Wednesday, 29 February 2012

How to greet dogs

A guest speaker came to school to talk about safety around dogs. She shared this page. You might find it useful!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Week 9: Your Favourite ICT Tool

My absolute favourite ICT tool is Dropbox!

I'm sure that most people who read this blog will be aware of this excellent file syncing tool, but just in case anyone who isn't, the best place to look is here:

The idea of Dropbox is that a folder is created on your computer. Anything placed inside this folder is automatically synced online so that you can access it via the website. The brilliant thing is that if you download the software on another computer, that same folder appears with everything synced inside it. You can also access the documents using an app for smartphones.

I used to take my laptop home with me from school each day. Thanks to Dropbox I haven't done this for ages as everything I do at home is saved in my Dropbox folder and I can use it in school, and vice versa.

If you use this link you can get an extra 500MB if you join Dropbox.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Heads Together: Staffing Training 3

I attended a Heads Together training course on staffing. The third and final part was about performance management.

Performance Management:

  • Link it to the outcome of school self-evaluation, based on data.
  • It should be based on the outcomes of monitoring lessons.
  • It should be based on professional development discussions.
  • The teaching standards must be at the forefront of all aspects of it.
Ideally, performance management should include every member of staff, not just teachers. For support staff (TAs, office, caretaking, midday assistants):
  • Senior Management should be the performance manager.
  • A different time cycle to teachers should be used.
  • The focus should always be on impact.
  • Should be focused - whole school or personal.
  • Measurable by impact on school improvement.
  • Should be completed by October 31st.
  • Should be reviewed termly using success criteria and evidence.
  • Don't use technical language.
Lesson Observations:
  • Observe regularly, depending on individual circumstances of the teacher.
  • Should be planned and have a clear focus.
  • Should be supportive, using standards for teachers.
  • Thorough and constructive verbal and written feedback should be given.
  • The teacher should be allowed to comment.
  • Identify support needed, with the teacher indicating later what has been learned through training/observing/support given.
Performance Management for Head Teachers:
  • Objectives are set before 31st December.
  • Involves an external adviser.
  • Overseen by the Governing Body.
  • Objectives should be reviewed termly.
  • Objectives are usually related to achievement, provision and leadership.
The impact of Performance Management:
  • Can lead to rapid school improvement.
  • Can raise staff morale if done well.
  • Is cost effective.
Do your staff know what you want the school to be?
Make your expectations and non-negotiables very clear.
We want everyone to buy in to the vision.
Timing for difficult conversations is crucial.
Make sure your facts are right.
Always get advice from Human Resources.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Heads Together: Staffing Training 2

I attended a Heads Together training course on staffing. The second part was about applying for headship. Here is a summary of what I learned.

Don't apply for just anything - make sure it's a job in a school that you really want!

Write to the job specification.
Your application letter should be no more than three sides of A4.

The interview will last for two or three days.
Part 1:
Takes place in the school. It may involve giving an assembly, teaching a lesson, a staff lunch, group discussions, school council interview.
Part 2:
Usually takes place in a neutral venue. It may involve delivering a seen presentation possibly about what will the school be like in x amount of time, an unseen presentation, probably related to prioritising issues or Ofsted criteria, and an interview.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Heads Together: Staffing Training 1

I attended a Heads Together training course on staffing. The first part was about recruitment of staff. Here is a summary of what I learned.

Once you've employed a teacher you've got them! You have to make sure it's the right person!

  • Look at other adverts to see how they advertise posts.
  • Put as much information as you can about the post and about what you expect from the successful applicant.
  • Say that visits are essential.
  • Head Teachers jobs are advertised nationally, but others aren't.
  • Involve senior management and governors, depending on the job.
  • Set clear criteria/person specification - letters should be geared towards the job specification.
The interview process may include:

  • Lesson observations
  • Group discussions
  • School Council interview
  • Small group work
  • An interview - in an interview you ask the same questions to each candidate, but you can ask a question in response. You can ask if there are any concerns for safer recruitment.
  • You aren't really supposed to ring other heads to ask about candidates, but they do it anyway.
  • After the interview, give honest feedback to each candidate. You should keep paperwork from recruitment for 7 years but only about the applicants interviewed.
  • Anything written down in an interview can be looked at - so shred notes!
You must interview for permanent positions. Human resources will support you through the whole process.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Week 8: Your opinion on one of the latest education news stories

"Sir Michael Wilshaw says unless schools have outstanding teaching, they could be stripped of that rating overall."

I'm going to comment on this article in the Guardian.

The more I read about Michael Wilshaw the more I wonder what his objective is. Is it to further aggravate the tense relationship between Ofsted and teachers? Is it to push more teachers out of the profession? Is it to confuse parents? It is to demoralise children and undermine confidence in their teachers? Whatever it is, I'm not sure that I can agree that schools can only be outstanding if the teaching is outstanding.

Don't get me wrong - of course outstanding teachers is what we all should aspire to be. But surely a school  can be outstanding in lots of ways without every lesson having to be classified as 'outstanding'. 

A school can achieve well in tests (grrrr...), promote the spiritual, cultural, emotional, financial and physical health of its children and provide opportunities for children to shine in a million different ways. But on the day Ofsted turn up, the teaching is only good. The staff can be well-managed, highly motivated, caring and dedicated professionals. But on the day Ofsted turn up, the teaching is only good.

The government are suggesting that they want schools to have more freedom over the curriculum they teach. Surely it's going to be even harder to achieve that outstanding grading.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Keeping staff meetings brief!

I loved this post from Leadership Daily:

"As a leader, how do you regulate the amount of time for meetings in order to be efficient?

People often set meetings for an hour because their calendars default to that time period. But you may need far less time to accomplish your work. Try these three measures to shorten your meeting:

  • Stand up. Most people won't linger on an issue if their feet hurt. Remove chairs from the room. When standing, people are often more attentive and engaged.
  • Use a time. Designate an allotted time for each agenda item and set a stopwatch or the time on your phone. Or make it more personal and have one the members of your group do the timing. When time is up, determine next steps and move on.
  • Show the cost of the meeting. At the top of the agenda, show the calculated hourly cost of having the group together. When people realise how much a meeting costs the school/organisation, they are more apt to be efficient."
The second tips in particular are ideas I like. I think that teachers often forget that the school is a business, and there is a cost of having staff meet together. 

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Productivity Mistakes

I love this post at

"You want to get things done. You're keen to be efficient and effective. "Productivity" is your favorite word – and you're working really hard at it. The problem is, if you're going about being productive the wrong way, you might just be setting yourself up to fail.
These are seven common mistakes that people make when they're trying to be more productive. Do any of them sound familiar?"
Mistake #1: Cutting Back on Sleep
Yep. By shaving off a few minutes of sleep at either end of the day I think I can get more done. In the end, it makes little difference overall as it makes me less productive elsewhere in the day.

Mistake #2: Multi-Tasking

I'm getting better at single-tasking. People boast about being good at multi-tasking. I'm of the opinion that do be productive I must do one thing at a time, well.

Mistake #3: Doing Everything Yourself
Delegating is easier said than done. Too often I remember the phrase, "If you want something done well, do it yourself." But the sign of a good leader is that you can trust people to do the job well - even better than you can do it. I need to try harder with this.

Mistake #4: Focusing Solely on Numbers

As a teacher I believe that data results can mean just as much as quantitative data. I think I'm good at not doing things more just to show higher numbers things achieved. I would rather achieve less but do it well.

Mistake #5: Eating at Your Desk
It drives me mad when teachers say they haven't got time to eat in the staffroom. Sure, it does happen occasionally. But I believe it is important to spend time with your staff. It's also important to switch off for a while. If we don't display our own social skills, how can we expect our pupils to?

Mistake #6: Checking Email Frequently
Luckily I don't get too bombarded with email. My worst problem is emailling things to myself to remind me to do things. I now set time each day to respond to emails rather than check them every few minutes.

Mistake #7: Pushing Yourself Hard

I'm afraid that I do this all the time. I need to do better at this. My body seems to give in as soon as term is over. All of the germs I fight off in term time take advantage of a less frenetic lifestyle during school holidays, and I invariably begin to feel poorly. Lucozade gets me through.

"Of course, it's good to be productive – to achieve things in both professional and personal life. But don't try to be productive at the expense of all else, and don't adopt measures for short-term gain that are going to cause problems over the long-term."


At church on Sunday the curate gave an excellent talk about Proverbs Chapter 3. This chapter is all about wisdom, like many of the chapters of the book.

The chapter has three themes which I have real resonance for all of us:

Wisdom is beneficial.
Wisdom allows you to think about decisions in the long term, not just the short term. Discipline is something that is painful in the short term but has a benefit in the long term.

Wisdom is valuable.
The long term effects of having wisdom are priceless. It allows you to weigh up decisions and make the right choice.

Wisdom is practical.
Having wisdom will allows you to make a difference.

Monday, 13 February 2012


People brag about being able to multitask.The latest newsletter from nanoTasker says:

"Multitasking is actually an illusion, as we do not actively think about 2 or more items simultaneously in our conscious mind. Multitasking is really about how rapidly we can switch tasks, recall the details of each and be effective. This puts a lot of strain on our minds and in the short term causes mental fatigue and leads to burnout. Every time you switch tasks you are losing your momentum and causing a 15-45 minute transition period to the new task."
This would explain a lot about why I find it hard to multitask. The newsletter contains some good advice which I am doing my best to follow:
  • Try to carve out large periods of time to focus on a single larger task and avoid switching to another task until it’s done.
  • Try to batch like-tasks together. For instance make all your calls at once, or work on writing tasks for a while.
  • Instead of constantly handling new items as they come in write them down and handle them when the time is right. Very few actual emergencies really exist.
  • Take notice of how often you are switching tasks, the cause for switching and be creative on how to combat switching them.
This next half-term is a frantically busy one. I have so many appointments, courses and meetings that I'm not getting the chance to concentrate on what I need to do. If I organise my time like the advice suggests I think I will be productive.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Week 7: Your least favourite lesson when you were at school – what is it like to teach it now?

When I was at primary school I used to hate Science. I just didn't get it. I always appreciated the purpose of having a good scientific understanding, but I found it hard to remember all of those tricky words and concepts. From what I recall, science when I was school didn't involve a great deal of practical work. In fact, I can't really remember doing any.

Nowadays, due to my non-contact arrangements, I don't teach Science and haven't done for a few years. However, when I did teach science I tried to make it as practical as possible. I wanted the children to appreciate the 'miracles' of science and be amazed whenever they discovered something. Understanding those tricky words could often be difficult so I tried to make learning the vocabulary as fun as I could.

I do think that science is probably the subject that is hardest to make exciting in primary school simply because we don't have the facilities that high schools have in their science labs. It's in high school where we did all of the fun stuff like mix chemicals, use Bunsen burners and dissect.

Monday, 6 February 2012


I signed up for free beta access to Nanotasker. It sounds ideal for helping me to manage various projects. Whilst I'm waiting for the site to fully open, I'm loving the productivity tips that they are sending me each week:

"What are NanoTasks?NanoTasks are when a task is broken down into the smallest tasks or steps possible and can’t be broken down further. For instance you may need to create a new training guide for your office. You can break it down to the following tasks are involved, “research best practices, write first draft, have Person X review it, edit draft, have 20 copies printed.” Those can then be broken down such as with “Research best practices” which can become “Google general practices for understanding, find 4 experts to contact about it, call person 1, call person 2, call person 3….”  The task “Call Person 1” can be considered a NanoTask as it’s an action that can be accomplished on it’s own.


  • Think big picture steps on how to accomplish your task with high level broad steps.
  • Then look at those steps and break them down further into smaller steps.
  • Do this until each step is a small actionable item that is no longer feels overwhelming in nature on it’s own.

Thought To move a mountain you must do it one stone at a time."

I love this approach to project planning and I intend to break down all of my projects in this way.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Week 6: 5 attributes that you admire in your colleagues

There are many attributes that I admire about my colleagues. Here are just five of them:

1 Make time for others when they need it
I do my best to make time for others whenever I can. It's not always easy. However, many of my colleagues make it look SO easy and will give time to others for whatever reason. I am thankful for that, and we all appreciate it.
2 Tidiness
I hate clutter but it seems to follow me around. I'd love to be keep my areas of the schools tidier, like others do.
3 Organisation
I love to be organised and I admire my colleagues for their ability to organise and keep to timings well.
4 Focus
My colleagues focus on what needs to be done.
5 Fun
I love spending time with my colleagues and we always have a good laugh together!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Monthly Review: January 2012

Here's what's kept me busy during January

Teacher's Blogging Challenge
I launched a teacher's blogging challenge in time for the new year. It's a way to get teachers writing regularly. I'm not sure how many people are joining in but I'm managing to keep my challenge going!

I organised a 'mini-Teachmeet' within our school. It was brilliant!

Getting older
It was my birthday earlier this month. 33 now!

Observing lessons
I'm part way through a process of observing lessons throughout the school.

Visit to Chester
We had a visit to Chester to learn about the Romans.

I've had meetings galore. Meetings are fine, it's just the follow-up actions that can be a pain!