Thursday, 30 June 2016

Colour of my dreams-Peter Dixon

Colour of My Dreams

I'm a really rotten reader
the worst in all the class,
the sort of rotten reader
that makes you want to laugh.

I'm last in all the readin' tests,
my score's not on the page
and when I read to teacher
she gets in such a rage.

She says I cannot form my words
she says I can't build up
and that I don't know phonics
and don't know a c-a-t from k-u-p.

They say that I'm dyslexic
(that's a word they've just found out)
... but when I get some plasticine
I know what that's about.

I make these scary monsters
I draw these secret lands
and get my hair all sticky
and paint on all me hands.

I make these super models,
I build these smashing towers
that reach up to the ceiling
and take me hours and hours.

I paint these lovely pictures
in thick green drippy paint
that gets all on the carpet
and makes the cleaners faint.

I build great magic forests
weave bushes out of string
and paint pink panderellos
and birds that really sing.

I play my world of real believe
I play it every day
and teachers stand and watch me
but don't know what to say.

They give me diagnostic tests,
they try out reading schemes,
but none of them will ever know
the colour of my dreams.

- Peter Dixon

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Research based practice

Research in the classroom – becoming a more learning rich organisation.

I wrote an 8 minute presentation for the inaugural Deal Teach Meet which took place this evening. I chose this topic because I aimed for us to become a research literate organisation this school year and gave everyone a research budget.  However I neither taught myself nor our staff how to actually become research literate or even where to start.  It wasn't a total disaster, there has been reading, sharing and good practice visiting.  However I would quite like to do it better next year.  So I asked some advice from those that know research.  The headlines are:

1. Think about why we would research

2. Find out some principles that underpin what research is (how)

3. If you decide you have researched x thoroughly & want to go for it, decide what you are not going to do any more (y) and be really sure that x is of more value to your children than y.

4. Decide whether you want to be research informed, a researcher or a research lead.  All are valid. 

4. Use resources that are free and available ie academia edu and the education endowment fund toolkit. 

5. Get out to teach meets & research events, get into Twitter & share.  As the title of this evening's teach meet suggests it is good to share.  Most folk on Twitter will help if they can for free as they believe so passionately in what they do. 

Links from my presentation -

@tombennett71 @hgaldinoshea founders of @researchED1

Research Ed is well worth a look and the events are brilliant.  The next is in York on July 9th.  There is usually a London one in Sept.


Why research? one point of view on why research is valuable.


The principles that underpin research -Daniel Willingham – cognitive Scientist & professor at Harvard.  Science of learning principles. you have to sign up to access it.  You can read research there and submit papers also should you wish to.  @drmattoleary @geogphil submit papers there -worth following on twitter also. the education charity that set up the Education endowment fund toolkit.  Unfortunately the media cast a shadow over this resource when it first came out with the 'Research suggests all TAs are a waste of money' headline.  This was a vast pity as it put a lot of teachers off what is actually a very valuable free research resource. 

You can also apply for grants from the foundation for your own research 



Already mentioned research edTeachmeets are also a good source of ideas & research @teachertoolkit organises TM London, it’s worth getting out a bit further if you can


Canterbury Christchurch University research centre for children, families and communities is a good local source of knowledge and research

Sunday, 19 June 2016

A few words from Tobin

This was written by a colleague, he is also a small school headteacher.  He is an inspiring head and his faith and love are inspiring too.  In my worst moments Tobin is on my list of people to call.  In the worst moments of humanity he relentlessly sees the best of us all.  Here is what he wrote...

'This week has been difficult in many ways - murders in Orlando and the murder of Jo Cox, not to mention countless other pieces of news that cause fear and panic. I preached a sermon on the subject this morning, and share it with you are one possible response to the fear that we all often feel:
Luke 8: 37 – Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear.

In 1933, in the midst of a global recession, with millions of working-age men begging for work on the streets, a physically very frail man, afflicted by the after-effects of polio and wearing heavy metal leg braces to enable him to stand, addressed the people of the United States of America and stated that the only thing they had to fear was fear itself. 
 In many ways Franklin Roosevelt’s words sound trite – and they probably sounded trite to some even then, when hope was so desperately needed and in such short supply – but are they really so trite, or might they be a message that we can carry within us as we move forward into uncertain times – which is, incidentally, what every generation before us has always done. 
Jesus was asked to leave the country of the Gerasenes because the people feared that power that he showed in healing the demoniac. They were frightened of someone who made a man better. This fear came from the fact that they had never seen anything like this before – and there is nothing more frightening to many people than the unknown, however good it may be. 
I have always maintained that most negative behaviour in children is caused by fear: fear of failure; fear of not fitting in; fear of how they will make their way in the world; and, most especially, fear of the huge responsibility placed on the shoulders of many of them to have complete control over what they do and how they act – because their parents have been unable or unwilling to provide them with a structured life where they do not have to be in control. As we start to work with these most bruised of children, the fear, and thus the behaviour gets worse, because they can see us taking away the iron control that they have exerted for so long, and they are terrified about what might replace it. When they learn that the control is benevolent, and that they will still be able to make safe decisions, the fear subsides, and so does the behaviour. It is hard work, but an essentially simple and straightforward task if carried out with consistency and love, and it is one that we, as adults, signally fail to employ in our own lives, as witnessed by the acts of fear by which our television screens and newspapers are dominated. 
On Wednesday this week, I sat down with one of the children and his mum, and told him, as gently and as carefully as I could that he has autism. He is seven years old and has begun to be very unhappy and distressed because he knows that he is in some ways different from other children, and he is frightened that he will end up with no friends. At the end of our talk, where I had explained that different did not mean better or worse, but just different, he said that he felt less frightened because he knew that next time he felt different he would remember that this was because he had autism, and that it was therefore ok. He didn’t need to fear his fear any more.
On Thursday a frightened man killed Jo Cox, a Member of Parliament doing her duty by holding her regular surgery in her constituency. From the little that has been revealed so far, it would appear that this man was frightened about immigration, about Britain becoming a different nation from the one he thought it was, and about people of a different religion or a different colour of skin. The fact that there has never been an ethnically pure British genetic identity – even the Celts were immigrants – and the fact that Britain has always been a melting pot of different creeds, colours and nationalities - seemed to have gone unnoticed by this man – his fear overwhelmed him, and in turn came to overwhelm the life of a caring, innocent, committed public servant, who also was a wife and a mother of two small children.
Last weekend in Orlando in the United States, a man walked into a gay club and murdered forty-nine people. It later transpired that, far from being his first visit to such a venue, he had been many times before as a customer, and one may therefore conclude that, as a Muslim with fundamentalist tendencies, he was plagued by fear of himself – fear that his sexuality set him outside the norms of his religion, or of society at as a whole. He couldn’t handle his fear, and so he transferred it to others, and it cost them, and him, their lives. 
So what can we do? Do we follow the line that says we must batten down every hatch, shun, deport or kill everyone who looks different, who prays differently, or who loves in a different way? We must, of course, ensure that dangerous people are kept away from those they would harm – I am not advocating no prisons, no justice and no rule of law – but if we only have these, then the problem will never go away, and we must therefore look back into scripture and find out what our faith tells us that we must do. 
In the first Letter of John, we are told this: ‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.’ 
Although there are always consequences for every action, our response at school is not to focus on the need to punish but on the need to cast out fear though love. Once the children know that they are unconditionally loved, even when they do what they should not do, and that this love is strong enough for them face the consequences when they have done wrong – but with consequences given with love, and then welcomed back to the fold with love, they learn that they have no need to fear, and then there is no need to behave in such a negative way. 
The same is true for everyone. Jesus knew this, John knew this, we, if we only read our Bibles and then lived out the teaching we found there, would also know it, and then the world would know it, as we shared it with everyone we met. 
As she stood with her parents the sister of Jo Cox said ‘We want to say a most sincere and heartfelt thank you to everyone who has expressed their love and affection for Jo and sent their thoughts and sympathy to us.’ The words were heartfelt and right – they focussed not on the fear that one man’s paranoia and sense of persecution could cause to an entire nation – but the love that her sister had given, and continues to receive. It was not fear that made the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, never keen to stand shoulder to shoulder, do exactly that this week – it was love – for a talented young woman who made a difference to the people whom she served – and for democracy – which for all is sham and dodgy dealing is still the most Christian of all forms of government. 
We cannot fight fear with fear – for then everyone is frightened. 

So is it perhaps time to try love?'

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Locks and keys

This year has been a struggle.  This is the first year in almost nine as a Head where I have seriously considered walking away.  Where I have honestly felt that maybe I just can't do what I now have to and the weight of that dragging our team down was before my eyes. In a way that made me feel it was unfair on them.  This is the first year my husband has told me maybe I should quit because the toll on me has been affecting our family.  My job has changed, and it has done so at a really unfortunate time for me personally, and our school.  

I can't be anything other than inclusive.  That doesn't mean I'm anti special provision.  Three times in nine years at our school that has been absolutely right for the young person. I have been privileged to visit and work with some of the best special provisions in the country. There is always so much to learn and the specific provision is the key that unlocks the lock on the barriers to learning for children with complex needs sometimes. But we in mainstream have those keys too for lots of children. 

Twice in the past three years I have taken year 6 children who have just been taken into care.  I am on first name terms and pretty friendly with the officer at KCC for 'hard to place' pupils.  The first time the YP was 11% the second 14% because of our small cohorts. However both times we sent the YP on absolutely ready for the next step of their education. Where other heads put forward cases to show why they couldn't place the pupils, I got to see them settle, smile, feel safe enough to cry for the first time about how they felt, read at the Christmas service for the first time ever and steal the show in the end of year production.  Knowing that it was my brevity that put their lives before our whole school results percentage. That was enough. 

But the inevitable data holes led to intense pressure this year. The 'Ofsted window' has opened and I feel a stiff breeze! I do not blame the Local Authority, the pressure isn't coming from them. I think they are even more under the cosh than me and I have had positive support and help from them at every turn.  My dear friend Nigel Utton spoke on Radio 5 live last week about inclusion. It was a follow up to the live show based in his school two years ago when he quit his job live on air.  He was spot on about the LA when he said 'Kent don't always get it right in my opinion and they know I think that, but they are elected to protect and advocate the people in their county and they do that.'

The pressure is coming centrally.  Government and DfE.  Academies set their own admission criteria and policies. No one of us has an issue with high expectations, but they must be articulated clearly.  The change and confusion of educational times is so often a feature of my day to day existence. We are not here just to exist, but to live.  

I must emphasise that the effect on me this year is also to do with personal things.  I had not recovered as well from family illness and bereavement as I thought.  Our school has just come through a period of considerable staff change. All natural reasons but not easy in a three class village school. Governance has had to be totally re structured, the pressure led to our chair deciding to resign. Big ask for a volunteer isn't it? 

We are settling.  Norming?  Whatever that is.  I can't say that I feel 100% confident of good or better when we have visitors but with every day that passes the chance of outstanding is a little more.  I do feel excited again.  That's enough on its own to rip up the resignation letter.  Metaphorically. I didn't write it. Not physically. Only in my mind between 4 and 5am most week days between February and May.  I also have a new chair who just has it. Magic ingredient. Big ask from a volunteer. 

I have only mentioned locks and keys once in this post.  But, actually, this whole post is about them. Locked is beyond me, if I don't have the key. Or locked is safe. Until I do.  Keys are scary if they unlock the unexpected, or exciting. If they unlock the unexpected.  Depending on how you are feeling as a leader.

I am a believer in Art keeping us believing, unlocking the unexpected.  I am fortunate to know several fabulous artists.  My friend Robin Stevenson is one.  He is talented, insightful and kind.  I have been talking to him about my work and asked him to draw me a lock & key drawing. He drew this: 

He then drew this one: 

Then he text me to ask if I would like the eye more human in the first one.  I replied 'no, it's perfect as it is.' 

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Saturday night kebab blog post

Oh slightly cold kebab.  You look delicious.  I'm going to eat the bits of you that remain edible.  The chips are a bit dry & odd but I'll consume a few of those too, maybe.

Purchased on the way from place to place, with best intention. Uneaten. You never can tell which way a night will go. 

Reasons kebabs don't get eaten:

Unexpected snogs
Calamity (dropped food) 
Combination of all of the above 

Not all of those happened tonight.  No kebabs were harmed in the writing of this blog post.

I have eaten and not eaten a lot of kebabs. I have been lucky to live a lot of life.
I hope I stay this lucky.  

Friday, 25 March 2016


Chillis are silly
Because they are not
They sound like they're chilly
But really they're hot 

Monday, 7 March 2016

Dancing on my own

I remember vividly the TM London I did in 2011. I wrote my presentation on the train. Ross McGill hosted. Phil Beadle was there talking about plenaries. I met Keven Bartle & Helene Galdin O'Shea & Daniel Harvey. The power went out & I sat in a dark pub afterwards next door with my sister & brother in law.  There was no food but plenty of drink.  They had come from the other side of London (traversing the universe in their mind.) Which made me laugh. 

Some stuff happened after that & I didn't get out much & gradually I began to talk to myself on the Internet. 

I include other people occasionally.  Sometimes I make an effort to respond to someone else.  Every now and then I try to begin a conversation with a response to someone else.  But the internet is just an acceptable way of talking to myself. And posting songs.  To myself. 

It's not narcissism, it's more self preservation. I also remember details that are random about loads of people and ask them about how things are. It's not that I don't care, I just don't always engage.  

Part of moving on is honesty and I've been dishonest with 'I'm ok' at times.  You can't dance on your own in this job, and our staff have taught me that recently.

I love the original Robyn version of this song but I've chosen Calum Scott's version because me, music champion teacher & half the school watched him perform this live at Wembley Arena Wednesday. Fabulous performance. 

I'm not dancing on my own.