The King’s Folly…a cautionary tale


Once upon a time a king built a great hall so that all the subjects in the kingdom could talk and share their ideas and opinions.The hall was comfortable, a fire roared in the hearth, and people were welcomed warmly.

At first a few people came to the hall and began to share their wisdom and others came and listened to the things they had to say. These people gathered followers who agreed with their wisdom and they built their version of the truth.

Then others came who believed different things, they began to share different wisdoms.

These wisdoms were not the same and people began to disagree. Often this would start as polite discussion  and there would be back and forth as the ideas were mulled over. Sometimes this would lead to agreement at other times that wasn’t possible so they would agree to disagree.

Sadly sometimes the disagreement led to nastiness and spite. For some there was no middle ground, they were right and everybody else was wrong and they solely wanted to use this chance of a voice to impose their ideas on others. They could only hear their own voice and dismissed those who saw things differently.


Some people  however could see value in both wisdoms, but for some this was not acceptable and these people were ridiculed.

Yet more people came some to share the fruits of their labour. Whilst many loved this generosity others took it as a slight on their work, or as as showing off and vanity. Nasty things were said and some decided they no longer wanted to share. They took the fruits of their labour and left.

As the arguments became worse some of the people felt they couldn’t join in a discussion because there  were others who chose to belittle those who shared ideas they didn’t agree with, they would mock,  joke and make fun at the expense of anybody who disagreed. So some were silenced.

Fortunately the king had created ways to banish people who were mean and spiteful. Some however decided to use these powers to silence voices of dissent and challenge and create a perfect world that agreed with their every utterance and through their actions the world was skewed.


The meeting place became an empty hollow place as people no longer felt able to share their voice, the fires dimmed, the time of sharing came to an end and all left to return to their own little kingdoms very much diminished.




Pointless…Why do we continue to do this to ourselves?

So the spectre of Pointless demands on teachers has risen from its shallow grave and is once again stealthily insinuating its demands onto teacher’s workloads. I am always incredulous when I read about some of the demands that are put on teachers, mainly by head’s and SLT’s. 

Piles of Pointless workload nonsense for this or that audience. If I hear the mantra ‘it’s for Ofsted’ trotted out once more as some lame excuse for asking teachers to do pointless stuff, I think I’ll scream. 

Don’t get me wrong there have been numerous times in my career that I’ve jumped through burning hoops and done pointless stuff in the name of the big O. When Ofsted published its myth-busters document the real point was they weren’t myths. Many of these things had happened because they had been mentioned by Ofsted. The scourge of coloured pens and triple marking directly came from Ofsted. I remember being sat in a HMI briefing (if you’re an RI school you get invited to these) coming out afterwards and ringing school to tell them to order purple and green pens.  

More fool me! 

I have filled in my WALT and WILFS (genuinely I still don’t know what they mean.), I have typed up success criteria and printed them out and glued them in books. I have stuck lesson objectives into pages or made the children write out the ridiculous two-line sentence before they actually got onto the work, even though I’d told them what we were doing. (For some children all you could see was pages of lesson objectives and no actual work). I have produced reams of planning with all sorts written on it, this group and that group, and NC objectives referenced that was then handed in before the weekend to sit on a hard-drive, or in unread paper piles in a head teacher’s office. I have written feedback in a book to evidence the fact that I spoke to the child about their work and then stamped it with a big green VF. Fact is none it made the blindest bit of difference, not one iota. However, woe betide if you didn’t do any of that stuff, you’d find yourself on a support plan before you could say “but it’s a waste of time.”

The questions we should truly be asking ourselves is “Why?” and “So What?”  

With anything we do we should be looking at whether it makes a difference to children’s learning. We shouldn’t be doing stuff to evidence ourselves just in case.   

I say this as a person who has in the past got this totally wrong. I have asked for some of this stuff, I have scrutinised books ultimately to see if staff were complying rather than looking at the actual quality of the work. I Collected planning again to check up on teachers not actually to see what was going on with children. Ultimately, I didn’t treat teachers as professionals and I didn’t trust them. A lot of this to be fair stemmed from the performance related pay shenanigans that essentially created divides between SLT and teachers. Staff were “done to” rather “done with”. Everything was about teachers rather than children. 

Did it make the work better? Did it improve progress? Did it impact on children? 

We need to have the confidence as a profession to say “NO!” We need to be a profession not driven by accountability but by knowledge. Accurate, effective assessment driving our teaching and learning. I’m not talking data points and targets but actual knowledge of children, where they are, what they can do and what they can’t. 

We need to stop jumping on nonsense FADs and we need to let go of the fears that make us hang on to the past even though we know that past really didn’t make a difference. Head teachers and SLTs, you need to lead this…Here are my top tips. 

Top tips 

  1. Talk to your teachers about what they are doing and why? 
  2. Treat them as the person with the knowledge. (they invariably know more about that group of children than you) 
  3.  Listen 
  4. Actually be interested and open 
  5. Talk to the children (they definitely in primary will tell you what they’ve learnt) 
  6. Make sure the focus is always on the children, explore the children’s work with the teacher, discuss it, think hard about.  
  7. Be open to the fact that you’re not always right and sometimes you get it wrong. 
  8. Trust them 

10 Wonderful books for year 3…Picked because they’re great!

The picks for Year 3 have been chosen because they are great read alouds obviously they offer more than that but they are a delight to share with a class.

So here are my 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.


storm1. The Storm by Kevin Crossley Holland illustrated by Alan Marks

Annie lives with her elderly parents in a remote cottage. She is used to being alone. Every day she walks by the lonely marsh to school. Only in winter, when the wind howls in the trees, is Annie ever afraid. Her sister Willa is pregnant and Annie is overjoyed when she comes home to have her baby. Annie tells Willa the names of local plants and Willa tells Annie about the ghost, murdered by highwaymen, who is said to haunt the old forge nearby. Then, on a terrible night, with the phone lines down, Willa goes into labor. Annie is terrified of the ghost, but knows she must brave the storm to fetch help. As she ventures into the night, a horseman swings into view. He offers to take Annie to town. Before she can protest, Annie finds herself lifted on to his saddle and off they set on an intense, dream-like journey. Only once he has deposited her safely on the doctor’s doorstep, does the horseman reveal that he is the ghost she fears.

This is a great book to get young readers hooked into reading. It would be a perfect starter to year 3. Crossley Holland weaves his magic with beautiful atmospheric wordplay whilst the illustrations completely enhance the story. I never imagined that such a short story could hold so much for the audience to experience. From fear to bravery and eventually to rescue, this book provides a story that is both heart-warming and tense.  It’s short and definitely sweet, also it is possibly the best reading scheme book ever.

2. The Iron Man by Ted Hughes (Special mention for the editions illustrated by Lara Carlin and Chris Mould)

Mankind must put a stop to the dreadful destruction caused by the Iron Man. A trap is set for him, but he cannot be kept down. Then, when a terrible monster from outer space threatens to lay waste to the planet, it is the Iron Man who finds a way to save the world.

Where had he come from? Nobody knows.’

‘How was he made? Nobody knows.’

The Iron Man was one of those stories I remember being read to me in primary school. Subtitled ‘a children’s story in five nights’ I remember desperately wanting the next chapter and hanging on the edge of my seat. It’s another of those books that I think every child should experience. I would thoroughly recommend the Laura Carlin and the Chris Mould illustrated versions as they both add a distinct feel to the story. Which you prefer is down to your personal taste. Both are stunning though.

Written for his own children this is powerful, moving and a beautifully-written fable from poet Ted Hughes. It is a true modern classic


3. Bills New Frock by Anne Fine

One morning, almost as if in a dream, Billy wakes up to find that he has turned into a girl! His mother casually dresses him in a pink dress and sends him off to school, where he realizes how differently girls are treated. A unique story that will serve as a springboard for discussions among young readers.

Bill’s New Frock is a perfect year 3 story; funny, clever and ultimately thought-provoking. It will make both you as the teacher and the children really think about how we treat each other based on gender. There will be  some very interesting discussions, you may well be surprised.



4. The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. Why is she there? Where did she come from? And, most important, how will she survive in her harsh surroundings? Roz’s only hope is to learn from the island’s hostile animal inhabitants. When she tries to care for an orphaned gosling, the other animals finally decide to help, and the island starts to feel like home. Until one day, the robot’s mysterious past comes back to haunt her….

 With The Wild Robot Peter Brown presents us with: a haunting tale of figuring out the roots of your humanity, and trying to reconcile what you learn with the reality of the life you are living. It’s a story of family; of learning how to deal with loneliness; of growing together and coming apart; of the interaction between us and the natural world. It’s a story of personal sacrifice and overcoming fear of the unknown and different; of changing for both the ones you love and for yourself (and knowing when not to, knowing when you are enough). Who said children’s fiction couldn’t touch on the big issues of what it means to be human.  It will make for deep and emotional discussions and debates in your classrooms.What a corker of a book.


5. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S.Lewis

In the never-ending war between good and evil, The Chronicles of Narnia set the stage for battles of epic proportions. Some take place in vast fields, where the forces of light and darkness clash. But other battles occur within the small chambers of the heart and are equally decisive.

Journeys to the ends of the world, fantastic creatures, betrayals, heroic deeds and friendships won and lost — all come together in an unforgettable world of magic. So join the battle to end all battles.

Narnia …. a land frozen in eternal winter … a country waiting to be set free.

Four adventurers step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia — a land enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change … and a great sacrifice.

What more really needs to be said about The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe apart from every child should have it read to them. A wonderful story of heroism, greed, jealousy, sacrifice and turkish delight. It is a true classic that has stood the test of time.


6. Matilda by Roald Dahl illustrated by Quentin Blake

Matilda is a little girl who is far too good to be true. At age five-and-a-half she’s knocking off double-digit multiplication problems and blitz-reading Dickens. Even more remarkably, her classmates love her even though she’s a super-nerd and the teacher’s pet. But everything is not perfect in Matilda’s world. For starters she has two of the most idiotic, self-centered parents who ever lived. Then there’s the large, busty nightmare of a school principal, Miss (“The”) Trunchbull, a former hammer-throwing champion who flings children at will and is approximately as sympathetic as a bulldozer. Fortunately for Matilda, she has the inner resources to deal with such annoyances: astonishing intelligence, saintly patience, and an innate predilection for revenge.

She warms up with some practical jokes aimed at her hapless parents, but the true test comes when she rallies in defense of her teacher, the sweet Miss Honey, against the diabolical Trunchbull. There is never any doubt that Matilda will carry the day. Even so, this wonderful story is far from predictable. Roald Dahl, while keeping the plot moving imaginatively, also has an unerring ear for emotional truth. The reader cares about Matilda because in addition to all her other gifts, she has real feelings.

In my opinion this is Roald Dahl’s best book. In the figure of Matilda we have the perfect heroine; smart, funny and wonderfully caring. Surrounded by a cast of wonderful characters the story positively zips along. An utterly joyous read.  It’s a story where knowledge is king and reading is the route to that knowledge. Hey teachers what more of a message could you want?


7. Pugs of the Frozen North by Philip Reeve illustrated by Sarah MacIntyre

The Race to the Top of the World! It comes around once in a lifetime, and the prize? Your heart’s desire. Shen and Sika can’t resist the chance to win, but competition is fierce. The path to victory is littered with snow trolls, sea monsters, and a gang of particularly hungry yetis. But Shen and Sika have something the other contestants don’t have. Actually, they have 66 other things; pugs to be exact. That’s a 264 paw-powered sled. Let the race begin!

Reeves and McIntyre are a perfect partnership, all their books are an absolute delight and would be perfect for Year 3. I think Pugs is my absolute favourite of theirs. It is delightfully silly, but carries a wonderful message about friendship and family. It is rip-roaring ride not to be missed.


8. Varjak Paw by S.F.Said illustrated by Dave McKean

Mesopotamian Blue cat, Varjak Paw, has never been Outside before; he and his family have always lived in the isolated house at the top of the hill. But Varjak is forced out into the city when the sinister Gentleman and his two menacing cats take over his home. With help from his mystical ancestor, Jalal, Varjak manages to overcome challenges such as self-survival and a threat from the gangland cats, and he ultimately discovers the terrifying secrets behind the Vanishings. But can he save his own family from their fate?

With wonderful integrated illustrations from acclaimed comic book artist Dave McKean, this book will appeal to all ages.

Probably one for the end of year 3 or even for year 4. This is a fantastic quest tale where our hero Varjak Paw ( This is the only bit I didn’t like as it was a name play on a Breakfast at Tiffiny’s character) learns to overcome his pampered existence and rescue his family.  The book is fantasically written and McKean’s illustrations add real character and verve. Actually when you boil it down it’s Kung-fu and cats, what is not to love?


9. Knights and Bikes by Gabrielle Kent illustrated by Rex Crowle

Welcome to the sleepy island of Penfurzy, where nothing exciting ever really happens. OR DOES IT? Adventure awaits Demelza and her new best friend in the whole world, Nessa, as they explore the island and uncover the mysteries of the Penfurzy Knights. With a honking pet goose sidekick, quirky islanders and a legendary treasure to find, it’s up to Nessa and Demelza to ride their bikes, solve the puzzles before them, and face down danger with frisbees, water-balloons, feathers …. and a toilet plunger. THEIR FRIENDSHIP WILL WARM YOUR HEART. THEIR BRAVERY WILL MAKE THEM LEGENDS.

Knights and Bikes is just a perfect Year 3 book. Two great rebellious characters (three if you count Captain Honkers the goose). It’s a brilliant quest story about friendship and trust, absolutely chockful of magic and mayhem. It’s a wild 80’s inspired ride that will delight aduls of a certain age as much as the children


also recommended Rebel Bicycle Club by Gabrielle Kent illustrated by Rex Crowle

This a brilliant sequel and is equally worthy of a read. It doubles the fun and the mayhem.

Welcome back to the sleepy island of Penfurzy! Adventure awaits Demelza and her best friend in the whole world, Nessa, when an unexpected guest arrives at their door. The stakes have never been higher when the duo must solve a new mystery to save their friend, fending off bullies, ghosts and more!


10. Mr Gum by Andy Stanton illustrated by David Tazzyman

The beginning of a weird, wacky, one in a million series about the plight of the truly nasty Mr Gum and a crazy cast of characters—a cross between Roald Dahl and Monty Python

Mr Gum is a truly nasty old man. He’s a complete horror who hates children, animals, fun, and corn on the cob. This book’s all about him. And an angry fairy who lives in his bathtub. And Jake the dog, and a little girl named Polly, and an evil, stinky butcher all covered in guts. And there are heroes and sweets and adventures and everything.

This book is on the list for a very personal reason, this is the book that made my son a reader. It is completely and utterly absurd, the playful use of language is perfect for year 3 children and it is an absolute read aloud riot. If it’s too silly for you I get that but for me it completely hits the right spot. Reading aloud will encourage some of those reluctant readers to pick up a book and get lost in the madness. Surely that’s what we’re all after in the end.


Picturebook list for Year 3

Picturebooks – Choosing is tricky… 10 Picturebooks for Year 3. #picturebookpage

Books for Year 4

10 Amazing books for Year 4…Picked because they’re great

Books for year 5

10 Stunning books for Year 5…Picked because they’re great

Books for year 6

10 brilliant books for Year 6…picked because they’re great!