That way madness lies…(1700 pages of guidance)


I, I can’t get these memories out of my mind
And some kind of madness has started to evolve
I, I tried so hard to let you go
But some kind of madness is swallowing me whole, yeah
Muse, Madness


There are decisions which make you breathe a huge sigh of relief. The decision to deny the freedom of information request regarding the marking guidance is one such decision. (A definite Christmas present in disguise)

One can only imagine the madness that would have occurred in Year 6 classrooms had those 1700 pages of guidance been released. The teaching of finicky detail on where to place a semi-bloody-colon. (This to be fair may already be happening)  Lord knows what other nonsense lies within those 1700 pages, thankfully we’ll never know and I’m glad for that.

That the DfE have 1700 pages of guidance for a test for 11-year-olds is another matter entirely


If it had been released can you just imagine that first day back… That Spring term…The booster class nightmares…



Don’t get me wrong I think that there is 1700 pages of guidance is an absolute nonsense. That there are hidden rules to passing these tests that we don’t know about is frankly ludicrous. The fact that in some cases last year children were marked wrong when they absolutely knew the answer is just beyond belief. I’m just grateful that we don’t know the extent of this ridiculousness. I’m just glad that my teachers will just get on and teach the children. Equally don’t get me wrong either I love a good test. Wouldn’t it be great if those tests actually impacted on pupils learning and helped them with the next steps in their learning.

Wouldn’t it be great if they were about children not just measuring the schools they come from. Wouldn’t it be great if secondary had any faith in them and used the information to create effective transition.

On the flip side does this give me any faith in what I feel is an assessment system already teetering on the edge. Definitely not. The travesty that this nonsense is tied to a high stakes accountability system where in some cases people lose their jobs beggars belief.

Does it make me fear for the direction of travel that education is heading in…Yes it completely does.

It’s time to stop and assess what it is we’re doing with assessment. I think its time to hit the reset button and start again.

Be grateful I’ve not even mentioned the nonsense that will be writing assessment this year (or the last two years) and the reintroduction of best fit (in principle I agree but know this will increase the variability of judgement even more)

Writing…Honestly, we need honesty.

So small mercies that we will never know the contents of those 1700 pages but if this does not ring alarm bells about what we’re doing with regards to education then nothing will.




Listen and Learn. (Leading in stormy weather)

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“You gotta learn to listen, listen to learn
You gotta learn to listen, before you get burned
Learn to listen, listen to learn
You gotta learn to listen, before you get burned”
 The Ramones “Learn to Listen”


So 2017 draws to a weary conclusion. I haven’t blogged for a while not because there isn’t anything I want to say but just because I havent had the time or the energy to say it. There are points where real life catches up with you and you’ve just got to focus on the important stuff. There are points where you just have to balance it out. This last half-term has definitely been one of those.

I have watched a number of people who work at my school going through some really difficult stuff and still coming into work even though life is beating them with a pretty big stick. Those are the moments when your mettle as a head or a leader is really tested. How you support those people, how you ride the storm is the true test. (Whatever that storm is)

When the going is easy and the weather is good it’s easy to be complacent about what you do. It’s easy to miss the bits that just make it tick along. When the storm blows it can become blatantly obvious that you’ve not got as firm a hand on the rudder as you’d like.  Those are the times you need to put your hands up, say sorry and listen. It is equally as important that you continue to make the right choices for the right reasons even if sometimes that does not make everyone happy.


Truth is as a head or a leader you can’t make everybody happy however much you would want to. There are inevitably compromises you have to make, sometimes they frustrate people. They get frustrated for a range of reasons almost all of them are down to communication. They want to know why you’ve made the choices you have.

Why leadership is so tough

What makes this so difficult is that, in every capacity, youre asked , as a leader,  to put yourself last.

It’s a removal of the ego. You can’t just rage out of impatience, or get upset because other people aren’t working the way you want them to work. You can’t show your frustration–even if everyone else is. You can’t sit back and complain when times get tough. You have to be the positive force that changes the tide.

You, as a leader, have to take a step back from your impulsive, emotional reactions, and instead operate from a place of calm understanding. And that’s a skill that isn’t taught in school or afterschool clubs, or on a leadership course.


It’s learned through watching others closely who embody that trait. Having other leaders to talk with and to challenge your the thinking and sometimes your prejudice is vital. I’m very lucky on that count, working as part a trust has really helped us explore our leadership and challenged us in a positive way.

And it’s learned through diligent self-inquiry, and constantly practicing the art of being flexible in the way you communicate and lead others.

So here are my 7 tips to being a good leader

  1. Be flexible. (adapting the route while keeping an eye on the goal is key)
  2. When everyone else is stressed, you’re calm. (listen and solve)
  3. Be clear. (Communication is key. Most frustrations are due to poor communication)
  4. When everyone else is running on fumes, you inject more fuel. (What have you done to minimise workload? If all else fails…CAKE!)
  5. Lead by example. (Take stock and move forward clearly)
  6. When someone has an issue, you work with and listen to the person on a personal level. Be human!(Listening is the most important aspect of the job)
  7. Celebrate (make sure hard work isn’t rewarded by making more hard work)

This is where most leaders get it wrong, and I’ve seen it happen all the time (I’ve made these mistakes all the time) . The moment someone moves into a position of leadership, the person believes that everyone else should accommodate his or her needs–when actually it’s the opposite. As I’ve said before ‘I know I’m doing my job well when others are able to do theirs well.’


That people at the end of the term went out of their way to find me  say “thankyou for the support” tells me I’m getting something right.

‘Just a listening man
Try to understand
Just a listening man
Do the best I can…’
‘Listening Man’ The Bees