Those three words… a lens on your work.



“Those three words
Are said too much
They’re not enough”

Chasing Cars, Snow Patrol


When I asked people on Saturday to sum up their school in three words  I didnt know what I expected. I was blown away by people’s responses.  I’d like to say a massive thankyou to everybody who tried to sum up their school in just three words. I’ve old-school word-clouded everybody’s words. This would probably make a great starting point for people to start that talk in their schools.


This was something we as a school had done just over a year ago.

As part of our trust we had an enquiry in to the work  our school does and the wonderful @GaltVicky asked my deputy and I to do just that, to define what three words summed up our school.

Fact is we couldn’t do it. We sat there ‘ummming’ and ‘errring’ but what was clear is we didn’t really know what our words were. What that really meant is we weren’t  clear about what we were trying to achieve and if we didn’t know you can bet nobody else did either.

So we set about finding out what we were really about. We talked about it (occasionally it got a bit heated) , we got staff, children and families to share their ideas and the things they felt were important qualities of our school. Then we discussed even more. We filtered, we sieved, we honed. Weirdly finding the right words had become really important. the process had made them valuable. That they belonged to everyone made them precious. Finally we had found them…Our three words…the words that summed up what we wanted school to be about, what we valued.




Here are our words. Handily it also creates an acrostic for CAN.

These three words immediately began to act a lens on the work we were doing in school. They began to guide our choices , frame our actions, focus our discussions. They began to become the key threads in our classrooms. As a surprise to us they stripped the gimmicks out of our classrooms. They focussed our energies and our work. It helped us say no to things. It meant that the work in our classrooms became more authentic and real. We have begun to sweat the small stuff because we have clarity about the big. Most importantly we know what we are trying to achieve.

Everybody owns the words. Children aspire to the words. Our most recent enquiry confirmed they were embedded in our classrooms and in our work not an add on but as a core element of our work.

So a question… Do you know your three words?

If not, why not? You know what you need to do.





Independence day…How independent is independent writing?


For the last two years Spring term has become silly season with regards writing in Key Stage 2. The Interim Framework (An oxymoron if ever there were one as it seems as though it’s here to stay) has caused consternation, workload and endless discussions that go round the houses about judgements made with regards to writing.

For me the big issue sits around the idea of independence and what that really means. The guidance from DfE defines it as this

Writing is likely to be independent if it:

• emerges from a text, topic, visit, or curriculum experience in which pupils have had opportunities to discuss and rehearse what is to be written about
• enables pupils to use their own ideas and provides them with an element of choice, for example writing from the perspective of a character they have chosen themselves
• has been edited, if required, by the pupil without the support of the teacher, although this may be in response to self, peer, or group evaluation
• is produced by pupils who have, if required, sought out classroom resources, such as dictionaries or thesauruses, without prompting to do so by the teacher

Writing is not independent if it has been:

• modelled or heavily scaffolded
• copied or paraphrased
• edited as a result of direct intervention by a teacher or other adult, for example when the pupil has been directed to change specific words for greater impact, where incorrect or omitted punctuation has been indicated, or when incorrectly spelt words have been identified by an adult for the pupil to correct
• produced with the support of electronic aids that automatically provide correct spelling, synonyms, punctuation, or predictive text
• supported by detailed success criteria that specifically direct pupils as to what to include, or where to include it, in their writing, such as directing them to include specific vocabulary, grammatical features, or punctuation

To me that’s pretty clear when you look at it. I personally would be happy if that is what we all adhered to.

Planning effective opportunities where children have  can revisit previously taught materials as part of a wider curriculum…eminently sensible.

Providing opportunities for some choice in writing…highly motivating.

Editing and re-drafting through peer discussion and critique…like that.

Effective use of class resources to help them develop writing and spelling…great stuff

I personally am not calling for a writing test, that only created slapdash cover as many bases as we can ‘teaching’ that often stopped children developing the craft and finesse of writing. I see writing mostly being taught really well, increasingly grammar is becoming part of writing rather than a bolt on. (Still think some of the things in the framework are a nonsense though…fronted adverbials anyone)

The real issue is the accountability that sits with it. It  is a sorry state when the idea of no statutory assessment means that something may not be taught (Look at science though and the impact of removal of SATs test).  We genuinely seem to have forgotten our purpose. Assessment should provide the next phase in learning with a real picture of children as writers instead its about the best results. Discussions yesterday on twitter about rewrites and edits had me banging my head on the table. For those that adhere to the description of independence above they will find themselves on a very uneven playing field. Drafts, redrafts, edits , success criteria. We are not all playing the same game.

The guidance on independence around spelling, marking and success criteria will just lead to some schools finding other ways to pass on  that information. Rather than it being in a book and real clarity and honesty being provided regarding support and scaffolding a pupil has received.  This will now be removed. Books will show how wonderfully our children write ‘first time’ just don’t ask for the draft book, planning sheets, post-its etc.  (I’m already ordering extra photo-copying paper and a job lot of post-it notes before they run out of stock.) Working walls will also receive a new lease of life.


KS2 independent editing 2018

Lets be honest this nonsense will only  further erode trust between primary and secondary colleagues regarding what we say about pupils in transition when all those amazing writers we send up suddenly can’t spell or use a whole range of features of their own accord.

If I sound cynical and snarky, it’s because I am. This is again not about writing and definitely not about children.

So the challenge sits with Heads/SLTs/and teachers…How independent will your independence be?

For the second year in a row I’ll leave you with this…


The Reading Offer…What choices are you giving children?

Wild reading

Twitter is great for making you stop and think sometimes. Yesterday Rob Smith (Literacy shed supremo) posted a tweet that really struck a chord with me. Rob tweet

It made me stop and think about reading and what we offer children in our school. Do we offer a gruel or a gourmet reading experience for our pupils. I found myself time-travelling back to my youth and thinking about what made me a reader. A formative part in that for me as a child was non-fiction. Non-fiction was for me where I found my ‘Reading for Pleasure’

I would spend hours poring over the one book that I owned, given to me by my Aunty Pat for Christmas in 1979 or maybe 1980.

mysteries of the unknown.jpg

First question should be “What the hell were you doing Aunty Pat?” It was terrifying. It was also utterly brilliant. I read that book so many times it eventually fell apart. (I did cry)


mysteries squid

It was a brilliant non-fiction book (I appreciate now that there is quite a lot of fiction in this book)…endlessly re-readable, loads and loads to learn about. It was also glorious to look at, sumptuous in the detail and fantastically illustrated. It was the total package. I can’t even begin to count the hours I spent lay on my bed reading it, lost in its pages, savouring its detail.

It was only replaced when my Dad came home with a set of battered Encyclopaedia Britannica, they then became my go to books for exploring and finding stuff out.

This made me stop and think about two things really. The first was our school offer for reading.

What reading experiences/ choices are we offering children?

Do we have the books that children can wallow in like a warm bath?

Do we have the books that let children explore and find out stuff driven by their own interests?

(Or is the reading material particularly non-fiction controlled and merely used as an extended comprehension exercise.)

There are absolutely fantastic non-fiction books out there…

The question is do we let children explore non-fiction in their reading choices in the way we do with fiction? I tried to come up with a list of what our offer beyond fiction looks like in the library. I’m sure people could add other ideas and suggestions.

  • Encyclopaedias
  • Short stories
  • Graphic novels
  • True-life stories
  • Comics
  • Newspapers
  • Diaries
  • Biographies
  • Magazines
  • Leaflets
  • Theatre and football programmes
  • Recipe books / cards
  • Posters
  • Travel brochures
  • Maps
  • Timetables
  • Food packaging
  • Catalogues
  • Letters and postcards
  • Advertisements

It also made me think about how we use non-fiction in school.

Is it controlled? Do we only read non-fiction when we want to find out a key thing?

I’ve seen comments that talked about only accessing non-fiction on the web, where children search for what they need to find out. Sadly this denies children experiencing the beauty and wonder that a crafted non-fiction book provides.

My experience of non-fiction is different I know lots of stuff, not because I had to know it but because I found it in a brilliant non-fiction books. Interests were sparked by stumbling on something as I immersed myself in the pages.

This led me to try to think of the main purposes for reading. So far I have these five. If you have any more please add to my list…

Purposes for Reading

  1. Read to learn something new
  2. Read to make us think
  3. Read to be entertained
  4. Read to be inspired
  5. Read to inform
  6. Reading to help us understand others better (from Anne Thompson @ALibraryLady)
  7. reading is to help us understand ourselves (Courtesy of Teresa Cremin)

So finally the big question?

What is your schools Reading offer?

Give the question ten minutes, it’s worth it.