Where Have All the Teachers Gone?

“Recruitment Crisis: Councils demand powers to tackle teacher shortage.”

(TES: 17.02.17)

“Almost a third of teachers quit state sector within five years of qualifying.”

(Telegraph – 24.10.16)

“More than 80% of Midlands teachers have considered leaving the profession.”

(NASUWT – 15.11.16)

“Nearly half of England’s teachers plan to leave in next five years.”

(Guardian: 17.03.16)

Over the past twelve months you may have seen or heard some of these familiar headlines on newspaper stands, news programmes or via the Internet. The main question to ask ourselves is WHY?   We all have our own theories of why our noble profession is losing brilliant teachers in droves. Some of us may even be able to pin point, where we think the exact problem lies and can name the main protagonist that are causing the problem.

We can take our arguments to the decision makers and continue to bang, silently upon the ‘Door of Change’ or we could encourage our young teachers to see what a beautiful and inspiring profession we have!

We worked out last week that in our sixteen years of teaching (since September 2001) We have had nine Secretaries of State for Education: Morris, Clarke, Kelly, Johnson, Denham, Balls, Gove, Morgan, Greening. That’s an average of one every 1.8 years. So let’s say for instance a new teacher entering into the profession in their twenties will work for 40 years before they retire. They’ll experience approximately twenty two Sec. of State for Education, each one with their own individual agenda of how to they plan to reform and reinvigorate the Education System.

In summary the system of education is always changing – Evolving? Some may question that! But what is for certain, it will never stand still and when one accepts this as a fact, the whole thing becomes a little more palatable.

It can be said that it’s not very often one remembers the words of a plumber, accountant or mechanic – but nearly all of us remember the words or actions of a teacher – whether it be positive or negative. The position and influence we hold within the lives of the young people is a tremendous honour and privilege.

We can (each and everyone of us) support our colleagues and try to address the issues of excessive workload, low staff morale and every changing goal posts of education.

On Friday 17th February 2017 we were invited by the University of Wolverhampton to give a keynote speech at the 8th Annual Learning Conference, organised and hosted by the superb Education faculty.We were privileged enough to speak to around 140 under graduates who will be hopefully stepping into teaching positions in September 2017.The message we gave was quite simple: You are entering into the most exciting, challenging, exhilarating, soul searching, awe inspiring and changeable career you could ever wish for. So enjoy the ride, roll with the punches and flourish.

Admittedly teaching is not for the faint hearted and it is a true roller-coaster of emotions and experiences. A rainbow of life changing highs to soul destroying lows, but all in all it’s a brilliant way to earn a living as everyday is different – each day has its own trials, tribulations and triumphs.

As part of our keynote speech we shared our  of ‘Top Tips’ that the young teacher could call upon if and when they needed them. So here goes with our:


#1: Be Yourself

The only person we know how to be is ourselves, therefore as the famous sports company says: “Just do it!”  Never be afraid to being you. You were created unique and you are the only person that thinks your thoughts, experiences your life in the way you do.

Let the children know who you are, share a bit of yourself with them – it’s liberating. Obviously as the adult in the relationship, we have to keep certain things to ourselves, our PIN numbers and the balance left on our mortgage for example! But we can share information about our family, our holidays. Let the children know about your favourite: Film, childhood memory, song, meal, colour etc.   Let them know what makes you happy, sad, worried, excited – let them know what your superpower would be if you were a super hero. It’s great fun and it builds long lasting relationships.

Our favourite chapter in our book ‘Optimal Learning’ focuses on ‘Relationships in the classroom’, offering a range of approaches to promotes fun and exciting learning within an ethos of solid relationships. See details below. 1

#2: Passion

Most of the Newly Qualified Teachers that we have met usually bound into school full of exuberance and optimism however, by the following Easter the sparkle has left their eyes and their passion is being eroded on a daily basis by the ‘Quartet of Catastrophe: The Time Bandits, The Mood Hoovers, Coaster and Boasters.

The Time Bandits are the ones who steal your time, time that you will never get back and they are cunning thieves as they come in all shapes and disguises, they masquerade as colleagues, pupils, governors, parents, family members, local authority inspectors, caretakers and cleaners – the list goes on. But their main task is to distract you with mundane detail, hearsay/gossip, endless chitchat and complaints – listen, smile, add no comments (this is vital) and then move on.

There is a brilliant book by Andy Cope and Andy Whittaker entitled, ‘The Art of Being Brilliant.’ 2 There is a whole section that talks about Mood Hoovers, those people (similar to the Dementors in Harry Potter) who suck out every once of happiness within your body. The ones that drag tomorrow’s clouds over today’s sunshine. The glass is not only half empty, it’s smashed, irreparable, never to be replaced – I’m sure you’ve met them! When you encounter them be kind to them, acknowledge them, smile politely and move on as they’ll drain you while you wait.

The final duo that chip away at your passion are the Boasters and Coasters. The ‘If I were you…’ fraternity. The ones that have done everything, not only bought the t-shirts, they’ve sourced the materials, designed them manufactured them and bought and sold them. The ones who say, “It’s pointless, we tried that and it didn’t work.” The ones that Sir John Jones refers to as,

 “Those in the staffroom who have retired, but haven’t told anyone yet!”

 If we are to protect our passion and integrity, all we have do is to be on the lookout for negative people, recognise them, acknowledge them but most importantly ignore them.

#3: The ‘Y’ Factor

A colleague of mine once said that she was astounded as I never stopped asking questions. Even at the age of 53 I still thirst of answers to questions of which I’m not really bothered about the answers. Questions that will never benefit me or enlighten me, they’re just questions that I like to ask.

A child once asked me: “You know when you’ve got an itch and you scratch it and the it goes? Where does it go?” Truly brilliant I thought. Billy Connolly says that he lies awake and night pondering such questions as, ‘The man who drives the snowplough – how does he get to his work in the morning?’

Always encourage children to be curious. A brilliant quote I saw on Twitter a few weeks ago stated: ‘That teaching was 10% asking questions and 90% was encouraging children to ask questions that you can’t answer.’   I read somewhere once (sorry can’t recall the source) that in the USA there are a group people who think up scenarios that could effect a nations stability and wellbeing and they were referred to as, ‘The Department of the Unthinkable’ I don’t know if there is any such organisation but if there is, we need to prepare our youngsters to work in such a department.

“Isadore Rabi, winner of a Nobel Prize for physics, was once asked why he became a scientist. He replied: “My mother made me a scientist without ever knowing it. Every other child would come back from school and be asked, ‘What did you learn today?’ But my mother used to say, ‘Izzy, did you ask a good question today?’ That made the difference. Asking good questions made me into a scientist.” 3

#4: Fail Fast

Teaching is a wonderful, rewarding career that has many brilliant opportunities for one in which to succeed and become successful. Nevertheless, lesson observations, Local Authority inspections, OFSTED, disaffected parents and failed job interviews etc. Can all have a negative affect on our self esteem and wellbeing. I know talking from personal experience one particular job interview almost finished me. The whole process was brutal and I felt I had nothing left to give as a teacher. But that’s when my ‘Team’ (which we’ll discuss in #5) came into full swing. They joined forces and presented me with solutions and opportunities to reflect on the event. What was at the time (to me) an epic failure became a lucky escape. The whole episode reduced me to tears, I remember sobbing uncontrollably in Cannock Chase a large area of outstanding natural beauty in the heart of a rural Staffordshire. I remember calling my best friend and fellow Thought Weaver and asked him what I could do and I’ll never forget his reply, “Quite simply – write a blog and record your feelings and share with others. I did this and the whole experience was cathartic and liberating. It also gave me one of my best lines within a blog…

‘As I sat the staring at the malevolent septet of distaste gathered there before me.’

This was a great example of failing fast, learning from it and moving on.

#5: Build Your Team

I’m sure we all remember those heady heights of the 2012 London Olympics and Super Saturday with rush of medals all day finally culminating in the one hour of pure ‘Olympic Magic’ on the Saturday evening with Gold winning performances from Greg Rutherford, Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis. All three of these athletes won individual medals and were soon to acknowledge that they were just a small part of the phenomenon that became Team GB.

But behind the smiles and celebrations, even behind the support of Team GB, lies a whole host of individuals that support an individual athlete. Take Jessica Ennis for example I’m sure that within her camp throughout the year she’ll have a: Fitness coach, technical coach, nutritionists, psychologist, physiology therapist, doctor, tour manager, press secretary, PR personnel. All making their own individual contribution to Team Jessica.

Likewise as a teacher we have to build our own team full of very different people and personalities that will support you through good times and bad. There are the following:

The Mentor

This doesn’t necessarily have to be someone in your school, it’s handy if it is. There must be a feeling of mutual respect between you both and this person may be the one that challenges you. You have try and listen and not take it personal. If you have selected your mentor carefully, he or she can be with you throughout your whole career.


The one who is your fountain of knowledge and motivates you. Your go-to-person who will guide and inspire you whenever you need it.

Media Buddies:

There is an array of e-facilities and social networks that one can tap into to gain support and advice. Old favourites such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn – However, the site we have most beneficial is Twitter. In our opinion Twitter is the single most important CPD tool out there available to educators, its interactive, collaborative and most importantly it’s free.

Agony Aunt or Uncle

This doesn’t always have to be a school colleague or even someone in education. This is the person you go and have a cup of tea with when the whole thing is getting you down. The head teacher has snapped at you, parents and having little digs at you, even the kids mention you’re not as funny as their previous teacher. This person you select is the one you can go to for a big cuddle and a cry (if needed) and they’ll patch you up and send you out again repaired and rejuvenated.

Drinking Buddy

This is the person whom you laugh away the hours. Preferably someone who is nothing to do with education. This person is your release valve, your safety harness, your lighthouse in a troubled, turbulent sea. Although we would never promote excessive drinking (I’m a teetotaler) we advocate moderation in all that we do. But this person helps you forget school, data, lesson obs., Ofsted etc. They are the ones who help us keep a healthy and manageable ‘work-life balance.’

#6: Life Beyond School

If you had hobbies and pastimes when you came into teaching they have to kept, almost protected.   A life outside of schools makes you complete inside of school. If you finish school on a Friday and plan and mark all weekend; what experiences have you to share with the children when you return to school on the Monday.

I remember a time when my children were younger and we were unable to go out as I had a whole plethora of school work to compete over the weekend.   My wife came into my study whilst I was crouched over my PC and what she said bore a whole into my very being,

 “I know you love you your job and I know you are everything to everybody else’s children but just remember you have two of your own!”

 It goes without saying we have to keep up to date with our marking and we do of course have to plan inspiring, interactive lessons. But do we have to spend hours looking for a ‘google’ image of a seahorse to insert into a spelling list?

#7: Invest in YOU

In order for us to grow professionally and to become proficient in our craft, it is vitally important that we develop ourselves. CPD – Continuous Professional Development is the corner stone of what it takes to become a more competent and well rounded practitioner. We are aware that time and money restraints are crippling some schools at the present time. There is very little in the budget for us to go on courses that will sharpen and broaden our delivery. However, CPD doesn’t have to be an arduous expensive task. Start within your own school or cluster. Ask fellow professionals if you can sit in their lessons, share planning time together. The Internet is a wonderful resources for CPD: Pinterest, Twinkl and Instagram are treasure troves of resources and lesson ideas. For brilliant debates and discussions on Education look no further than Twitter.   YouTube is wonderful for resources, lesson ideas, tricky misconception, and also for lectures. The TED talks are brilliant. I usually have a quick cup of tea and ten to fifteen minutes of watching a TED talk and I’m enlightened and inspired.

#8: Opportunity Knocks

Finally and most importantly try to find, nurture and maintain your passion in teaching and learning.

There are a whole plethora of opportunities out there for practitioners who are willing to go that extra mile.   Get involved within your local cluster group meetings with other professionals and if your school isn’t in one, then start your own.

The Thought Weavers are just a couple of teachers who believe in future of the education of our nation, we (like the rest of you) get despondent and disheartened at times. But our drive and determination drives us forward.   We (along with colleagues) have sat within the Department of Education in London and discussed education with ministers of her majesty’s government.  We have met with The Director of Schools for Ofsted and asked him directly questions that affect us all. We have taught philosophy to inmates at HMP Featherstone, and. Wolverhampton. We have delivered high quality Inset training at school and county level. We have sat on the stage at Earls Court in London during the BETT show and debated curriculum change.

Our finest hour was when we secured a book deal when we hadn’t even started writing a book.

But all of these opportunities we have created for ourselves and everyone one of them have had a profound, positive impact on our classroom practise.

We once met Ian Gilbert (Independent Thinking Company) 4 at a seminar and explained to him we were great fans of him and great admirers of his work: Essential Motivation in the Classroom, Little book series 5, Why Do I Need a Teacher When I’ve Got Google? To name but a few.

We asked Ian did he have any words of advice or pearls of wisdom he could share with us that we could adapt into our roles as teachers, writers or trainers and she smiles and said,



  1. http://thoughtweavers.co.uk/our-book/
  2. http://www.artofbrilliance.co.uk/shop/1/the-art-of-being-brilliant
  3. http://www.aish.com/sp/ph/68197797.html
  4. http://www.independentthinking.co.uk

5.   http://www.independentthinking.co.uk

The Educational Cat-Walk

It’s seems that education is littered with initiatives, ideas and approaches that were once heralded as the ‘big new thing’ only to be derided a couple of years later because a new initiative has usurped its predecessor. Not unlike a fashion Cat-Walk, educational fads and fashions come and go; one day it’s fashionable to follow the trend, the next it’s positively cool to hate it! 

Take the following examples; VAK and Mini-Plenaries. In their pomp they were the mainstay of all ‘outstanding’ lessons but a quick scan of Twitter will soon find tweets mocking the idea of VAK and the idea that mini-plenaries show progress. Of course some of the tweets make perfect sense, trying to pigeon hole students as ‘Visual’ learners is a dangerous thing to do, it can lead students to believe they can’t learn from listening, that can never be right! However, whilst VAK is certainly out of fashion, it would be foolish to ignore it entirely; few would deny that trying to plan a lesson using a multi sensory approach is wrong; indeed it can inspire pupils to engage with learning, help contextualise lessons and make the whole learning experience more memorable. 

Mini-plenaries have suffered a similar fate. The name is a little silly (in our opinion) but helping pupils to reflect on their learning, questioning their understanding and adapting lessons to meet their needs is never a bad thing. The problem faced by mini plenaries was their association with Ofsted gradings ;it therefore became the ‘must have’ accessory for any lesson – whether it was necessary or not! Lessons may or may not need such a plenary, it should be for the teacher to decide – the idea that a lesson must have one has led to the mini-plenary being heckled from the sidelines. This is a little unfair – used wisely and perhaps without the silly ‘label’ – talking to students about their learning can support great progress. 

The next ‘big thing’ it seems is mastery. And we’re all on the bandwagon! Schools across the country want the latest ‘Mastery’ range and the word is popping up on planning, assessment and CPD. One thing we’re clear on is that the approach is not a bad idea, we just don’t like the name. I also take issue with using it as part of new assessment labels – how do we really know a student has mastered anything? 

What does mastery mean? 
Ask ten professionals and you’ll get ten different answers. So what’s the real answer? Has anyone mastered mastery? Our take is simple – it’s about the depth of learning, it’s about going beyond knowledge. (I can already hear people shouting ‘progressive nonsense’) Of course knowledge is critical, after all, pupils needs this as a vehicle on which to think. It’s seems maths departments across the land have taken mastery to heart and why not? When done well pupils knowledge and understanding is enriched, they’re challenged, they get confused (we believe this is important because it can drive curiosity) and learning is deeper. As a result the learning sticks and that’s what we all want – not only that, the transferable skills/habits (I’m aware this phrase is unfashionable at the moment) pupils develop whilst they’re comparing, analysing and debating will, over time, become more valuable that the answers on the worksheet. At present were working on some approaches to mastery using Bloom’s taxonomy as a scaffold on which to plan learning. Again, Bloom’s Taxonomy is divisive; popular with some whilst others dismiss it. 

Our point being is this; educational initiatives, ideas, approaches shouldn’t be like a fashion parade. They should be seen for what they are; the thoughts and research of others, the result of tried and tested practice or simply someone’s hunch. Our job as educators is to critically evaluate them, use them (or not) and try to get the very best out of the student we teach. Be brave, go with what you believe, whether the idea is ‘fashionable’ or not or whether the idea is 2, 5 or 50 years old. It’s your classroom! 

The Thought Weavers.

The Hunt for a better Education!

Education is not for the faint hearted, decisions are all too often made for us and new initiatives are driven by ideology or some would say stupidity.

Last year David and I (@thought_weavers) were fortunate enough to be invited to the DfE for a meeting with Elizabeth Truss and her policy advisors to discuss the new curriculum. We were also joined by a fantastic bunch of bloggers and together we debated the introduction of the new curriculum. I think it’s fair to say we came away from that meeting utterly bemused.

In the Summer of 2014 the group met with Michael Cladingbowl, the director for inspection reform at Ofsted – a very down to earth and honest character with a vision for Ofsted far removed from the opinions formed up and down the corridors in schools. We felt this was a more successful meeting and many of the new reforms and forthcoming changes have been inspired by Michael’s vision.

Today (9th January 2015) the group reformed and went to talk to Tristram Hunt, the Shadow Education Secretary. Along with @imaginenquiry, @debrakidd and @cherrylkd I went to his constituency office in Stoke-on-Trent. I was brought up in the Potteries and in the past 40 years I have witnessed the dismantling of this once proud, hardworking, industrial heartland. There are no glass fronted buildings for Tristram Hunt, instead he steps right from the door of his constituency office right into the heart of the ‘real’ Stoke on a Trent of which I love and immensely proud to be part of.

On arrival we were welcomed by Tristram and he offered a cup of tea (but no biscuits!!!!) we went upstairs and sat around a small table in a small meeting (a far cry for the grandeur of the DfE) and the meeting began.

Without a set agenda the conversation was fluid and many aspects of education were discussed.

A key issue that soon arose (in our initial discussions) was that teachers were often leaving the profession for different careers and this was a particularly concern of mine. Tristram contended that in the modern workplace, few people went into a careers thinking it was a job for life, instead many of the chose to explore different avenues along the way; the group felt this was a fair point, but when teachers left the profession because of the weight of paperwork, data chasing and stress this was unacceptable – to this Tristram agreed.

We then soon got on to what we came to hear – what is Tristram Hunt’s vision for education? We asked him this question directly. Almost to my surprise he was very forthcoming with a clear and succinct answer. Tristram is adamant that education is the key to social justice and social mobility. He spoke passionately about pupils who were happy, enriched at school and were given opportunities to build character and he believes these aspects of education go hand in hand with academic success. Tristram sees education as the key to sustainable economic success in which a talented workforce can thrive. I was very surprised how easily his vision was articulated, this was certainly something in which he he deeply believed. Tristram was also open to the fact that all of his beliefs were linked to the core of the Labour movement. Whether we like it or not, education will always have an ideological influence but he made no attempt to hide it; he spoke with pride when referring to the Labour Movement.

Of course it’s great to have a sound philosophy of education but how was Tristram planning to make this a workable model of education?

His first priority is clearly early years – and by this I mean 0-5yrs. He wants to reinvigorate the SureStart program. This really excites me – I’ve always believed in this idea but I think it failed becuase no one really new why it existed – Tristram was clear; SureStart should be used to to tackle child poverty, a place where different agencies can work together, where parents can meet and learn for one another. In his own words Tristram wanted to ‘Reboot’ SureStart.

I gave the example of a breastfeeding support group held at a local community centre that was part run by my partner, which has recently closed; this group served as a haven for struggling parents, a chance to see how others interact with children and simply to make friends. As a father of a young bright three year old daughter I am only too aware of the benefits of these initiatives aimed at targeting and supporting young families. The sad irony of SureStart is that whilst the initiative was aimed at families on lower incomes, it was the middle classes that pounce on this opportunity. The challenge Tristram is to promote the value of SureStart to ALL families
Irrespective of their social status. The aim must be to create community ethos routed in learning and support.

Tristram then moved on to school policy. On one thing he was crystal clear; relentless structural reform is not the answer to raising standards. His belief is that the quality of teacher and the strength of leadership is the key to improvement. He stated that “all teachers should be qualified or working towards being qualified” and this was important to the profession as a whole. Tristram also believes that new careers paths that encourage the best teachers who don’t want to move into leadership and management should be available and believes the growth of federations would provide an opportunity for this.

One of my frustrations in education is that teachers don’t have time to think, they are overworked and have little time to reflect and improve; Tristram believes that teachers should have time to think and that well run schools do make this happen. He cited a school he’d visited recently where teachers had less contact time with pupils than is the norm and as a result standards has risen dramatically – he accepted that this was going to be a difficult idea to sell to parents but it was well worth it..

@debrakidd brought up the issue of the examination system. Tristram conceded that their are no hard and fast answers and that a perfect system is difficult to achieve. He did suggest that a number of assessment approaches should be used and mooted the idea of an ‘National Baccalaureate’ – a qualification that included English and Maths, learning outside the classroom and project based piece of work. He was clear that ‘academic’ and ‘non-academic’ should be of equal worth.

We spoke briefly about curriculum. Tristram made it clear that the new curriculum is here to stay; namely for the sake of stability and the he trusts teachers to do great things with it. He is passionate about a broad and balanced curriculum and agrees with the new Ofsted approach of ensuring this happens in school. I spoke about the pressure of sats and how this makes it difficult to offer a board and balanced curriculum in Y6. @imaginaryequiry pointed out that since writing became solely teacher assessed at Y6 education hasn’t imploded and surely this approach could be extended to reading and maths. Tristram seems genuinely intrigued by this idea.

I was open throughout the meeting that many teachers felt angry about the attitude of Michael Gove towards the profession and @cherrylkd asked Tristram what his approach to teachers will be, should he become the Education Secretary. Tristram was clear – his priority is children, not teachers – but – he was at pains to stress that a motivated and happy workforce is critical to this. He wants a “world class teacher in every classroom” that is support by an effective CPD framework. He also stressed that accountability is important, given the £51bn spent on education each year.

Tristram is no fool, he has a clear vision and is passionate about education. His ideas are very ‘idealistic’ and by his own admission, achieving them in time of tight financial constraints will be a huge challenge.

The meeting finished after around 80 minutes and we did our usual photo sessions and ‘chit chat.’ After the meeting we had a mini debrief in the local pub and all agreed – the meeting was very positive, it gave us hope.

The Hunt goes on!

LPoetry for the Totally Terrified


What were your experiences of learning poetry at school?

I don’t know about you but my experience of the dreaded poetry lesson at school was always a rather torturous affair. My memories are rather clouded nowadays but I distinctively remember the fear and humiliation of not being able to conjure up words quickly enough to appease my teacher.

I didn’t have the ability (at the time) to randomly pull from my brain – long, flowing prose like that of my very gifted peers. I definitely had the ideas but I didn’t have the ability to express myself. I therefore fell into the myth that poetry (like Shakespeare) was only for the posh or clever kids – of which I may add – I was neither!

There were a number of poets we learned about in school; all of them had very different and distinctive styles and approaches to poetry. What I did observe was that 99.9% of them were either – male; white or dead!

I remember the excitement of reading Spike Milligan for the first time. Spike was – dare I say it? Funny! It wasn’t until I got into my early thirties that I found such gems as:

Nick Toczek – The Dragon Who Ate Our School
Roger McGough – Mafia Cats
Michael Rosen – Chocolate Cake
Celia Warren – Chimpanzees in Dungarees
Benjamin Zephaniah – Pencil Me In

There are hundreds more I could mention consequently they taught me:

You could write a poem on any subject
The poem could be any length
It didn’t matter if it rhymed or not
The most important part being; that if the poem made you happy (as the author) well that was the main thing.

When encouraging children to learn poetry you only need to keep these four basic principles in mind. It allows freedom and encourages their creative to flow.

Another great tool for writing poetry is the use of Personification – ask the children
“What do the first six letters of personification spell?” ‘PERSON’
They love the idea of making inanimate items come to life; in others words giving non-living things ‘person-like’ qualities.

This does come with a health warning though! If personification is taught using the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century models it will invariably turn kids off! You know the sort of thing I’m talking about; where personification becomes entwined with simile and metaphor:

“Trees were dancing with the wind.”
“The cruel Easterly wind roared like a lion.”
“The Sun threw down his majestic rays of golden sunshine.”
To make it more fun and exciting use everyday examples.
If all the items of clothing in your wardrobe had a debate which one has the best job? The worst job? Think about a cake shop – who are the toffs? Which items are the down and outs. I’ll share some more examples and ideas in my next blog.

Sticking with the clothing theme my class thought a silk tie would have the best job as it is worn on special occasions and is on full view for all to see. Where as the title of the worst job goes to the pants (for obvious reasons) see the two examples below:

Personify the Tie
Pete the Dancing Pants.

I hope you enjoy them.

Cheers Lee & David (The Thought Weavers)


“Oh my!” Sighed the tie,
suspended from the collar white.
“All alone, no friends have I,
to sit and chat with through the night.”

Then a voice came from beneath,
Twas the yellow polka dot handkerchief.
“I wish I were you instead of me,
you are on full view for all to see.”

“You are lofty like the rocket –
I am crumpled and stuffed in pocket.
You are bought as a forget-me-not,
I am cold, damp and
full of SNOT!”

David Anderson – ©02.11.05


Peter Pants began to dance
around the bedroom floor;
the washing basket all looked on
and the clothes they yelled for more.

Fifi French the Flirty shirt,
Whispered “Peter I love you thing.”
Vin the Vest was dead impressed.
and he was completely made of string?

Peter spun and ducked and dived
Then flew backwards in mid-air.
Ian tie said “I’ll have some o’ that”
and slithered from the chair.

Jim and Jock the tartan socks,
began to Rock and Roll.
But Jock the Sock says
“We’ll have to stop – I think we’ve got a hole!”

The Sponge and the Flannel did the ‘Cha, Cha Cha’
The Hand Towel the Boogaloo.
Pete gave a wink to the lady in pink
And said “Madam, how do you do?”

Pretty soon the party parted –
In walked a Super-star.
She was white, she was lacy and rather racy
Her name was Barbara Bra.

Barbara sauntered up to Peter
And grabbed him by his ‘Y’
She kissed his cheek, his knees went weak
Then he began to cry.

“Oh Barbara, not again –
this is getting beyond a joke.
I don’t want to dance – I’m an old pair o’ pants
and I think my elastic’s broke.”

David Anderson- © 09.12.05 (8)

Fantastic website if you are stuck for rhymes

Brilliant YouTube clip demonstrating the rhyming patterns within an Eminem song:  https://youtu.be/ooOL4T-BAg0

Fantastic performance of ‘Chocolate Cake’ by Michal Rosen, demonstrating what one can do with poetry: https://youtu.be/7BxQLITdOOc

Poetry for the Totally Terrified

One from the Thought Weavers archive – POETRY FOR THE TOTALLY TERRIFIED



What were your experiences of learning poetry at school?

I don’t know about you but my experience of the dreaded poetry lesson at school was always a rather torturous affair. My memories are rather clouded nowadays but I distinctively remember the fear and humiliation of not being able to conjure up words quickly enough to appease my teacher.

I didn’t have the ability (at the time) to randomly pull from my brain – long, flowing prose like that of my very gifted peers. I definitely had the ideas but I didn’t have the ability to express myself. I therefore fell into the myth that poetry (like Shakespeare) was only for the posh or clever kids – of which I may add – I was neither!

There were a number of poets we learned about in school; all of them had very different and distinctive styles…

View original post 724 more words

Our meeting with the DfE

Meeting with the DfE and @emmannhardy, @heymisssmith, @educationbear, @debrakidd, @cherrylkd, @imagineinquiry and @theprimaryhead


Wow –we were invited to the DfE to talk about the new curriculum – came like a ‘bolt out of the blue’ and a sense of ‘at last they’ll listen to us’ pervaded our thinking. We soon calmed down though, but the thought of attending a meeting with a bunch of passionate bloggers and tweeters can never be turned down. The thought of meeting Elizabeth Truss was also exciting, perhaps we were getting a little ‘star-struck.’

Despite knowing we would be meeting about the national curriculum we knew little else. Like swatting students we downloaded the National Curriculum ‘APP’ and ensured we could talk about it with some authority. However we were not naïve enough to think that a bunch of educational bloggers would not be forcing their own agenda – And why not!

We arrived in London the evening before (From sunny Staffordshire) and stayed at the YHA near St. Paul’s Cathedral (I promised I’d give them a plug – they’ve got some excellent rates for school parties! Ask for ‘Matty’). On the morning of the meeting we ambled (with a few diversions) across to Westminster for our meeting scheduled for 2pm.

Finally, the time had come and we went to the reception area of the DfE and eventually we were escorted through to the meeting room and off we started.


The precise content of the curriculum was never going to be the focus. Many of us felt that in reality there is little change with relation to content and we pointed out that given any curriculum, talented leaders and practitioners have the ability to create a fantastic learning journey for their pupils. We did point out that whilst the English primary curriculum is 88 pages in length (including appendices), many other subject areas are only three pages in length; on the face of it, this doesn’t suggest a broad and balanced curriculum will be insisted upon.


A key weakness in ‘the system’ that was highlighted was the lack of support for implementation, both from the DfE and the LAs. Elizabeth Truss made the point that ‘Teaching Schools’ should be taking on this role, but as @cherrylkd highlighted, teaching schools are only just getting to grips with changes themselves. Overall the group felt the curriculum content wasn’t a major issue but the timeframes and support for implementation were a big challenge.


We spoke a lot about assessment and we came away from the meeting with an ever increasing sense of uncertainty. The policy advisers were unsure how the curriculum would be assessed. Their thoughts were that English, Maths and Science would be formally assessed at KS1 and KS2 but what these would look like remains a bit of mystery. When pushed, some mumbled response about pupils having a standardised score might be an option, where a score of 100 is the ‘Expected’ outcome. This really concerns us: whilst schools/clusters of schools are creating new assessment systems, some at a considerable cost; financially and time; the government plans to bring in a national standardised test for pupils at the end of Y2 and Y6. Should this happen, we’ll be back to ‘square one’ – schools will ‘re-build’ there assessment systems to fit around ‘National Assessments’ and pupils will be funnelled in to a curriculum where Maths and English scores rule. Pupils who have score of ‘100’ in Y3 will be targeted to get a score of ‘103’ in Y4, making accelerated progress (sound familiar?) Where a score of 100 will be acceptable for Ofsted to begin with, before long, a score of 103 will become the new ‘expectation’ and Gove will pull out his favourite line of “We make no apologies for raising expectations.”(Sound familiar?) At the meeting the rationale behind removing levels was so avoid labelling pupils; but really, what is the difference between ‘John Smith’ being a level 3a or having a score of 98? Both systems are still ‘Carrot and Stick’ and they both attach a score, tattooed into the psyche of teachers, parents and pupils!


No educational debate is complete without the mention of Ofsted. What was very interesting at the meeting was the luke warm response from the DfE with regard to Ofsted. Rather than defend their ‘trusty’ (though independent-ish) foot-soldiers, Elisabeth Truss seemed keen to know more about their impact on teachers/schools, with particular reference to workload and moral. We talked about the vast swathes of marking expected of teachers and the vast array of differentiation we’re expected to provide. We were met with “Where did this message come from?” – Truss was clearly unaware of the pressure from SLTs, LAs and Ofsted to jump through these hoops. Truss was keen to point out that the government does not have a policy of differentiation and she seemed genuinely surprised at the level of marking required. Our key point was that when the Ofsted handbook changes so does educational policy; the question remains; who is charge of education? The DfE or Ofsted? And we think this is where the battleground lies!

There was clearly an undercurrent of disquiet towards Ofsted, whilst this was never mentioned explicitly, the policy advisors and Truss made no attempt to defend them.


The ‘Gang’ #DfEgreight

Whilst no-one could really deny that an invite from the DfE is a great opportunity to share views, the most positive part of the day was the opportunity to meet with an eclectic group of bloggers from around the country, each with their own point and style. During the meeting the views were delivered thoughtfully, passionately, honestly and sometimes angrily, but every view had its own merit. For us, it was great to hear such a range of perspectives about Education. Ultimately the visit wasn’t for ourselves, we all went to the DfE to get a better deal for the pupils we nurture and educate. Let’s never lose focus of that.


The Thought Weavers.

10 Ways to Use and Apply in Maths

I’ve never wrote a ‘Maths’ blog before so this is my first attempt. I’ve spent much of my career in Y6 and one aspect I’ve worked particularly hard at is developing ‘Using and Applying’ (U&A) in maths. There are lots of definitions as to what U&A actually is however; I’m not going to get bogged down in this debate. In my opinion it’s less to do with word problems and more to do with reversing the transactional norm of a maths question. To clarify what I mean here is an ‘shape’ example:


The staple diet of this area of maths is to label a shape with its properties. Nothing wrong with this except it can be a bit ‘dry’ and for the most confident learners presents little challenge. To reverse the process try this; give pupils a list of properties, ask them to choose 5, then to draw a shape to meet the criteria they have set. Immediately pupils have to be creative, they have to USE their knowledge and because the teacher has not given a specific shape, learners have a lot of choice.

10 ways to Use and Apply across the maths spectrum:

  1. Area and Perimeter: Give pupils the answer first and then ask them to draw the shape. For example, draw an ‘L’ shape with a perimeter of 50cm. The same approach can be used for area; draw an ‘L’ shape with an area of 25cm². To extend this further create statements to investigate; for example, Rectangles with a perimeter of 20cm always have the same area.
  1. Measures: Reading scales can be notoriously laborious and often too easy for the best mathematicians. Try this though. Give the pupils a ‘menu;’ create a table with three columns, the first column is the ‘start number,’ the second is the ‘end number’ and the third column is the ‘number of intervals.’ In each column place 5-10 numbers. The pupils now have a menu to create their own scale.
  1. Shape: When the class are learning about different types of shapes or categorising triangles or quadrilaterals the concept is often picked up rapidly. To move the learning on create simple statements for the pupils; the pupils then investigate whether they are true or false (or sometimes a bit of both!) and provide evidence to support their view. For example:
  • An isosceles triangle could have a right angle.
  • A square can only be split in half along a line of symmetry.
  • Two rectangles can never make a square.
  • Two squares always make a rectangle.
  • A rhombus is half of a parallelogram.
  1. Line graphs. This is a simple one to set up; discuss with the pupils how line graphs often tell a story. Give the pupils a range of ‘blank’ line graphs; only draw the X and Y axes and the line. Do not label anything or put values on the axes. Pupils can either tell the story or create a title. This is a great activity done collaboratively. Over years I’ve heard some amazing stories!

  1. Rounding numbers; in my experience this is the archetypal ‘they’ve either got-it or they haven’t’ type lesson and when they’ve ‘got-it’ it doesn’t matter how many decimals places your throw at them it doesn’t get their brains thinking. Instead give the answer and pupils predict what the question could have been; for example. 6.7 has been rounded to the nearest tenth, what could the original number have been?

  1. Multiplication. If pupils learn the ‘grid’ method in your school, you’ll know that some get through the calculations as quite-a-pace. By giving the answer first the thinking begins. For example, A TU x TU calculation gives an answer of 475. What could the numbers have been and what would the completed ‘grid’ look like?
  1. Co-ordinates. This is an effective plenary idea if the pupils have been learning to plot co-ordinates in all four quadrants. Imagine the classroom is a grid and label each corner/area with the numbers 1-4. Give the class a co-ordinate and the pupils move to which quadrant they think the co-ordinate lives!
  1. Time: Calculating differences in time can be quite tricky for most. However, for some pupils it comes quite easily. Instead of asking pupils to find the difference between the start and finish times, give the pupils the answer and either the start or the finish time. For example, the time difference is 3hrs 56mins, the finish time is 06:34 – what is the start time?
  1. Odd one out: This can be used across maths. For this example I’ll use fractions. Write 5 fractions on the board; assign a fraction to each table/group in the class. The challenge of the table is to prove why their fraction is the odd one out. Always ask for evidence to support their argument.
  1. Plan the plenary. Again this can be used for any type or maths. This is a great idea to challenge those pupils who finish in double quick time. Their challenge is to plan a simple game/activity to finish the lesson that MUST help everyone reinforce their learning. The pupils must lead the game/activity. This idea takes some time to embed, but once it does the results are incredible.

If you have any other ideas, let us know – or even better, write them in the comments box below so they can be shared!

The Thought Weavers.