The Unintended Consequence…a fairy tale


Once upon a time there was a good Idea, nay a noble Idea. This Idea was full of the best intentions. It dreamed of improving the world, of casting out all the bad things that had gone before and making it all better. The problem was a lot of the bad things that happened before had been the previous Idea’s fault, it hadn’t meant them to happen but nonetheless they happened anyway.


You see the Idea was important, the Idea got to decide who got presents and who got punishments. Everybody wanted to keep the Idea happy so if the Idea said it didn’t like something everybody made sure they weren’t doing that thing, equally if the Idea said it liked something then everybody found the themselves doing that thing. Nobody meant it to happen it just kind of did, they tried to ignore the Idea and do what they thought was right, sometimes this would make the Idea unhappy and those people would be cast into the pit of despair to slave away for two years till the Idea came back. The Idea however blamed everyone but itself. It said it was was all the people’s fault.


When the people got angry the Idea claimed that it didn’t want to see those things and had never wanted to see those things and how could the people be so stupid as to believe it wanted those things and how silly they were to do the things it said it liked. The Idea called the things “fairy-tales” and told people not to believe in fairy-tales. The people tried to believe the idea, they got on with doing the things they thought were right, but all the time they couldn’t quite let go of things that the Idea said it liked so they kept doing them. (you know …just in case)

Which brings us back to the start of our story. The old Idea died and a new Idea was appointed. This Idea looked at the world created by the old Idea and it didn’t like it. This wasn’t the world that the new Idea imagined so with it’s minions it dreamt the world anew. It told the people the things it liked and the things it didn’t like. It even asked the people to help create this new world. The problem was the people were still wary of the Idea so when the idea said something the people went and did it straight away. The Idea said it didn’t mean that but the people didn’t stop to think they just did it. Sometimes the message from the idea and it’s minions wasn’t clear and this made people worried especially those who had been languishing in Pits of Despair who knew they had to make the idea happy. What made it worse was that there were unscrupulous Snake-oil salesmen who were happy to prey on the fearful and unwary and promised to sell the people the  elixer of happiness at a significant amount of gold.


The Idea didn’t like the Salesmen and told the people not to go to them… but as with everything there are always UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES…

Nobody knows the end of this story yet only time will tell.


The Purpose of reading…What is your reading offer part 2.


Adrian Scarborough’s reading rope 2001 (or as someone from Ofsted once said David Didau’s :-))

So I go on a alot about reading. (I did it again at Total Teaching)

The reason for that is that I truly believe that teaching chidren to read is the most important thing we do in school. If we get it right we give children access to a world of learning and a never-ending source of pleasure.

If we want real readers then talking about books has to sit at the core of our reading offer. If we want children to love reading Talk has to sit at the core of what we do.

Doing more comprehensions tests won’t make children better readers. Just telling children what they should think and how they should respond equally won’t make children better readers either. (though they pass some tests)

As Scarborough points out reading is complex. To create skilled readers we need to do it all, just focussing on strands will not make skilled readers. Phonics is essential but it’s not enough.

So here is the Key question  What is your reading Offer?

If we want  to create readers in our schools we need

(I haven’t mentioned phonics in this list because ensuring children have the tools to decode is for me implicit in teaching children to read)

  • Talk with children about books. (we need to be careful that we don’t see reading as comprehension tests… its way more than that)
  • Read to children everyday. (Its great, you don’t really have to plan it, pick something that challenges)
  • Provide a language rich environment and curriculum.
  • Explicitly teach vocabulary in the context of great books (If we want children to understand words then the context is king)
  • Enable children to learn a range of stories, poems and rhymes. (this starts right down in our Early Years, knowledge of language patterns and structures)
  • Use a variety of strategies to explore texts including drama. (Make room to dig in and explore a book)
  • Access to books. (Giving children a voice in the choice is important as well)
  • Teacher Readers/ Teachers who are knowledgeable about book. (If we know books we can perhaps find that gateway book for a child or expand their reading horizons) or in other words
  • Provide a full reading curriculum.

Great but what is a full reading curriculum?

In school we’ve spent a significant amount of time exploring the reading offer. The key for us was stopping and thinking about what we were books we were exposing our children too, what reading experiences we were actually giving our children. When we really looked it was often very limited. Some of that was due to the lack of teacher knowledge about books, some of it was about the books we had in school, some of it was about what people felt comfortable using to drive learning. So we stopped and came up with a list of our purposes for reading and then we explored how we we could fulfil that.

Purposes for reading

1) Read to learn something new

Books are a magical source of learning. Do we provide books for our children that extend their knowledge? Do we give children the time to explore? Do we provide a range of non-fiction texts to read in their own time? Do we celebrate the learning of new stuff? Do we use books to awaken children’s intellectual curiosity?

If a child is fired by finding out things they can be an unstoppable force. How does our reading offer harness that desire to find stuff out? Or do we truly believe that children are only going to learn stuff from us?

2) Read to make us think

Do you read books which challenge pupils thinking? Do you have books that explore complex issues? Do you use them as a catalyst for conversation and discussion?


3) Read to be entertained

Do you use books to do all the great things brilliant books can do? Is pleasure part of the experience? Do you give children a range of reading experiences to understand why reading can be amazing?  (you can’t make children love reading, but it’s really worth trying.)

  • a) Excite
  • b) Escape
  • c) Laugh
  • d) Quiver
  • e) Cry
  • f) Grin
  • g) Get lost in
  • h) Rage
  • i) Dance

…and way too many more ways to count…

4) Read to be inspired

Do you use reading to inspire? Do you light fires or do you rain on parades? How do you inspire the children in your class. How do you encourage the girls to be 10% braver? How does the reading you offer broaden horizons or allow pupils to dream?


5) Read to inform

If the past few years have taught us anything then it has to be that it’s vital that we keep our children informed of the world around them. Being informed allows us to make judgements, challenge things and be able to know how we feel about key issues. Does your reading curriculum make time to do that? Do you provide the materials that start the process that allows children to make critcal choices and decisions about the world around them?

6) Read to help us understand others better

AS a school that is 99% white british it’s important that we use reading as a way to explore other contexts and lives. The work done by the CLPE on reflecting realities explains it way better than I ever could. Exploring the offer and the message your book choices make is vital.

Reflecting Realities – Ethnic Diversity in UK Children’s Books

Summary of Findings

  • There were 9115 childrens bookspublished in the UK in 2017. Of these only 391featured BAME characters
  • Only4% of the childrens books published in 2017 featured BAME characters
  • Only 1% of the childrens books published in the UK in 2017 had a BAME main character
  • Over half the fiction books with BAME characters were defined as ‘contemporary realism’(books set in modern day landscapes/contexts)
  • 10%of books with BAME characters contained ‘social justice’ issues
  • Only onebook featuring a BAME character was defined as ‘comedy’
  • 26%of the non-fiction submissions were aimed at an ‘Early Years’ audience

Refecting Realities report CLPE


Equally the work on ‘no outsiders’ allows us to explore and understand others and show acceptance and understanding of difference.

7) Read to help us understand ourselves

In my experience every book does this. However choosing books to help us explore emotions and feelings is massively important. How do books allow us to understand our feeling and emotions? How does your reading offer teach children to understand themselves?

Finally I will say sorry. I don’t have a definitive list. The reading offer in our school is not static, we don’t have recommended book lists and a canon. Instead we have conversations about books and classes. We constantly ask ourselves the questions and use our purposes as a lens. A key bit is teacher knowledge an passion for a book I really dont want to strip that away as there is nothing more likely to get a child wanting to read a book than a passionate teacher.

The key to it all however is the opportunities we give children to talk about books without that,  reading will only something that children do rather than something that children want to do.

Perception…Maybe I am not what you think I am.


Perception…the way in which something is regarded, understood, or interpreted.

Often it’s really weird to consider how others potentially think of you. Personally I don’t really give that much of a stuff. I try to be true to me but there are moments which bring it into clarity. I caused surprise yesterday by standing up against something I thought was profoundly wrong, probably because the action defended a school I probably disagree with in some ways (Who knows… I’ve not visited or spoken to the head or the staff or the children.)

Let’s be clear disagreeing with something a school does is OK. I’m sure lots would disagree with the things we do in our school. How we disagree is the issue. The real problem is that twitter “discussions” often polarize and people stop actually listening to what’s being said, then it very quickly stops being a discussion. We don’t get a reasoned conversation that you might get face to face; instead we build our forts retreat inside and hurl bricks at our perceived enemies.



minecraft fort

Stopping to think about how others perceive us is interesting. As with everything there are elements of truth and fantasy to how people see you. Having had a few visitors this week including Ofsted. I have to wonder if the reality matches the perception. (It is a scary thought).
I’ve equally visited ‘amazing’ schools but wouldn’t want to be like them even though they’re doing great things. They will and should make choices which are right for them I just don’t want to be like them. I feel very lucky that our MAT gives us autonomy to get it right for our school community. (I had less autonomy when we were an LA school though being RI may have had something to do with that.)
Personally I worry every time someone visits our school. I think the worst thing you can do is attempt to make mini-replicas and pastiches of a place you visit. I use others work as a lens to reflect on our work, what we don’t do is try to copy it…invariably that fails in my experience.

sliding scale

Edutwitter is all for polar opposites, it makes a better argument. Fact is we’re all somewhere on a sliding scale. Having met quite a few ‘edutwittery’ types from across the spectrum it’s often surprising that we have more in common than we may initially think we will have. Often in reality there is little more than fag-paper between us and almost everyone I’ve met is doing what they do for the right reasons even if I don’t necessarily agree with how they’re doing it.

Ultimately I think we all want children to achieve the best that they can, it’s just we don’t always agree about what is the best way to do that and that is actually OK.