Holiday – or is it?

It is something that comes with the territory but is it right?

I know that teachers get a good deal when it comes to amount of holiday (although it is always the most expensive time to go away on holiday) but what is the expectation in terms of work when school is out?

It is during the holidays that major work is undertaken as to avoid disruption to the learning and quite right too. Unfortunately in small schools this often means it is left to the headteacher to oversee.

In my case, this year the School’s heating is having a major overhaul and the place is being turned upside down. It is a bit of a nightmare in terms of organisation and to ensure the school will be fit to open in September. The work will take the full six weeks.

My question is to what degree is it my job to give up my holiday in order to project manage this? There is no budget to pay someone and so it falls on me.

Stories in the press from the past show how contentious it is for Headteachers to give up their holiday and take some time out once September comes. Yes the school should be able to run whilst the head is away but in the day and age where we fine for school absence can this be justified to parents?

I’m not sure many people really believe that holiday time is given up in such instances but it is fact – I am proof of that yet again.

So what is expected? What is general opinion? What is right and wrong in this situation? Or is it another thing to just suck up and accept ?


Importance of Moral Purpose

It has been 8 months since my last post and over two years since I decided to wear my on my sleeve with a very emotive blog about my future. 

I received a huge response from people from all over the country, offering support and advice or just sharing their own story of bullying tactics by people in authority. I gave a great deal of thought to a change of career, to leaving those who think it is straightforward to turn a school around just by sacking everyone, to get on with it and admit defeat. Such bleak and lonely days. 

Two years on I am really happy to say that I am still here, still in post and very proud of my school, staff and pupils. After many  battles, blood sweat and tears we were visited by Ofsted in November and received their acknowledgement that we were indeed a good school. 

This was no surprise to us. We have been living under the shadow of an RI judgement for many years and by sticking to our beliefs and insisting those mentioned above stay away from our school and stop damaging morale and stop gun running, we got on with the job of teaching children and changing the culture of the school.

My school is full of active learners, children quick to make it known if they are not being stretched and taught appropriately. Children who are curious about the world, who ask questions, seek answers and talk so eloquently about their leading. 

Would this have been the case if we had taken on board the advice and guidance of the powers that be? I don’t think so. We may have magically produced some decent data to keep the wolves away but it would have been superficial and not life changing in the way I believe it has been.

Standing up for what you believe in sometimes leaves you swimming in the opposite direction to those around you. This is by no means easy but the way I think about it is “how could I live with myself if I went with the flow and failed? ”

The stunning thing is those who were so distructive and critical, keen to see the back of me are now falling over themselves to praise our success and declare how they recognised quality leadership and supported? us. 

I have watched them try to squeeze any link to our success that they can for themselves. 

It is underhand and dishonest. But I can hold my head up and feel proud. Proud to sticking to my beliefs. Proud to having a wonderful team who believed in me and stood by my side. Proud of the children who are the reason we do this job after all. Proud of sticking to my moral purpose.

Staying True to What You Believe

These are most certainly interesting times in the world of education. Not only are we going through an emense period of change but it seems to me that the change is being instigated for the wrong reasons. 

During my time as a headteacher, I have learned many things but the one thing that is consistently being proved to me is the  importance of sticking to what you believe in. 

The politics come and go. New fads and fashions seem never ending. Politicians chasing the next headline and wanting to leave their own footprint of our world. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am a advocate of change. But change based on reason and evidence of need.

If you. Have read any of my previous blogs you will realise that I have been through many ups and downs. The times when I have been told I am incompetent because I refuse to stray from my core values and jump through hoops. I am in this business to help our young people to become functioning human beings who have the ability to make the world their own. The debate on testing, league tables, measurements of progress are all important debates but do they really enable us. To achieve our goal?

All year 6 teachers are going through the worries and concerns about hitting the governments expectations. My advice is stay true to yourself and teach the children well, teach them to be independent learners and to love learning and the tests and data will take care of themselves.

I am fed up with our profession behaving like sheep and spending too much time on what Ofsted may say. The way head teachers follow each other through rumour after rumour of what will keep ofsted happy and out of the way. 

Our job is bigger and more important than that. Our job is more important than those politicians out to stroke their egos. Our job is bigger and more important than ofsted and other external accountability structures. 

We are accountable to the children we teach and to the future society. So please stop following the crowd and bowing to the  whims that are thrust upon us. Make sure you are clear in what you believe and stay focused on making that the reality.  Do our children proud by putting them first and not the politics. I promise you it is worth the fight.

You will never please everybody and there are many times when you will come up against huge barriers and resistance but staying true to yourself and the reason you came into the job is the thing that will ensure your success. 

Just when you thought…

If you asked me a few weeks ago how things are going, I would have excitedly told you that we are in a good place and growing strong. 

This week, ask me the same and I may have a slightly different answer. 

Actually things are going well on the whole. The children are more often than not excited, engaged and driven. Standards have never been higher and outcomes look positive. 

The frustration is staffing. Like so many schools in the current climate, stakes are high, good staff are hard to come by. 

Appointing good teachers seems harder than ever. Keeping good teachers is an ever increasing challenge. 

Finances don’t allow the ability to just focus on getting the best as cost has to come into it to stay afloat. 

In a one form entry school with a minute percentage of pupil premium, we find ourselves yet again at crunch point. 

My deputy, such a key player in our school improvement, has been non-class based for the last couple of years, has suddenly had to go back into class to pick up the pieces of a failing teacher – this will be the third change of teacher for this class this year! I can’t risk another unknown teacher. 

This week my year 2 teacher (such a critical year group and a critical time) tells me she is applying for a job she will most certainly get and therefore leave us with a dilemma for year 2. Do I risk an unknown? Do I juggle my staff around, disrupting a number of classes? Do I teach them myself for a term while I recruit properly? 

All of the above is par of the course but puts us yet again in a vulnerable position. With my budget looking likely to cripple us I am reaching out for my bouncy aid again. 

Positive v Negative

If there is one thing I have learned as a headteacher is that maintaining a positive attitude and outlook is something that doesn’t always come easy but is probably the most powerful tool to have in your toolkit.

In the last few years, the education has probably seen more change than any other sector. The constant barrage of negative  press proclaiming the failure of schools in educating our young people, combined with the fact that everybody and his dog has a opinion on how to improve schools, just breeds a constant negativity that is beyond anything else that I am aware of.

The number of teachers that avoid, when asked, “and what do you do for a living?” is astonishingly high. Why might this be? What is it that causes of this type of response?

Well, unfortunately, I believe the answer lies in the profession itself.  Everywhere you look there are images, blogs, tweets, posted by teachers that paint a picture of working in a school as being not too dissimilar than being punished. The countdown to the weekend or the next school holiday, the images of a bedraggled person managing to survive the tortures of the week, the oversized wine glasses celebrating getting to the end or maybe commiserating the pains of a week in school.

It has shocked me over the last few weeks to see the number of very influential educational bloggers getting sucked into this mindset. Taking along with them their followers in their hoards all promoting what a miserable job they see to be in.

If we, the profession, are happy to promote this image then we should not be shocked when teachers are portrayed in the press as a bunch of whingers who do nothing but moan unless they are on one of their long and regular holiday period.

I am proud of the job I do. I believe that teaching is possibly the most important job of all. I feel huge privilege to play a part on shaping the lives of our children and hopefully making a difference to others. To be able to support a child as they begin to understand the world around them helping them to become independent thinkers, problem solvers,  policy makers of the future.

Of course, it is not always easy -there are many challenges working in schools and we may even begin to question why we do it  some days (see one of my previous blogs) but if one enters each day just waiting for it to be over then may I suggest it may be the wrong job?

Each day the children are welcomed into school by a member of SLT with a smile and a cheery “good morning”. This is crucial in seeking the time and atmosphere for the day.

A simple smile and a positive comment makes all the difference.

Of course difficult and serious  conversations are to be had but in a job that is difficult enough a contagious positivity rather than the distructive negativity goes such a long way.

Life is too short and our influence on othes is great. Let’s pass a smile and share the joys of being a teacher rather than cling onto the woes and moans of the mood hoovers.

Sunday period 4 – Packing the Head’s briefcase

1. My proper pen and proper ink Heads sign a lot of documents, contracts, policies, orders, cheques. Be prepared. there are also letters, lots of them but the best are my own letters.I often write and thank people for their work or contribution, if I was a banker of course that would […]

School Data Updates: The Progress Paradox

The Echo Chamber

School Data Updates: The Progress Paradox: There is a radical concept in urban design known as shared space. It involves the removal of kerbs, street furniture, and painted lines in o…

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Persistence and Resiliance

It has been a while since I last posted and thought it only fitting that I provide an update following my huge low moment back in November. 

For the first time in my career I hit an almighty low, searching through the job ads looking for a way out, a new chapter. The response on here was tremendous. So many supportive comments and emails that I cannot begin to tell you how touched I was. What hit home was the shocking number of people going through similar experiences. So many who entered the profession wanting to make a difference only to find themselves struggling to survive.

Being a headteacher of a school that “requires improvement” for a second time is a huge challenge and one which nearly saw me give up. I am pleased to say that with the support found on here and a few close colleagues I am still here and fighting! My battles with the LA continued quite ferociously. My determination to keep the children at the centre of the journey proved to be my saviour. 

At times I have been told “narrow the curriculum”, “forget doing all the ‘nice’ things”, “until your results show massive improvement just focus on Literacy and Numeracy”. What a load of rubbish! If we want children to learn we must engage them, excite them, stimulate their minds, not switch them off and bore them. Yes the data is important but it shouldn’t be instead of real expernience and awe and wonder.

If anything, this last year has taught me to stick to what I believe. Keep the important things in sight at all times. Reducing schools to numbers on a page does not change lives or open doors. It narrows opportunity and creates narrow mindedness. 

I believe I have a fabulous year ahead with a new strong team and a focus on making the ordinary exciting and wonderful. Inspiring minds and promoting real learning. It may be a long tough journey but one which is worth the blood sweat and tears. Resilience, persistence and a reminder to keep with what you believe in – we will get there! 

Who Put the Ass in Assessment? Exams vs Education.

Trivium 21c


“You were present on the occasion of the destruction of these trinkets, and, indeed, are the more guilty of the two, in the eye of the law; for the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction.”

If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, “the law is a ass — a idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is, that his eye may be opened by experience — by experience.” Charles Dickens: Oliver Twist

We suppose that if pupils work under the direction of their teachers they will be well educated and that exam assessment will reflect the qualities inherent in the child, his teacher, and the institution he attends. Exams should be the cherry on top of the trifle of education, a celebration of learning rather than a precise calibration. Amanda Spielman…

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The List Of UK Education Bloggers Version 11.1

The Echo Chamber

This is a slightly updated list of UK education blogs with around 60 more blogs than the last list.

This list should include almost all education blogs by people in or from the UK that have been updated in the last 6 months and have a (just about) working feed. There’s two or three blogs that have to be removed on ethical grounds (they promote highly dubious, unproven and potentially exploitative treatments for SEN). I haven’t tried to include all the staffrm blogs, but it should include all those that have posted before April and in the last 6 months (look at the number of blogs that are untitled or just called “blog”). I haven’t tried to include education news feeds from newspapers.

I do suggest you look for your own blog here and let me know in the comments or on Twitter if you can’t find it. However, before…

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