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!!