TRUST…(You gotta have it!)

“Trust in me, just in me
Shut your eyes and trust in me
You can sleep safe and sound
Knowing I am around
Slip into silent slumber
Sailing on a silver mist
Slowly and surely your senses
Will cease to resist
Trust in me, just in me
Shut your eyes and trust in me”

There is one major barrier to any attempts to reduce workload in schools. It’s one tiny little word but without it we will ultimately get nowhere. That word is TRUST.

Trust is fundamental to life. If you cannot trust in anything, life becomes impossible—a constant battle against paranoia and looming disaster. Just watching half an hour of Jeremy Kyle to see the impact of a lack of trust can have. You can’t have relationships without trust, let alone good ones. Intimacy depends on it. I suspect more marriages are wrecked by lack of trust than by actual infidelity. The partner who can’t trust the other not to betray him or her will either drive them away or force them into some real or assumed act of faithlessness.

In the workplace too, trust is essential. A school without trust will be full of backstabbing, fear and paranoid suspicion. The lack of trust can be  prevalent in many schools. Twitter is rife with stories of SLTs asking for this and that, micro-managing to the nth degree. I know a school where staff are not allowed to leave the building till all their books are marked, I know another where reams of planning has to be handed in every Friday. Schools where performance management is about checking whether staff are doing their job rather than looking to help them move become better at it.

How did we get to this point? Well let me a tell you a story


Once upon a time,  a long time ago there were some people, some important people who decided that teachers were lazy and didn’t do a very good job, so they decided to check up on them all the time to make sure they weren’t shirking their responsibility and were working hard.

The important people sent people to check up on the teachers. They often came with the desire to find things schools were doing wrong rather than celebrate the things they were getting right.

This led to teachers being afraid of the people who came to check up on them. The teachers listened to what what was said about what other teachers did wrong and made sure they weren’t doing that, they listened to what was said that the other teachers were doing well and they copied that because they wanted to make the checkers happy so they wouldn’t come back as often. Sometimes the teachers were told to stop doing things they thought worked by the people in charge of their school and instead they were told to do other stuff because the checkers wanted to see that even if they didn’t.Sometimes the important people told teachers how to do the job and made them rub their tummy and pat their heads at the same time.

This went on for a long time, but the important people still weren’t happy, so they decided the teachers should only be rewarded if they  made sure all their children learnt everything they had taught them, so the people in charge of the schools  started to measure their teachers.  This made the teachers more scared, this time they were scared of the people in charge of their schools. Lots of teachers were told they weren’t good and then they disappeared, lots more didn’t like being scared and doing things that they knew didn’t help the pupils so they left as well. 

The important people threatened the people in charge of the schools and said that someone else would be put in charge if it didn’t get better. As a result this carried on for a long time. Until everybody realised that nobody wanted to be a teacher anymore.

When the important people and the checkers realised this they decided to blame the people in charge of the schools for making the teachers not want to work there anymore and for making them work too hard. They told the people in charge of schools that they had to stop all the silly things they had been doing and asked “Why on Earth have you been doing that?” … I wonder?

The real question is how do we change it. This is where that key word comes in…TRUST. To truly get it right headteachers and SLT’s are going to have to trust that Ofsted and the DfE are true to its word around workload and other issues. (High-stakes accountability is not disappearing anytime soon.) Heads are going to have to be brave and do what they know is right for their teachers, some already are doing so. The caveat to this is that it’s a lot easier to be brave when you are not sat in an Ofsted category. At all levels we are going to both have to trust each other more and equally we have to live up to that trust.

LAs and MATs are going to have TRUST their schools and  listen and change their expectations and requirements. (Hands up if you’ve ever been told to produce more stuff by either of those.)

Headteachers are equally going to have to TRUST their teachers and stop running schools as a deficit model where we trust no-one because sometimes people let us down. We need to focus on developing our teachers not measuring them. If you do this you may be surprised at what you get.

Carrot vs Stick…Fight!!! (Steps to better Performance Management)

Teachers are equally going to have to live up to that TRUST.


I’m constantly amazed when heads claim to be overworked and under constant pressure, yet fail to do the one thing most likely to ease their burdens: trust other people more. They don’t delegate, because they don’t trust people to do what they’ve been asked to do; so they have to take on every significant task themselves.  It’s not the pressure of actual work that’s driving them towards some stress-related illness, it’s their lack of trust in anyone and anything. Is it any wonder they’re close to total burnout?

With the pressures and challenges we face I appreciate it’s not easy. As a new head stepping into my school two and a half years ago creating a climate of trust has been my biggest challenge.

A key part of any heads role is to build the capacity you have in school. Without letting go and trusting you won’t move those people forward. A wise old owl of a head I worked with used to talk about ‘passing the monkey back.’ She was so right. Trust will only happen if your culture is right, expectation is vital, but also the guiding hand when it all goes a ‘bit Pete Tong’, which inevitably at some point it will.


I get that it  isn’t always easy. Trust takes time and is reciprocal in its nature. To make it happen we have to take a leap. If we want to reduce workloads, we have to look at trusting and believing our staff more. Someone has to begin the cycle of trust by an act of faith. It’s no use waiting for the other person to make the first move. They’re waiting for you. It takes a conscious act of unconditional belief in that other person’s good sense, ability, honesty or sense of commitment to set the ball rolling. Will your trust sometimes be misplaced? Of course. Life isn’t perfect and some people aren’t trustworthy. But will increasing your willingness to trust produce, on balance, a positive benefit? Will it make your life more pleasant and less stressful? I believe so. You have little to lose by trying.






The Joy of Reading (Why reading to your class should happen in every class)


Teachers need to know books really well so they know when to get lost in them, knowing the perfect places to stop and leave children waiting for more. Let the questions be theirs, leave them full of questions but without answers. There is an art to reading a class book.

After saying this I felt I needed to clarify a bit…

There are things that stick with you from school. Moments, memories, bits that change the person you are, bits that set you on a path. For me one of those was being read to everyday. Reading being given real value by a skilled teacher. A teacher  who was in completely in charge of the choice, being passionate about the book they are reading and totally showing that when they read it. This was not a book as an end of the day filler it was an important part of the learning day.

Mr Williams was that teacher, that memory, that moment. A master craftsman in the art of reading a story. He would take us to the summit and then bring us careering down the slope on the other side. He would leave us shocked and desperate to know more. The shock I felt when Boxer was carted away in ‘Animal Farm’ and the injustice of it lives with me to this day. He unlocked the understanding in us that books hold something more, that they are portals, to places and emotions and experiences and that we needed to embrace them. The act of him reading made us want to be readers. He made reading important and precious and that is something I’ve hung onto for the last 38 years. Even when I wandered through the bookless wilderness of my late-teens and early twenties. Even after the love of them had been decimated by some pretty inept teaching at A-level, (On re-reading my A-level texts it turns out they were really good) I still knew that books were worth the effort.

There is nothing quite like that feeling of having a class of children hanging on your every word. There is nothing more gratifying than the audible groan when you close the book and leave the class on tenterhooks, desperate for that next bit. It is however more than that. Reading to your class isn’t just a bit of fun it’s important.

I believe that reading to your class everyday is a vital part of what should be happening in our classrooms. I hear lots of people say they can’t afford the time. I would say you can’t afford not to make the time.

This summary from the Open University sums it up well…

Open University Summary(Research Rich Pedagogies) Reading Aloud)

The research demonstrated that reading aloud creates a sense of community, building the class repertoire of ‘books in common’ and a shared reading history. Teachers also noted it gives all children access to sophisticated themes and literary language without placing literacy demands on them. At the close of the project, reading aloud was widely viewed as a key strand of a reading for pleasure pedagogy, one which demonstrates the power and potential of literature and thus influences children’s perceptions of the pleasure to be found in reading.

Adapted from pages 94-97 Cremin, T., Mottram, M., Collins, F., Powell, S. and Safford, K. (2014) Building Communities of Engaged Readers: Reading for pleasure, London/New York: Routledge

Through reading to our class we build that sense of tribe and belonging, a shared history and experience (this is one of the massive advantages of primary teaching) When I walk into our classes and that reading history sings out, they have a common language and history regardless of background. Reading aloud allows us to challenge and allows children to access books beyond their reading years, it allows our classes to opens pupils eyes to the wonder that great books provide and it does it without us even saying that ‘reading is important.’ and is a key part in helping us develop pupil’s understanding that reading can be a pleasurable thing, a thing worth doing.

It is however more than that as author Ross Montgomery points your teaching them..

Oct 31Replying to Agreed! There’s no better model for children reading than hearing a story read aloud well – youre literally teaching them how a narrative voice works and helping them internalise it.

How you do it is key…

There is an importance of creating a flow not destroying it. I have witnessed many a great book destroyed by over-analysis and picking it apart until it breaks under the scrutiny. That’s not to say you don’t clarify meaning or explore vocabulary, there is a balance to be achieved.

My final argument is that planning it involves reading a book…Perfect.


Top 7 tips for reading aloud…

  1. Pick books you like…it shows. Trudging through a book that you really don’t like will only transmit to your class that you don’t really like it. You are the teacher the choice is yours. I get that world cups of books can be motivating I would just say make sure you’re happy with the books you’re offering as a choice. (This can be a challenge if you are handed a core reading list)
  2. Pick books that challenge. (push the envelope and take children out of their comfort zone.)
  3. Have copies of the book and other books by the author available. It’s amazing how many children will be inspired to read the book because you have.
  4. Knowing the book well helps you read it well. Knowing the story, the characters the key moments allows to share the story more effectively. Knowing the book allows you to become the controller of the story and how it plays out. It also helps you know where the sticking points might be.  I get that sometimes it’s fun to discover the joys of a book with the class, it is however not always the best way to get the best out of the time or the book.
  5. Make it important. Don’t put it as a throw-away end of the day that then disappears as you have to finish your work. Give it a time and stick to it. Make it an ingrained habit.
  6. It is a performance, reading aloud is a thing that we need to practice. It takes time to get good at it.  Start with some great short stories or some brilliant poetry build your repertoire and confidence. (Paul Jennings was always my go to. I’m still a dab  hand at Michael Rosen’s Chocolate Cake)
  7.  Go under the ‘spell.’ Allow your book to flow and get lost in it together.
  8. Sometimes break the rules and allow it to go over, or grab a moment.

I believe that reading to your class everyday is a vital part of what should be happening in our classrooms.

I hear lots of people say they can’t afford the time, personally I would say you can’t afford not to make the time.

Now …get reading!

Added bonus…Rik Mayall Reading “George’s Marvellous Medicine” …just brilliant

Rik Mayall…jackanory…Reading aloud masterclass.