Monthly Archives: June 2015

Fizzy #Edfest Part 3

I went on a holiday to Center Parcs once.  Actually, I have been several times, and mostly out of season (which is how I have managed to go several times); when my children were little it was my absolute favourite place.  Everything there is geared up to young families, from the serried ranks of highchairs to the little nursery where you can park the little ones and get some time to yourself.  I was sad when they all went to school and so did I, and the whole thing became too expensive.

I remember going when I was expecting L.  We had been out for the evening and, as it was raining, we decided to catch the ‘land train’ (a couple of carriages hitched up to a Land Rover) back to our place of abode.  It was dark and cold, the orange lights gleamed wetly on the roadway and I, in an attempt to prevent A from running off and into the road and being run down by oncoming traffic, began to sing.

Now, I don’t want you to think that I am the kind of person who regularly breaks into song at any opportunity, but at the time, rather than teaching in a classroom in a school, I was running my own mother and toddler music group.  I had a large repertoire of songs (with signs and actions) at my disposal, and my two little boys loved it.

It didn’t take long before A had climbed up on my knee and was joining in with the incy wincies and wind the bobbins.  It didn’t take long before I had a gaggle of tired toddlers circling around me, shyly joining in or watching with tired round eyes.  It wasn’t long before R, who had been on Sam duty, caught my eye and smiled the secret smile that steals over people when they catch someone in their element.

As teachers we aren’t often in the position of watching another adult get all over-enthusiastic about their subject.  I watched one at a local teachmeet back in October and I thought how much I would have loved being in her class, and how lucky her children were as she waxed lyrical about Shakespeare (or whatever it was she was telling us about).  I love it when R has been booked to do a talk and he practices on us to see if we understand the intricacies of blasting a lemon into space, and I saw it again last week when I poked my nose in to @Jack_Marwood’s talk on data at the Wellington Festival of Education.

Now, I haven’t got the remotest interest in data, not really, not the numbers sort.  All those means and modes baffle me no end, and my usual response, when I see them applied to children is to screech in an emotionally-driven manner, ‘You can’t reduce a child to a letter or a number!’ and that’s about it.

But Jack, now he knows what he’s talking about.  Maths and Statistics are his specialism, and it was a joy to watch someone, someone full of fizzy enthusiasm, hold a packed room enthralled while he explained fuzzy numbers and why school data, the sort that is presented to Ofsted and appears in league tables, is a nonsense.

I was sorry I had to leave before I could say goodbye and thank him properly.


In Defence of the Dark Art #Edfest Part 3

Debate, chaired by Laura McInerney (newspaper editor) between David Didau (author) and Dylan Wiliam (educational researcher).


What if everything you knew about education was wrong?


I stood and listened to the debate (by the time I found it the last seat had been snaffled) and it was very interesting, and chimed very much with my experience (learning styles help you to examine how you teach, what works in education is very complex and context specific etc).  But I left with something unsaid.

When you have children with Special Educational Needs in your class you need to differentiate the work – however you choose to do this.  It doesn’t have to been about separate worksheets.  It could be about the level of support you give them, or the kind of counting apparatus they use.  If we don’t do this, then those children on the outside edges, at either end of the scale, they don’t necessarily learn.  (Or, they don’t learn as well as they could.)

We are more alike than different, yes, but that doesn’t mean we pay no attention to the differences.  In a sense, the differences are what make us who we are.  Of course they matter.   In a book about teaching, next time, please write more than five pages about Special Educational Needs.


I wish I had managed to come up with a question, if only I was brave enough to wave my hand more assertively, because every teacher is a teacher of special needs.


Celebrating the Special School #Edfest part 2

Silence is golden.

Silence is deafening.

Silence can be pregnant, a moment waiting to be filled.

A baiting of breath.



We can be rendered silent by shame,

Or fear,

Or confusion.

Sometimes, silence speaks volumes.


There are 98,000 children being educated in special schools today.

89% of the schools they attend are good or outstanding.

Two secretaries of state are silent on the state of special schools.



#EdFest Part 1

I have to admit that I am not the biggest fan of early mornings.  Even after fourteen-and-a-half years of training I remain, resolutely, a night owl, not an early bird.  So it was with considerable surprise that I boarded the 07:29 train out of my half-an-hour-away-from-my-house local station in order to attend the Wellington Festival of Education, something I didn’t even know about until last year.  Such is my enthusiasm for all things educational that, there I was, on my day off, no less, bleary eyed and with a book for homework with me, trundling through the early morning sunshine, worrying about whether I was going to be cold or not.

I wasn’t going to be going at all.  Over a hundred of your Earth Pounds, plus the travelling expenses is not the kind of ticket this girl can easily afford, so when the lovely @Jack_Marwood, who was speaking at the event, offered me a free ticket I jumped at the chance, early morning be damned.  I have a terrible admission to make, though.  The driving factor behind my desire to go to such an event – on my day off – was not so much that I could engage with the ideas (although I did), grab myself some free CPD (which I did) or have a nose around the kind of school that simply does not exist in my reality, no, the reason I wanted to go was because I wanted to meet people.  I wanted to meet, in the realness of reality, some of the many lovely teachers I have shared ideas with over the past year or so of my Twitter Addiction.

And meet them I did.  In fact, I think I spent more time meeting people than I did anything else, from the garden of the Master’s House(my father was having kittens at the thought of me let loose in the abode of a contributor to Radio 4) to the sweaty train journey to London (thank you Martin for taking me under your wing, and Tait, for reassuring me that I was on the right platform; you did, indeed, spot a person with an irrational fear of missing trains, and who had spent most of the day in a state of nerves).  Every single one of them was a pleasure to meet – I’m only sorry that there were some people I caught sight of, but didn’t manage to either embarrass or freak out with a hug, but there you are.  Such is life.  I had a blast.

Would I go again?  In a heartbeat (especially if there is another free ticket and it either occurs at the weekend or on my day off).

Meet people off the internet?  Only if they are teachers.

Creative and funny, diverse and erudite.  And above all, putting other people first.

They are the best, the one and only reason to go.





I don’t usually win things.  I never won a race at Sport’s Day (in fact, I was never even in Sport’s Day at secondary school), I buy raffle tickets for the summer fayre safe in the knowledge that none of the prizes (except maybe for the out-of-date toiletries that no-one wanted at Christmas) will be winging their way to me.  OK, so I won a couple of mugs and a strange shaped hat as a prize for coming not-last in a sailing race once and a teacher-made (hand drawn, no less, none of your fancy-pants desktop publishing in 1985) certificate for disco dancing (I think it still lines the bottom drawer of my desk), but I’m not counting them.  My record at Winning Things has been poor, frankly.

So, with that in mind, I was delighted to trot along to the TES Awards dinner and disco on Friday night (dinner and disco really doesn’t do the do – which was swanky in the extreme – justice, but you’ll have to excuse my colloquialism).  Knowing that I had been nominated for Teacher Blogger of the Year along with some serious heavyweights in the world of teacher blogging, I had absolutely no doubt that I would have a very nice time, safe in the knowledge that it wouldn’t be me making the long walk up a long ramp in vertiginous shoes, under the spotlit glare of over a thousand people.

Oh, how wrong could I be?  There I was, my half-charged phone beside me, ready to tweet congratulations to the winner (it was a very big room, it was dark and there was loud music; tweeting was the only way to contact people on the same table, as @andylutwyche will testify, to much eye rolling of our dinner companions) when what should I hear, in the dulcet tones of Alan Dedicoat (ALAN DEDICOAT!) but my name.  Me.  The not-winner of anything.

It’s all a bit of a blur.  I know that in a moment of madness I took the mike (after being expressly told not to by Greg Davies; oh dear, I seem to have lost the art of doing as I am told) and wagged my finger at the assembled throng, declaring in wobbly tones, ‘every teacher is a teacher of special needs’.  I lost the plot entirely when I was interviewed by a lovely man with a camera person and microphone person who I couldn’t hear and waffled on about how strange it all felt in between ‘pardon?’s.

My phone lit up like a firework and gave up the ghost, its poor abused battery lying down in the dust in defeat, and I spent much of the rest of the evening standing by the stairs, people watching, chatting briefly to my lovely fellow nominees who spotted me hiding there. (I had a group hug with @cazzypot and @oldandrewuk and bemoaned the stresses and strains of housemoves with @kevbartle and @hgaldinoshea, as well as meeting in the proper flesh, as it were, @jillberry 102, @Mishwood1, @emmaannhardy, @C_Hendrick, @tstarkey1212, and the lovely @jon_severs and @AnnMroz from the TES itself, so I can’t claim to have been a total wallflower)

And now, now that I am back at home, and I’ve done the washing and ironing and tidied the kitchen, sorted out the school bags and thought about my lessons, apologised to Sam for not being there when he came home from his residential, what do I think of it all?

I am immensely honoured to have been nominated at all.  I am somewhat intimidated that this blog has been read by heroes of my past and my present (I’m looking at you, Floella Benjamin, and you Sue Cowley) and far-more-successful-alumni-than-me (that’s you Anthony Horowitz) and others who are, like, serious grown-ups, leaders in their fields.

But above all I am touched, more than I can say that Down’s syndrome, that little chromosomal quirk that is wiped away so often, so feared, and yet so much a part of us all has taken the first First Prize.

This blog was never supposed to be about me, despite the journey it’s taken.  It was always supposed to be about him.

Thank you for hearing the voices of the unheard.


Image courtesy of Carl Hendrick
Image courtesy of Carl Hendrick

Please do take the time to read the blogs of the other teacher blogger nominees – I am honoured to be in such great company.

Keven Bartle

Joe Kirby


Martin Robinson

Nick Rose

Andrew Old

Horatio Speaks