Sunday, 28 December 2014


Must be time to blog again! It has been some time but then work and life does get in the way. The nurture posts initiated by @ChocoTzar two years ago have inspired a range of touching and often humbling personal and professional reflections, many of which I have read in recent days. I like the new 5 and 5 format, especially with the year numbers growing. This will aid being concise. Last year's reflection can be found here

Driving on: 

To review 2014 first- I will group last years 14 points as succinctly as I can.

1. In January my teaching workload trebled with our Year 6 teacher going part time.  Not what I expected in my first year as DHT but I was left with the responsibility for Maths and English in OFSTED year, so no pressure!  But what a wonderful group of children they were. For the first time in my career a school I had been part of attained 100% level 4+ across the board, got the best score in the authority in level 5 in reading and hit third place in one version of the local league tables. I am no great fan of presenting data like this, but as a small school with 70% Pupil Premium in that year it drew acclaim to the school and to the teachers who had driven those children in the previous 6 years. More importantly, they were genuine results giving those children the best possible start in their secondary school lives. 

OFSTED came in the middle of March. We knew it had to come before July and the timing could not have been any better, with our in-year data analysis well established and more importantly being seen to be used. Tremendous team spirit and a confident grasp of priorities by everyone together with excellent behaviour, great teaching and engagement of the team in conversation and not confrontation enabled us to reach the 'Good' grade we deserved. The best inspection outcome the school had ever had. Everyone is hugely proud.

2. Twitter has continued to be a great source of CPD for me, opening a range of opportunities through blogs, chats, links and interactions that aren't available in my LA. I have met a number of teacher tweeters and also other followers from my non-teaching interests. One aspect of Twitter that continues disappoint though is the slanging matches between professionals. There is bullying on Twitter(despite denials), and what I witnessed particularly in school holidays has been unpleasant. For the only time I unfollowed and blocked teachers, not a form of censorship I like, but I have no desire to see unprofessional behaviour on my timeline. 

I organised a Teach Meet too. The first in my LA. Numbers were small, but it was a start and it began conversations in other quarters. In September I was contacted by @Sazwighead and @RachelSwinburne offering to take on the running of the next event, which I was glad to do with my workload. Teach Meet Bexley 2015 will have over 100 attendees. From small acorns, mighty oaks grow! 

3. Getting the inspection out of the way enabled us to pay serious attention to the new curriculum. In summer we trialled some examples of how we felt we could deliver the new requirements. We have taken on the opportunity to deliver the curriculum in an innovative and creative manner.  We call it the Project Curriculum, as projects have defined beginnings, phases and endings. Each is based on one or more core texts from CLPE's The Power of Reading, placing literacy skills at the very centre of learning. A lateral, rather than linear approach enables colleagues to plan for the other subjects to accompany the project, though not in a contrived fashion. If it fits, then fine, if it doesn't, then it isn't squeezed in, but sits discretely alongside the rest of the learning.  One term in, we are feeling very excited about the engagement the children are showing. Not everyone may agree, but this suits our school and our children.

British Values hit the headlines in the Autumn, but we had already decided to embed Dr Neil Hawkes' Values Based Education as our PSHE curriculum. This is documented here

Again, the impact of this is embedding itself in the very fabric of the school. 

4. My reading. I have managed to read a good few educational texts. Other than Neil's book mentioned above, I won't name them. If you like what you read, you will put it into practice, if you don't then you won't. Enough said.

My personal top five for this year:

Golazo! (Andreas Campomar): A History of Latin American Football: Politics, intrigue and conspiracy abound.

The Sleepwalkers (Christopher Clark): An in depth study of the causes of World War I.

HHhH (Laurent Binet): A narrative based on the plot to assassinate Heydrich.

The Teleportation Accident (Ned Beauman): I read Boxer Beetle last year. One of Britain's best young novelists. 

The Psychopath Test (Jon Ronson): Read this and you will be seeing them everywhere!

5. Work-Life Balance: Must try harder!! Not easy to organise when you have a lot on your plate and often I have had to be reactive rather than proactive because of circumstances. Weekends have been especially busy. Four cinema visits all year; I used to exceed 40!

That is why holidays are so important to recharge, spend time with those you are closest to and to just be me. This year I have been especially lucky. I have stood on top of the Empire State Building, seen puffins in Shetland, and tracked the locations of my favourite Danish crime and political dramas in Copenhagen. I have rediscovered the love of photography I last had as a student. I am going to indulge myself with some examples here.

Arty interpretation of Lady Liberty

One of life's ambitions fulfilled.

Nyhavn, Copenhagen. Just beautiful. 
Driving forward: 

Hopes for 2015

1. Professional: As I said above I am most excited by the way the new curriculum has offered such opportunities to develop teaching and learning. Next challenge is the replacement of levels. We have taken the approach that we will keep levels for the moment and scaffold a replacement around them. There is a lot of material out there, and hasty decisions may be costly, especially with the rather imprecise performance descriptors looming. I am eternally grateful to @tim_jumpclarke and to @MichaelT1979 for their selfless efforts in working on the key objectives and to Tim for sharing those with me.

I have a few things in mind for time management, which I won't list because I know that by 8th January I will have to reevaluate those again. 

2. Twitter: Although we are in a minority there are an increasing number of primary practitioners sharing on Twitter, and a healthy number of secondary teachers making increasing connections with primary colleagues. February's Teach Meet will I hope lead to further channels of communication opening in my LA. Of course there are still a few who think we let the children run riot with glitter and glue, but you can't please everyone!

3. Reading and Writing:I will set myself a similar target. I always get books at Christmas, and I'm still working through some from the last year. I've just begun  A Song of Ice and Fire, that's the Game of Thrones books for the uninitiated. We have quite a fan club at school and now that everyone has caught up (usually it is a matter of knowing who is dead) we have another line of conversation at lunchtimes. 

I harbour no ambitions to write a professional text, but I do have a whole bank of short stories and plays I have written for the children. My sitcom never made it past a producer's desk but there is a chance it could be performed in a local theatre, with a few edits. 

4. Humour: This is such a powerful weapon. It can engage children and colleagues, and it develops a level of understanding that promotes language use. I don't advocate teachers being stand up comedians, but it does demonstrate a more human side to ones character. Humourless types just need to lighten up.

5. Health, Hope and Happiness: I aim to cook a new recipe each week. Although not a vegetarian, I have several great books (Ottolenghi) with amazing vegetable recipes to discover. 

I hope that whatever happens in May, we will have Government which will deliver and not damage.

I have a round numbered birthday this year, and that's the point where doctors begin conversations with 'At your age...' I've got pain in my right knee, but I watch my weight and exercise appropriately. Next month I will find if I have inherited glaucoma from my mother. However a few eye drops and an tubular bandage is nothing. I read @imagineinquiry's  contribution to this series yesterday, and his frank and honest assessment is most humbling. 

What will 2015 bring? Well I am looking for the positives.