Workload a reality check. The definition of reasonable and you do deserve a life!

workload blank

Reasonable definition

There are some common responses I get when suggesting measures to reduce workload either in real life or in the twitter sphere , it seems teachers are hell bent on self destruction via unrealistic expectations of what is achievable in the constraints of finite time.  The following list contains a few gems but by is by no means exhaustive:










Then in come the flood of passive aggressive likes and put downs from blind cheerleaders for the cause, without the will or wherewithal to think for themselves, gratuitously liking the “powerful” message that also happens to be the orchestrator of their demise.  It’s generally a well followed teacher whom seemingly devotes 25 hours a day to teaching the bejeesus out of everything. They are akin to the plastic beauties on Instagram who spend hours, like farming, pathetic images of their lunch dinner and tea that incarcerate their followers in mind prisons of unworthiness. You know who they are, the ones who post pictures of exam catch up sessions on a Sunday afternoon in some nightmare plastic fast food joint.  I’m sure you have seen the tweets that follow.
‘You go girl’

‘yeah your students must love you so much’

‘wow your so dedicated’

‘Hun you are the best’

greening botI often think have you/they ever questioned that the lack of debate, might be down to workload? In reality I bet half of those tweeters are tweeting from bed exhausted at the attempt to keep up with the seemingly superhuman Teacher who might even be a cunningly designed BOT, the brain child of an evil Govian doppelganger, hiding out in the office of the education secretary.   Why are you/they so unprepared to enter reasoned discussion? What fuels the desperation to light the fuses on the twin cannons of workload?
There are Teachers out there shamelessly boasting about how teaching is their life and how every day of their holidays has been spent laminating or assembling displays and classrooms, of which the level of complexity would shame the natural history museum, or have Micheal Eavis scurrying of to redesign the glasto pyramid stage . They Tweet at midnight, images of piles of books triple marked and assembled back in classroom order, ready to be transported back to school the following day in a hessian bag for life. #markingdone #stillgot20minssleep.

NQT’s who have just left uni and have no life, other than the ideological indoctrination of the youth, on a one handed mission to save the world, surviving on cracker bread and Kilner jars of overnight oats. Wages just barely covering the outgoings, overpriced rents in areas ‘better’ than they can afford, in flats worse than they are worth, using extra blankets instead of heating.  Those still living at home with all the comforts and benefits, saving every penny whilst chanting the mantra, “Yes Headteacher no headteacher 3 IKEA blue bags of bags of marking full headteacher”.

Some have families, children of their own, whom they willfully ignore, caring more about the yoot’s triple turbo double highlighted deep marked scribblings, which just “HAD to be done at midnight”, to satisfy the latest marking initiative, their own children struggling to read a bedtime story to themselves, left orphaned by the job.

One specific tweet which especially twanged my heart twines states that two teachers whom live together, kissed each other on the morning of the first day of term and said ‘see you at Christmas’!  I know this was a joke but…… It was a joke right…….oh it wasn’t a joke…… Part of me is not sure…..

Let me just lay out my position before we go any further;

I believe that reducing your workload will improve your quality of life

As a result of the improvement in your quality of life your teaching will improve

Improved teaching will improve outcomes

Improved outcomes will impact social mobility

Social mobility is why I teach

You can dispute my position if you like and I am happy to add, or amend it in any sensible way, in fact I would positively encourage such other models that sum up your own motivations in such a simple way. To deny teaching has an extensive workload is surely folly and I would happily take on anyone who says anything to the contrary, so in the face of a workload issue,  pragmatism calls upon us to examine the facts.

In the standard teachers pay and conditions document, it states that directed time is 1265 hours a year. This is the time you get paid for. This is what your wages are based on. BUT…… There is a caveat paragraph 51.7 states:

51.7. In addition to the hours a teacher is required to be available for work under paragraph 51.5 or 51.6, a teacher must work such reasonable additional hours as may be necessary to enable the effective discharge of the teacher’s professional duties, including in particular planning and preparing courses and lessons; and assessing, monitoring, recording and reporting on the learning needs, progress and achievements of assigned pupils.

Now this passage hinges on two key words ‘reasonable’ and ‘effective’ and its the misappropriation and misuse of these two words that SLT exploit ruthlessly, to guilt trip you into doing UNREASONABLE amounts of additional hours.

REASONABLE by  definition Is being fair and sensible.  So my question to you is what does reasonable look like?  1265 divide by 39 equals 32.44,  That is how many hours the government, the trust, the MAT,  the ‘anybody’ who employs you on the teaching contract pays you for. That is fact. That is how much you are worth to those who will decide your pay. That is how many hours it is estimated takes to discharge your professional duties ‘effectively’. So how many extra hours are reasonable? Lets make this simple.

1 hour is equal to 3.1% of your contracted working week (rounded from 3.08).

So if you arrive habitually early (like I do), at 7:50 hrs every day that is 5 extra hours a week or 15.4% over and above your contracted hours.  That, I would say, is reasonable.

So then I work every lunchtime of my own volition.  I run catch up and fun sessions to increase the love of my subject and grab a coffee and  if I remember, a butty on the fly.  Lunchtime is 50 minutes a day so that is another 4.17 Hours per week, multiply that by 3.08 and I get another 12.8%  so now I am at 28.2% over and above my contracted hours that, in my world, is still reasonable.

sumOk, so I absolutely refuse to take non voluntary school work home, (this doesn’t include work for extra curricular competitions that I invest bags of time in), So I make a decision to stay in school for at least an hour extra every day, on average four days a week, so now we have another 12.3%  So lets tot tot that up. Give or take a bit that is 40% over and above the hours that I am paid and contracted to do.  I would argue that at this point it is starting to become unreasonable.  Do not take my word for it.  Ask friends and family see how many other occupations do 40% over and above their contracted hours for nothing (apart from junior doctors it’s not many) . I am arguing here that 40% is where you should draw the line. That 40% is reasonable, let that sink in.

I can Imagine the conversation. With the ‘Boss’

Boss: Ahh PP glad to catch you, why have you not completed the latest progress review?

MOI: Sorry chief no time, Ill prioritise it for first thing tomorrow?

Boss: Ermmm you can access little Sims from home now you know, Deadline is today…

MOI: Yes thanks for that but I don’t work at home.  It will be done before 9am tomorrow.

Boss: Erm I would point out that I can ask you to do extra hours so you can discharge your  professional duties?

MOI: Yes I am fully aware of my contractual obligations that’s why I do on average 40% over and above my contract every week and have done for all the years I have worked here, is 40% not enough? I can quite happily show you my diary if you like?

Boss: Oh erm, well I suppose erm….

MOI: Would you like to see my diary?  Is 40% not enough?

Boss: Er… Ummmm..

MOI: Sorry what was that?  I can let my union know if you like and they could perhaps work load impact assess the schools marking and feedback policy, in fact that is a great idea don’t you think? It hasn’t been done since I came here and maybe with all the new initiatives there might be some old stuff that could go and make all our…..

Boss : Yes PP tomorrow is fine great to catch up with you see you at briefing…..

There are infinite versions of this conversation by the way and in my experience,  no where near enough teachers are confident enough to stand their ground like this, even though they may doing in excess of 40% over their contractual obligation.  Seven years is a long time to experience a year on year real term wage cut, this is a cold hard fact of teaching today. The decision makers for seven years have decided you are not worth inflation.  Think about that. It is personal.


Reasonable means fair and sensible. 40% over your contracted hours is excessive but achievable in my opinion.  Every extra hour you work is 3.08% over your contracted hours, as an experiment log your additional hours. If you have the cojones then log those hours and use that information as Kevlar pants and seek out those tough conversations with mealy mouthed managers and obsequious schmaltzy SLT generals.  Instead of just fouling up the staff room with your pathetic mewlings, I see you! I overhear you every day, moaning and not doing, would you recommend that to your learners?  If you really want to know the full legalities on this and get the exact legal position, you can start by looking at the working time directive of 1998, which you can find here. If you are working more than forty eight hours on a regular basis your employer is breaking the law.


from the STPCD effective discharge of the teacher’s professional duties.

Now if because of outlandish and unachievable school policies, especially those concerned with marking and feedback,  you cannot carry out your professional duties in the 32.44 hour plus 40% (substitute your %) reasonable additional hours that you choose to do, Then THAT IS NOT YOUR FAULT! Say it again please out loud. IT IS NOT MY FAULT.  Your management team needs to provide a framework which is achievable and the way you do this, is by insisting that all the staff at school are aware of and expect that a workload impact assessment is carried out on all existing and any changes to school policies. This can be found here, on page 24 of the NASUWT and NUT’s National Action Instructions Phase 5.

The overarching message is measure what you are doing and then STOP doing so much extra.  Stop undermining all of your colleagues who may not be able to do as much extra. accept that if you do extra it sets a precedent.  Send a clear message to your managers that says you are serious about workload and let them know how much time you are working. Get unionised and read up on the action short of strike start taking control of the situation, remember the government thinks that you are not worthy of inflation.

You are a mighty professional pedagogue that roars with knowledge and learning, you have the power to shape minds,  you have the power to build the next generation! How are you going to do that do that in a climate of fear and one upmanship? Your knowledge is not best used spending hours upon hours, writing reams of comments in multi colours to satisfy no one, other than your senior managers, who are only asking you to do it out of fear. They shamelessly drive staff into the grave to cover their own backsidesbaboon from the impending decent of OFSTED/ESTYN, a flawed club filled with failed heads and unqualified middle class fops.  If you buy into the brave new world, fueled by social media and like farming, if you follow super human teachers desperate to paint you as lazy and uncaring with passive aggression and and un researched braggadocio, because the amount of laminating you do isn’t enough to choke the life out of an Amazonian baboons lungs.  If this is you, you are destined to burn out and then fade away,  to join that 30+% that leave the best job in the world because it has the worst managers in the world . If you keep giving your precious time for free, before long it will be expected in even more quantities than it is now.

timeThe reality is time is all you have, we work for units of free time, not finances,  you are mighty, not meek nor mild mannered so say NO,  shout loudly “I will not be an instrument of the government, I will not capitulate to the whims of the failed heads that populate OFSTED and ESTYN. take your plethora of consultants, who have no idea what it’s like to be in a classroom and insert them where the sun doesn’t shine. I am not a slave to a spreadsheet on some careerists laptop.   I am a mighty teacher and I am taking back the career I love, I will teach those kids my way and I do deserve a life!











Workload a reality check. The definition of reasonable and you do deserve a life!

Liars, Backstabbers and Empire builders.

I was late to teaching and I have experienced a diverse range of workplaces.  Of all the industries I have worked in I can categorically state that teaching has shown me some of the worst elements of human kind and none of it from the students.  This is a tale of mystery and intrigue, but most of all a shameful episode that should curl the toes of any manager and leader out there.   Based on a true story, how much you believe is up to you……

Picture the scene, a normal day at lunch,  I am running a club,  the room full of kids that want to be doing extra curricular.  The heads PA comes in to my room (without a knock) and hands me an envelope.  The envelope contains an invitation (we all know it’s a demand right?).  Please attend a meeting at the end of the day during directed time.  No context, a neutral emissary, you know it’s not going to be good.   Anyone who has been in this position will know the feeling you get.   A barren gnawing in the pit of your stomach, your mind races as you desperately try to mentally prepare yourself for what might be to come.  Two full hours of teaching to go, brain racing, what could it be……….. “SIR!”
Back in the room. Tick tock, tick tock time seems to have stopped. You deliver terrible lessons on some kind of zombie autopilot, until finally, the bell rings.

KNOCK KNOCK.  Muffled “come in”.

Now at this point, like a film,  I am going to segue off to provide some character back story and to build tension……

Our current commander in chief was parachuted in at the demise of a former superior and came on the ticket of “Dynamic leader”, following a hasty sacking of the predecessor on dodgy financial grounds.  A marked improvement in results was delivered swiftly, driven by introducing a load of BTEC’s and pressuring staff to ensure that coursework was, “Yannow WINK WINK NUDGE NUDGE”,  failure was not an option.

This peaked and staff facing burn out started tWMFWo need a little more than dynamism.  As faith waned, dynamism should transition to strategic planning, it did not.   On Strategy our supreme leader was found weighed measured and left wanting. The seams began to split, El Supremos’s visibility was waning in fact you would be more likely to spot a Red Crested Tree Rat on the corridors.  The preferred management style transmogrified into covert sneakiness,  largely perpetrated by mawkish SLT generals, who slithered up the corridors, with nuggets of poorly planned new initiatives to be drip fed to middle managers and then implemented at lightning speed. This before anyone could say NASUWT or NUT or ATL, let alone email or work load impact assessment .GRIMA

Enter the ultimate pantomime villain DUM DUM DUM DAHHHHHHHH!   OFSTED.  The call sent the school into a spiraling Tizwaz of utter chaos.  The night before “OFSTED” arrived, mawkish general number one (I shall call him Gríma Wormtongue) decided, or was instructed, to change not one, but five separate school policies, non of which had been work load impact assessed.  Further chaos ensued,  as the inspectors began their work, the staff team were in disarray and the students knew it.   At the end of the inspection and by some stroke of luck (or Grima’s shenanigans), the SLT team managed to scrape through with an Adequate judgment against their performance measures and this was presented back to the staff team as a victory with the caveat that we were “all managers of teaching and learning”.

I watched horrified, as the head presented Wormtounge with a gift, for……. wait for it………….. Setting up a spurious meeting between non specialist teachers teaching outside of their subjects and subject specialists,  to prove that non-specialists get supported (they don’t) by specialists.  I think it is important to clarify this so you can contexulise the level of duplicity that El supremo and Grima are capable of.

1.OFSTED leveled a complaint through a mid inspection feedback session that the school does not provide adequate meeting (any) time for teachers, teaching outside of their specialism.
2. Grima disputed this and then organised a spurious last minute meeting (via a whatsap group), to prove that the school does provide adequate meeting time (it doesn’t).
3. The head publicly thanked Grima in front of the staff team with a gift  for creating a web of lies that fooled the inspectorate and no doubt, prevented an accurate judgement.

KNOCK KNOCK.  Muffled “come in”.

Sit down please.
El supremo proceeded to tell me that there had been a parental complaint with regards to how I had dealt with one of my students.  Then there was quiet. After a short period of time I asked if there would be some further details provided, the conversation went something like this;

El Supremo : “Well I thought you might be able to shed some light on it”

Moi : “You have the complaint if you give me some details I might be able to shed some light”

El Supremo : ” Well it happened last week”

Moi : “Yes a lot of things happened last week”

El Stupido : “It was in your main subject”

Moi : “Yes that is what I teach most of the time….”

El Shortsighted : “It was with year 9”

Moi : “With respect I am sure you did not bring me down here to play guessing games do you think you could shed some light on what it is I am supposed to have done?”

El Stumblingo : “Well we think it happened last Thursday”

Moi : “Look whilst I appreciate this is difficult, unless you tell me what’s going on I’m going to terminate this meeting”

El Simpleminded then proceeded to bumble around the issue, which struck me as very odd, on a number of occasions,  I asked to see the letter of complaint, which it later transpired, had been emailed to someone way above El Sneakios pay grade.  The letter was not forthcoming.   To cut a very long story short, the following things came out of the meeting.

1. It was alleged that I had singled out a child and “forced” them to write something “in front of the class” and that the learner in question had felt “disparaged”.

2. A full investigation including staff and learner interviews would be conducted.

3. The investigating member of SLT would be Grima Wormtounge.

So being fairly old, fairly wise and luckily, fairly paranoid,  I jumped into action.  I ran straight from the meeting and started to put together a case file, this by the way is the single most important piece of advice I can give to anyone else who may be faced with the horrible situation of an investigation.  I grabbed the learner in questions book (I will refer to the learner as Child A) and made a color photocopy of every page, I took screen shots with time and date stamps from SIMS, printed everything that I could find on child A, behavior info, attendance, staff reports, notes, progress reports.  I checked every departmental memo and every piece of internal mail.  I checked the SEN and SENDCO registers.  I searched through three years of emails and created a redacted list of every email I had received, that mentioned child A.  As I am sure you can imagine child A had a history that was less than favorable (for reasons of anonymity I will not expand),  having been on the wrong side of the tracks since day one.  I suggest you draw upon your experience and think of the most troublesome child you have encountered, multiply this by two and you might be half way there.

I left no stone upturned.  My case file was completed my Kevlar undies pulled up as high as I could muster, I contacted the upper echelons of the Union and waited with baited breath.

Two weeks went by as Grima slithered round school on a foul mission, two weeks of worry and sleepless nights on my part.  Whilst I was VERY confident in my own actions it was the actions of the duplicitous that kept me awake.  Despite exceptional and speedy advice from a thoroughly experienced and professional Unionista, a nagging doubt that I was being stitched up just wouldn’t depart.

The meeting for me to give evidence for the investigation, was finally announced and with my case file intact and my most confident mask on, I entered the room with my Unionista.  Grima lurked opposite me and proceeded to direct questions,  Unionista stepped in and countered practically everything that was said as incorrect or not appropriate or nuanced,  you get the picture.  I explicitly refuted every single allegation and provided evidence from my case file to prove beyond doubt, that what child A,  had told parents, did not happen in any universe and especially not the one we presently occupy.

Grima was not happy,  Wormtounge’s hand was about to be played.   You see unbeknown to you,  Unionista and I had already figured out the game plan.  Through other channels,  it had been discovered that the complaint leveled at me was actually a tiny part of a vast and damning complaining email directed at SEN provision at a whole school level.  I was just a small redacted paragraph at the end of a huge letter of complaint.  Me and Unionista knew that El Sneakyswine and Wormtounge were looking for scapegoats.  You see if they could get me to admit to failings in the differentiation in my lessons, they could then use me and others, as a sacrificial lamb to appease the parent of child A.  This would have played out like this……..

Dear Blah….

Thanks for your complaint we have investigated the points you have raised and a number of staff have been sent for training lalalalala

Yours sincerely

El Shyster

you know how this works right?

Except I was ready,  there was no way that I was going to be the stooge in this situation,  not because I was being cantankerous (I am) nor because I was not prepared to take one for the school (I probably would, if asked nicely), but because of the way they had gone about things.  I was dug in like a Alabama tick and determined to get my meal.  Grima moved the questions towards the suggestion that I hadn’t provided sufficient opportunities for differentiation during the course of the lessons, Unionista gave me a knowing look,  GW sleazily moved the questions towards school policy and then I could not believe what happened next!

aceLike some kind of card counting cheat at a Vegas black jack table, Grima pulled out what should have been theAce card,   Grima’s tongue flicked across teeth in anticipation and then shamelessly dropped an IEP (individual education plan) for child A right in front of me.  Almost unable to contain the excitement GW asked

“have you read this?”
“have you seen the part where it says ‘not to be asked to write in front of others’?”

In one of those rare and precious moments of pure unadulterated karma, the situation then unfolded at break neck speed.  Quick as a flash I pulled out the relevant screen shots from my carefully prepared file.  Screen shots of devastating effectiveness screenshots that proved beyond all doubt that the IEP for child A had been added to SIMS that very morning,  screenshots that proved the author, the creator of the IEP was none other than Grima Wormtounge, screenshots that dated the IEP the previous evening, screenshots that categorically proved the level of lies that Grima and El Supercheatio were prepared to go to.   Screenshots that vindicated me and incriminated them.

I countered,

“No I haven’t read it, because you only put it on the system this morning.”

Wormtounges face collapsed, fear flashed in eyes, lip quivered.

“Why did you try to make it look like I wasn’t reading IEP’s?” I asked.

Unionista steps in, this time to save Wormtounge, “I think we are done here”.  We left the room leaving Wormtounge shell shocked.

What would have happened,  if I hadn’t maintained my focus,  If i would not have remained on guard? If I hadn’t checked every morning to see if the details had been changed?  That meeting may have gone in a totally different direction.  What happens next time do you think that they know how negatively that has impacted not just my relationship with management but also the others?

Even in the worst cases scenario the allegation against me was unfounded and even if it had been proven, then it was at a low level of seriousness, but I take my record very seriously.  In an environment of fear and lying like the one created by El Rubbisho and GW, one thing will lead to another, they are in the firing line and they will throw anyone they can under the bus if it makes them look good in the short term, dangerous times.  I cannot forgive the level of treachery and duplicity that was exercised in order to prevent a difficult conversation with a parent and leave me carrying the can for their inability to manage the SEN provision at school,  who knows the depths that they will sink to for self preservation.






Liars, Backstabbers and Empire builders.


parapetThe crushing realisation is upon us. First weeks, then days and finally hours, the six weeks is nearly up!

Something odd is happening on #edutwitter, akin to a number of social media oddities which in my world,  I see as faux pas.  My old Mum ‘gawd bless her’, recently got Facebook.  So over the past month or so, she has became slightly more proficient at posting and sharing content.  This has lead to me giving her some guidance on some of the conventions;

“Mum,  no one wants to see your dinner”

“Mum that post could be viewed as offensive”

“Mum no one likes their timeline filled with game requests”

I’m sure you can picture the scene.

On #edutwitter one of the things I perceive as faux pas, is the sharing of “new displays“;

Look at my new book corner

Look at my new working wall (despite the kids having done no work)

Look how much better than you I am

Look at my cut out coloured paper

Look how shiny my laminating is

Look at how dedicated I am

Look how I care more than you

crunchI’m sure for the second time, you get the picture.  Now why is this a problem? Aside from the not unsubstantial arguments that displays have little, or in some cases a negative impact on learning, or that they take up a disproportionate amount of time, that could be used for other more productive tasks. Or the argument that they actually discourage learners from memorising things, but never mind all those silly researchy things that are so unpopular in education.  There is actually another reason why teacher created displays grind my gears.

Allow me to elucidate. At the risk of sounding miserable, negative, unprofessional or wait for it……… uncaring (getting this in before you do).  It’s a problem because we are now entering the seventh year of a 1% pay rise which when you consider inflation, is effectively a pay cut. It’s a problem because year on year there is more work added and nothing taken away, it’s a problem because sleazy back sliding managers with no people skills are covertly massaging expectations beyond unmanageable, it’s a problem because the culture in many schools is about blame and OFSTED/ESTYN appeasement,  it’s a problem because three of the best and most senior teachers I have had the fortune to call colleagues have been forced from their jobs, by ineffective managers and a lack of will to fight, it’s a problem because two of my colleagues from the previous year are now dead from heart attacks,  seemingly only kept alive, by the sheer adrenaline, caused by pressure and unmanageable workload.
It is a problem because teaching, is facing unprecedented challenges and teachers know this, but continue to work themselves quite literally, to death.  Displays are a specific problem but oddly a really powerful way you can fight back. kitchner

It’s easy you see, anyone can put up a display.  It does not require a degree or QTS or any kind of special teaching powers,  if your management require you to put up displays, tell them you refuse and politely request that they employ someone to do it.  If you desperately want a new display, do the rest of us a favour and tell your management to hire someone to do it for you and then direct them from the side.  “SHOCK HORROR, WHAT? Refuse to do as I am told”? I hear your anguished cry! Well yes actually, tell them, because believe it or not the action short of strike action from the two largest teaching unions supports this and will support YOU in refusing.

You can find the guidance by clicking here . I get so very angry and worked up by teachers who do the things that are precluded by the action short of strike action. Many of your older colleagues and in some circumstances, even yourselves, fought hard through strikes, for the pay and conditions contained in the burgundy book and it protects us all.  Every single month at paycheck time, the government sticks two fingers in your face and says “YOU ARE NOT WORTH INFLATION”.  Every time you do something that is precluded by the action short of strike action you are supporting those two fingers. Every time you act in compliance, you are telling the rest of the profession that they are not worth it.  If there is one thing that school managers have managed to perfect, it is the ability to tap into teachers guilt complex.  The guilt is destroying the lives of thousands of professionals.

You might be OK at your school, you might be one of the lucky ones. Thousands are not, every time you go over and above on managements terms,  you are making it harder and harder for the entire profession.  Solidarity is required to make leaders think.  Until heads start feeling the pressure from their staff below,  NOTHING will change. Until those cosy little chats at the buffets in hotels up and down the country involve heads ruminating, on how effectively staff are effecting the immensely powerful action short of strike action , the idea of industrial action is nothing more than an exercise in futility.

To me it is not just a display,  it is a statement. It says you don’t have the confidence to stand by your colleagues,  it’s a statement that denigrates the profession and it’s an acceptance, that in line with the governments logic, you believe you are worth less than inflation.  But after all who the hell am I?  Just a provoked pedagogue….


Be the Teacher who changed the game for you. Except you might get sacked.


Think back.  Who opened your mind? What did they do that inspired you? How did they inspire you, to want to shape the minds of the next generation?

Time machine take me back to 1987…..

Science, manic, dangerous, hilarious, harsh, physical. The smell… Only ever found in old school science classes,  perhaps it was the leaky fume cupboard that caused, not just the smell, but also the maniacal behavior.  Lesson one, I am eleven years old, picture the archetypal mad scientist minus the lab coat, shock of wild grey hair, wiry, horn rimmed glasses, beige checked shirt rolled up to the elbows, woollen tie, bobbled, square cut end.  Booming voice, it felt like the panes of glass were wobbling in their seventies aluminum frames.

He jumped on his own desk! Crouched, simian, clutching a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher and proceeded to bound from desk to desk blasting pupils irrespective of  sex or stature. Hair instantly frozen in a moment, the image chemically frozen in my mind forever.

Lessons were either us watching him and a range of various experiments, from fags pulled through cotton wool, to lightning flashes of thermite ignited by magnesium ribbon.  Or sat on high desks writing in rows in dog eared books, from hastily chalked and talked notes on the board, or copying from archaic textbooks.

tin tinI remember vividly watching him pin a cheeky pupil to a desk and colour in the remaining tuft of hair with a green marker pen, to the open hilarity of everyone, bar tufty boy, Tin Tin esq, tears on his cheeks. I will never forget that day. I am exceptionally glad that it wasn’t me.

When it comes to feedback, I remember sporadic ticks and occasionally, scrawled grade letters in my book, experience tells me he was a master of the tick and flick.  Diagnostic comments or deep marking were light years away, in fact serving a scalding brew from a chocolate teapot was a far more likely occurrence.

Planning involved fag packets ( I asked), technicians and knowledge, exceptional wide and practiced knowledge. Coupled with passionate delivery and scathing, brilliant sarcasm.   This was one of the craziest, most inappropriate, but extraordinarily brilliant pedagogues, I ever had the good fortune to meet.

You loved it or hated it, foolish thought was punished with ridicule, misbehavior dealt with through cruelty (not violence by the definition of most), but pupils soon accepted who was the boss in this room. Now at the risk of promoting the “it never did me any harm” rhetoric, there was always an underlying current of kindness, an acceptance that the motivation was pure.  This was never about getting a grade or a data point or hitting a quartile, this was about science, promoting a love, inspiring a new generation, delivering knowledge, to support the future of the young minds spread before him.  As a smart arsed kid from the rough side of the economic spectrum, this guy spoke to me in ways which still live with me today.  I am sure he spoke to others in ways that speak to them equally, but in negative terms, but part of me is pretty confident that the negative experiences can be equally powerful for knowledge.

One of the hardest adjustments I had to make from a fifteen year career in a variety of traditionally middle and working class industries was the idea of psuedo professionalism that permeates throughout education.  The idea that a set of arbitrary standards set by wizened failed teachers and self serving political necromancers can hope to suffice in the exceptionally fluid and chaotic school environment, that the self appointed arbitrators of said standards are largely middle class duffers with no real comprehension of life outside of the cloying confines of educational institutions.  That said ‘duffers’ perpetuate systems that are unattainable and unmanageable and that they then impose those systems on all comers, with no regard to subject, situation or student. That the profession I chose in later life, from a genuine desire to have a positive impact on social mobility, had transmogrified into a Tennessee two step of epic proportion. An odd balancing act of nurturing genuine talent whilst simultaneously fabricating magic Kevlar undies constructed from massaged samples and coursework.

One thing I do know, my favorite mad scientist wouldn’t last five minutes in today’s educational climate.




Be the Teacher who changed the game for you. Except you might get sacked.

The problem with School secret shoppers


Secret shopping was invented in the 1940’s to check up on retail and banking staff who were not trusted by their employers.  It has no other purpose.  It screams mistrust. It is a crude tool of weak managers to strike fear into those who have it foisted upon them.
Off the top of my head the following is demonstrably true and should also stay true, unless you believe in the corporatisation of education, but that is a whole other pickle:

  • Schools are not shops
  • Schools are not banks
  • Learners are not customers
  • Learners are not shoppers
  • Learners are not clients
  • Learners are not teachers
  • Learners are not professional


It is just not necessary, we have middle managers for this and if the middle manager can’t figure it out GIVE THEM MORE TIME TO MANAGE.  Try training them to become facilitators with the goal of providing a supportive culture to allow teachers to thrive.

If you are reading this remember you have had six years of back to back real term pay cuts, in the same period MP’s have received 11%.  Teaching is under unprecedented pressure.  Enough is enough, I am sick to death of teachers hanging themselves, engaging with new initiative after new initiative, being affable with data driven management nonsense, sucking up check lists and boxes and rubrics and grids.

You may well be at the top of the food chain, getting a tasty little TLR and plenty of time off timetable but do you remember what it was like to begin with? I am not sure that you do. Were you subjected to “secret shoppers” as a teacher back before you nestled into your comfy niche? NQT burnout was 40% in 2015. Stupid pointless QA exercises like this are contributing to that figure.

Maybe you work in a “Nice” school where the kids do this well, maybe you can argue that giving them the power, they will also exercise responsibility,  but remember loads of others do not.  The tiny almost imperceptible and certainly unmeasurable benefits that “YOU” experience in your tiny little middle class bubble, should not be allowed to royally shaft thousands of teachers who may well have their careers ended by a stupid retail import like this.


Here is the section from the NASUWT’s action short of strike action it is crystal clear.

Instruction 4: Members are instructed not to organise or co-operate with any arrangements which involve pupils commenting on, or observing the work of, teachers or being involved in decision making about teachers’ roles, responsibilities, pay or promotion.
Members should not agree to be observed by pupils or organise any activity or                co-operate with any activity which would involve pupils observing teachers or commenting on their performance. This instruction covers, for example:  pupils observing teachers teaching and providing either written or oral feedback on what they have observed;
the distribution of questionnaires to pupils which elicit comments on teachers’ performance or attitudes, the conduct of lessons or the way in which teachers discharge their responsibilities; participation of pupils on interview panels for internal or external appointments.

If you are engaging with this kind of thing, you are part of the problem.  If you think this is a good way to motivate staff you are stupid.  If you use this to monitor your staff you are a terrible manager.

Teaching is a profession, professionals would not engage with this kind of stupidity and if you accept it, what does that say about how you view yourself?



The problem with School secret shoppers

The Problem(s) With Prom

Right major risk here, hiding behind the couch already this one has been bubbling for a while and is bound to upset someone….

I absolutely despise Prom.  I hate it. Gasps. Shock! Horror! “HOW DARE YOU, HOW VERY DARE YOU,” I can hear your indignation from here! Even from the safety of behind my couch.

So if you are still here your interest must be piqued. You must have a tiny scrap of curiosity, please don’t mistake this as some kind of click-bait. I really do hate prom and I am going to steam into it big time, so if you thought this was one of those opposite posts, to get a hook on your indignation button, only to have your opinion vindicated in the final passage, STOP!, log off, find a nice blog, or look at some max factor palettes on eBay.  You have been warned!

So how come I hate prom then? Or ROA, or any other stupid name it is called. How could anyone possibly hate it? Surely it is the right of passage from childhood into…Well childhood… I mean how could you possibly begrudge those poor hardworking teenagers their special day, after achieving so much in their GCSE’s?  Erm… except they have not actually got any grades yet and in the case of many, will not actually get any grades. But hey, so what if the entire premise is flawed and it is just another example of how we consistently reward kids for just about meeting the absolute minimum standard and no more… They look nice right?… It’s fun right? So what if we dangle it as the ultimate sanction (not being allowed to go), when the kids know full well that a well placed aggressive parent will soon overturn any decision a school tries to make.

I have now endured exactly 13 of these of these dreadful tawdry gawdy affairs in a triplicate of rolls and responsibilities; teacher six, parent four and photographer three (at least I got paid for these).  I have seen the front end, the back end and the shameless chicken fillets shoved into criminally expensive and ill fitting gowns.  I have seen heinous parents calling the offspring of equally execrable parents, skanks, whores and homo’s.  I have seen vodka filled teens covered in their own vomit, abusive door staff leering at underage girls and Lads barely through puberty acting like Jordan Belfort and Bob Marley puffing on reefers and snorting coke at the back of a range of ill conceived and poorly prepared “secret venues”.
So yes it is safe to say I am not a fan.
The actual reason I despise this most meretricious of stateside imports, is how dishonest the whole thing is.  It is a mass exercise in fraud from the first second it is announced, to the moment the speaker, most often the head gets up on stage. The sickly mendacious oration at “how amazing it is that these fantastic young people have changed so much in five years“, Headteachers up and down the country will regale the audience, in the vain hope that somewhere in the crowd, is a parent who will make the decision on what school to send the younger brother too based on this charade.

Tales of hour after hour of hard work and dedicated study.  When in reality (albeit in my limited opinion), a large percentage of those sat in front, stinking of overpriced cosmetics and cheap body sprays, have simply done their absolute damnedest to devastate any opportunity for learning to be maximised.  The smooth practiced delivery of a politician, making the same speech for the umpteenth time, rings through the air, yanking down the veil, masking the years of anxiety and pain endured by teacher after teacher who has devoted their soul and spare time at the cost of friends and families, to getting many of the hoard sat in front, to hand in a piece of coursework or complete a test. It is not about the thanks by the way, it is about the rapacious progression of accountability.  If the kids in front of me were allowed to fail then the whole thing might be different.

In reality the only thing you can ever congratulate them on is the fact that they “look nice”,  It is a shallow vacuous affair about nothing more than who has managed to spend the most on looking nice.

“Oh shut up moaning I hear you cry, let them be”, well actually no I won’t shut up because I have had to endure nine out of the last twelve months of this and do so every year, because the girls spend that long in planning.  The prom means more to them than the GCSE results at our School, it really does.  The pressure builds and builds and when they should be studying they are on ASOS, when they have a live research activity to bolster coursework, they have one tab on wikipedia and the other on hi def brows. com. To rub salt in the wound, for some unfathomable reason, our School and many others, have the prom slap bang in the middle of exams.

The first major hurdle of secondary education,  hours and hours of teachers toil and accountability is summed up in a single evening,  that has become a pilgrimage to L’Oreal and the mind prison of make-up.  Young girls in school,  fresh faced or suitably pimpled, plastered in makeup because they feel pressured by the situation from all angles, often including the school, parents getting payday loans to pay for hair extensions and lip plumping, Botox for some and dermal peels for others. Makeup so thick when it cracks it rivals the tectonic plates.

Then there is the fake tan! The most ludicrous shades, colors that defy even the unlimited variations provided by the human genome.  Filthy stained hands, tide marks around necks for the poorest who have to self apply, literacy so poor they can’t read the instructions on pre packaged tubes and sachets of brown goop that leaks into every pore.  Patches of pink where the top layer has peeled off due to inexpensive sunbed sessions.  For me it is the ugly end of society, where only the rich have value and everyone else has to emulate.  Like a sick rite of passage into a world which makes value judgements about a person on how well they can fake a mixture between eastern European prostitute and  trans human Kardashian clone.  Where image is king and snap chat rules where adverts for products trump GCSE certificates,  where your value is measured not by what you have achieved, but by how well you apply the achievements of vivisectionists and marketing executives to your skin. Where our young people place themselves on a digital balance of Instagram fame where like farming, followers and streaks are the currency of virtue.

It is demeaning for some and devastating for others, anxious angst teens some overweight and shoehorned into gowns and paraded through town like cattle.  Tears are assured and will have been flowing freely, family relationships stretched to breaking point, in the quest for the perfect combination of overpriced tat, that the teenager thinks they want,  ill prepared and unable to react with dignity they totter along on heels like mutant Bambi’s in chiffon. Awkwardly they sit under the gaze of adoring and hatefully jealous parents fawning and spitting in equal measures, bored of the pomp and ceremony after two minutes, the boys pulling at ties and readjusting jackets the girls pulling at ill fitting underwear.  I am cringing.

Is this what society and schools wants our kids to think life is like? That you are rewarded for achieving nothing. That it’s normal to feel awkward and uncomfortable in front of people who are feeling equally awkward and uncomfortable.  That you are valued on how “nice you look” and how well you can manipulate the products of capitalism to alter your image, instead of your academic achievements?

By all means Celebrate an achievement, do it when the GCSE results arrive,  now that’s a call for a party! But celebrating the fact that you completed year 11 without electrocuting yourself or burning down the school, or eating blue toilet fairy candy, does nothing but perpetuate the myth that you will achieve regardless.  Celebrating it by making yourself look as fake as possible, is equally bad and in my opinion, the antithesis of what schools should be doing.  Boot the prom back to where it belongs and let’s get back to a good old British school disco!

The Problem(s) With Prom