

Part One: Being a Leader
I recently attended a superb training session on Inspirational Leadership from Ben at Contender Charlie. The messages on leadership were based on Shakespeare's Henry V.
You can find handouts from the course here.

Over a series of posts I'm going to share some of my learning from the course.

Some messages for being a leader:
  • Own the leadership role - don't apologise for it. Every teacher or teaching assistant is a leader. 
  • When you walk into a school you are effectively on stage - performing for pupils, staff and parents. Use your opportunity to shine.
  • Always hold true to your sense of purpose. It's why you do what you do. Protect it - do what you believe in.
  • Control your body language.

Good leadership 1: Steven Gerrard

After attending a course about leadership it got me thinking about people whose leadership I admire. Over a series of posts I will write about people who I think show good leadership. (Just to be clear though, I don't necessarily agree with their behaviour in their private lives.) First up is one of my favourite footballers.

Steven Gerrard
For me Stevie G is the most inspirational of all football captains in recent history. As well as being the complete footballer he has many qualities that I look for in a leader.

Stevie never gives up. He has literally changed the course of matches, often in the most desperate of situations. 

Knows the big picture
He recognises the big picture of what it means to play for Liverpool. He appreciates the history of the club and he understands the desire of the fans. 

Energy and motivation
He brings an energy to the team which can be the catalyst to motivate others. He doesn't give in to challenges and he never gives up. 

Gerrard pushes the player to perform to their full potential at all times and accepts no excuses. He leads by example with the effort he applies.

He will accept blame for the team after a poor performance. He never seems to get too big for his boots and become complacent.


Friday, 14 October 2011

NCSL Blog of the Week

My blog has been chosen as Blog Of The Week on the National College for School Leadership's Facebook page. This was an unexpected honour - especially to be chosen to be recommended along with the other superb blogs on their Facebook page.

They also commented on the amount I've written about Duncan Bannatyne - I hadn't realised that I'd mentioned his book that much!!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Customer Service

I never thought I'd agree with anything Alistair Campbell says. But during the Blackberry outage over the last few days he tweeted this about customer service:

"Some free advice. Explain while you fix. Apologise when you have. Recompense after. Handling so far woeful."

If you've ever made a mistake, this is good advice. As a teacher, it's a great way to smooth things over with any parents you've accidentally upset. It's hard to recompense, but you can go out of your way to be nice.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Monthly Review: September 2011

Back to school with a bang! September was unbelievably hectic. I'm trying so hard to devote more time at home to my family, and being so busy in school, it's been hard to blog or tweet or anything. My target for October must be to write more! Here are a couple of the school-related things that have kept me busy:

Moving to Year Four
It's been a nice start to the year. I've definitely found pitching the level of work easier moving up a year than when I moved to Year Three last year. I've enjoyed the start of the year! The volume of marking, and updating planning is what's kept me busy on a day-to-day basis.

My classroom displays have been somewhat neglected whilst I worked on various others around school. I've made displays for attendance, our school University, house points and sports teams. I believe that creating a stimulating environment is crucial to the success of a school, and displaying the right things makes all the difference.

After school clubs
I've restarted the Film Club for the new year, relaunched the school newspaper club and kicked off the new season for the football club.

Catching up
I've caught up with lots of paperwork this month and my office is looking a bit tidier now!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Olympic values in the classroom

In light of the Olympic Games taking place next year, our school has adopted the Olympic and Paralympic values as part of its ethos. These are the values that athletes follow and they could easily be applied to education.
These Values are:
  • respect
  • excellence
  • friendship
  • courage
  • determination
  • inspiration
  • equality.

We are spending time in assemblies and in class thinking about how these values can help to guide is in school.

(I tried hard to find an acronym for the values to make them easier to remember for the children. The best I could come up with is FED RICE.)

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Harry Potter Teaching Resources

Many years ago I remember using a brilliant website which shared resources to teach Harry Potter in the classroom. It was run by Gareth Pitchford from Primary Resources. Unfortunately, I believe the site was removed for legal reasons.

I recently discovered that the site has been archived online at You can find out ideas for using the first four books.

Sunday, 11 September 2011


I guess we are relatively late in jumping on board the Purplemash bandwagon as we have only had a subscription since September this year. However, our school is increasingly becoming hooked!

We have signed up so that we can access Mash through our Uniservity learning platform. This way the children can save any work created using Mash into their own space easily. Once into Purplemash there are thousands of activities that can be used in all parts of the curriculum.

These are the activities I plan to use in Year Four this year:

  • Postcards - at the beginning of the year we will send postcards to our headteacher.
  • Newspapers - we will use the grids in 2Publish extra to write newspaper reports.
  • Roman and Viking resources - lots of cross-curricular work can be done here.
  • 2Investigate - to explore the idea of databases.
  • Logo - to introduce programming.
  • 2Animate - to create a slideshow about our residential later in the year.
  • 2Graph - to enhance our work in handling data in maths.
  • 2Type - to continue to develop our typing skills.
  • Maths games - we tried some of these in Year Three and they proved to be popular, so we'll give them another go.
  • 2Sequence - to bring ICT into music.
I'm sure they'll be loads more facilities that we'll use, in particular in 2Publish and 2Publish Extra.

I love the fact that we can start something in school and then it can be finished at home!

How do you use Purplemash in Year Four?

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Good features of planning

During the year we are reviewing our school planning format. In David Dunn's book he writes about the most important features of planning that are needed to have an outstanding lesson.

He makes it clear that planning doesn't have to be incredibly detailed - just delivered well.
"Your outstanding judgement is based on how well the children have learned, not how many words you have on your detailed lesson plan. I have seen lessons planned on the back of a cigarette packet (well, not literally you understand, but you get the idea) that have been outstanding; and I have seen lessons that have had the planning equivalent to a Tolstoy epic that have barely been satisfactory... It's quality, not quantity, that counts." David Dunn, How to be an Outstanding Primary School Teacher.
The most important aspects are:

  • Objectives
  • Differentiation
  • Support/Teaching Assistants
  • Assessment
  • IEPs/Special Needs/G & T
  • Resources
  • Questions
  • Key information - putting the plan into context.

 What key features do you include in your planning?

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Building Great Relationships with Parents

 In his book How to be an Outstanding Primary School Teacher, David Dunn talks about building relationships with parents. He makes some great recommendations. Communication with parents must be:

Dunn says that regular communication must be, "Quick, easy and profitable!" It must be as regular as you feel would be of benefit, but it must be brief. He also advises against only making contact when there's a problem - they love to hear something positive too.
Simple ways of communication could be:

  • Whole class email
  • Home/school diary
  • Reading Records/Homework diary
  • A quick word on the playground.
"Be honest but professional."

"Be helpful /committed to helping their child(ren) to learn and develop." Always find the time for the parent who wants to help their child(ren) at home.

"Have an open-door policy; be approachable." Make sure that if they ask to speak to you, you find the time to do so, or at least call them back as soon as possible.

"Always be professional. Parents will respect you for it."

As far as communication goes for me personally, I'm making a few resolutions:
  • I will try to be outside to meet my class and chat to parents at least two minutes before the start of every school day, instead of being so busy I run outside at the last minute.
  • I will speak to different parents each week about how pleased I am with a pupil.
  • I will send a text to parents each day about how pleased I am with a child's work/attitude/progress.
  • I will continue to send out messages to parents each week in our Reading Records/Homework Diaries.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Recommended book: How to be an Outstanding Primary School Teacher

I recently read this superb book. It's not often that I feel inspired by an professional book, but I certainly was after reading this. It's well worth a read and I hope that a few readers will buy a copy of the book after reading my blog. The author, David Dunn, is on Twitter, and you can also view his website here.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Monthly Review: August 2011

The summer holidays don't half go quickly, do they?! Five weeks sound like a long time at the beginning. By the end it feels like just a quick break!

It's been lovely to spend time with my family, in particular looking after our baby. It's amazing to see how much she has developed over just a few weeks. I will miss this when I return to work.

Knee operation
In the second full week of the holidays I had an arthroscopy operation on my knee. I'd never had an operation before and wasn't sure what to expect. The general anaesthetic was just awful. They told me it would be in my system for 36 hours and they weren't wrong. I felt terrible. My knee was injured in April and I've been hobbling around since then. It's so frustrating not being able to play football or go running. In the arthroscopy they removed a lot of my miniscus cartilage and found that I have a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). Before the operation I didn't even know I had an ACL! I've been having physiotherapy and it's making a big difference, and I'm getting into the habit of doing my exercises at home. I am doing plenty of walking (with the baby) and that helps. I now need to start cycling too. But I've got to wait three months before I see the consultant and find out if I will need further surgery on my knee.

Setting up my new classroom
Of course I'm moving to Year Four. I'm also moving classrooms again. Moving classrooms is so hard. I'm moving into a classroom in which the previous teacher was in for a long time, so there's quite a bit of rearranging to do (just like someone would have to do when I vacate a room!) I'm looking forward to getting started in there.

Days out
We've been on a few days out over the summer. With a baby in a pram our choices are limited to a degree. But I loved visiting Llandudno and Conway, Lymm Dam and Blackpool in particular.

There were really only two films I wanted to see this summer and, with the help of babysitters, I was able to see them both: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two and The Inbetweeners Movie. They were both absolutely brilliant! We've watched tonnes of films over the summer at home.

And so it's back to work on Monday and, five minutes in, it will feel like the summer holiday never really happened!!