Wednesday 30 December 2015

Happy New Year - The Resolution Matrix

The Resolution Matrix

How to make great New Year Resolutions.

Millions of us around the world, will be partying and thinking about the year ahead as midnight approaches.   New Year is an opportunity to rethink as well as celebrate and no doubt we’ll be translating dreams into a few resolutions.

Image result for new year party

Every year I ask: will I keep them? Do I really want things to get better?  

This year I want to boldly go where I have failed before, by making resolutions that lead to a better life.  I've been saddened about what happens in our world (see my last post)   So, I’ve been thinking hard about what the best, most useful, resolutions for 2016 might look like.   I have, today, designed my Resolution Matrix and I’m sharing it (drum roll) Might it work for you too?

My hypotheses behind the Resolution Matrix are:  The least good and a deluge of harm will follow from those who only make resolutions for self-fulfilment, personal benefit.  Localised good may well be realised by those who only go for the best for their chosen few (family, friends, community, race, religion or nation etc).  Some good will be gained by those who seek to improve the lot of mankind in general.  But a better world will only ever be achieved if enough of us resolve to make a positive difference to the earth, our planet.  

I have a chant that simplifies this four level progression from pure selfishness through altruism and wisdom, 

“For me – for us - for everyone – for everything!” 
(for the origin of this see "The Tower")

Of course we all need to look after ourselves but if we stop at egotism it can render us selfish and blind us to the needs of others.  So too can a resolute focus on our chosen few – family, nation, religion and belief set.  We all want the best for our own and yet this too will become self-defeating if unknown or unfamiliar others lose out or are harmed.  If enough resolve to better the lot of mankind in general, there is some hope.  But unless a critical mass made up of you/me/humanity, take meaningful actions to protect, improve and sustain the planet there will be nothing for mankind, our chosen few, or each of us as individuals. It really is that simple. Isn’t it?

Using the Matrix.

You can either use the matrix to plot your resolutions using the boxes, or make your resolutions and check them out against the matrix.


If your resolutions only fit the red and amber boxes they will, by definition, only benefit yourself, or your chosen few.  Whilst there are times when all of us have little choice but to look after ourselves and those we feel closest to, two things follow.  First, it is easier if others help us when we are vulnerable, suffering, or ill, and second, we should resolve to help other when we are in a position to do so.  But communities, nations and humanity are heading for trouble if those who can help others do nothing.  Bluntly, if the majority of resolutions at New Year are in the lower boxes there will be more selfish and ethnocentric acts in the year ahead.  

If, however, a majority of our resolutions match the green and greener boxes, i.e. they include not only hopes, aspirations but actions and plans for everyone and everything, there is a real chance that humanity at large will act in sustainable ways, not just for ourselves and our own, but also for everyone else and everything.

Of course we must survive and thrive as independent individuals and communities but the higher order resolutions have to be about caring for others, the flora, fauna, environment and infrastructure of our planet. It's about recognising our interdependence – I like to think of this as wisdom – acting for the common good.

So there you are: a simple hypothesis a Resolution Matrix and, most importantly, a hope that more of us are able to lift our eyes beyond ourselves and our own.

A Happy New Year and all together now,

“For me, for us, for everyone and yes, for everything!”

I'm still collecting those sayings, principles and "common goods" I asked for in my last post... best sent to 

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Emma’s question

Emma Kell

Emma Krell describes being faced with an arresting question during a particularly demanding and frustrating period in her new educational role hereNudged by our mutual friend, Bill Lord, Emma asked me the same question "Can you see it getting better?”   My first thoughts were, “Who asked that and why?” and “How to respond?”  It struck at my heart and leads to a warning before my Director’s Cut of a reply..


Before you risk reading this you must consider my circumstance.  It will affect your response.  Check this: I am not a classroom teacher anymore.  I'm long gone as head, adviser and senior inspector. I'm freelance. For some, this is another reason for rendering me irrelevant, like the woman who on entering the room before a course I was running looked at me and grimaced, “Oh, you’re old”.  So, you may be thinking that he can’t possibly understand Emma’s, or my, situation and, anyway, denuded of all status and power to bestow furtherance, he’s not a “more powerful other” for me.  My only challenge, to those who think this way (come on we've all met them eager, swivel-eyed at conferences and events) is, “OK I'm an old man, 45 years after qualifying and a long way down my road less travelled.  I may have lost some of my muscled purpose but I'm still kicking against the pricks and consider this. When you’re my age, you’ll still be trudging towards retirement”.  If that doesn't make you ponder Emma’s question little will.  If not, click off and find something quick, simple and smooth-skinned to take your mind off thinking too deeply.  For the rest, maybe my fulfilling and arduous journey through our profession and my still enthusiastic striving, will create hope and value in what follows.  Final warning - it contains some of that outmoded stuff that Emma values – advice.

Can you see it getting better?
Emma’s question captures a search for meaning in troubled times.  It’s been in my head all my working life.  I've written poems about it. My BLOGS and articles echo with it here and here  Almost all my school improvement work, CPD and training have its music behind the words.  It’s been a nightmare when I was forced to answer, “No”.  It’s been a huge challenge when working with those beginning to form a, “No”in their heads.  The least I could do was answer it properly for Emma and Bill and myself.

First, let’s dismiss the version uttered, soft voiced, by a smug coach-type cajoling Emma to finger nail herself out of, what they would claim is, her self-inflicted, “demanding and frustrating experience”.  There’s a precise place for coaching but not when a colleague wants and needs an answer.  Advice and a firm handhold are often the best way forward.  Offering what we National College Facilitators call, “non possessive warmth”[1] is sometimes Ofsted inadequate.

Can you see it getting better? Assumes the worst of times and is best imagined as a plea by the questioner for some kind of hope from their local optimist.  It may even be a tentative, “Are you (too) finding what we are currently experiencing unbearable?”  It might be a gentler way of asking, “Can it get any worse?”  Whichever, it’s a brave ask for someone struggling who recognises a momentary lapse of reason. They want help, to share an inspiration, to think more positive and feel hopeful.

So, here I am your local optimist free forever from your bell ends of unfinished, oft disappointing lessons

So, here I am your local optimist free forever from your:  bell ends of unfinished, oft disappointing lessons; trials of marking; bored over-preparation;  sleep chasing, sexless nights;  beamish leadership and sodding administration! [2]   I've taken time to offer Emma and Bill, and anyone else still reading some sort of answer.  It’s simple and complicated like all things – if you think long enough about them.

My simple answer is, “Yes, I can see it getting better, if you look at what you do with a view to doing it better.”  Is that simple enough?  Johnny Wilkinson, commenting in a Rugby World Cup studio, observed that Team Talks are usually full of simple one liners, “Be positive – stay calm – keep focussed” but these maxims only mean something when we are told what to do to achieve them.  In other words, we have to know the complicated before we can make it simple. So, let’s get complicated!

But before I do I want to recognise those hopeless circumstances where the only answer to Emma’s question is a realistic, “No, it’s not going to get better!”  Emma’s is almost certainly the last question pilots, and their passengers, climbers and their companions think before calling out, “Shit!” and hitting something solid.  I read somewhere that’s the most common last word - gruesome.  So we must think of accidents, natural disasters and terminal illness as circumstances when things do get worse and we are confronting suffering and probably death.  Along our way we will all be frightened in similar ways but I have come to believe, after surviving a few of my own, that even with a few seconds to think, we can still find a better way to face the ultimate horror.

That paragraph should push any over-dramatised view of personal circumstance into its wider context.  This is not to deny that we teachers[3] have witnessed slow professional deaths and real illness in long suffering colleagues and badly managed schools.  We have all seen, in recent years, the zest for our work dulled by a deep learned helplessness.  Countless surveys of teacher well-being, mental health, unhappiness and increasing suicide are indicators of the deleterious effect of a discourse of derision from, not just, right wing politicians and their tame press.  Only the fools amongst us have avoided countless, sleepless, seemingly pointless nights moaning, “Can it get better?” I have tested out my view that it’s never been this bad and no one has seriously disagreed.  I’ll return to the endgame later.  In the meantime how I come to answer a positive “Yes” is even more important.

Image result for teachers failing headline

First, I assume that we teachers, when we started, wanted to make the world a better place. I've checked this with hundreds over the last few years and almost all agreed.  Some had forgotten that spur and drifted off course but most accepted their vocation remains the firmest foundation to an inspirational, “Yes” in response to Emma’s question.  I often say that teaching is the best job in the world if you really want to do it and the worst if you don’t.
Thinking more deeply about my own resounding, “Yes,”   I realised it is a blend of of five, interdependent, sub questions.  Because I can answer “Yes x 5” my overall answer is a  “Yes”.  So what are your Big5 answers?  I’ll offer a few qualifying phrases to help....

Can I see it getting better:

  Globally?  Yes, I feel, on balance, hopeful about the future of our world.
  Professionally?  Yes, I can see a way forward for myself and others in our profession.
  Locally?  Yes, I'm positive about potential success in our team, school and community.
  Personally?  Yes, my own and my family’s health and well-being is as good as it can be.

Obviously, each of us has a different world view, professional circumstance and local situation.  These all change, none more quickly than our personal factors perhaps.  So, we must answer our own Big5, honestly, alone, albeit with help... 

It becomes obvious that, when helping colleagues by listening first, those who say, “No” to one, or more, will have a hard time getting to an overall, “Yes”.   The more “Nos” the more unbearable their teaching life - their whole life perhaps.  Each of our own realities mean that we cannot, even after hours of listening, really comprehend the other’s circumstance and offer anything much more than, “Oh dear,” “there there’s” an actual, or metaphorical, or a banal, “Hang on in there”.   We have to walk away at some point and think hard how best to really help them - if indeed we can.

So, those 5 sub questions (are there more?) make any individual’s response unique and therefore any generalised answer to Emma’s question useless.  This points up the futility and frustration, of a type of BLOG, article, paper or talk about, “The State of Education” or “My take on your work”.  For someone with one or more “Nos” these are a blathering and infuriating accompaniment to reality.  It’s when these well meaning, fit and unpressurised “5Yes” colleagues presume to speak at, for and on behalf of others.  The worst talk fluent superman or superwoman and inhabit an imagined world of total well-being.  These are the tossers in suits, male and female, who bounce into reception trailing bandwagons and briefcases full of “answers”.  I got fed up of this sort spouting crap at conferences years ago.  But, as I wrote in the preface to a poem at the time, “Superhead” there’s a bit of all of us in there somewhere.  I still belly laugh at their inevitable comeuppance (read the poem below) I will perhaps learn to do it more quietly one day.

I see that the latest bunch of tossers in suits are selling “Teacher Well-being” in Booklets and  “Happy Teacher Bags”. The latter contain Smiley Face Badges and Chocolate Hobnobs amongst other crap - Urgh!.  Do they really believe sugar and false smiles ward off depression, cancer and bereavement?  Imagine how it feels, if you are being bullied, feel a failure, haven’t slept, or taught the wrong syllabus, to “wear a happy face” or, “have a night off from marking on Thursday”.  

The next is an additional paragraph (added 5.11.15) following some tweets which appear to suggest I don't care and am misunderstanding "well-being" #teacher5aday etc They go on to champion those bags and badges....

For those colleagues who have recently been part of giving out badges and bags I must be clear I do care about well-being. I am arguing for proper, integrated, focussed well-being, as a part of good leadership.  I'm warning against tokenism, tactical, simplistic, one-off quick fixes.  These are to my certain knowledge carried out on some "Well-Being INSET days" run by individuals (what I deliberately call tossers in suits) who turn up do their bit and go. I'm also wary of a school just producing joy bags and badges as a panacea. 

These alone will change and help nothing and can actually do harm by alienating hurt staff. I have many examples of the latter and several replies to this BLOG from teachers who feel this way.  I am arguing, as I have since the 1980s, what I précis below as PSHE for staff.  This is about a strategic view of well-being and may include such tactics (if you really must) as part of an overall approach which has to be about far more (care about workload, behaviour support, counselling, proper professional development etc) I'm happy to share materials on this because it is about a differentiated approach to CPD not a one size fits all. (Please see materials on my website here  It's a full session on setting up a "Teacher Well-Being Group")

back to the original text  

We really must get serious and recognise the hopeless circumstances that all of us experience at some time and find ways to help suffering colleagues.  This requires good leadership not bloody wellness kits.  It may mean time off, a modified workload, looking for a new post, a new job... it will certainly mean more than hectoring, harassing and hoping all will get better.  If we want well-being we need well-meaning, well-wishing and well – good leadership. This includes pastoral care and PSHE for teachers too and it must be in place before we can even consider moving on.

So, those of us who dare to teach teachers must offer more than simple one liners and generalities.  We must describe what can be done to achieve our simple truths.  We must offer process, more than content.  It’s what I've been trying to do for decades  (sense the frustration there do you?) based on a firm belief, rooted in research, that the best and only way forward, for our profession, is to seek answers together and not to have them tossed on us from on high and afar.  We all risk being just another tosser dancing on a bandwagon selling snake oil.  That fear should slow us down but never stop us.... So, here is  my specification for to finding positive answers to your BIG5 and a confident overall, “Yes!

Can we see it getting better:

 Globally -  Yes, if we can teach our students ways to be hopeful for the future of our world. This will require excellent Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Education (SMSC) based on a careful description of global, “Common Goods”. These are the beliefs and principles all the great religions, philosophies and reasonable people agree upon.  They are stored and described most succinctly in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (and Rights of the Child)  here  Most colleges are surprised to find these are a legal requirement for all schools in signatory countries.  By the way, the articles blow out of the water any thought of unique “British Values”.  What a stupid and unnecessary debate that was and is.

     Professionally?  Yes, if we work interdependently supporting and challenging each other to succeed and present a powerful, professional front to any doubters out there.  There are giants in our communal literature who have paved the way for this.  Amongst the hundreds of these are my heroes: Kurt Lewin, Peter Senge, Michael Fullen, Alma Harris and John Hattie.  There are so many more and the best all have process solutions in their models and systems. They all value sharing, collaboration and a sense of common purpose. Whilst I love my twitter I fear for an unqualified cohort of colleagues junk-reading scraps and tittle tattle.

Locally?  Yes, if we understand what success in our team, school and community really looks like. This means mining our community’s wants and needs and blending them in with those standards and benchmarks of a national system.  We must cherish the local, “Plus what?”  and be prepared to describe, in detail: Ofsted+, Estyn+, Dubai Schools+  etc+.  It is not either-or any more than it was ever Pastoral or Academic, Arts or Sciences, Traditional or Progressive.

Personally?  Yes, if we prioritise our own and our family’s health and well-being by first understanding we are role models and will be copied.  We must practice what we teach and we can only do this if we speak, drive, eat and think more carefully.  If we take more time to write shorter letters. We can’t précis a PhD into a tweet so we must be ready to get our minds fit for longer, considered pieces.  We must get fit and stay fit. Show me an unfit teacher and I’ll show you an unfit teacher. Every a photocopier requires switching off, its parts checking and a rub down with an oily rag. When were you last rubbed with an oily rag?

Readers who know me will see something emerging here.  Each of my Big5 have a set of specifications attached. Call them what you like: success criteria; descriptors; desired states; visions; targets; goals or outcomes.  These too are meaningless unless they become a blueprint for action.  So, the really, really, really hard work is about the rigour of self-evaluation, analysis and planning to achieve each measure, one by one, in priority order.  These are the tough days and nights behind my simple, “looking at what we do with a view to doing it better next time”.  No one ever said it was easy to succeed and sustain success. So Emma, your, our, final hurdle is sticking with it until it’s done.

The really, really,really hard work

Rigorous self-evaluation leading to action planning requires an attention to detail that, only the most successful are prepared to apply.  It requires a devastating personal honesty, an attention to minute detail and banishing self-delusion.  It is about knowing what has to be done and having the will to see it through until it is done.  The driver of success is your will.  Reading about climbing a high mountain and failure to do so in, “Summit Fever” recently I caught something I immediately knew was true. 

“Enthusiasm may get you started, bodily strength may keep you going for a long time, but only the will makes you persist when those have faded.  The will is the secret motor that keeps driving when the heart and mind have had enough." Andrew Greig “Summit Fever 
It was a revelation. Like a more powerful other who gave far too little feedback once said, “I'm glad you said that John, I was just about to think it”.  It was his best complement.  So, here’s mine in advance Emma and Bill,

“Deep in their hearts, they knew what success meant and had the will to achieve it”.

John is creator of The iAbacus the on-line self-evaluation and planning tool that incorporates the rigorous process he describes here.  It is preloaded with a range of national and specific success criteria

[1] This really was (is) a criteria for NCSL facilitators described as a warmth towards the person coupled with a studious refusal to possess their issue by making judgements or giving advice. I wrote a piece about what I guessed was the opposite of this  "Chilled Possession" the preserve of Ofsted Inspectors. What a daft profession we are at these times.

[2] Before you dismiss this list they are recent set of grumbles from a clutch of colleagues.

[3] Of course I’m still a bloody teacher. If you care about the kind of world you live in, the kind of society you inhabit and the sort of family you have created you can’t just pack away the mental tools you honed in the classroom and lie down on a beach, or sofa and forget about it.  

Wednesday 5 August 2015

What is Jeremy Corbyn unleashing?

In this BLOG written in the early stages of what was later called "Corbynmania" I wanted to explore its origins, the links with education and especially that debate about British Values.  

I was challenging my own and others complacency by asking - shouldn't we all (and educationalists in particular) became less afraid of discussing politics?

Something rotten in the state of Britain?

The British Establishment’s status quo is being challenged hard by recent events and whilst many are defending it and I want to be able to, our leaders seem to be losing it across the board, with one significant exception.

I’m referring to The Establishment as our institutions in politics, religion, education, business, sport, police, legal, financial and community.  There is obviously a rising discontent, an anger about “recent events” which is causing the apathy, so powerfully set aside in Scotland last year, to be cast off elsewhere too.  I’m thinking of actual, or alleged, failings of Establishment institutions and figures including: MP expenses, doping in sport, banking crisis and bonuses, paedophile rings, corruption etc feel free to add your own contentious issue here.... 

We are simultaneously witnessing an awakening in the Labour Leadership Election which, unless it is recognised, understood and harnessed as an organic evolution, by The Political Establishment as a whole, could yet become a seething discontent, even, potential revolution.  The general public get to know so much about such a wide range of failings and it is hurting a deep sense of justice.  We feel let down.  Our values are being tested.  Could our real “British Values” be discovered through this?

The silent majority?

The undoubted, public failure of significant elements within The Establishment make some pessimistic.  I want to argue an optimistic way forward.  There is a real opportunity here to clarify what our values are.  I’m not thinking of Michael Gove and David Cameron’s panicky promotion of “British Values” after that Trojan Horse was wheeled into Birmingham Educational Bullring – that was a mere sideshow.  I’m thinking of a deeper and wider quake I sense when reading, watching and listening to loud voices in the media of all kinds but also in face to face social discourse.  Most worrying are the frightened whispers and the deafening silent majority.  The silent majority include those that ignore, or store, strong opinions, or are just waiting to be influenced. I’m beginning to sense that for too long these silent lambs have been taken for granted, or worse.  They are often labelled apathetic but we now know they can be woken up and their votes do count - Ask Nichola Sturgeon.


More than the Labour Party?
Most importantly I’m beginning to sense that the Labour Leadership contest is becoming about much more than “just about the Labour Party”.  It has, in the last week, become a touchstone to some kind of potential action for change. Why? Because it is clear that Jeremy Corbyn is mining a rich vein of positive public opinion precisely because he is espousing clear values and offering an outsider and underdog’s approach to mend broken politics. Listen to him talk - this is not only energising activists in the Labour Party it is also generating comment and opinion from across the political spectrum.  He is also touching at some pretty deep, well established values that echo what many believe. See 9 Jeremy Corbyn policies that most people actually agree with  There is gathering evidence hinting at a seismic shift in political thinking – not just in the Labour Party.  So, where do you stand on all this?

Why not to be afraid?
Before I comment further – I have a fear.  Does this same fear mute the silent majority?  It may yet stop me pressing PUBLISH this BLOG and move onto a more prosaic activity: stuffing a tomato, defluffing the tumble drier or building a Tree House.  Why? Because parading values, philosophy and politics can upset acquaintances, friends and business contacts and the latter can cost money.

Let’s be clear we ALL have values. They are observable in our everyday actions, in our creeds, our holy books, our favourite poems and songs, our school curricula. I taught them for years and still promote and write about Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Education.   “Do not talk politics or religion” is a British Value I am often chided by but speaking up might win friends and influence people too...

For most of us what we say we believe and what we do differ.  What is an acceptable variation? Ask Lord Sewel.  Maybe we should dig out and dust off our values and have a whether check - whether what we say we believe in our Holy Places, Schools, Homes, Parliament, Business, Clubs matches our everyday actions.  By the way I can sell you a powerful piece of software that does just that here  It allows us to match our values, or criteria for success with our actions.  I’ve argued for years that it’s good to clarify our own values and think through the consequences of holding them before someone imposes theirs without you even realising it.  It is by degrees we become compliant – boiled frogs, good men and women remaining silent whilst evil prevails.  We should have asked Jimmy Saville.

A So-Shall Media?
The rise of so-shall media (So this happened Shall we do something about it?) allows millions with time and tools to broadcast, forward and comment on: audio-visual information, from and to anywhere, anytime, globally.  This blowing in the wind is informing, titillating and inciting breezes of interest and viral typhoons of protest to fuel uprisings, movements and revolutions. The first powerful example was the Arab Spring in 2010.  We could see and hear the uprisings as they happened.  It was exciting. It seemed to make a difference, where previously we knew, “things were not quite as they ought to be” and did nothing, there was a real sense of personal involvement.  This heady sense of playing a part in toppling an establishment with 140 Characters, 2,000 signatures seems so easy.  Many of us now feel, or at least hope that, we can create a trend, start a viral movement and maybe ignite an uprising.  Others are happy to forward, like and retweet, at the twitch of a digit. Some even comment and amongst those a minority are abusing trolls who cheapen argument.  It’s much more exciting and easier than walking to a polling booth to draw a pencil cross next to a name.  It feels like a new kind of democracy but in our excitement we are deluding ourselves. Whilst we might support and promote a coup with a keyboard we can never build a new regime with that little device in our pocket – it is not that smart.  The only real change comes from what those who are successful at the ballot box do.  And what they do depends on what they believe. Ask Google.

A rethinking of British Politics
Maybe we Labour Party supporters in our post election fragility have conflated the urgent need to elect a leader with a desperate need to rethink our values and policies. We should ponder whether leadership and values are one and the same. Ask David Cameron.

We’re seeing Jeremy Corbyn (note he is no establishment figure) cutting through the rotten state and attracting huge interest and excitement. Whatever happens he has had a massive effect.  Politicians across the spectrum are noting he has tapped into something big, very big. He’s gained a chunk of that silent majority.  Many observe he has done this by demonstrating that good political leadership is first about having beliefs and policies, whilst recognising the need to convince others to make it happen in finely judged compromises.  The opposite and previous approach, by both mainstream parties, was blur your beliefs, glean the mean of public wants and echo it loud.  That’s “mean followership” and Election 2015 demonstrated we’re sick of it.

As the real prospect of a Jeremy Corbyn leadership looms, I'm really interested in how the three other candidates and politicians beyond labour are responding to his soliloquy. It varies from a blunt refusal to serve in a cabinet of his, through abuse to discussing his policies.  These, set against JC's calm thoughts about an inclusive cabinet, in the Observer this week, are a telling peek at what may yet be.  Because, "it's democracy stupid", the election of a leader is only the start and, it's not necessarily the same process as selecting the policies and designing strategy. Indeed, one of the most difficult tasks of any leader, with strong policies, is pulling along those, in the team, organisation and country who do not fully agree. That’s about involving significant others on a sofa, in a cabinet and, if he is to believed, when Jeremy Corbyn is elected, with MPs. Then it will be about winning the debates in parliament.

Now we know MPs are worried and it’s not just labour MPs.  They watched ex-colleagues ignore constituents and fail at the ballot box. They also know now that most of their constituents agree with Corbyn including: renationalising railways, 75% higher tax, international ban on nuclear weapons, rent controls on landlords, living wage, and reinstating student grants.  See 9 Jeremy Corbyn policies that most people actually agree with  We can already witness these policies having more air time.

A Labour Party Government in 2020
Here we are then. The Establishment is stumbling across its various institutions: politics, religion, education, business, sport, police, legal, financial and community.  It is depressing.  It’s a few weeks before the Labour Leadership Election and one man, a previous maverick, appears to have monopolised the owning of a thought through set of values. He speaks of hope and change.  His own party enthuses or abuses, his contenders ape him, or arrive too late with their “this is what I really believe” values.  Meanwhile the Tory party crow and arrogant Labour has-beens spray politically correct and sanitised sound-bites.  Standing separate Jeremy Corbyn, with the undoubted help of so-shall media, has cut through the establishment crap and is reaching up to burst the Labour and potentially the wider establishment balloon.

So, in the absence of any other coherent policy sets, I'm predicting: Jeremy Corbyn is elected Labour Leader, he involves his party in making those finely judged compromises and Labour seeks election, most likely with Jeremy Corbyn, not as leader but as contented architect, in the cabinet.  Democracy senses hope and rears its beautiful head.  And unless the other parties learn from what he has done and is doing - a Labour Government may well be elected in 2020

John 5.8.15

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Is it worth it - all this bloody Blogging?

I still react to the end of school terms, especially at the start of summer, even though the last time I was in school (full time) was 10 years ago.  I respond to the imagined freedom to just do what I want, when I want, how I want.  Good old Dodo, my wife, allows a great deal of that freedom - she knows it will also include mending broken bits of the home and fettling..

So far, I've been building a Tree-House (see BLOG below), playing the piano, mending locks, making a swing, climbing a few Wainwrights, helping daughter and son-in-law move house, writing, swimming, lurking around the internet, working with some great colleagues on iAbacus developments and shrinking my website as I concentrate on iAbacus...

BUT I've also been spending time listening to and reading about very tired heads and teachers at their, real, end of term... and that has made me think about life as a young teacher.

I remember I hated marking because I failed to understand how it was beneficial in terms of time spent... So, I wrote about me as a young teacher, with energy and hair, but in despair and 1973.  All together now... "Ahhh..."
I wrote about having classes of 34+ and how my sense of humour kept me going but also led me to uncover two key elements of my developing career - the importance of feedback and (in the absence of that) how self evaluation helps.
My full BLOG is here:
I'm wondering now - if these reminiscences are of any value at all - Is all this bl**dt Blo**ing any use?  At least there is a swing now and our locks work..

Friday 17 July 2015

A princess or a builder?

This is an extract from a fuller article published here #staffrm

I'm building a Tree House and being childlike, not childish. There's a difference.  Like being a girl but not "girly" I'm thinking this morning.  Let me explain a Granddad's use of those inverted commas and why I am worried about my relationship with Granddaughter Esther.  You can see her with a saw, at the foot of the tree...
I didn't notice her when I took the photo.  She's 3 and using a large screwdriver to remove a growth from the trunk. She has also been hammering nails, measuring, sawing and carrying heavy wood and climbing an aluminium ladder to 3 metres. She is very different here, in Bob the Builder mode (why not Belinda the Builder?) than when she is in Frozen Princess mode....
In Frozen mode and, "What I call.. (echoes of Miranda's Mum I fear?)... girly" mode she dresses in sparkly shoes, long princess skirt, paints her nails and wears Granny's necklaces. And she is more demanding, aloof and, yes.... strong willed. 
Here's the rub. I have some concerns about My Frozen Princess. Actually, go on, I'll admit it, I dislike this emerging Prima-Donna. So, what prejudices are scribbling all over Esther's three year old, wonderfully open canvas?
I could have built the Tree-House for My Little Princess, whilst she watched from her throne but I decided to challenge the status quo. It took a little persuasion to lure her out of Princess mode at the start. Why is this an issue for me? Because I fear she will be lured back by more powerful others to her sparkly castle. The media, peers, even school perhaps. Or, is this more about me wanting a Tomboy Granddaughter? Is that why I talk of mountains, trekking and building things? Is that why I let Granny do the nail painting and the jewellery stuff? But I fear her becoming glamourised, sexualised, a twerking child fashion model... And then again, I do wear a Leaf medallion, two gold rings and sport one sparkly toenail. Esther painted it 3 months ago. Why do I feel the need to explain that toenail at the gym?
Yes, we all, that is Sam and Sarah, Esther's parents, and Granny are up for this challenge. So, she's often transformed and redressed in sensible footwear, sans bling. She becomes my builder's mate and drops happily into apprentice mode - adding her ideas too! But she does my bidding, listening to instructions and they are strict. Remember we are balanced up high - her father looks happy but he's unsteady up there - and these tools are dangerous! She watches me sharpen them on a high revving grindstone in the workshop. Then later she's in that damned princess costume and looking at me as one of her subjects....
This is the look I treasure!

I'm, trying to redress, literally, the pull to her becoming girly but writing and reading this I can see a blot on my own canvas but publish and be damned I think. Hence the hashtag #womened 
POSTSCRIPT: A week later and another day with Esther and after all the feedback I am sure, very sure, that all will be well.... I am reflecting now that my fears we well meant but I had underestimated the power of Sam and Sarah her parents (who took me to task for over-thinking) and daughter Hannah (Esther's Aunt) who I know is on the case.  They are far better equipped to steer her course... and little sister Ruth's too...

It's the others I fear  - there is a lot of pressure on Early Years girls - ironically from peers. But my biggest sense is that I seemed to be arguing either Princess or builder (my blot I wrote) many have simply argued, "why not both?" I'm reassured by that..... And yet, we really shouldn't have to be banging on about sexism and stereotyping - there is so much to do. I want the petty bigoted pigeon holing of women to just go away! Overthinking again?

Tuesday 30 June 2015

New Ofsted Framework 2015

A School Improvers' Charter?

My main BLOG on the New Ofsted Framework is on the iAbacus website but here are the headlines....

The new Ofsted Framework for September 2015 has:
  • lifted the “Effectiveness of Leadership” to the top position in Areas for Judgement
  • fully recognised the relationship between self-evaluation and action to lead and maintain improvement.
  • decided that when a school is good it will only need a light touch inspection and if outstanding it may even be exempt
  • will leave untouched professionals with a proven capacity in order to focus on settings requiring improvement. There is even a promise to, “offer more support”. 
  • signified a move to a System Leader role where inspection and support are purposefully entwined
  • continued the current inspection regime for schools previously judged Requires Improvement or Inadequate.
The critical measure in the new inspection process is clearly, “leadership’s capacity to drive improvement”  

Most significantly there appears a real attempt to work with colleagues in schools and move to a professional development approach signalled by: the re-emphasis on the removal of Lesson Grades; the involvement of senior staff in observations and the strengthening of feedback to individuals and groups.This means that the cycle of school improvement from vision through evaluation to CPD is completed. No more separate SEFs and SIPs as Self-evaluation, Analysis and Action Planning link in a continuous and virtuous circle.
For more on the detail go to


I feel really optimistic because I’m hoping leaders with capacity will seize this opportunity to save time and reduce bureaucracy for staff.  Heads can now write succinct, simple, school improvement plans on a few pages of A4 but I'm also hoping that the new iAbacus website (due to be launched this week) will show more than our current 1,000 users that "developing a staff's capacity to self-evaluate and drive improvement" is best achieved by using the iAbacus.
It's go to be the most effective way to create straightforward, secure, on-line, collaborative plans which can be accessed anywhere, anytime. The iAbacus was designed by and for those who want to, “look at what they do with a view to doing it better” and “do it simply”.  I'm pleased that Ofsted are, at last, coming round to the same view....
iAbacus on-line School Improvement Evaluation and Planning tool