Are we providing a whole new world?

the genius of the genie


Aladdin is one of Disney’s all time greats. A story of a young male who was severely disadvantaged, struggled with decent role models and was not a success in education (I’m not sure he even had one). Aladdin was at a crossroads in his life without even knowing it. His life was changed by that lamp and the Genie inside.

The question is: are we providing enough lamps for our students? I’m fortunate enough to be working in a school which is really trying to support its disadvataged students. The project is called ‘Challenge the Gap’ and this project has involved going that bit extra and giving our students, who are disadvantaged, additional support through a mentor and other interventions. The staff involved are the perfect people to be the genies for these students. Now, unfortunately, they can’t use magic to grant wishes but they are there to allow students to flourish and achieve their potentials despite some significant barriers, which have potentially hindered their progress. With alarming statistics which suggest less than 5% of pupil premium students nationally go on to be doctors, lawyers and journalists it is worrying that there may be a lack of ambition amongst disadvantaged students . Luckily we have students who have aspirations to be a pilot, a plastic surgeon and go to Oxbridge that shows we are going in the right direction.


I think the first challenge we face with disdvantaged students is to raise their aspirations and let them know they can be more than what they think they can.  Once they are open to the opportunities, you have a chance to hook them. If you think about Aladdin, he never would have thought he could have been a prince without the support of the genie. He had low expectations and was very neagtive about his own prospects; he would see things and assume he never had a chance to obtain or experience them.

Now, if you’re number of disadvantaged students is very high, then it may not be possible to assign them a mentor but there are big wave things you can do to impact on bigger groups. As I’ve said, raising their aspirations and giving them the carrot on the end of the stick can sometimes motivate them to overcome anything in the way. It’s not easy and sometimes we are trying against the odds and there are many variables out of your control, but that doesn’t mean we don’t try anyway.

I think a teacher could be a genie to the students. Creating an environment where students feel safe, wanted and valued. I’m still adamant the little things can make the difference. Knowing their names as quickly as possible is always a good one. I’ve spoken to students who said they don’t think all of their teachers know their names. I know it can be dificult, especially moving to a new school; I’ve had to start from stratch which can seem daunting. Yet 12 weeks in, I feel I am seeing the benefits of getting to know my students and a little bit about them. Giving up your time by asking a question can sometimes mean more to students than you realise. There’s this weird thing in teaching that people worry about asking personal questions or giving compliments. I completely understand this fear but sometimes you have to remember we’re all human. I’d like to think we all know where the line is, and when I say personal, I mean things like “Have you got a football match this weekend?” or “Did you go late night Christmas shopping last night?” or complementing them:

“I like your bag.”

“Your handwriting is awesome; it’s better than mine.”

“Nice haircut.”

Taking an interest in their lives no matter how small can make students with low self esteem or who hold a perception that their life doesn’t contain much value feel so much better – if only temporarily, but just imagine if more teachers did it.

Now, I’m not asking you to sing “A Whole New World” to them, but when you listen to those lyrics, it makes me think we should be making students aware of what the world has to offer them and that they can achieve regardless of circumstance. Sometimes they need to be shown that they have just as much right as anyone else to experience what is on offer and that if they apply themselves and embrace the opportunities we present them with, they can really achieve wonders; if their workrate matches their ambition, they have a chance. Strangely, one recent research paper suggests that most academically disadvantaged students in fact become teachers above any other profession. I wonder why that is? Is it because they want to support those who they relate to? Is it their way of trying to payback a debt they feel they owe? Is their attachment to education that strong? Who knows? But what I do know is there are a lot less appealing jobs out there no matter how much we can all moan about things. In fact, I always get a weird sense of pride when any student says they want to become a teacher.

So, the next time you look at your class data sheets and see who is PP or FSM etc. think what are you doing to support them? Can you be the genie they need even if it’s only for an hour a week? Make them believe in the impossible and make them believe in themselves.

Just don’t limit them to three wishes!

I’m a teacher get me outta here!!!!

How many star would you get?

You know Christmas is on its way when I’m a Celebrity starts and combine that with X Factor and Strictly this time of year certainly has a ‘feel’ to it. The same can be said of teaching really. There aren’t many jobs where each time of the year can feel so different. I bet if you stop to think about any random date within the year you could tell me roughly what your school calendar looks like year in year out – well the main themes anyway.

This isn’t the focus of my comparison though. Teaching is a series of trials: you will encounter these trials on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis. Now, I you may think yeah, but these trials don’t involve eating disgusting stuff but you didn’t have to eat some of my Year group’s catering projects from a few years ago. In teaching, there will always be things that are hard to swallow. Most of these things come about with things that are out of our control but that doesn’t mean we don’t try to overcome them.  We’re not put to the public vote but there is often someone sat somewhere making decisions that impact on us and they don’t truly know what it’s like in the jungle that is a school.


The think that there are a series of trails we all go through, one which is the NQT year. It is a year that feels like you’re going at 100 mph. Well, going 100 mph whilst you’re supposed to be accurately delivering content and subject knowledge to your students, I can honestly say to all NQTs – it gets better.  Like contestants on I’m a Celebrity, you develop a technique to deal with the challenge in front of you. During the first year, a lot of things are new so you have to learn how to deal with things but you adapt and hopefully pick up from others around you how to overcome these barriers. In your ‘virgin year’, as one of my colleagues used to call it, you will do so many things for the first time, hence the name. Once you’ve learnt how things work, then the next time becomes that bit easier and you’re become more confident in your practice.

Work-life balance is the one that any decent teacher will struggle with. It seems obvious but those who invest time into honing their craft will get the benefits from that. Having said that, it doesn’t neccessarily guarantee quality. Planning quality lessons is pointless and a waste of time, if you aren’t doing the basics which allow you to do so. Someone I used to work with would plan for hours and the lessons would have every bell and whistle on them. However, like I said, there’s no point if you can’t deliver it for some reason. It’s like having spent your life savings on a Porsche but you don’t know how to drive. I’m afraid this former colleague definitley didn’t know how to drive.

There are also those who are perfectionists. They will change their lesson numerous times as they think it’s not good enough. I live with one of these teachers and with her being an English teacher I feel they have even less time to plan than other subjects as more time is taken up by marking. I’ve always said this and not just starting saying to gain popularity with my wife. There has be a trade off between time and quality I’m afraid as something has to give. That doesn’t mean we settle for mediocrety but quality through collaboration. If you are in a strong deaportment, you can share lesson plans and ideas which keeps the standards that are neccessary to allow students to make progress, enjoy their learning and develop sufficiently.

The British public seem to thrive knowing that their actions have an impact on the behaviour of the contestants, well certain individuals anyway. So they vote and ‘pick’ on cetain celebrities it seems. It reminds me of when students try to wind up certain staff; kids are very quick to learn what buttons to press in order ot get a reaction. I just find it crazy that some staff fall for it. It’s like a role reversal of sorts as we’re supposed to be the ones trying to influence their behaviour. Some will do it because they like having the power to influence others, some will do it as it impresses their peers and some do it just for attention from the person they are winding up. If a student knows what buttons to press and decides to press them, you have to ask why and is there something you can do to stop it happening? Sometimes you have to not bite and avoid taking the bait.

Consistency is in my opinion one the biggest challenges a teacher faces. It’s like each standard that you must consistently meet is like of the stars in a bushtucker trial. It’s so difficult to get all stars as time is against you and there are barriers that limit your success. Consistency creates autonomy, helps establish understanding and makes it easier to reach certain standards. Having said that, it’s not easy, but I think there are five main areas you should always aim to remain consistent in:

  1. Behaviour management – if the students know what to expect, they will conform. If you set low standards, they will meet them but don’t expect them to exceed them and don’t expect good behaviour. It’s not about being a drill sargeant: it’s about delivering your vision of what the school expects and what you expect whilst they are in your classroom.
  2.  Lesson quality – No-one can teach outstanding lessons day in day out. Well, if they are, they are like the Loch Ness monster; some people believe but I’m yet to see any evidence. It’s about setting the standard and not dropping below that. The students will expect a certian level based on what you do most of the time. I always try to think: would I be happy with my child being taught like that?
  3. Communication – Always communicate effectivley and consistently. If your emails are sporadic, they may get ignored or not have the impact you wanted. Don’t over do it either as they can become white noise. If the content isn’t insightful or contain direction or instruction, it might not get the response desired. People will soon pick up how you communicate and one thing I always try to do is get back to someone within 24 hours even if it is not with an answer, but an acknowledge and an intent to reply in detail soon. Don’t underestimate the power of speaking to people in person. Email is a great tool to save time but sometimes you need to make time for others.
  4. Routines – This links to lesson quality I suppose but the routines and processes you create for students can create both the culture and climate that you want. Everything from lining up at the door to packing up properly relies on practise and your relentless drive to keep it going. Also, the routines you go through in your practice outside of the classroom helps with things like planning, marking etc.
  5. Being you – Don’t forget to be yourself. Embrace and celebrate what you bring to your role because of who you are and how you add something noone else can. Let people recognise your character and personality.

If you manage to get all five of these stars, then you’ll go back to camp knowing you’ve contributed to happy camp life and helped those around you. None of us are perfect and remember we can all drop the ball at some stage but it’s about what is typical and what is normal and getting back to that level the very next lesson or day. Never forget you do make a difference and even when doubt may creep in, think about when you’ve been the hero of the camp. Just make sure you don’t ever give up and say those words……

I’m a teacher… Get me outta here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Are you in a league of your own?

I know my first ever blog was on superheroes but I’ve been inspired by the new Justice League movie and this blog is from a different angle anyway. Working as a team isn’t always easy. Whether it’s  within SLT, departments or a whole school cohort, it’s just a fact of life that not everyone gels because of personalities but that doesn’t mean there can’t be team cohesion and a shared sense of purpose. I’ve worked with people who I just clicked with and these are the people whom I’ve relied on for their counsel and experience. There are those who I can have a laugh with and that I believe is essential especially in this profession as it can be draining both mentally and physically; that release through humour is something every human needs from time to time. On the other hand, I’ve had to work with people that I have very little in common with apart from the fact we work in a school and even then styles and approaches still mean we are very different. I’ve had to bite my tongue at times, there are times when I should have and most definitely times when I shouldn’t have. Sometimes you have to challenge others’ approaches but it’s how you do it that is crucial. At the end of they day, we should be there for the same reason and have similar motivations.

That shared vision or sense of purpose unites us. In Justice League, they bring together six heroes, who each add something to the team, with the sole aim of saving the world. It may sound overly dramatic but I feel we as educators do that to an extent. I sat at the PiXL main meeting last week and heard someone speak about the world we’re living in today. It made me stop and think that I can’t  actually remember a time where hate and negativity seem so prevalent. You could easily be consumed by it especially as a young person, growing up thinking this is how it’s supposed to be – well, it’s not! We as educators aren’t just here to teach our subjects: we should be teaching them about life, about what it means to be a good human being, to inspire the next generation that they can be a force for good and positive impact on the lives of those around them.


Each member of the league brings something different but each contribute in their own way. The Flash reminds me of an NQT: new to the business in terms of helping others. They need guidance and strong role models; there are times when they look to be led but yet they still have an impact. NQTs can often be the teachers that students can relate to the easiest; I think the youth element helps if they are a younger NQT. They are often still connected to what is ‘cool’ with our young people. I’m getting to that age now where I think I’m losing touch with what is seen as relevant to kids these days. For example, a few weeks ago I said to a student who wasn’t putting in as much effort as I would have liked “I’m a bit worried you’ve a case of CBA (can’t be assed) syndrome.” The student and his two friends looked at me like I’d just said something so ridiculous. I thought I was talking in a relatable way.

He replied “No one says that anymore sir, that’s so 2016.”

I’m hoping it was a one off but I worry it’s the start of my transition from young and relatable to a middle aged dad joke like figure. That being said, surely everyone loves a dad joke?

Batman is an interesting character in the league: he is portrayed as the leader of the group; he has put the effort in to form them. He set the vision and has recruited people who he thinks will give them the best chance of success. Yet he doesn’t have any ‘superpowers’. To me, that symbolises that you don’t have to be the best teacher to be an effective leader. Effective leaders will instil a vision that all their staff buy into and follow. They allow those they lead to become leaders at some point and you see that in the film, as each of them lead  at some point displaying great acts of heroism.

Wonder Woman, as the only female, is arguably one of the strongest characters in the team and despite the abundance of testosterone and male ego, she is not shy in giving her opinion and advice to others. Someone asked me once: who do I think make makes better leaders men or women? To be honest, I think it’s a stupid question as the real question should be what sort of people make the best leaders? People’s leadership skills aren’t gender specific. I’ve read plenty of leadership books and gender is never mentioned as it isn’t relevant. I think the best people make the best leaders.

Now, onto my personal favourite: Superman. The eternal optimist, the one who is always positive even when times are tough or the outlook doesn’t look good. For those who know me, they will acknowledge he is an idol of mine despite being fictional. To be honest, I think becoming a teacher comes from a ‘superhero’ complex’ of wanting to help others and due to my lack of superpowers (although some might argue I do have the ability to talk forever), Superman, to me, represents what we should all aspire to try and bring to a team – hope. Hope is sometimes we all have but it keeps us and those around us going. Students feed off of our emotions and if we show hope and positivity towards them they are more likely to embrace the values we want them to have. Whether it is us hoping the students get the grades they deserve or it could be just hoping that everything at home is ok for them. We have a moral obligation to be the advocates of hope. Sometimes, it is easier and less draining not show hope but as I say to students: difficult is worth doing.

Like in any good movie where there is a team, there will always be friction and at times unrest but they are always united by their core purpose. The question is: do you know your purpose? Does your team have clear direction and leaderships? Are everyone’s strengths recognised and utilised? Do you work on things each of you need to improve on?

Don’t forget you can’t save the world alone!

Feel like you’re heading towards an iceberg?

Are you aimlessly floating or does your school have direction?

Do you ever get that sinking feeling in school? We’ve all had that feeling when we’re struggling to keep afloat and the seas are anything from calm. For teachers and schools, we’re navigating difficult seas which are rarely calm and trying to avoid all sorts of things which could sink us. These educational icebergs will always be there but are we really being given the skills to deal with them properly?

The Titanic was billed as unsinkable and was heralded as the best ship ever built. In teaching, no school is unsinkable but we almost have to be pessimists sometimes in assuming something is going to hamper the progress we make as educators. I call it planning for the unplannable. If only the designers of the Titanic had thought in the same way.


The Titanic claimed to be inclusive for all. Whether you were the rich and upper class or the working class who just scraped a ticket or snuck on board. There were a mix of people from different background and levels of privilege. Sounds very much like a school in some respects. Unfortunately, class sizes are something you could easily relate to the disaster of the Titanic sinking. Too many people on board, overcrowding and not enough adequate resources for all. When that iceberg hit, it sealed the fate of hundreds of disadvantaged travellers. They were failed as not enough provisions were available to support them and aid them in surviving. Is that what huge class sizes are doing for our young people (in particular the disadvantaged/pupil premium students)? Are we supporting them enough? Or have we become victims of this overcrowding and not giving everyone the first class education they are entitled to? Much like many of those who couldn’t afford a first class experience onboard, I’m not sure schools are as inclusive as they should be. The main limiting factor is money I’m afraid, and that goes beyond schools and goes right to the top where unfortunately those with the power know nothing really about our professional I feel.

The comparison doesn’t end there with this famously doomed vessel. Unfortunately, poor leadership ultimately resulted in the ship hitting that iceberg. This is the same for schools. I am a firm believer that a school is only as good as its head. That seems obvious but with good leadership you navigate through whatever things come your way. Having direction and knowing the way, going the way and showing the way is what a good leader should do. You delegate of course but you are essentially the captain of the ship. You need a good first mate (Vice principal) who you can depend on and who can run the ship in your absence, someone who even has aspirations of being a captain themselves one day. There were plenty of opportunities to avoid disaster for the Titanic but the captain and his leadership team failed to act in time. Also, the captain didn’t know enough about his ship. If he was more visible and walked around, he would have noticed it was overcrowded. However, he only went to the areas he wanted to see but not everyone was having the same experience etc. The good thing about schools is they are able to rise again even from the depths to improve and flourish. Whereas, the damage to the Titanic set it down a path of no return. In teaching, as we can be optimists and pessimists at the same time, which I know is very contradictory, every school can come back from the brink of disaster and sometimes changing the captain might be the best course to take. I think teaching is a very protected profession on the whole and there are too many hiding behind excuses such as poor behaviour, workload and others. Don’t get me wrong, it is a hard job at times and sometimes those things do play a role but not always. The issue we have now is that this profession doesn’t seem that appealing to many people anymore. We are near crisis point in many subjects and it’s not hard to see why but that doesn’t we have to settle for average practitioners. Having said that, I don’t think we’ll ever run out of P.E teachers. I think they genuinely do grow on trees.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: why hasn’t he mentioned Jack and Rose? But there are plenty of love stories in teaching. I’ve seen teachers who love their subject so much that it is infectious to all around them and that is what makes them so successful. I’ve seen students who love the experience they’ve had at school and those who simply love to learn. Let’s not forget the young love amongst students and the dramas that come along with that. Even in times of despair, it is the one emotion that often prevails. It can be found unexpectedly and change the lives of people forever. Showing love towards another human being, making them feel valued and telling them you care is what we ask our students do to and we should do it where we can in the the right way. Leading with love is something I  believe in. Also that love of the job that motivates us and makes it all worthwhile even in the dark, depths of winter.

Just make sure you’re wearing your lifejacket as you never know when you might need it.

School – the first frontier, these are the voyages of Star ship-PHSE.

Kids are learning about life but not as we know it.

Strange combination I know but PHSE/SMSC and Star Trek fit. I know someone who has an interest in both but would never admit to one of them but it’s not the first one. You see Star Trek covered a whole range of issues. Issues depicted in the various series include war and peace, the value of personal loyalty, authoritarianism, imperialism, class warfare, economics, racism, religion, human rights, sexism, feminism, disability and the role of technology. Gene Roddenberry, it’s creator stated: “[By creating] a new world with new rules, I could make statements about sex, religion, Vietnam, politics, and intercontinental missiles. Indeed, we did make them on Star Trek: we were sending messages and fortunately they all got by the network.”

The problem in too many schools is we’re not boldly going anywhere. The amount of time dedicated to non-certificated education is shocking and even when it is RS/RE is often seen as a subject that is not that popular or valued. I don’t believe  that at all; understanding other views and seeing things from other point of view is an essential part of life. To recognise that people may not think the same as you or share an opinion, but they still deserved respect is something we’re not talking about enough.  I see so many students lacking empathy as they mirror the behaviours of some pretty dodgy role models in popular culture these days. In my eyes, school isn’t just about progress 8 and meeting targets. Yes, they are vital and are essential parts of school but sometimes it’s the things you can’t measure but only observe or experience which make this job worth doing at times. Schools are about giving children the best chance of success in life. Are we doing that well if we don’t teach them what it means to be good human beings? We seem to be living in a time where things like sexism and racism are trying to have some kind of renaissance and yet it’s coming at a time where schools are dedicating less and less time to addressing and discussing these issues. Yes, we can say it’s wrong, that’s easy, but do we teach them why it’s wrong and the negative impact it has on everyone’s lives?  I don’t want to make this political but with Donald Trump and all the drama that surrounds him our young people are getting mixed messages about what is acceptable behaviour and what isn’t.

I live in the South West and the levels of ethnic diversity in comparison to other parts of the country is tiny. Having said that, it is growing and more races, nationalities and other groups are living in this amazing part of the country. Young people are exposed to these different cultures and don’t know enough about them and the differences that may exist. People often fear the unknown, especially children, as they like familiarity. So shouldn’t we be teaching them about acceptance and understanding? Social media can be so divisive at times and students believe everything they see on Facebook etc. and we have a moral obligation to educate our young people in what is right and wrong. The thing Star Trek did is it embraced diversity. You think about any of the crews over the various series and formats: Star Fleet was comprised of various different Alien races who cohabit, work together and share common values. Doesn’t that sound like what we want in our country? It acknowledged differences in cultures but also addressed that some had to be sacrificed to fit in with Star Fleet’s ‘Directives’ which were based around tolerance, acceptance, equality and peace.

It didn’t just teach us about diversity but also different personalities you will come across in life. We’ve all met a Vulcan, a Spock or a Tuvok in teaching. They are the ones who are very black and white with rules and can often find it hard to develop relationships with students. I am a firm believer that teaching isn’t black and white. In fact, the ‘power of grey’ you’ll need to harness as sometimes that’s where you’ll find some of the most challenging or vulnerable students. You’ll always have come across a Leonard “Bones” McCoy: the ever passionate medical officer who was always coming across as negative but on the inside you’d never find someone who tried harder. I could go into all the various Captains but that’s potentially for another time.


Just like society, the show evolved and changed, and like how different decades are easily distinguishable so were the Star Trek shows. I grew up with my dad watching all of them and whilst I complained about them being on, I still found myself watching them by choice.  It’s hard to decide on a favourite version of the show. I’m inclined to go with Next Generation with Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Pikard although I did like Voyager as I had a crush on the character Seven of Nine. I just didn’t admit it for a while (I say did, I still do, just something about her and it wasn’t just the way she dressed).  Even though the show did modernise through the years, it’s principles stayed the same and I think that is the same for schools. What is meant to be a ‘model citizen’ and good moral compass hasn’t really changed much. The one thing added to the mix though is children are being exposed to the ‘adult world’ at far too young of an age. Social media and the media in general have desensitised so many things which we must educate our young people about. Some of these issues cannot become the ‘norms’ of childhood. We as educators must educate not just for subjects that will be examined, but we must also teach students about life and that is where PHSE/SMSC and Religious Studies are so important. It just seems to me many schools are sacrificing the time spent on this and swapping it for more time dedicated towards students making academic progress at all costs. We have to find the balance between the two as these young people will define the next generation of society.

PSHE education is defined by the schools’ Ofsted as a planned programme to help children and young people develop fully as individuals and as members of families and social and economic communities. Its goal is to equip young people with the knowledge, understanding, attitudes and practical skills to live healthily, safely, productively and responsibly. PHSE can be broken down into three main categories: (i) health and well-being, (ii) relationships, and (iii) living in the wider world. If you think about it, every Star Trek often addressed health issues as every ship always had their medical office who was always a heavily featured character. Relationships were the main theme of most episodes and as mentioned it was about looking at how we all ‘fit’ into such a huge universe that’s full of life, even though we are all different.

How many schools can confidently say “I’m Givin’ Her All She’s Got, Captain!” Now, I’m not saying we should just watch Star Trek but if a TV show can attempt to direct the moral compass of it’s viewers then schools should aim to do the same with their learners. There is no time to waste so we need to:

Make it so……..


Can you Haka a big culture shift?

Is the culture right where you are?

The definition of culture is simple: The ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society. Having a culture means having key identifiable values and a clear ethos or mission. If a culture is fully embedded, it can be felt and observed by everyone: insiders and outsiders.  Many schools have ‘core values’ or a ‘mission statement’ but is it merely ticking a box or do these values under pin everything we do.? How often as teacher do you refer to what your school has along this line?  It’s also about routines and habits within the school. This creates a consistent approach where the aims and goals have a clear path.

I love the quote “culture eats strategy for breakfast” and I’ve seen it happen. If all the major stakeholders who are responsible for creating the culture aren’t all going in the same direction, it doesn’t matter what you put in place; you’re going to struggle. I’ve seen things put in place to change the culture which get chewed up and spat out within days of being implemented. This was mainly due to staff as a body not persisting with it. Consistency and persistence are the key in creating what you want.

Being a big sports fan, it is easy for me to reference several teams across quite a few sports that have created a culture and embedded it in everything they do. You don’t have to be part of those teams to recognise they’ve built something based on their principles and beliefs. They are unwaivered in their approach and even if it doesn’t always get the outcome they want, they believe in what they are doing and have the mindset that eventually it will pay off and that their way is the ‘right way’ to do things.

The All Blacks are renowned over the world not just for the Haka or the colour of their shirts. They develop several elements to their culture:

  1. Create a “We” culture – the power of many is greater than the power of one. Sharing ideas and giving everyone value.
  2. Be resourceful and resilient – encourage creativity and the ability to adapt to situations. This is what overcomes failure and defeat.
  3. Get mindset right – every game matters and treat them all as world cup finals. Mental fitness is as important physical fitness.
  4. Create an environment where individuals make good decisions under pressure  train players to do this all the time so when it matters they do it.
  5. Make it fun  although getting performances right involves stimulation and learning, the All Blacks want their players to look back on their days wearing the All Black shirt and have fond memories.

Now, if that isn’t a blueprint that almost any school could or maybe should use, then I don’t know what is. They have these values running through everything they do on and off the pitch – at junior level and senior level. It is ‘what they do’ and culture is about the ‘norms’ and the repeated behaviours which create the outcomes for them.


However, not all cultures created are positive and can be difficult to change. The ‘Tuesday Club’ at Arsenal football club in the late eighties and early nighties involved regular heavy drinking sessions by Arsenal players in the 1990s. It became known as the Tuesday Club as the events occurred on Tuesday nights as Arsenal had a day off from training on Wednesdays. Merson wrote that George Graham (the manager) was aware of the sessions but ignored them as the participants always arrived for training on Thursdays. The Tuesday Club also became known for the antics of some of the participants. In 1990, Merson, Nigel Winterburn and two other Arsenal players were sent home from an Arsenal tour to Singapore due to being involved in a drinking session. In 1995, Ray Parlour was arrested for assault for throwing prawn crackers at a taxi before hitting the driver during an Arsenal tour to Hong Kong.  

These sort of cultures develop through ignorance and lack of effective action. I’m sure George Graham had words with some of them but it didn’t have an impact.  The Tuesday Club was unofficially ended by the appointment of Arsène Wenger as Arsenal manager. He portrayed alcohol negatively in order to change the culture at Arsenal and The Tuesday Club was then officially ended after Adams banned alcohol consumption in the players lounge at Highbury after recovering from alcoholism. Wenger created a mindset that changed the club forever.  Now, he has his critics but Arsenal are often seen as how clubs should be run. They have a clear culture in the way they operate as a club and how they play the game. Some might argue this culture is limiting their ability to improve further, but it has consistently delivered results for them and they know ‘what they do’ at Arsenal.

Then you have Chelsea who have a culture of success. They do anything in their power to achieve it. They sack managers who do not deliver trophies or results and they do not accept failure form their staff. This ruthless culture is clearly identifiable but it works for them as they have won so many trophies over the last 13 years since their billionaire owner came in and created this ‘success at all costs and no excuses’ culture. Can you imagine schools showing the same lack of loyalty and ruthless streak? Would it work? Are headteachers given too much time?

The British cycling team were another group with a clear culture. The concept of marginal gains has revolutionised some sports. Could the same approach also change important areas of schools? The doctrine of marginal gains is all about small incremental improvements in any process adding up to a significant improvement when they are all added together. It is perhaps most easy to understand by considering the approach of Sir Dave Brailsford. When he became performance director of British Cycling, he set about breaking down the objective of winning races into its component parts. Brailsford believed that if it was possible to make a 1% improvement in a whole host of areas, the cumulative gains would end up being hugely significant. He embedded this in all his cyclists and it became habit and routine and we all know how well it went.

I believe that culture can take time to develop and become ‘part of the DNA’ of a school but it is worth it. It has to be consistently applied; it has to be repeated and repeated and repeated. It has to be unshakeable and withstand everything that challenges it. It must last the test of time even when it gets tough and doubts might creep in. We must keep believing and creating the ‘this is what we do here’ mentality in staff and students. As humans, we are all able to be conditioned and trained to behave and act in certain ways; that is how society exists so schools should be no different.

Right…Anyone want to be in my Sunday Club? Ermmmm…Perhaps not!



Teachers Are Reflecting Deeply In Schools.

Who are you?

It’s now five weeks into this academic year and everyone is busy: open evenings, initial assessments or you’re stuck into a module and lessons are coming thick and fast. I think it’s that time of the term where one eye has slightly started to look towards half term although it may feel so far away for some.

Having said that, I want to take you back to the beginning of term – even slightly earlier and the tail end of the summer holidays. Every year, we all ‘start again’. There aren’t many professions where this happens. The only one that came straight into my head was footballers as the season ends, they have their break and then come back to go at it again. It’s not often I would get away with comparing myself to a Premiership footballer but I think it kind of fits. The thing is, before we start the next academic I think we all reflect about the year previous. The successes, the highs, the lows and the disasters. When we have that renewed enthusiasm that we all get (well hopefully), we all have this vision of being reborn or regenerated.


I think you see where I’m going with this. Like the bake off, I’m not a huge fan of Doctor Who but it’s part of British culture and I do have a former colleague and friend who is so I thought I’d try to write one as a way of saying thanks for his support over the years. I just have to make sure I don’t get anything wrong.

As we are all aware, the doctor regenerates and takes on a different appearance and adopts some new characteristics whilst never compromising his fundamental principles. I think we do this as teachers; each year I start by thinking I’m going to do this and be like that. Each year, I try to come back a better version than the year previous. It’s not to say that’s easy as we all have barriers that limit how well we perform at times (as I eluded to in my last blog). Try thinking back to the beginning of this academic year, what were your thoughts about the year ahead? What targets did you set yourself? Have you actioned any of them? If not, why not?

The parallels don’t end there as each series there is always an ‘arch nemesis/enemy’. Each year, there seems to be a new focus thrust upon us by the powers that be. I’m not necessarily talking about your Principal or Senior Leadership team but often Ofsted or the DfE. Just like the doctor, we must then battle to try and overcome this challenge to create a ‘happy ending’. Just like in Doctor Who, sometimes the same foe will return. I have been teaching ten years now and I’ve already seen main focuses switch from AfL to book marking, feedback to progress and many more. Although, like the Daleks, some seem to crop up again and again. Assessment is the one which does and always will. We need to be sure we are getting an accurate picture of how well students are doing. Sticking with the Daleks, an uncompromising race who lack empathy and understanding, have a way of doing things and will destroy anything in their way. With all the changes to exams over the last few years, I just keep hearing in that iconic Dalek voice “WE WILL EXAMINATE, WE WILL EXAMINATE…”

Every Doctor has benefited from an assistant, a companion who aids them in saving humanity or the universe. I have been fortunate to have have assistants in both the classroom and within my pastoral role. Whilst we are often seen as the main characters, without these people we’d be doomed. They help us in ways that aren’t always seen by others but I certainly value their support.

There is a quote from one of the early series: “The universe is big. It’s vast and complicated and ridiculous. And sometimes, very rarely, impossible things just happen and we call them miracles.” If my friend is reading, I’m sure he can work out who said it. That quote, to me, sums up schools. Miracles do happen and that’s a team effort; we all have the same goals and aims: to give every student the best education possible. No matter what version of you starts each year, that goal should never change.

Now, when I started writing this, I thought: I want to find great quotes like the one above and it turns out Doctor Who must have had a previous career in education:

“You want weapons? We’re in a library! Books! The best weapons in the world!”
— The Doctor, Season 2, Episode 2

“Do what I do. Hold tight and pretend it’s a plan!”
—The Doctor, Season 7, Christmas Special

“In 900 years of time and space, I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important.”
— The Doctor, Season 6, Christmas Special

“I am and always will be the optimist. The hoper of far-flung hopes and the dreamer of improbable dreams.”
— The Doctor, Season 6, Episode 6

“We’re all stories, in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?”
— The Doctor, Season 5, Episode 13

The one thing the Doctor has that we don’t is the Sonic Screwdriver: a multi-functional tool that can do almost anything it seems. It’s strange because I think sometimes we are the Sonic Screwdrivers ourselves as we are expected to do so many different things and have so many different skills. Although I’m not sure calling teachers screwdrivers will be universally well received.  So hopefully you’ll take time to pause for a moment – even at this busy time of the year and ask yourself: what do I want to achieve this year? Do I know what the best version of me looks like? Who is going to assist me?

Now, where did I leave my T.A.R.D.I.S? I mean laptop……….