Monthly Archives: November 2010


The first thing that impresses you about Devonshire Road Primary is that it’s a brand-new building shaped rather like beehive!   It is a fantastic building with great facilities some of which were evident as we entered their hall and saw the huge screen that wouldn’t have looked out of place in an IMAX cinema! The hall isn’t used for lunches – it is given over to clubs and activities at lunchtimes with dinners being served in the ‘street’, a wide corridor that runs alongside the hall.

This was the third teachmeet in Blackpool and again attendance levels were high, over 130 people there to lurk enthusiastically or to present for two or seven minutes.  It is great to see the unconference format take off in such a positive way across the town and it is also great to see people travelling a fair few miles to join in the fun, to present, support and encourage as the teachmeet approach becomes an established part of the educational culture in Blackpool.

Many staff attending TMBpool3 were first timers so it is understandable that some of the presenters ran over their allotted times.   The professional, polished presentations from the likes of @simonhaughton @deputymitchell @primarypete and @HGjohn and a virtual presentation from @ianaddison showed just what teachmeets are all about.   Sharp, to the point presentations that quickly and succinctly get their message across, leaving you with ideas and innovations that you can readily follow up, try out, share and develop.   Hopefully their experienced approaches will provide many of those attending with the desire to have a go themselves next time.

It’s great to see teachmeet develop the way it has across Blackpool.   It is providing classroom based practitioners with a real platform to share their best practice and innovative approaches with colleagues.   The sharing of good practice is key to developing as a profession and teachmeets provide a grass roots model of professional development – people who walk the talk.   It is not a hierarchical model, it is based on a ‘floorboards up’ approach that sees those who stand in front of children on a day to day basis share what works and what excites them about teaching and learning.   It is also great to see so many headteachers actively supporting this approach to sharing good practice beyond the class room and staff room, to develop a real collaborative approach, building a real, lateral network across the town. This is the great thing about teachmeets; they provide staff with the opportunity to not only be enthused and motivated about innovative and new ideas but sometimes just reassure themselves what they’re doing is the right thing and others are doing it too!

TMBpool3 was another success and I’m sure the event was a positive experience for everyone who attended. I’m also sure that based on tonight’s experiences many of these teachers will be back at Anchorsholme Primary on February 10 for TMBpool4.   As always huge thanks goes to @mister_jim and @TomSale for their fantastic efforts in selflessly putting together a superb event.


Friendship Trees







To celebrate National Anti Bullying Week this year, we decided to do something a little different.   We always mark this week as it is important that everyone understands what bullying is and what to do about it should it occur, but this year we felt it would be great to turn the week on it’s head and celebrate being great friends and highlight the qualities of friendship.

Our Eco Council met a few weeks ago very keen to do something positive in the school and the idea of planting Friendship Trees came up.   The children were keen to do something that would be long lasting, that they would be able to see when they are grown up to help them remember their time at primary school.   We talked in assembly about how the wooded area would enhance the school grounds and support wildlife.   We talked about how the trees would need careful attention to grow, like a good strong friendship.

The week was devoted to Friendship with the Assembly Committee and the Eco Council leading a whole school assembly on Monday to outline what would be happening over the week.   They explained that the Woodland Trust had donated 500 trees to the school and everyone would be planting a tree with a friend and putting a friendship tag around it.   They showed us all how to successfully plant a tree and what care and attention would need to go into the operation.   Our local high schools and all our parents were invited to come along and a parents’ cafe was opened up for the two days of planting to ensure everyone was well fed and watered – not just the trees! It was great to see our parents turning up in the wind and rain to help the children and it gave the event a really good community feel.   Three of our feeder high schools took up our offer and sent students along to get involved.   Our nursery children came along too and planted trees with the Y6 children helping.  Our local radio station planted a tree and the DJs that came in left friendship messages as well.   The local press came along and our own news team filmed the project from start to finish (their film will be on the blog shortly)  The Eco Council Blog has lots of information about the project at the Assembly Committee have put a wallwisher on their blog asking everyone to add a comment about the qualities of a good friend.

All in all the Friendship Week was a hugely positive experience, one the children will be be able to look back on for years and years to come.

Mind the Gap!

Many people argue that standards in education have reached a plateau and that initiative after initiative have done nothing to close the gap between the richest and poorest in our society.       One of the surest ways to narrow the poverty gap is certainly to abolish league tables.

League tables continue to divide schools along societal lines.   Many colleagues who work in more affluent areas assure me that their children continue to succeed seemingly regardless of the quality of teaching.   Areas with high social capital tend to do well in the league tables  and this is the measure by which our schools are judged.   Schools with little support beyond the classroom don’t fair quite so well.   Many schools in more affluent areas confirm that coaching and high levels of parental support helptheir children perform highly in the snapshot that is the Key Stage 2 SATs whereas children in poorer areas are seldom afforded that luxury.

No one would dispute the need for schools to be accountable – they are the recipients of a fair amount of public money after all, but such a crude and unfair method will not help close the gap.   While league tables are published, and parents are told that this is how schools are best compared, recruitment of pupils and subsequent funding will be skewed in favour of the more advantaged sectors of society.

The current testing regime also places an inordinate amount of emphasis on the acquisition of facts.   It relies on the recall of factual knowledge and skills because they can be easily measured.   They aren’t necessarily the most important things to measure – but they are the easiest to measure, and there is a crucial difference here.   In 2001 the DfEE commissioned a report from The National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Eduction entitled ‘All Our Futures’, this report was compiled to make recommendations to the then Secretary of State on the development of Creative and Cultural Education in England.   The committee’s chair was Sir Ken Robinson who noted in the report that the high stakes testing prevalent then, as now, took ‘little account of experimentation, original thinking and innovation’.   The danger is that too many schools still shun creative and innovative approaches because of the spectre of SATs that looms over them.   Exciting learning opportunities are relegated to ‘post’ SATs activities when they should be at the centre of a broad and balanced curriculum.   Such an approach will not only  ensure a rounded learning experience for children it will provide an equality the current high stakes testing system fails to do.

I return for a closing word to ‘All Our Futures’ a publication that many would have missed due to the government’s concerns over its findings and recommendations.

The understandable tendency among pupils, parents and teachers is to respond to what the assessment system values most: and for education as a whole to fulfil MacNamara’s Fallacy: ‘the tendency to make the measurable important rather than the important measurable’ (Roundtree 1977)

A fresh approach to the curriculum and the abolishment of league tables will go some way to closing the abiding poverty gap.

Illuminating the Curriculum – Blackpool Winter Gardens, November 1st


Blackpool Winter Gardens, from the west

Image via Wikipedia


On November 1st 2010 we held our first Blackpool SSAT Education Conference.   The event saw 1000+ delegates gather at the Winter Gardens to hear some world class presenters speak with passion about various themes linked to curriculum and creativity.

The day came about by virtue of the previous government agreeing an additional inset day for all primary schools to implement their new curriculum based on the now defunct Rose Review.   In Blackpool we all agreed to keep Nov 1st as a collective INSET day where we could get together and do something meaningful for all our staff.   The commitment of all our schools was important as only through such an approach could we make something this special happen.   As all Blackpool schools are affiliated to the SSAT we were able to sit down with our Head of Regional Network and plan the day with them.   The  Local Authority were also very helpful in negotiating a deal with the Winter Gardens and working together with us on presenters and organising with our local FE college for their Events Management Students to come along and work on the day as part of their course.

A local company Central Media Services (CMS), provided AV support for the day ensuring the event met high conference standards in terms of screening, light and sound. By selling exhibitors space we were able to offset the cost of the day and keep delegates rates at an absolute minimum.   With such guaranteed large numbers in attendance we were able to provide a first class CPD event at an unbelievably low rate.

The conference began with an introduction from Richard Hunter, former head of primary for the SSAT and now once more a headteacher at Robin Hood Primary School in Birmingham.   Richard shared with delegates the real benefits of affiliation; the opportunities for international partnerships, bespoke training for all stakeholders in school, access to world class thinkers and courses, school visits and much more.   Richard introduced Damian Hughes as the first key note of the day.   Damian spoke about how our attitudes and beliefs can impact on our performance.   He presents in a way that you can’t help but engage with, his messages are clear, strong and leave you thinking about what you do and how you do it – a perfect start to a day about challenging and changing our classroom practice.  Damian has written a number of books that ask us to question our thinking, titles such as ‘The Change Catalyst’ and ‘Liquid Thinking’ give you an indication of his passions and how his messages support us in managing change.   Damian created a real buzz around the place and set a fantastic, energetic and enthusiastic tone to the day which was further built on by our next presenter John Davitt.

For those people unfamiliar with John’s work, he is again a world renowned figure in education.   His approach is innovative, original and exiting.   John speaks from the heart about engaging learners and exploring ways to bring the best out of every learning experience.   He has developed a number of ways we can use  technology in a straightforward and simple fashion to support learning.   The approaches John shared with us don’t require a high level of technological savvy to use and many delegates were jotting down ideas and tools that John showed – ideas that can be quickly put into practice back in school.

Following lunch IT coordinators retired with John to a close by local primary school to take part in a workshop where they could explore in more details some of John’s approaches – these can then in turn be shared back in school through staff meetings that will further the day’s messages.

After an extended break to get everyone through lunch (a potential problem that was very efficiently managed by the staff of the Winter Gardens) we came back to the main hall to hear Richard Machin.  Richard is the headteacher of All Saints Primary School in Warwick and he shared with us all the journey he has taken the school on over the last three years.   From a school in difficulty to one of the top 100 performing primaries in the country.   Richard hasn’t done this through a box ticking culture but by providing the children at All Saints with a rich, exciting and active curriculum that puts their needs first and offers them creative ways of doing things.  It was great for delegates to hear from a practising headteacher about how he has worked with the children, satff and parents to move the school forward without sacrificing his beliefs and principles.

The day’s last speaker was unfortunately unable to attend for health reasons and so it fell upon one of his colleagues to deliver a presentation on his behalf.   Dr Peter Twinings is head of Education at the Open University and he was going to speak to delegates about the future of education and how different approaches to training and development could support us in the future.   Stephen Musgrave who works closely with Peter shared with us how Vital can provide bespoke online support and a range of free resources to support ongoing professional development through a tool called Elluminate.   Unfortunately some of the live feeds during Stephen’s presentation were difficult to hear due to technical problems but the messages were well received by people and again, lots of jottings suggested delegates would be further exploring this online support.

The day was brought to a close by Sue Williamson from SSAT.   Sue echoed the thoughts of many of us when she spoke about how much we could achieve through such active collaboration.   To see so many people from local schools together in one place made you realise that the future of education is in our hands if we want it.    There is freedom to teach, freedom to innovate and freedom to do what we know is best for all our children and by working together we can achieve anything.   Days like today show that our strength lies in such a collaborative approach.