Friday, 31 December 2010


2010 has been a busy year. Here are some of my highlights:

Back in August we were delighted to discover that L is expecting a baby. We have wanted this for so long and so it was the best news ever! The baby is due in April, meaning that 2011 promises to be eventful!

I know it sounds ridiculous, but this gadget has changed my life! I guess I'm being a bit overdramatic. But getting my new phone back in January has changed the way I relax, the way I record my memories, the way I communicate, the way I shop and the way I learn. It's amazing, and I don't think I could ever be without it.

As I have never had an iPod, I have never really bothered with iTunes. But getting my iPhone encouraged me to explore it. It took some getting used to but eventually I got the hang of it. It forced me to 'sort' my music collection, making sure information was correct and organised. Now I love it, and I like watching the play counts!

I have used Dropbox for a while but this year I upgraded to a paid package. It is, without a doubt, the best application that I've used this year. I can work on projects at work and at home without needing to take anything with me.

Last night of the Christmas Proms
Just the other day we took mum and dad to the proms at Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. It was completely amazing and it has already encouraged me to listen to more classical music. This will help me work and relax.

The Lost finale, back in May, brought to a conclusion a programme I have obsessed over for five years. Unfortunately the final series was not what I imagined (it went off at a tangent, making large parts of the programme irrelevant) but the whole Lost experience remains a highlight for me.

Leadership Pathways
Earlier this year I completed the Leadership Pathways course. Whilst I was quite negative at first at the idea of doing more 'learning' I grew to value the experience very highly. I learned a great deal about the leader I am and the leader I want to be. In a couple of years time I would like to complete the NPQH.

Moving to Year Three
After spending nine years teaching Year Six it was time for a new challenge. In September I moved to Year Three. It has been a challenge, for all sorts of reasons, and I haven't found it easy. But I have found it very rewarding and I'm looking forward to the next two terms.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

How Santa Really Works

The last few weeks of English lessons have been based upon a fantastic book called 'How Santa Really Works' by Alan Snow.

This wonderful book explains how Santa makes Christmas happen, talking you through the different departments of his North Pole set up, describing the training that the elves must go through and then explaining  his specialist equipment. It also gives top secret information about how he can get around the world to visit every child without being discovered!

It really is a wonderful book and the children loved reading it. I used it as inspiration for various pieces of writing, and I thought I'd share the ideas.

The elves' jobs: We read about the different jobs of the elves and the training that is required to do the jobs well. We then wrote a letter to Santa to apply for a job in one of his departments.

Toys: After reading about the Research and Development departments we designed our own toys for our friends. We drew a picture and labelled them with short explanations of all the special features.

Recount: We recounted an explanation of how Santa manages to deliver all of his presents, describing some of his specialist equipment

Santa's Suit: We produced a labelled diagram of Santa's suit, explaining all of its special features. One child included special pockets for storing mince pies!

Reindeer Food: We watched a video of Santa's reindeer in action ( and then created our own special recipes for reindeer food.

Stories: After watching the Snowman, we wrote a story about the day a snowman met Santa and helped him to deliver his presents.

Have you done any special Christmas writing activities?

Thursday, 4 November 2010

PGCE Guide

I will be mentoring a PGCE trainee over the next few months. I will certainly be encouraging her to read Tim Handley's PGCE Survival Guide.

It's a fabulous book which is not just for PGCE trainees, but for anyone training to become a teacher!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Men in Primary Schools network

A new network is being piloted in London to support men in primary schools. The "Men In Primary Schools" network, supported by the TDA, is aiming to increase applications from men to teacher training courses, achieve higher retention rates, and encourage more to stay in the teaching profession.

They are aiming to do this through the creation of a peer support network. Three short films with male primary school teachers have been made and they are holding three initial events this month.

The Facebook page for the network is here.

I hope that the network is successful and that it expands beyond London.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Monthly Review November 2010

I've decided to stop my Weeknote posts. Instead I will build this review proves into my monthly review.

Personal targets:
  • Play squash - I can't seem to make this happen. I should try harder but I have find it difficult to have much free time in the evenings at the moment.
  • Finish painting the windows - It's either rained or we have had plans every weekend this month. I did manage to trim a tree that was taking over the garden and sort out the garage, but... no painting.
  • Sort out my iTunes - When I started to use iTunes back in February I was incredibly frustrated because most of my song information was incorrect. Names of songs and artists were wrong; album names were missing; genres were wrong. It has taken me several months to do but I have now completed the process of correcting all of this. During this time I have been listening to the music but it was more functional than for pleasure. It has taken me a long time to sort through my collection and download any gaps. Whilst streaming music over the internet is probably the future, for the time being I would prefer to own my music. It has really annoyed me in fact. Well this month I have finally finished this and for the last few weeks I have been able to enjoy my music properly! Now it's fun to watch the play count increase!

Professional targets:
  • Introduce the new ICT progression - I completed a review of the ICT curriculum coverage in school and introduced the Lancashire progression to staff. From now on I've asked the staff to base their teaching around this.
  • Performance management reviews - These were all completed in October. I really enjoy this process.
  • Sort out my office - You know there ought to be a picture here. I have completely rearranged my office so that there is a defined desk and working area and a seated area for the many meetings that I have. Not only does it look tonnes better but it is already making me more productive because there is a place for everything. A new large notice board has been ordered and when it is installed it my office will be brilliant.

This month I:
  • Enjoyed my first residential as a Year Three teacher at Fox Howl, Delamere Forest. We tried lots of activities including a woodland walk, den building, trekking and trailing and orienteering. The children had an excellent time.
  • Set up our class 'pet' blog for Super Pig and Friends. It's a bit like weekend friends, but when it's established it will have more of a geography focus. The pictures that the children have taken have been fabulous, and it's another way to get them using the Learning Platform.
  • Missed lots of school football matches. For one reason or another I've only actually made it to two out of six games this term. Luckily I have a colleague who I run the team with who has lead the team to three wins and one draw.
  • Attended a conference for senior leaders. I will write more on this, but I found it really interesting and very helpful.
Targets for November:

Personal targets:
  1. Play squash
  2. Sort out our garage completely
  3. Paint the windows
  4. Get my office sorted in preparation for changing it to become a nursery!!
  5. Find some time to read more
Professional targets:
This term is so hectic with Christmas play preparation, my target this term is to get the dozens of jobs on my to do list completed, and not worry about any big projects.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Undercover Boss

I recently enjoyed watching Undercover Boss. If you've never seen it, the idea is that the boss of a large organisation adopts a new identity for a week or two and goes to work with staff within the company in order to find out how it works.

It's a brilliant idea and it fascinates me how many bosses appear to have lost touch with the general day to day running of an outlet or a department.

It has given me ideas for when I am a headteacher. Of course it would be hard to go undercover in my own school, but I definitely want to make sure that I am always in touch with day to day running of all parts of the school. I would make sure that I spend time working with teachers in the classroom and find out about how a TA works with a teacher and wth the pupils. I would shadow the caretaker for the day to find out about how their role could be made more efficient. I would want to spend time with office staff and experience the demands of their role. It would be interesting to spend time with the midday assistants to explore how they could be more effective.

Unless you know how everybody works, how can you manage the school efficiently? It would help to maintain relations with staff and ensure you fully understand the demands on every member of staff.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Gareth Malone's Extraordinary School For Boys

I know that I am late in writing about this programme, but I guess that's Sky Plus for you!

I have just finished watching this excellent programme and wanted to share some thoughts.
  1. It was clear to me that the programme was not completely true to life. Of course the pupils and the school were real and the situations, but bringing in a new teacher to focus entirely on a smaller group of pupils, allow him to spend whatever money he liked and to do whatever he liked with the children is not really what can happen in real life. As I teacher, I know that, but I hope that the general public recognise it too.
  2. It highlighted the importance of role models for boys. It was clear that engaging the boys' fathers had a huge impact on the efforts of the boys. We all know that it is vital to involve parents in the children's education, but it really impressed me that Gareth deliberately targeted dads. It makes me think that we could do more.
  3. It showed that a creative curriculum can work. The head said, after analysing the results, “how we design our curriculum and the sorts of things we do, we put such emphasis on reading, writing and maths, the enjoyment has gone out of learning, if we can put enjoyment back in and they’re still learning, that’s what we should do.” We can all take something from that.
  4. The theme of competition kept recurring throughout the series. Mr Malone frequently told the boys that 'girls are doing better' or 'boys are not doing as well as the girls in this school'. I don't know if I'm entirely comfortable in this approach but it certainly spurred the girls on. This straight talking encouraged the boys and made them want to do better and to improve. I have said to my class that they need to beat the other class, but is it right to do this with boys and girls? Has else anyone tried this?
  5. The head set a target for Gareth's boys to achieve by the end of the process. They had to improve their reading age by six months. Whilst I was surprised that writing wasn't chosen for the target, given that this is an even bigger issue than reading nationally. I was really proud when it was revealed that the boys had reached their target and Gareth was justifiably proud too. But taught me the importance of setting targets. It's all very well to have an idea, but it showed me that it is important to expect a measurable impact. The head monitored the progress and discussed the initiative regularly. I need to set targets too.
This was the first programme that I have seen that was entirely positive about education. Instead of sensationalising an issue, it addressed it. It was a terrific programme an I hope that Gareth gets the chance to try other experiments!

Gareth Malone's Extraordinary School For Boys website

Gareth Malone's website

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Creating a Technology-Rich School by Terry Freedman

I thoroughly enjoyed teaching this book by Terry Freedman. It was, however, not at all what I was expecting. I guess I thought it would include guidance on the sorts of facilities a school should provide to make a school 'technology-rich'. Instead it focused on creating and leading the vision of a technology-rich school. Not that this is a bad thing at all - it gives lots of good advice in how to lead successfully.

A vision
The book explains how to create a vision - what you want the end result to look like. 'What makes a vision more than a mere daydream is that it is underpinned by a strategy, i.e. a systematic plan for achieving that vision... It has to be believed in, and wanted, by others: your immediate colleagues, the school management team, non-teaching staff and parents and carers.' Freedman explains good reasons why it is vital that these people are part of your vision.

Sharing and planning the implementation of your vision
There is lots of really practical advice for how to show leadership and 'pull' people into your vision. Freedman explains, step by step, how to share the vision, ensuring that the vision is agreed with all staff in the department. Then a strategy should be created, which includes a set of broad aims which will lead to the realisation of the vision. Each aim should then be broken down into SMART targets. The strategy must take into account legislation and 'environmental' issues.

Implementing your vision
Every meeting should end with a list of action points, each of which are assigned to a named person and has a deadline attached. 'Action points and minutes are of no use unless they are referred to, therefore one of the first items on every meeting's agenda must be to follow up on the action points.' There is good advice for leadership of 'the vision':
  • Leaders should set the tone and the vision for the school's ethos and philosophy (leading by example)
  • Leadership should be distributed throughout the organisation, because empowering people to take responsibility is a powerful way of getting things done.
The book is very clearly about 'creating a technology-rich school' but I have taken away much more from it. I have learned various leadership and organisational techniques which can be applied to any management role.

Creating a Technology-Rich School by Terry Freedman can be purchased from for £1.99+VAT.
You can learn more from Terry Freedman's excellent website ICT in

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


SpellQuizzer is spelling software for children that need help learning their spelling and vocabulary words.

I had a go at using the software over the last few weeks and I wanted to write my thoughts.

The welcome screen is really straight forward, and so I will use this to describe how the software works.

Quiz Me On A list
After clicking here you can choose a list of spellings to practice. I liked the simplicity of the quizzes - there's a space to write in the word whilst SpellQuizzer reads the word to you and a phrase or sentence to help put this into context. If the child gets the word right it moves on to the next word. The children commented that they would like a tick or something to show that they'd got it right. If the word is wrong there's no second chance, it will show you what you entered and also the correct spelling. I think it would be better if you could alter the settings so the children can have more than once chance to spell the word. Once the student has been quizzed on all the words on the list the results of the quiz are displayed. If the user spelled every word on the list correctly a "Woo Hoo!" sound is played and they are congratulated on a perfect quiz and are asked if they want to start over to practice the list again. If the user spelled one or more words in the list incorrectly then SpellQuizzer displays the number wrong and offers to let them try again on just the ones they missed. It repeats this cycle until the student has correctly spelled each word in the spelling list.

Create/Edit a spelling list
It's when you come to create a spelling list that the software comes into its own. It is very simple to add a new list and then add words (which can be edited later). You enter the word, add a phrase to help children to understand the word and then record the word and a phrase if you like. It takes a few seconds to add a word. I like the way that you can record your own voice - no American robot voices!! If you enter the word incorrectly then the software lets you know. I didn't get the chance to let the children make their own lists, but this would be very straightforward for them to do.

Import/Export a spelling list
Lists of words can be shared at I found that the words and word lists tended to be American based (e.g. names of the 50 states). But, to be honest, I preferred making my own lists anyway. It would also be good if a list of words could be imported using Excel, but this option isn't available. 

The help menu menu is very clear and there seems to be good support through the website.

The software is not all that cheap when you consider that there are free alternatives on the web. But the facility to record your own voice is very useful. 

You can purchase the software for the price of $11.95 (for a single licence) on Thursday 7th October which seems like a very reasonable price. Site licences are available from the site by enquiry. You can purchase the software at the special discount price at this link:

Monday, 4 October 2010

ICT Curriculum

Each of our curriculum co-ordinators has been given a day to explore the planning across the school. The idea is that we would like each teacher to record the progression in skills from the national curriculum and to keep note of the topics/areas of study for each year group.

This week is my turn to look at ICT. I was particularly interested in doing this as I had just read this blog post where the relevance of the curriculum and the QCA Schemes of Work for ICT in 2010 is questioned. The post mentions the evolution of the internet and Google in particular. It also mentions that the searching of CD-ROMs - does anyone use CD-ROMs any more? I can honestly say that I don't and I haven't done for years.

After looking at the planning from the teachers in the school, basing my progression on the National Curriculum, I began to realise that the skills, knowledge and understanding that is described is, in my opinion, nowhere near specific enough and also it doesn't reflect the variety of modern applications of ICT.

So in order to help our staff to meet the demands of the curriculum, challenge the pupils appropriately and include the variety of skills that modern ICT can include, I have looked into different ICT progressions on the internet. I have found two which I think complement each other well which I think staff will helpful and the children will find even more exciting.

The first 'new style curriculum' is the Lancashire Progression. I like the way that the curriculum is split into phases rather than key stages. This means that skills are broken into what should be taught in Key Stage One, lower Key Stage Two and upper Key Stage Two. The progression takes each of the strands from the ICT curriculum and sub-divides them.
  • Exchanging and sharing information is now sub-divided into:
    • Text and multimedia
    • Images, video and animation
    • Sound
    • Electronic communication
  • Finding things out has become:
    • Digital research
    • Data handling
  • Developing ideas and making things happen is:
    • Datalogging
    • Logo and control
    • Simulations and spreadsheet modelling
I think that using these new strands will enable teachers to understand the diversity of skills that should be delivered. The Lancashire progression also features a Software toolkit which gives examples of the software which could be used to deliver the curriculum.

The other progression I like is the Herefordshire progression. Like Lancashire this progression is divided into phases and the strands have been sub-divided too (the names are slightly different but they mean the same thing). This progression gives ideas for the lesson, national curriculum levels and an APP-style grid.

I believe that with a combination of these two progressions our school will be able to deliver a modern, dynamic, diverse ICT curriculum from which the staff and pupils will benefit.

Something else which I have realised I need to learn more about now is the ICT provision in Early Years. This will have to be later in the year!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Learning from the Dragons: James Caan

In my fifth report about what I learned by reading the Dragons' Den book 'Success from Pitch to Profit' , I will share the ideas of James Caan and how they have relevance in education.

James Caan
  • James writes, 'I've learnt that if I want my child to do something, I need to make her feel that it was her idea. For me, this is the same when you are building a business.' I believe that it's so important to empower people by taking on board the ideas of all stakeholders, and especially the children's.
  • His tips for success are:
    • Observe the masses and do the opposite - Whilst I don't know if this is always the right advice, one message I took from this is that as a leader you should be creative and be brave enough to stand by what you believe in.
    • Presentation and preparation matter - We all know this is true. take the time to put yourself into the shoes of other stakeholders and see what they expect from your school.
    • It's the people who make a business successful, not the products - To be successful you must have the right staff.
    • You can - and must - learn from failure - Good advice which we often give to children, but at times in our profession we are so desperate for things to be perfect first time that we are hard on ourselves when things go wrong. Learn from such experiences
The book Dragons' Den: Success from Pitch to Profit can be purchased here: Dragons' Den: Success, From Pitch to Profit

Friday, 1 October 2010

Monthly Review October 2010

It's been a breathtaking month all in all! My feet have hardly touched the ground. My biggest news this month is that my wife is pregnant and that I am going to be a dad in April!!

  • Complete my 10K run - I managed to finish a whole minute faster than last year in 63 minutes! I was very pleased with myself! (One of my past pupils finished 3rd in 36 minutes.)
  • Play squash - Unfortunately I haven't achieved this target. My friend has been unavailable and, to be honest, I've been incredibly busy. Dammit.
  • Finish painting the front of the house - I was doing so well with this but then it has rained most weekend meaning that I still have window frames left to do. I really want to do this before the winter.
  • Enjoy teaching a whole month in Year Three - I've been so busy. I really have enjoyed it, but it has just been an intense start to the year. I haven't found the change easy, but I'm beginning to get into the swing of things.
  • Update the school website for my new year group - The page isn't finished but the children are using the blogs and forums so I am pleased with this.
  • Formulate a progression of the ICT on the school and put together a software map - I have been able to do this. Over the next few weeks I'll be introducing some new ideas to the staff when I try to implement the Lancashire Progression to try to develop standards further.
New Targets:

  • Play squash.
  • Finish painting the windows of the house.
  • Finish sorting my iTunes (editing the song information).

  • Introduce the new ICT progression.
  • Performance management reviews.
  • Sort out my office!

Thursday, 30 September 2010

It's time for the government to Face the Book

I've recently read a couple of blog posts about whether or not to give e-safety advice about children using Facebook and other social networking sites:
Both posts offer plenty of food for thought.

I just find the whole issue very frustrating. Why hasn't there been more guidance on this from the government? The previous government, for me, did not regulate social networking sites at all well, and the coalition government has not indicated that they will either. Therefore the lack of awareness of the potential dangers will continue unless schools themselves make an attempt to teach about being safe online.

But of course, as Digital Teacher points out, by doing this could schools open themselves up to litigation if parents believe that the school 'lead them to believe they were doing things safely'?

As far as I can tell, this is the government's advice regarding e-safety in their safeguarding documents:For me this is a green light to go ahead and offer guidance to children about how to use networks safely (whilst always reminding them that they shouldn't use them at all due to the age restrictions on the sites themselves). But it really shouldn't be down to schools to do this without any regulation. The government must show a greater interest and introduce more specific guidance.

The other huge problem that it is probably not the children that need to learn this - but their parents!

The best source of guidance I've found for using Facebook and other social networks is found here.
"To fulfil their commitment to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people all organisations that provide services for children, parents or families, or work with children, should have in place...

A clear understanding of how to work together to help keep children and young people safe online by being adequately equipped to understand, identify and mitigate the risks of new technology."

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Becta shutdown

I read about the timetable for the shutdown of the Becta website at Primary Bits and Bytes at

‘This will be a staged process, involving the movement from the full web functionality, through an interim “holding site” stage to the final closure of all online activity in March 2011.  Specifically, I would like to draw your attention that the ordering of publications (not downloads) will cease being available from 22nd October, and this will be flagged on the site from October 1st.’
If you require any  hard-copy versions of Becta publications,  you need to visit the site before October 22nd to order them. Printable downloads will still be available after this date.'
So my question to everyone is - if we only have a limited of time - what publications must schools download/order now before it's too late? What is it important for schools to have?

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Weeknote 10

My 'Weeknotes' are now tending to be produced fortnightly so I think I will continue this arrangement. However, I will continue to refer to them as 'Weeknotes'.

This fortnight I have:

Announced that we are having a baby
This week my wife and I went for the three month scan of our baby! Excited is not the word!! This is, of course, life changing news. It has encouraged me to do a lot of thinking and is encouraging me to re-evaluate lots of parts of my life. In particular I need to think about improving my work-life balance which, at the moment, is very poor.

I completed my 10K run at Tatton Park today. My training for this run has not been quite as good as last year, but in a way I guess this is a good thing. Last year I didn't enjoy running for a long time and felt that I had to do it because I'd entered myself into the 10K run. This year I have ran for pleasure (something I once never thought I'd say) and so I haven't forced myself to run in quite the same way. I completed the run in 63 minutes - improving my time from last year by one minute!

Attended a curriculum course
The course I attended was in Rochdale and it gave me lots of food for thought about how we organise the curriculum in our school. I will blog about this as it requires more explanation.

Started Film Club
Last week it was our school's first Film Club (although I will miss the first three clubs!) This has proved to be really popular and I'm looking forward to this being a valuable addition to the after school clubs that we offer. I'd love to hear about other people's experience in running a club.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Learning from the Dragons: Duncan Bannatyne

In my fourth report about what I learned by reading the Dragons' Den book 'Success from Pitch to Profit' , I will share the ideas of Duncan Bannatyne and how they have relevance in education.

Duncan Bannatyne
  • I though this was great advice for leaders: 'I like to work with people whom I can empower by giving them freedom to manage effectively... By delegating to trustworthy employees I am able to take a step back from the frenzy of the day-to-day business and examine the balance sheets, study the bottom line... Because I trust my regional managers and the managers of each health club to run the business, I am free to scrutinise that underperforming club, discover why the profit margin is lower than the rest and then recommend the necessary improvements. Lastly, and crucially for me, though, the art of effective delegation allows me much more time to enjoy the most important part of my life - my family.' It can sometimes be difficult as a leader to delegate, but it is so important. Like Bannatyne says, it allows you to focus on the important details and identify successes and issues within the school. Most importantly it helps to keep a work-life balance, something which I am not very good at doing.
  • His tips for success are:
    • Look after the people - 'I always believe people are the most important aspect to a business, so I look for drive, enthusiasm, knowledge and someone who I can believe I can work with... Leadership is part of this too. People must believe in you and believe in your direction and strategy.' I believe this is great advice - you have to appoint the right people and look after them well so that they succeed for your school and for their career. The proportion of your budget that is spent on staff makes people your most valuable resource - it pays to look after them.
    • Care about your product - In our case, our product is education care for children and it must be of the highest quality.
    • Identify your organisational structure - I believe that a school has to have a clear structure in terms of deployment of staff and also in terms of the curriculum delivered and in terms of policies and protocols. I can imagine that I will be a right stickler for this when I am a headteacher.
    • Look after your suppliers - In our case, our suppliers could refer to two stakeholders - parents and the local community. Look after these people and the reputation of the school will stay strong.
    • Communicate - 'If you do not have the correct procedures and communication lines in place, then it will all fall to pieces...' In school, the importance of keeping everyone in the loop is important. Use of technology will play a significant role in this, but it's also crucial to not forget to talk too!!

    The book Dragons' Den: Success from Pitch to Profit can be purchased here: Dragons' Den: Success, From Pitch to Profit

    Saturday, 18 September 2010

    Learning from the Dragons: Theo Paphitis

    In my third report about what I learned by reading a book about the stars of Dragons' Den, I will share the ideas of my favourite Dragon, Theo Paphitis.
    Theo Paphtitis
    • Describing when he took on the struggling business of Ryman, Theo says, 'First and foremost, I had to bring everyone on side. I needed to get them buying into my dream, my ambitions for the company and get them buying into my dream, my ambitions for the company and the brand before I did anything else. If I couldn't do that I knew I would never succeed.' This is very much the case when trying to share a vision with your staff. Everyone has to buy in to the vision so it is important to be dynamic and visionary and pull people in the same direction.
    • He explains that he had to 'gain the confidence of the suppliers, restock the business and make sure that we provided the service that our customers needed. And then, hey presto, the results started coming through.' This could be a message about teaching our pupils the right way - learning about their needs and then providing them appropriately. The results will then start coming through...
    • He offeres good advice for taking an interview: preparation. 'Do your homework and know your business and there is nothing that will come up that you won't be able to answer with style.' Before an interview you should research the school and position you are applying for so that your answers are relevant to your potential employer. Make reference to things you've seen in the school or what you've learned from the school website, Ofsted report and other research.
    • His best rules for success are:
      • Keep it simple, stupid! - 'Simple communication means everybody buys into what you'r trying to achieve'. Great advice!
      • Don't Scrimp on the Technology - In an every changing world, technology is a part of everyday life and it's important that your staff have the right training and the best equipment (this includes admin staff).
      • Don't let things stagnate - 'You've got to be constantly looking at how to be ahead of the game. Put in new initiatives, set new targets each year. That way your staff will get more experience, and the business stays fresh and moves faster.' Great advice I think!
    The book Dragons' Den: Success from Pitch to Profit can be purchased here: Dragons' Den: Success, From Pitch to Profit

    Sunday, 12 September 2010

    Weeknote 9

    This fortnight I have:

    Been painting
    Last weekend I was busy painting the garage and the shelter at the front of the house. I hate painting but I need to do it. Before the end of the month I also want to paint the windows on the outside downstairs too.

    Returned to school
    It's incredible how after two minutes in school the summer holidays feel like a distant dream. I feel very disorganised. After a number of years knowing exactly what I'm doing in Year Six, I'm trying to get used to a new year group as well as complete all of the managerial/leadership tasks I need to do as well. I'll sort myself out soon.

    Taught my new class
    Whilst I love my new class, I don't mind admitting that I've not found my first week with my class easy. Pitching the lessons is very different, and, in fact, planning the lessons is difficult too. It's all because I've been in the same year group for so long. The challenge is an exciting one, but it's going to take time to adjust.

    Attended meetings
    Since my first day back I've been involved in meetings every day apart from one. Not having the time after school to get on with things makes a huge difference so I've been bringing too much home with me, which I've promised myself I will try not to do.

    Saturday, 11 September 2010

    Learning from the Dragons: Deborah Meaden

    I recently enjoyed reading a book about the Dragons in Dragons' Den. It struck me that the advice they give has significance in the education world as well as the business world. This week I'll consider the ideas from Deborah Meaden.

    Deborah Meaden
    • As a deputy head teacher I come into contact with most the school's pupils almost every day. Deborah Meaden gives some good advice about how she deals with meeting such a large amount of people. 'In a day I'd probably see a thousand people. I tried to recognise and remember most of them and if I couldn't, I learned to look as if I did. Recognise people, make them feel important, and they'll remember you - that's what I learned.' This is very much true in school. The best piece of advice I have ever been given is that you should try to have a proper conversation with every child as often as you can - make them feel special. I think that can make the difference between a good teacher and a great teacher.
    • She also describes the importance of providing nice facilities. 'Provide a great social environment, make people feel welcome, make them feel a part of what's going on... The emphasis was on environment and good service; there might be seven arcades on the sea front, so how did we get people to choose ours?... Why would the customer choose you?' First impressions count. When showing visitors around your school the appearance of the school makes more of an impact than any other factor.
    • She describes the way that 'an over-fluent sales pitch' puts her off a person. 'Nothing makes me more suspicious... I've got to be able to get under the skin of the person I'm talking to. I've got to be able to trust and believe in that person. People in full-on slick automatic sales mode scare the living daylights out of me.' This to me seems like good advice for when interviewing - it's all very well to talk the talk, but it's important to show character. Will the person you are interviewing fit in with your staff? Have they got the character to be an asset to the staff? Are they able to back up their words with action?
    • Her tips for success are:
      • Create a business plan - Today, to have a school improvement plan goes without saying. But Meaden mentions that a plan should 'be built by you, on your visions, with your knowledge and clearly reflect your goals and milestones.' It's important that the plan is inclusive of stakeholders' opinions and ideas and that it is a plan for your school - not for Ofsted!
      • Don't fool yourself - 'It's easy to get carried away with a good idea: be honest with yourself. There is a difference between being passionate about your product and taking a coo, critical look at what you are planning to do.' Good advice I thought. It's easy to think your way is the only way - be reflective and evaluate your ideas.
      • Stay cool under pressure - This speaks for itself!
      • Research - 'Know your market, know your competition and know your basic figures'. Data has never been more important in education. It should back up everything that happens in school.
    The book Dragons' Den: Success from Pitch to Profit can be purchased here: Dragons' Den: Success, From Pitch to Profit

    Saturday, 4 September 2010

    Learning from the Dragons: Peter Jones

    I have always been interested in the world of business. At one point, in college, I wasn't sure whether to study education or business at university. In the end I went for education and the rest is history.

    I am still interested in business though, and one of my favourite business programmes on TV is Dragons' Den. I recently bought a copy of the book 'Success from Pitch to Profit' for 99p and enjoyed reading it on holiday in North Devon. Whilst reading it I couldn't help but draw some parallels between the beliefs of the dragons about how to succeed in business with some of my own beliefs about success in education and the ideals I will take with me when I eventually go on to become a headteacher.

    Over the next few weeks I wanted to share what I have learned by reading this book. The first dragon's inspiring words belong to Mr Peter Jones.

    Peter Jones
    • Peter talks about the way he went about employing people when he first started out. He talks about 'talking to a few people and looking in the local area'. I think it's so important to base appointments on recommendations and references. I would much rather offer a job to someone who I know has a track record.
    • He describes the type of person he wanted to employ: 'someone who walks into the meeting room looking sharp and clean cut, and who has investigated the business they're coming into. I wanted to know 'Why should I employ you? What is it about you that's going to make a difference? What can you tell me about my own business? What can you do differently?' Surely this applies in education too? I would want to employ someone who has done their homework about my school; someone who can offer something that will make a difference to my school; smeone who looks sharp and dynamic.
    • When meeting job candidates various questions should run through your mind - just like in Dragons' Den. Jones explains, "When someone comes up the stairs into the Den I first look at their presentation - how they look, how they speak, how concise they are, are they getting the message across? Then in my head I quickly run through a few key business questions... How much have they researched their product? What's their previous history? How much experience have they had in this market before?" These are all things to consider when appointing a new teacher. Very often schools appoint NQTs who have relatively limited experience, and so then other factors play a greater role, like references, lesson observations, conduct and personality.
    • Peter Jones also gives four rules to success which I think hold great advice for leaders:
      • Vision - Have a clear vision - think big. 'One horizon always reveals another.'
      • Influence - 'Influence is twinned with win-win.' To be a successful leader you need to have influence.
      • Confidence - 'An inner self-belief is like a cornerstone under the tallest building. There is no such thing as failure, only feedback.' It's important to have confidence and belief in yourself and in your team.
      • Take action  - 'Enterpreneurs make things happen.' Overcome barriers to make your vision come to fruition.
    The book Dragons' Den: Success from Pitch to Profit can be purchased here: Dragons' Den: Success, From Pitch to Profit

    Friday, 3 September 2010

    Can't hear for all the noise

    Before I continue this post I want to make it clear that I love Twitter. I love the way it has enabled me to interact with people I've never met, to share ideas with people on the other side of the world, to see that there are professionals that are as passionate about teaching as I am and to read about such a variety of people and their lives. I'm amazed by the generosity, kindness and humour shown by people who need just 140-characters to make an impact. I just wanted to record my feelings that I've been having for the last month or so.

    I've been using Twitter for over two years now. I remember tentatively following those first few people. Back then it was a major decision whether to follow or not. I would read their short-bio and look at their last few tweets. I'd even look at the website which is linked to from their Twitter page. Each person I added seemed to inspire me more and more.

    But I guess that what I have done over time is to get a bit blase about following. Gradually the decision about whether or not to follow was just to look at recent tweets. Sometimes I'd just quickly read the bio. Occasionally I'd just look at the username to see if it sounded like an educator.

    Without wanting to offend anyone, during the last few weeks I've realised that I've begun to follow too many people. I would load up Tweetdeck during my holiday and have a read of what's going on in Twitter. But it was so hard to find meaning and inspiration when there's so much going on! I had a small cull of followers, losing a few businesses that I didn't know why I followed in the first place. I unfollowed a few people from outside the UK who I found that I couldn't really relate to and had had no interaction with. I lost various 'celebrities' whom I followed during the Twitter boom of 2009.

    There are still a few things that can make the Twitter experience difficult.

    I'm beginning to grow tired of the re-tweet facility (the new way and the old way). Some days about 20% of the tweets that come through my stream are retweets. (I wonder if there's a way to block these?)

    Shortened links can put me off - just because they don't look very inviting. Whilst I appreciate that they are necessary to share links when you have a 140-character limit, I would prefer to know where I'm going before I click.

    At time Twitter can feel quite heavy. I know that often the network is made fun of because people can tweet about mundane acts of everyday life. But sometimes I feel like people only like to tweet about school and education. I quite like to hear about what people are up to as well as develop my personal learning network.

    Just by not following a few I feel like I've made a massive difference and Twitter has become inspiring once again (and I hope I've not offended anyone).

    I wondered if anyone else can relate to my experiences...


    Wednesday, 1 September 2010

    Monthly Review September 2010

    August proved to be a much more productive month and I was pleased with what I achieved, even if some of the achievements were not targets!

    • Go running eight times - Whilst I feel pleased with my running, I feel disappointed that I didn't get myself into a rhythm and go running as often as I would have liked.
    • Start playing squash again - Unfortunately my friend has been unavailable to play this month. Hopefully I can manage this soon.
    • Begin to tidy up the garage - I managed to take lots of junk to the recycling centre so I was pleased. I still need to tidy, but need to get rid of an old fridge and freezer first.
    • Paint the fence - It took me a while but the fence is finally painted and I was also pleased to have painted some of the outside of the house as well.
    • Tidy up my office at home - It's not perfect, but I am happy with this.
    • Set up my brand new classroom - My classroom is sorted and I'm pleased with the way it's set up.
    • Move in to my office at school properly! - I've officially moved into my office and I'm looking forward to being productive in there during the next school year.
    • Plan my first lessons for Year Three - All planned, but I'm nervous about pitching them right. I guess it will take me a week or two.
    • Revamp my blog and Twitter - I'm rebranded but there are still one or two things to change.
    New Targets:

    • Complete my 10K run.
    • Play squash.
    • Finish painting the front of the house.

    • Enjoy teaching a whole month in Year Three.
    • Update the school website for my new year group.
    • Formulate a progression of the ICT on the school and put together a software map.

    Weeknote 8

    A bit late, but last week I:

    Played football
    I played twice last week, however it can at the expense of going running.

    Caught up on a few things that needed to be done
    My car passed its MOT and we had the central heating serviced. Trivial but important!

    Wow, it's going to take some getting used to planning for Year Three!

    I painted the garden fence and the front door. Glad that job's done for another year!

    Cleared the garage
    I finally took some loads of junk to the tip to be recycled.

    Not the most exciting week, but I'm afraid it had to be done - it's the holidays!!

    Tuesday, 31 August 2010

    Year Six Teacher is dead... Long live Year Three Teacher!!

    It is a sad day for me (not just because it's the last day of the summer holidays) because as from today I will no longer be Year Six Teacher. From tomorrow I will be teaching Year Three!

    This change is an exciting one, but one that also fills me with nerves!

    I am moving from Year Six for one reason only - to gain more experience. I have taught Year Six since I qualified as a teacher back in 2001 and I love it! Each year I have seen our curriculum evolve and become exciting and interesting for the children and for the teachers! It really is a brilliant year group to teach and I will miss it terribly. Amongst other things, I will miss the humour of the children, the visits (especially the trip to France), the ability of the children, the way that the children approach their responsibilities so professionally, the indepenence of the children and the curriculum that we teach. However, after nine years in Year Six (and in the same classroom), it is more than time for a change.

    Year Three promises to be really exciting and I'm looking forward to teaching a new curriculum, moving to a new classroom, new situations, new visits and the opportunity to help shape the Year Group into something I am very proud of. However, I am not afraid to admit that the move makes me really nervous. For the first time in nine years I'm not really clear about what I'm teaching from day to day. I'm worried that I'll pitch the lessons all wrong until I adjust. It will be a challenge to tackle situations with children with needs that I'm unfamiliar with. I will miss my old classroom too!

    Over the last few years this blog has evolved into a place for me to share ideas and thoughts about issues that affect Year Six, management, technology and education in general. I wish to continue with this but there will also be an opportunity to reflect on my experiences as I move year group.

    Thank you to all Year Six teachers who have supported the blog over the years and I hope that they find my thoughts as a Year Three teacher interesting. This blog will remain live for the time being, but all my new posts will be at the new blog. My Twitter username will change to @y3teacher

    The new blog url is:

    Sunday, 22 August 2010

    Weeknote 7

    This week I have...

    Been on holiday
    We've enjoyed a great week in North Devon. We booked a holiday apartment for a week in Ilfracombe. We had two days of glorious sunshine and we spent these two days at the beach in Woolacombe. From the Tuesday onwards it rained... and rained... and rained. It was torrential at times! We managed to visit various places: Combe Martin, Clovelly, Croyde, Barnstaple, Bideford, Great Torrington, Westward Ho! and Appledore. We had a good day at Exmoor Zoo and watched a stunt show on the Tuesday evening. It was great to be sent some recommendations about where to eat using Twitter!

    Realised that I need a Twitter cull
    I have read lots of tweets using Tweetdeck during the week and I've realised that I follow so many people that it's hard to find usefulness and meaning from all those tweets. I need to look more carefully at the profiles of the people I follow.

    Sunday, 15 August 2010

    Weeknote 6

    I'm writing this from our holiday in Devon!

    This week I have...

    I've caught up on blogging during the week. I wrote a review of a book by Terry Freedman which he has linked to from his website at

    I've been painting the fence in an effort to keep up with the targets I set in my monthly review.

    Set up my classroom
    The drawers and cupboards are now labelled and the room is set out how I want it.

    Been to a wedding
    We had a fabulous day at a wedding in Whitchurch.

    The journey to Ilfracombe was a nightmare thanks to an overturned caravan which held up up for two hours. Still, we are here now, and looking forward to a great week!!

    Saturday, 14 August 2010

    Engaging with families

     A couple of months ago I raided the Becta website for publications in the fear that they might suddenly disappear. Fortunately the government's cost cutting initiatives haven't included cutting bandwidth to the Becta website just yet, so the document I refer to hasn't disappeared yet. (Incidentally, I wonder what will happen to the publications when Becta does fold?)

    Messages from the evidence: Engaging with Families talks about how technology can be used to engage with  parents more effectively. It is based on research from a 2009 survey and is intended to help schools to use what technology has to offer to improve parental engagement. There is an expectation for all primary schools to offer secure online access for parents to information about their child's learning and school life (assuming this expectation still exists).

    Now I am well aware that many schools are miles in advance of our school, but here are some things that our school does to use technology to engage with families and what I would like the school to do in the not too distant future.
    • Text messages - we subscribed to a school texting system around 18 months ago and it has proved to be a massive hit! Staff love it because it is simple to use and it is an effective way to contact parents. the feedback from parents has been fantastic. I'm not sure how it will work, but next year I want to enable to function where parents can reply to the texts. I don't know if it will become over-complicated for our office staff to manage.
    • Emails - the same texting system now offers an email package. We mainly use the system to send newsletters home, reducing the number of printed letters by 75% in the process. In the next year I want to extend this to other letters (e.g. trip letters and after school club letters). This will save time and paper.
    • Twitter - although it's hard to tell how effective our Twitter feed is unless people start to follow, I'm sure the fact that our tweets are displayed at the very top of our website means that people must take some note of the news items that pop up daily. I only wish that the Local Authority would unblock it so it can be shared with the children in school.
    • Blogs - the Year Six blog that my colleague and I ran has been extremely popular amongst our pupils. Next year it's time to extend this throughout the school and one of my challenges for the learning platform is to demonstrate to staff how to use the blogging tool and get them using it! A blog about our visit to France and a visit in another year group proved to be very well received! It will be important to demonstrate to parents how and where to leave comments.
    • The school website (learning platform) - we are just scratching on the surface of the possibilities this offers. During the summer I will be redesigning the school's homepage to make it easier for parents to find essential information like holiday dates, diary dates and news. (I'm sure that I found a statistic somewhere about how many clicks within a website that a visitor will make before they get frustrated and leave. I want to reduce the number of clicks in order to find these items.)
    • 'Enable parents to book appointments and consultations online' - blimey! The document recommends this and it would be really cool. I just haven't got a clue how to do it!
    • Links on the school website - our Delicious bookmarks feed into our website (using RSS feeds) but I need to add links for parents like local council websites.
    • Homework - A survey of parents in 2009 showed that 97% had internet access. I wonder if I could set staff the challenge to distribute some homework to be completed online only?
    • Sessions for parents - I would like to offer sessions for parents to demonstrate how to use the school website and the different technologies we offer.
    • Online reports - Next year we will be revamping our reporting process. I wonder if we can make the reports available online?
    Of course, the document reminds us that,
    "No one-size fits all. Good communication includes a range of options to fit around parents' different needs and circumstances, including technology strategies and non-technology strategies."
    I guess you can't beat face-to-face interaction in the end! But I'd love to hear from people about how they engage with parents using technology.

    Thursday, 12 August 2010

    Teachers Pet

    In the process of setting up my brand new Year Three classroom I looked around for some classroom labels that would be good for labelling drawers, pegs and a few other bits and pieces like a visual timetable.

    I was delighted to find some fantastic items on the Teachers Pet website ( which is completely free! I loved the animal labels in particular which I have used to create drawer labels, and the visual timetable will be perfect to use on the wall. It was good to find resources which are editable too!

    If you have any labels needed for your classroom, I cannot recommend this site enough.

    Tuesday, 10 August 2010

    Go On, Bore 'Em by Terry Freedman

    I wanted to write a quick review of this book by Terry Freedman which is available here which talks about why some ICT lessons can be excruciatingly dull.

    Whilst very much aimed at secondary ICT teachers, I actually think a lot of his ideas can be transferred to primary school teachers, and not just for ICT.

    The starter activity
    The logical and scientific way that he explains the need for a starter activity is superb. When I work with trainee teachers I will pass them the book so that they can read this chapter to help them to understand the need to plan an engaging starter activity.
    "In one lesson I observed, as part of an ICT inspection I was undertaking, it was 8 minutes between the first student entering the room and the last one entereing the room... The first student to enter had 8 minutes in which he was expected to sit down and say and do nothing. The second student had slightly less than 8 minutes for the same thing, and so on. In other words, by the time the last student entered the room, most of the students already in the room were now virtually unmanageable."
    Doesn't that make sense? I think it really highlights the importance of planning a starter activity.

    The myth of students' superior technical knowledge
    I thought that this chapter would help me to get through to teachers who plan activities in ICT without planning a purpose for the challenge. It will help to show the need for the need to plan a task where pupils can apply their skills and knowledge and show real understanding of ICT.

    The chapter on too much talking by the teacher will also be invaluable advice for students. I guess we all have lessons where we 'go on a bit', but again the logical reasons he uses to justify his advice are spot on!

    Moving to Year Three next year is something that's on my mind. I'm not quite clear yet what the homework routine will be in this year group, but the advice about homework in this book will be useful. He argues that homework is not a bolt-on, but should be an integral part of the lesson. He writes that homework, "Should help ensure that what goes on in the lesson itself is useful and meaningful and that the time in the lesson is well-spent." This is great justifucation for making greater use of our learning platform and its forums and wikis at home to form part of the homework routine.

    There's more great advice which I will offer to trainee teachers about good plenaries, but I also found the chapter on data to be very interesting, particularly after my work on data in my Leadership Pathways course.

    Go On, Bore 'Em by Terry Freedman is a worthwhile read. It can be purchased here.

    Sunday, 8 August 2010

    Weeknote 5

    I knew that 'Weeknote' was over-ambitious. I know I've said it before, but I've just been so busy. There's literally been something on every weekend since the end of May and unfortunately blogging didn't get done.

    Time to get back on track...

    This week I have...

    Sorted my iTunes
    Music is so important to me that I enjoy spending time editing the information about each an every tune. When I started to use iTunes in February I didn't think the process of making sure all of the song details are up-to-date would take as long as it has, but the end is now in sight - I've finished all of the songs beginning by artists from M to Z which means that I've don't over half of the alphabet. M took forever (due to hundreds of Michael Jackson, Michael Buble etc. songs)

    Watched films
    It's been nice to relax with my wife and watch a few films. We watched Toy Story 3 the other day (enjoyable film). A while ago I bought the Two and a Half Men series one boxset and we've enjoyed watching these too!

    Been ill
    I felt really poorly from Tuesday night to Thursday morning. On Wednesday I went to bed at 6 and was in bed until 10 on Thursday morning. It's not like me to do that. Still I'm better now.

    Caught up on jobs in my office
    All of the pictures taken at school and home over the last few months have been uploaded to the relevant Flickr collection. I've sorted various things that needed doing in the office.

    Begun to prepare for my new class
    Moving to Year Three promises to be very exciting and I can't wait, but I don't mind admitting that I'm very nervous about it. So it was a relief this week to meet up with my colleague and begin to plan the year.

    Saturday, 7 August 2010

    Monthly Review August 2010

    Well, I have to say that my monthly review process has been an absolute waste of time. Of the targets I set, I have achieved very few, in particular my personal targets. I have learned a lesson which I need to try to address next year, that basically my life has been devoted to school for the last two months. The last half-term at school has been so busy that when I came home each evening I didn't really feel like doing much. But with loads of social events (I know I shouldn't complain, but there were so many) I found fitting in anything productive at home very difficult.



    Go running eight times - Disaster! Just after writing my monthly review I injured my ankle whilst running and could barely walk for a week. It meant that I didn't go running for two months! I am back on track now though.
    Start playing squash again - Disaster! I didn't play at all - with many evening events with school and various social events over the last couple of months I just didn't get chance.
    Begin to tidy up the garage - Disaster! I can only blame my lack on enthusiasm and lack of time for this one.

    Organise the school's 'university' project - Done! Read my blog post here.
    Write my school reports - Done! Arrrgghhh! I need to write much less next year! 
    Collate the pupil questionnaires - Done, although quite late. Unfortunately I had other priorities during the last few weeks at school that these sort of fell by the wayside.

    New Targets:

    Go running eight times - I must do this!!

    Start playing squash again - I'm looking forward to doing this
    Begin to tidy up the garage - I need to do this.
    Paint the garden fence - (I just need motivation and good weather)

    Tidy up my office at home - That means complete all of the work that I've piled up in there!
    Set up my brand new classroom - I'm moving to Year Three - more on this soon!
    Move in to my office at school properly!
    Plan my first lessons for Year Three
    Revamp my blog and Twitter - Year3Teacher!
    I plan for August to be a more productive month!! (I promise!)

    Saturday, 31 July 2010

    Tanzanian visitors

    For a year or so now our school has been involved in Tanzed's charity work by becoming a partner school with a school in Tanzania. In October, staff from our school travelled to Africa to meet the teachers from our partner school and spent a week decorating a classroom, sharing resources and learning about the Tanzanian way of life.

    During a week in June two teachers from our partner school came to England to spend some time in our school. I have to say that it made me do a lot of thinking about how I take so many things for granted.

    The teachers spent much of the week in school visiting classes and working with the children. They came to watch a lesson I taught, working on frisbee skills and playing ultimate frisbee with the class. Our visitors' faces began to smile as they could see the simplicity of the game and the possibility of creating new games with the frisbees. The children insisted that we gave them some frisbees to take home with them.

    We had various old laptops in school which are no longer used by staff as they are too slow. We arranged for our technician to strip two of them down until the basics (an office package) and a few educational programs were on there. The school bought two digital cameras for our partner school. It was wonderful to think our visitors would be returning home with two laptops and two digital cameras - I try to imagine what a difference this would make in their school.

    A local company made a significant donation by purchasing a full football kit for the children to wear in Africa! Our own school kit was purchased in 2007 and various pieces have gone missing over the years. I'm confident that in three years time the African kit will be completed and cared for.

    We had an evening to celebrate our visitors when all local schools who have taken part in the scheme met together. One of our visitors made a speech and he said how privileged he was to come to our country and said how much he had learned! I don't think he realised how much we have learned from their appreciation of everything and their desire to make education better for their students!

    Over the week I learned how lucky I am to work in a school which is resourced and is able to offer the children an excellent education. But I also realised how important it is to not always rely on these resources - an enthusiastic and engaging teacher is what really makes the difference.