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I’ve always been a voracious reader. Back when I first joined Facebook (I was relatively late to the party in 2009) I, along with a number of friends, completed several of those ‘how many of these top 100 books have you read’ quiz things, and I was always surprised to see how many of them I actually had. I put it partly down to the fact that for many years my family had no TV (we had one, and then it broke, and failed to be replaced for much of my teens) and partly that I have always liked the action of reading, in the arm chair (feet on radiator if cold) or, even better, in bed (my mum tells me she once asked the doctor what to do about my constant evening reading – I gather there was no useful answer).

Not that I am a great lover of the study of literature. I was convinced for a long time, because of the reading thing, that I would go on to study it, but no. My prime motivator as a reader, especially as a young adult and certainly during my twenties, was to escape. Escape from boredom, familial conflict and the mundanity of hard work into a fantasy-land of neatly tied endings (or at least, another novel), derring-do, high romance, mystery and adventure. The only time I didn’t read this way was during my degree, when I read all the time for study, and it was nice to have a break by doing something different (like hanging out with my friends, telling bad jokes or ranting about feminism and the middle ages).

Today, I find myself in a similar position. With so much to read for my professional life, I haven’t much time or energy for reading for pleasure; this year I have read, in total, three books. In the summer holiday The Last Tudor, another in Philippa Gregory’s series of novels about the aristocratic women of Early Modern Europe, and in this one, Mary Beard’s Women and Power and Grayson Perry’s Descent of Man. I’m fascinated by representations of gender, and how people negotiate their lives through the gendered lens, and, to sit curled into the corner of the sofa, a lamp propped up on a couple of boxes to guard against the failing light, has been a luxury, a pleasure.

Much of the two final books have resonated strongly (I can’t say that I have a great deal in common with the women of the Tudor age, truth be told); I fell asleep last night, mulling over what it means to be a woman or a man, today and in the past, and what the insights of Mary Beard and Grayson Perry might mean to me now as a woman and a mother of two boys (as I am no longer a class teacher, I can’t claim to have any influence there). I thought about how, somehow, I am an ‘other’, emotional, illogical and just plain weird (I’m not even a proper teacher any more) and men, in particular the men at the top of the patriarchal tree (that is, white, male and middle class), somehow, are not.

They are, as Grayson Perry puts it, the default position and the baseline, their power invisible unless you don’t happen to be what they are (white, middle class and male). It made me reflect, and I will probably continue to do so, on the debates in education that I read, especially around student behaviour. As he puts it, “When crimes are reported, the causes are invariably said to be the economy, imbalances in society, religious extremism perhaps. Rarely is the main reason talked about – it’s just too mundane. The perpetrator was male.” In an education setting, maybe, just maybe, we haven’t got so much a problem with behaviour as with masculinity and what young people think it means.

I have to say, I loved his book. I loved the emotional intensity of it, the reclamation of men as emotional beings, with their compulsive need to win, and to be right all the time, to be the best. In a satisfying reversal of subconscious expectation, Mary Beard makes a dispassionate, erudite and intellectual argument about the structures of power, and how we need to change them rather than the women who seek to take a share in it (boiled down to, in essence, ‘I want you to take me seriously’), and Grayson Perry ends with an appeal to tenderness, for me, the cherry on the cake in a book born of concern for men and expressions of manliness that no longer make sense in today’s more egalitarian world and which damage and make it more difficult for them to lead fulfilling and happy lives.

He, with his call for men to get off their high horses and get more in touch with their feelings, has acted as a reminder and an encouragement to me to continue to tell human stories, infected and infused with emotion, to act as a counterbalance to popular, unquestioned narratives, and play my (very small) part in resetting the default position.


Privacy Policy

The law regarding Data Protection (the General Data Protection Regulation, GDPR) is changing in May 2018.

In order to comply with the regulations, I have created a Privacy Policy, which you can read here:

You can rest assured that any data I collect from you is secure and will not be sold or used inappropriately in any way.

Many thanks,



I thought it would be a good idea to write a quick blog post about something that happened today, just to make it absolutely clear to readers where I stand on the issue of consent.

I write a lot about my son, who has Down’s syndrome. I use his name and his image. I am, I think, quite careful about both the stories I tell, remembering always to bear in mind his dignity and the images I use; as he grows up and is more and more aware of my life as a writer and his role in it, I make sure to ask him if it is OK, or use an old or connected image.

I occasionally write about my younger children. I never mention their names, and I do not use their images in order to protect their anonymity.

Using the image and stories of a disabled young person are issues that are hedged about with issues of consent; it is important to both protect their dignity and to ensure that they are safe. There are many stories I do not tell and images I do not share in order to do this.

Today, an influential and widely read teacher-blogger linked to my blog and quoted me extensively, in order to make a point in an argument he was having with some other commentators about the use of synthetic phonics in the teaching of reading. I’m not going to link to it here.

This is OK. If he wants to characterise me in an unattractive/negative light, frankly, I think that says more about him than it does about me.

Unfortunately, what he also did was to mention my son, by name, in his blog. He did not ask my permission, or my son’s, to do this. This is not OK.

My son, by virtue of being a disabled young person is automatically a vulnerable young person. As teachers, we have been on enough safeguarding courses to know that we do not put vulnerable people in harm’s way. We don’t do it in our real lives, and we don’t do it in our virtual lives.

If you, as a reader of my blog, want to quote me, even out of context and even if you are attempting to paint me in a negative light, I might not like it but I am an adult and I can stick up for myself.

You do not have my permission to publish material about my son that identifies him, or use his image without his or my consent.

My material has been published on other websites, in print and in mainstream media. My son’s image and stories have been used in these contexts with our consent. If you wish to use them, you may ask, but you may not automatically get our consent.

Asking for consent is important, and is not negotiable. If you make the mistake and overstep the mark, I expect you to take the material down and issue an apology.

I have not checked, but I believe the influential teacher blogger when he tells me
that he has taken down material that identifies my son. He is a teacher, and he knows that keeping young people safe is important and part of our duties as teachers. I have not had an apology.


This is different to linking to my blog using pingback, which is entirely acceptable and to be expected. It is the writing about my son, and the use of his name, which, linked to mine, could identify him and put him in danger, without my or his consent, that I object to.

Thanks for reading.



The thin, veined membrane
Trembles as the
Tough, outer shell peels away.
Perfumed oil spurts
High into
Still air.
Droplets catch light,
Fill the room with fragrance
Until they fall,
Dampening hungry fingers that
Seeking and removing the sticky sinewed string and
Soft velvet cushion
Of bitter, protective pith.
Naked, juicy flesh waits
For sharp teeth.



Ofsted: Correction

I hate getting things wrong. Not backing up my claims with evidence and veering off into polemic was a regular criticism during my student days.

Yesterday, I veered off into such a polemic, and I would like to publicly state a couple of things I got wrong. I’d like to issue a public apology for the error.

If, like me, you are unsure what a commentary is, and its purpose, I looked it up and you can find the definition here:

  • There was a jot of admission of Ofsted’s responsibility for the narrowing of the school curriculum, with particular reference to ‘low attaining children’.

Here it is:

“Earlier this year, I commissioned a research programme to broaden our understanding of how curriculums are implemented in our schools, particularly the national curriculum as a key government policy. This was one of the main research priorities of my first year as Chief Inspector. One of the aims of this work was to challenge ourselves, as well as schools, about whether Ofsted has always recognised what is best in curriculum design, development and implementation. If we have not, I wanted to know whether inspection has played a role in bending the curriculum out of shape.”

I think 95 words out of 3,361 counts as a jot. (Definition here: )

Admitting when you get things wrong and making amends is important, I think.

You can find my original post here:

It also appears in TES here: