Here we go …again!

It’s been a week and I’m still reeling at the General Election result. It’s not that I thought Labour would win rather that I thought – as did many others – that they would give the Tories a run for their money and be able to forge alliances with smaller parties. My worry was – and is – twofold: one, the Tories would see this majority, slender as it is, as a vindication of their five years in office and two, they would see it as a mandate for further, vicious policies.

You see, I’ve been here before. The Thatcher years. In her regime – and Major’s -, teachers seemed to be public enemy number 1 for reasons I never fully understood. It was the start of the over-regulation, the distrust and the visceral hatred with and of education and teachers that has run riot over the last five years.

Here were sown the seeds – Keith Joseph started curriculum reform and was the first SoS to sign off subject syllabuses, he planned to introduce tuition fees and started the reform of teachers’ pay and contracts. He was loathed and reviled at the time. Now he seems almost benign. Hot on these heels came Kenneth Baker, he of the National Curriculum – yards and yards of colour coded, highly prescriptive but often strangely vague curriculum requirements devised by subject boards who each thought they could fill all the available time. A king a week in history! It was here, in my view that the fear started – teachers believed they had to cover everything in the rainbow folders a completely impossible and soul destroying task. Not only that, he stripped away 5 days of holidays for training. He could, perhaps, had been forgiven for that if there was ever anything on offer worth a candle. And in Kenneth Clarke’s rule we were landed with the SATs which have come to tyrannise both students and teachers and lead directly to the data driven model of education we now endure.

As if that were not enough, we had to endure the sneering that seems to be the hallmark of the Tories. I offer John Patten’s assessment of the well-respected Tim Brighouse as:

“a madman … wandering the streets, frightening the children”. This from the SoS who presided over the implementation of Ofsted: the state’s bully boys.

And now, here is the flowering: It’s a straight line from these men to Michael Gove who gave us curriculum change after change – sometimes after the course and the term had started – who upped the ante with new inventions – the Ebacc introduced in order to have something to announce on a political show and named on a whim and who exerted total control over the syllabus of practically every subject. In his regime Ofsted became the military arm of the Government marching in like storm troopers rewarding and punishing on dubious criteria, making and, more often, breaking careers. Ofsted where all must bend the knee and tremble at the prospect. It was government by whim on a spectacular scale and no thought for the children in the middle and the teachers burning out trying to keep up.

It’s a straight line from Patten to Gove on the sneering front. Labelling all in education “The blob” and teachers as “lazy enemies of promise”.

And who knows what Nicky Morgan is really about.

I’ve dedicated my whole working life to education and seeking to make better lives for children, many of whom face challenges that would fell the likes of the sneering, over-enunciating Gove. I deserve better – we all deserve better – and I was hoping the general election might be the path to the start of something better.

I shudder to think what’s round the corner and I hope those teachers who voted Tory and those of all stripes who wanted to make a point or to teach Labour a lesson are well pleased with their night’s work. Labour may not be perfect. It may have struggled – in the face of a vicious right wing press and Tory scaremongering – to give an account of itself but with all its faults and failings it is still the better, the best and, for me, the only option.

struggled – in the face of a vicious right wing press and Tory scaremongering – to give an account of itself but with all its faults and failings it is still the better, the best and, for me, the only option.


#Twitterati Challenge My Top Five.

Gosh! I’ve been challenged by my lovely friend @mishwood1 who named me as one of her top 5 in the latest Twitter challenge. I am thrilled as I don’t think I’ve been in anyone’s top 5 (well maybe by definition the husband’s!) ever.

So, I must rise to the challenge and nominate my own top 5. Like @mishwood1, there are plenty of people I could choose but I’ve plumped for the 5 you will find below the rules because they represent a range of what I like about Twitter and what I derive from being part of that community. Be assured though that if I follow you on Twitter it’s because I value your contributions – even ( perhaps especially) when they get on my nerves or I don’t agree!!

So, here’s the boring bit – the rules:

There are only 3 rules:

  1. You cannot knowingly include someone you work with in real life.
  2. You cannot list somebody that has already been named if you are already made aware of them being listed on #TwitteratiChallenge.
  3. You will need to copy and paste the title of this blogpost and (the rules and what to do) information into your own blog post.

What to do?

Apparently, there are 5 to dos you must use if you would like to nominate your own list of colleagues. I have to confess that I’ve failed this bit so my contribution may be disqualified! I can’t be making video clips and stuff – I’m not up to it! I’d be pouring a cup of tea or a glass of Prosecco – depending on time of day – as my favourite drink. Cheers!

1.Within 7 days of being nominated by somebody else, you need to identify colleagues that you rely regularly go-to for support and challenge. They have now been challenged and must act and must act as participants of the #TwitteratiChallenge.

2 .If you’ve been nominated, you must write your own #TwitteratiChallenge blogpost within 7 days. If you do not have your own blog, try @staffrm.

3.The educator nominated, that means you reading this must either: a) record a video of themselves (using Periscope) in continuous footage and announce their acceptance of the challenge, followed by a pouring of your (chose) drink over a glass of ice.

4. Then the drink is to be lifted with a ‘cheers’ before the participant nominates their 5 other educators to participate in the challenge.

5.The educator that is now (newly) nominated, has 7 days to compose their own #TwitteratiChallenge blogpost and identify who their top 5 go-to educators are.

So, here goes – two for the price of one!

 Tom Sherrington @headguruteacher

Headteacher Highbury Grove School. Teacher. Blogger. Member of @HeadsRoundtable. Trustee National Baccalaureate Trust.

John Tomsett @johntomsett

Headteacher in York, England. All views are my own. York, England

I love these two and look forward to all their posts. They write with great wisdom and eloquence and unfailingly tackle the questions that are vexing us all. More than that, they are generous in sharing their thoughts and ideas and ways of working, inviting questions, suggestions and, I guess, criticism. They do all this in calm and unflappable style. They seem to me to embody all that is good about leadership. How I envy the people who work with them.

Nancy @nancygedge

mother, writer, teacher, #downsyndrome #sen #education #motherhood

all opinions are mine

Who could fail to love Nancy’s posts? She writes with insight and understanding and totally without censure. She helps me – maybe all of us – to see things from a different angle. I always enjoy Nancy’s posts – she seems to be a natural writer, always finding a way in to what she wants to address that is interesting and thoughtful. If the world were full of Nancy’s it would be a better place.

Emma Kell @thosethatcan

SLT/Teaching/Learning. Parent, doctoral researcher. Blog here: . Views personal and don’t reflect employer. RTs not nec. endorsements.


Over the two years I have been on Twitter I feel I have come to know Emma and would dearly love to meet her one day. Her posts are always thought provoking and often full of angst and anxiety. I can almost feel her craving to be the best she can and do the best she can, while being a mother, wife, daughter, sister and heaven knows what all else, peeling itself off the paper. She approaches everything with enthusiasm and a positive glow yet asks us to think about the times when things don’t go well, aren’t as you expect, or turn out to be a crushing disappointment.

Tom Starkey @tstarkey1212

Full-time teacher. Shakes pen for coin. Ed tech columnist for the @tes and teaching columnist for @teachsecondary. Read my blog.

And finally as they say… I just had to include Tom. He writes good stuff and I always enjoy reading it but more than that, he makes me laugh. Out loud sometimes. He’s witty and irreverent and almost always right. He never fails to make my day and one of these days, if he stops arranging Starkeyfests for days when I can’t make it, I might just get to meet him in person.

So there you have it – challenge completed. I hope I’ve fulfilled it correctly – I often get these things wrong and wander off on my own little tangent. Enjoy – or not. It’s up to you.

The Kindness of Strangers – well engineers, anyway!

Family is a good thing, right? We all bang on about the importance of family. Politicians tell us how important family is. And I get it. I would cut off my right arm for my sons and stepsons their other halves and my lovely grandchildren. I live near all of them and have a close and loving relationship with them. That’s how it should be, isn’t it? Of course. If only it really worked like that.

My father was one of thirteen children, eleven of whom survived childhood, so his childhood was chaotic and by the time the last children were born the first were off and away but they maintained contact to a greater or lesser degree. He died last November suddenly and unexpectedly – certainly for him since he neglected to make any sort of arrangements or to put his affairs in order – and died intestate. More than that, he died in another country and the powers that be didn’t actually know his whereabouts. Add to that his rather peripatetic life – it turns out – and a trail of havoc in his wake across three countries, including America and you can see a recipe for the stuff of nightmares. And it fell to me to try and sort it all out.

I managed to gather a lot of stuff together and fill out interminable paperwork but my first attempt to gain probate in the country of his birth was rejected. No, I don’t know why and they don’t tell you. After a bit of head scratching I decided I needed legal help. So, I got some. It was all going so well: there’s a form the solicitor could fill out, I would swear to the truth of the contents, the form would be filed, someone would give it a big, gorgeous, OFFICIAL stamp and I would be able to sort out the whole damn mess.

If only. It was going so well until we got to the bit on the form about marital status. He was divorced. No problem – had I got a copy of the decree. Which one? Blank looks. The thing is he had been married three times and each time in a different country. I headed home to check on paperwork and managed to find two out of the three. (I know, I’m good!) It was just my luck that the missing one was held in America! No problem: I have relatives there – my father’s brother and sister (2 of the last 5) and their families live there in exactly the right area – right where the vital bit of paper could be found. I don’t know them and they’ve never taken any interest in my sister and I but hey, family is family, blood is thicker and all that. I would ask them to track down the missing court papers.

Three weeks after making the request and with time ticking away the plastic family (as I now think of them) decided they were too busy to do this despite one of them having a friend in the law. By now I was fed up, afraid I would never get the paperwork sorted and crushed that family could behave like that. What to do? Then, the husband had a tentative brainwave. He spends many hours on engineering forums and there are many Americans on the sites. Perhaps one of them might be able to advise me or help in some way.

I’ll be honest – I’ve been slightly mocking about his love of these sites. He spends hours giving advice to Americans who are hobby engineers because their dads were real ones. They buy big machines and then don’t know what to do with them. And they love him. He is a favoured, five star general who’s experience and know-how is much valued. Working on the principle that by this time anything was worth a try, I got him to put a shout out on his sites and didn’t hold my breath.

Oh me of little faith! Within twenty four hours we got about ten replies: a couple made suggestions that would potentially get me in trouble, a couple got distracted on irrelevant issues, some made suggestions and one said, “I’ll have a go at getting it for you.”

So he did. A man I have never met and about whom I know nothing more than his name was willing to help me. He checked a few details with me, mooched around the internet, found the case and made enquiries about getting the file. He might, he thought, have to drive to the court house to get it in person– a journey of about five hours each way – but no big deal. No big deal??? That’s a day of a job and I am nothing to him. All I could offer was money for petrol and compensation for his time. In the end – and in less than a week – he got the file, scanned it and sent it to me. He wants no money for his trouble and told me he was glad to do it and feels good about it.

You may think I am making much of this but I was worried about how I could ever get this whole probate thing sorted – there’s a time limit for claiming and I was fast running up against it. Without his help I was facing an uphill task and one with the potential to cost me a lot of money employing lawyers in America. So here in all its glory is the golden goodness, the positive, philanthropic power of social media. It’s not just for tosh and frivolity – although those are important, welcome elements – it is also for connecting and finding the common humanity in all of us. It’s about no boundaries or borders but people who can speak to people.

It has humbled and overwhelmed me. So, Rick, this is for you.

Thank you.