Tales by Mail!

In August, I was over the moon to receive my Tales by Mail box in the post.


Tales by Mail is a bi-monthly book subscription box for children from eight to 12 years old. This is such a cool idea and something every parent and teacher should look at. Not only will it mean that your child/children/class are getting two new books every two months, it also means that they will be exposed to different, new and high quality texts.


I love the excitement of opening a subscription box! You know something good is coming but you don’t know exactly what it is. It is such a joy!

The Tales by Mail box came beautifully wrapped which added to the excitement.

I have to say that I was completely blown away by how much was in the box!

Each box contains two books, chronicle pages, games, activities and surprises. In this case, I was lucky enough to get Wonderscape by Jennifer Bell and Sky Pirates by Alex English, ‘Off the Map’ themed chronicle pages, a Chicken House pencil, a bookmark, badges and a When Secrets Set Sail activity sheet. It turns the box into much more than just book post… even though we all love book post!


The chronicle pages come hole punched so you can keep them together in a folder! This means that when each box arrives, you can add to the pages and keep them all in order.

The box comes with letters from the authors of the book. This was such a pleasant surprise and a really nice touch. It is so special and something I know the children will love. Whenever we have authors write to us or send us postcards at school, the kids go crazy for it!

On the other side of the letters, there is a space for the children to write a review of the book. After getting a few boxes, the children will have a whole load of book reviews and chronicle pages to look through. This would be great for kids at home but is something I can definitely see working in class too. You could put the special Tales by Mail books on a shelf with the chronicle folder so the children can flick through the book reviews before they choose which text to select.

Each box has a theme. August’s was ‘Off the Map’ and October’s will be ‘Magic Menageries’… I can’t wait!

On the website, there is an option to buy August’s box as well as different subscription options. There is even an option for a sibling subscription!

If you want to look the part, you can even buy the folder (see below) for the chronicle pages!

You can check out the Tales by Mail boxes and subscriptions at https://www.talesbymail.com/ or follow them on twitter @TalesbyM. You will also find the Tales by Mail podcast on the website… why not get your children into podcasts nice and early?!

I can’t stress enough how cool I think this is! We are always banging on about developing a love of reading and broadening our children’s horizons… this could be a game changer!

#BrewEdNorthampton Talk

A few people asked if they could have my notes or slides from my talk at #BrewEdNorthampton yesterday but I had no notes and my slides alone don’t make sense so I have decided to write my thoughts down in a blog!

If you saw any of the tweets about it, you’ll have seen that it was somewhat of a sweary rant. I don’t think I’ll be able to replicate that but I’ll do my best with grown up words!

If you’re reading this thinking it’s about you, I assure you it isn’t. But if you are reading it knowing you do that all the time then… oops.


The talk was titled Headteacher Dick Moves. Before I crack on, I feel like I need a disclaimer: NOT ALL HEADTEACHERS ARE LIKE THIS. However, there’s a bunch who are so let’s deal with that, shall we? Another disclaimer: I am aware that a lot of these things can happen because leaders feel under pressure by local authorities, MATs and Ofsted… but they still happen.


A few weeks ago, a delightful tweeter told me I was angry. Generally, I don’t think I am an angry person and I certainly don’t think I am angry on twitter. I try to be positive but authentic and I always try to be supportive. However, I thought I’d give people something to talk about and list 15 things that really do make me angry.


  1. Data. Do not ask me for my honest predictions and then tell me they’re not good enough and I have to change the numbers. While I’m here, also don’t go in and change my data. That’s really not okay. We all get dodgy cohorts where the numbers aren’t as pretty as we’d like but unless you want a teacher to spend every second on maths and English, you really can’t expect a miracle. Especially not in year six. Why don’t we do our best and also try and give those children the best possible experiences at the same time?
  2. Observations. If you insist on having three (I hope not more!) formal observations a year, do not grade me. Do not give me a long list of things you are looking for. And don’t EVER say the words “It was an outstanding lesson BUT I do have to put something in the ‘even better if’ box.” DO YOU??? Why? Is Gavin Williamson going to sense it and march down to tell you off? Why don’t we just celebrate when good teaching is happening? Or you could focus your observations on one thing, let’s say questioning, and tell everyone beforehand. That way, everyone knows what is being looked at and areas for development can be specific to that one thing. You could set up peer observations on it too to take the pressure off.
  3. ‘Joint decisions’. Please please please don’t pretend you’re making a joint decision with your staff and then dictate what is going to happen. Especially if you’re saying “I think we all agree that’s best, don’t we?” or “I don’t often dictate what you should do but this time I have decided…” Ugh.
  4. Remember what it’s like to be in class. Our job is stressful. Yours is too. We know that. Don’t dump your crap on my door because you’re having a bad day. It’s not fair. I’ve got a never ending to do list to work through. I will absolutely talk to you about your rubbish day or what’s stressing you out but please don’t make it my work.
  5. Stop demanding next step marking. I think we all know there’s enough research to show it’s not as effective as feedback in the lesson. It also takes hours of time that could be spent planning banging lessons or doing one of the 15 things you asked us to do.
  6. Do not bring someone in to do a Mocksted or a mock deep dive. You can get a direct quote of what I said if you have a look at @RogersHistory on twitter. They cost the school THOUSANDS. You should know what is going on in your school. If you need an external person to come in and tell you then I am worried. That money is being taken away from our children. How can anyone be ok with that?
  7. Trust your staff. If you ask me to do something, I will do it. Every now and then it might be forgotten but that isn’t intentional. Sometimes I will do it straight away. Sometimes I won’t. Don’t assume it hasn’t been done because I haven’t come to you asking for a gold star on my reward chart. I am a professional and I can do my job.
  8. Emails. If you have something difficult to say, do it face to face. If you have something nice to say, do it face to face. When you email your headteacher saying you’ve missed three weeks of PPA because of a range of things you’ve been asked to do on your PPA day, you don’t expect the reply “If you feel you really need it…”
  9. Meetings. Do not have a meeting if you don’t need one. If it’s admin or communications, email it. Unnecessary meetings are the bane of my life and I find it hard to hide my feelings if I’m sat seething because I am sat in a pointless meeting instead of getting on with my real work. You do not need a meeting ‘because it’s staff meeting day’.
  10. Non-negotiables. Don’t give me a list of non-negotiables. It’s utter rubbish. Why don’t we sit down as a staff and decide things together? Why don’t you allow for some autonomy? @FakeHeadteacher suggested we google non-negotiables and it is terrifying.
  11. Don’t have obvious favourites. I honestly don’t know if all leaders have favourites but I am sure they do because it’s human to like some people more than others. But if you do have favourites, don’t make it blatantly obvious. Nobody feels comfortable in this situation. The favourites feel uncomfortable and the non-favourites feel uncomfortable.
  12. Failing NQTs. If you are going to fail an NQT, don’t tell them that on the first day back and then tell them to resign effective immediately to pause their NQT process… and then hire them back as a supply for the rest of the year. WTF? Invest some bloody time in your NQTs and make them the best teacher they can be.
  13. Don’t hire friends or family or partners. If it’s unavoidable, don’t line manage them. And don’t treat them differently to everyone else (neither in a good way nor a bad way). People can see through it and it’s embarrassing.
  14. Shouting. Don’t shout at your staff. Ever. It’s so unprofessional. You tell me not to shout at my class. Don’t shout at your staff. If you are unhappy about something, take a moment to process it and then have a conversation. It is never acceptable to shout or swear at them. Even when there has been a monumental mistake made.
  15. Five min catch ups. Are these ever actually five minutes? I hate hearing the words “Have you got a minute?” or “Can I borrow you?” because I know it’s going to be a long conversation. Even if it’s a good one, it’ll still be longer than I want. If it’s lunch time or before school, I will be busy getting work done so spending half an hour in your office talking about computing really isn’t what I need.

Like I said, these are not typical of every headteacher and I am happy that we have such amazing leaders in some of our schools. I could name you plenty right now. But we can’t forget there are some really toxic people leading teachers and driving them out of teaching.

Thank you to everyone who messaged or tweeted or came over to talk about my talk. It really does mean a lot. I’m glad my angry rant was well received but also sad because so many people could relate.

PS soz for being so angry. Grr.


Book Blog: RESPECT: Consent, Boundaries and Being in Charge of You

Title: RESPECT: Consent, Boundaries and Being in Charge of You

Author: Rachel Brian

Age range: KS2/KS3

Respect is a new book from the co-creator of the viral Tea Consent video. The book handles an important and potentially uncomfortable topic for young people in a playful but thoughtful manner. It’s a smart and appropriate book that is essential for young people learning about consent.

Respect has been designed to educate and empower young people in the classroom given the new developments in the PSHE and relationships and sex education. Pupils will be taught explicitly about consent and this book is vital for teachers to approach it properly. From its simple but impactful illustrations to the comic strips throughout the book, it’s a great read on an important topic.

I will be focusing on Chapter 3 – Giving and Getting Consent.

Brian starts by defining consent. It’s simple but it’s necessary. So often, we assume our students understand the concepts we’re discussing but consent is one we must ensure is explicitly taught.

There are two parts to consent:

1) telling

2) listening

There are illustrations and speech bubbles depicting people practising how to carry out both the telling and listening sides of consent.

For me, the most significant part of the chapter is how much focus is put on the different way people react in different situations. It is made clear that not everyone will give an obvious yes or no response and that some people will not be able to vocalise that they are not enjoying something and that consent is only consent when it is a clear yes.

The chapter moves onto ask whether clothing can portray consent but uses clever analogies and illustrations to demonstrate it and this is a common theme throughout the book.

Chapter 3 ends with two comic strips portraying two versions of one situation and how no consent can change things dramatically. The comic strips in the book are an integral part of this book’s success. It takes away the uncomfortableness that pupils might feel when discussing these topics and makes it accessible and clear for everyone reading it.

As I said before, the book is an essential read for teachers and pupils in KS2 and up and I urge you to order it now.

Thank you to Wren and Rook for the advance copy and inviting me to be part of the blog tour and a huge thank you to Rachel Brian for penning such an important book.

You can catch the rest of the blog tour on these pages:

TV and film for teachers – TES November 2019

10 TV Shows and Films That All Teachers Should Watch!

I am a firm believer in reading research, attending conferences and finding your own CPD. However, it’s not always feasible to spend hours of your ‘free’ time on this. Something most people do spend time on though, is TV. Whether it’s catching up with David Attenborough or the latest ITV drama, the majority of us find time to sit in front of the box. I have found that a lot of learning can be done this way so here are my top ten TV shows and films for teachers.

  1. Dead Poets Society. You cannot deny that this is a classic. The ‘Captain, my captain’ moment gets me every time. As well as this, it reminds us how important those relationships are.
  2. No More Boys and Girls. The BBC series focused on Graham Andre’s and shows you how developmentally, gender has no place in our classrooms. If you are in a school that still focuses heavily on gender, I suggest sending your SLT the link!
  3. Top Boy. If you’re working in an inner-city school (and even if you’re not), Top Boy gives a real insight into gang culture and the risks our children face on a day-to-day basis out of school.
  4. 13 Reasons Why. It won’t be the most comfortable viewing but quite often real issues in life aren’t very comfortable to deal with. 13 Reasons Why handles sexual assault and bullying from a perspective we don’t often see.
  5. Teach Us All. This is a documentary that looks at educational inequality in Arkansas. It looks at the nine students who challenged the disparities in access to education and fight the idea that skin colour determines educational provision.
  6. This is a comedy that features a main character who is on the autistic spectrum. Though it doesn’t always hit the mark perfectly, Atypical can tell you a lot about autism and every teacher should watch it.
  7. When They See Us. Though not set in a school, When They See Us is based on a true story and shows the shocking racial profiling and bias in society in the 80s and 90s that sadly is still prevalent in some places.
  8. Entre les Murs (The Class). A former teacher, François Bégardeau, plays a heightened version of himself in a tough Parisian school. The Class exposes some of the stresses faced by teachers every day.
  9. The Wire – particularly season four. Even though it’s essentially a crime drama, The Wire shows how institutions can affect us as individuals and the fourth season concentrates on the school system.
  10. Coach Carter. Based on real events, Coach Carter tells the story of a basketball coach who famously put effort in academic subjects before sporting success. Although slightly dramatised, it shows how one teacher can inspire and motivate their students.


Honourable mentions that you should take a look at:

  • Miss Stevens
  • Freaks and Geeks
  • Sex Education
  • Derry Girls
  • The History Boys

Whatever you do, don’t find yourself taking inspiration from Mrs Krabapple from The Simpsons or Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher!

Halloween – TES October 2019

At Christmas, schools (particularly primary schools) up and down the country will be decorating their halls, planning Christmassy activities and tucking into a Christmas lunch. So, should we be doing the same at Halloween? There seems to be a real split over whether schools even acknowledge Halloween as an event.

Fewer schools are recognising Halloween as a celebration every year. Where there might have been a PTA Halloween themed disco, there’s a non-themed fancy-dress party. While years ago, school children might have dressed up in their Halloween costumes for a day at school, dressing up is far less popular now. But why? Some schools have said that Halloween isn’t inclusive as there are children who are explicitly not allowed to celebrate it and have previously been kept home on Halloween. Faith schools are unlikely to acknowledge Halloween but lots of other schools seem to be going in the same direction. Although it originated in ancient Celtic times, Halloween is seen as a very American holiday and is nowhere near as celebrated in the UK. Should we be spending time on something that has been turned into another money-making opportunity for businesses?

Despite the above, Halloween was such an event for me growing up. We’d dress up for school, have Halloween parties with the whole class over for apple bobbing, go trick or treating in a big group… don’t our children deserve to experience this? Last week, a primary teacher asked on social media if anyone was decorating their classroom because she didn’t know if it was the done thing or not. Generally, people replied saying they don’t do it but one replied saying they’d be carving pumpkins in class because otherwise those children won’t be exposed to it. We should be giving our children a varied diet of experiences, surely Halloween-related activities is included in this?

If you are going to do Halloween in your school, here are a few tips and ideas I’ve been given by teachers from the UK and North America:

  1. Make it meaningful. We shouldn’t ever do anything just for the sake of it. Teach them about the background of Halloween and explain how it has developed over the years.
  2. Compare the UK with other countries. Show them how Halloween is recognised in other cultures so they can compare and contrast.
  3. If you’re doing a disco, put some proper thought into it. Discos can be great fundraising events for the PTA and the school but only if they’ve been properly planned.
  4. Talk to them about staying safe when trick or treating. Some children are allowed to go out without supervision, make sure they know how to be safe.
  5. Give them experiences they’ll never forget. Things like pumpkin carving, bobbing for apples and costume competitions are great experiences that they’ll remember when they grow up.

Whether you’re celebrating Halloween or not, I think it’s important that the children know as much as they can about it so I would suggest discussing the history of Halloween in class.

Vital snacks at school – TES September 2019

Teachers are a hardworking bunch. We spend more time at school than we do at home. What could possibly make a full day of teaching, marking and meetings better? The answer is snacks.

We have all experienced the rush to the staffroom when it’s someone’s birthday or the way people’s faces light up when the biscuit tin has been replenished. So which snacks are the most popular? I did some comprehensive research into snacks at my school and on twitter to work out what people like best.

Biscuits seem like the obvious option. Biscuits can be quite good value, especially if you opt for a multipack of classics like custard creams and bourbons which go further than the fancier packs. Many teachers enjoy dunking their biscuits into a cup of tea so something sturdy like a digestive or a hobnob usually goes down well. However, Viennese fingers were quite popular with some teachers on social media!

Cake is usually my go to when I’m buying stuff for my birthday but making sure you get enough is tricky because you never know who might take a huge slice! And if you’re having cake in a staff meeting then definitely put one person in charge of the cutting.

We had doughnuts on our second inset day at the start of the year and our headteacher made us eat them without licking our lips – fun at the time but not practical for meetings or when you’re in a rush! There’s also the lifelong issue of custard or jam. Who could possibly choose?

Many supermarkets do good deals on tubs of flapjacks, brownies, millionaire’s shortbread bites and rocky road bites. You get quite a lot for your money and there’s a good variety so people can’t moan. There’s nothing worse than buying snacks for people and having someone kick off because they don’t like chocolate!

One headteacher said she brings in hot cross buns throughout the year and they always go down well. I think anything that is a bit different always seems like a treat. This is the same when people bring in homemade cakes. It feels even more special.

During my last ofsted inspection, I stocked the staffroom with snacks and the one thing that kept needed to be refilled was the sweets bowl. Every couple of hours, I’d refill it with an array of gummy, fizzy and fruity sweets. Maybe it’s because it’s easy to grab on the go or because having a couple of sweets doesn’t feel as naughty as a slice of cake? It’s definitely something to consider when you’re on snack duty!

An unusual suggestion was mints. I’ve never seen mints in a meeting or in the staffroom but I do love a mint in the car. They can be quite sugary but it’s something different and a good alternative to baked goods.

Some teachers (I don’t know who these teachers are) don’t like sweet snacks and so often feel neglected when faced with what’s on offer. Perhaps we ought to start catering for the savoury needs of our colleagues? Suggestions included kettle chips, pork pies, houmous, crackers, cheese straws and salami!

And then there are those teachers who don’t want to stuff their faces with snacks every week. For our healthy lifestyle colleagues, I’d suggest fresh fruit, flavoured rice cakes and celery, cucumber and carrot sticks. There is always the option not to snack as well! But I can’t imagine a week at school without something to munch on.

The overwhelming consensus was that snacks should be small bites with as little admin as possible because snacks are supposed to be quick and easy. Hopefully, this helps for the next time you’re on snack duty for your team meeting, and if there isn’t a snack rota then make one!

Back to school bonding ideas – TES August 2019

10 back to work team bonding ideas that won’t make you want to gauge out your eyes

Coming back to work after the summer holidays can be tough! Having been off for six weeks, the routine and structure of the school day is a huge shock to the system but it’s a welcome one. An important part of going back to school, or starting a new school, is starting the year with the right attitude and ethos in your team. This might be your year group team, subject area team, a leadership team or the whole staff team. Regardless of what team or teams you’re part of, it’s vital that you start the year right!

I’m not talking about first day back INSET ice breakers that make you want to hide in the stationery cupboard. This is all about quality time spent together to make you a stronger team because the strongest teams are the ones who know and understand each other. I asked around for some suggestions of back to work socials that people enjoyed and threw in a few of my own too.

  1. Because who doesn’t love food and good conversation? Find a good value restaurant with big tables and just enjoy getting to know each other over some decent scran.
  2. A trip to your local public house. I know not everyone drinks but lots of people sitting in the pub on a Thursday after school sipping their choice of soft or alcoholic drink. Even better if you can find a nice beer garden for when the weather is nice!
  3. Afternoon tea. I’ve had afternoon teas in the staffroom and out and about and they always bring a smile to people’s faces.
  4. A quiz night. Whether it’s out at a pub quiz or one someone in the school has cooked up, quizzes are a great way to get to know each other. You also get to find out who in the school is fiercely competitive for next time.
  5. A trip to your local board game café (or create your own if there isn’t one nearby). Whether you’re a Monopoly man or a Guess Who? girl, you are bound to have fun while playing. The beauty of this kind of thing is that you can make it as big or as small as you want to, depending on the game. Personally, I’d always vote for Scattegories or Cards Against Humanity (with the teacher expansion pack, of course).
  6. This might just be one for me because I love to sing and I love an audience but I really think karaoke is a good laugh and quickly forces you to stop taking yourself so seriously like you might do at work!
  7. Escape rooms. If you’ve been to one then you’ll know why it’s on the list. They test your teamwork like no other activity and it only lasts around an hour so you’re not stuck together for ages! There are escape rooms for small groups or there are companies who will come in and take over the school hall.
  8. Bingo or, if you’re feeling crazy, Rock n Roll Bingo! It’s fun and it’s easy to do so nobody can moan that they don’t know what they’re doing. You can have a good chinwag during the breaks and a giggle while you play. This was always a winner at my first school!
  9. Play a sport together! This could be rounders, netball, football, an obstacle course, whatever you like and I guarantee it’ll be fun. You can have multiple teams or just play for fun and you can do it right in the playground so it won’t cost a thing!
  10. Potluck buffet dinner. You all bring a dish and see what turns up! It’ll inevitably go down well because there’s food and teachers like food. You can keep it casual and have a chat while eating some (hopefully) tasty tucker.

Hopefully these have inspired you and the forced fun police won’t come knocking at my door! Just remember how important it is that you work well as a team and what better way to cement that than spending some non-school related time together?!

Back to school buying tips – TES August 2019

10 back to school buying tips that only teachers would know

Going back to school in September can prove very expensive for parents, especially those with multiple children in school! As teachers, we’ve had years of gathering intel on the best deals, what to avoid and extra handy tips to save money.

  1. Don’t wait until the end of summer! It might be tempting to deal with it at the end of August, but shops know this is their busiest time for back to school shopping so don’t put out their best deals. You’re better off getting ahead of the game and picking things up as and when they’re on offer.
  2. If you’re looking for stationery, searching ‘sodial stationery’ on Amazon will bring up a range of quirky and cheap items to go in your child’s pencil case or on their desk at home. You might want to do this at the start of summer though as delivery times can be lengthy!
  3. Buy in bulk where possible. It might seem silly buying 50 pencils at once but it will work out a lot cheaper than buying packs of five regularly. You’ll also avoid last minute stress when your teenager is panicking because they haven’t got any pens or pencils for school at 8:15 in the morning.
  4. Avoid novelty, character or film themed stationery. The quality is nowhere near as good, it doesn’t last as long as the plain stuff and might go out of fashion before the school year even starts!
  5. Tempting though it is, don’t spring for expensive stationery from Paperchase or Smiggle. They might look shiny and nice but it’ll inevitably get lost or broken and you can’t keep forking out to replace their fancy pencil case and its contents.
  6. If you’re buying a new school bag, ensure it is fit for purpose and can hold everything your child might take to school e.g. folders or A4 books as well as lunch or snacks!
  7. If your child needs a calculator, maths set, language dictionaries or textbooks, look on websites like Gumtree, Freecycle or on social media buying and selling pages to get a better deal.
  8. When you’re buying shirts, skirts and trousers, buy from the cheaper supermarkets as their stuff is good value and still great quality. Plus, you won’t begrudge replacing it if you need to. Even the best quality white shirts and polo tops can go grey easily, you’re better off with the cheaper stuff!
  9. School branded jumpers and blazers can get pricey. Schools often have lots of high-quality uniform given back or in lost property and some schools sell it at a fraction of the price. Don’t be afraid to ask at the office!
  10. If in doubt, label EVERYTHING! You might not think it necessary but it will save you money later on if you put good quality and clear labels on everything your child wears or brings to school.

Going back to school shouldn’t be stressful so hopefully these tips will help you along the way.

How to spot a teacher on holiday – TES August 2019

17 ways you give yourself away as a teacher while on holiday

I’m sure we all think we shed our teacher skin and seamlessly blend into society over summer but here are some instant give aways that most of us will be doing at some point over the holidays.

  1. Befriending families around the pool or at the beach on holiday and asking the children what year group they’re going into. Then inevitably asking what their favourite subjects are and asking about their teachers.
  2. Carrying a fully stocked first aid kit along with baby wipes and spare pants for any and all eventualities. You never know when there will be an accident! You’ve been on enough trips to know it’s always best to be prepared.
  3. Having a bag full of pens ‘just in case’. If you don’t have a handful of pens rattling at the bottom of your bag, are you even a teacher? You might need to write a list or do a crossword or plan your schedule for the week!
  4. Head counting your friends on your adults-only holiday. And if you are with children, there’s only a couple and they’re your own!
  5. Keeping a steady cycle of children’s books going by the pool. There’s nothing wrong with staying up to date with the latest kids’ fiction but maybe mix it up every now and then? Paying for an extra bag on the plane probably isn’t worth it after all!
  6. Showing off the latest dance moves at the mini disco each night. If you aren’t the best flosser or the best at orange justice (who have I become?) on the dance floor then your goal next year is to learn some moves!
  7. Knowing all the words to the latest chart music. After the countless requests for Old Town Road at your end of term party, you’re well versed in the latest hits whether you like it or not.
  8. Giving children the teacher glare when they’re running around the pool. There’s something about seeing children messing around and flouncing the rules that brings out your ultimate stare. Their parents will be grateful, right?!
  9. Using non-verbal cues to communicate with people who don’t know what you’re on about. It’s a well-honed teacher skill and going away on holiday gives you the perfect opportunity to bring out your inner charades expert.
  10. Risk assessing every excursion and ensuring you know where the toilets are before setting up camp. This one is just sensible, isn’t it? You need to plan for every incident, or the trip won’t go ahead. Just don’t forget to get it signed off a few weeks before!

And if you’re not on holiday then you’re surely doing one of these…

  1. Traipsing up and down the stationery sale aisles. WHSmith, here we come!
  2. Counting puzzle pieces in charity shops. There’s nothing worse than missing one piece.
  3. Turning up at the cinema to see kids’ films without any kids. Toy Story 4 and The Lion King anyone?
  4. Calling children pet names despite not knowing them. We’ve all said, “Excuse me, sweet” when moving past a child we don’t know.
  5. Mentally preparing to count down from five when a child is having a tantrum. Am I the only one who has actually started doing it out loud?
  6. Buying a huge leaf or a plush toy pencil from Ikea. Your book corner obviously needs revamping this year.
  7. Repeatedly muttering “I must remember that for September…” whenever something comes to you. Why do we have our best ideas when we’re not at school?!

Regardless of how many of these you’re guilty of, don’t forget to relax this summer!

We can’t be there 100% for every child all day long – TES March 2019

I’m sure I’m not the first teacher to have a new child join their class unannounced, but this happened to me recently and the child in question spoke absolutely no English. Again, I know this happens all the time and I’ve had several EAL pupils start over the last few years but this time was different because the range of needs in my class was already so vast that I was suddenly faced with this dilemma of do I sit with this child and do my usual of going through the basics and printing off flashcards and phonics cards, or do I what I’ve been doing all year and work with one of my children with a special educational need who find it a huge challenge to work independently?

Teachers are under more and more pressure to meet the needs of the learners in their classrooms. With the eradication of ability grouping and differentiation by task in many primary schools, teachers need to find new ways to keep an entire class engaged whilst ensuring every student can access the learning. Children are being pushed all the time and teachers must be ready with additional challenges in every lesson. Many schools have had to lose support staff who would usually play an integral role in ensuring children are actively taking part and learning in a lesson. Because of this, some teachers are finding it more of a challenge to be there one hundred per cent of the time for all the students in their classroom. As well as this, SENDCOs are under immense pressure to meet deadlines and cannot always provide the practical in-class help that they could have done some years ago, so teachers are having to source and create their own resources and squeeze these into an already busy timetable.

Lots of teachers would agree that we face a myriad of barriers on a daily basis both in and out of the classroom. There are budget cuts which make everything a bit of a squeeze. In some schools this is resulting in a lack of resources, in others it could be the loss of teaching assistants and support staff. While some schools are working to reduce teacher workload, others are piling it on meaning their teachers are tired and overworked and don’t have the time to go above and beyond. There are increasing class sizes which makes marking and report writing far longer than it ought to be. As well as this, there is the far more prevalent issue that is the huge range of needs we are faced with every single day. In one class, you could have children who speak English as an additional language, autistic children, children with ADHD, children with speech and language issues, children with mental health issues and children who are thriving and need extra challenge, children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, as well as a whole host of other needs. So how can teachers possibly be expected to meet everyone’s needs in every moment of every lesson?

Many would say that that’s just part and parcel of being a teacher. We all knew it would be a challenge coming into the job, so why moan? In fact, this expectation of us is clearly written in the Teachers’ Standards. TS5 states that we must ‘adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils’. All pupils, even those with significant barriers to their learning. Therefore, we should be altering planning and teaching for the children in our class who can’t fully access the learning. Other standards include planning and teaching well structured lessons and promoting good progress and outcomes for students so surely this means ensuring all students, including those with additional needs, are engaged, challenged and making progress in every lesson? It’s within our job role to equip ourselves with strategies and ways to empower all children to learn and make progress every day.

Personally, I have taught classes where I have found it easier to keep on top of everything and everyone in the room and one class where the range of needs was so huge that I felt it impossible to be there for each of them throughout every lesson. Having had this experience, it became clear that it just isn’t doable for teachers to always be there for every child in their class every day or in each lesson. There will, of course, be classes and lessons where this is doable, but I honestly don’t believe it can always happen. I’ve come to learn that it’s not the end of the world if a child is sitting doing ‘nothing’ for a minute or two in a lesson and it’s ok if you didn’t get around to giving some children verbal feedback because you can catch up on it later. One thing I have tried over the years is giving my SEN children mini projects to keep them occupied such as making a comic book so that when they’ve finished a task, they can move onto that rather than doing nothing. From an outside perspective, it might look like a bit of fun/busy work but if a child is practising holding a pencil, writing and recalling a story, then the learning hasn’t stopped.

In an ideal world, teachers would have the time and resources to meet the needs of every child in their class during every lesson but there will be times that this simply is not possible. With heavy workloads, a lack of time and a strain on resources, teachers cannot be expected to work miracles. There are far too many teachers working until the middle of the night to make sure they are prepared for the next day’s lessons. Teachers should be able to use their professional judgment in the classroom and feel confident that their children can and will still make progress even if they didn’t manage to move a child’s learning on or nip a misconception in the bud before the end of a lesson.

Ultimately, teachers should, and do, strive to meet the needs of every child in every lesson but we shouldn’t be breaking our backs or staying up all night to make this possible. We need to remember not to beat ourselves up if we can’t get around to everyone or if we haven’t given one child a challenge question because there’s more than likely a very good reason why.