About

I’m an experienced teacher at a large comprehensive school. Prior to retraining to join the front line, I worked at the Department for Education for over a decade. I rant about education policy below the line in the Guardian, and also on Twitter. And now here.

All views here are my own, and are not posted in any official capacity. They do not represent the views of my employers, my colleagues or anyone else. All comments are based on information from a number of sources, and are intended to be polemical, provocative and – hopefully – entertaining. None of my posts should be read as referring to specific individuals or organisations unless named as such.

23 thoughts on “About

  1. Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your piece in today’s Guardian. Couldn’t agree with it more – and written with great style.

    Once, at one of these interminable evenings, I heard a parent (for whom I developed an instant admiration) explain in an entirely matter-of-fact way to her child as they walked through our rather dowdy library: ‘look, your sister comes here, it’s not far to walk and they say the dinners are alright’.

    I always believed that the school should have adopted it instead of one the forgettable newspeak mottos they eventually chose.

    Jon Berry

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jon, that’s very kind.

      The whole purpose of all my blogs is generally to give myself some psychological relief, as I find that the educational world I read about is just completely different from the reality I exist in. The schools system described by politicians and the media seems to exist only in their minds, although all their policies seem designed to address this non-existent alternate universe.

      If other teachers take any comfort from the knowledge that there are others who see the world their way, then that’s even better!

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      • Describes me exactly. So pleased I was able to quit the nightmare created by a succession of know-nothing education ministers – something to be said for old age. I pity those still in teaching and those foolhardy enough to consider joining a non-profession.

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      • Brilliant powerful words, and i couldn’t agree more, even though i do not have children (yet) i would rather home school them than have them educated in this mindless system.. on another note, listening to you regarding your childrens earlier years i owuld like to bring to your attention the modality “Havening techniques” you can read more about it at http://www.havening.org and if you would like to discuss it with me i am more than happy to give some time to you to explain how it could benefit your precious ones.. you can contact me via my website or email as i wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving my phone number on a public forum. thanks again for your clear powerful ranting 🙂 Debi

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    • Thanks Rebecca. Education policy tends to move in cycles, so normally, the nonsense would pass and reality would reassert itself.

      The most dangerous thing about the bunch of ideologues we’ve had in the last 4 years, however, is that they’re trying to break those cycles and give our schools to the “market” (really just a group of grafting, well-connected parasites). Once rich men are making lots of money from our children, they won’t give them up easily, so it’s important that we keep shouting about what’s going on.

      Parents will usually trust teachers far more than any politician, but the media generally do a terrible job of investigating and debunking the myths politicians create about education, so it’s very hard to get across to the population at large just how many lies politicians are telling in the name of privatizing our schools. The more blogs, the better !

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Disappointed idealist ? You’re not kidding , I loved my job , I loved seeing the spark when a child understood , I loved them bringing in things from home that they’d done when a lesson excited them and then came the education reformers …… leading to a parent saying’ I want to teach , I ain’t got no exams but it’s easy ain’t it , little kids just play ‘(sic) …so that’s it then , it’s worked , all the trust in our skill ,our knowledge our professional integrity has been chipped away at until it only exists actually at apersonal level in your own class ,the general acceptance of the profession as worth hanging onto has gone .I retired disgusted aged 56 , having worked in a in very very deprived area where we not only taught the kids, we supported the parents ,we encouraged proper nutrition a d health care we blurred the division between authoritarian and helpful our children did far better than anyone thought they would ..until the only thing that mattered was the league tables and our children were ‘data’ …education is power , but education is so much more than regurgitating facts . I’d love to put some of those in power into a primary classroom for a full year (feel the same about the NHS by the way ) and ask them if they feel the same at the end of it, and when I say ‘classroom ‘I mean one where 70% of children are on free school meals and the average income means that you have to decide on food or the gas bill …

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve really enjoyed the absolute clarity and insight of your blogs the last couple of days. It makes me feel like I’m not going insane but can see things for the way they really are. I love being a teacher but I cannot stand the political mess we’re in and what is being done to British education system of the degrading of the teaching profession. Thank you for your words.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. hello – catching up with your blog has cost me a lot of hours in the last week since I discovered the site. I have not yet come across anything that you say that I disagree with -. I am also a disappointed teacher – of English as it happens – and I can say that you write well for a man of history – I am also a father of two adopted children and find myself like you with one kid who is doing ok at school and one who was chucked out of mainstream school at 7. He is at an EBD school and even there they try to follow the curriculum despite being full of boys who will never be able to write a sentence – talk about forcing the penguins to flap harder – it’s tragic – but I thoroughly enjoy the way that they can swim! And my son is also an excellent horseman for his age. My brother and sister were both also adopted and they did not get an O level between them whilst I went to university. Keep up the good work and if ever you want some more anecdotal evidence that you are right just ask – I am sure that I will be able to oblige.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Charlie.

      I tend to the view that one of the main problems we face is that those who make policy tend to be very academically able, and tend to have similarly academically able offspring. Very few of them have any real understanding of what it is to be not academically able, and there seems to be an endemic assumption amongst them that all that stands between the least able child and their own success, is time, effort and high expectations. People like you and I have been through the steep learning curve which lets us know – rather brutally – that the reality is somewhat different. Our education system needs to provide positive and useful experiences for children of ALL abilities. Instead, all it seems to do at present is deny that different abilities exist, and blames the children, or their teachers, for being incapable of taking advantage of a system which pretends that their disadvantages don’t exist.

      I get very angry when politicians – of any ilk – make sanctimonious and ignorant statements about how all my children need is grit, or a growth mindset, or better teachers. No, what they need is an education system which is based in reality, and not in fantasy motivational slogans laminated to put over some ignorant fool’s desk.

      Best of luck with your kids.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Hello
    Just read your Mediocre Failures blog. It is superb and captures exactly how I felt when I heard the same news as Head of a large secondary in a disadvantaged area with 43% Pupil Premium students. I already break and bend the rules to ensure our most challenged youngsters get pathways they can be successful on but it is really hard when the school also went into Special Measures in my third week of headship. It just shouldn’t be a tension between doing what the DFE wants and doing what is best for children.

    That aside, please could you send your blog to all the shadow MPs for education and Nicky Gove and David Laws. I would happily send it myself but it would be better from you.

    We are considering sending them regular case studies of the reality they don’t want to face to try to get them to see beyond the one size fits all. And also for them to see that £900 Pupil Premium per child might sound enough but barely scratches the surface. I would also argue that Adopted children should be classed as PP not just children in care. There is enough research and evidence to show your story is not unusual. No money can ever really make up for what your children and our children have variously had to survive in younger life, but we are willing to try our best to help them find a successful path to the future whether or not that is with EBacc and a magical and arbitrary 8 qualifications.

    Thank you. You have spurred me on.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Keep trying Beka. What you are doing is right. I don’t underestimate the pressures headteachers are under from a system which on the one hand holds them accountable for a narrow set of outcomes largely beyond their control, and on the other hand ties their hands to prevent them from even trying to do anything broader than those narrow outcomes.

      The accountability cult ignores the real children, and ignores the damage done to individuals, as long as those tractor production statistics are rising with each 5 Year Plan. Stalin would have been proud of the education system the GERM adherents have built.

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      • Hey, I thought your article was absolutely brilliant. I am a music teacher and am so completely fed up seeing kids forced into being something they are not when they simply need to be creative. I spend my life trying to build kids up so they can go out and achieve in their own way only see them crushed by unrealistic expectations. It’s soul destroying at times. I hate seeing children losing their childhoods because of it. Xx

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  6. Your article about your adopted children and the government’s plans re SATs is perfectly pitched and absolutely bang on. Thank you for taking the time to write it. I’m sharing and sharing and sharing. please keep saying it. Kate

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for your ‘Mediocre Failures’ article, it was brilliant and at the same time so upsetting. I am sharing and tweeting it and hopefully some of the idiots in charge may take the time to read it. They are unfortunately unlikely to change their views though as they are just so out of touch. I have two young boys at primary school and it fills me with fear for their future in this system of judgement and condemnation. Please keep writing about these things! 😊

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  8. Mediocre Failures is wonderful! I hope the world reads it. I have so much admiration for the fact that not only do you brilliantly outline the problem so that anyone at any level can understand it – but you then make a start on offering solutions. Anytime you want to set up a roundtable of influencers and educators please let me know and I’ll do all I can to help.

    I think you’re great!

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  9. Thankfully my 4 boys (8, 6, 3 and 5mths) resemble their dad in looks so I haven’t quite forgotten what he looks like! I have never know him to work so hard for so many hours (averaging at least 50-70 hour weeks) and still feel so guilty for taking even an hour off on an evening… Yet still he feels behind and under so much pressure. I despair at the education system and having stumbled on your blog have found myself reading it quite a bit whist sitting feeding the baby- who has been startled on occassions as I shout out in agreement!

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    • I’m glad you like it. I never expected to change anything, writing this. After all, I don’t work for Policy Exchange, who can produce the most bizarre nonsense and quickly see it turned into government policy. However, I occasionally find it comforting to know that there are others out there who have similar attitudes and values, and that is justification enough.

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      • It was a timely reminder that getting cross with hubby for not being around as much as we would all like wasn’t helpful- he feels torn enough without me moaning.

        Insightful and accurate in a very readable style- you never know someone else might stumble accross it who is in a position to make a difference and with luck they will take it on board and be able to make long needed changes for the better! I live in hope ❤

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    • You’re welcome. I only discovered this because I happened to be staff governor when the last Head decided he wanted a MAT. When I looked into it, I genuinely couldn’t believe at first what a MAT represented for my school – institutional extinction. The more I dug, the worse it got. And even more troubling, the Head and the Chair of Governors initially were pushing this policy without fully understanding it. They believed that my school would be the “lead school” in the MAT they’d create, and thus “we” (the Governors) would retain control.

      None of that is, of course, true, and it wasn’t until we had a lawyer in to explain that my understanding was correct, that the penny began to drop. However, even now, it’s very hard for people to truly grasp what the implications of a MAT are for a previously autonomous school.

      For example, our governors have no desire to become a large empire, and merely want a MAT with one other closely connected school. They’ve made it clear time and time again that they do not want to expand further in the foreseeable future. And I think they honestly believe that because they’ve agreed this as the governors of my school, and we’re creating the MAT, then this is how events will transpire.

      But they’re mistaken. The MAT is a new legal body, and it has no obligation at all to honour any commitments, votes or policies which the GB of my school made before they abolished themselves into the MAT. The MAT members could decide on the first day after incorporation that they’re going to expand immediately, and there would be nothing at all my current GB could do, because they would have no power whatsoever, as they’d exist only at the whim of the MAT board.

      Now do I think this will happen? No, probably not. But we, like many other defenders of MATs, are going to be entirely reliant on the goodwill of the MAT members. At first, most of those MAT members will be ex-Governors, so you’d hope they would keep the interests of our school foremost (although they have a legal duty not to favour one school). However, there has already been discussion about bringing in “new expertise” as Members, including names of – as ever – well-connected worthies who don’t actually have any connections with the school at all. How interested will they be in following the wishes of the ex-governing body of an ex-school which no longer has any legal identity?

      The only way we can hold power to account is through legal rights, open scrutiny, and votes. MATs remove all three of those things from parents, teachers and the local community. We should all be very frightened about the future of our schools.

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