9YBA Head of Year

imageimageIn many schools pastoral work has taken a new twist as tutor groups are arranged vertically with a few pupils from each year. I cant really comment on that , others might by clicking reply. My experience is in schools with horizontal pastoral work, tutors caring for a tutor group of 25+ pupils and a Head of year possibly an assistant head of year working with them. So this short post is to give a few reasons you might consider this middle leader role:

imagePastoral experience is useful if not essential for senior leadership posts and hey a Head of Year role brings a TLR, more money and a title. Unlike a Head of department you will almost certainly get an office, in my school that is usually a converted wardrobe/cupboard with enough room for a computer, a desk, a filing cabinet, a box of tissues, a notepad, a phone and second chair. In some ways that sums up the role of HoY

If middle leaders subject staff are the engine room of a school this role is the engine oil keeping the school running smoothly. You will be expected to help monitor and to intervene in behaviour issues, attendance issues and a broader view of pupils achievement. These aspects lead you into a new understanding of the background of your pupils and definitely a greater understanding of subjects and staff. our Heads of year are actually called Progress Co-ordinators which I think is a bit clumsy but sums up the expectation.

One way or another there are simple things you can nip in the bud, but soon issues will bring a level of complexity. HoY are expected to intervene, to work to improve attendance, punctuality, performances and to do so without a magic wand. It’s about wisdom, experience, problem solving, oh and infinite patience.

It’s sometimes complicated.
Lets consider punctuality, some pupils are just lazy and late and a HoY can sort this either directly with the pupil or by speaking with home and a balance of discipline and reward. However some lateness is more difficult, dropping off a younger sibling at a local primary, caring for an ill family member. So what the HoY begins to notice is the complexity of family life and what some young people face from home. You’ll be surprised how an appropriate conversation can actually improve matters.

Top negotiator
imageGreat training to be a diplomat or peace keeper. HoY sometimes have to advocate on pupils behalf, see them through a rough patch, and get work sent home and check they settle back in on return, and don’t forget them, Try and note or remember a significant anniversary. Sometimes a teacher complains and there is another side. Sometimes a parent has heard one side (!) and wants to tell you so

Bridge back?
IMG_6254Sometimes the HoY has to help reintegrate pupils after incidents, maybe from being withdrawn from lessons or back from exclusion. Staff will be watching, other pupils too, as a HoY maintains some sort of bridge back into the school community, not at any cost but trying to ensure the issue is sorted and of course the issue does not raise itself again. Learn from senior staff.

One of the most rewarding tasks is too help see a pupil “turn the corner” it might be a report card, it might be a conversation where a colleague tells you how well X is now doing. It might be a successful way to help a parent with a challenging child. Working that team to success is very rewarding.

imageNever underestimate the letter home, the positive call home, the quiet word on a corridor to say you’ve heard how well… But you might have to seek that out. A proper scheme of merits or a reward system can help and if you get it right enjoy the rare staff confessional “your new rewards – that is really working well”

Setting standards
I think effective HoY set out their expectations and those of the school clearly and keep referring to it over the year. Assemblies, gatherings individual conversations. Scanning reports and data, maybe the rank order of effort for your year group is compared at each report and you seek out those who climb and …well, yes decide what to do about those who fall.

The go betweenyellow cardred cardpng
In particular parent – pupil. When a parent is worried they are likely to contact you, when you have a concern you contact them. You sometimes have meetings with parents and might actually chair the meeting between a colleague and parent and pupil. You will learn a lot but observe how experienced staff do that. There will be formal meetings too like parents evenings , you’ll prob get a bit of extra stuff to follow up from them. Oh and of course there are very difficult meetings with parents, observe and learn.

Running a team
Your tutor team unlike the subject staff you probably didn’t choose them, you have some you are pleased to see on your list and you have others. There is the pastoral work and in many ways the standards of behaviour uniform and so on at least set out clear expectations and get tutor support and support them when they crash into issues. You might have a bit of pastoral curriculum (PSE /PSHE) to plan and this is a big challenge, prepping a topic for others to use. Plan carefully, look for big impact and get the feedback, above all show gratitude.

Dealing with SLT
Inevitably as a HoY you need some help some coaching and some ideas. I recall thinking myself that I had seen every situation a pupil might encounter after about 15 years in the job, and then around the corner would be an issue I had never dealt with. You need wisdom and help but also sometimes need their support. A good relationship with your line manager eg your Head of school is critical but nothing better than solving a tricky issue between you.

Dealing with agencies.
A host of outside agencies look to a HoY to help on a host of issues, from looked after children, through children’s services to support agencies possibly the police. Learn the proper protocols, systems and statutes.You will learn how some are really good and others surprisingly poor. However they performed you still see a pupil every day and therefore might be the most important part of a jigsaw in their life. Try never to forget that some pupils have complicated lives and perhaps we should be kind.

imageKeeping a perspective
Be prepared – some colleagues will think you are too soft, that cup of tea in your office after Rudolph did that; others will be the opposite and think you were ridiculously harsh to force the detention over that so called trivial event. So sure sometimes you can’t win but you are the reality of loco parent is and tough love needs mixing up with the bridge back.

Advice and help
Pupils will come to you for advice maybe careers maybe personal. After all you it was you who actually said if they had any problems to come and talk to you, but you just didn’t think they would talk to you about that! Listen, listen a bit more and then help, just that and if you can’t help it’s fine just be prepared, like we always should be, to pass it on.Help Support Advice Assistance and Guidance on a signpost

Ultimately the success of a number of pupils is definitely down to the pastoral system of which they hoy is the critical position. Knowing your pupils and families. This job is about relationships relationships relationships and a frequent stepping stone into more senior roles in school.

Nice blogpost reflecting on this role from Andy Lewis.

Ultimate List of UK Education Blogs

Now this lot wil get you thinking teachers

The Echo Chamber

I don’t know if this is of any use to anyone, but below is an attempt to compile a complete list of active UK education blogs. These should all be education blogs by people in or from the UK. I have missed out ones that are probably more to do with journalism than blogging. I have missed out ones that I knew haven’t posted for over 6 months. That said, there are no doubt still plenty of errors, so please let me know if I should be adding or removing anything. I suspect this will be the first of several attempts.

………Experimental Blog
…to the real.
“How many divisions does he have?”
“Miss….atoms are made of protons, croutons, and electrons right?”
@foxymusiced Blog
@Ideas_Factory The blog of Julian S. Wood
@mr_chadwick blogs…
@Westylish’s Blog
101% Innumerate
20 years…

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Sunday period 3 – Plans off the shelf? No – planning is critical.

My short blogpost on planning started from some major frustration with a TES article  in October 2014 reporting Lord Nash (Schools minister) comments about teacher planning. This and a twitter conversation with colleagues (Thank you I’ve tried to cover your points) out there who know the job. I need to come clean I am an SLT member, I like to see evidence of planning and not a template lesson plan, but we are not a school in measures so that may be necessarily different. I still teach and I can well remember teaching full timetables, even though not so much now and in the immortal words of Mr Tom Bennett “I have a fat wallet and light timetable”.
fail to planSo my thoughts:

Credit to the deputy in my teaching practice school in rural Oxfordshire along time ago “every hour of teaching John will need an hour of prep and an hour of reflection/marking”. That was aimed at a PGCE, maybe to an NQT but it is not sustainable, some planning time can be reduced from an hour per lesson over a period of time methinks. Even the oft hated Oftsed stopped checking lesson plans ( often perfectly presented etc) but want to see evidence of planning. But here is my analysis:


Planning long term
The first task with any class is to plan the year. Think about each term and the purpose, the aims and the build up to say a public exam. For most of my career I’ve taught GCSE, AS and A Level groups so this bit of planning threads aspects such as: coursework demands (when will the students have learnt the skills we test?) alongside standard assessments and exams and any reporting cycle (nothing worse than writing a report and finding out in an assessment the next week how wrong I was). Think through the rough division of the specification or units or topics. and Then also think of the state of our pupils, (not too much compromise) – Chemistry coursework started the week before Christmas is likely to be poorer but if we have four groups how do we fit them in? These are the discussions to have with HoD. This is also where we all produce, contribute to, work on and improve schemes of work; even in production the discussions can be a huge help to understanding the T&L of a course.

goal without a planPlanning mid term

So knowing it is these topics to cover this half term and these assessments to fit in, just check how far we got in the last chunk of time. For example the summer often catches us out, we restart the AS students and they are not well motivated (sometimes neither are we) so the autumn term needs to take account of such. Even now I still read over the topics, refreshed from a textbook and check for any shiny new ideas maybe from twitter, maybe from blogs. Chemistry is a great subject to teach and there are lots of ideas out there but the core lesson cannot have too many stories, just a bit of spice in the meal. So this “planning aspect” is about subject knowledge, and it needs building and learning by the teacher, hang it that was the stuff we wanted to teach so it should not be a chore. It’s the reading and the thinking how I might get this over and get it learnt and get it understood that is such a great part of the job. (and worth noting in all my years the content has changed at all levels and the assessment model at all levels and very often, so what I do now is far removed from what Terry Alsop taught me back in the 1980’s in my PGCE. Thankfully the principles held me in good stead.)

Planning short termarchitectural

Well that’s the weeks work. I still have a planner and think what I’m doing for the week. Science teachers need to order their kit for experiments and whilst we can be kind and buy chocolates for lab technicians, we know they need a fair notice. ( see blogpost unsung heroes). It’s now getting quite detailed, the odd powerpoint, video, website links I’m using, narrative from a text and a think about what questions I might ask and even what might be written on the boards. Oh and don’t forget homework!Certainly any worksheets for practicals or other activities need checking printing or ordering. Oh and here I might check my resource bank and colleagues shared resources and have a chat with colleagues. This is where we should not reinvent the wheel! I really like this and miss it now I teach less. I used to find it difficult to use other people’s worksheets and likewise I do with other people’s powerpoints but they are a starter. In fact this stuff all evolves. I grab last years lesson(s) and last years resources and adapt. In my first three or four years of teaching I did a long review every lesson and my reflections were one of the most helpful parts of my work.

Planning the lesson
Take the deep breath and have a think where we got to last time, check out the short term plan, adapt anything from my marking , heck they really didn’t understand that part. When I was a Head of Year and stuff hijacked me and even now as SLT when stuff in school happens this step can get lost in the fog of school. After all these years I know my stuff well and can cope and manage, it won’t be outstanding but it will be pretty good. There is a vitally important point to this part, we make the lesson work for the class, for the time of day, for certain individuals. We do this to help with behaviour, with progress and ultimately with attainment. Teacher’s know how important planning is to maintain and raise standards of behaviour and understanding – watch me try and teach French if you want to see how awful it can be. ( I make a good fist of it c’est la vie). This needs saying in response to the original article. So obvious really there is not much point me teaching how to do calculations in Chemistry if we can’t balance an equation. In a threatened new world where I am given lesson 256 today and tomorrow must deliver 257 it will come unwound in a hugely serious way. attainment will suffer and behaviour will deteriorate. Teacher plannerQuite often I’ve been lucky enough to have two Y10 or two Y12 classes, less prep -well sort of, the long the mid and the short but not the lesson. It remains a mystery that I can teach exactly the same and one group get it and one don’t, hey ho that is what we love about the challenge of the job. It’s what I think absorbs all the extra time too as the teacher pleased with all that work gets reminded – Ah but it still might not work for Robert, yes what can I do with Robert? so there is a final challenging jigsaw, are we doing enough for “every child matters?” G&T, pupil premium, SEND, girls, boys, middle of the road, quiet pupils? BUT we cannot kill ourselves with work, even I say to the NQT, sometimes you won’t be able to do an all singing all dancing lesson, it’s not a problem, just do some now and again to remind yourself why you came into the job.

Off the shelf plans, will they cut down planning? No. Will they save time for us all? No – and anyway much of this is done…..at home! DO I want offf the shelf plans? No its the creative bity of the job and if you offer me some they pop into a box called possible resourcves, I still need to do the planning. Or follow the logic and then read this post by Martin Robinson

I still think this basic, preparing a lesson is vital for the successful outcome and it’s a good reminder to try and protect each other from other stuff to make sure we prep well, we enjoy prep and our pupils benefit. One last small point though, pupil behaviour needs to be good, nothing more soul destroying than all that prep and an inability to deliver cause of poor behaviour or low level disruption. That’s for another post.

Here is a helpful link to @teachertoolkit clever 5 minute teacher plan if you have others, let me know.

Some questions to think about

Q1 How does preparation evolve in a teacher career from student teacher, NQT, the early years, middle leader etc?
Q2 What evidence should we see from colleagues, what evidence of planning without an endless stream of paperwork and extra work which does not directly benefit pupil progress?

and for those in church schools

Isaiah 28:29
All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent.

Isaiah 32:8
But the noble make noble plans, and by noble deeds they stand.

Proverbs 15:22
Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

Psalm 94:11

The Lord knows all human plans; he knows that they are futile.

Wednesday Period 4 – Data rich, information poor

Schools are data rich, but are we information poor? How do we balance the data, the numbers and dealing with real live children and helping them learn. Is data more of a dark art than a scientific methodology?

This is a dangerous blogpost because some people love data, and some hate data. I think politicians love us to have data. FFT Raiseonline, LAT and PANDA. Then there is the data we put into sims or other IMS systems for collecting school data, and I’m not even getting to life with or without levels. Then we have analytical tools such as 4matrix and ALPS. Hey and that’s just my school.



There are other layers too – most teachers collect data, most departments collect data. I used to dread my HoD checking my mark book in case I had to explain all my codes ( late work due to illness and absence; late work due to lazy etc) then there were my inconsistencies such as a blob meaning I was worried about that pupil on that topic, then the gaps where I forgot for a few weeks to keep a register – nothing anarchic just had so much to do in lesson counted heads asked where X and Y were and cracked on. Whatever mess my mark book was in it was a data tool, it recorded data, in a limited way it analysed data.


It could have been better, but it served my purpose I knew pretty well who progressed, who didn’t and my predictions were usually correct. I played a few games, telling some they were likely to get a D knowing my conversation would galvanise them into work for a C – others needed cajoling and constant encouragement but hey they made it. My classroom has always been all about relationships, me knowing them, them understanding my expectations, me knowing Chemistry and them learning it, with my help. My data telling me who was getting along OK and who wasn’t. Data, plus thinking, plus conversations plus educational nowse.

Now we are in an overwhelming data dominant world. If you ask me as an SLT member how X is getting on, well we can check attendance and compare it to others in classes/year/school/nation with all manner of codes and % stats. Shall we look at behaviour or achievement data across my lessons, across the year group the whole school. Progress data or attainment? Or marks, mine or my dept or what I consider my critical marks such as assessments and tests? Dealing with data for parents and pupils is a whole different blogpost.


I recall back in the day we had an analysis of SATs called anSAT and a local subject adviser asked me to check out some new ( expensive software). It analysed skills and knowledge in the subject in huge detail for each pupil. He showed us ‘Petunia’ ( not her real name) she had a whole A4 chart showing lots of bars, her marks now apparently converted from her responses to show her understanding of topics compared to the class, the year, the nation probably the universe. It showed she really got this topic and really was lost on that one. The head of subject was getting very excited, he loved numbers. “So are you keen?” said the advisor. “One question” I said, “yes”said the advisor. “No, not to you but to the head of subject – thinking about Mrs Ordinaryteacher ( not her real name) who teaches your subject, if we went in her class could she tell you that information about Petunia?”- “yes, more or less, maybe not linked to the year group but to the class and to the national and to their targets etc”. So why bombard her with so much overwhelming data and with that data the added worry piled on a deeply conscientious outstanding teacher?

Data has immense power and value-we can pick out patterns and themes maybe a topic no one has really understood, maybe an area we need to make new resources. We can and should help each other with it, but not get obsessed by it. I am a teacher, I like creating resources and helping learners, much better than tiring over data and worrying I haven’t missed anything. You see the job is an art not a science. Let the good teacher get on and teach, ensure they have enough data but do not overwhelm them.


In the 90’s I met a fairly senior History examiner whilst I was attending award meetings for A Level chemistry, I said to him that our award was challenging and complex but reasonably objective, how did he feel about the accuracy of History? Oh, he replied, we are good, I am confident, when we award a C grade for example it really is a C grade, or maybe a B or a D but it’s definitely around there. I often think just how scarey is our dependence on data and results with their massive consequences for pupils, and teachers and schools. Is it time to say exams are more of an art than a science and just plan (and judge) on that basis? Use data to help identify issues but tackling the issues is the challenge. SLT we need to make sure our teachers have enough of the right info.

no teacher ever

Well back after August it’s that hugely time consuming job – ploughing through results data and soon revisiting FFT etc Oh and then the surprise of an update, or the governors data dashboard showing something a bit different to what something else suggests. It’s back to pouring over Raise and remind myself which colour is which because in ALPs the colours are different. One of my favourites 4matrix with another upgrade and new tricks (check out their video intro) but giving me the feeling there is so much more hidden away-help you’ve intimidated me. I know that data analysis which is demanded by so many accountability measures is crucial to the job, and I know SLT need to know the data but really a we need to know our school and what information the data reveals and then make good decisions about our school.

All of this can suck out our time, and energy and then when I talk with colleagues and we discuss data there are further complexities. I hugely appreciate the contribution of data managers but occasionally I just need to check we have a balance. In all honesty I could spend all day doing data but the pupils will not benefit as much as they might if I sat and taught them or even listened to them or just took a bit of genuine interest in them to lift their self confidence and to encourage them to learn. Right that’s it shutting down my computer to go amd watch the year 9 boys football team.

imageSome questions to think about
Q1 What data is the critical crucial data needed by the teacher in the classroom to maintain and raise standards?
Q2 How do we ensure we do not overwhelm class teachers with data but that we so point out patterns and themes which need addressing?
Q3 Are we too driven by data, or is it the magicians wand to point out what has to be changed, kept the same, or transformed?
Q4 Those who want to get on with teaching and leave the data other than a mark book behind are being naive-discuss!

Q5 just how much of FFT Raise ALPS Panda does any given role need to understand?
There is an even more vexing question – just how good is the data. Have a read of this blog by @Jack_Marwood

Not much for us in church schools on data in the BIble but some on how we approach the job!

Matthew 22: 16

They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are.”

Psalm 119:66
Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.

Ezekiel 34:12

As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.

Friday Period 1 – Simple? Not really

Mr John Dexter blogs about school

Schools are not simple places

There is a cynical view amongst many teachers that there are many experts on education because “we all went to school once”. A particular and probably unfair criticism often made of Secretaries of State, after all they do get to visit schools, just maybe not enough and with a very specific view and not the view from the chalkface. I’m not sure it is true but there is an impression that some Governments and some politicians and maybe others think schools are simple places. Along the lines of:

  • Teachers prepare lessons (same year on year) deliver lessons (to a class) and mark the work produced.
  • Teachers teach to a specification or syllabus.
  • The children learn (or do not) and pass (or do not) exams.
  • The curriculum is clear
  • The best teaching methods are very well known and agreed
  • Assessment models are clear and effective ( oh hang…

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Friday Period 7 – A worthwhile job

Twitter, blogs and some newspaper articles are failing to balance the good things about the job of a teacher as well as the pressures, and I think I’ve done that in my blog too, so this post is to remind me and others what a great job it can be.

This time of the year I seem to be at various events where I come across ex pupils, including some such as parents (who I once taught) of our new Year 7. It’s also a time when emails drop in from those graduating with news of degrees, of firsts, of jobs and “please can you do a reference?”If I had a facebook account I might keep up better but I might never get any work done.

Friday evening and I had an invite to a party – not really me after an exhausting week but out I went. It was to celebrate a local company achieving over 10 years of business, and it’s run by a former pupil. I went with a few other colleagues and could not have anticipated such an uplifting evening, not least the gratitude which greeted us just for being there. During the evening several others ex pupil peers were there and I caught up with their activity but they just wanted to talk about school days, for some almost 20 years ago. Another little generation appeared through a connection and off we went again as they enquired about teachers, reminisced about their time. Spookily it was almost a self assessment reflection : what I did well, what I could have done better, what I am working on….

I was interested that they were still looking for some approval too but it was genuinely lovely to see them, to hear about their families, their work and their lives, and of other ex-pupils too To hear they made business decisions seriously influenced by the ethos we tried to share, was quite significant too. I recently had contact with two others now involved in the media, they still call me Sir, they still laugh about the funny moments and they have a huge pride in their school, oh and they pull my leg. I’m not naive, there will be many ex-pupils not in touch, who hated me, hated school and may or may not have been successful, I might never know, but what I do know is those I bump into remind me of why I do the job I love, even those whose life took them in a different direction.  Oh and I do know it’s not all down to school, schools are complex places, so too are people, the influence of family and friends and their own integrity are often much more important, but we play a part.

Two other ex students are both involved in teaching and they wanted to reminisce but they also wanted to pick brains, each other’s and mine. How sweet I actually thought, you still want to hear my ideas, my thinking, I would have thought you had more than enough of that – not so!

So fellow teachers and especially those starting in the job, or going on as NQT’s or moving into the early years of the job, my post is a bit of an antidote to the Guardian’s “Secret teacher” oft complaining ( sometimes rightly) of the job. Sure there are issues, battles, problems, massive frustrations, stuff out of our control BUT the job is about education – educare “lead out” and meeting older pupils after Uni or after a period of work or after parenthood and seeing them having blossomed and fond of their old school (and their old teachers) does make for a reminder that the job is worthwhile.

My two ex pupils are now in education ( trainer and teacher)  both had sat in A Level Chemistry with me, I can recall both as clear as if it were last week, the marking of their coursework and the stuff they did which annoyed me, and getting them to listen, dragging stuff from them as we always do (don’t we?) feedback and probably a hundred other things I did whilst teaching them hey they are so worthwhile. We often say we look for pupils to ‘fulfil potential’, we have all handed out results at KS4 or KS5 which have seen the pupils dream from Y7 come true ( even when it felt a very long way off in Y7) and to see them now…..well it made sitting down to that work then seem all the more worthwhile, and spurs me on to the next tasks I have to do too.

So the purpose was to remind me and you, reader, what a great job teaching is. Oh I know this is all anecdotal there is plenty more to notice:

  • pupils who manage to learn
  • pupils who progress and achieve
  • pupils who turn things around
  • pupils who take responsibility on
  • pupils uninterested in a subject becoming fascinated or curious
  • pupils who discover and exploit talent
  • colleagues who make ideas work……my list could go on but it’s Friday 7: forget school and enjoy a beer. Except that…..school, well it just never really goes away.

Some questions to ponder

Q1 What are the long term rewards of the job?

Q2 Do we share the better aspects, the philosophical reasons why we do this every day, to encourage the next generation of teachers?

Q3 Give me a child until they are seven……and I will give you the (man) adult. Discuss!

For those of us in a church school

Luke 6:40

The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.

Ecclesiastes 7:27

“Look,” says the Teacher, “this is what I have discovered: “Adding one thing to another to discover the scheme of things

Proverbs 3:1

[ Wisdom Bestows Well-Being ] My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart,

Monday Period 2 – Stuck? Unsung Heroes.

Never overlook unsung heroes, wonderful people who support us in school and I think of every day as unsung heroes. That’s what they are, they are heroes.

As a science teacher I have always relied on science technicians to get my practicals ready but as a busy person at school even more reliant. I know this comes with the territory of being SLT but I still like to teach my classes as well as I can, which is sometimes a tall order. It can sometimes be easier just to say I won’t do a practical I won’t do a demonstration I’ll find a PowerPoint, a video or just tell a few stories, after all I’m the deputy they won’t mess around. Well I guess sometimes I do that, but we have such fantastic understanding lab technicians I’m so fortunate in that I’m able to rely on them getting me all the stuff ready and prepared in time. And not just me the other 17 science staff can rely on these special people.

I recently had a slight problem with my computer, despite my age I’m pretty good with computers, reasonably tech savvy but for some reason my hotmail and my school e-mail got tangled up on my phone after an upgrade, this meant a whole set of my latest school e-mails were being deleted. I did notice and stopped the processing on my phone however I did not know how I could get those recent e-mails back. If like me you’re not someone who deletes an e-mail when you deal with it, then your inbox is a storage system too. How fantastic that our IT technician could just sit down and in 20 minutes find my emails, save them, reset everything and hey presto.

The personal touch is vital in my school, part of our ethos, do the human stuff as well as possible. In fact we are one of the few schools that you can ring up and hear a voice answer and say “Good morning Trinity school” apologies if you prefer telephone bingo – press 1 to report an absence; press 2 if you need a moan; press 3 if we moaned and you wish to moan back; press 4 if you wish to hear a list of excuses to give us as to why your child hasn’t done his homework….Our secretaries are fantastic they do so many jobs even the tricky diplomatic ones with good cheer they tidy up my letters ( SPAG, language etc) and of course act as a line of defence. After we lost bsf and our potential managed service got blown up I seemed to get callers every single day, every single hour I was fortunate that a secretary could politely refuse in the nicest possible way. I didn’t even know so many ICT provders existed.

I sometimes make a mess in my lab and sometimes the lab I work in is left in a mess by others. Sometimes I have to call the caretakers to sort the blocked sink, the lack of gas, the power down. Ours are another part of a dedicated team. I look at the times when we have an event in the evening and guess who is still sitting in the staff room waiting to lock-up, patiently waiting for the last last parent to go home. Support staff who take great pride in the paintwork, the floor polish, and the smell of the school! Last year our site team cleared the two sites and a road of snow taking a whole Sunday afternoon, just so we could open on Monday, and fresh snow came Sunday night so……they came in at 5.00: we opened!

In my first school after a few days the deputy asked me if I had met the most important person in school to which I said “Yes the head had greeted me that very morning.” He said “Not the head, the caretaker, you’ve a lot to learn John.”

Our pupils are pretty good at keeping the place clean and tidy but our cleaners work their socks off in a 70’s building well past it’s sell by date. They keep the building as clean and sparkling as possible. They speak to me almost every day about the school, the children and will update me if there’s a problem in any classroom, toilet or shared space because they take pride in their work. Keeping on top of keeping a school clean and free of graffiti is important. They are proud of their contribution to our success. We recently had a visit from the Pearson Teacher Award people, they wanted to meet children, staff and….’others’, at our school they met the cleaners.

We have an office I consider to be our brain room hosting the examination officer the Sims magician and the senior IT technician or superman as we know him. They are cool and calm and can sort out any problem, why the UN hasn’t enrolled them I don’t know. Then there is the finance back-room staff. Mr Osborne you need these people, they run our school without fault, you know the sort of people we take for granted who ensure orders go through, pay cheques get to us, pensions sorted, budgets work……

I think it was in 1997 when Mr Blunkett as SoS for Ed, gave awards for schools if they got good results. We had a bonus several years running, I can’t remember what it was exactly but maybe about £15,000 and I remember us all thinking how wonderful on hearing the news. Then we had to look at how to divide it up. Which teachers? Just those who taught exam classes? Hang on some classes added more value, some felt the D to C classes deserved more, some felt A Level staff had a harder job, some felt the low ability success should be noted. Next question was ‘how much?’ Proportional to present salary so that the Head gets the biggest? Well you know my view ( Friday period 1) , the success is not simple to allocate to one person, the poor result doesn’t get blamed just on one person. But now another issue, what about the support staff? The chef, the kitchen staff, the secretaries, cleaners etc. Who holds the power? Try running a school without a caretaker, or an ICT tech or the Chef and the kitchen staff.

Surely there’s a test we can apply. Could the school run efficiently without X or Y? If the answer is no then they should have a bit of a reward and if the answer is yes then they probably shouldn’t even have a job. Make sure any school celebration involves support staff. Make sure they get recognised for their contribution. Schools are complex communities and in this rather tired phrase, we really are “all in it together”. Forgive me if I have overlooked you, there are many others in school, heroes and heroines.

As we come to the end of our school year and we thank head teachers, governors, those leaving or retiring, well this summer lets say a big big thank you to unsung servants: support staff who faithfully do their job and help us teachers to do our job just that bit more effectively. Real genuine heroes.

Some questions to think about

Q1 Do you think support staff are heroes or just doing their job?

Q2 How do we show appreciation for the support staff, other than trying to ensure fair pay?

Q3 How do we ensure the support staff are involved in celebrations of success?

For those in a Church school

Matthew 20:26

This, however, is not the way it shall be among you. If one of you wants to be great, you must be the servant of the rest;

Matthew 23:11

The greatest one among you must be your servant.

2 Corinthians 6:4

Instead, in everything we do we show that we are God’s servants by patiently enduring troubles, hardships, and difficulties.

Thursday Period 1- Overlooking the Ordinary. No they are Special.

I was at the gym last Wednesday, I should go more often, my wife thinks I should go a lot more often. My excuse for poor attendance is that I keep on bumping into pupils, ex pupils and parents, it’s all a bit like being at work! But that night I spotted a student I no longer teach who is now in the sixth form. I will be careful in case he read blogs, but I thought, gosh how is this student getting on. I know they aren’t in any trouble, no bad behaviour, no major issues of attitude. So back at school next day, conscience pricked, I did a quick check on sims and 4matrix: showed me “doing well”. Then to be more effective , I asked my colleagues. “Doing really well, doing really really well” – one teacher used my favourite phrase “he has blossomed and is making really fantastic progress, likely to become an excellent….Historian (subjects changed)

This reminded me of a mission I used to have but still too often overlook. The silent majority. doubt it’s just our school but most pupils most of the time are fine, and a Head of Year picks up on issues. Ours are very good : attendance, punctuality, behaviour, slipping effort, matters of special learning need, vulnerable pupils, emotional issues often from home bereavement, divorce, trouble. Heck you are a teacher you know all this. In a class or year group we know all these issues. We know the loud, the outstandingly good ( brilliant written work, great answers, reliable with tip top homework). but my blog is for the ‘ordinary’ the ‘no issues’ (at the moment) pupils. The ‘occasionally overlooked’.

We give prizes awards, praise etc to our best pupils, we watch out and act on our weaker brethren with issues and we call in help ( heads of year….SLT counselling, coaching, mentoring, one2one etc) but what about that silent majority. They come to school, sit and absorb, join in when pushed, do most homework. We talk to their parents at parents’ evening and find ourselves a little surprised when we review their marks. Hey “he’s doing well”

So my plea – don’t overlook the ordinary. Hang it this might be deep in me, wasn’t that me at school, just did my best, quietly got on, never in trouble, but never a glowing star. I enjoyed school, no one coached me etc Pupils who are like that, they deserve their fair share of our time, the interest in their progress, achievement, aspiration and ambition. Data tools are great for analysis, they show up all sorts : those pupils unlikely to get 5 grades and English but not Maths , etc etc But we need to see beyond that data, always for the individual person, I am so glad 4 matrix has a little dot or a x for a pupil but it has their name, theor photo and hence can have a “story” too.

One of my daughters friends many years ago, aged about 13, told me it was their school prize night.

“I’m invited but might not go” she said.

“Why ever not?” I asked.

“Well we know who will get the prizes, the best in the class for achievement (fair, John, very fair but always the same people) and then those naughty pupils who have turned it around in the last few weeks. Those in trouble, bad trouble but who have responded a bit just recently and are now just in a bit of bother.” (Sort of moved from inadequate to requires improvement). We saw her again at the weekend. “Guess what John, I was dead right about who won awards”.

“Have you ever won an award R?”

“No John. I just turn up every day and do my work, not always very well, sometimes I don’t get it but I do generally try – no rewards for me.”

Teachers, Heads of Year, SLT never forget those ordinary pupils who do that, attend, try, work, sit quietly, are a bit reserved, never give you bother, but can be overlooked. Never forget because they are special and need special treatment, they might not get an award but they can still be loved, recognised, noticed, and never overlooked.

You wont be surprised I’ve gone out of my way to congratulate the sixth former for the great things I’ve heard about him. He smiled, and thanked me, as we used to say in the recent past every child matters – make sure those middle roaders really do. It should mark out the true comprehensive.


Some questions to thinks about:

Q1 How do we teachers and perhaps especially SLT make sure we look after the majority , hen the minority can sap time and energy?

Q2 How to reward the ordinary who are really extra ordinary

Q3 Remember those gifted and talented debates? Who is gifted? Answer = Everyone!


For those working in a faith school

Ephesians 4:7

Each one of us has received a special gift in proportion to what Christ has given.

Acts 4:13

The members of the Council were amazed to see how bold Peter and John were and to learn that they were ordinary men of no education. They realized then that they had been companions of Jesus.

1 Corinthians 7:7

I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

Saturday Period 1 – Research Ed. Me, really?

This is my first attempt at a blog – it probably ‘requires improvement’ (RI) most things do. I hope it might help encourage teachers to become Tweachers(use twitter), read blogs (not necessarily mine) and learn about CPD opportunities. #NTENRED

So Saturday period 1 I usually like to make a long lesson mainly because it comes between Friday period 5 and Sunday period 1 which obviously brings Monday period 1 ever nearer. I try and do very little work Saturday period 1 because everyone tells me we need a work life balance, so no planning or marking or admin, but there is always thinking about school, almost always – there was when I had a full timetable and there is now (as Tom Bennett put it) that I have a fuller wallet and easier timetable being SLT.

This Saturday 3rd May I was in school, not mine but Huntington, there were lots of teachers SLT, heads, researchers and maybe 400 in total (someone can correct me) on a bank holiday Saturday. I got there really thanks to twitter and have tweeted with many people who were there. I think I have met two of them before, I felt I knew them from their writing, their tweets, though not from their twitter images and well it turned out the reality was even better than the virtuality. So my purpose is to encourage you to get on twitter, to get along to a Research Ed conference or maybe a teachmeet. Why?

I wish that I had been able to do a wordle of the day – most common words I heard were: teachers, learners, thriving, progressing, inspiring, sharing, reflecting, evaluating (well and a few more). What I didn’t hear much about was inspecting , Gove (one mention) politicians, targets. So frankly I found myself enjoying Saturday assembly with the inspirational John Tomsett, who in talking to us was as good as his blogs;

Period 1 with Mary Myatt I was seriously reminded about the aspects of teaching and learning I so love. She showed us that research is already happening and easy to encourage and profound in it’s ability to raise energy and passion in the day to day job and its ability to bring life cannot be unedrestimated. I agree

Period 2 with David Weston proved my decision to ‘work’ on Saturday was right as he said so much CPD gets lost once we return to that hurley burley which unlike in ‘that play’ is never “done”. David’s point ‘ the best CPD is aspirational, collaborative relevant, differentiated, sustained, underpinned by research, evaluated and led by leaders who model great learning and demonstrate trust and distributed leadership’ wow just that pearl makes me think about what we can do.

Period 3 we looked at some possible NFER evaluative tools. I find evaluation so hard to do, time being a major issue and was encouraged to see there is no easy, obvious way to do the task. However the tools here looked useful -we’ll see.
Lunch without supervision meant I could talk with a colleague who was also in York. An enjoyable conversation, a chance to catch up with a valued teacher colleague a reminder of the importance of finding a bit of time to do so.

Period 4 is a tricky slot and Jill Berry spoke about the transitioning from deputy to head and her research in that area. I tweeted this was more helpful than much of my NPQH but it was refreshing to hear from a wise practioner who is looking to help the profession on this task and who hasn’t joined the inspection brigade (sorry if you have).

Period 5 was Tom Bennett – those blogs, tweets and books of Tom’s came to life, an enjoyable session reminding us despite being busy practionors that we need to bring research and practice closer, we need to ask the right questions in our quest to find out what works for us, our learners, our strugglers. There is a challenge here, which was recognised as we do have frameworks to work inside and I am acutely aware myself that children get the one chance , but the idea of at least trying to get some overlap between proper research and the classroom is well worth the risks. I reminded myself we teach 80,000 lessons a year in my school, we need to get most of them right, not just worrk about ‘you know what’.

Period 6 OH NO I am only used to a five period day so was this an after school session, revision or just detention. Stephen Tierney showed us how he had made it work in his school. In a skilled presentation with good humour he showed how much he valued the research, how he had moved from sharing good practice to joint practice development. He brought me full circle as we thought about that busy brilliant teacher balancing workload and a home life. If they are doing a good job for young people that’s fine by me but to make sure it keeps on happening help others take on responsibility and spread the effective ideas.

Now if you led a session and I was one of your learners , just maybe you hoped I had learned more, well I have but I can’t get it all in a blog. As well as content there is the inspirational and the challenges. The latter is what I now need to consider. So my starter for four:

1. How do we help staff see they do research now?
2. How do we get more research going and make sure the “good stuff” we already do is caught, shared, lifted and trialled?
3 What do we ‘stop’ to make room for this in the ‘hurly burly’?
4 Evaluation evaluation evaluation.

Well and lots more questions too but they can wait until Sunday period 1 or for this bank holiday weekend Monday period 2.

I work in a faith community, today is the first Sunday after Easter and in church we were looking at story of the road to Emmaus “and they had their eyes opened” Our call and our duty too?