Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Teacher Growth - Director's Cut

Preface to The Director's Cut
I am angry and I'm thinking anger is OK isn't it?"  

It's possible to be angry and, at the same time, thoughtful, even reflective isn't it?  
Well, I've been angry for years about this issue and controlling that anger, at least in public. 

Why? Well, I believed that when I was calm, reflective and measured, the words I used would hold more impact.  They didn't.  They don't. 

And sod it.... I've just done it again this week!  I controlled my anger and, chivvied by an excellent editor, wrote a cool analysis of why and how a #Teacher Growth approach works better than any other.   It's fine, as far as it goes.... It works..... but I was left thinking, "Something is missing - would a heartfelt, anger fuelled, Director's Cut get more Box-Office?" 

So, I looked through the blood rushes and respliced, or should that be spiced the original.
Either way I let let rip...



The XXX rated version 


For the sensitive a UU rated Short is on at iAbacus here

I wrote an angry despairing email to a friend this morning,

"I have an image in my head of all those creative teachers and heads I've worked with, over all those years, standing in a weary, downtrodden line, drenched to the skin in a rain of patronising abuse of their professionalism... Down hearted, cold, drained and turning away from work they once loved and were so good at.... There is one such head I am thinking of today...and I’m still angry about it….So many we failed and it's still happening..."  

It became this: Linked-in post on this subject..

I have to say a little more, whilst maintaining confidence....

This is a true story... That head is now at home, for the second month in a row, crying through hours each day.  I’m updated by a close relative and spouse, good gate-keepers both, who tell me some of the things they hear between sobs. There's another valued colleague I spoke to, directly, this week too.  She stunned me, mid conversation, suddenly opening up with similar words and phrases.  They echo conversations that have haunted me down 50 years in the profession but I'm hearing them more and more these days. 

"I'm broken, drained, exhausted, unable to sleep, tearful, emotional, unable to think of work, can't seem to get out of bed... on medication.  It's a deep despair. It's the inability to deal with negative colleagues, as I used to do.... I'm ground down, had enough now....can't face any of it it anymore...."  

The latter from the headteacher who has decided not to return to school.  Do I hear these cries because I have uttered the same phrases?  Do all colleagues know this is happening around them?  If so what are they DOING?   If they don't know, or are doing nothing why not?  

So, our first challenge! 
Do not be a #SilentWitness. When we see such behaviour, or the symptoms it generates, we first support the victim and then we cry, "Unacceptable" and whistleblow our lungs out.

Our second challenge! 
Do not be ignorant of the theory, research and evidence of a professional growth approach. We know about #TeacherGrowth and can apply it beyond Education across all other areas of human endeavour.

Well, we know there are those who can't hear the cries of struggling colleagues, or don't want to.  They are either ignorant or evaders. My worst experience of this? When speaking of professional pressure at a Local Authority conference and alluding to a colleague who was "Off sick" and detailing some of the distress, there was an audible smirk, "Ah dear.... poor little man.."  followed by a chuckle and a deep silence that brought the session to an early end.  After an enforced break, the organiser made a retraction and sincere apology, on behalf of the unsympathetic headteacher.  But the stark reality of that emotionally unintelligent perspective had been exposed. No one was convinced the individual had wanted to apologise.

Yes, we all know, there are some who simply do not accept a teacher growth model - despite the wealth of research proving its value.  That view has a pedigree.  There are reasons it persists.  We have to understand those reasons.

What is this Teacher Growth?
Search #teachergrowth and you’ll find animated debate out there on twitter, facebook and Linked-in. The phrase and the associated: #GrowthMindset #studentgrowth, has re-captured something about professional learning, by the individual, for the school, supported by peers. It’s there in a proliferation of #Blogs and on #Headteacher, #SLT and #TeacherChat forums. 

Teacher Growth is about self-discovery, self-evaluation and home grown CPD - pun intended. Thousands of teachers and leaders are finding solace, support, well-being and fulfilment in Teacher Growth activity at #teachmeets, #learningfests #EdConferences..  Supportive professional sharing on-line in #Edutwitter #WomenEd is palpable. In these virtual Teachers’ Centres Ofsted, student testing and lesson observations are not popular concepts.

We must celebrate this re-emergence of professional self-discovery and self-reliance. In one sense we have no alternative.  We become stronger as a profession when we nurture each other’s openness and willingness to debate - don’t we?  Yes, of course, but whilst supporting each other, we must remember that not all professionals inhabit the echoing chambers of these forums.  Indeed, a worrying trend is the emergence of educational “trolls” who criticise "Snowflakey" content on-line and pull down hopeful and enquiring thoughts, often of younger and, yes, female colleagues. On-line discussion is becoming increasingly abusive. Are these people harking back to a golden age of more control?  

Remember, “give a man a fish”?  Well, Quality Controllers (QC), stand at the end of processes, judging outputs.  They inspect arguing, “Give a teacher a judgement and a list key issues and they’ll know what the nation wants them to do”. While Quality Assurers (QA) argue,  "Teach them self-evaluation and planning for improvement and they’ll know how to do it for the rest of their lives"  I've always argued the most sensible approach is, "Give them a fish to eat and then teach them how to fish for themselves - we learn best on a full stomach" but I'm jumping too far too soon… let’s look into the reasons why some remain unconvinced….

Taking Back Control
Never forget that the "professional development/QA" or teacher growth approach took a bashing in the decades either side of the millennium.  In these years Ofsted and SATs imposed a regulatory/QC model aided by the rise of data crunching computers and those oh so sexy scatter graphs.  The seeds of Action Research, Heron’s Facilitation Styles and GROW coaching stages were still there but had to follow the leaders and the leaders were Ofsted. In short, Teacher Growth went underground.  (For more history see *Appendix)

Many will never forget HMCI Chris Woodhead’s, “15,000 incompetent teachers!” jibe, based, erroneously, on Ofsted Lesson Observation statistics.  Early Ofsted’s were riven with fear - they were nowhere near a growth model.  I know - I was one of the first Ofsted inspectors trained but refused to inspect after my first experience.  

It felt just wrong walking away at the very point we were needed - when issues had been identified and the school wanted support.  So, many of us continued to work with and alongside our colleagues in schools and some of us majored in Post Ofsted support, especially in what were termed "failing schools".

It’s more than interesting to reflect that the current generation of school leaders, and their younger colleagues, many now embracing teacher growth, lived their school days through the early Ofsteds and testing years when a common cry from their teachers was, “You don’t help plants grow by pulling them up and looking at their roots!”  The metaphor exemplified a frustrated and often angry profession who felt objectified as operatives and diminished within a system that was being dissected, measured and refocused by teams of inspectors who came, judged, left Key Issues ToDo and went. 

Can we presume some students, now our School Leaders, welcomed their teachers being scrutinised, whilst others felt sympathy for them?  Did this mould their attitude to their own leadership?  Is there, alongside a burgeoning Teacher Growth, a rise in the less sensitive, controlling, approaches that hark back to the tougher days, of the Black Papers and a presumed golden age of, "Back to Basics"?  

Is the "Take Back Control" strapline, that many British voters swallowed, beginning to influence some of our modern managers and leaders? Is the belligerence of emerging political leaders like Trump and the combative style of Dominic Cummings giving some inspiration to be tougher, macho and utilitarian? Mixing more metaphors... Is the heat being, deliberately, increased in some kitchens, in an expectation that those who can't stand it will, "Get Out"?  Constructive Dismissal by stealth?  Speak to my two struggling colleagues.  What then for the "Teacher Growth Snowflakes"?  "Ah...poor little men and women.." 

Two tribes - one profession?
The profession, at large, certainly became tribal in the 1990's - for Ofsted, or against. One major Teacher Union began advising colleagues against getting involved in preparation for Ofsted, appraisal and self-evaluation, others were silent.  Lesson Observations were resisted, as they often still are.  A view pervades in some schools and chains of schools that observations can only be done in inspector mode - experts judging operatives and awarding grades.  There have always been other ways - there still are - but the folk memory of, “Ofsted Lesson Obs” remain so strong... too strong?

Tribes parted either side of a false dichotomy Ofsted v Teacher Growth.  Just as they had before on: Traditional v Progressive; Active v Rote Learning; TA v SATs;  When answering the old question,  “What makes a good lesson?” answers were often judged tribally - some quoting experience, others looking up Ofsted descriptors.  

One question is, “Did Ofsted and other inspection regimes, in their first incarnation, inflict too much professional damage?”  A better question is, “What can we now do to repair it?” 

The answer is by deploying a unified professional approach
We do so by recognising two important, evidence based, conclusions:

1. The most effective school improvement work begins with a Teacher Growth model. 
We now know that Teacher Growth achieves Quality Assurance by creating the permitting circumstances for school improvement and success.  It does this by respecting and building individual professionalism through team self-evaluation and planning.  Implemented with rigour, this ensures there is an increasing professional experience, together with associated evidence of impact.  Teacher Growth provides each professional with a solid set of arguments ready for any scrutiny. How do we know?

The shift towards a unified approach was heavily influenced by the work of School Improvement Facilitators in and out of schools.  We knew that emerging global research best exemplified by John Hattie’s “Visible Learning”, demonstrated that student achievement is best influenced by an emotionally intelligent mix of methodologies BUT the best foundation is when School Leaders,

“Create school, staff-room and classroom environments where error is welcomed as a learning opportunity, where discarding incorrect knowledge and understanding is welcomed, and where participants can feel safe to learn, re-learn and explore…”

Now even Ofsted Inspection Frameworks have move further towards a validated self-evaluation model, where colleagues in school were becoming an inextricable part of the process.  There are still some evangelist Ofstedders v Teacher Growers but the ground is more fertile for a more unified professional burgeoning.

The work of successful School Improvers has always been based on a philosophy that recognised the best of both QA and QC approaches. Work in Post Ofsted schools and lead tutoring NCTL programmes (LftM, Leadership Pathways and NPQH) demonstrated, for many of us (not all) that leaders, teachers and schools must first work out and describe their own vision. Doing so they were equally foolish to either slavishly follow Ofsted and NCSL descriptors or pretend they didn’t exist. 

Professional respect, grown this way, demonstrates, time and time again that colleagues, leaders and those who scrutinise schools are best when adopting a “teacher talks first” approach, rather than assuming they hold a supremacy of judgement over each colleague’s day to day experience.  I have very rarely had to challenge a teacher’s, or leader’s judgement of their own performance because, invariably, they know already. 

They don’t need telling, indeed they often resent patronage.  BUT I have been prepared to do so when emerging evidence indicates it is necessary.  I’ve learnt that the vast majority of teachers and leaders have an unerring nous for accurate judgements.  How dare outsiders proffer judgement without at least listening to the professionals first?  What does ignoring, or dismissing, their views do to the self-esteem of colleagues?  Well, ask my two colleagues at the start of this Director's Cut for their views on that.

School Improvers, working “alongside and with”, rather than “on” colleagues encouraged them to see that the wisest leaders (and teachers are leaders too) factor in the full context in which they work and, at least, know what the system requires of them - whether that be Governing Body, Trust Board, Academy Chain, Governmental Statute/Guidance, inspection criteria or whatever. They know it’s equally foolish to either slavishly follow given guidance or pretend it doesn’t exist. The best of them chant,

         "Rules are for the adherence of fools and the guidance of the wise"

So, yes, a Teacher Growth model works and it works well.

2. Educational Systems that cost 5% of GDP require both regulation and scrutiny.
However, Nevertheless, Of course, national, politically driven scrutiny, regulation and measuring will not go away - ever.  Who could possibly believe it could? But we now know the Teacher Growth movement has influenced the way such scrutiny works. It is clear the English Ofsted Inspection Frameworks have already moved closer towards a validated self-evaluation model, and other UK approaches have gone further.  Colleagues in school are now, inextricably and increasingly part of the inspection process.  Teacher Growth is burgeoning but if we want to be even more effective it’s clear we have to inject more rigour in our search for quality and success and also a quest for better professional well-being. We have to challenge those who still reject, or ignore the very idea of scrutiny and the need for accountability.

So, how do leaders deploy a realistic, unified, Teacher Growth model?
An obvious point is this is as much more about a school’s culture than its systems and procedures.  Teacher Growth gestates in the mind of leaders.  They accept there are always going to be judgements about performance, achievement and success.  The question is, “Who is making these judgement and on what basis are they coming to their conclusions?”  School leaders, who wish to harness a growth model must first believe their colleagues have the professional capacity to improve and achieve their own success, as an integral part of the school’s.  Beware of the leader who speaks of Teacher Growth and practices a different model. "It ain't what you say - it's the way that you do it - that's what gets results".

Only when leaders become fully convinced of these possibilities will they prepare the ground by explaining what change, or development, to plant a growth mindset means.  They’ll start well by sowing seeds in the most fertile areas and spreading out from there. A few keen early adopters are worth far more than a dozen, press-ganged, heavies.

It’s then about signalling professional respect, whenever appropriate, by asking enabling questions of colleagues and looking for opportunities to do so.  Investing in these opportunities means seeking answers by working with and alongside receptive colleagues.  This is time well spent.  This doesn’t remove a right to be clear, decisive and provide given ways forward, but it does mean leaders challenging themselves to consider that factoring in the methods, thoughts and approaches of colleagues might strengthen their initial ideas. This does take time, it might well take longer initially, but these efforts will bear fruit.

And, thinking of the bruised and damaged colleagues I started with... Convinced school leaders will know and learn it is possible to care for the individual who struggles - whilst leading an organisation to success. They’ll know we all struggle from time to time. They'll learn to argue, from experience, that’s it’s possible to be tough on standards of student achievement and performance of staff whilst taking time and care to attend to the emotional, physical and motivational needs of each. 

They know and will show that students and teachers are not robots who just require power and programming.  They will celebrate that they/we are all sentient human beings with hopes, fears, anxieties and strengths and we all respond well to praise for success and training for more.  Of course, the best leaders know there is room for tough love, for redirection, even redeployment and they'll demonstrate this can be done with care and compassion.

They will never leave an individual alone, vulnerable and abused, in plain sight.

How can it work in a school – in any workplace? 

How does Teacher or Professional Growth work?  
4 Questions to fuel Teacher Growth

Over the years, in schools and business settings I developed four hierarchical questions for colleagues to ask themselves in order to, “Look at what I do with a view to doing it better”.  These proven self-coaching questions build a capacity for strategic thinking.  I regularly use them myself.

1.  How well am I performing now?  (in relation to my vision/success criteria)
2.  What evidence justifies this judgement?
3.  What will help and hinder success?
4.  (So) What am I planning to do next? 

They typify Action Research, they are reflective prompts, designed to facilitate learning but don’t ever underestimate the complexity they unearth and the message they communicate. These questions can be asked of colleagues: generally, at the start or during, any number of processes: work scrutiny, lesson review, moderation, appraisal and pre-inspection.  When we ask questions, we want answers – obvious?  Yes, but sometimes we can be too eager to answer for others. Asking these questions signals we expect colleagues to take responsibility for their own work.  They are tough questions - especially when an individual must answer themselves, unprompted.  We are requiring them to be self-evaluators, capable of collecting their own evidence, doing their own analysis and making their own plans. If we help them do this well – to fish -  they should never be surprised by another's judgement.  Over time their own judgement will become more secure.  In my experience colleagues welcome this – even find a release in it.  They do require support and time to do it properly.  Over time and through cycles f the 4 Questions, Their noted answers become: Professional Profiles, Performance Management Documents, Diaries, Portfolios and Blogs. They become Subject/Area/School Improvement Plans,

It’s a statement of the obvious that encouraging professionals to share this kind of thinking sustains their development and growth. They will bring their reflections and evidence of impact to meetings with colleagues, leaders and others, including inspectors.  This turns those meetings into dialogues, enriched by the views of professionals in situ. It is in these respectful professional dialogues that sustained school improvement blossoms.

Where there is hope
Even more important... back to the colleagues I began with and am still very angry about.  If they have been using a Teacher Growth approach, they’ll have a detailed record of evidence to answer those 4 Questions.  In their current deep despair they will not be capable of referencing it, but when, eventually, they become strong enough to begin their climb back to any sense of professional pride - the evidence will be there for them to put into any discussion about their future.

Just think for a minute…. How could anyone - any system - deny them that right?

Finally, The iAbacus
I wrote earlier of the systems in schools and want to say a little more…. There was and there remains a need to ameliorate the proliferation of “School Admin Systems” designed in a Quality Control mindset.  They spread in the late 1990’s and early 2000s and heavily affected thinking about School Improvement.   Almost all began by gathering and mining data.  We’ve all seen eyes glaze over when some SLT Nerd opens an electronic filing cabinet, and fuels up over complicated screens.  We know it demotivates teachers!   I’ve been in meetings of teachers, governors and inspectors when hardly anyone understands what they are seeing.

I’ve never said never do it – I do say, first create the permitting circumstances for such complicated data to be understood, needed and real and ALWAYS allow for questions of scrutiny and solicit the classroom view.

Dan O'Brien and I launched the iAbacus into this mix in 2012.  It’s a unique Teacher Growth model that starts with the professional in situ’s view.  We wanted iAbacus to be set within the real context of school scrutiny.  I wrote, “the iAbacus Model combines the emotional intelligence of coaching with the rigours of criterion referenced inspection”  https://www.iabacus.co.uk/model/  you’ll hear echoes of this Director’s Cut in that paper.

The iAbacus is proving to be unique because it exemplifies the unified approach described above.   It deploys the 4 Questions and guides the user through the questions and captures, in sequential reports, their judgements, evidence, analysis and planning for success. To find out more visit  https://www.iabacus.co.uk/

To help users come to their own judgements we prepopulated the software with a range of criteria for judgements, as supplied by National Bodies like Ofsted, Estyn, and Teachers’ Standards.  We included these “templates” for reference not adherence. Most colleagues saw the possibilities, built into the software, to augment, edit and modify criterion to suit their schools and classrooms. Many now write their own criteria using blank templates and we work alongside colleagues creating bespoke templates.

A minority of teachers and leaders who veer towards an evangelist Teacher Growth Model cannot see how they benefit from setting their own judgements against expectations in National Inspection Frameworks, or criteria sets. Some heads and CEOs still use the iAbacus as a tool for the most senior.

It’s great to work with colleagues in schools and now wider contexts who see our deceptively simple iAbacus as a powerful way to self-evaluate and plan for success.
Contact me to find out more.  Or:

* Appendix - a little history
Before the "Take Back Controllers" or "Teacher Growers" rewrite history let me remind them that older professionals, like me, remember discussing with colleagues in the 1970's and 1980's , “What makes a good lesson?”  “What teaching methods work best?” We’d get into the detail, based on our experience and come up with practical ways forward and ideas which meant something real to us, in our own classrooms.  We shared materials and methods and, of course, we disagreed, often vehemently.  There was a freshness, a sense of exploration and discovery.  We didn’t have reams of criteria to plough through. There were books but fewer. There weren’t the statutory papers, and later, digital guidance, checklists and data avalanches to bury individuality.  It was all so much freer. I was just after the 1960’s. The latest Education Act was way back in 1944.  Inspectors were few and far between, they were well selected and paid far more than head teachers.  We were, largely autonomous professionals. So far so good....

But it was not all wonderful!  The cane was not banned until 1976 and other abuses were hidden, or misunderstood.  Many left school unequipped for work, and there wasn’t much work, but we teachers were working on it. We shared stuff, we met at actual Teachers’ Centres, we formed Subject, Phase and Specialist “National Associations” and ran conferences. The point I am making is that we had to rely on each other to strengthen our professionalism. We grasped at the wisdom in Kolb and Boyatzis Learning Cycles and Senge’s Five Disciplines.  Sadly, we were unable to convince a sceptical public and so Ofsted, testing, regulation and quality control took centre ground, for a while.

I was, at that time a Local Authority Adviser and required to train as an inspector.  many of us were initially sceptical about the inspection regime becoming supreme.  The hardest question we had to answer was, "Can you honestly say that schools would have improved so much without Ofsted?"   The true answer was we needed Ofsted but maybe the pendulum swung too far to the control and regulation side, to the detriment of professional teachers and leaders.  Maybe it had to do so to be brought back.

For me this indicates that an either or model, one for or against scrutiny, can never work.  In short, we need to nurture professionalism within an emotionally intelligent system of checks and balances. There is rarely one simple answer to a complex issue.

Tuesday, 31 December 2019


Lessons learnt, from Dominic Cummings, 
regarding slogans in 2019...

What do we want? 
When do we want it?

What do we cheer?
“March for New Year!”
What do we shout?
“Fake News Out!”

What do we want?
“Truth in the news”
“No hate in the views”
“Left, Centre or Right!”

What will we do?
“March once again”
Who are we?
“A million who Remain”

To what are we true?”
“Honesty, equity”
“Probity,  charity”
“Verity, unity”
“Clarity, parity”

So what do we say
In a simpler way?


Monday, 9 December 2019

3 Days to save the UK

I wrote this, privately, to a number of friends today and several thought I ought to publish it more widely...

Dear Friends,

I thought you'd like a catch up on how things are...

3 days to go and I’m really very upset by how things are... I'm in quite a state actually... yet another sleepless night.  I’m OK but never felt so much a stranger in my own town and locality. Maybe it’s living in the old “Redbelt” of Labour heartlands, now bruised blue and becoming a Johnson/Trump “Rustbelt”.  I live in Bolsover and regularly visit Ashfield and, less so, Mansfield.

It’s an incessant drone hearing and a headache reading such right wing and pro Johnson stuff on social media. Hate to say it but I’m even finding myself spotting the kind of people (7 out of ten?) who voted Brexit and are likely to vote Conservative in this area where I live.  It’s a tribalism in me and I despise myself for getting this way.   And then I become pathetically patronising feeling, “I know best what they need".  It's just like, when a teacher, I taught so many local people, and saw those slow in seeing beyond the village boundary...

I remind myself that these are the children of Thatcher who saw what she did to our coal mines and hosiery industry and yet, after years of austerity (that hasn’t touched me financially), they seem to have forgotten.  This amnesia is allowing them to vote for Thatcher's spoilt child Johnson who will to take us out of Europe (which won’t affect this 71 year old much, if at all). So, yes, I am close to despair and fear Friday the 13th...

I pray, yes I pray, and am crossing my fingers. I’d even stand in one leg, if I thought it would help a final surge of sense - “Anyone but Johnson” I cry!  I am arguing in my BLOG and twitter feed for folks to vote tactically....

And this morning I read page 48 of their manifesto... Tory intentions are coming thick and fast now.... and all is not well.... they are becoming Orwell... just read this and be afraid....


Sunday, 8 December 2019

4 days to save the UK


Abuse that made me stronger
I'd had some pretty awful on-line abuse this week.  This led me to screen-grab, report and block several people, who I’d challenged about their proven fake-news and misrepresentation.  What became obvious was they were spewing out stuff they wanted to be true and were enraged when I pointed this out.   I’ve been challenged, by a few, to state what I really think.... and spent far too much time writing separate replies.  

So, I want my reasoning written down. Doing so I realised I wanted to explain to my 4 Grandchildren what I tried to do in 2019 when we were faced with such a big decision...A sort of "What did you do in the war Granda?" I wrote this first on Facebook and I have been warmed by the responses, on-line and directly.... 
Spot on John! - Magnificent effort John - Brilliant, so right and deep down honest. - I'll be holding my breath on the 12th.- Well said John, thoughtfully put together and yes, in agreement. Keep strong! - Well said John - I can't understand why so many people can't get some good common sense into their vision of Britain's future - Thanks for the honesty - Could have said all that myself but not as well - Thanks - Food for thought, thank you - I'm hoping I gain sufficient wisdom to do my bit to assist our region, our country and a brighter future.

an updated version....

What did you do in the Election Grandad?

I despaired but I acted..

I’ve been active on Social Media, Blogging, tweeting Facebooking and, as we get closer to #Election2019 I’ve been (increasingly desperately?) trying to encourage people, on-line, to look at the facts, the statements actually made, and at what proper arguments are being offered.  A lot of my current work (ironically about encouraging Critical Thinking - more on that in 2020) has been put aside because I wanted to try and affect voting intentions.  I can't understand why most of my fellow countrymen and women seem to be carrying on as if the election is not happening!  We seem to sleepwalking into a potential disaster.  Even worse many are not thinking critically, or deeply, or even at all about their vote.  I’ve despaired, especially, about the amount of blunt opinion offered as fact, tribal labelling and band-wagoning, sharing of unproven posts and lies, in this campaign.  This has been especially true of the Conservatives but other parties have been at it, albeit at a less blatent level.

My thinking

Politics is not simple but we only have one cross.... this BLOG is about where my cross will go - some may be surprised....
First, I’m no longer a member of a political party.  I left Labour years ago, at Corbyn’s unwillingness to work with all his MPs and his lack of leadership skills - yes he dithers.  I often like his eventual landing places but he misses the bus far too often.  I do flirt with LibDems but find the Revoke stance really problematic. I have rarely felt trust for the Conservatives since the damage done by Heath and Thatcher but I have warmed to some individual Conservatives...
I am attracted to straight, honest, liberal minded politicians and thinkers who want to build a more caring, inclusive and thoughtful society - one that looks after all our fellow citizens. So, I have come to realise I’m not a “party political” animal. 
I see decent people in all parties, except the extreme right and far, far left. But we are all seeing fewer in the Conservatives, after Johnson’s bizarre, pique of a purge, of people like Dominic Greive and Sarah Wolstenholm. There are many good politicians in Labour, LibDems, Greens, SNP & Plaid and amongst the Independents.
I am sure I can judge the goodies - because I read and follow politics. Why can't more of us spot the best?  I'd argue these best politicians can be defined as having ethics and values upheld by all the major religions (not the extreme wings) and by the sensible Humanists.  The goodies are perhaps best described as believing (as I passionately do) in the UN Declaration of Human Rights and Rights of the Child.  Read these and dare to disagree UN Rights   If I’m pushed for a labels I’d say I'm a Liberal Socialists, a Christian Democrat....

3 Big policy areas will affect my vote

FIRST I’m convinced that our biggest threat to us all is the Climate Emergency - so that’s crucially important for my vote.
SECOND  of course is Brexit BUT (and this is important) I do not think Brexit was, or is, actually about Brexit - it was about successive and recent (esp Tory) governments ignoring huge swathes of the population, largely the poor, for years.  So, those disadvantaged by austerity, rebelled when they were offered a too simple a solution and told to how to vote.  We all know, deep down, we were duped and lied to in the (advisory) referendum in 2016.   I think and believe that Brexit would be a huge, mistake for, if nothing else, the spiritual truth that we are better off working with our neighbours - even though it’s tough and there are clearly issues to be put right in the EU.
I am not convinced, like so many seem to be, by the far too simplistic “Get it done” - it will not be done by the first act of withdrawing - read the words.... The trade deals will give us years of more wrangling... and I fear this could well herald to an even worse NoDeal in 2020.

THIRD (and linked to BREXIT) is Austerity. This has been a massive body blow to our communities up and down the UK. I have spent two decades working, professionally, in over 80 Local Authorities in England, Wales and Ireland - stemming the decline of Education and Community Services and helping build new strategies and sole-trader businesses to try and cpe with demand.  I have seen how austerity has hits schools and services for young people hard, really hard.  It must be stopped and reversed.
Ask me which politicians will act to deal with my BIG THREE and you’ll get a long list of names.  To repeat I see them in almost all parties (except the extreme right and far right) but fewer in the Conservatives after Johnson’s purge. There are many good politicians in Labour, LibDems, Greens, SNP, Plaid...

The main task is Rebuilding a divided UK

My careful reading, discussing and critical thinking led me, in 2016, to what I think is a sensible “rebuilding the country policy” of putting any actual deal to leave the EU in a People’s Vote against "Remain".   I argued this for Theresa May's 2018 deal, Boris Johnson's 2019 deal and would do for Jeremy Corbyn's 2020 deal.  This is the only way I can see we, as UK citizens, having a chance to vote on a reality and not on a travesty of lies, false facts, conjecture, opinion and unclear outcomes .  That's why, I've been on all 4 of the People's Vote Marches.  I cannot see why more of us can't see the logic here....  Yes let's Get it Done but for, all our sakes and especially the poor, the vulnerable and the young -let's take time to do it properly.

BUT the BIG issue is now Boris Johnson

BUT as the electioneering draws to a close I’m increasingly appalled at the idea of having Boris Johnson as our Prime Minister!  I dread it happening. It literally keeps me awake at night. He is a proven liar and racist - check the facts in my last BLOG below or click on this LINK.  He has dubious morals and many who know him well describe him as having huge character faults. He is running, or rather being run, as a cowardly, bumbling, hearty fool, who means no wrong.... He’s a better educated Trump and so more dangerous (follow the money). I fear he might win if my fellow countrymen and women continue to fall for this pantomime of a politician and are duped into voting Conservative.

My local constituencies

Johnson’s base, the equivalent to Trump's “rustbelt”, could well become the Leave voting Old Labour areas like Mansfield, Ashfield and Bolsover. I know all 3 constituencies very well - I have lived, taught and worked in them since 1970. There are many people: family friends, colleagues and students I know very well indeed.  I know and fear too many of these are not thinking deeply, or much at all, about politics. I also know they are prey to fake-news and that they are being agitated to vote tribally. The Conservatives are targeting these areas and I can hear those I know mutely mouthing the slogans.... "Take back control, Get it Done,"  Local Facebook groups are rife with the lies and awful slurs of the right with racism, supremacy and jingoism being celebrated.  There is so little proper detail and argument.  That makes me despair.  So, I fear many will vote for Boris Johnson and it was challenging posts on these sites that led to the worst abuse I have ever received last week.  I have accepted I have lost and will lose "friends" and sense, I am seen as a radical in my own country - that's sad but to be seen as a traitor, idiot, enemy of the country - all surrounded by the worst abuse they can muster up. It would be funny if it wasn't so stupid and thank you friends who have messaged support.

So what will I vote?

My constituency is Bolsover -  I really like the Liberal Democrat candidate Mark Fletcher but I can’t afford to split the anti-Tory vote.... sorry Mark.   So, I’ll be voting for Dennis Skinner Labour, as I always have done before.  Yes, I know he's a Brexiteer but, as I sadi, this isn;t simple.  He’s been a brilliant constituency MP but he is being targeted by the Tories and I do believe and respect so his "sea green incorruptability"

My ideal outcome for this election?

I’d want a hung parliament with a high Labour, LibDem, SNP, Plaid, Green, Independent number of MPs who would (have to) form a coalition, with, eventually, a statesman/woman as PM.  I could name a few.  And, sadly, on present performance, Jeremy Corbyn would not be one of these - he does not naturally and quickly enough think strategically as a leader.

And what about your vote?

Well, I'd argue my main point - ANYONE but Boris Johnson as our leader and so a vote for the Conservatives (however good the individual candidate is) is a vote for an educated fool as PM.   

Your only way of being sure that doesn't happen is to be practical and vote tactical.  Remember, splitting the anti Johnson vote might mean he gets in with fewer votes that those against him. 

Check out these sites and weigh in what you know about local circumstances.  

May the force of thought be with you.