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:

Don’t stop talking about it.

Yesterday, a very well followed teacher posted a tweet that said twitter at its worst was teachers moaning about their mental health and wellbeing like they work down a Victorian coalmine. I, with hundreds of others, replied to this person. I said what I needed to say then but I’ve since reflected and there is so much more that needs to be said.


I’ve got two main problems with the tweet.

1) it mocks people who talk about their mental health

2) it suggests that teaching isn’t a tough or stressful job


Just in case anyone is unclear, its 2019. We’re in a situation where more workplaces than ever are considering their employees’ wellbeing. Mental health diagnoses are accepted as medical diagnoses (because that’s what they are). People are talking about their mental health and removing its former taboo.

According to Mind, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year. And those are just the ones we know about.

Mind states that 1 in 8 people experiencing a mental health problem is receiving treatment for it.

Mind also said that the number of people self-harming or having suicidal thoughts is increasing.

When those are the statistics we are looking at, how can anyone think it’s a bad thing to talk about our mental health?

I am so glad I have both a personal network of friends and family to talk to as well as the incredibly supportive network of fellow teachers on twitter and yet at times I still feel alone. I hope that nobody read the tweet yesterday and felt they needed to stop talking about it or decided against reaching out for help because of it.

Tuesday this week was World Suicide Prevention Day. I’m in a place where almost everyone I know has had a friend or relative who has had suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide. Telling people to “get a grip” is one of the most damaging things to say. We need to remember that our words have power, whether it’s face to face or in a tweet.


My second issue was the comparison between teaching and working down a Victorian coalmine. For this, I called on my best friend who I worked with five years ago. We had a long chat about all the wonderful parts of our job but also all the parts that could have, and in some situations have, affected us. It’s not a pretty list but it’s a pretty realistic one.

Between the two of us, in the last few years we have:

• had to tell many children that they won’t be going home to their mum or dad tonight and won’t ever live with them again

• called several ambulances, sometimes multiple times in one day, then sit in A&E with those two children for hours and hours

• supported a child through their adoption and then have to say goodbye to them

• supported a family whose child was raped

• supported children whose parents, grandparents and siblings have died

• supported a child who watched a grandparent die

• woken up to news that one of the children from a previous class has been stabbed

• woken up to news that one of the children from a previous class has murdered someone

• held together the skull of a five year old child who has been hit by a car outside school until the ambulance arrived

• discovered children who have been left home alone while their parent goes on holiday for a week, thankfully they’d only been alone for a couple of days when they’d been found

• had tables and chairs thrown at us

• been punched, kicked, bitten, spat on

• been called every name under the sun

• been sexualised by children

• been threatened by parents with promises of following us home, rape, gang rape, murder, bombs in our houses, bombs at school, harm to our families

• continued teaching the children of the parents who have threatened us

• been targeted on social media by parents

• watched countless children come into school having not eaten since they left school the day before

• been the person to whom children disclose that they’ve been beaten, neglected or sexually abused and then sat with them and supported them while the police and social services arrive

• had children assault us and then go back to treating them the same as everyone else the next day

• supported parents who were victims of domestic violence and supported the children who witnessed it

• gone through our relationships falling apart while teaching and pretending nothing has happened

Even without these more extreme cases, teaching can be tough.

We are accountable for those children’s academic attainment and progress, including children who are SEN, EAL, with poor attendance, etc.

We have to perform all day every day. We have to be talking to people all day every day and sometimes all you want is to sit on your own. We develop a bond with 30 children every year, spend more time with them than our loved ones, become their safe person for a year and then send them off and start it all over again in September. It can be exhausting. It can be emotionally draining.

None of this is calling out for sympathy. It’s a part of our job that could have an impact on our mental health.

So are we supposed to sit back and shut up it because it’s not as bad as working in coalmine?

And without all of the stresses of our job, a job that we all love, some of us just have poor mental health and need a bit of help. Don’t tell us to “get a grip”, tell us you’re there for us.


Talking is healthy and talking can help and I hope that nobody has been put off talking about it because of one thoughtless tweet.


So far, there has been no apology about the tweet but I have woken up to find that it has been deleted.


Thank you to Jenny Doel @missdoelteach for talking this through with me late last night.