Bonus Post… Parklands Subject Leader Ofsted Prep Questions via @ChrisDysonHT

Prepping your team well is a key ingredient to a successful Ofsted. Here are Chris Dyson’s Subject-Leader questions.  (Download link at the bottom)

Maths and Literacy

Questions all Subject Leaders should be able to answer?

  1. What are the standards of your subject from July 2017?
  2. You will need the key info from Raise and cross reference with H/T and SEF to ensure ‘all singing from the same hymn sheet’. NOVEMBER
  3. Can you make a judgement on these outcomes e.g. ‘attainment’ is RI (below National ) ‘progress’ is Good (Be able to support these 2 answers with evidence)
  4. What are standards (attainment) currently? (if over half way through the year….. ARE % ….GLD estimate…. Y1 Phonics est….. Y6 and Y2 predictions) ALTHOUGH OFSTED DON’T WANT PREDICTIONS – its good to be forearmed
  5. What was the progress judged to be last July/currently? (evidence based)
  6. What is in place to ‘boost’.
  7. What are the main strengths?(all of your responses no matter how dire should be littered with HOWEVERS i.e. strengths/positives/green shoots etc)
  8. What are currently the main areas of concern in your subject? Which YG … may be BvG or PP v Non (Evidence of some triangulation analysis i.e. data/books/planning)
  9. What are you doing about it and have you edited your action plan? (Not War and Peace, simple/manageable/doable)
  10. What impact is your action plan having on provision/standards/progress?

( Are you using the same system as the H/T annotates the SIP?)

  1. What are you currently monitoring in your subject and what does that entail? (E.g. make sure it’s not scatter gun approach but very focused, and a s a result of book trawl/ triangulation/ ch interview)
  2. What about next steps/long term plans(ensure you know the direction of travel of national picture/school and more importantly pupils’ needs… ie 2 years to be hitting 85% ARE – spelling and HW focus to raise eXceeding)

Try brain storming these answers succinctly on an A3 sheet then check the facts where applicable. Now formalise each one of your punchy short answers on A4, rehearse it, and practice the script with SLT. Update when needed.

Recent OFSTED Q (May 2016) asked to Maths Co ordinator

  1. How long have you been in the post?

    2. What year group do you teach in? (being in Y1 or Y6 isn’t an excuse for not knowing about maths in the rest of the school)

    3. How do you rate maths in school? (Be positive – don’t dither – give a definitive answer – plump for ‘good’)

    3. Where is the weakest maths teaching in school? (Ofsted spent an awful lot of time on this!… how do you know… what support have you given…. What would you do next? HT – capabilities if no change after support)

    – why was it weak?

    – how do you know it was weakest?

    – what have you done to improve teaching? (You may want to use lots of evidence for this – so try have a paper trail ready on monitoring you have done… she didn’t want to look at data or books)

    – how do we know maths had improved in this area? (ARE increasing….. gap BvG closing…)

Questions all Subject Leaders should be able to answer (1)


Stop…Ask yourself a question …Reflect …Act.


This is a micro-blog. Having had an inspiring week thanks to some brilliant challenge from @Enquire1, then finished off by a great day of learning at #LLL17. I thought I’d share a couple of key questions. These are questions for anybody in a school and they are really worth the time to stop and reflect on.


What three words would be written in the middle if  you cut your school in half?

Supplementary question from @GazNeedle

Would everyone agree?

Finding those three words that act as a lens on everything you do is an incredibly powerful way of looking and judging the actions you take.  Thanks @GaltVicky for this.


Question 2 inspired by the Carter Report.

If someone comes round your school what will they take away as the things that your school does well?

What are the things that make your school unique?

What are your signature pedagogies?


The discussion and thought around the questions is more important than the answers. Enjoy.

Have a great Sunday



The problem with knowing stuff. (I know lots of stuff, most of it pointless)




I am just going to put it out there, I know lots of stuff, I am good in a pub quiz (especially if there is a round on music 1970-2000 and Children’s literature.) If you need to know who played the bass on Lovecats by the Cure, or indeed what position it got to in the charts, and in what year… then I’m your man. This can sometimes be entertaining and add to a discussion but sometimes it makes me come across as an annoying, arrogant know-it-all.


There is currently a lot of talk about knowledge, I see knowledge organisers flying around all over the place. The term ‘knowledge-rich curriculum’ is bandied about with a drive for kids to know facts about stuff. My worry is that people aren’t stopping to think about what they are teaching and why. Knowledge is important, but knowing stuff is a start not an end – is there any purpose to the knowing of stuff? Just knowing stuff is not enough.

Lets take vocabulary, we have to teach challenging vocabulary. The reading test in 2015 made it abundantly clear that our assessment system has an expectation that children have an expansive vocabulary. For many schools this means there is a huge catch-up that needs to happen. This is tackled in some schools by the pressence of word lists ahoy, lots of words out of context…”learn these words”. If you want children to learn words they can use, context is everything. Use great books, find the words in context, discuss the meaning, explore for alternate meanings then use them…in other words teach them.


We need to make sure our curriculums don’t just teach knowledge but creates a purpose and a reason for having it. The driver for knowledge should be the design of our curriculum.

As I succinctly summarised  after reading  Ben Newmark’s thought-provoking blog (see below)

“Knowledge is only as good as the curriculum it comes from.”

It’s the first time I’ve ever been succinct.

You’ll note I’ve been really careful not to get into the discussion about what that curriculum should be. That’s a whole other debate that I really haven’t the energy to get into at the moment.

Children are revoltin’ – Good behaviour in school is a team game.



‘Never again will she get the best of me!
Never again will she take away my freedom.
And we won’t forget the day we fought
For the right to be a little bit naughty!’

Revolting Children written by Tim Minchin


“We don’t want children to behave”

said no teacher ever.

I’m really proud of the behaviour in our school. Behaviour in our school is really good. It’s really good because we work really hard to make it so. We have effective systems that are rigourously upheld. As a headteacher, part of my job is to back -up the teachers and follow through when behaviour incidents occur. When I came to our school,  behaviour was a problem… a serious problem. I spent quite a lot of time dealing with behaviour. The previous regime had used detentions and exclusions it hadn’t solved the problem. The first thing we did was streamline our behaviour policy and make it really clear for children to understand. We monitored it  and we followed it to the letter. Improvement was rapid. The key was communicating and working with the parents. We very quickly found we’d actually created a policy for a dozen children and the rest of the children didn’t really need it.

Now call me naive if you want, in fact a deputy at another school did just that, but I believe that children want to behave and want to do the right thing. It may be naive but I can honestly say it makes going to school everyday much easier. An important aspect of our school is teaching children the difference between right and wrong. For me the true test of behaviour is what children do when you’re not watching them not what they do when you are. Trust surely has to be the goal of any behaviour policy.


That’s not to say we don’t have behaviour incidents…sometimes we do. Children sometimes do the wrong thing, children are sometimes naughty. At the age of ten I got the slipper from the headteacher for kissing Helen Massam in the maths storeroom. I can honestly say that the punishment did not stop me kissing girls – although thinking about it I have always held an disproportional hatred of slippers. But when I wasn’t allowed to be Maths monitor now that was the punishment that had an impact. Understanding how to effectively manage behaviour is an ‘all hands on deck’ task and disruptive behaviour needs thinking about from all angles.

I know that  bad behaviour occasionally comes from inconsistent routines and practices.  I’ll be honest as a teacher sometimes I have had lessons that have gone completely Pete Tong, sometimes the children have become over excited or I wasn’t clear enough on expectations, sometimes my lessons were just duff.   If we’re honest about this  however then we can get it right in our classroom. If we portray ourselves as infallible then we give away the power to change it. Being able to reflect on our lessons and think about how it could work differently is important. Tweaking what we do can have a huge impact, we are not excusing bad behaviour (whatever the circumstance children who misbehave should be responsible for their actions) but actively seeking to address it.

A key ingredient of improving behaviour is working with parents and if necessary supporting parents as well. Parents supporting the school’s actions, especially in a primary context, probably makes the most difference in improving behaviour. I remember my son getting into trouble for scratching his name into a desk. When he got home the first thing we did was march him back to school and made him apologise. We then offered to pay for a new desk. I can say categorically he never did it again. Creating relationships and trust with parents so they support the school in it’s work cannot be underestimated. To do that you have to communicate the good as well as the bad. You have to celebrate pupil’s successes. The more we pay attention to the behaviour we want the more likely we are to get it.


Sadly in some schools honesty about behaviour is used as a weapon against a teacher. Teachers need to be able to be open when they are having a problem without fear of it being used against them. We need to create cultures in which we can be honest about problems and issues.  We need SLT’s to listen and act to support teachers. We need effective systems that are  upheld and don’t waver. Being honest about the issues and challenges is actually how you solve them.

…and don’t get me started on “Well they weren’t a problem when I taught them!” probably one of the most damaging phrases ever uttered in a school.


‘Bad behaviour
Was my saviour
Making mischief
Used to make my day’

Bad Behaviour Super Furry Animals





New year…New Hope. Deep breath and a big grin.


This is the start of my fourth year as a headteacher at East Whitby. The hopes and aspirations for the year are vital. The seeds that are planted in September are the ones you nurture through the year. Year on year we have as a school steadily improved, not change, change, change  but building on the strengths we have and most of the time pushing in the same direction. Fact is we can’t control the outside, but we definitely can control the inside. We can’t change  the “weather.” DfE and Ofsted will do what they do but we will be ready to react accordingly to that, we’ve got sun-cream, wooly hats and umbrellas at the ready.

I do however have a few wishes for the upcoming year. Ones that we will hope to fulfil in our school.

Firstly I wish for this upcoming school year that we, as teachers, act on the principle that education is not only about the mind — but that it’s about the person.   I believe a school must function  for the purpose of developing students as whole people, not just merely as empty minds which require regular and constant filling up of knowledge.  My wish is for teachers to remember that there is more to student learning than simply pumping the mind with facts and information.  That is not saying that we don’t have to teach stuff because blatantly we do and obviously that is our core purpose, but there is so much more to what we do and we ignore that at our peril.

I wish that we can get children to that spot where learning is a motivator in and of itself and that we embrace the joy that brings. Sometimes we have to engage and excite to get the children there. School should be a joy. Children should rush out to tell parents what they’ve learnt. Smiles and happiness should be synonomous with school, so I also wish that  we make time to have fun! Is it too much to ask that we find time to laugh? Time to breathe, and wonder, and imagine, and daydream? Time to draw and sculpt and create. Time to rest  as well as time to work.



Which brings me to my final wish I also wish that as teachers is that we remember that each person we see sitting in front of us each day is a human being, a person with feelings, thoughts, emotions, complicated baggage, issues, story, problems, joys, sorrows, hurts and pains and  that we never lose sight of the humanity of the people in our schools and we never lose sight of our own humanity when we work others.

Now is equally the perfect time to revisit what you are about and to look at those values. Here are ours as a school. I think they stand us in good stead.

East Whitby Vision and Values

At East Whitby we take pride in developing outstanding teaching and learning by holding the highest expectations of all our pupils and knowing the children well. We challenge all children to strive for academic, creative, sporting and personal accomplishment within a broad, vibrant and enriched curriculum. Our students are given time to explore subjects and develop deep understanding.  We celebrate perseverance, resilience and risk taking, ensuring children welcome challenge and are not frightened to make mistakes.

We encourage children to take ownership of and responsibility for their learning, so they have the confidence and curiosity to ask questions, solve problems and respond to quality feedback. Children are praised for hard work, determination and having a positive attitude. In order to create an inclusive school where everyone can flourish, whatever their background, we promote an ethos of respect and empathy, where diversity is valued and celebrated – both within school and the wider world.

Pupils are taught the virtues of kindness, appreciation and what it means to be courageous. Special care is taken to educate everyone in the East Whitby community about the needs of others and how best to meet them.

We foster open and honest communication with parents, carers and specialists and actively seek to engage with all members of the East Whitby community in a positive supportive manner. High quality teaching is a key priority at East Whitby and the relationship between staff and children underpins inspirational, supportive and effective teaching and learning.

Staff are actively involved in identifying their support and training needs and this leads to careers with clear progression. We ensure that there is a wide range of quality training available and that staff are able to learn from each other and share good practice.

It is our aim for all children to leave East Whitby as confident learners with self-belief and an abiding respect for others. We aim to instil a lifelong love for learning and a strong grounding for future success.


We promote achievement by:

  • Holding the highest expectations for all
  • Striving for every child to make the very best possible progress
  • Being restless in our pursuit of excellence

We develop as confident and independent learners by:

  • Providing learning which excites passion and curiosity.
  • Embracing challenge and not giving up
  • Trying our best without fear of failure
  • Speaking knowledgeably about our strengths and areas of improvement

We value supportive and positive relationships by:

  • Bringing out the best in each other
  • Showing pride in one another’s achievements
  • Creating strong partnerships between home, school and the wider community

We appreciate others by:

  • Valuing and respecting the rights of others
  • Making sure everybody feels listened to
  • Promoting good manners and caring attitude


So take that energy and passion that we all start this new year with and make it a good one, whatever the “weather” throws at us.

Not the Messiah! There are no magic wands.


Felt I needed to clarify my headteacher tweet. Now going on a internet break

The new academic year is always a fascinating thing. Dreams, hopes, ambitions often fill the air with their heady perfume. However the dreams and ambitions of the last few years seem to be more akin to survival than forging new paths. It is hard. It’s hard for Teachers, SLT’s and heads. I genuinely don’t have all the answers, as a team we have a lot more.  For us this year it’s about doing what we do but better. Honing /polishing/ tweaking.

This however is the point when the “Experts” swoop, praying on the stragglers from the flock.
Never thought I’d agree with Michael Gove but I have to say I’m sick of “Experts”


There are a lot of people who essentially promote themselves as the new messiah…The man with all the answers (They are invariably men)…They are infallible, armed with their sword of research, their shield of “I think you’ll find…”, the sacred armour of “I know best!”and the helmet of mansplaining. They will without any knowledge of you and your school proceed to tell you how you are wrong and they are right. They will tell some anecdote about some school somewhere that did this thing and it was all amazing.

They will offer you a vision after your 40 days wandering in the desert. A picture of a perfect world, a luscious place where the sun always shines and the lemonade river flows past the lollipop trees. They will tempt you. They will dazzle you with sparkly figures often written on the side of a big red bus. They will present this years thing. (5 years ago they would have flogged Learning Styles or Brain Gym)


They will then present their Holy Grail.


“Do it like I did once…it worked for me” They will say accompanied by choirs of angels exalting their panacea to the heavens.

What frustrates most is the seeds of discord that these “experts” will sow amongst teachers. They will blame SLT’s or heads.

Except they often haven’t done it really. They haven’t led a school and faced the myriad of challenges that fly at you like stalker birds. They haven’t actually put themselves out there and put their career on the line by taking on the challenge.

Those that have invariably won’t tell you what to do, they’ll coach, question and help you find your solution.

Having worked in 7 schools in 23 years the one thing I know is that there is no one answer. What works in one place often won’t work elsewhere. The one common factor in school success is hard work, commitment to the vision and the whole school pushing together.

Now let me show you one I prepared earlier…

*Not all experts do this by the way, some genuinely bring expertise in their area, they are passionate about what they do. They don’t make wild promises. 



Bookblog No4 The Journey by Francesca Sanna


Firstly I just want to say that this book,  in my opinion, was the best picturebook released last year. It is an absolutely stunning book. However it is not an easy read, elements and themes in the book are both challenging and provide a window about something we hopefully will never experience ourselves.

We hear the words “refugee” and “migrant” thrown around so much these days that we run the risk of being desensitized to these stories or worse that these words become scape-goats for our woes. Currently in this country they are almost dirty words. When I posted a tweet a while ago recommending a few books that deal with the issue of migration I received some pretty foul abuse.  I was accused of indoctrinating children. The words and the stories behind the words seem to have been lost.

This book thankfully gives some of that story back to the people who are beginning and enduring  this kind of journey every day. I have to say I was in tears the first time I read it. 

The story begins with a normal family doing those normal  things that we all do by the seaside. It looks lovely and idyllic, but the water feels incredibly dark and foreboding. And indeed, a wave of war comes and washes away everything that the child narrator knows, destroying their family in the process.


In the aftermath of this the narrator’s mother is forced to make the heartbreaking decision to leave all they have known. Many other people are leaving and dreaming of a country far away with mountains, cities, forests, and animals – all different from what they know.


This sets up and creates “The Journey” of the title – the family packs up and decides to follow. The trip is long, dark, and dangerous. The farther they go, the more of their precious  belongings they leave behind. (I only spotted  this after Matt Tobin pointed it out to me) When they finally arrive at the border, they are turned away.

Sanna plays pictures against words wonderfully. The use of the child as the narrator creates a naivety and innocence to the written narrative that she exploits brilliantly. As a reader we always know more. She uses a wealth of artistic devices to do this. It’s a book that repays time spent exploring it in spades. Having used it with a number of classes they completely get it too and instinctively interpret the amazing images.

The pictures are all so strong, it’s hard to choose which to highlight, but for emotional power the twin images of the mother encircling her children for protection in the darkness of the forest will linger long in the mind. (see below)

On the left hand page they are all awake and gazing at each other with a warm hue of colours creating an image of protection and love. On the right hand  page (It’s colours notably muted and darker), the child’s words ‘But mother is with us and she is never scared’ counterpoint the image of the mother’s tears cascading down as her children sleep. The subtle change in tone between the images conveys the mother’s fear, the constant threat and the relentless despair that the mother feels. That the children are oblivious to these things makes the page doubly powerful.



Sanna however decides to leave us on a picture on hope, linking it to the cyclical nature of bird migration, where movement and migration follows the seasons so that life is more bearable and dare I say safe but also that there is still a wish to ultimately return “home.”


 A beautiful heartbreaking picturebook with real heart that deals with real world issues in a deeply compassionate way. Moments of threat and fear.  (9+) (A great class explore for Year 4 and up. With care could be used with younger children )

Themes :- Forced migration, immigration,  family, loss, hope, travel, voices and viewpoints

I’ve added Amnesty’s fantastic question resource that really help you dig into the text.

Amnesty International Exploring The Journey Together

Matt Tobin blog on The Journey

Also these books would also work brilliantly alongside it giving different perspectives.










Safety First…Are you doing this?

Stop Look Listen Sign

“…In the rush we become

Some things we thought we’d never be

We were surprised by how hard

Left weary and scared

By the nights, spent feeling incomplete

And all those evenings swearing at the sky”

All at Once by Airborne Toxic Event

I can only describe it as one of those weeks. That statement both says it all and is a complete understatement for the week I’ve/we’ve had. I have not had a lot of sleep this week, lots of time has been spent running through my head how we could have done things differently. I’m not sure we could have by the way but that only makes you feel more useless. I’m glad the weekend is almost here because next week cannot be worse. It has hit home this week both how important our job is but also why it is vital that we listen to children.

“…And it comes like a punch

In the gut, in the back, in the face”

We don’t know what’s behind the front door. We don’t know what is going on in our children’s lives but we need to listen and pay attention. When the child lashes out. We need to notice. When the child acts in an unusual way. We need to notice When they dawdle over going home. We need to notice. When they won’t get changed for PE. We need to notice. When they never seem to be equipped. We need to notice.  When the shoes have a hole in. We need to notice. When they haven’t got a coat. We need to notice


I worry about systems in school that almost seem to ignore the pupil. Systems where symptoms are addressed but not the cause.

We need to ensure we have robust systems in our schools that join up the dots. that pulls together all the information we receive, that doesn’t dismiss the little things. Systems that put child well-being and safety at the heart of what we do. What we do in our school, our systems does all those things.

Sadly even then it may not be enough. Even if you do all that stuff, it may not be enough. Even if you have all the systems in place, it may still not be enough but at least maybe, just maybe you can look at yourself in the mirror and say we tried.

Book blog no. 3 The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

I had started bloging about another book but after finishing The Explorer by Katherine Rundell I was compelled to just let people know how good it is. For anyone asking for a recommendation for a book set in the rainforest this is that book.  (And that is coming from someone who loves Eva Ibbotson’s Journey to the River Sea)

A plane crash strands four children in the Amazon. It leaves Fred, Con, Lila, and Lila’s little brother, Max stranded and struggling to survive in a harsh unforgiving environment.  Together they search for shelter and forage for food, all the while Rundell drops hints that the story is more than this which ultimately is exactly what it turns out to be. The dangers of the Amazon leap from the pages the children lurch from moments of success and joy to moments of danger and peril. Just as we feel the children stand a chance nature comes and trips them up.  A map, found by chance,  leads them to a ruined city of secrets and the eponymous ‘Explorer’ of the title.

Rundell as she did in Wolf Wilder creates an evocative believable word and then inhabits it with great characters. The sounds, smells, flora, and fauna are vivid and tangible in the mind. The Amazon she creates is beautiful, wild and astounding. Initially I was struck by similarities to Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and that desperate human need to survive, but the characters ultimately make it a very different story.

It is the characters that hold the story together. The developing relationship between our four survivors  is fantastically done and as in Rundell’s other books is the bedrock from which she builds hers story. That she then has the confidence to throw this up in the air  in the second half of the book and challenge our thoughts about the characters and their motivations is a fantastic. Whilst I believed in all the characters I have to say that Con was the character for me, she is indeed a “Lion-heart” and it was her journey that I enjoyed the most in the story.

Rundell describes here what she wanted to achieve with the book. I have to say she absolutely hits it spot on.


I’m trying to be very careful about spoilers, as for me the joy was discovering this as it happens. Howvever the playing in the rain scene was a truly standout moment that truly evoked the idea of childhood.

It’s a cracking adventure and a great story. Go read it.


 A thrilling fast-paced survival adventure with real heart set in verdant and luscious setting. Moments of peril and some really rather disgusting sounding food.(maybe that’s because I’m a vegetarian.) (8+) (A great class read for Year 4 and up)

Themes :- Friendship, loyalty, survival, Caring for the environment, coming of age, trust, honesty, broadening horizons.

The link below is to Bloomsbury’s Teacher writing  resource pack

Explorer teacher resource pack


Most of all, though, I wanted to write a book in which the children discover that they are braver they think they are. I wanted to write about children discovering that the world is more beautiful and more complicated than they had ever imagined. I wanted to write about fire and food and love. Survival stories are after all, at their heart, about why it’s worth living in the first place.

                                                                                                  K.Rundell for London Review

Book blog No2 Pax by Sarah Pennypacker


I’m going to put it straight out there,  this is a fantastic book. I have already said on twitter that Pax is one of the best books that I read last year (It was the best book till I read Raymie Nightingale). I would go so far to say is it should be an instant classic.

Pax is a story about a boy and his pet fox and the unbreakable bond between them. The best children’s stories are  little bit dark, and in this book there are whispers of violence, loss and death. Yet the it is also utterly and unashamedly about love and this makes the  tale both powerful, emotional and ultimately redemptive. That it does this without resorting to sentimentality is an achievement in itselfThe story is set in the context of an ongoing war  which whilst being fictional could at the same time  be any historical or contemporary war.  Pax,  is the story of a  12-year-old boy and his pet fox.  It begins with betrayal as the boy’s father forces him to abandon the fox and then takes on a quest structure as the two friends embark on a fraught journey to find each other and make things right.


Elements of the book are not an easy read. Bad things happen and the book doesn’t shy away from them. Pennypacker uses alternate chapters between Peter, a young boy whose father leaves to fight in the war, and his fox Pax,  who must learn to adapt in the wild in order to survive.

The chapters written from Pax’s point of view are insightful and provide an animal’s perspective of humans and war. Pennypacker worked with a number of experts on fox’s behaviour and this is evident in how she he helps us understand their world.

While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes. Peter’s epic journey is complicated when he breaks his leg and is forced to rely on Vola an eccentric woman and war veteran fighting her own demons.

Both characters grow tougher and wilder as the story progresses and this really lends the story a coming of age feel. The balance of the chapter structure works wonderfully and drive the narrative forward relentlessly.


Pennypacker’s use of language is dense and complex. ( Upper KS2 teachers it will challenge and then some.) It is also absolutely wonderful. I have included a brief sample just to whet your appetite.

“The fox felt the car slow before the boy did, as he felt everything first. Through the pads of his paws, along his spine, in the sensitive whiskers at his wrists. By the vibrations, he learned also that the road had grown coarser. He stretched up from his boy’s lap and sniffed at threads of scent leaking in through the window, which told him they were now traveling into woodlands. The sharp odours of pine — wood, bark, cones, and needles — slivered through the air like blades, but beneath that, the fox recognized softer clover and wild garlic and ferns, and also a hundred things he had never encountered before but that smelled green and urgent.

The boy sensed something now, too. He pulled his pet back to him and gripped his baseball glove more tightly.

The boy’s anxiety surprised the fox. The few times they had traveled in the car before, the boy had been calm or even excited. The fox nudged his muzzle into the glove’s webbing, although he hated the leather smell. His boy always laughed when he did this. He would close the glove around his pet’s head, play-wrestling, and in this way the fox would distract him.

But today the boy lifted his pet and buried his face in the fox’s white ruff, pressing hard.

It was then that the fox realized his boy was crying. He twisted around to study his face to be sure. Yes, crying — although without a sound, something the fox had never known him to do. The boy hadn’t shed tears for a very long time, but the fox remembered: always before he had cried out, as if to demand that attention be paid to the curious occurrence of salty water streaming from his eyes.”

From PAX by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen.

Pax is as much a powerful tale of the costs of war as it is a story of boy and fox, It offers insights into the impact that the barbarity of war has on humans and animals alike. Pax is ultimately a compelling and heartrending coming of age story. I have to say I cried quite a bit.


A special mention must go out to the illustrations by Jon Klassen, award-winning creator of the picture book hat trilogy (I Want My Hat Back, This is Not My Hat, and We Found A Hatif you haven’t read them, find them and  read them now!), his artwork magically captures the tone and feel of the book: charming, homespun and emotional.

There are moments of darkness, loss and the graphic brutal reality of war which for me would place it firmly for Year 6 and Year 7 pupils or older. (10+) I would recommend reading the book before using with a class, then you can make informed judgements about suitability.

Themes :- Friendship, loyalty, pacifism, war, environmentalism, redemption, coming of age


Pax discussion Guide from Sarah Pennypacker’s website