Getting rid of staff isn’t the answer…TES article archive #3

Here is link to my article on improving schools without someone going overboard…
“New leaders of underperforming schools can feel under pressure to change personnel, but headteacher Simon Smith says his experience proves that this approach is misguided

On the day I had my first look at the school I would later come to lead, it had just received its second “requires improvement” judgement from Ofsted. The head had retired and left a leadership vacuum that the deputy at that point was bravely trying to fill. Staff morale was low.

Then, just after I started, we received a review visit from the local authority, which slammed the school.

Clearly, there were significant problems. As the new head, it was my job to find a way to fix them.

The common narrative for turning around a school in these circumstances almost always involves staff leaving. Changing trajectory, goes the thinking, requires a new head to freshen up the team; it involves a root and branch purge of the dead wood.”

Getting rid of staff isn’t the answer. TES article

Here are links to other related Leadership blogs…

The easy guide to improving schools…Invest in the important stuff.

Missing the positives… The need for #optimisticed

Be More Alfred! (Let Batman be Batman)

The Ministry of Fun

TRUST ME… You gotta believe.

Reflections…Priorities…still not getting it right.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE … In your office no one can hear you scream!


The Fight to be an Inclusive School… TES article archive #2



Here is link to TES inclusion article…

“For headteacher Simon Smith, the system seems rigged to prevent his school from getting the funding it needs to teach children with special educational needs and disability, but he won’t be put off
I in our town, we have a reputation for being the school that deals with special educational needs and disability. We are a one-form entry primary school with 10 high-needs pupils below the age of seven. We have 14 high-needs pupils in school altogether. A significant number of these children come from outside our school catchment.

When a parent comes to our door and asks whether we can accommodate a pupil’s needs, we bend over backwards to do so. And parents knock on our door a lot. The nearest specialist provisions are an hour’s drive away.”

Fight to be an inclusive school article

and other mildly related links to blogposts


Jack of all trades…Master of none. (Doing the jobs I don’t have the skills to do)

Rebels, Robots, Respect and Responsibility. (What is good Behaviour?)

Why Picturebooks are Important…TES article archive #1

Here is a link to the first article I wrote for the TES…
“This primary headteacher and self-confessed picture book obsessive offers some tips on using them in the classroom

I love picture books. I would go as far as to say I am obsessed by them. And because of that – because I use them all the time in my teaching and rave about them in our school – I know something that those schools less keen on picture books do not: they are an absolutely essential tool for boosting literacy. 

But let’s clarify what I mean by picture books. I’m talking about books where the art and the words work together to create meaning so that, without either, the story is nonsensical.”

Why primary schools need to embrace picturebooks to boost Literacy.

Also linked in any reading related blogs…

Reading…(The importance of knowing books)

A Reading Adventure…All adventures come to an end.

Books, glorious books.(#favechildrenslit)

Picture This… Why I Love Picture Books.




Last week inspired by @mazst who had enthused about The Nowhere Emporium and how great the start was.


I posted my favourite book opening along with the hashtag #bestbookopening.


It was fab that so many shared their favourite opening and really lit up quite a dull Tuesday. (It was raining and cold where I live). There are now a load more books I want to go and explore. Both children’s and adult’s books were shared I have however  focussed on the children’ s books first

So this  isn’t really a blogpost. It is instead just a place to share #bestbookopening pdf I have currently done the first 50 openings. They are A4 pages and look a bit like this…

So here is a PDF version,

bestbookopening pt1 pdf1

and here is a word version if you want to edit or add your own.

bestbookopening pt1 word

I will add more over the next few days…


Here are another 20.



More to follow…


Hope people find them useful…I’m putting a set up around school.



The easy guide to improving schools…Invest in the important stuff.



What is the thing that truly makes a difference in a school? The thing that ultimately impacts on the life chances of all the children that pass through your door. What is the magic ingredient?

The answer is simple…Teachers…good teachers. If the teaching is right then the other stuff follows. Sounds really simple doesn’t it. Well that’s because in theory it is. The reality is slightly more challenging.

Truth is we need to invest in our teachers. Great teachers make the difference.  We need our teachers to be reflective practitioners, we need to create in our schools communities of learners open to exploring and developing their practice.

If we can’t admit when something isn’t working then we can’t possibly get it right. Performance Management has been in my opinion one of the most mis-used devices in schools. It has essentially been used as a stick to beat people with. It should be something that helps, supports, encourages  and rewards staff. It has more often than not been the tool to knock and threaten staff. Creating a climate where staff can develop their practice and sometimes get it wrong is the best way to getting it right.



SLT’s need to create the systems that allow their teachers to be great.   Our most important question in all that we do is “So what?” If it’s not making a difference then why the hell are we doing it. Focusing on the stuff that directly impacts on learning and getting rid of the other stuff is an important first step.

I have written before on the concept of Servant Leadership

The main problem with all this is that to get great teachers costs time and money. Investment is the key word. Valuing the professional development of  staff as an investment both in them but also as an investment in our school made me place a higher priority on it when in came to budget meetings. Regardless of the financial challenges we face we still need to invest.  If we want to look at effective models in other countries one of the big common factors is the time staff are given to develop their practice. If the DfE truly want to make a difference maybe that is something they should look at.

The other thing we need to be aware of is that sometimes life gets in the way. We can’t all be great all the time. Whether we like it or not it is just a job. OK it’s the most important job in the world IMO but it is just a job. There are points and times when you are not “ON IT.” As a head being aware and putting the right support (Support is another dirty word in schools as it has been regularly used as a word in the first step towards a capability) at those times can equally pay dividends.  For that to happen there has to be trust. Blogged about that too.

TRUST ME… You gotta believe.

In my school we’ve made a commitment to strive for #everydayexcellence. We are not bothered by the term Outstanding we just try to be the best we can everyday.  That to me is more than enough.

I will continue to invest in my staff even if that means that if we do it right they go onto be great elsewhere. That is good leadership.


Missing the positives… The need for #optimisticed


We have had what can only be described as…” a bit of a term.”  Mostly it’s been due to things out of our control. It has been a deluge. I have been the umbrella but actually it’s taken its toll this term. I have never needed a pause and a break so much. Easter has arrived just in the nick of time… like a gallant white steed with a giant rabbit on its back…or that bit in Lord of the Rings when all the ghosts arrive but instead of swords they are carrying chocolate eggs.


The Gallant Easter Bunny riding to my rescue

For the last few weeks I have had to steel myself to climb in the car and drive to work. The other stuff has swamped the good stuff. I felt like I was drowning. Sadly the negativity breeds negativity. I have begun to lose sight of the good stuff.

My deputy pulled me to one side at the end of last week. She gave me chocolate and a coffee with too many sugars in. Then she set about realigning my world view. Her main point was actually this is really good. If you go around our school it’s good. The teaching is ‘ON IT!’, the children are ‘ON IT!.’ There is a buzz, an energy, it’s working. I’ve just missed it. The other stuff has blindfolded me. I’ve been walking round with blinkers on. My deputy made me take a deep breath and look at it,  actually really look at it.

Thanks Mrs S.

Twitter has also been a really negative place in the past few weeks with passive-aggressive nonsense, smart-arsery and people posting provocative statements and bashing other professionals. (This is trolling by the way) They say it’s debate…it’s not. Debate holds a possibility of changing a person’s mind. The views of most the people who spark these “debates” are  intransigent. If that’s the case then the argument stands for just letting them get on with it and not giving them the oxygen they seem to require.


“We will splinter and we will divide
We will disappear to two different sides
And I hope that the world in which you find
Yourself is better than the one you leave behind”

Bubblegum, The Mystery jets

The problem is the negative is often the louder voice. The positive disappears to the margins. Sadly most of us remember the one bad thing rather than the ten good. You stew on the bad. One little bit of bad makes the whole thing taste bitter if we let it.

Yet equally there is much to celebrate.

The Oxford Reading Spree was a joyous celebration of the Power of Reading to change young people’s lives. The event was optimistic, empowering and joyful. The drive and passion of @EdFinch to set it up, the generosity of the people who gave their time to present  as well as the people giving their own time on a Saturday to further their knowledge of what books can do in our classrooms was frankly astounding. Without twitter it would never have happened.  In fact that weekend Oxford was awash with teachers giving their time to try to do the best for their children and learn more about their craft either at the Spree or ResearchEdlang which was held on the same day.

So moving forward. I need to compartmentalize. Celebrate the good, put the bad in it’s box. (like Voldemort in the Kings Cross Scene in the Deathly Hallows)

You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between
You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene
Bing Crosby, Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive
I need to be more than an umbrella, I need to be the sunshine breaking through the grey clouds or at least a mug of hot chocolate, an open fire and a good book after a stormy day.



Reading Can Change Lives. #OxReadingSpree (bit late sorry)

I went to the Oxford Reading Spree. I have to say it was wonderful. It was a completely joyous event. An event built from passion, from a collective passion that reading is the most important thing we do in schools and that Reading can change lives. In the course of the day I heard loud and clear the need for children to read and be exposed to challenging texts (I think I may have said it myself) and the power of Reading to open doors to understanding and knowledge.

C8bi0UhXgAA2zjg.jpg large

Summary of my presentation from #oxreadingspree

I had never been to Oxford before. Lots of committed professionals gave up their time on a weekend to further their understanding of Reading and to share a common passion for books. Oxford was actually swimming with professionals doing just that both at the Spree and ResearchEDlang. That we have teachers who  have that commitment to their  profession and to developing their knowledge and understanding of the job makes me very proud. The Day was full of brilliance.

@MaryMyatt and her commitment to push all readers with amazing, challenging books.

@Andrew_Moffat was both funny and compassionate on the power of great books to challenge thinking and to explore equality. He cost me a significant amount of money in his brilliant recommendations,

@Mat_at_Brookes. On digging deeper into picturebooks. and in particular IMO one of the best picturebooks that came out last year. Anybody who shared  Sanna’s The Journey with Mat at the Spree will understand what an amazing book it is for developing an understanding of the plight of refugees. It makes its themes instantly accessible to younger readers, yet has a truly powerful emotional core.



The Journey by Francesca Sanna

I then missed lots of other fantastic people doing workshops such as @templarwilson and @rapclassroom. but that was because I got the honour of interviewing @PiersTorday. I did my best Parkinson and let him do the talking. It was fab and insightful into the writing process. I was blown away that his first book went through 14 drafts. Equally important was how life experiences and our reading journey  impact on how we write. This confirmed that unwritten rule for me that to get great writers we need great readers,

I crept in late to Mini Grey’s session with a plateful of the best grub ever. Curled up sandwiches this was not. To see Mini sharing both her passion for creative books and the brilliance of Paper-craft was fantastic. Again to get an authors insight into their process was a fantastic privilege

@nickswarb then shared with us the importance of parents in supporting reading, and the best Kylie joke.

@GalwayMr Opened his heart to us discussing  that “Reading is a many Splendoured thing. He enthused about the importance and power of poetry and made us all cry, well me anyway.

That left @marygtroche to round-up a brilliant day by sharing the importance of making room to explore texts and develop thinking around them. She was also brilliantly funny.

Overall the day was an absolute joy Thanks @EdFinch for a day that reaffirmed my belief in the importance of making children real readers.



As @Alibrarylady tweeted  following the “debate”

“Catching up on reading debate Learning how to read is different to becoming a ‘reader’. I think concentrated on the latter”

I would wholeheartedly agree with this I came away from an amazing day of learning with a fire in my belly to make the children not just able to read but to be readers. That’s what the Spree was about, the importance of reading and power of books to open up a child’s mind and heart.