May 31, 2014


Throwing Muses. One of their first promotional photo shoots, 1985.

author unknown

May 31, 2014


Throwing Muses. Kristin Hersh, Tanya Donelly, Dave Narcizo and Leslie Langston in two sadly watermarked pictures taken in 1989.

by Jay Blakesberg

(Source: cloverswine)

May 28, 2014
Points about prizes

I have been thinking hard about values and ethos recently. It’s probably to do with being on NPQH where every other slide on every PowerPoint is about your values and vision, but my thoughts were also prompted by Joe Kirby’s recent blog series on rewards which begins with the Lewis Carroll quotation:

“Everybody has won, and all must have prizes”

Image via Wikimedia commons

I remember David…

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May 26, 2014

Colin Stokes on how the dominant narrative in kids’ movies establishes the idea that passive women are the reward for men completing a quest - and how parenting, movies and the Wizard of Oz can help create a counter-narrative of collaboration and shared purpose under accommodating leadership. Take ten minutes. It’s worth it. 

May 15, 2014
Assessment in the new national curriculum - next steps

My original post “Assessment in the new national curriculum – what we’re doing” remains one of the most popular on this blog. Here I will outline how we have refined the model proposed in that post and integrated it with progress tracking, as well as our latest thoughts on assessment without levels and growth mindset.

How will we assess in the new national curriculum? 

I was delighted to hear that

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May 11, 2014


Hey pals! Sorry this is a huuuuge post, BUT i finished my book!

Cousin Jack - 1 colour screen print on double gate folded somerset paper by Lucy Ketchin

If you like please share! Thank you :——)

You can find me on instagram!

April 24, 2014

Lauren for Education Secretary (from the NME, probably 1997?) 


Lauren for Education Secretary (from the NME, probably 1997?) 

April 23, 2014

So today I happened across Tanya Donelly’s Twitter account. I didn’t know she had one. Turns out she joined in mid 2013 and has released five EPs that I had no idea about (the Swan Song Series). I feel embarrassed to have missed this…as you can see from the pictures, my A-level revision file (from 1992-3) paid homage to Tanya in quite fervent detail. Quite the indie fanboy, when I knew I had tickets to go and see Belly in 1995 at the Empire in Shepherd’s Bush I saved up Smartie tops with letters on so I could make a “TANYA” necklace - I threw it on the stage during the encore and she picked it up. Made my night, though as I recall she had some sort of throat infection and wasn’t allowed to speak, only sing…

The tiny handwritten lyrics are a combination of Belly, Throwing Muses, Suede and Sylvia Plath poems…I was studying English Literature. I’d like to say it was a phase but 20 years later I’m teaching English Literature and still adore all of those artists! Though Smartie tubes are made of cardboard now, so I don’t know what I’d do for a Tanya trinket in 2014. What I have done is buy all of the Swan Song Series, each of which comes with notes explaining where the songs come from, and many of which include handwritten lyric sheets. Her voice and songwriting are as good as ever. I’ve grown up, but I’m as much a fanboy as ever. 

April 19, 2014

My assembly for this first week back after Easter is based around the concept of Challenge. I’ve used the good old Chambers dictionary to help me. The Prezi is below; if you can’t see the embed, please click this link.

Challenge: 1. verb: to summon someone to settle a matter in a contest

In the first meaning of the word, we are encouraged to pit ourselves against others. These contests can be evenly matched, as in sprint races which are sometimes decided in hundredths of a second; sometimes the odds can be stacked against us. The difficulty in measuring yourself against the success of someone else is that you can never account for their level of preparation, skill or ability; your opponent is outside your control. Instead, I would like that “someone” to be yourself. Set yourself a challenge and test your own preparation, skill or ability against the standard you set yourself. What are you capable of?

Challenge: 2. verb: to subject to stress, examination or test

Challenge: to subject to stress, examination or test

Seriously, this was the definition in the dictionary. To challenge something is to test it, try it out, see where its weaknesses are. In the end, this is how your education is assessed in this country – your learning is put under examination. Whilst it is possible to shore up your work with last minute revision, quick fixes and sticky tape, the only way to guarantee that what you have learnt stands up to the test is to make sure that it is securely, properly learnt in the first place. This has the added benefit of taking the stress out of revision as you are going over things you already know again, rather than trying to learn them for the first time. To use the old cliché, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Talking of which…

Challenge: 3. noun: a task, undertaking etc. to test one’s powers or capabilities to the full

This Easter holiday I enjoyed three great sporting events which saw competitors testing their powers of endurance and stamina to the full – and beyond. Firstly, the London Marathon; the water-based endurance test of the Boat Race; and the equestrian challenge of the Grand National. I was sat on my sofa for all three of course, but I haven’t been idle, pushing myself in my own challenges. I am continuing to keep up with my New Year’s resolution of accentuating the positive, and I made a concerted effort to get back on track with my reading pledge challenge, finishing Mick Waters’ Thinking Allowed: On Schooling  and reading Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy cover to cover – both highly recommended.

Challenge: 4. noun: a difficulty which stimulates interest or effort

This is the kind of challenge that I’m really inspired by, and I’ve recently come across the story of NFL full back Derrick Coleman, celebrated in this advert for Duracell, which illustrates this idea perfectly.

Coleman was declared deaf at the age of three. Despite playing American Football through  High School and college at UCLA, he wasn’t picked in the NFL draft and was dropped by the Minnesota Vikings when signed as a free agent. However, the Seattle Seahawks gave him a chance, and he scored his first touchdown for them in December 2013 against the New Orleans Saints. Coleman is now a Super Bowl champion following the Seahawks 43-8 demolition of the Denver Broncos in XLVIII.

Coleman is a true example of resilience in the face of difficulty. Not all of us face the challenges that he faced, but we all have difficulties to overcome, be they physical, emotional, social, or other. How we respond to those challenges is everything; we can let them overwhelm us, or we can use them to stimulate us to try harder, seeking help where we need it and resolving never to give up.

And finally, a word about challenging behaviour…

Challenging behaviour in the classroom – East High style

In the books I was reading for my challenge over the holidays, the main character in Divergent impressed me with her “never give up” attitude, but it is Mick Waters I want to return to. Mick Waters talks about challenging behaviour, what he calls “giving your teacher a hard time.” He says that most students, when asked what they would do to give their teacher a hard time, would try:

  • Talk over your teacher
  • Rock on your chair
  • Leave your coat on
  • Forget to do your homework
  • Pretend you haven’t done your homework

However, what Waters goes on to say is that there are other ways to demonstrate really challenging behaviour. He recommends you try:

  • Asking for a more detailed explanation
  • Asking searching questions
  • Asking the teacher to help you understand the subject in more depth
  • Asking for detailed feedback on your work to help you improve
  • Asking for books and websites you could study on your own to help you understand more about the subject
  • Asking for places to visit where you could see the ideas and topics you are learning about in action

Try and challenge yourself to challenge your teacher this week. Push yourself to push them. You’ll both see the benefit.

Assembly - Challenge My assembly for this first week back after Easter is based around the concept of Challenge. I’ve used the good old Chambers dictionary to help me.

April 17, 2014
Teaching and Learning Leaders

Teaching and learning leaders

Image courtesy of @TeacherTweaks – click for link!

Dylan Wiliam’s quote has become totemic for many teachers and school leaders as a driver for good quality CPD, and I am no exception. So much so, that we are reorganising our approach to CPD across the whole school in September, using teaching and learning leaders appointed from within our existing staff body. This is part of our commitment to be…

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April 15, 2014
Tracking progress over time: flight paths and matrices

Everyone should already be familiar with the KS2-4 Transition Matrices. A staple of RAISEonline, they were the first thing our HMI asked me for in our last Ofsted inspection and form the staple diet of inspectors judging the impact of a secondary school on progress in English and Maths.

Framework for KS2-4 Transition Matrices

Framework for KS2-4 Transition Matrices

And quite right too. It’s common for secondary teachers to bemoan the…

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March 21, 2014
Becoming a growth mindset school

The idea of becoming a growth mindset school has been over a year in the making. Our Headteacher bought each member of SLT a copy of Mindset for Christmas, and it was the main agenda item at our annual senior team conference. Today I launched the idea of becoming a growth mindset school to all staff at our INSET day. This is the basis of the presentation I did.

Our INSET session was for all staff…

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March 19, 2014
Proud Letters

Today was one of those lovely moments in teaching where you see an idea you’ve spend months planning come to fruition and do some good. Today was the day of the “Proud” letters for Year 11.


A letter of hope…but not delivered by owl!

Back in January, I wroteto all Year 11 parents and carers asking them to write a letter to their young person to show their support, offer them advice, and motivate…

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March 18, 2014
Creative Writing - Poetry Workshop

I was reminded today of one of my career highlights. When I was a keen young second-in-English, I organised a creative writing workshop for enthusiastic students of all ages with a visiting poet, Anthony Dunn. He ran a great workshop which I have adapted and run myself numerous times since. Here’s how it works:

The shock of the unexpected – The Jaguar

The world rolls under the long thrust of his heel

The world rolls under the long thrust of his…

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March 16, 2014
Little Boots at SXSW with Moog.

Little Boots at SXSW with Moog.

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