In 2015 I decided to spend a specific amount of time each day, reading linked to education.  I promised myself that once the school year ended and I got home, I would spend 30 minutes a day reading articles, blogs, publications etc linked to education and learning.  Some of it is new and some of it is something I think still makes an impact.  I’ve now decided to share some of the things I read.  This little blog is a selection of what I’ve read as well as quotes I’ve seen that strike a chord with me.  None of this is my work, just my attempt at developing a growth mindset. I hope that some of it is of interest to others. Since mid-September I’ve also set up other social networking accounts – Facebook and Linkedin – Improving Learning and Twitter Terry@Improvelearning.  I sometimes continue a theme over a few days – so sometimes you may need to read from the bottom up.  When I went back into school, I didn’t have time but now 2018 is here, I’m starting to try to write again.

11 March

A busy week coming up as I’m heading to Egypt.

The nail in the Growth Mindset Coffin

This article is a follow-up to one written last year.  For me Growth Mindset is not about something miraculous or even -I can because I think I can’.  I see it more as a response to the instant gratification expected in 21st century living.  How impatient do we become if our internet is slightly slow?  How often are children ready to give up because they didn’t get it right first time?  I think developing a growth mindset is part of a range of tools to give our students to help them succeed.  Not only to give them a belief in themselves but also to help them to understand that success requires hard work and that there will be times when things aren’t easy so developing resilience is necessary.

10 March


In this article in the Guardian, the writer is saying that because primary schools are focusing so much on grammar, students in secondary schools don’t know how to write or tell a story.  I don’t know for sure if it is true but I really suspect that it is as I see the same things with younger children.  Imaginative play is often a re-enactment of what they have watched on TV or the internet rather than from their own imagination.  This means the children then struggle to tell stories and in turn therefore struggle to write them.

It’s the same with reading, I think we have focused so much on the teaching of phonics that we have inhibited the love of reading and also the deeper comprehension of texts.

I do think there is place for a focus on grammar(and phonics) but perhaps not to the extend it is focused on now.  I’m from a generation who got through school (and further education) knowing not much more than the use of basic punctuation and very simple grammar.  There are things I’ve had to learn so that I can teach them.

8 March

International Women’s Day

I knew about this when I lived in Scotland but it took on a whole new meaning when I lived in Russia.  It was an important day in the calendar and was celebrated by couples, families and businesses – each female employee got flowers, chocolates and a voucher from the owner of the school I worked in once.  However, reading newspapers and watching the news today, it is good to see that it has gone beyond the commercial celebrations.  There has been so much celebrating the achievements of women, highlighting the plight that many women face in different parts of the world and questioning gender inequality which still exists today.  As educators we have a duty to treat people equally but we also have a much bigger duty to raise children who will treat each other with respect for all our differences.

4 March

Positive Schooling

I stumbled across this article.  I have friends who believe in positive parenting and I’ve tried out lots of different methods of positive behaviour management.  However, this goes much further.  I’m not sure that being punished for failing to smile is the way we want to go ……

2 March

This is another great article about play based learning

26 February 2018

Lecture – Upstart

If you have read a lot of my posts, you will know that I am concerned about how the decline in play has impacted on learning and how Reception/P1 becoming more academic is having a negative impact on children.  I am therefore a supporter of Upstart in Scotland – a movement campaigning for a kindergarten stage in Scotland so that children would then start formal schooling at the age of 7.  In this video, Sue Palmer founder of Upstart Scotland explains why she started Upstart and why there are issues if we make early education too academic

23 February

Linguistics Conference

I saw this advertised recently.  What a great opportunity to attend a free conference!  Having worked a lot with students and teachers who do not have English as their first language, I’m always very interested in language acquisition and what I can do to make it easier for students I work with.


20 February 2018

Arming Teachers

I don’t usually make comments about politics and certainly think that it’s not my place to comment on how another country is run.  However, I’ve never been so horrified when I saw the suggestion about arming teachers.  In my opinion, most people become teachers to make a difference in the lives of young people.  They want to use their skills to teach children to do things but they also want to be able to inspire young people.  All the teachers I know want to go so much further than merely installing knowledge or developing skills.  They want to give the young people life skills and positive attitudes and dispositions which will help them to become positive contributing members of their communities.  How do you balance this with the children’s knowledge that you have a gun in your class that you are prepared to use?  What happens when the shooter is your 15 year old student? However, horrifying recent events have been, I do not think that arming teachers is the answer.

16 February 2018


When I first started teaching in EY settings, I spent virtually no time formally observing.  As a teacher you were observing all the time and gradually building up a mental picture of what each child liked, could do etc.  However, these observations were never written down and no-one expected them to be.  When I started to work in bigger settings, we would leave post-it notes lying around so that we could scribble down things which had happened, things we had observed so we could share this with other members of the team but again nothing was formally recorded.

Gradually the importance of observation in EY classrooms became apparent.  However, as a head of school or while visiting different schools for training and consultancy, I realise the vast difference in approach to observations:

  • a check-list of what they are looking for (often linked to the curriculum)
  • a note when a child has achieved something as evidence at a stage of the curriculum
  • observing specific children on specific days
  • observing a specific area of learning
  • detailed observations to add to pupil profiles
  • detailed observations to share with parents
  • detailed observations to discuss at staff meetings to inform planning
  • detailed observations with next steps

When I was writing a recent essay, I looked in-depth at the Reggio Emilia Approach and then visited a setting which followed a Froebel philosophy.  I was amazed at the quality of the observations.  The observations were also shared with the children.

I believe that this goes beyond observation, it is about documentation and then for me, crucially what is done with the documentation.  Documentation is now an important part of most settings.  However, sometimes I think it becomes the driver of the curriculum – not in a positive way where practitioners are responding to the interests of the child and using those interests to help develop provision.  I think that sometimes practitioners think, ‘I don’t have any evidence of a particular child in this area, so I need to set something up and encourage them to take part.’  I’ve also heard practitioners say, ‘We don’t have very much documented evidence of Child A working independently in the maths area.  If you see him going there, please document it.’  In one classroom, what was subsequently documented was the child entering the maths area and using 3 boxes of dominoes to build a huge tower.  It was an activity which interested the child, but the practitioner was constantly interrupting to ask questions related to maths, ‘What number is on that side of the domino?’  ‘Can you add all the dots together and tell me the total?’  ‘Can the next domino you use have a bigger total?’ etc. This observation was getting in the way of learning and play.

I recently watched a video, ‘The City of Reggio – The Boys’ City’.  In this video, the children were working together to build a map/model of their city.  The teacher asked the children if they would like to reflect on their individual drawings and the notes she had taken from their conversations before they started the collective project again.  This really made me think.  How many of us ever ask children if they want us to read over the notes we made from previous observations?  Do we even share the observations with the children?  Here is a link to this short video.

I follow quite a few Facebook education groups.  A few times over the last few months I’ve read about SOUL observations:


Stand back




I think this is about pure observation – really observing what is happening and thinking about what you see, not looking for something specific.

12 February 2018


I recently read the above article and it made me think.  I believe I have had a successful career and I don’t think my Scottish accent has held me back – but how can I know?  I also know that I have quite a mild accent.

When I watch the news today, and think of the newsreaders of my childhood, there is quite a difference in the way they speak.  I can see problems with regional accents if they are difficult to understand or where local dialect is used but your accent is part of who you are.  It is discrimination if we judge people by their accents rather than their ability.  Some people find it easy to pick up and lose accents.  After working internationally for extended periods, I don’t think my accent has changed much – and there are lots of children in various parts of the world who say certain things with a Scottish accent as I was the first person to speak English to them!

8 February

Classroom Design

This article was of particular interest to me.  For many years, I merely saw the classroom as a place to learn and didn’t think of the impact it may have on learning.  As a teenager I suffered from bad headaches – not as sever as migraines but regular headaches.  I saw both a doctor and an optician and the optician thought that I was sensitive to fluorescent lighting and gave me a pair of tinted glasses.  This solved my headache problem and I didn’t think of it again.

When I started teaching, I would think about the size of the classroom, the temperature and the way I set it out but not much more that that.  However when I started to teach younger children, I really began to think about the actual classroom.  Was it fit for purpose?  How could it be improved?  When I taught in nursery, I then realised that many nursery settings have only 2 ways in and out – through the main front door and through a fire escape.  I also started to think about the facilities in EY classrooms – was there any outdoor space, toilets nearby, sinks – at child height and near the sand/water and art and craft area rather than merely being in the toilet area.

For around 20 years of my teaching, I was expected to have, then expected others to have bright, welcoming and interactive displays.  However, more recently there has been research carried out that an overstimulating classroom may have a negative impact on learning.  I now try to think about balance.

The articles below look at other aspects of the environment like lighting, the use of natural colours etc:

4 February

Different approaches – Montessori. This is a very basic summary from my reading.

Maria Montessori was both in Italy in 1870.  She qualified as a doctor and began to work with children with special needs.  She developed ways of teaching the children.  When Montessori visited local primary schools, she believed that all children would benefit from the methods she had created to teach the children with additional needs.  Like some of the other approaches I am describing this week, Montessori believed that the adult needs to be an observer and that their actions should be in response to what they have observed the children do.  Montessori believed that children have a natural desire to learn during specific periods.  A Montessori curriculum covers specific areas:

  • Science and Exploration
  • Language Development
  • Number Concepts
  • Daily Living Skills
  • Education of the Senses

Here are links to a couple of upcoming conferences:

31 January

Different approaches – Steiner. This is a very basic summary from my reading.

The Steiner Curriculum was designed by Rudolph Steiner.  The first school opened in the Waldorf Astoria Cigarette factory in 1919.  Steiner offers an integrated curriculum, going beyond the academics.  Steiner’s philosophy is that there are three stages of development:

0 – 7 mostly active

7 – 14 – mostly feeling

14 – 21 – mostly thinking


Steiner schools believe that personal, social and spiritual development are essential.  Steiner felt that it was important that there was a balance and that the experience should include ‘thinking, feeling and willing’. A central believe in Steiner schools is that if children have been forced to learn academically from an early age, they will lack the motivation to initiate learning themselves.  For this reason, formal learning does not start until after the age of seven.  If we look at many of the campaigns today – Upstart, Too Much Too Soon etc or look at the countries which do really well in education, children start school at seven.

Here are details of some upcoming Steiner conferences in different parts of the world.

26 January

Different approaches – Reggio Emilia. This is a very basic summary from my reading.

The Reggio Emilia approach was developed in a town in Northern Italy just after the second world war.  Its architect was a teacher called Loris Malaguzzi.  His approach to education was based on other educational theories – Piaget, Vygotsky, Dewey and Erikson.  The philosophy was designed to meet the needs of a group of parents who wanted to make sure that there children became active participants in their learning and not merely consumers.  There are many different principles in the approach:

  • Parents as partners
  • Teachers as researchers
  • The environment as the third teacher
  • Children want to give and receive
  • Children all have potential
  • Teachers as researchers

I believe that one of the things we could really learn from Reggio Emilia schools is about how important they see observation of learning and documentation of learning.  The approach is becoming more and more popular and educators from over the world visit the town of Reggio Emilia to learn more.  Information about one of these visits is found here:

23 January

Different approaches – Froebel.  This is a very basic summary from my reading.

Friedrich Frobel was born in 1782 – more than 200 years ago in what is now Germany.   He changed the way we think about how we educate the youngest children and is often referred to as the ‘creator’ of the kindergarten.  Froebel developed an ‘idealist’ philosophy of early childhood education.  Froebel believed that children developed their thoughts through play rather than through instruction.  He developed a curriculum based on specific ‘gifts’ and occupations’.  Block play was integral to Froebel’s kindergarten and remains an important element of nurseries and kindergartens today.  Play and the outdoor environment were really significant elements of his theory – and today there is an increasing amount of evidence that young children need to learn through play and that they need to be outdoors.

If you live in Scotland, there will be a Froebel Conference in September:

20 January

I started an MA in Early Childhood Studies last September.  It’s been a tough few months trying to balance work with study but I’ve really enjoyed reading about different approaches to early education in different parts of the world.  What has really struck me is how popular approaches like Frobel.  Reggio Emilia, Steiner and Montessori are and how there seems to be a worldwide rise in their popularity.  We seem to be looking back to the past to influence our EY practice.  Friedrich Frobel was born in 1782 – more than 200 years ago.  In the next couple of weeks I will share something about these different educational approaches.  However, I have been surprised at how distance learning studying has really changed.  I have instant access to books in libraries, research materials, websites, seminars and blogs.  When I first studied I used to go to the library and select the most relevant texts.  If I wanted to look at a journal, I had to sign out one at a time and sit in the library.  There was a maximum number of books I could borrow – based both on the number we were allowed to borrow and how much I could carry.  Now I have instant access to as much as I want and the skill is going to be deciding exactly what I want to read so I get depth as well as breadth.

16 January 2018

It’s been a long time since I wrote a post.  I found that going back into full time school leadership left me no time for blog writing or spending time looking for articles worth sharing if I wanted a work/life balance and the chance to see some of the beautiful part of Malaysia I was living in.  I’m now back doing freelance training and consultancy which gives me a little more time to read and share.  I have kept up with the reading, just not the sharing but I hope to be able to share some more over the next few weeks.  Although we have travelled quite a lot and seen different parts of Malaysia, my fascination over the last few months has certainly been clouds and sunsets!

2 October 2016

It’s been 7 weeks since I wrote anything.  At first I felt a bit guilty but then decided that it was better to get myself fully organised here than feel pressured into reading and writing something for the blog.  I have continued to read, I just haven’t written anything about what I have been reading.


So what have I been up to for the last 7 weeks?

We moved to Miri in Malaysia – Miri is in Sarawak which is on the island of Borneo.  I’m here as head of an international primary school.  So the last 7 weeks has been:

  • Getting over jetlag
  • Getting sorted with a car, apartment, bank account etc
  • Shopping
  • Settling in to school

I’m enjoying school – I have ideas for some changes but I’m working with an enthusiastic group of staff, lovely children and supportive parents so think it will be a good 2 years.  Waking up to a sea view each morning and an (almost) sunset each evening.

The article I wanted to share today is about children not being physically ready for school.  This makes me really sad.  I think that there are a few reasons:

  • We stay indoors much more than we used to with children
  • Children are much more engaged in digital devices and TV than they used to be so get less exercise
  • We start school too early!

14 August

Reflections Part 3 Teaching in Scotland

I’ve been reading a lot about The Named Person for each child – currently ‘paused’ in Scotland after legal challenges.  After the number of horrific cases we have read about and all of the other ones which don’t reach the press, I do think that someone should be responsible for overseeing the welfare of each child.  We can’t rely on lots of different people from various agencies to get the whole picture.  I know that many people see it as snooping etc, but there needs to be some system in place for the most vulnerable in our society.  However, in primary schools, I do not think that this should be a head teacher.  In my opinion, a head teacher needs to be the person in school who leads teaching and learning.  Head teachers need to be able to spend time in classrooms to observe, provide support and make decisions about improvements   One of the things which has surprised me being back in schools at home is the amount of time that head teachers have to spend on paperwork or at meetings – you can’t do that and truly focus on the teaching, learning and ethos in your school.  If the head teacher also becomes the named person, they could end up being out of school for extended periods – in really bad cases they could end up having to go to court and we all know that court cases can drag on for days and weeks.  I truly believe that schools play a big part in the safe guarding of our young children and I personally think that a named individual for each child is a good thing if properly administered.  I do not think this person should be the head teacher and not just from a time perspective.  They need to be trusted by parents as education is a partnership. Perhaps it is time to go down the route schools in America have and counsellors in schools – someone who is trained to support the well-being of the children.  Someone who can get to know each child and their family and who can support them socially and emotionally as well as supporting their education.  Most importantly this is someone who does not have a teaching commitment so has time to talk to the different agencies involved with the children.  I’m not sure if the ‘named person’ will ever be implemented in Scotland but if it is, it needs to be a high quality service, not something else to add to the workload of already overworked head teachers.

There are things in Scottish Education we can be really proud of.  I certainly think that the Festival of Learning is one of these.  What a great opportunity to share practice, to attend professional development sessions, see the commercial innovations and celebrate what’s good about Scottish Education – I’m certainly sad that I’m not around to attend it this year.

I also think that the appointment of an international team to review Scottish education is a great thing – we need to learn from countries who are succeeding.

I’ve really enjoyed my year at home, and have enjoyed working with dedicated teachers and delightful children but I think that the quality of education differs greatly from school to school.  I also think that the only reason some schools are so successful is because of the extra time (and money) teachers put in to supporting education.


Reflections Part 2 Teaching in Scotland

I left Scotland 19 years ago.  At the time I loved teaching here but having already spent a year overseas, I was ready for another adventure.  I realised how much my life experiences had benefitted from the year I had spent in Kenya and I felt that I had brought back these experiences to the classroom and that my experiences enriched the learning experiences the children were having.  I took a 2 year contract – never expecting to stay away for 18 years.  However, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, there were many reasons for staying overseas.

There were many reasons for coming back too.  One of these was the fact that I really wanted to make sure that I had managed to stay up to date.  I believed I had but I was looking to learn more about the innovations in education.

Coming back has been a real disappointment.  The Scottish Education system used to be one we could be proud of and unfortunately I don’t think this is still the case.  I’m not sure what happened, but I wouldn’t want to be leading a school in Scotland now.

I’ve worked in 6 different primary schools and a further education college.  I’ve met some superb teachers and certainly their dedication to teaching is no different to the teachers I worked with years ago.  Most of these schools have been well led and managed so that’s not what has changed.  However, what has changed is the children and young people.  I’ve worked with some fantastic children but I’ve never seen so many angry children and there is such a high percentage of children in each class whose behaviour is so challenging.  Challenging behaviour isn’t something new to me.  However, I’ve never been left so devastated as I was one week realising that I wasn’t able to support the less able and extend the more able as I was spending so much of my time managing behaviour.  I began to wonder if it was me – had I been away for so long I’d become de-skilled but I looked around and listened to staffroom conversations and I saw that most teachers were facing the same challenges – especially with the older children.

I realised 3 things:

  • That behaviour has got so much worse since I left
  • That I’ve been really lucky to be able to work internationally where children are usually well behaved and parents are supportive
  • How much of time teachers here spend on managing behaviour and supporting children socially. In other places, this time is spent helping children learn.

It hasn’t all been a negative experience as I’ve worked in some great schools with lovely children and teachers where the focus has been on learning.  However, even in the best of these schools, behaviour is a real issue – it’s just being very well managed.

When I first started teaching, if you told a child off for inappropriate behaviour and their parent got to know about it, the parent would be in school apologising.  What I noticed in schools now is that a child behaves inappropriately, and the teacher tackles this, the parent is often in school complaining.

The bad behaviour goes further than schools – you go into restaurants, shopping centres etc and children seem to think it is a playground with them in control and many parents doing little to stop them causing issues for other users.  I’m not someone who believes in seen and not heard but I do think there is a time and place for wild behaviour and jumping from chair to chair in a restaurant isn’t the time or place.  Have I become a grumpy, old teacher …… I don’t think so I just think that my reason for going into the job was to help children learn.  Learning how to behave, manage emotions etc is part of that but it should be a small part, it should not take over what is happening in the classroom and in some schools and classes, this seems to be the case.


My Year – Reflections Part 1

I’m going to spend the next few posts reflecting on this year.  Having spent 18 years overseas, we made the decision to move home again last July.  It has been lovely to catch up with friends and family and to spend time in our house.  I’ve especially loved seeing the changes of the seasons in our garden – spring especially.  I realised that I’d forgotten how things change so quickly in spring.  We live on the edge of a town and I hadn’t expected the range of wildlife which would visit us – a wide variety of birds including a woodpecker and heron; squirrels, frogs, rabbits, hedgehogs, foxes and even a deer.

Professionally it has been a great year too.  I’ve been lucky enough to do lots of different jobs. I’ve done some supply in local schools, worked as a lecturer in early education and childcare, I set up a training and consultancy company and have delivered lots of training in the UK and internationally.  I’ve worked with children from 3 to 18 and teachers from 20 to 65 – what a great year!

I’ll write more about these experiences over the next few days but today I want to write about my own professional development.  I set myself two targets when I came home – firstly to read daily so that I could write a daily blog and secondly to learn to code.  I feel that I have been successful in my first challenge.  I have managed to read and write everyday – sometimes it has taken me a few days to upload and share because of lack of Internet – especially in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland!  I’ve failed miserably in learning to code.  I bought some books then after a few months gave them to my 9 year old nephew who has worked through them then tried to show me what to do.  It is something I still want to learn but I think it will be a slow process – lack of motivation as much as lack of skill!

In trying to read widely I set up a professional Twitter and Facebook account. From these I’ve seen links to lots of fantastic blogs. It has amazed me how many teachers write daily about the experiences in their classrooms and how many are willing to share their ideas.  Teachers do all of this in their own time!

Through my reading, I’ve also seen adverts for lots of different courses and have managed to attend lots of different training sessions and lectures – some of them I’ve been interested in for years.  These included:
The Scottish Learning Festival
An Introduction to Kagan Cooperative Learning Structures
Teaching Maths Using the Singapore Method
Attached to Nature
Excellence In Early Years

I’ve had time to do a little studying and have completed some short online courses:

Babies in Mind

Childhood in the Digital Age

Intercultural Communication

Understanding Language

However, the main impact on my professional learning this year I think must come from the Upstart Campaign.  I’ve written about this regularly and will write another piece in the next few days.  Hearing about Upstart got me more interested in what research is saying about our youngest learners and what is best for them.  Over the years I had come to the conclusion that we are sometimes pushing out youngest learners too early.  This year, through links I’ve made through Upstart, I’ve read more widely a variety of quality articles which back this up.

So a busy year but one which has helped me focus on what’s important, given me more down time and a renewed energy and  left me and excited about heading back into school full time.



Music Training Speeds Up Brain Development

For my music teacher friends – here is an article you will appreciate!


Teacher Toolkit – Ross Morrison McGill

I’ve read lots of great things about this book on Twitter so wanted to give it a try.  It is really aimed at teachers in their first 5 years of teaching and I’m way past that.  However, I still found it interesting and found lots of little snippets of advice I feel I could pass on to newer teachers.  Teacher Toolkit has a website blog and shares lots on Twitter too.

The author is a skilled writer so the book is enjoyable to read.  I think what I like most about it is that you can relate to everything being said – someone you know who is walking the walk.  It made me think too – I realised that in 25 years of teaching, nobody has ever given me any advice on parent evenings and I don’t think I’ve ever given any advice to any of my teams.  That’s something to add to my list for next year!  I also think that this book is great for dipping in and out of.  Certainly a book I would recommend to any teacher and one I hope to have in our staff library soon!


An anxious day today for many teenagers in Scotland today as the exam results were released.  Proud to say my niece did really well.  Great too that there does not seem to be the same scandal as last year!


I have to admit, I don’t remember buying this book but I found it on the bookshelf and thought I should read it. It was a really easy read – although aimed at parents rather than teachers.  There are chapters on children’s emotions and also on saving your own energy.  Each chapter comes with lots of little pictures some charts and also has a list for suggested reading at the end.  If you are looking for a parenting book, I think this would be a good place to start.



I bought this book a couple of months ago when I attended a talk Jan was giving.  This book is also a really good read and what I liked most is the way it is set out.  After the introduction, the book is divided into 3 parts:

WHY do young children need to move so much?

WHAT movement experiences do young children need?

HOW to create a movement rich culture and environment.

The book is a really easy and interesting read.  It is aimed at the birth to seven age range.  I think it should be on the reading list for all nursery and EY practitioners.  The book is accompanied with lots of lovely photos of children learning while moving.  However, I think the most useful parts come at the end of the book:

  • A checklist for a movement rich environment (indoors and outdoors)
  • An example of a movement observation sheet
  • A planning sheet for physical Play
  • Suggestions for supporting materials and suggestions for further reading
  • A list of helpful organisations

Certainly a book I would recommend for any EY setting.


Creative Schools – Revolutionizing Education from the Ground Up by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica.

It’s a long time since I read a book which was so easy to read and made so much sense.  In the book, the authors look at transforming education.  They look at how you can make changes within the system, press for changes to the system and take initiatives outside the system.

The book is filled with fantastic examples of schools throughout the world who have made a difference to the education for the children in their schools.  It also makes reference to lots of reports and other books about changing educations systems – I now have a list of books for the rest of the year as well as plenty material for future blogging.

It is a book which I think should be read by all student teachers, teachers, parents, politicians and educational policy makers …. to help us to make the improvements to our education systems which are so badly needed.


Back from 5 fantastic days in Rome – unfortunately back with a broken tooth a month after my dentist of almost 40 years retired!


I really enjoyed reading this book but it wasn’t as easy a read as others I have read recently.  I had also bought it in the hope of addressing how to use play further up the school and I didn’t feel it quite did that for me.  However it is a really good book which I am sure I will read again – and because of the way it is set out, it is a good book to dip in and out of.

I also think this book would be a good book to use as a book study in your setting – taking a chapter at a time.  The different chapters are:


In each chapter there is an introduction, activities, ideas, curriculum links, points for reflection, a very brief summary and suggestions for further reading. There are also some case studies in some of the chapters and lots of links to research.  I know I will use this book again.



This book is a very easy read with lots of photos.  It has 55 different science and art activities designed to reconnect children with nature.  It has lots of really easy step-by step suggestions.  However, for me, what this book lacked was any substance behind why it is important to get children outside, the benefits of children connecting with nature etc.  However, if you are looking for ideas, this could be the book for you.


You forget just how beautiful Rome is – stunning architecture round every corner!  Very HOT too!


The fact that this book is covered in scribbles and post it labels is probably enough proof that I found this book useful.  It is not as easy a read as some of the other books I’ve read recently – but leadership is not as easy a concept as learning through play!  This book is based on research and the authors look at 5 main areas for leaders to focus on:

  • A focus of learning
  • An environment for learning
  • A learning dialogue
  • Shared leadership
  • Accountability – internal and external

The research is taken from all over the world.  This gave me so many things to reflect on.  I really wish I had read this book before previous leadership positions and I’m certainly glad I’ve read it before I take up my next position.  This is a book I will be suggesting to any of my staff who take up middle-leader positions.




This is another book in the ‘perfect’ series.  Whilst there is a lot of great content, the other thing I like about these books is their size – they fit in my handbag so great for travelling and can be read from start to finish on a 3 hour journey.  Having already packed my other books in preparation for our move, I can’t check however I think this book probably came before the others in the series I’ve read.  The reason I think this is that there are no links to blogs, twitter etc.  Whilst lots of the chapters contained good ideas, I didn’t feel that there was anything particularly new – although a great read for any NQT.  There were two chapters which I did find very useful and will dip into again

  • Winning Hearts and Minds – How to Embed AfL across the whole school.
  • Checklist for Perfect Assessment for Learning (although I don’t think there can ever be perfection and wouldn’t want there to be as I think you become complacent if you think something is perfect).



Having oved reading Futurewise, this came as an amazon suggestion and so I decided to buy it.  The book comes with a really useful DVD with lots of ideas.  It is also the sort of book you either need to scribble all over or need to have a notebook with you as there are lots of ideas for using.  The book is divided into 3 sections:

  • What is 21st Century Learning?
  • What are 21st Century Skills?
  • 21st Century Learning in Practice

The book is well organised, is really practical and the DVD has things which could be used in staff development meetings etc.  I also think there are things worth sharing with parents at the start of year meetings – helping parents to understand both why education needs to change and how it has changed.  The only slight negative for me as an international education is that it is a little to closely linked to the American curriculum – but the skills are transferable!


August already! I’m off to Rome today on a Surprise holiday – very excited!


I bought this book after seeing a link to it on Twitter.  David is a member of Project Zero at Harvard.  I’ve read a lot about their work in the past (Howard Gardner is linked to project zero).  As you can imagine, this book is much more theoretical and based on research than some of the others I’ve read this year.  However, I still found it easy to read.  I think that the big question from this book is ‘What’s Worth Learning?’

There are 4 main areas he challenges us to think about:

  • Identifying Lifeworthy Learning
  • Choosing Lifeworthy learning
  • Teaching for Lifeworthy Learning
  • Creating a curriculum for Lifeworthy Learning

Once again I did feel that it seemed to have a lot of references to the Core Curriculum in America but you can see beyond that.  I felt that this book made me reflect on how little school has changed but I sort of felt that it skimmed the surface – I was probably looking for a little more.  Saying that, I think the book would be great to use in staff development meetings by choosing small parts of it – or perhaps using it if you have a PLP in your school.




I was so sure I had reviewed this book earlier in the year but must have reviewed it in my head.  I read this book about 10 years ago and then shared it with friends who are parents and parents in the school where I was working.  I somehow never got my copy back so after attending a talk by Sue and finding out she had written a new edition I bought it again – and I’m so glad I did.  I’ve already recommended this book again to family members and friends who are parents of young children – there is so much of this book that I would like to share with the parents of my new school.

Sue looks at how childhood has changed and about what this is doing to children.  She looks at areas like:

  • Advertising
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Family time
  • Television
  • Play – or the lack of it

Sue then goes on to show what this is doing to children in the long-term.  This book is a very easy read and a lot of what Sue says is obvious common sense – or so you would think but when you see Ipads being used as nanny’s, children getting 60% of the sleep they need etc I think this is a really great book as a simple reminder for parents and educators.


EY Characteristics of Effective Learning in EY

The actual question in the statement made me think about whether parents have the skills to differentiate a great setting from an ok one – what do they use to measure quality?


A day spent waiting for the washing machine engineer – who didn’t turn up – another day of waiting tomorrow no doubt!


I’d like to find out more about The Reggio approach to learning.  Here is an article which explores Reggio and making literacy meaningful.

28  JULY

The International Early Years Curriculum

I was so happy to be able to attend the opening session of Fieldwork Education’s Festival of Learning and to see this new curriculum launched.  I hope to be able to work with it soon!


This article shows the drawbacks of children using social media. JULY


I’ve had a lovely day in London today – meeting teachers who are moving to work in different parts of the world and reflecting on what they are about to experience.  It made me think of just how much each location differs and how your first experiences impact on your time there.  It’s like children starting a new school – you try to make the start positive but sometimes that doesn’t happen in new schools.  It has also been lovely to meet up with so many friends I’ve known over the years or people I’ve run training for.


I’ve been thinking a lot recently about children learning through play and about the appropriate age for starting formal learning.  However this has also had me thinking more deeply about physical development.  When I trained as a teacher many years ago, we did a brief module about child development.  I’ve spoken to some teachers who say it isn’t part of their course.  I think we need to know much more about children’s physical development as many children struggle to write and are put off writing because they don’t have the physical skills.  These sites show the pre-skills children need before they learn to write.  I’ve loved reading some of them.


I’m looking forward to heading to London today.

Teacher-centred schools

This article argues that schools should be more teacher-centred.  What do you think?



I still use my fingers for some things but it’s great to read of the neurological benefits.


This article looks at what we can learn from other cultures about raising children.  Over the years of working overseas, I’ve learned how differently we bring children up in different parts of the world – from eating to sleep patterns, to discipline.  It’s interesting to compare.


Loose Parts PLAY

I’ve been reading a lot about loose parts play – small and large and how it can develop children’s imagination, creativity and problem solving skills.  This article looks at 7 different schools in the Halifax area where they worked with school boards to develop loose parts play.  I hope approaches like this catch on in other areas – it’s certainly something I would like to investigate when I go back to school.



I’m looking forward to seeing the BFG sometime especially as we recently spent time in Fairy Glen on Skye where some of it was filmed.  This article looks at how important wordplay is when learning to write.  Over the years, I’ve played lots of nonsense words with children to help them better understand how language works.  Reading this article has reminded me of this.


Knives in Schools

What a worrying statistic!  How did we get here and more importantly, what can we do to make a change – children and teachers should feel safe in schools.


Boys Falling Behind at 5

This article really got to me on two levels.  How can so many children come to school with such poor language skills?  How can it be getting worse? There will be a percentage of children who have speech and language difficulties but I think it is the way we live which is now impacting our the speech and language development of our youngest children.

However, the other thing about the article which got to me is the fact that it says that boys are falling behind and that it is a generation failed.  How can children be falling behind by 5?  At this age they should be learning through play.  The system is failing the children but only because of the pressure we are putting on such young children.

20 July

Evidence Based Educational Leadership

There is a real move to make everything we do in education more evidence based.  This is a link to book recommendations for Evidence Based Educational Leadership.

19 July


More than I ever remember, young children are struggling to write when they come to school.  I’m sure this is linked to children spending much more time on tablets, watching TV etc and spending so much less time outside – strengthening their gross motor skills and also less time on other activities, developing their fine motor skills.  These articles both look at handwriting problems.

18 July


When I was first teaching, you were encouraged to cover everything – walls, windows, doors, cupboard, corridors and having things hanging from ceilings. When I moved overseas, I realised that the way we set up a classroom and organise the displays is very cultural.  However, things are changing – most classrooms are still bright and inviting environments but there has been a gradual change.  Displays need to support, celebrate or enhance learning.  These articles suggest that perhaps we need to go much further – and that we need to make our schools more neutral to enhance learning.

17 July

Back to Book Reviews

Perfect (Teacher Led) CPD – Shaun Allison

I would normally have shied away from anything which was called the perfect anything but this book was recommended and so I decided to give it a try and so glad I did!

The book starts by saying, “A school is only as good as its teachers”.  That’s a really strong statement.

The book is a really easy read.  It’s a small book so fits easily into a bag for carrying around and was under 150 pages which meant I got the whole book read in a return train journey.

The book is very recent and so looks at different methods of CPD – with lots of good links to websites and twitter hash tags so you can share your learning with others.  This type of collaborative learning is relatively new to me but is something I’m trying to do more of.

I think the first chapter is the most important – ‘Why Teachers Matter – Why CPD Matters’.  Each week we read of the crisis in the teaching profession with the number of teacher leaving or thinking about leaving the profession.  We really need to think about how we treat our staff.

One of the thing the author said is, “evidence suggests that after two or three years of teaching, most teachers start to plateau in terms of their classroom performance”.  I’d really like to know the evidence being mentioned as I’d love to read it.  At first the statement horrified me, as it almost suggests that teachers are giving up.  I then thought more deeply – I think I do ‘perform’ less well than I did when I was a new teacher but I think I have moved on.  I think in the past it was about teaching and my performance and I hope that now I would be judged on students learning and their performances.

I’ve certainly come away with lots of different ideas to try in school and would recommend it to anyone wanting to improve the impact CPD has on learning.



This article gives us reasons why everyone should learn computer programming.  I had challenged myself to learn to code in a step towards programming.  However, I’ve not started …. Maybe next year!

15 July

Interesting to see the list of people named as part of a committee tasked with improving education in Scotland


For the first time in more than a year of writing, the post today is not by me.  A few weeks ago I was contacted by Joe Thomas telling me all about – a group of people aiming to improve employability opportunities for people with autism.  Over the years I’ve worked with many children with autism and it would be great to think that they could then go on to find meaningful employment when they leave the education system  Joe wrote this article for me to share.

The Benefits of Hiring People with Autism

In the UK there are more than 700,000 individuals living with autism, however, less than 15% of these people are in full-time employment. This is a dispiriting figure when you consider the many skills and talents people with autism have, skills which are highly beneficial in the workplace.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is not a disease or illness and it cannot be cured – the unique elements of autism are an integral part of the person’s make-up. As it is defined across a spectrum, people with autism will all experience it in a unique way, however, it usually has some effect on how individuals communicate and interact with others. As well, it is also important to remember that autism is not a visible disability.

In 2010, The Equality Act came into force in the UK and made it unlawful for any employer to discriminate on the grounds of disability. Perhaps this has made some employers reassess their approach to autism, however, employing people with a disability is not a matter of filling quotas. Instead, the focus should be on the value each individual can bring to the prospective role. Those who fall within the spectrum of autism have a huge amount to offer companies. Individuals with autism are often excellent problem solvers; have outstanding concentration and memory skills; pay great attention to detail; and are highly dependable, just some of the traits that companies are looking for in employees.

While every applicant who applies for a job should be treated as an individual, there is common ground amongst people with autism that can be reached, which, when recognised by companies can make the hiring process run much more smoothly.

Things to consider:


Some individuals with autism will find understanding body language and facial expressions difficult and this can sometimes hinder communication.

Repetitive Behaviours

People with autism will often see the world in a different way and thus they tend to enjoy the security of familiarity and routine. This is a positive trait in a working environment.


Interaction concerns how individuals with autism behave in the presence of others. For example, if they are concerned, they may retreat within themselves; or they may sometimes appear insensitive, but only because they find it difficult to read cues from those around them.

The Interview Process

People with autism often develop a keen interest in a particular subject and become hugely knowledgeable about it. If you can discover what this interest is during the interview, and encourage the candidate to talk about it, it can help put them at ease.

Sometimes jokes and sarcasm are not understood well by individuals with autism, as physical cues are hard for them to read. Therefore, be straightforward and express yourself clearly. Also, if there are gaps in the conversation don’t rush in to fill the silence, the person may just need a little longer to formulate their response.

The Induction Process

Once an individual with autism has been hired, there are simple steps you can take to make their first few days with you as positive an experience as possible.

  • Send induction material to the new employee early so they can take the time to read through and absorb it before they start. This will help to lessen first day nerves.
  • If possible, try to seat the person away from noise or people passing by regularly, as this can be unsettling. It’s also important to build structure into the day so individuals know what to expect.
  • People with autism can be perfectionists so it’s important to give regular feedback on how things are going and provide reassurance where necessary.

Individuals with autism tend to have strong skills in particular areas and can often outperform their peers in these capacities. It’s important therefore to tap into these strengths and allow the employee the freedom to utilise their skill-set within the working environment. When this happens much of the misunderstanding about autism falls away and employers recognise what a valuable asset the individual is to their business.

For more information contact

14 July

What a great day I had with 2 of my nephews today. We went to Foxlake – an adventure park near Dunbar.  I was a great photographer while the boys and my husband took part in an overwater obstacle course – lots of upper body strength and balancing required and ending on a zipline into the water!

Educational Apps

I never feel I’m up to date with apps which either make a teacher’s life easier or improve learning opportunities for children.  This is a link to a blog with great advice on high quality apps.

13 July

With a change of Prime Minister, this educationalist has written a piece about what needs to change in education.  I agree with almost all he says!

12 July

The Perfect Lesson – Jackie Beere

Having read Perfect CPD another of the books in this series, I decided to read this book.  Once again it was a bad buy – not a bad book but a bad buy for me.  There was another book, the Perfect Ofsted Lesson.  Not working in the English system, this didn’t interest me but the idea of a perfect lesson did.  However, it turns out that this is just and update of the Ofsted book.

Ignoring my feelings about there being no such thing as a perfect lesson and trying to get over the feeling I’d been had, I tried to approach the book positively.

Again, it is a really small book and you will read it in a couple of hours.  I used to add scraps of paper to books and graduated to post it notes to books.  However, a couple of years ago I decided that if I have bought the book to help me professionally, then I will just make notes in the book.  Looking back I’ve underlined lots I want to look at again and have made quite a few notes so it shows that after my initial scepticism, I did get a lot from the book.

The chapters focus on good practice – preparation, assessment, individual learners, collaborative learning and resources.  The last chapter is a specific chapter on OFSTED.

One of the chapters had a real focus on Personal Learning and Thinking Skills – I’m going to try to read more about those.  There were lots of other links I want to follow up and also quite a few ideas I will use with NQT’s and teachers moving from other systems.

Possibly a great read if you are going to be working in England and are concerned about OFSTED but a decent read for others too.

I’m so sorry about the lack of posts – I have been having problems uploading.  I have uploaded things on a few occasions and it just won’t save.  Hopefully the problem is now fixed!  I have however, been reading and writing!


Outstanding Early Years Provision in Practice – Nicola Scalde

Unfortunately when you buy books online, you sometimes don’t get what you are looking for.  I bought this book as it was recommended by people who read some of the other books I’ve read this year.  I’m sure it would be a great book for many people – it just wasn’t what I was looking for.

I feel it is very focused on the English National Curriculum and is driven by specific activities.  The book is divided into 4 chapters:

  • Exploration and investigations
  • Fine Motor Skills and malleable materials
  • Small World
  • Creativity

It gives ideas on setting up the activity, questions to ask, looks at how it helps develop effective learning and how to support learning across the 7 areas of the curriculum (ENC).

There are some lovely ideas and a great book for anyone new to working in Early Years but I don’t think there are many ideas of experienced practitioners or anyone not working with the English National Curriculum.


Best Practice In The Early Years – Alistair Bryce Clegg

Maybe I’ve just read too many by the same author in a short period but I didn’t get as much from this book as I did from his other books.  It was still a really good read and I think I should come back to it again at a later stage.  There are not so many photos so perhaps it was just that I had to think more.

One of the really good things from this book is about Gap and Strength Analysis in Summative Assessment.  As EY practitioners, I think that we all carry out assessments and plan next steps for individual children.  However, I wonder how many of us really analyse the results across the setting to look at your biggest learning gaps and then plan accordingly.

Another thing that this author is really clear about is outdoor learning – that outdoor learning should be providing different experiences from indoor learning – so taking the sand and water tray outside is not a quality outdoor learning experience.

Whist the other books by this author are books that individual teachers can read, I think that this book would be a great book for all the teachers in the setting to read to really reflect on their practice.



That’s me been writing the blog for a year.  I wan’t sure I would complete the challenge but I’m so happy I did.  I’ve certainly learned a lot from it by reading lots more books, research papers and blogs and engaging with other educators through FB, Twitter etc.  It has been a fantastic learning experience for me and I hope that some of you have found some of the articles interesting.  I hope to be able to continue writing this – though perhaps not so regularly once I am back in school full-time.  Now to my next challenge – I also said I’d try to learn to code!

Continuous Provision In the Early Years – Alistair Bryce Clegg

If you are going to read both of these books, make sure you read this one first.  The skills book builds on this book and so reading it the other way round, I didn’t get quite as much from this book as I did from the other book.

I think that many professionals think of continuous provision as a sort of carousel of learning where children move from activity to activity of their choice.  The author makes it clear that continuous provision should be about making sure that learning continues in the different areas of the classroom in the absence of the teacher.

The book focuses really clearly on making sure that you plan well to make an impact on learning.

One of the things I like about both of these books is the fact that it’s accompanied by lots of lovely photos of high quality learning in action.

This book provides a step by step guide to continuous provision – as the chapters show

  • What is continuous provision?
  • Setting up continuous provision
  • Planning for continuous provision
  • Timetabling continuous provision
  • Skill development in continuous provision
  • Objective-led planning and the role of the adults
  • Pulling it all together

This book will certainly challenge you to think about your provision.  A good read.


We’ve now been home for a year.  It has been a fantastic year – personally and professionally.  I will write more about it over the summer.  Here is another book review.

Continuous Provision The Skills – Alistair Bryce Clegg

I really enjoyed reading this book but realise that I should probably have read the book Continuous Provision in the Early Years first.  I’ve attended a one day course by the author.  His presentation style is superb but I wish I had read the book before the course as I wouldn’t have taken so many notes as his whole presentation was based around the book.

Both the course and this book really got me thinking about skills development and resources.  The book really had me thinking about skills development and how we approach them in an EY setting.  I’ve spent years teaching using the IPC – where children know where they are with a skill and what they need to do to get better.  The teacher acts as a coach to help the children improve their skills.  However, this book made me think that a lot of what you see in an EY environment is the opportunity to practice a skill.  However, I’m not sure that the coaching element is there so much.

The book also had me thinking about resources.  I have always tried to provide children with a wide range of resources so that they can make choices in their learning.  That is really important but if continuous provision is all about developing skills then we need to think of the resources we are providing – eg bikes etc with pedals one week then sit and ride toys where you just use your feet the next week would actually be a step back in terms of skills development.  The author certainly had me thinking about matching the resources we use to each child’s skill development.

Well worth a read.


Child Initiated Learning – Ros Bayley and Sally Featherstone

I think a lot of teachers are scared of child-initiated learning – and certainly know that many school leaders are, asking questions about planning.  This book answers many of these questions and has lots of really nice activities.  However, what I really like about this book is the Quality Checklists.  In each chapter it has a page of things to ask yourself.  I know that many of these questions would make a great start for professional conversations within a setting.

This book looks at things at a really basic level and didn’t challenge my thinking but it was set out in a great way and provided lots of links for further reading.

Worth a read.


Perfect (Teacher Led) CPD – Shaun Allison

I would normally have shied away from anything which was called the perfect anything but this book was recommended and so I decided to give it a try and so glad I did!

The book starts by saying, “A school is only as good as its teachers”.  That’s a really strong statement.

The book is a really easy read.  It’s a small book so fits easily into a bag for carrying around and was under 150 pages which meant I got the whole book read in a return train journey.

The book is very recent and so looks at different methods of CPD – with lots of good links to websites and twitter hash tags so you can share your learning with others.  This type of collaborative learning is relatively new to me but is something I’m trying to do more of.

I think the first chapter is the most important – ‘Why Teachers Matter – Why CPD Matters’.  Each week we read of the crisis in the teaching profession with the number of teacher leaving or thinking about leaving the profession.  We really need to think about how we treat our staff.

One of the thing the author said is, “evidence suggests that after two or three years of teaching, most teachers start to plateau in terms of their classroom performance”.  I’d really like to know the evidence being mentioned as I’d love to read it.  At first the statement horrified me, as it almost suggests that teachers are giving up.  I then thought more deeply – I think I do ‘perform’ less well than I did when I was a new teacher but I think I have moved on.  I think in the past it was about teaching and my performance and I hope that now I would be judged on students learning and their performances.

I’ve certainly come away with lots of different ideas to try in school and would recommend it to anyone wanting to improve the impact CPD has on learning.


Toxic Childhood – Sue Palmer

I read this book when it first came out then decided to read the updated version – I’m so glad I did.  It really made me reflect on what childhood, society and our education system has become.

What every generation looks for is improvement.  I don’t think that is what we are giving our children today.  Whilst really well written with lots of links to evidence and further reading, this book really shows that how as a society, we are failing our children.  The book looks at areas like sleep, stress, the commercialisation of childhood etc and I was left with the feeling we have been getting it wrong.  Unfortunately my recent experience in schools backs up everything Sue is saying.

A great read!  I think this is a book which should be read by all teacher and parents and I think it should be a compulsory read for politicians before they meddle in education matters!


Professional Development

One of the things I’ve tried to do more of this year is read more.  I’ve read so many blogs, research pieces, newspaper articles etc, set up a professional Facebook account and professional Twitter account and learned so much.  I’ve also tried to read educational books.  In the next few days I will write a short book review about some of these books.  I hope to be able to keep up the reading when I go back to fulltime work in September but I don’t thin I’ll be able to read as much.  However, if you have a book which has made an impact on you as a professional, please let me know and I’ll share it with others.

Making Every Lesson Count – Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby

For a few years, I’ve been looking for books to use as CPD in school.  It is always so difficult finding something which every teacher could take something from but I think this is one of these books.  As someone with 25 years of experience in lots of different educational settings and roles, I got a lot from it but I think an NQT would too.  What I particularly like is the link to research and classroom practice.  It gives lots of classroom situations – using names of teachers and children which brings it alive.

The book looks at six principals to support teaching and learning.  These principals are:








There are lots of great ideas.  This is almost a toolkit you could work through with so many good ideas. I’m certainly going to be using this book when I go back into school in September – I just haven’t decided how yet.  A great read!

3 July

Suing Schools Over Results

You have no idea how much this article horrifies me!  I wonder how this would be managed?  A great teacher can work in a challenging setting and while the children would make progress, they may not make as much as they would have in a setting which wasn’t so challenging.  If articles and threats like this continue to appear, it is no wonder there is a crisis and teacher shortage.

2 July

Below Standard

Some positive education news please, it is all so depressing.

1 July

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July already.  Most of my Scottish teacher friends and many of my international teacher friends started their holidays this week.  I hope they all have a fantastic summer and a well-deserved break!

I wonder how many of them are going to be taking a complete break and how many of them will be working for some of their summer, attending a course, catching up on reading, sharing educational articles etc.  I’ve just signed up to the:

TED-ED Challenge

For the month of July, Ted-Ed will send you the link a Ted-Ed lesson.  They are challenging you to watch it and then answer some questions.  I’m not sure I will watch all of them and complete the challenge but thought it was a good way to get easy access to some good quality material and I will watch any I think are of use to me as a professional.

30 June

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School Leadership

This article gives tips on school leadership.  Whilst I’m not in favour of having business managers run our schools, I still think that it is often the best teachers who get promoted and that being a good teacher does not necessarily mean that you will be a good leader.  I think that schools need to do more to develop the leadership capabilities of all their teachers.  I also think that there needs to be more recognition of high quality teachers who want to stay in the classroom.  Scotland tried to do this a few years ago when they introduced The Chartered Teacher.  However, I know that a high percentage of people who took the qualification then used it as a springboard for promotion.  I wonder how other countries keep the best teachers in the classroom and give their leaders the required skills to lead a school?  I completed a year long course in International Leadershp and Management.  I learned so much from it but I started it four years into my second headship.  On reflection, I know I should have started this at the start of my leadership journey.  I’’e shared a link to that course too.

29 June

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OECD Report

Attached is a screen-shot of the OECD latest results for numeracy.  I try to read from a variety of different countries and so this screen-shot is from a New Zealand article about adult skills around the world.  Results like this show what our education systems have given children as they move into employment.  We need to look closer at what is making some countries so successful while others are slipping down the tables.  Perhaps it is in the way things are being measured.  However, I would hope that an organisation like the OECD would be able to give an accurate picture – even if it is not so easy for some systems to read!

oecd numeracy

29 June

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Still continuing our tour of Scotland.  I’ve hardly got any phone reception never mind internet access!  However, I am still managing to read in the evenings, it will just be a few days before I have a strong enough internet to upload.

Another article about what we are doing to our youngest learners:

28 June

I’m having a lovely time touring Scotland with Australian friends.  You forget how wonderful the scenery is and although we all moan about the rain, it is what makes everything so beautiful and green – I should try to remember this next time I’m complaining about the weather.

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I was going to upload another article about the importance of play.  I started to load it but the really slow access to the internet gave me time to think.  I wonder whether or not there is a real push world-wide about the importance of play or whether it is just that on Facebook, Twitter etc I follow people who share articles about the importance of play.  I know I have posted quite a lot here and that if you look at my Improving Learning Facebook page, I’ve probably shared hundreds of articles over the last few months about play. I think it’s probably a bit of both.  Some of what I share is reflections from teachers, examples of good practice etc but I have also been sharing information about research projects, government policies etc.  The flip-side of course is that other governments (eg Scotland and the introduction of P1 testing) are still pushing for a more academic curriculum for our youngest learners.

27 June

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Lots of miles covered yesterday as we took our friends across Scotland.  We travelled from Aberdeen to Speyside, from there to the Black Isle and then to Ullapool ending up in Drumnadrochit so we could look for Nessie!  Luckily the weathermen got it wrong and it was dry for most of the day.


This little picture looks at the skills needed in the 21st Century.  Are schools helping children to develop these skills?

Learning to be employable

26 June

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We spent yesterday visiting St Andrew’s then on to a Highland Games in Ceres.  Lovely to see Pipe Bands and Highland Dancers as well as lots of different athletic events.  We moved on to Stonehaven and Aberdeen where we spent a lovely evening with friends we used to work with in Russia.

Outdoor Play

This picture shows the benefits of outdoor lay

benefits of outdoorplay

25 June

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What a lovely day I had yesterday at the Highland Games – celebrating farming and Scottish produce!

This article looks at the habits of mind which lead to employability.  What do you think?  Are there skills you would add or remove?  I’ve spent a long time working with the IPC where we work to help children become more internationally minded.  I think this is especially important after everything going on politically at the moment.



Yesterday was a great start to my summer holidays  – lunch and dinner on the patio.  Hopefully a summer full of outdoor meals!  Our Australian friends arrived and so we are very much looking forward to showing them Scotland.  I’ll post some pictures of our tour.  However, the shock news today is that fact that the UK as a whole has voted to leave the UK.  A different picture in Scotland where the majority wanted to stay – how long before another Referendum in Scotland?  What do teachers say to their pupils in the next few days.  None of us know what it will mean.  Let’s hope everyone can work together.


This article looks at how essential play is in developing independent learners.  So many articles out there about the benefits of quality play.

23 June

Well that’s my work over for another school year.  I’ve had a lovely year – and will write more about it over the next few weeks.  However, I’ve had a chance to work in local schools teaching from P1 – P7, work as a lecturer in Early Education and Childcare, deliver training in 10 different countries, attend lots of PD sessions, read more, write this blog and have more time relaxing with friends and family.  A good year.  I’ve attached two articles today both related to the end of the school year or finishing school.

Things I Wish I Knew When I Left School

This article was written by The Dean of Student Affairs at Stirling University.  I wonder what your 5 would be?  I’m going to think about this for a few days.  However, what I do know is that when I left school, I never imagined that I would have lived in 6 countries or visited more than 50!  Maybe life hasn’t turned out the way I planned but maybe that’s a good thing.  My number one piece of advice would be to make the most of all the opportunities which come your way.


I’m not sure what I think of this article.  There is a very small part of me thinks we should be doing more to help parents keep learning going.  However, that’s a very small part.  I think that summers should be spent visiting new places, learning new things, playing board games, free play outside oh and of course reading, reading, reading – but read to children and make it fun!  Do you set homework activities for the summer break?

22 June

Today is my last day of work for this academic year.  It’s Health Week in school so I’m off for some Bowling, Yoga and Karate!  I’ve really enjoyed this year but especially this P1/2 class.  This picture is a reminder playing is a great way of learning!

how to teach

21 June


Linked to my post yesterday, so many people have asked me about how to find jobs overseas and how to know which jobs are good ones.  Information below is only my thoughts and opinions.

I think that for everyone, the first call for looking for an overseas job is always: – I look even when I’m not looking for a job as it’s good to keep up to date with the jobs out there and also the jobs which may interest me and what they are looking for.  – I’ve seen lots of good jobs posted here but I personally don’t like the way the search works, maybe it is just me doing something wrong but the search always takes me so long!

Other newspapers advertise too but these are probably the most widely used.

Recruitment Companies

There are lots of educational recruitment companies out there.  Some of them charge you to see their jobs – I never bothered with any of them.  Some of them seem to link with specific companies and other in particular areas eg Teaching English as a Foreign Language.  There are a couple I’ve had contact with and I’ve had to chase them to provide me with job applications etc – my thought is that this is what they are being contracted to do.  The best of the companies I’ve had contact with by far is:

They have a website which is easy to use, a lovely blog, regular newsletter with tips, have a webinar, organise events for people thinking of going overseas and are really helpful in every way.  The staff know the schools they work with and can give good advice about the location etc. They stay in contact with the teachers even after you arrive in country.

Some others are:

School Groups

May school groups do their own recruitment, these include:

There are many organisations which schools can become a member of.  Many of these offer accreditation which may help you when making decisions about the quality of a school.  These include:

COBIS – Council of British International Schools

CIS – Council of International Schools

ECIS – European Council of International Schools

NABSS – National Association of British Schools in Spain

BSME – British Schools of the Middle East

FOBISIA – Federation of British International Schools in Asia


It is still possible to go overseas on a short-term exchange – you need your employers support.  There are also lots of voluntary agencies doing long and short-term assignments:


The one thing I would say is do your homework!  There are lots of things to think about which you wouldn’t consider at home when applying for a new job.  If you have any specific questions, get in touch!

20 June


As you probably know from my posts, I’ve spent most of my teaching career overseas – I spent 1 year in Kenya, 6 in Scotland, 4 in Nigeria, 5 in Gabon, 3 ½ in Russia and 5 in Oman.  I’ve now been back in Scotland for almost a year.  Since Christmas there have been a lot of articles in the press about the crisis in the education system and the number of teachers leaving – especially to go overseas.

In the past year many teachers and friends have asked me why I live overseas, what made me go initially and what has made me stay.  I’ve also been asked about how I got a job, how you can be sure you are not going with a bad school etc.

To answer the first question:

I had never intended to teach.  A teaching degree was my way to something else but I like it and stayed.  However when I’d been at secondary school, I had been to workshops on voluntary work in Africa and something really affected me and so after getting my degree, I got a voluntary post in Kenya.  I loved it.  At that time, going to far off places was relatively unknown – when I had to have my rabies injection, they asked me to come as the surgery was closing so all the nurses and doctors could be present as this was the first one they had ever done!

I also loved my next few years back in Scotland but began to get itchy feet and started to look overseas.  I wasn’t aware of what I should be looking for and I’m afraid my only criteria was that I needed to be able to send enough money home to cover my mortgage.

I landed on my feet and got a great job in a great school.  I spent the next 18 years travelling the world.  I mostly stuck to the same company but I did work in other schools and also spoke to lots of other teachers who had worked in different schools etc.

So what took me overseas was a desire to help people.  What made me go back was itchy feet and a desire for more adventures but what kept me overseas was a lot of things:

  • Smaller classes
  • Children who wanted to learn
  • Supportive parents
  • Schools who were able to focus on learning because there was not the political bureaucracy – things changed when they needed to in order to improve learning
  • Great access to professional development
  • Longer holidays, a great lifestyle and an opportunity to see lots of the world also added to the attractiveness of the package. However that would not have kept me overseas for so long if the schools hadn’t been so goo and if I hadn’t felt I was making a difference.

I worked harder than I had been working at home but the benefits kept me overseas and over the years,  I developed a career in international education.

These 2 articles look at why people are now going overseas in such large numbers:

19 June

teacher talents

18 June


A lovely little blog called EARLYYEARSWITHOUTLIMITS.  I particularly like this post on child led learning in KS1.  This is what learning should be!

17 June


I like this:


16 June 2016


Child Development formed part of my degree.  Someone told me recently that not all education degrees now study child development.  If this is true, I think it is wrong.  The longer I’ve been teaching, the more important I think it is to have a firm understanding of child development.  This is the summary of a new article from Harvard

  • Even infants and young children are affected adversely when significant stresses threaten their family and caregiving environments.

·         Development is a highly interactive process, and life outcomes are not determined solely by genes.

·         While attachments to their parents are primary, young children can also benefit significantly from relationships with other responsive caregivers both within and outside the family

·         A great deal of brain architecture is shaped during the first three years after birth, but the window of opportunity for its development does not close on a child’s third birthday.

·         Severe neglect appears to be at least as great a threat to health and development as physical abuse—possibly even greater

·         Young children who have been exposed to adversity or violence do not invariably develop stress-related disorders or grow up to be violent adults.

·         Simply removing a child from a dangerous environment will not automatically reverse the negative impacts of that experience.

·         Resilience requires relationships, not rugged individualism

15 June 2016

As part of Health Week we were making fruit and vegetable juices.  The children chose some lovely combinations like – strawberries, blueberries and apricot.  Then they made drinks to share with others – a lovely combination of apples, oranges, strawberries, blueberries, apricots, spinach, cucumber, beetroot and carrots – all which make lovely juices just not in the combination of the 9 different fruits and vegetables together!


This report states that Scotland is no longer a world leader in education, the question is, what is going to be done to change this?

14 June 

My nine year old nephew tried to teach me the basics of coding today.  I was impressed at how much he had taught himself by reading a book and by trial and error but something tells me it is going to take me longer to learn!

Steiner Schools

This is an interesting article about Steiner schools and also about the thoughts of the Steiner Schools and

13 June

Classroom Management

I found this list about Classroom Management Books online – I think it was on a website called We Are Teachers but when I went back to the site to share the link, I couldn’t find it so it may have been another site.  Here is a copy of what was recommended.
Conscious Discipline by Becky A. Bailey
Why we love it: Bailey offers different “conscious discipline” skills that you can introduce and apply to your classroom one at a time until your management is completely revolutionized.

Tools for Teaching by Fred Jones
Why we love it: This book focuses equally on prevention as well as management, and offers resources for professional development with your colleagues.

The First Days of School by Harry K. and Rosemary Wong
Why we love it: We can’t stand that outdated advice of, “Don’t smile until December.” Wong and Wong show exactly how to start off the year so that you can smile from day one AND have a successful year.

Dream Class by Michael Linsin
Why we love it: Enough with the abstract theories! Practical, helpful suggestions make this an effective read.

The First Six Weeks of School (from the Responsive Classroom) from the Northeast Foundation for Children
Why we love it: The United States Department of Education funded a study that confirms the effectiveness of the Responsive Classroom, including gains in math and reading achievement. Sign us up!

Whole Brain Teaching by Chris Biffle
Why we love it: The gesture-based student communication system will seriously cut down on “Can I go to the bathroom?” requests interrupting the flow of a great class discussion.

Positive Discipline by Teresa LaSala, Jody McVittie, and Suzanne Smitha
Why we love it: This system, based on a foundation of mutual respect, swaps punishment for productive discipline and praise for encouragement. The result is a positive classroom and a promising future for students even after they leave your class.

Setting Limits in the Classroom by Robert J. Mackenzie
Why we love it: Applying Mackenzie’s simple steps to the classroom not only improves teacher-student relationships, but student-student relationships as well. Win-win!

The Classroom Management Secret by Michael Linsin
Why we love it: Linsin’s easy-to-read and personable style make this an engaging and informative read.

The End of Molasses Classes by Ron Clark
Why we love it: Clark’s brief chapters based on very specific advice (such as “Build Strong Bonds With Parents” and “Show Them Examples of Excellence”) make this a fun read with a big payoff!

Love and Logic by Jim Fay, Foster Cline, and Charles Fay
Why we love it: Not only does the book provide great advice, but the associated website offers tons of information and free resources for every grade level, students with special needs, and more.

Win-Win Discipline by Dr. Spencer Kagan
Why we love it: “It’s all about engagement!” is the motto for this research-based classroom management method. We couldn’t agree more!

1-2-3 Magic by Thomas W. Phelan
Why we love it: The mix of “stop behavior” and “start behavior” tactics will meet you wherever you are in your current management—rookie or vet.

Teach Like a PIRATE! by Dave Burgess
Why we love it: What’s not to love about teaching like a pirate?! More seriously, this book focuses on re-energizing your own passion for teaching, as well as providing 30 hooks for captivating your class and 170 brainstorming questions to jump-start learning and engagement.
Conscious Classroom Management by Rick Smith
Why we love it: This book is both comprehensive and organized—a great whole-picture snapshot of classroom management at its best.


I also saw good reviews for Shifting the Monkey and School Culture Rewired by Todd Whitaker

12 June

A Great Website

What do you think of this as the set up for a party?  This is what Tom Bedard set up at his retirement party.  What a great chance for the whole family to get involved in loose parts play.  Tom writes a fantastic blog about Early Years – I particularly like some of the sand tray activities.


And here’s another lovely EY blog:


A father posted this online – his primary school daughter’s homework.  He couldn’t solve it and asked for help.  I can see how to do the first one but can only do the second one if the 2cm relates to the very small vertical line and not the horizontal one!  Any thoughts?

Maths question aimed at ten-year-olds at a school in Glossop. It has left pupils and parents baffled.

Maths question aimed at ten-year-olds at a school in Glossop. It has left pupils and parents baffled.



Linked to yesterday’s post on children’s mental health, this research from Harvard shows how well relaxation is working in mental health issues – perhaps more teachers need to be trained in different methods of relaxation techniques.


Another lovely day in P1/2.  They were inventing their own superheroes to help them with their learning – I was amazed at how creative they were!


This is so sad, that pupils with mental health issues are being punished.  However, I wonder how many teachers have had any sort of training to help them identify or deal with mental health issues in children.   We need to improve that’s for sure.



I’ve been posting a lot recently about starting school later – but that was in terms of age.  These articles are looking for a later starting time each day.  It is linked to middle and high schools and a lot of the information is about sleep deprivation.  I wonder if a change of starting time will make an impact or just make teenagers go to bed later – I’ll have to read more.

7 June 2016

I saw this online and liked it!


6 June 2016

Another glorious day!

How to Eat Your Way to Better Grades

This article looks at whether there is brain food and talks about things we should be eating during the exam period.

5 June

What a fantastic weekend it has been – saying that, the last few weeks have been glorious and having spent years living in places with 12 hours of daylight all year round it is also amazing to have almost 20 hours of daylight!


Probably one of the first things people mention when they know you are a teacher is the long holidays.  I’ve attached three articles about school holidays.  The first is a collection of articles about the problems of long school holidays over the last 100 years, the second is a report from today about an authority in England cutting school holidays to less than 5 weeks.  The third is about why long school holidays are bad for children – however it is interesting to note that many of the countries which are doing so well in terms of pupil attainment, have much longer holidays than we have in the UK.

4 June


This is an interesting article.  However, it also made me think about a document I read years ago about reading difficulties – I tried to find it today but can’t.  The article really made sense.  It spoke about how children found little words like (the, in, if, but, that etc) difficult to read because they couldn’t visualise them.  That seemed to make sense to me – if you can’t visualise something, how can you read it.  This article also makes a lot of sense.

3 June


This article looks at the fact that we will no longer have a job for life and therefore we need to be lifelong learners.  However, I think that even without changing jobs, you need to keep learning.  Everything changes so quickly, we need to keep up or stay in ahead.  I think that most careers now expect workers to keep ahead of things.

2 June


After only a couple of weeks in the job, John Swinney the new Education Secretary has begun to speak about educational reforms.  He has stated that teachers are still unclear about a curriculum which has been used for more than 5 years!  It will be interesting to see the reforms which will be introduced.


I saw a link to this earlier today.  I thought some people may be interested.  These fellowships offer the chance to travel to another country to improve your practice.  Fellowships are available for both education and early years.

1 June

I had a count of the number of people who have viewed the site – it now stands at more than 1000 views from 33 countries.  This isn’t much compared to some of the really popular education blogs but it is something I’m really happy about.


Following up on my NZ post yesterday, this is an interesting blog from an NZ kindergarten.  I particularly liked the piece – An Example of an Emergent Curriculum.  This looked at developing children’s interest which is something which really interests me.


I’ve not used this site but it does look good – a way of sharing classroom resources etc linked to Global issues.  I think it looks good and will probably use it when I’m back in school full time.

30 May


This link comes from the NZ education department.  I have been trying to follow different educations systems around the world this year.  I found this link to engaging the community in curriculum design interesting – I wonder how many other countries try to engage the curriculum in curriculum design.  This is only the start of the project but something I aim to continue following.

29 June


This article questions whether there is a right way to learn to read.  In the UK we advocate mainly a phonics based approach – even though English isn’t a completely phonetic language.  From experience, phonics works well for most children – but it works well for children who have a good understanding of language.  I know from experience that it doesn’t work for all children and then teachers look for a different approach.  I think that phonics works best when it is not used in isolation.

28 June


These articles appeared in the press this week.  They are in support of Upstart – it is great to see the campaign gaining momentum.

27 June


This article briefly explains the theory behind the Montessori Method.  I have no Montessori training.  However I have read books about Montessori, have taught children who came from Montessori schools and I have visited Montessori settings.  Some of what I have seen is superb practice and like the author of this article I do think that the true principles of Montessori is the sort of education we are still looking for.  However, I think that some of it is misunderstood by settings which claim to be Montessori but are really places where children are playing freely.  I think there are great benefits in free-play for young children but this is not the Montessori method.

26 May 2016

Attached to Nature

Last night I was lucky enough to attend a talk in Aberdeen by Jan White.  Jan’s talk was about taking us further than just providing an outdoor experience for children.  Her talk looked at nurturing an ecological identity as part of the children’s sense of self.  She gave us 10 things to focus on to help give children a deeper relationship with the natural world.  My note-taking wasn’t fast enough but some of these things are:

  • Embracing senses – follow children to see what they notice
  • Change perspective – encourage children to look at things in different ways – and join them in doing so
  • Habitats Theory
    • Refuge – feeling hidden and safe
    • Prospect – be able to survey the landscape
    • Trail – exploring and navigating
    • Source – seeking and finding food
  • Animal Allies – the importance of helping children engage with animals and insects – time to bring back pets into schools?
  • Create Stories – use the environment to generate imagination and fantasy
  • Transforming – giving children opportunities for transforming their environments

25 May 2016

I delivered an afternoon of training to a lovely group of teachers about learning through play and active learning – it’s great to see Scottish schools heading in the right direction!  The document below shows how outdoor learning is both supported and encouraged.

Outdoor Learning and Risks

As teachers, we know the importance of children spending time outdoors and we are now being told more and more of the importance of children engaging with nature.  However, whenever you get involved in discussions about this with other teachers, the talk from us all quickly changes to the worry of risk assessments, whether it is something you will be allowed to do etc.  Here is a great document from the Care Inspectorate in Scotland.  It outlines what sort of experience children should be having.  Hopefully this will be used by teachers to give them confidence to give children great outdoor learning opportunities. May 2016

Delighted to have been able to go and see Daughtry in concert in Glasgow tonight.  I’ve really enjoyed being home and being able to go to see different concerts.

Risk in Play

This article is from 2015 but looks at the importance of risk taking and states that risky outdoor play positively impacts on children’s health.  There are more and more pieces of research from different parts of the world saying similar things but I think many of us continue to wrap children up in sterile environments because we fear the repercussions.

23 May 2015

I’m doing some supply work and today I was teaching about Creation Stories from different World Religions.  An 8 year old child asked “How do we know what God did on day 1 – 5 if he didn’t create man until day 6?” Deep Thinking!

Playground Whistling

A school has banned a whistle in the playground. Whilst I believe that there is a need to protect pupils and don’t think that a whistle or bell is appropriate for classroom use, I do think that it is appropriate for the playground and gym.  Sometimes I think schools go too far – I think that I might stand with my hand up for a very long time before all children saw me!

22 May 2015

Teacher Strikes

Apparently Scottish teachers may strike soon over their workload.  Apparently it is illegal for teachers to strike in many different countries – I wonder how many countries striking is illegal in?  I think that the new Education Minister in Scotland is taking over at an interesting time.

21 May 2015

Improving Primary Assessment

There have been a lot of articles published recently about the ineffectualness of national testing.  There have also been many articles which speak about how little assessment does to improve learning.  This article highlights ways in which primary teachers can improve assessments.

20 May 2015

Technology in the Classroom

We all know that there is an ever increasing amount of technology used in classrooms.  This article states that pupils who use devices in classrooms perform less well in class.  A worrying statistic.  However, technology is used well and used badly – it would be great to see a better analysis of what technology the pupils used, how they used it and how long they used it for to have a negative impact on assessment.  I think this is too small a study.

19 May


Links to some more articles about too much too young!  Hopefully governments will start to pay attention to all this research and views of professionals.


18 May 2016

Everyone is born creative but it is educated out of us …….

What do you think?

17 May 2016

A lovely day of training at a school in Aubonne, Switzerland – the lucky children who learn here are able to learn in an environment where a quick glance out of the window gives them mountains, a lake, orchards and a vineyard.  It was lovely to work with dedicated teachers.

If The World Were a Village

One of the teachers in school had this lovely book.  I ordered my own copy – it is a lovely way of helping children to understand the world and also to help them develop an international mindset.

Some lovely maths activities linked to the book

And a lovely video linked to the book

16 May 2016

An early start for a trip to Switzerland – airport lounges are beginning to feel very familiar!

Teachers Cycling the World

What a lovely adventure!

15 May 2016


Today is the official launch of Upstart.  A few weeks ago a friend asked why I was involved.  Here is a summary of my response.  When I trained as a teacher in the 80’s the training I had wasn’t much different to the experience I had as a child.  You played in nursery, you had play and learning in P1 and 2 (the play and learning were seen as separate things) and from about P3, it was all learning.  Not much changed in my first few years of teaching (although I did try to make the learning active and enjoyable) and I never really thought too much about it.  When I started teaching overseas, I had learning activities, challenges in the different play areas and free play (when the work was finished!)  I moved into N/P1 (N/Reception) and the nursery children were involved in learning through play and the P1 children had an equal balance of learning with me and learning through play.  Maths and learning to read and write started formally within a couple of weeks of being in P1 and whilst some children struggled, I never questioned whether the curriculum I was providing was suitable.  However, I was lucky enough to be working in an international school with different streams and I watched what was happening in the Dutch stream and realised that the children had many more opportunities for skills development – gross and fine motor, personal skills etc and I started to question whether this was perhaps more suitable.  I then had a parent of a child moving to P1 tell me they did not want them to learn to read or write as they thought it was too young.  I was a bit concerned but also a bit excited.  The more I thought about it, the more I realised many of the children were not ready.  I was fortunate enough to spend the next 10 years working in locations where we were able to let children begin a more formal learning when we felt they were ready (with the support of their parents).  Last July I moved home and I realised how much some of our youngest learners are struggling and being put off learning.  How sad to be put off or made to feel a failure at 5.  The more I thought, the more convinced I was and in my reading, somehow stumbled across Upstart.  If you have been reading my posts for a while, you will know I have been speaking about it for a while.

Upstart are campaigning for a Kindergarten Stage for our children in Scotland until the age of 7.  Have a look at www.Upstart.Scot for more info or have a look at the video just released.  There are so many parents, practitioners and academics involved in this.  It just makes sense.

14 May 2016

Good Tests Make Children Fail

I think we are testing too much and testing the wrong things – researchers agree:

13 May 2016

Scrapping Exams Could Improve Education

This article looks at whether the purpose of exams should be to determine a candidate’s suitability for employment or university.  This links a little bit to the argument about formative and summative assessment.  I think that too much emphasis is put on exams but I do think that we need some method of assessing students.  I think an overhaul of secondary examinations and coursework is certainly something to consider.

12 May 2016

Universities Should Nurture Pupils from Primary School

This article states: “Universities should be run like football clubs,” he said. “They need to grow their own talent from academies that they actually control. Universities shouldn’t be running schools, but they should be running spaces where they can work with pupils on campus from the age of 12.”

What do you think?  I completely disagree.  I do not think that the aim of a school should be that it is a hot house for university.

11 May 2016

The Difference Reading to Your Child Makes

For me, I have fantastic memories of my parents and grandparents reading or telling me stories.  I developed a love of reading then which has stayed with me.  One of the reasons I love teaching early years is because of the excitement they get from books and then realising that they can read for themselves!  This article shows the importance of reading to children.

10 MAY


Last night a former colleague asked me my thoughts on cursive handwriting.  Here is an article which discusses it.

9 MAY 2016


8 MAY 2016


I wish I lived a bit closer to go to visit this exhibition.

7 MAY 2016


Another look at Carol Dweck’s website – some interesting new articles.

6 MAY 2016

A lovely day of training in Rwanda – it was great to spend the morning visiting classes and the afternoon working with elementary teachers.


This article highlights that a female teacher can transfer their fear of maths to girls – I woder if it is the same with boys and men.


Today I visited the school I’m going to be delivering training in tomorrow – what a lovely family feel to the school with lots of happy children engaged in learning.


My post today is another one about the importance of delaying the start of formal schooling because of the impact it is having on our children


I’ve just arrived in Rwanda as I’m delivering training this week.  Plastic bags are banned in Rwanda.  If you arrive at the airport with a plastic bag, it is taken from you and replaced by a woven bags for life.  What a great environmental policy.  I’ve had a look online and the only other country to ban plastic bags is Bangladesh.  It has certainly made an impact – the streets are spotless.  Well done Rwanda!I decided to share a link to some online learning about the environment.




I had a lovely afternoon working with local teachers on a play based approach to learning in the Primary School.  The more times I talk about it, the more I tt the more I wonder how we got to the stage where learning became so focused on worksheets etc.

how to teach



I really like this diagram which looks at different types of mistakes.  We keep telling children that it is good to make mistakes as it shows you are trying – this shows us that some types of mistakes are caused but not trying.  The article goes into more depth.



More about testing

The Education Minister in England got a tough time yesterday from school heads.  How long will it be before governments start listening to professionals?


I had a lovely chat today with Sonia – someone I worked with 10 years ago in nursery in Gabon.  Sonia has now emigrated to Canada with her family  with her family.  She is in the process of writing a music programme for young learners – based on a fiction novel.  It all sounds great and exciting.


I’m all in favour of assessment – assessment which will do something to improve learning for individual children.  However, I believe that SATS and other forms of standardised tests are often more about creating a league of schools than encouraging meaningful learning.  It seem that lots of parents and teachers agree.  It will be interesting to see how many parents keep their 7 year olds out of school this week.


School Leaders Demand More Money and STATUS for Early Years

I think it is sad that in the UK, EY Education is not given the same status as other sections of education.  It’s great to see that school leaders are hoping to do something about this.


Half way home!  I split my journey in Qatar – a much nicer way to get home than 25 hours of continuous travel.

The Theory of Loose Parts Play

I’ve been reading a lot recently about Loose Parts Play.  It’s not new but with the increased understanding of the importance of play and creativity for children, it is becoming much more popular in our EY settings.  This is an article which explains why.  I will try to add some more links and photos when I have a better internet connection.


I’ve had a fantastic week in Malaysia.  Yesterday I was able to visit an Exit Point Celebration where a group of Y3 children shared what they had learned during their unit.  I learned something new – something I had never thought about – apparently you should not hold a balloon in a lightning storm!

Improving Education in Developing Countries

Here is a document about improving learning opportunities in developing countries.  I saw a post today that 9 out of 10 children in the world now receive some form of primary education which is encouraging but not good enough.

26 April

The smog has gone but it was very hot and humid today.  This sort of temperature will take some getting used to.


This article says we should be getting rid of the lesson objective.  It argues that if we tell pupils at the start of the lesson then it is like asking a closed question.  I’ve often said that with EY children – I didn’t want to give them a target or objective as I wanted them to learn through exploration and curiosity.  It seems that may be for other children too and that by setting an objective we are also setting a ceiling ……

25 April

There can’t be many teachers or leaders who haven’t heard of John Hattie and haven’t been asked to consider a more evidence based approach to what works in learning (and you’ll know from my post yesterday I think this is important.  Here is an article which questions what Hattie is saying. This blog asks


24 April

I woke up during the night as there was such a strong burning smell – there are a lot of forest fires because it has been so dry recently but the farmers are also burning the ground in preparation for planting.  It wasn’t pleasant at all.

I had a lovely day again – catching up with friends and talking about schools!  I was also really lucky that one of the teachers from school and his wife took me out for the day – driving through the rainforest, visiting a stunning beach and having a guided tour of town is a great way to spend a Sunday!


If you have read a lot of my posts here or on Facebook, you will know that I think that education needs to be more research based and that action research is a great way to do this.  Here are a couple of diagrams I found online which may be useful to anyone carrying out action research:

 research 1 research 2

23 April

I had such a lovely day in school yesterday.  The school was celebrating world book day and it was so lovely to see so many of the children engaged in activities which focused on instilling a love of books in children!  I loved all of the activities but it amazed me to see how many of the children knew famous quotes from well-known books.

In school today there was also a Science Fair.  The students in Y7 and 8 had set up the Fair for students in Y5 and 6 to learn about different elements of science.  There were lots of practical demonstrations the students were able to answer questions about the processes and there was certainly a buzz and excitement about Science.  It was lovely to see! 

I also had the chance to go to an event in the evening where I was able to eat local food, try some traditional local drink. Listen to cultural music, watch some different local dances.  There were also blowpipe demonstrations – and a chance to join in for anyone who was interested!


Here is a link to an old blog post about developing the love of reading in children as well as a research piece about reading for pleasure.

23 – 25 April

I’m having a bit of an issue uploading from the hotel wifi – I will update this as soon as I can!

22 April

Standing Up For Better Results

In the last few years, many offices have introduced flexible desks which allow workers to stand and work for parts of their day.  Evidence is now showing that it can make a difference in schools too.  I mentioned this in another post earlier in the year but here are a couple of articles as well as a link to what these desks may look like.

21 April

I’m in Malaysia and should have been visiting classes in school – but school was closed because of smog and so I got to spend time meeting the teachers instead which was lovely, just not what I expected to be doing.  It also adds something new to my experiences.  I’ve seen schools and classes closed because of: the snow, freezing conditions, too low temperatures, rain, high winds, dust storms, cancelled planes so too few teachers, visa issues so no teachers, no water, no electricity, flooding, termite infestations, impetigo ……. and now smog!  I’m hoping to meet the children tomorrow!

After School Clubs

This article states that after school clubs help poorer children to get ahead.  I wonder how many children from poorer backgrounds have access to after school clubs?

20 April


It’s sad that this type of advice needs to be given but in our world today it does.  Maggie Dent as an educationalist from Australia who describes herself as the Queen of Common Sense.  This blog post about keeping children safe was written after 2 children were kidnapped from Perth.  There’s lots of good advice on her website.

19 April


I know I write regularly about play – probably more on facebook than here but I really think it is important for both child development and their happiness.  Dr Terrie Rose says that she finds it hard to talk about ‘play’ for young children as somehow distinct from their very being. For young children, play is being. Her article makes an interesting read.

18 April

Growth Mindset

I’ve shared articles before about the misconceptions of a growth mindset.  This article looks at what has happened since Carol Dweck published her book in 2006.

17 April


A few friends have shared this post with me over the last few weeks and so I thought it was worth sharing with you.  I’m going to write to the school to ask for more information about why they made the decision to implement the extra breaks, if there are specific things they do.  However, we all know that children are spending less and less time outdoors and get far less exercise that previous generations.  It would be great to know whether it is the exercise, fresh air or free-time which is making the benefit.  Similar results have been found with the Scottish school I mentioned a few months ago who are walking/running a mile a day.

16 April


I’m regularly asked by parents on a personal or professional level for ideas for supporting their children.  Sometimes I have ideas they could try and sometimes I don’t.  This blog has a suggestion for good parenting books.  I’ve not ready any but thought I would share the post.

15 April

Politics and Education

Last night I attended a political hustings at Edinburgh University.  It was organised as part of the Upstart Campaign.  I will admit to not being particularly politically minded.  However I firmly believe that the curriculum being offered for our P1 children in Scotland is not appropriate.  Having been overseas for many years, I also see a huge change in the education system – and not for the better.  The money just is not there to support teachers to help children learn.  I think that this means that teachers are working just as hard or harder but results aren’t so good and many teachers are disillusioned.  I’ve also noticed a huge change in behaviour and attitudes towards learning …… but I’ll save that for another post!  I really enjoyed the Hustings – candidates from 6 parties spoke about the views of their party on education, took questions from the floor and ended by telling us why we should vote for them.  Whilst some spoke really well and I think could help make a difference , I think that the major parties have policies which will let children and young people down.  I know I’ve mentioned it before but if you would  like to find out more about Upstart, you will find them on facebook or their website

14 April

I was listening to a conversation in the staffroom the other day about how much a teacher spends on school resources.  It had me thinking – I wonder how much is spent annually by teachers enhancing learning for children.  Sometimes it is that extra that we just want to have or something we think the children will really like.  However, I’ve often heard of teachers buying coloured pencils, blutac, glue etc – the essentials!  It’s wrong but happens the world over.  I think that we also support the education system by buying  educational books, games, etc (my loft is testament to that!)

13 April

As the English Govt announces a u-turn on testing, this article states that it is time to trust teachers.  The article looks at the cost of testing and why it is time to trust teachers and suggests that a better way forward would be to improve the qualifications of the EY workforce.  Let’s hope Scotland follows soon!

12 April

Last night I attended a meeting of Edinburgh Upstart.  It was great to spend time with so many people who are passionate about improving the learning opportunities for your youngest children.  The Upstart launch is soon.  If you would like to find out more, look up Upstart on facebook or have a look at the website:


As I’ve previously posted, this is autism awareness month.  Some people living with autism are sharing their personal stories.  I thought I would share one too.

11 April

Here is a link to some apps which help teachers teach about Global Digital Citizenship.

10 April

The new school term is beginning tomorrow – well it is for some children.  Anyone based in Scotland will have read of the closures of almost 20 schools in Edinburgh.  These schools were build or updated by private partnerships and it now seems that there are flaws in the way they were build or modified and that they may be unsafe.  The staff and children of these schools are not going to school tomorrow while plans are drawn up for the rest of the week and ways of moving forward.  A huge worry, a further worry that this is what may happen in the if we privatise more of the education system.

9 April

Systems are changing in Finland too.

As we are all aware, the Scandinavian countries and especially Finland is always shown as the success story. This article shows that in the past, teachers were much more willing to allow children to take risks and that now they are also concerned about health and safety and less willing to let children take risks.

8 April

With the increase in screen time, children seem to be spending less and less time just playing.  I’ve found that in writing, it often mirrors something they have watched on TV.  I really believe in the importance of play and so found this article well worth a read – I’m now thinking about ways of trying to introduce more opportunities for make believe play into the classroom.

7 April


This article is interesting and looks at how we become left or right handed:

6 April


This article isn’t new but looks at the reasons people become teachers and then the reasons why people are leaving the profession.  The 5 main reasons why people are entering the profession is lovely to read.

  • Work with young people and to make a difference
  • The variety of the job
  • Teachingis fun
  • Inspiring teachers
  • Love of their subject

However, the reasons why teachers are leaving the profession do not make such good reading and are also not things which have a quick fix to.  I wonder if the government pays any attention to statistics like this when dealing with the ‘teaching crisis’.

  • Heavy workloads
  • Teacher bashing in the press
  • Constant changes
  • Challenging student behaviour



I’ve been successful in my attempt to write something on this blog each day.  However, the other thing I challenged myself to do this year was to learn more about coding and learn to code and I’ve been no good at that.  I bought some books but didn’t do anything with them – my 9 year old nephew contacted me today to say he had worked his way through the first book and had created a game.  I still hope to learn – here are links to a few websites.  I’ve looked at a few of them but haven’t tried them.

Later in the year, all Y7 pupils in the UK will receive a free microbit – this article tells you more about it.


Data has been analysed which looks at how different ethnic groups are preforming in GCSE exams.  Now that they have the data, I wonder what will be done with it?



A consultation has just opened in England looking at increasing nursery provision to 30 hours to meet the needs of working parents.  Articles in the press are stating that this could also mean that nurseries could be open from 6 am to 8 pm and may open 7 days a week.  This thought horrifies me.  As a teacher who has spent a long time working in nurseries, I know there are some excellent practitioners and some fantastic nurseries.  However, depending on the age of a child, a nursery practitioner can be responsible for between 3 and 10 children.  It’s great for children to be part of a group and they can learn from it.  However, children also need a lot of 1:1 attention to help them develop and socially and emotionally they need to spend quality time with their parents.  I think if some employers know that extended childcare hours are available then they may put pressure on parents to work longer.  There are so many things contributing to the breakdown of the family and I think this is just one more thing.  I’m not against working parents but surely it has to be in moderation.  I think that we are beginning to put material possessions etc before children.  If a parent drops off a child at 8 am and collects them at 6 pm, the only time they have with their children will be getting them dressed, giving breakfast, takin them to and from nursery, giving them dinner and bathing them – no quality time for talking, playing, stories, games etc.  As the article says, it could also lead to sleep deprivation.  I’ll be interested in seeing the results of the consultation and where it goes.

If you would like to take part in the consultation, here’s the link:

3 April

Moving to another country – different education systems

Yesterday I visited someone I was at school with.  I hadn’t seen her since I left secondary school many, many years ago.  However, there is now the possibility that she will be moving overseas and she has concerns about her child moving education system.  This is a conversation I’ve had with so many parents over the years, and it brought home what a worrying time it is for parents.  There is very little literature out there which compares educational systems in a clear and concise way – eg that P2 in Scotland is regarded as Y1 in England – but that there is actually a 6 month difference with the starting dates.  What is covered by different curricula is also difficult to understand – what a 6 year old does in different parts of the world varies so greatly.  I’ve spent a lot of today trying to get some information and realise that if I ever get time, it would be great to do a comparison guide for parents – if you know of one already out there, please let me know.

2 April

I had a lovely day yesterday when a friend I taught with 19 years ago in Nigeria then 7 years ago in Russia came to visit.  We spent the time catching up on each others news – but mostly talking about who we had seen, what our friends are doing now etc.  This catch up also made me think of something I read recently – that as a teacher, your most valuable resource is other teachers.  I know I introduced my friend to the idea of messy play (I’m not sure she ever forgave me for some of the mess the children created). I learned so much from her – about getting involved in role play to help children’s language development, about how enthusiasm is infectious – oh and about fantastic (time-consuming) wall displays!

Standing Up In Class

I’ve seen reports about the benefits of standing while you work and have seen offices designed to support this.  However, this report shows that it may also be advantageous for children while they are learning.  I’ve looked up some other reports about the benefits of exercise on learning too.

1 April


autism 2 autism

I’ve posted before about the autism toolkit and what a fantastic resource it is.  However, today is the start of Autism Awareness Month and I thought this was a good chance to add links to some videos and organisations which support autism.  Yesterday we passed some purple sheep – a local farmer has dyed them to help raise awareness.  It is also a good day for me to mention autism as someone who my husband used to work with has bought land and is about to start a charity to open a respite / chalet retreat that would be operated by special needs young adults as he feels they have very limited opportunities beyond school.  I wish him good luck in this.

We had no training or advice about autism as part of my initial teacher training (I hope that has changed) and when I first taught children who had a diagnosis that they were on the autistic spectrum or it was believed they were, I tried things out, read what I could and hoped that I was doing something right. I was then able to work with an educational psychologist and learned a lot about supporting a child I was working with.  Some training when I was a volunteer at Barnardos gave me more experience and I really found watching the BBC programme My Family and Autism then reading the books by the some Jackson family who were the focus of the documentary.  Over the years I’ve read what I could and although there may be inaccuracies I really think that the current drama about autism will really be raising the awareness of the pressures of living with a child with autism.

A short video about 4 inspirational people on the autism spectrum

Links to organisations which support autism:

An article about autism

A few other films about autism:

30 March

Maths and Football

What a lovely idea!  The Romanian football team have been wearing strips with maths problems on them eg instead of 6 it said 2 x 2 + 2.  It is to bring an awareness of maths.  Although this may just be a gimmick, we really need more events like this to spark an interest in and discussions about maths!

29 March

What Is Autism?

Apparently in the next week, this little film will be shared are all cinemas.  It is very simple and would be a good video to share with children so that they could understand more if they had a classmate with autism.

28 March

Screen Time

With the increasing use of technology, more and more articles are being written about the issues caused by too much screen time – I certainly think it is to blame for the deterioration of my eyesight but it can cause so many other issues.  Here is a link to some articles from Australia.

26 March

Upstart – Sue Palmer

I’ve read the first chapter of Sue’s book.  It sets out the case for Upstart. This chapter looks at the reason why children in the UK and other countries start school between 4 and 5 year olds (linked to the industrial revolution) it looks at why we are pushing children to learn to read, the problems it can cause and it also looks at the virtues of play. Children deserve a better start – I can’t wait for the book to be released so that I can read the rest of it. 

Here are a couple of links to research about the value of play:

25 March


I had a lovely morning at an Upstart Coffee morning – mainly discussing the upcoming launch of the organisation.  As you know, this is something I’ve written about often and really believe in what they are pushing for – a more appropriate way of learning for our youngest children.  When I came back, I downloaded the first chapter of the book Upstart by Sue Palmer – the book will be released in June but the first chapter is available for download by registering with the publisher – Floris Books –

24 March

Late yesterday afternoon, I discovered that schools here don’t finish at noon for the Easter holiday – whilst I love teaching, you can imagine how this came as a bit of a shock and disappointment.  This was especially because I hadn’t prepared for my afternoon classes!

Experts Agree! Really, Babies Don’t Need To Read

An old article but I think that what it is speaking about is even more important today.  In certain countries there seems to be more and more pressure put on very young children to learn to read, write, count etc and I really believe that this is a trend which needs to be reversed.  This puts unnecessary pressure on very young children and there could be long term consequences – let children be children and let them play!


I spent yesterday evening at a school show – very proud to watch my nephew as one of the main parts – great to see how confident he was and how well he played the nasty character!  Tonight I was at the school I’m spending a day a week at, watching the children put on a show for their parents and the community – celebrating the 75th anniversary of the school.  They put on a great show!


After yesterday, I looked on websites to see what I could find about talking to children about disasters.  Some of this links to what to say to children after an attack and others are about helping children to develop empathy.



It has been very sad today to see of the tragic events in Brussels.  There are so many tragic events happening and children have so much access to news and social media that I think they know much more about immediate world events than we did in the past.  This makes me think about how we speak about these sort of events with children.  When I think about my initial teacher training and all of the professional development I’ve had over the years, I’ve never had any sort of advice about how you approach events like this with children.  I’m going to have a look and see what I can find on the internet about how schools speak about bad events in current affairs.

21 MARCH 2016


I’ve just spent a lovely day in London attending training to enable me to carry out school accreditations.  It is always good to have the opportunity to reflect on learning and to have the opportunity to think deeply and reflect.  It was also lovely to catch up with so many friends I’ve worked with over the years in international education.


It is fantastic to read that the number of teacher led action research projects is increasing.  This article looks at how a school identifies a genuine need, examines existing evidence, pilots an intervention and captures the impact against a baseline.  I think that for a long time most teachers have put a lot of effort into what they teach and to making the learning exciting.  However, I think that we have followed what we have been told, sometimes knowing it is not what is best for the children and so it is great to see teachers taking control and finding out what really makes an impact. It is lovely to see that NFER helps teachers celebrate this.

20 MARCH 2016


I mentioned the other day that I didn’t know much about academies in England and I still don’t.  However, I did look for some more information to see what the general feeling is about the proposed changes.  Here are a couple of articles.

19 MARCH 2016


It seems that the intention is not to make maths compulsory to 18 in England, just to improve the quality of maths for older learners (clarification from a treasury spokeswoman after the budget speech).  Teacher forums had all been asking where they were going to get the teachers to teach maths to 18 as there is already a shortage.  Not sure if this is a u-turn or if the initial message was unclear/wrong.  However, here is an article about the importance of maths:



I’ve often had parents ask my how to get their children to talk about their day in school.  I think some of these questions are a great starter.




Last week I shared a great blog from a nursery teacher –  I read a couple of other blogs regularly but decided to spend the last few days looking for other EY blogs.  I’ve found a few others – some of them are not particularly up-to-date but have some good ideas or are good to read.  If you know of any others, I’d love to read them.  I wish I had the time and technological skills to write these types of blogs.  I’m glad I started writing my blog, but really just share what I read rather than sharing anything of my thoughts, experiences, etc.  Maybe there will be time for that one day. Some of these are great!

16 MARCH 2016


I would have thought that any education announcement would have been made by the Education Secretary however, today in England announcements which could have far reaching effects on education were announced by the Chancellor in the Budget today.  The first change was the announcements that all schools would become academies.  I can’t say much about this as I have no experience of academies but I do not think that it is good for education to become private rather than in local authority provision.  We’ve seen what has happened to other services and industries after they were privatised.  A sad day for education I think.

The second announcement was that children could be forced to spend an extra hour in school daily attending extra-curricular activities.  I would be interested in seeing the finer details of this.  However, I would also like to know where the evidence comes from to show that this would be beneficial.  Is it anything to do with education or an hour of babysitting or forced physical activity to beat the obesity crisis?  Is this extra hour to be run by teachers or other agencies?  Time will tell, I’m sure.

The third is that they are considering forcing children to continue with maths until the age of 18.  More to come about that in the next couple of days.


On a lighter note, I was teaching 6 year old children about the magic e today – we were looking at words and how an e would change them.  Some of the children got it straight away while others needed clues.  The word was bar and my clue was ‘this is what you would be if you had no clothes on’ – straight away one of the children shouted out ‘freezing!’  Not quite what would have been made if she had added the e but I think she was right!

15 MARCH 2016


This makes a sad read.  Although our population continues to increase, the number of books being checked out at libraries continues to drop – 20% less in the last 5 years.  Some people may say that this is because we have much better access to literature online.  However, I think that we are just reading less.  I’ve noticed a decline in the number of books children read and I really think that for our youngest learners, it is having an impact on their learning.



This blogs starts by saying,

‘We all know that whatever gets measured usually gets attention and focus. ‘

And I think that is really true – unfortunately which means that I think we often don’t focus on what is important.  If you are asked to provide evidence, scores and information about something specific, you spend your time focusing on that, whether or not that is what you think is most important.  Should we be doing more to measure social and emotional learning?  I think we should.

13 MARCH 2016


I found the link to this selection of anti-bullying resources on twitter.  There are lesson plans and peer support resources,

12 MARCH 2016


I found this interesting.   It speaks about the earliest bonds, about peer play and first friends up to the teenage years. It also speaks about how strong parental attachment stems from secure paternal attachment. This is something I read a lot about recently while completing the course, Baby in Mind an online course from Warwick University.

11 MARCH 2016


I stumbled across this blog yesterday.  It’s so different from the one I’m writing (where I just share something I’ve found and read which I think says something of education today and occasionally make a short comment).  This blog is an in-depth report on what this EY teacher in Northern Ireland is doing and believes in.  She also makes reference to other presentations and blogs.  There is also information on education in other countries.  I haven’t had the change to read it all but like what I read in the last 90 minutes and have decided that this is what I’m going to read for March instead of a book – with more than 200 in-depth blogs with references to lots of other blogs etc, it will be just as meaningful I’m sure!  Thanks Keirna for sharing your practice!


I’ve now had 700 viewings from 32 countries.  Thanks to everyone who has visited or keeps visiting.  I hope you have found some of the articles interesting.


This is a link to files which are updated monthly with topical science updates – eg this month one of the explanation is about The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) since they have been so visible in Northern Britain this week.



I’ve kept up to date with my reading but unfortunately came down with this seasonal flu and so it has been a few days since I’ve managed to upload to the website so apologies for the delay!  Mild winters have their disadvantages!



This report from a teacher magazine in Australia states that 22% of children starting school are developmentally vulnerable in at least 1 way.  It looks at statistics in Australia but I think shows trends of what is happening in many parts of the world.



I was interviewed a couple of weeks ago by a group of children and one of the things they asked me about was school uniforms.  I think that most UK primaries have school uniforms but having spent many years teaching internationally, there is a real divide on what people think about uniforms.  I personally like them as they are relatively cheap, save a lot of competitiveness and give a sense of identity.  However, having worked with P1 children after a PE lesson, it is essential they are well labelled or they all end up wearing the wrong clothes!



This is a list of books TES published earlier this year which they say teachers believe children should read by the end of primary school.  I like a lot of the books on the list but I’m not sure if there should be a definitive list of what children should read.  I also think it lacks a global dimension in our multicultural societies.  Do you like the books on the list?  Are there others you would add?



I thought this report about PD in different countries was interesting. I’m very interested to learn more about teacher training in different countries and the impact it makes as I think it is important that we learn from best practice.



Here are a couple of articles about why teachers are leaving the profession. Everything you read in the press at the moment is about the shortage of teachers, about teachers leaving the profession, teachers leaving to go overseas. Tonight I saw someone desperately looking for a teacher on facebook asking all their friends if they know of anyone for cover for the next few days.  I think there are a wide range of reasons but I think we need to be changing the question, “How can we attract teachers?” and “What can be done to improve our schools so that teachers want to stay?”



Here is a little video and article about what happens to our brains when we are playing.

2 MARCH 2016

I’m not writing any comments today – I’ve just found a few good things to share:



An event about nature play in Scotland



Another event in Scotland:


March already.  I just managed to finish the February book from my book challenge yesterday and I will post a review in the next couple of days – working full time this week in different schools so a bit busy!


This is a lovely article with links to other articles for anyone interested in what makes a difference in leadership.  One of the comments was,

School leaders need to ensure their schools are diverse only three axes : people, ideas and endeavours

This makes it sound so easy!  I’ve started following the author on Twitter and hope to have some more articles to share.



I’ve just watched a documentary on TV in Scotland about how Sir Tom Hunter a Scottish philanthropist is looking at how to raise the standards in Scottish Education.  One of the things he looks at is how a broader approach to what successful learning is should be looked at – that access to university should not always be seen as the aspiration.  Lots of inspiring schools, let’s hope something can be done to improve our system.  Looking forward to the televised political debate about it later tonight.



This article comes from Harvard and looks at how children need to build specific skills.  It outlines that children are not born with the skills outlined below but with the potential to develop them.

  • Working memorygoverns our ability to retain and manipulate distinct pieces of information over short periods of time.
  • Mental flexibilityhelps us to sustain or shift attention in response to different demands or to apply different rules in different settings.
  • Self-control enables us to set priorities and resist impulsive actions or responses.



I’ve read a few articles over the weekend about how more teachers left the UK than trained last year.  They all look at why teachers are leaving and what can be done to keep teachers.  I’m one of the teachers who trained in the UK and then moved overseas.  Straight after training, I spent a year as a volunteer teacher in Kenya.  I returned to teach here for 5 years and then have been overseas until now.  I think that people leave for different reasons:

  • For an adventure
  • To have new opportunities
  • For a better lifestyle
  • To earn more money to pay off student loans

Many of the teachers who go overseas only go for a couple of years and then return.  In the meantime they have met new people, experienced new things, often taught a different curriculum and learned new skills which I think will make them better teachers on their return.  I therefore don’t see any issue with this, surely better than having teachers fed up and leaving the profession for something else – perhaps the government need to work this into the numbers they train.  Maybe more worrying are teachers like me, who head overseas and stay away.  Again the question is why?  For me, the opportunities to travel were a part of it.  However, the main reason is the fact that I had the opportunity to work in well-resourced schools, good access to professional development, small class sizes, supportive parents who valued education and engaged pupils.

The flipside to this story is the fact that for years our health system has been taking so many workers from overseas – often really poor countries.



Harvard is changing the name of the masters qualifications because of the links of the word to slavery.  I wonder how many other universities will follow suit?



I wrote about this a few months ago but it seems that teachers are still believing these neuromyths.  This article highlights the four which are most prevalent.  A couple of schools I’ve been in recently have had displays about learning styles and multiple intelligences and have had children learning about multiple intelligences.



The first minister has upset unions by pledging to improve teaching in nurseries.  This is because it comes at the same time as budget cuts mean that there are fewer and fewer teachers in nurseries.  I’ve tried to find a copy of exactly what was said but can only find newspaper reports.  I worry that what the government thinks is an improvement in nursery education is to pressurise children to start a formal and structured education.



This article is all about what universities can learn from pre-schools.  It looks at how students need to be intrinsically motivated but also looks at the importance of play and playful learning.  I’m not sure we’ve got that sorted in our primary and secondary schools yet but it will be interesting to see any impact this type of approach has – I’m sure they will be measuring it.


What a beautiful sunny winter morning with blue skies.  Mornings like this make you smile when you wake up!


One of the quotes in this article is,

“It is widely accepted that reading aloud to young children is the single most effective activity that will prepare them for success at school.”

I just wonder how many parents of very young children know this.  This article is from the states but movements like ‘Read, Write, Count’ in Scotland are trying to provide parents with ways of helping their children learn.  However, I wonder if we really are managing to get the message across about how important it is to read with very young children.



This article is from the Ted-Ed Blog about how children can learn to code.  I have and a quick look at the links and will have a closer look later as I really feel that it is something which I need to learn too.  I’ve tried to stay up to date with changes in education and feel that through reading, studying, discussions with colleagues, visiting schools etc I have managed to stay up to date.  However, the one area I feel I am playing catch up is computing – if anyone has any good ideas about how I can bridge the gap, I’d love to know!



I found this article interesting.  Over the last few years, we have been encouraged to show children what great learning looks like and now this article has me questioning whether this will have had the opposite impact to our intentions.  We show children what good quality learning looks like in order to motivate and give children something to aspire to, wouldn’t it be awful if what we have been doing is discouraging students by making them think it is something they will never attain.



According to this report, the time that students take a test will have an impact on how well they do.  Certainly something for those organising secondary school and university exams to think about.


I had a lovely day of teaching with a P1/2 yesterday.  It’s quite refreshing that they just say what they are thinking.  One of the five year olds popped his head round the classroom door 20 minutes before school was due to start to say good morning and ask me if I was going to be a good teacher – I should have asked him at the end of the day what he thought!  The jetlag is still bothering me but I got up 90 minutes later than yesterday so I’m getting there.


Nick Gibb has stated that he believes we should be focusing on knowledge and not skills.  He recently gave a speech at Durham University.

I think that Nick Gibb is missing the point.  Surely we need a balance of knowledge and skills and an understanding of what to do with them.  In our rapidly changing world, knowledge changes – children may need to know specific fact which won’t change(eg times tables) but surely it is more important to be able to find the facts and know why they are relevant than just knowing facts which may or may not be currently accurate.

He also attacks the thoughts of Ken Robinson by stating,

‘As his enormous popularity shows, Sir Ken Robinson’s views are superficially appealing. But I believe them to be profoundly wrong.’

I wonder how many teachers find what Ken Robinson says (with a lifetime of experience working in education) more accurate than a politician with a degree in law who trained as an accountant …….

I’m surprised not to have seen more about this in the media.

My first link is from an article in The Independent about his speech and the second a copy of his speech from his website.


I hate jetlag!  I just couldn’t stay awake and had to go to bed by 6.30 pm.  I slept from then until around 1 am and have been awake since.  The positive thing is that it’s now 5.30 am, my lessons are prepared, the website updated and the washing from my time away all completed.


There is so much negativity about education so it’s lovely to read about those nominated as finalists for the Global Teacher Prize.  Some of the teachers are inspirational and other working in very challenging situations.


I love travelling and don’t mind long journeys too much but from arriving at my first airport to getting home was 28 hours, it was a bit too much.  Now hoping I can stay awake and try to get back into a normal sleep pattern.


Most schools seem to spend more time focusing on handwriting than they did in the past.  Many teachers, parents and children say they no longer see the point of spending time focusing on handwriting in the digital age.  However, this article shows the importance of handwriting because it helps to wire the brain and because handwriting underpins other skills.  What do you think?


I spent a lovely day in a school today and now at 1 am I’m sitting in my second airport lounge – only 20 more hours of travel and then I’m home.  Always the worst part of the trip – the long flight home.


This lovely article looks at what happens when elderly people at a day care centre and pre- school children are neighbours and spend time in each others company.  We need to see more of this.


Lovely to spend the weekend catching up with friends and relaxing in the sun – I’m so happy the rain has stopped!  It is also lovely to be visiting another city.  I went to the rooftop of the hotel to take a picture of the sun setting.  It was before 7 pm and I had to go through the restaurant to get there.  It was full of more than 50 couples out for a romantic meal – and a second set were due in at 8 pm.  Lovely to see that romance isn’t dead in this part of the world!


I’ve just spent the last 30 minutes watching all 5 of the series.  They really are a great way of introducing children to how their brains work and the importance of a Growth Mindset – especially of YET!


We’ve just been for a walk through KL and the decorations for CNY in the shopping malls are amazing!


This report from the University of Glasgow looks at the percentage of students struggling in some countries.  Like the author, it concerns me when you see that a 6th of children in the UK has a low level of reading comprehension – sadly it doesn’t surprise me.  The report is based on analysis from PISA scores and so it is limited in what it measures but it still does not make good reading.  We need more research to see what we need to do to get it right!

12 February

Concern Over Tablets and Young Children

This is a summary of a report into the use of tablets by very young children and parental concerns.  I was amazed to read that almost a third of children under the age of 5 have a tablet.  I don’t think the fact that they have them is a concern but I do think that the amount of time they use them is a concern.  I read that children now spend more time interacting with technology than they spend in school or they spend interacting with their families.  Some people say this is the way the world is developing and that we should accept it is part of progress.  I worry that we are storing up future social problems because children have not learned to interact with each other.  I also think that we are likely to be facing future health problems – not enough fresh air, not enough exercise, poor posture, poor eyesight etc.

And this is the original report – the digital reading habits of children

11 February

Parental Engagement and Numeracy

This is a report into projects to engage parents in maths.  Its main themes were:

  • Cultural beliefs
  • Socio-economic effects
  • Time constraints
  • Confidence and skills
  • Language and communication
  • School based barriers e.g. sustainability

I really believe that as professionals we need to do as much as we can to engage parents in their child’s learning journey.

10 February

This article in the Guardian looks at the number of children not engaging with nature.  I think it is such a shame that families and schools are not making use of this fantastic free resource.  I also think that if children do not engage with nature, they will not appreciate it and then as our next generation of adults they may not feel the need to protect it.  It also has obvious health benefits.  The article suggests five ways to engage children with nature:

  • Play outside Today’s children have a largely screen-based lifestyle, with just 21% regularly playing outside compared with 71% of their parents. Let them get outside at every opportunity and start them early – toddlers are very curious about the touch and feel of the natural world, so let them pick things up and get dirty.
  • Roam free Research suggests that children’s “roaming radius” from home has shrunk by 90% in 30 years. Experts say that as children approach their teenage years, they should be given them more responsibility to walk, cycle or explore wild places on their own.
  • Climbing treesThis is seen as a great way to learn for a child to learn about individual levels of risk. Some reports suggest that half the UK’s children are banned from tree-climbing in case they fall, but data has shown that three times as many children have gone to hospital after falling out of bed.
  • Building dens When done with friends and family teaches cooperation, resourcefulness, problem-solving and encourages children’s imaginations.
  • Get up close to natureby catching and releasing butterflies, insects and frogspawn, or collecting and pressing flowers and leaves.

9 February

The fireworks and firecrackers are still going on – not with the same intensity as yesterday but still impressive.

Progress v Achievement Tool

A few weeks ago I shared this visible learning site and the resources.  I’ve had a closer look and one of the things on the site is a Progress v Achievement Tool.  I’m not in schools to be able to try to use it but it is certainly something I would be interested in trying when I do go back into school full time.

8 February

WOW I am amazed at the Fireworks and Firecrackers for Chinese New Year.  It started around 5 pm and is still going at 2am!  Our friends tell us that it is not as impressive as usual because of the economy.  However, for me, it was amazing.  I didn’t know which direction to look in and it was sometimes so noisy I could feel the sound vibrating!  An amazing experience.

Building the capacity of Parents in Scotland

This report looks at organisations who have been working with parents to build their capacity and to build a healthier Scotland.  I really think that all professionals need to do more to help parents help their children.

7 February

The celebrations have started for Chinese New Year with some fireworks.  The apartment is on the 5th floor so lots of great views of the city.

Gathering Scotland

If you live in Scotland, this is a conference coming up in a couple of weeks.  It is for people who work in the voluntary sector to share what they do and learn from others.

6 February

I’m back in Kuching.  It’s more than 5 years since I was last in this part of Malaysia and everything has changed so much!  There are lots more cars on the road, new houses going up everywhere and there are 2 or 3 new shopping malls.  I had to go to a supermarket for some food and was amazed to see they stock tinned haggis!


The Read, Write, Count website has so many ideas for great activities for doing at home with children.  Certainly worth a visit if you have a young child at home or if you are looking for ideas to share with parents on how they can help their children.

5 February

Another great day of training in Singapore with teachers who are looking to provide children with great learning experiences.  Some learning for me too – when someone tells you it takes around an hour to travel from Singapore from Johar Baru in Malaysia to catch a flight, you should really check that it is not the start of the Chinese New Year long weekend!  I have never seen so much traffic.  The road should have been 3 lanes but was transformed into 5 lanes at times and was bumper to bumper the entire journey.  It took 4 hours and I only made my flight because it was late and the staff at Malaysia Airlines were so helpful!


This article looks at how long it takes to mark learning, assignments etc in a meaningful way.  It asks whether the amount of time and effort needed to mark well makes enough of an impact to make it worthwhile.  What do you think?


I’ve just spent a lovely day of training with a great group of teachers at an International School in Singapore.  You can prepare the training but the focused questions from teachers always makes you reflect on your experiences and beliefs.  It’s the first time I’ve been in a school with multiple elevators and escalators!


This Ted Talk by Peter Gray looks at the decline of play.  It is a couple of years old and based on the USA but the points he makes are relevant to society worldwide.  If I look at the type of childhood I had today, compared to children today it is vastly different.  While some children spend hours attached to technology, others seem to go from one after school activity to the next and so their entire life is timetables and mapped out for them and they don’t have the time to play.  Even break times in many schools are much shorter than they used to be.  This is all having an impact on childhood and their futures!



This article looks at how parents need to support their children and engage in their learning for their child to be successful.  It looks at how British society has become materialistic, discusses what the government is trying to do to bridge the gap and says it isn’t working because many children and parents have ‘opted out’.  It makes a comparison with Tanzania which he sees as a value rich society.  I have to say that returning to the UK after many years overseas, there do seem to be far more disengaged children than their used to be.  I’m not sure of the reasons why but hope that something can be done to change this trend.



I hate jet lag – it’s 2 am here and I’m wide awake.  I did get 90 minutes of sleep from around 9.30 pm but I’ve been wide awake since 11 pm.  Glad tomorrow is a relaxing day!


I stumbled across this today.  It is a great collection of videos for using in the classroom to support and enhance learning.  It’s been around since 2007 so most of you probably know about it but it is new to me and so I thought I would share.  You have to create an account but it is free.  You can upload your own resources too.


I can’t believe that January passed by so quickly.  Now I need to think about which educational book I read in February – not so easy when I’m travelling so it will have to be an ebook.  I don’t mind them for easy reads but I like to scribble on education books so prefer a hard copy to an ebook.


This site is fantastic.  It shows teachers how evidence can be used to inform practice.  There is a collection of high quality resources (articles, tools etc) as well as links to videos of people like Hattie talking about visible learning.



My New Year Resolution was to read an educational book per month – so we have reached the end of January and so far, it is a resolution I managed to keep.  This month I read Creative Schools – Revolutionizing Education from the Ground Up by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica.

It’s a long time since I read a book which was so easy to read and made so much sense.  In the book, the authors look at transforming education.  They look at how you can make changes within the system, press for changes to the system and take initiatives outside the system.

The book is filled with fantastic examples of schools throughout the world who have made a difference to the education for the children in their schools.  It also makes reference to lots of reports and other books about changing educations systems – I now have a list of books for the rest of the year as well as plenty material for future blogging.

It is a book which I think should be read by all student teachers, teachers, parents, politicians and educational policy makers …. to help us to make the improvements to our education systems which are so badly needed. 



A few weeks ago I posted an article about how David Cameron was intending to offer parenting classes to all parents.  This author of this article thinks that it is important for parents to understand how their babies develop – and even recommends the use of an app!



This Guardian article is about how an ex-head teacher from the UK (infamous for his strict expectations) is now delivering lessons in a refugee camp in Dunkirk.  The descriptions of life in the camp is horrifying and it is worrying to see that this is how a generation of refugees will grow up.



This page from Teacher Toolkit recommends a variety of educational blogs worth following in 2016.   It looks at 21 bloggers from 2015 and describes what they blog about.



This appeared in the papers yesterday – John Hattie.  He argues that teachers should not observe other teachers then tell them how to teach.  The article quotes his saying that all you then do is teach them how to teach like you.  He says that teachers need to listen to each other and that like children, we learn from our mistakes.  This was part of a keynote speak.  I’m trying to find a transcript of the speech instead of this short summary of it to see exactly what he says.



This article is about a piece of research which looked at how young children felt about themselves.  It shows how self-esteem is important for the development of the tools we need to form a sense of identity and belonging to a group

It also stated that in young children, a relationship between resilience and self-esteem may be important to early learning and education. I wonder how many teachers think deeply about promoting self-esteem in pre-school children


Pseudo Science

I think that we are all guilty of looking for that ‘quick fix’ and even if we don’t believe it, we want to believe a lot of what we read in popular press.  I think the danger then lies when we transfer this into an educational setting. This article looks at the science from popular culture and how our scientists can fight against it.


An Hour On Twitter

Following on from my post about what I share in a day on Facebook (linked to education).  I decided to share links to the posts which interested me on my page in 1 HOUR on Twitter.  I have to say that this morning, most of the posts relate to the BETT show and so I have avoided them as there were just too many.  In 1 hour, there were 19 different articles which interested me.  I would never have time to do any work if I read all of them and followed up any interesting reference they make.  However, I think it does show the value of social media for educators!  It shows what educators are sharing on a Saturday morning!  I’ve given a very brief description of what each of the links are about:

The time taken for written feedback versus the impact it makes

A local discussion about shaping education and childcare

A report from the Guardian about integrating sport into the school day

Resources for digital citizenship

An Oxfam letter to David Cameron about ending poverty

6 steps to outstanding learning

A programme for future school leaders

Thinking Collaboration – 16 different suggestions

A TES report on how the RSA aims to foster creative capacities in learners, teachers and schools

Weekly highlights from the pedagoo community

Peer review

A report on how the programme to turn troops into teachers has not attracted as many as they were aiming for

The brain has 10 times more capacity than we previously thought

Cut the costs of private schools

Nurturing intrinsic motivation

A report about the changes in French education after the latest PISA report.  They will now focus on creativity and group work.

A UN report about the use of textbooks in classrooms

An educational blog looking at using TED talks in the classroom

A term guide about TES Authors


The goal of professional enquiry: To make sure that what seems to be the next ‘black box’ doesn’t turn out to be the next ‘brain gym’



This is a link to a lot of resources about Growth Mindset – some videos, lessons to work through, links to pieces of research.  I’ve worked my way through a few of them and they are quick, easy and informative.  I’d certainly be happy to work through them myself or use them in school as part of staff meetings etc.



This little video has been posted by Class Dojo.  It is part of a series of 5 which will be released one a week for the next 5 weeks.  It is very simple and informative and would be good for using with a class or as part of a school assembly.

21 January


In the past, people told me what a good source of information social media is for education.  I was too busy to spend time checking it out. However, over the last few months, I’ve made more links and followed pages on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc.  It’s amazing how much information appears daily.  I decided to share the things I’ve posted (from things which appeared on my page) in one day on my FB page – a great variety and very little effort for me, I just save those I think I’ll want to refer to again.–%20%20Jane&utm_campaign=Daily%20email&utm_medium=email



I’m happy to see that the site has been viewed more than 500 times by people in 27 different countries!  

Our Knowledge of Neuroscience

Lovely to read that Prof Robert Winston believes our primary school teachers are undervalued.  However, he also believes that we don’t know enough about neuroscience.  What do you think?



What do you think about the idea of setting up a professional college of teachers?  The idea is for this to be a member led professional body.  Other professions have them.  To get it started, a committee has been established and a crowdfunding page set up.  This page also gives some more information about what they are trying to do.  I wonder if any other countries have professional bodies like this for teachers.

18 January

John Hattie

Linked to my post yesterday, here is another post linked to Hattie.  This is an interview with Hattie – a series of questions posed by readers by email.  It asks questions like, ‘Why do gifted students not become gifted adults?’  It is linked to Australian education but is worth the read.

There is also a link to the full article.


Using Feedback to Promote Learning

This is a link to a page about effective feedback in the classroom.  A lot has been written recently about what makes an impact – especially feedback.



This is a link to a website which has made a list of books which are good for promoting maths learning.  With young children, it makes so much sense to help them see links in their learning.



This article is about a piece of research by Dagmara Dimitriou Director, Lifespan Learning & Sleep Lab, Department of Psychology and Human Development, UCL Institute of Education.  Most teachers speak of how tired children in their classes are and how they struggle with their learning.  This shows how important sleep is for language learning, memory, executive function, problem solving and behaviour during childhood.



I’ve been teaching about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs this week – takes me back to my student days!




This report suggests that the rise in the use of English has led to a design in knowledge!



There was a report in the press today which spoke about finding a new area of the brain which had cells having the autism gene.  This is certainly an interesting finding.

Some other autism research and organisations.



I read yesterday that David Cameron is once again hoping to launch parenting classes.  However, it came as part of a speech being given as an ‘assault on poverty’.  I think this is a mistake as it gives the impression that only poor people need parenting classes even if he then followed it up by stating that he would like parenting classes to be something to aspire to. I think parenting classes would be a good idea for all parents if they want to attend but we should not stigmatise people by linking it to poverty.  We do need to reduce poverty and the attainment gap but I think this speech will have upset people.



Something a little light-hearted today as I sit around airport lounges! This year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.  I haven’t read any of the works of Shakespeare since I left school many years ago and haven’t watched any of his plays since I was in my early twenties (not counting the modern versions on film).  However I was amazed recently to find out how many of the phrases we use today originated with Shakespeare!  Here is a list of a few I may use from time to time.  There are lots more.  Do you know what they are from?

In my heart of hearts

Catch a cold

What’s done is done

All’s well that ends well

Foregone conclusion

As good luck would have it

Forever and a day

Bated breath

Neither a borrower nor a lender be

Break the ice

Heart of gold

Breathed his last

Refuse to budge an inch

Cold comfort

Come what may

All that glitters is not gold

For goodness’ sake

Good riddance

In a pickle

Kill with kindness

Knock knock! Who’s there?

The world’s my oyster

Not slept one wink

Too much of a good thing

Seen better days

A sorry sight

Tower of strength

Brave new world


I’ve had a lovely day working with the staff and admin team from a new school which will open in September.  It’s lovely to have professional discussions and to work with people who are passionate about providing a more appropriate education for their children.

It’s now 6 months exactly since I started writing this blog.  I’ve learned lots and it has really opened my mind up to just how much people talk about learning on a daily basis. I started to share this in September and it is lovely to see that the site has been visited more than 440 times from people in 27 countries.  I hope that some of what you have read has been thought provoking or made you want to read more!



I’ve been reading quite a lot recently about allowing students to make mistakes and about the importance of failure.  There are lots of quotes going back hundreds of years but I’ve tried to look for research into the matter as well as current thinking from blogs etc.  I think that a lot of what we read about Growth Mindset has sparked the debate about learning by mistakes and the opportunities to fail.  I also think that a lot of what we have in our education system still advocates the idea of getting things right – quizzes, testing etc.  However, although you can learn facts and areas of learning like multiplication tables, spelling patterns etc, in my opinion, trying to ‘get it right’ often hinders learners.  When I think back to children I’ve worked with who were learning English, the ones who made the most progress were the ones who were willing to give it a go and get their message across in broken sentences instead of waiting until they could say a whole sentence correctly were the ones who made the most progress.  I’ve worked with children who struggled to make estimates as they tried to actually calculate results – sometimes telling me their estimate was wrong and being so disappointed about that.  I tried to explain that their estimate was only wrong if it was a complete guess but if they had thought about it and could explain why they had thought as they did, then it was not wrong, it was their estimate.  Trying to move forward in scientific fields is often a matter or trial and error.  I also think that it is important for us to allow children to fail in a supportive environment rather than never stretching them and giving them an unrealistic idea of life.

Here is a research article:

And some other links which look at the importance of learning by mistakes:





I arrived safely in Poznan, Poland and was excited to see snow … only to discover it has been snowing at home too for the first time this winter.  Tonight I had dinner with a couple of the staff I will be working with tomorrow.  We were talking about learning and about the amount of screen time children had.  We spoke of the arguments we have heard about the benefits of engaging children in learning by using technology and also the recent articles about the problems of increased technology time for children.  When I got back to my hotel, one of my friends had posted this article on FB about what happens when you check your smart phone before bed.  It makes interesting reading.


students now

Off to Poland tomorrow to deliver training so an early night tonight …….



I don’t usually make a resolution.  However, this year I’ve decided that I’m going to read at least one education book a month and write something about it.  Watch this space …..


If you live in Scotland, you will have noticed that the news today was all about the introduction of new national testing.  There are lots of newspaper articles too (I’ve attached one from The Scotsman).  The new tests will take place when children are in P1 (age 4 -5), P4 (age 7 – 8), P7 (age 11 – 12) and S3 (age 14 – 15).  Apparently, the reason for the tests is to help set clear, specific and meaningful milestones on the road to closing the attainment gap. 

I think that you can set meaningful milestones without meaningless tests.  I understand that we need to raise attainment in Scottish schools, I empathise with the desire to lower the gap in attainment and I applaud the desire to provide first class education and to be seen as a great example of world class education but I don’t see how this type of testing will tell teachers anything they don’t know.  Teachers are professionals with a range of strategies for gathering information.  If you read anything about how to improve learning, testing won’t be there – especially of 4 years olds who should be learning through play!

There has been quite a lot of chat about this on social media – unfortunately a lot of it political rather than educational.


Well that’s the end of the holidays and I’m back to work tomorrow (hopefully ready to shine).  It’s been lovely to have some time at home with no rushing around – in the past holidays always meant a break from the normal but I was always so keen to travel and when we came home it was lots of rushing around catching up.



Here is a link to Wiley’s Online Library.  This link provides information about learning vocabulary with lots of good ideas.



The British Council have started a campaign to encourage people to make 2016 the year people in the UK learn a foreign language.

A report in the Telegraph shows that three quarters of British adults could not hold a conversation in a foreign language.  A report by the BBC states that the number of students taking exams in modern foreign languages continues to fall – French fell by 25%, German by 34% and Spanish by 1%. Overall the number of entrants to modern foreign languages fell by 16% between 2007/08 and 2013/14.

I think that this is a fantastic idea.  I’m constantly embarrassed about my lack of language skills (and I can hold a basic conversation in French).  Wherever I go, I find people who can speak to me in English and I often find that English is their third or fourth language.  I think that most visitors coming to the UK, need to speak to us in English. 

However, what the British Council seem to be suggesting is to learn a phrase a day.  I don’t think that a phrase a day will help us to speak foreign languages fluently and I don’t think it will reverse the trend of the number of students studying a foreign language.  It is a step in the right direction but I think we need to do so much more.



For those of you who live in the UK, you will have seen the reports on the news today that the Minister for Education for England is introducing testing for 11 years old children of their times tables.  I firmly believe that children should know their times tables by this age but I don’t think that it should be the focus of testing.  Set it as a standard and let teachers, parents and children know the expectations but why test?  Why not just accept that teachers are professionals and allow them to do their job?  However, it goes so much deeper than this as a child can know their times tables (as a memory recall not an understanding of maths).  Knowing tables by the time you are 11 is not the answer to improving maths.  Children need to be able to use and apply maths at a higher level than our current expectations.  A complete change to the way children learn maths is needed.  

As you can imagine, it has sparked a lot of conversation on social media.  Here’s what people are saying, what do you think?

I know my tables, but more usefully I know how to multiply.  This is a test of memory, not maths.

Another test! Times tables has always been part of the maths SATS.

It has a purpose, but I don’t think teachers should be judged on how well kids can recite their t tables.

All fears are learned.  You only have a fear of a test if someone has fed you the message that tests are to be feared.

Since I retired, I haven’t met a primary school yet, in all my travels as a supply teacher, where most Year 6 children don’t already know up to their 12 times table.

Yet again we teachers are being told what and how to teach by a politician who clearly hasn’t a clue what actually happens in schools.

Know the 12X table at 11.That says more about the UK than is comfortable. It speaks volumes of a culture of accepting mediocrity as normal, even desirable and inescapable. All children with normal cognitive skills should be able to master their 12X table by the age of 8, if they haven’t then they will probably struggle to do regardless of how long they stay at school.

Teachers have one of the most difficult jobs. They try and give the most troublesome pupils their knowledge and sometimes cannot. To be given a target that cannot be achieved is pointless. Each child is talented in some way, be it maths, science or the arts. There is no way that a ‘performance ideal’ can be met. Let teachers be teachers. They know far more about teaching than MPs

If teachers could spend less time on paperwork and ticking every box for the Ofsted police, then kids may get to learn their times tables a few years earlier.

Let teachers actually teach for a change.




Happy New Year – I had a lovely evening with friends last night in a house full of people from babies to 80 years old.  It was so nice to see the children entertain us by playing bagpipes, drums and the piano – just as much fun as any sophisticated NY party.

I’m hoping to be able to keep up blogging daily and my aim is also to write more about what I’m sharing because so far I have shared articles and sometimes made a comment, I’m hoping to have time to share articles which I can really talk about.  


If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will know that I’ve been sharing information about UPSTART – a campaign to bring a Kindergarten stage to Scottish Education.  Having spent the last 18 years overseas and now having returned to Scotland, it’s something I believe passionately about.  Our 4 and 5 year olds are too young to be sitting at desks and chairs, learning how to write when they don’t even have the manipulative skills to be properly holding a pencil.  Young children of this age need to be moving and exploring.  Research from countries which have a KG stage prove this and I’ve seen the benefits first hand.  It doesn’t just impact on them at this stage, the impact of appropriate/inappropriate pre-school education are seen for a long time.  There are links to this research in some of my posts below or on the Upstart website.  I shared information about the start up of the Edinburgh network.  My friend is now launching the Dundee network so if you live in the area and are interested, here are the details:

I will be launching the Dundee Network of the Upstart campaign to raise the school age in Scotland, with guest speakers Dr Suzanne Zeedyk and Sue Palmer (author of “Toxic Childhood”). For further information about the Upstart campaign check out the Upstart Website –
The launch is open to all and will be held in the Dalhousie Building, University of Dundee, Old Hawkhill, Dundee, DD1 5EN at 6.30 pm on Tuesday, 26th January 2016. Please forward details on to any interested parties. For further information contact Brenda Keatch (

Another event is planned in Fife at Collessie Village Hall at 7,30 pm on January 18th.



It’s hard to believe that it is the end of another year.  This has been a year of changes for us – living back home after 18 years overseas. Time has certainly flown by.  It is good to reflect on the year and appreciate all the experiences I’ve had. It’s also the final day of book recommendations.  When I asked for book recommendations I also asked for books which had had the biggest impact or were most inspiring as a teacher.  THANK YOU  so much to my friends who shared their favourites.  The responses were:

Peter Pan -J M Barrie

Michael Fullan books

The Courage to Teach – Parker J Palmer

What If There Were No Teachers – Caron Chandler Loveless

The Learning Game – A Teacher’s Inspirational Story – Jonathan Smith

Mindset – Carol Dweck

Out of our Minds: Learning to be Creative – Ken Robinson

Just Playing – Janet Moyles

The Fifth Discipline – Peter M Senge

Why Do I Need A Teacher When I’ve Got Google – Ian Gilbert

If there are books which have inspired you for using with children or have been instrumental to you as a teacher, please share them with me and I will update the list at a later date.



Not so many books in this category – probably because most of my friends are primary school teachers.

Northern Lights –  Philip Pullman

The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness

The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak

Jacqueline Wilson Books

Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson

To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee



I read 3 of these books when I was at school so again great to see their current popularity.  I’ve not read Holes so will have to look that up.  I’ve read some of the Harry Potter books and whilst I really enjoyed the first few, I did get bored by around book 4.  Maybe I should go back to them now as I did try reading them over a 10 day holiday period!

Beaver Towers by Nigel Hinton

Millions – Frank Cottrell Boyce

The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

Tom’s Midnight Garden – Philippa Pearce

Holes – Louisa Sachar

The Iron Man – Ted Hughes

Kensuke’s Kingdom – Michael Morpungo

War Horse – Michael Morpungo

The Desperate Journey – Kathleen Fidler

Harry Potter – JK Rowling

The Borrowers – Judith Elkin



I read a couple of these books when I was at school, great to see they remain on the list.  Many of them are not only a great read but also make great book studies in class.  There is probably the greatest difference in what a 5 year old can read and an 8 year old can read but many of these books would be perfect for bedtime stories for younger children or self-reading for older children.  Some of them would also be appropriate in the 8 – 12 age range.

The Tiny Seed – Eric Carle
Farmer Duck – Martin Wardell and Helen Oxenburg

Flat Stanley – Jeff Brown

Most Roald Dahl

The BFG – Roald Dahl

George’s Marvellous Medicine – Roald Dahl

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis

The Twits – Roald Dahl

The Secret Garden – Francis Hodgson Burnett

Charlotte’s Web – EB White

The Hodgeheg – Dick King-Smith

The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark – Jill Tomlinson



A few weeks ago, I contacted some of my friends and asked for their favourite books – for using in school and ones which they have found inspirational to them as teachers.  Over the next few days I will add these in age groups as well as some from me.  It was interesting to see how a few authors appeared more than once.  I’ve read all of the books for the Under Fives but as I work up the list, I’ve read fewer and fewer – looks like I’ve got lots of reading to do!

Under 5s

Oi Frog – Kes Grey and Jim Field
Whatever Next – Jill Murphy

Pants – Giles Andreae and Nick Sharratt

Isobel’s Noisy Tummy – David McKee

Burglar Bill – – Janet and Allen Alhberg

The Jolly Postman or other peoples’ letters – Janet and Allen Alhberg

Princess Smartypants – Babette Cole

The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carl

Guess How Much I Love You- Sam McBratney

Elmer – David McKee

Giraffes Can’t Dance – Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Bill Martin and Eric Carl



This article looks at what a school could be like if designed by students.  It looks at engagement and learning through a project.  Whilst it makes a really interesting read, the pilot only involved 8 students who were all motivated to take part.  I think a lot of the issues in education is that we are not managing to motivate students.  I wonder if this project is something which could be replicated with the same sort of results?





I thought I would write a brief review of a few books I’ve read recently which I think make good reading and say something about education today.

Educating Ruby: What Our Children Really Need to Learn – Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas

This is easy to read and full of common sense.  It shows what the authors think is wrong with the current education system and their ideas for putting it right.  It speaks about educating the whole child.  It would be good if we could see these simple changes implemented.

Creative Schools – Revolutionizing Education from the Ground Up – Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica

Another easy to read book which also looks at the possibilities in education.    The authors argue that we are still educating the way we have been for centuries and that we need to develop individual’s love of learning and their own abilities.  They look at the skills of the teaching profession and the resources available to us now.  There are lots of stories and anecdotes which makes it an enjoyable read.

21st Century Skills – Learning for Life in Our Times: Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel

This is another book which points out why education must change.  It states that ‘Education’s big goal, preparing students to contribute to the world of work and civic life, has become one of our century’s biggest challenges.’  It has lots of useful information you could use in school and comes with a DVD of examples.

Future Wise – Educating Our Children For A Changing World – David N Perkins

I’ve just started reading this after it was recommended to me.  Like the previous books I’ve described, it looks at what children should be learning and also focuses on what children understand.  I’ve only read a little so far but it almost seems to be a toolkit for using rather than just a book for reading.



Safely home!  At some point during the journey I read an article about how many children don’t own a book.  Carrying out a little more research when I got home, I read a few articles from 2011 with quotes from The National Literacy Trust.  The articles quoted statistics about 4 million children in Britain do not own a book or how a third of children don’t own a book (and never visit a library).  I find that so sad.  As a child I had plenty of toys but my books were my cherished possessions – I still have some of them today (as well as about another 3000 books).  I really hope that children get the gift of a book this Christmas.


I’ve had such a lovely day.  I spent most of it on the second day of training with the group of EY teachers from Sofia.  It was so good to see them so focused on improving learning for their pupils – especially on the last day of work for the year.  They really were a fantastic group to work with.  Things were even better as the fog lifted and there was sunshine and clear blue skies.  I could see the mountains surrounding school.  The day ended well too as two of the teachers gave up their time to show me round the city.  So many beautiful buildings steeped in history – it will certainly be worth a trip back!


This article from TES this week asks the question, “How can students become independent learners if their teachers are held responsible for all their results?  However, it actually looks at something else – it looks at how we need to help children develop a work ethic and how we need to help them to learn to become resilient.  I do think that as the world changes and children have access to things at their fingertips, then unless we teach resilience, they will struggle and in a blame culture, the teachers will be the first in line!  I think back to when I was at school and if I wanted an answer which my parents didn’t know and wasn’t in our set of children’s encyclopaedia, I would have to wait until the first time we were able to go to the library to find out ….. maybe an hour, maybe a day, maybe a weekend.  I think I learned something from the wait and from my perseverance.  I wouldn’t like to go back to those days, but do think we need to find ways of helping students to develop that sense of effort and resilience in their learning.


I’m in Bulgaria delivering training to a passionate group of EY teachers.  I had hoped to see some of the country but while Scotland is under a blanket of rain, rain and more rain, Sofia is surrounded by freezing fog!


An article last week by Michael Fullan looked at how students should be used as agents of change in education.  He looked at how their programme of deep learning encouraged clusters of schools to work together to help develop students who are:


  • Character education
  • Citizenship
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking

Last year I heard one of Fullan’s associates, Joanne Quinn speak at a conference.  She explained how these clusters were from different parts of the world and how the students learned values and skills which will stay with them for life.  This is a link to the article.



An article in The Conversation this week, looked at promoting creativity in the classroom and how many countries are now including it as an aim of their education systems.  It looks at the wider meaning of creative than that of being artistic.  It states that teachers need to be given the opportunity to innovate and improvise – I think that children need to be given this opportunity too.  I’ve included links to the article as well as they study it mentions and research which was carried out.



This is a link to some simple information sheets about the type of EY provision across Europe.  It looks at the types of care, educational guidelines etc.



A few weeks ago, I posted a photo of a lego being used to teach fractions.  I hadn’t seen it before and thought it looked great and practical.  I really think that practical maths helps deepen understanding.  I’ve had a look online and found lots of documentation and videos about using lego to teach maths.  The first link is a video showing how it can help to deepen understanding of fractions, the second an article about ways of using lego to teach maths.  The third questions whether we should be using a commercial toy like lego to teach maths.  We have been using it for years to teach technology and I think if it saves us buying additional resources because lego is already in most schools and homes or if it helps children understand it can only be a good thing.  What do you think?




This article links to a project called Routes of Empathy which has been running in Scottish schools.  Researchers from Glasgow University have found that bringing babies into school and helping children to understand their crying etc has reduced bad behaviour and aggression.  I wonder if this will be rolled out in more schools?



The RSA animate videos are always great to watch and I always learn from them.  This one was released yesterday and is given by Carol Dweck and as you can imagine, looks at Growth Mindset.



The OECD report into Scottish Education was published today.  It is a 180 page report so will take some reading.  However, the key recommendations are:

  • Develop an integrating framework for assessment and evaluation that encompasses all system levels
  • Strike a more even balance between the formative focus of assessment and developing a robust evidence base on learning outcomes and progression
  • Strengthen evaluation and research, including independent knowledge creation



This is the question posed on Twitter by Sir Ken Robinson (@sirkenrobinson) today.  Some of the responses included:

  • I worry that if they become as compliant as the current system demands, they’ll not be fulfilled as adults.
  • that having fun and being active aren’t given same level of importance as the 3 Rs
  • Have they gained enough knowledge of the world in order to participate in democratic society.
  • As a parent and pediatrician, the unnecessary pressure.
  • How to stand with your kid in their education in a school culture which is so anti-creativity.
  • that’s it’s often organised by people without any experience of teaching and learning (politicians)
  • there’s not enough learning through play. Ridiculous to give primary school kids homework.

I wonder if you were asked, what you would say?  It also made me think that perhaps as educators, we don’t listen enough to parents.


Pay Pre-School Teachers More!

This report from the National Association for the Education of Young Children in America has stated that the majority of American voters think that teachers of pre-school should be paid more.  It also looks at whether people believe that pre-school teachers should be better qualified.  I think that these questions are being raised in many parts of the world.



A few years ago, all we heard about were multiple intelligences (and learning styles).  Teachers seemed to like what was said.  There was then a lot of talk about it not being based on scientific research and the idea of multiple intelligences seemed to vanish from our educational press and practice.  Every so often I see an article or see a school still talking about multiple intelligences.  This article in Edutopia looks at the research into multiple intelligences, compares MI and Learning Styles and provides lots of other links on the subject. This article seems to support the idea of MI – some of the comments suggest it is not scientifically accurate.  What do you think?



This article in the TES yesterday looks at an OFSTED report into the use of tablets in schools and states that they could be extremely disruptive.  I’ve tried (and failed) to find the original OFSTED survey they refer to.  I’ve not worked in a school which uses tablets but have visited a few.  In most cases, I think they were being used well to support and enhance learning.  However, like the use of tablets by children at home, I think they can be misused – by using them too much instead of teaching or by allowing children to use a tablet or pc to find an answer without trying to think about it or solve it by themselves.  What do you think?



This article in the TES looks at teacher shortage in Scotland and how it is set to get worse.  It shows that universities aimed to train new 146 maths teachers this year but that only 76 students accepted places on the PGDE course.  It is for specific secondary subjects but it is still a worry.



This is an interesting idea.  Whilst I agree with nearly all of what he says, that we should not teach to the test, we need to better prepare students for employment etc I can’t agree with the headline.  I just can’t see how the judge of your success as a school can be based on the future earning of your pupils ……. and for those of us in the teaching profession, I wonder if we ever considered our earning potential – if we did, I think we would be in different jobs!  I will be interested in seeing the report into the business education summit.


5 months of writing this blog so more than 150 posts!  I’ve enjoyed reading and learning and hopefully some of it has been useful for others.  The site has been visited more than 300 times by people in 21 different countries!  Next challenge, a year of blogging!


Have you signed up for Hour of Code?  It’s taking place this week and has more than 3 million participants worldwide.  There are lots of different coding activities – linked to things like Star Wars, Minecraft and Frozen.  There are lots of tutorials online as well as links to activities in different parts of the world.  If you would like to take part, you will find all the details here:



This article from TES yesterday speaks about how teenagers may go to court to sue education authorities for the starting times of morning exams.  This is in the light of recent research which shows that teenagers are less alert in the mornings.  What do you think?



This article looks at the neuroscience of how memories are made and gives suggestions for teachers to use to help students remember things.  The author suggests that teachers should:

  • Appeal to all the senses
  • Meaningful connections
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat
  • Smaller Chunks
  • Provide a stress free environment
  • Include physical activity



This is an article about schools who are shunning technology.  Part of the reason seems to be that the recent OECD report suggested there was no significant benefit from using technology in the classroom.  Another of the reasons seems to be that some schools feel that by not using technology, pupils have a chance to better develop their thinking skills.  I think it is important to measure the impact of anything we do.  However, I think we also need to think about how we use technology and find out where it does make an impact rather than just considering a blanket ban.


After a week of little sleep because of jet lag, I was hoping for more than 4 hours last night – but the storm with rain and strong winds has made it impossible for me to sleep so another long night – the heating bill is going to be high this month as I’m putting it on at 3 am instead of 7 am.


Here is a link to a Global Citizenship Magazine for children.  A lot of the articles and resources look good – perhaps worth sharing with your class.,0,0,0,0


This article in TES yesterday suggests that we should look to what France has been using for a long time if we want to understand Growth Mindset.



I saw a link to this article in a newspaper and it suggested that we should be stopping teaching Times Tables, then in a different article it mentioned stopping testing times tables.  I’ve included a link to the original article in TES today.  I’ve also included a link to the website set up by the Professor – there are lots of great articles here.  The article is about Professor Jo Boaler – a Professor of Maths at Stanford University.  What she goes on to say is that there should be less testing and more visual representation.  I don’t think we need to stop testing times tables, but I do think we need to think about how we teach and test tables.  We can teach the understanding of tables through visual representation but at some point, children do need to know the tables.  If we test children against themselves so that what they want to do is improve on their own score, I don’t see how this will damage their self esteem and put children off maths?  What do you think?



I know that there are lots of commercial products on the market and that seeing 8 as a whole may not always be the best approach but I can really see the benefits of using lego to help children understand fractions!  The link is to a Russian site but the pictures are clear enough.




I’m lecturing on an Additional Support Needs Course.  Today we had Moira from Scottish Autism deliver a talk on the Autism Toolbox.  Whilst the students got a lot from it as they prepare for a project about agencies which support additional needs, I was blown away.  What a fantastic resource!

There are sections on Understanding Autism, Supporting Pupils, Whole School Planning, Supporting Wellbeing, Partnership with Families, Working with Others and an amazing section on Resources.

There are links to supporting other conditions as well as to Education Scotland and resources from as far away as Australia.  There are case studies, practical examples and a chance for you to share your practice.  There is a section on staff training as well as lots of practical videos for you to watch.

Wherever you are in the world, if you work with any children on the autism spectrum, this website will give you the support you need and access to a fantastic range of resources.  I wish I’d known about it earlier!



December already!  Although the weather certainly makes it feel like December.  At 3 pm each Tuesday,  there is an education programme on Channel 4.  Today they were discussing Finish Education.  It looked at what has made their education system consistently near the top of world leagues as well as planned changes.  The link will take you to the programme and you should be able to download it at an MP3.



Happy St Andrew’s Day from a cold, wet, dreich Scotland!

st andrews day


In this article in The Telegraph last week, Michael Rosen (children’s author) stated that he felt that inquisitiveness is being stifled because of the pressure of exams.  He is speaking about the system in England and Wales.  Whilst I think that there may be pressure from exams which means that teachers do not have time to always teach in the way they would like to teach, I think that most teachers are skilled and realise the importance of helping to develop children with inquisitive minds and the ability to think.



I recently completed an online course run by The University of Southampton and Future Learn on Understanding Language.  It was all about learning English (as an additional language).  It was all really interesting and thought provoking and gave links to great sites for using to learn more about teaching English.  There was also a participant’s blog where people took the time to add web resources they find helpful.  I’ve taken a few weeks to look at each of these, remove the links which don’t work or the sites I didn’t like, provide a brief description and add them to some websites I’ve already used or found in other places.  Whilst I have used some of the websites and checked the links to all of them so I can give a description, I’ve not used all of them.  I hope you find them useful – as you can imagine it has taken me a very long time – and I’ve got it finished thanks to jetlag!  If there are other websites you use and recommend, if you send them to me, I will add them to this list.

Did you know there is a TeachingEnglish Facebook page – run by the British Council, followed by more than 3 million people with hundreds of great ideas and updated several times a day – it also has links to lots of other great EAL/ESL FB pages.  They also have a twitter feed – again with hundreds of great ideas and links to other organisations with great ideas.  You could spend your life just looking at all these great resources on the internet! – links to thousands of EAL/ESL resources on pinterest – lesson plans, quizzes, activities etc – thousands of them! – great resources for using with young learners as well as links to other great sites – lots of resources for using for working with children aged 6 to 12 – a pdf of recommended resources and websites – a link to lots of other great websites – a great library of resources –  a tool to make visual and personalised stories – worksheets/games/activities – CPD/webinars/grammar course for teachers as well as some great resources for using in your classroom  – links to lots of different speaking and listening activities – as it says, listening activities as well as links to other worksheets etc – journals about TESL – links also take you to some activities – lots of worksheets, powerpoint presentations etc – tabs on left of page also has links to other areas of learning not just ESL/EAL – this BBC website is all about learning English and has some great activities.  It is not specifically for EAL/ESL language learners but lots of the resources could be used – lots of free resources – online word searches and tools for creating them – this is a course to buy – I’ve used it before and the children loved it.  There are a few free games here to tempt you!  – lots of vocabulary and spelling games etc as well as some games in other languages – very simple, good quality videos, games, worksheets etc for very young learners – a British Council and BBC website – live videos, discussions etc so useful for older and more advanced learners – reading activities with comprehension questions etc – you need to sign up to use it – This is an American English site with lesson videos, activities, an online forum as well as information on American culture – lots of ESL resources – you have to pay for them but cheap and good quality  – using music lyrics to teach English – great for getting students engaged or for listening comprehension or discussions about what the song is about – primarily a sales site but some free resources and apps for tablets, phones etc – some of them are great. – another link to a different part of a Bristish Council website –some great games for children – lots of articles, discussion points, activities, worksheets etc but not the best site to search – some great resources from the BBC – free English video lessons – short videos with an activity afterwards – lots of free resources – a wide variety of free resources – a good quality online dictionary – links to lots of free activities – English Grammar Online – lots of free resources – online dictionary and thesaurus with word games etc – all about how languages are learned with some downloadable pdf’s – videos about teaching English – British Council – ideas, CPD resources, publications etc – lots of webquests with teaching ideas etc  lesson plans, ideas, worksheets, activities – etc

If you teach languages other than English, you may find some great resources here:

Other teaching resources – not particularly related to EAL/ESL but great for any teacher: – lots of great teaching articles etc / – lesson plans, resources, jobs, forums etc –  create presentations to share online – a presentation software a tool to create animated videos and presentations – a bit complex for me but great if you are more digitally literate! – thousands of resources and tools for making resources – some EAL but lots of other great teaching resources too  – interactive videos and images – great for promoting discussions – students can record themselves and share the link of the recording. – an online bibliography and citation site  – great for collaborative learning, study groups, creating quizzes, tests, games, flashcards etc – you pay for this but can have a free demo – great for allowing students to hear what something should sound like as well as for adding speech to presentations etc – lots of worldwide newspapers – good for extra reading etc – helps you make different types of puzzles, games, quizzes etc to support learning – again like puzzle-maker you can make word searches, crosswords, quizzes etc


It’s lovely to be home again but what an awful winter day – rain, sleet, winds etc – a good excuse for a day indoors catching up on things from the last 2 weeks.


This is an interesting article from Canberra University which looks at Phonics.  It points out the fact that English is not a phonetic language.  I really think that there are many fantastic phonic programmes on the market.  However, I think that teachers need to use them as part of a range of strategies for helping children to learn to read rather than the only method.


I’ve just spent another great day working with the teachers at Hangzhou.  They are focused, eager to learn and keen to improve the learning experiences for their students.  Hopefully they found the training usedul and will be able to implement some of what they learned – it certainly looked that way with their planning for next steps.


It seems rather appropriate that this article ran in The Guardian yesterday since I am in China.  Having spent the last few months learning more about The Singapore Maths Method, I’m now going to see what I can find out about Shanghai Maths and how it improves maths scores – well I will after I’ve finished my 28 hour journey!



Today I’ve been delivering EY training to an enthusiastic group of teachers at Hangzhou International School.  It’s always lovely to spend the day with educators who are passionate about learning.  It was also lovely to be invited to share their Thanksgiving meal with them.  The day has been beautifully sunny with clear blue skies – but oh so cold!  It has also been a time of reflection for me.  It’s 16 years since I was last in China and the change is unbelievable.  While small back streets still have some of what I remember before – the live fish in the markets, the food being cooked on the side of the street, the shoe repair men etc, once you are on the main street, if it wasn’t for the language on the signs, you would never know where you are.  I think that by learning more about each other through, TV, internet, travel etc our lives are becoming more similar .  There are positive aspects to that because it makes it easier but I think that many places begin to lose their own cultural identity.  The last time I was here, other than our guide and one receptionist in a hotel, I didn’t meet anyone who spoke English.  Now all the hotel staff speak English, the staff at immigration also spoke to me in English – it makes me think about why language learning in the UK has not developed much in the last 16 years.  I wonder what changes the world will see in the next 16 years – by the time the children being taught by today’s educators reach university and working life?  I hope that some of what we have talked about today regarding personal skills and international mindedness will help these young people to be positive contributing members of their society.




Education At A Glance was released yesterday.  It is the OECD Report gives up to date information and statistics about education around the world.  The report covers a wide range of areas including:

  • The impact of skills on employment and earning
  • Gender gaps in education and employment
  • How much is spent on students
  • How much public and private investment there is in education
  • The total amount spent on education
  • How much tertiary students pay (it’s not looking good if you are based in England)
  • The resources the education budget is spent on
  • How early education institutes differ around the world (as you know I’m interested in this so will explore it in more depth later in the week)
  • Time spent in classroom
  • Salaries of teachers
  • Teacher qualifications
  • Use of technology in the classroom

There are more than 500 pages and I’ve only skimmed it at the moment but I am sure that the worldwide press will have articles related to this in the coming days.  You can find the report online in 25 languages.



This is an article in a Canadian Education Magazine about Singapore Maths.  The more I read the more I want to find out!  I am delivering training in Singapore in February and if I have the time, I intend to go into a school to see it in action.



This article in the Scotsman is about how council leaders are questioning the need for head teachers in Scotland to have a new leadership qualification.  I think that school leadership is a difficult job and that any help and support would be welcome.  I also gained a lot from completing a certificate in educational leadership and management and do believe if it is a quality course, it will be beneficial. I would certainly jump at the chance to improve my skills relating to the job I do.   However, the article does not give enough information:

  • Will it only be compulsory for new head teachers?
  • Will staff need the qualification before applying for a post or within a certain period – and what would happen if they were doing a great job but gone over the time limit?
  • Will head teachers be given time to complete the qualification (and therefore be out of school) or expected to do this in their own time?
  • The article states that it will stop Scotland recruiting heads from other countries – is this sensational journalism or is this the case – would for example an English or International leadership qualification not be enough?
  • What plans are in place if this really puts people off leadership?
  • Who will fund the courses – and will heads with the qualification receive more money?

I look forward to finding out more!



A link to an old video (thanks for sharing).  This video is great to watch and shows how many of the learning goals in the EYFS are not suitable for children of 4 and 5 years of age – it links to good practice in Scandinavia, the Netherlands etc.



Tom Bennet has written for TES about educationalists who inspire him.  I’ve had a look at a few of the links and there is some great reading.  I’m sure I’ll be using links to some of these people in future blog posts.



This study from the University of Oxford shows how corporal punishment has an impact on the maths scores of pupils.



The Scottish Government recently carried out a literature review which explored the impact of digital technology on learning and teaching.  This is a link to the report.  The report found that digital learning can have an impact on improving teaching and learning and on narrowing the attainment gap. Here is a link to the findings:


Great to read that more than 60 people attended the Upstart Edinburgh launch meeting on Monday!  For more information, have a look at


If you have read a lot of the links in my blog, you know that I think that it is important for teachers to stay up to date with the latest quality information on education and learning.  You will also know that I think that education should be much more based on research.  Here is a link to a petition asking for teachers to be given free access to research journals.  I can’t sign it since I’m currently overseas but hope to be able to sign it when I get home.



A recent report from Cardiff University has shown the importance of children eating breakfast.  The longitudinal study showed that eating breakfast improved grades and that what the children ate was also important.  I know that breakfast clubs are run in many schools and I think they are a great initiative – let’s just hope that they are providing children with the right food.



I’m sure this report doesn’t surprise any teacher.  The questions is why are we doing it and should we?  Perhaps more teachers should be employed or we should be paid for the hours we work.


This report suggests that the idea of a growth mindset does not work.  It’s always great to have a theory questioned but it would be great to see which of the tow arguments research backs up?



Apparently, according to a recent report, a sixth of the teachers in England are trained overseas.  I can see the benefits and the disadvantages to this.  If children are going to live in a global society, I think it is beneficial to learn in an environment made up of people of different backgrounds.  I also think that we can learn a lot from the way things are done in different places.  However, I think that it does raise bigger questions:

  • Are enough teachers not being trained in England?
  • Is it a two way movement – are as many teachers leaving England to teach overseas?
  • Are so many teachers leaving the profession that it is leaving us short – if so why are they leaving?



It is so sad to see the awful pictures coming out of Paris today and to think about the dreadful acts of violence against so many innocent people in conflicts all over the world.  What can we do as educators to help our children to become more internationally minded and more tolerant of things which are different?


This article was released today – explaining the launch of a review of the impact of legislation passed 10 years ago on parental involvement in schools.  As someone who has been lucky enough to spend my career working with children whose parents were really involved, I know the difference this makes.  I will be interested to read the findings of the review and any action taken because of it.



A couple of weeks ago, I posted a link to a youtube video for Riverside Cottage Nursery and yesterday I was lucky enough to go for a visit.  For the past couple of years, I’ve passed the sign for the nursery as it is really near where my parents live and I’d thought that it was a nice name for a nursery but hadn’t thought any more.  When I began to write this blog, I started to look at the websites of educational establishments near to home and found this one.  It looked amazing.  After visiting yesterday, I can confirm that it is just as amazing as it looks.  The actual nursery is an l-shaped room.  It almost feels more like a farm kitchen than a nursery.  The toys and displays are mostly made of natural materials so it’s very different from the shiny plastic you see in most other nurseries.  There is a large log burner and a leather sofa and chairs – perfect for snuggling up and listening to stories on a wet winter day.  However, what makes this place really special is their outdoor space.  They do have a few sit and ride cars, a trampoline and a wooden climbing frame but they also have so many other opportunities to allow children to play and learn outside.  The nursery has a lovely outdoor classroom – a poly-tunnel to protect the children from the worst of the Scottish weather.  They have a large allotment where the children grow fruit and vegetables for their snacks and lunches as well as chickens which provide them with eggs.  There is then a huge woodland area leading down to a river – the children use all of this on a daily basis.  They might choose to play in the mud-pit or make something in the outdoor kitchen, or climb the trees or make a den or explore the river … the possibilities are endless.  There is no formal structure – the children are allowed to make decisions about their own learning.  They could decide that they wanted to be inside all day or outside all day – the staff are there to support them.  In my 24 years of working in schools and nurseries at home and across the globe, I’ve never seen anywhere which allowed children to learn by discovery as much as this nursery does.  I don’t think my description is doing it justice …. it is such a fantastic place for young children.  I’ve added a few photos from my visit as well as some from the nursery website.  I’ve also added the link to their website and another link to their video.  Thanks to Luke, the staff and children for allowing me to visit on a very wet Scottish autumn afternoon!

riv 1 riv 2 riv 3 riv 4 riverside 1 riverside 2 riverside 3 riverside 4



An interesting article.  I wonder how many words we will have lost, how many new words we will have and how text speak, other languages etc. will influence English.


And another article arguing the case for a more appropriate play curriculum for young children.



This article looks at teacher shortage and how it is likely to continue for a decade.  I don’t understand how we can have a whole decade of shortage.  Although there may be a bit of an increase with immigration, we know 5 years in advance how many children there are and how many teachers are likely to retire.  I can’t understand how we should ever have a shortage.  I know there has been a lot of articles recently about teachers leaving the profession.  It would be really interesting to see if this is behind the shortage or if it is just poor long-term planning.



With tests for 7 year olds already announced for a return in Scotland and the possibility of a more formal assessments for 7 year olds in England and Wales, this article challenges the benefits of it and says how harrowing it will be for the children.


This article in the Washington Post suggests that we teach in the way we were taught influences the way we teach.  It suggests that teachers who punish students, for are likely to have been punished themselves as children ….. all a worrying thought.



I’ve just completed a 4 week online course through Warwick University and Future Learn called Babies In Mind which looked at how babies’ minds are shaped by the minds of their parents. It was developed to help us gain a better understanding of what the research now tells us about the way in which the early environment of the infant (pre and post birth) shapes their rapidly developing brain, their mind, and thereby their sense of self. It was a really informative course and I learned a lot.  Warwick also do a 12 week online course.  Details are here if you would like to find out more:



At the talk I attended the other evening, I heard about how mass marketing is focusing on children and what a huge industry selling to children is.  It is really something I hadn’t thought about but I had a look at some of the books/articles quoted at the talk:

James McNeal – Kids as Customers

I also read an article which spoke about ‘opening up emotional vulnerabilities’ – can you think of anything worse?  Children are not allowed to be children, they are objects of our consumerist society.  Sad.  The article quoted:

Nancy Shalek, president of the Shalek Agency, told the Los Angeles Times that “Advertising at its best is making people feel that without their product, you’re a loser. Kids are very sensitive to that….You open up emotional vulnerabilities and it’s very easy to do with kids because they’re the most emotionally vulnerable.”

I then had a look at the number of books about children as consumers and that also horrified me.  Since then I’ve been thinking about it a lot and as I’ve watched TV or did my weekly shopping, it has really got me thinking about how much everyone is using children.



This article in the Guardian this week looks at how reintroducing tests will destroy wonder and the opportunity to be inspired to learn.  I couldn’t agree more.




A professor of psychology at The University of Chicago has spoken about linking movement to understanding.  This article is nothing new but it reminds us about why children need to be able to touch, move etc to enhance their learning.




Last night I was lucky enough to attend an RSA event which looked at – 21st Century Childhood – The State of Play.  The talks were given by Sue Palmer and  Professor Colwyn Trevarthen.  Sue is a former head teacher, writer and educational speaker – I’ve read Toxic Childhood and used Foundations of Literacy a lot when I taught in Reception/P1.  Professor  Trevarthen is Emeritus Professor of Child Psychology and Psychobiology at the University of Edinburgh. Professor Trevarthen trained as a biologist, before going on to study infancy research published on brain development, infant communication and emotional health.

I learned a lot from the evening and over the next few days will share more of this but the thing which excited me the most was finding out about Upstart Scotland.  Upstart is a campaign to introduce a kindergarten stage for children aged 3 – 7.  For a long time I have been saying that there is far too much emphasis on formal education where children need to learn to sit at desks and chairs and learn to read and write when it is developmentally inappropriate for most children.  If you have read some of my posts below, you will know I’ve shared posts about forest schools, inspiring nurseries, the negative effects of pre-school, education in Finland, appropriate school starting ages etc.  This organisation is doing something in Scotland to back up what I believe.  I really hope this campaign takes off and gives our young children the kind of learning opportunities they deserve.



The commission on school reform has challenged the Scottish Government especially about narrowing the attainment gap.  The report asks the government to:

  • confirm the timescale over which it wishes to ensure that Scottish educational performance becomes once again amongst the world’s best
  • confirm beyond doubt that reducing the gap in attainment between higher and lower attaining students must only be achieved by raising performance at the bottom end, not compromising standards amongst the most able.
  • accept that is Scotland’s education system is to become world leading within an acceptable timescale, transformational change not incremental advances will be required.
  • review current plans to include supporting children living in poverty but attending schools that do not serve particularly deprived areas.


I haven’t worked out what time this is on in the UK but looks like it could be interesting.


There has been a lot of discussion this week in education papers and blogs about the usefulness of Teaching Assistants with some teachers saying they add nothing to the learning, etc.  What a sad thing to read.  However, with no compulsory standardised qualifications, sometimes no training, poor pay, little time with teachers to find out what it is they want and need, very poor pay, I think it is only to be expected.  Many of the learning assistants I’ve worked with have been worth their weight in gold but I do think that more needs to be done to set standards and support learning assistants working in our classrooms.  A recent report on the British Educational Research Association blog looks at this in more depth.



This event looks interesting – it’s on tomorrow night in Edinburgh.


This is a report from a few years ago about forest schools and how young children benefit from being in this type of environment.  I know that it’s not something which is possible in all settings but I do think we need to get children outside and exploring as much as possible.  In many settings, it would take a lot of effort and in other places it’s often impossible – I worked internationally in settings where temperatures sometimes reached -40° or in other locations where it reached +50°.  However, I think that as EY practitioners we need to do what we can to get children outside and to create stimulating environments for exploration and learning.$FILE/fr0112forestschoolsreport.pdf

The idea of forest schools in the UK is said to be based on the types of learning environments children in pre-school in Denmark had.  This is a report which explains more about Danish pre-school settings.

Here are some other sites which promote forest schools in the UK


This is a toolkit blog for parents about how they can support their children’s speech – especially vocabulary.


So many labels for the same group of children.  This article gives some tips on how to support children learning English.  There are great links to other websites.




This article looks at whether high quality pre-school is worth the investment.  As an EY practitioner, I certainly think it is but it is interesting to read what the research is saying:

This is the piece of research it refers to:


Education Week have published an article by Carol Dweck about her current thinking on Growth Mindset.  Some of this is similar to a report I shared last week but the comments below this article are interesting to read.


The question is, how do we do this?


November already, how did that happen?


Parents often ask me for an explanation about phonics because it wasn’t how they learned to read.  As a school we always organised workshops for parents of our Nursery and Primary 1 children.  We also tried to share as much as we could via reading records, home school books etc and tried to give parents an opportunity to come into school to see phonics learning in action.  We supplied games for home and links to good websites.  Many friends have also asked me to explain it to them as their school did not give them any information.  Here is a newspaper article and a couple of other resources to help explain phonics to parents.

The newspaper article:

Some other websites with useful information for parents:

This website has great games and information:

Some online games for children to play:

My favourite phonics programme:

Some really helpful videos:

And a site with free alphabetic code sheets for printing.

And something for us all to remember:

job list


I’ve not been in Scotland at this time of year for a while.  We spent yesterday afternoon in Edinburgh with friends watching the rugby final.  I couldn’t believe how many people were dressed up for Halloween.  Last time I was at home the only adults dressed up were students,  those supervising children’s party or keeping children safe in the streets.  Today more than half of Edinburgh was dressed up!  And pumpkins everywhere – not a turnip in sight!


This nursery is very near where my parents live and only a few miles from me.  I looked up their website when I first came home and thought it looked superb.  However, I’ve just looked at their youtube video and it makes it look even better.  In my opinion, this is to sort of environment young children should be learning in.  If only more of our nurseries looked like this.  I’m going to try to see if I can visit it but have a look at their video and website to see if you agree.  If I had young children, I’d be choosing a nursery like Riverside Cottage Nursery!


If you live in Scotland, are interested in education and use Facebook, the Education Secretary is answering questions about education on Tuesday.  I’m interested to see how many people take part and what they talk about.




A piece of research published in September by The University of Queensland found that taking part in music activities at home between the ages of two and three improves children’s numeracy skills,  social skills and attention more than sharing a book with a child.  Here is a brief summary of the report:



This article in Education Canada looks at the discussions which have taken place over the different ways of maths teaching.  It argues the case for evidence based maths education:

This site has some resources about teaching maths in New Zealand:

And this one has some sample articles from the Australian Association of Maths Teachers:




Some useful guide for parents about various aspects of learning – reading, writing, maths, play etc,-write,-count.aspx



I’ve seen quite a few links to articles on Facebook recently about homework – the evils of homework, how pointless it is, how it robs parents and children of quality time together etc.  Whilst I feel that many of these articles are exaggerations, and believe in homework – sometimes, I do think there is an element of truth in all of them.  For young learners, I think it is important for them to be able to share their new reading skills with their parents and they need to practice.  For older children, I think it is an opportunity to revisit, to take things in their own direction etc.  However, I do believe that often teachers feel pressure to give homework and that sometimes, home learning opportunities ate not as meaningful as they could be.  What do you think?




There is currently a teacher shortage in many areas and also many reports about large numbers leaving the profession.  These articles look at why we teach and identifies that there are four types of teacher:

  • Idealists – who want to make a difference
  • Moderates – open minded and flexible who may have not chosen to go into teaching but enjoy teaching
  • Practitioners – who always wanted to be a teacher – very engaged and want to stay in teaching
  • Rationalists – became a teacher after careful consideration but may not still want to be a teacher



Some schools in Scotland have recently taken on high energy morning exercises.  There are different reasons for the schools taking part – reducing obesity, increasing energy, concentration and motivation.  Other schools are also set to take it on although there is currently no research into the benefits.  Here is a newspaper article about the schools in Scotland as well as more information about its background – The Tabata Protocol from Japan.

24 October



There are lots of fantastic things about living overseas but there are lots of fantastic things about living at home in Scotland too.  Today I visited a craft fayre with some of my family and the amount of time and effort the crafters put into the things they made is unbelievable.  It made me think about Resilience.  The curriculum I’ve spent a lot of time working with (the IPC) focuses on Resilience as a personal goal for the children.  I think that in society today so much of what we do is instant – from instant meals to finding information within seconds of needing it.  In many ways this is fantastic.  However there are sometimes when we really need to focus and think of a task and spending time getting there.  We also need to realise for ourselves and help children to realise that we won’t get it right every time. Helping children to build resilience will help them to cope with all of that.

This booklet is from Canada and is for parents to give them ideas about building resilience in young children.  It has some nice ideas and focuses on inner strengths and outside support.  It’s all about developing a positive outlook.


And if you would like to help a postgraduate student with a project they are doing about resilience, here is a link to a survey they are carrying out.

23 October


I like the sound of the word neuromyth – especially as spell check does not recognise it!  It’s not listed in the Oxford Dictionary.  However, an online dictionary defines it as            A commonly-held false belief about neuroscience.  The article I am including today comes from a Canadian Education Magazine.  It states that the 3 main myths that many teachers still believe in are:


  1. Learning Styles
  2. Left-brain/right-brain dominance
  3. Coordination exercises for improving brain dominance


I’ve been thinking about why so many teachers still believe in these things.  I think that there are a few reasons:

  • There was lots of great promotion of these ideas
  • Teachers gave them a try, they were easy to use and seemed to work – even if the positive results were not because of the reasons being suggested
  • We don’t have a profession where there is any requirement to stay up to date with the latest educational research.  Many countries expect teachers to be involved in CPD but do not often say what this needs to be s0 teachers may concentrate on learning opportunities which give them practical help in their day to day work rather than looking at the bigger picture and the science behind it.
  • Not enough emphasis is made in empowering teachers to carry out their own research

I wonder what we can do to make the change in education?

22 October


I read a newspaper article today which spoke about the rise in the number of children having tutors at home.  It’s apparently 5% of 7 year olds and 22% of eleven year olds.  If this tutoring includes things like music lessons which are not available in school, I understand it but if it is to ‘top up’ subjects like English and Maths, then I think it is a worrying statistic.  Are our schools so poor or is too much emphasis being put on testing at a very early age?  I think all parents want to give their children the best start in life but I wonder if having tutors at such an early age is really the answer.  Are children better to have a broad range of experiences and time to do things for themselves or do they need to be drilled to pass a test?  Here are 2 articles on this subject.  The first is about Out of School Activities and not just Tutoring.  The second is an older article but looks specifically at Tutoring.


21 October


This is a really interesting article in The Conversation today.  It’s about how we are holding children back by testing the wrong things in the wrong way.  It states that we are testing skills which are now becoming redundant.  It also suggests that league tables like PISA are making this worse as governments are focusing on being top of the table.

20 October

edison 2

19 October

After sharing the post about Brain Architecture on my FB page, my friend told me that their setting uses the Solihull Approach.  I hadn’t heard of this so had a look.  It has lots of useful information as well as online courses for parents.

18 October


Another interesting article on the cognitive effects of speaking 2 languages.  I so wish I’d had the opportunity to be bilingual!

17 October

Brain Architecture

I’ve just started a short course at Warwick University organised by Future Learn.  The course is being run by Professor Jane Barlow and Dawn Cannon.  Week 1 was really interesting about the importance of stimulation for brain development in babies.  A lot of what was presented was common sense but there were other parts that really had me thinking and I learned a few things.  The important message from this week was ‘What comes first forms a foundation for all that comes later’.  I think this is a course which everyone who works with babies and all new parents should follow.  One of the links we were provided was about Brain Architecture from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.  There is a short article which explains the key concepts and a very easy to watch video.  The video could be used with classes to help them learn about brain development.


16 October


Well, I’ve managed my first 100 days of blogging.  I’ve discovered that it’s not easy to decide what to add – which is funny because when I first started I wondered if I’d have enough to add ….. I’ve learned lots and realised just how much information is out there about education!

It’s also about 6 weeks since the website went live and I set up my FB and twitter accounts.  What a great way to learn!  The blog has been visited more than 180 times (not all me I promise).  

Effective Learning Displays

As many schools start their mid-term holidays today, I hope that everyone has the opportunity to recharge their batteries.  This is a little article about effective learning displays.

15 October

PISA in Action

Another focus on maths today as this document was recently published (Sept 2015) – PISA in Practice – Tackling low performance in Maths: Additional Analysis of PISA 2012 in England.  It makes interesting reading and focuses on the attitudes and behaviours which lead to low performance in maths in England.  Hopefully the identification of the issues will lead to strategies for then making the necessary changes.

However, here is a summary of ways they recommend for engagement strategies:

  • Make the learning meaningful to your pupils so that they can see why they are learning something and how that might relate to their lives.
  • Invest time planning how to introduce a topic to your class; try starting a new topic with exploratory discussions with your pupils.
  • Design tasks to encourage discussions and reflection and invite pupils to exchange speculative or reflective thoughts.
  • Ensure there are opportunities for pupils to discuss, explain and reflect on their learning and to share their ideas with peers.
  • Make time for de-briefing sessions to establish how your pupils’ learning has moved forward.
  • Ensure pupil engagement has a prominent focus in school; include it as a standing agenda item in whole staff and Department/Faculty meetings and appoint ‘learner engagement’ champions.
  • Consider the pupil characteristics associated with low performance and think about how the relevant pupils can be best supported through both whole-school policy and classroom practices.
  • Establish teacher learning communities or lesson study groups within school so that teachers can observe their peers and share effective practice.
  • Identify a range of engagement strategies, based on research and staff experience, and encourage all teachers to select one or two strategies to try out with their classes.
  • Provide opportunities for teachers to feed back on the engagement strategies they have tried and exchange ideas on alternative strategies.

14 October

Today was the third day of my course and another fantastic day of learning for me – really thought provoking about the way I have been teaching maths for years.  I’ve learned a lot over the last few days, had lots of opportunities for reflection and some challenging maths problems for me to try!  If you would like to learn more about The Singapore Maths Method, here is a link to some videos for parents by Dr Yeap Ban Har.  Moving forward, if I’m teaching maths again, I’ll certainly be applying the Concrete, Pictorial, Abstract principal.  I also hope to be able to see it in action in Singapore when I visit in February.

Here is an article from the independent about how this style of teaching and learning would solve our maths problems – well the problems we have with maths!

However, today was also World Maths Day.  It’s great to have a day to celebrate maths.  Sadly, I read a newspaper article which stated that the majority of British adults are innumerate.  This is obviously a worrying statistic and I’d love to know what is being done about it.  Here is a link from earlier in the year which shows how our poor maths is stunting the economy.

13 October

Singapore Maths Method Day 2

Lots of great learning today from a really great presenter.  There were a few things said today which really struck a chord today:

  • One of the philosophies behind the Singapore method is Concrete Pictorial Abstract – that just seems to make sense
  • When teachers focus on a few key ideas the return on investment is greater
  • Being able to count quickly doesn’t make you advanced in mathematics but teachers often got it wrong and assume because children can count quickly they are gifted mathematically
  • Anyone can find ways of passing a test but real success is building a firm foundation for subsequent learning

We also spoke a lot about metacognition which made me remember this image:


12 October

Teaching Maths Using the Singapore Method

A great day of learning in London attending the first day of the course.  Also nice to have great weather and to be able to go out and about and see something of London in the evening.  The course is being presented by Dr Yeap Ban Har.  It was interesting to hear the thinking behind the Singapore Maths Method – that Singapore was doing very poorly in the 80’s in maths and wanted to do something about it.

Here is a link to the TIMSS and PIRLS study from 2011 looking at the International Student Achievement in Maths.  It shows just how well the Far East Asia countries do in Maths.  I really enjoyed my learning today and also the context behind it.  It is also great to see how much the method is based on research.

11 October

I’m off to London for the next 4 days to attend a course about Singapore Maths.  For years I’ve heard lots of positive things about it but have never had a chance to learn more.  One of the advantages of being back home is the chance to attend courses like this.  I’ll post some more information in the next few days.

A Maths Challenge

Earlier in the summer, I posted about the pass mark for Higher Maths in Scotland having to be reduced.  Subsequently, there has been agreement that the paper was too difficult.  Here is one of the questions – what do you think?

10 October

A very busy day for me today – making Christmas cake and mincemeat.  Nice to be home doing these sorts of things.  A tense time too watching the rugby but Scotland got through – just!  

Reflecting on Learning

This is a nice little blog with ideas about helping students to reflect on their learning – especially linked to projects.

9 October

Early Childhood Education and Care in Europe

This is produced by the EU and is a comparative study of Early Childhood practices across Europe

The Teaching Profession within Europe

This document details the attitudes, practices and perceptions across Europe relating to teachers.


8 October

Academic Pre-Schools – some research

This report highlights how academic preschools have a negative impact on children.

Junk in Playgrounds

This looks like a really interesting idea.  A school in Perth, Australia are adding junk to their playground to help encourage creativity.  I’d love to read more later to see if they feel it made an impact.

7 October

Private Tutors

An article which argues against the use of private tutors.

Teacher Motivation

So sad to read about a motivation issue with teachers in England and Wales.  Teaching is such a rewarding profession but as we all know, it is one we really need to be motivated in order to teach well and to help us to motivate our students to become life-long learners.  I’ve read a few articles recently about the number of teachers leaving the profession. Let’s hope something can be done to sort this.

6 October

Education in Finland

This is an article from The Conversation yesterday.  It compares Finnish and American teachers and systems.

5 October

teacher day


Things like Teacher Day used to annoy me – just another excuse for the card industry.  However, I’ve thought a bit more deeply and from a global perspective, I realise that days like this really can make an impact about the importance of education.  The information below is from Unesco and there is lots more information on their website.

“Empowering teachers, building sustainable societies” is the World Teachers’ Day slogan for 2015.

It is recognized that teachers are not only a means to implementing education goals; they are the key to sustainability and national capacity in achieving learning and creating societies based on knowledge, values and ethics. However, they continue to face challenges brought about by staff shortages, poor training and low status.

We will ensure that teachers and educators are empowered, adequately recruited, well-trained, professionally qualified, motivated and supported within well-resourced, efficient and effectively governed systems. ...

Incheon Declaration, WEF 2015

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics estimates that to achieve the goal of universal primary education by 2020 countries will need to recruit a total of 12.6 million primary teachers.
World Teachers’ Day on October 5 highlights the fact that teachers must be empowered as a critical step towards quality education and sustainable societies

The Incheon Declaration at the World Education Forum (WEF) in May 2015 clearly recognized the importance of empowerment. At the forum 1600 participants from 160 countries committed to “ensure that teachers and educators are empowered, adequately recruited, well-trained, professionally qualified, motivated and supported within well-resourced, efficient and effectively governed systems”.

The Oslo Summit, “Education for Development”, held in July 2015, highlighted the need for further investment in teacher education. The proposed Sustainable Development Goals to be adopted at the UN Summit in September 2015, include a specific objective under Goal 4 to by 2030 “substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries, especially least developed countries and small island developing States”.

UNESCO and partners encourage and promote events for World Teachers’ Day. Please register events at and take action to empower teachers

4 October

EY Scotland

A link to the latest Govt EY magazine in Scotland

Bedtime Stories

Another article about the importance of bedtime stories!  It’s so sad that something which makes such an impact seems to have been lost for so many children in our busy lives.  I remember the bedtime stories which were read to me – and still have some of the books!

3 October

Urban Myths About Learning

An easy read about urban myths around learning.

2 October

Finnish Kindergartens

A great article about kindergartens in Finland!

Hour of Coding and World Education Games

Another couple of world events.  The first is The Hour of Coding.  I must admit, I need to learn more about coding but having read the info, think this looks like a great event as all the planning etc is done for you so I could learn as I deliver.

The second is World Education Games.  We used these for a few years in school and the children loved them.  In the 2 weeks of preparation and day of the competition, we noticed a real improvement in children’s interest in mental maths and spelling and they were really keen to improve.  Both are free.

1 October

World’s Largest Language Lesson

October has started with another beautiful sunny autumn day – I hope this continues!  This is a link to the world’s largest language lesson.  It’s raising money for charity too as £1 will be donated for each child taking part.

30 September

Education For All

This is a report on the Education For All Aim and looks at what has happened from 2000 to 2015.  Let’s hope the next 15 years are successful.



29 September

Banning Technology

An independent school in London has banned all technology and has had parents agree to stop children using technology at home.  The schools has said that they would like children to be active creators rather than passive consumers.  Whilst I believe many children are using too much technology to the detriment of their health, making friendships etc, I think that balance must be the answer.  What do you think?

Behaviour charts

This blogger believes that behaviour charts are detrimental to children.  What do you think?

28 September

A fantastic afternoon in the sunshine yesterday watching the rugby.  It’s great to see the fantastic weather continuing.  So far, I’m loving being home and loving the autumn weather.  

Too Much Too Early

The article today is about us expecting too much from young children – Too Much, Too Early – do you agree?

Having read that, I found out that there was an organisation called Too Much Too Soon which was started by a group who are concerned about the impact of government policies for young learners.  They state,

‘What is being required of young children in England is unreasonable,
developmentally unsound and potentially harmful’

Here is a link to their website to help you make up your mind about this.

27 September

Off to Heriots Rugby Club today to watch the Scotland v America game – shame it’s not the real thing but great to be watching it as part of a big crowd!

Involving Families in Education

I’ve just read this article in The Conversation:

Here is an article I read a few weeks ago about the same thing:

However, I’m still not sure we do enough.  In my last school we tried to find as many ways as possible to engage the parents and I think we did with the actual day to day involvement – joining in classroom activities, supporting home learning etc.  However,  I think we could have done more to share some of the research etc about education with our parent body.  I’ve also tried to find out more about some of the free places governments are giving out to 2 year olds  I think that this is a great initiative but it will do nothing to bridge the gap if we as educators or governments don’t do more to help parents learn more about how to best help their children in their learning journey.

At the Early Years Scotland talk last week there was mention of the ‘Stay and Play’ Sessions they run.  One of the main aims is so that the parents can replicate the sessions at home and engage the children in activities which helped with their learning.  Wouldn’t it be great if this was something which all educational settings offered – parents coming to learn with their children.  


Two years ago Mark Anderson @ictevangelist tried to persuade me and my staff of the educational benefits of twitter.  I wasn’t convinced and didn’t make the time to find out more – I wish I had as I’ve now been using twitter for a month and have found so many great conversations about education!

26 September

Today I visited Early Steps Nursery in Bathgate for their Open Day.  It was lovely to see the staff, parents and children all joining in the activities although I did hear one child say, ‘I’m at nursery now mum so you have to leave me and go to work’ – I don’t think he quite got the idea.  Thanks Babs for the invite, a lovely nursery!


Apparently the focus on phonics has made a real impact!

Sustained Shared Thinking and Emotional Well- Being

Here are links to a couple of articles about Sustained Shared Thinking and Emotional Well-Being for 2 to 5 year olds,  It uses scales to support and measure the following areas:

  1. Building trust, confidence and independence
  2. Social and emotional well-being
  3. Supporting and extending language and communication
  4. Supporting learning and critical thinking
  5. Assessing learning and language

And this is a link to the book

25 September

Traffic Wardens

I can’t believe that teachers are now being asked to give out parking tickets!

Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck’s latest thinking on Growth Mindset

24 September

I’ve had a great 2 days getting up to date with Scottish Education.  As well as the keynote speeches, I went to workshops about Code Clubs, Making Education Work for All, EY Scotland – investing in our youngest people, How Good Is Our Early Learning and Childcare and Embedding International Education in Schools.  Some were inspirational and others thought provoking but it was great to see so many people passionate about learning.  I think I might try to learn to code by volunteering at a code club!  

One of the things which surprised me in the Making Education Work for all talk was the fact that 98.5% of parents take up the govt. free nursery places for 3 and 4 year olds.  That’s a really high percentage.  In this talk they also spoke about the importance of speaking to parents about having high aspirations for the children and the difference this can make.  

This is an article I read a few weeks ago about the same subject.  Are we doing enough for pupils and their parents to have inspirations and to keep them on track?

The workshop about embedding international education in schools was lovely to listen to.  It was great to hear about the work the British Council are doing and lovely to know the importance HMI put on international education but the star part of this workshop was hearing how much Queen Anne High School in Dunfermline do to develop an International dimension across their curriculum – certainly a school I would like to visit!

23 September

Scottish Learning Festival

I’m off to the Scottish Learning Festival today and tomorrow.  I’ve signed up for a few workshops and hope to get great ideas from the workshops and the stands.

Research v Evidence

I think we need to focus on both but this is an interesting article.

22 September

Why Teaching Someone else is the best way to learn

This is an article from Time Magazine.  I wonder how much time we give to students to teach something to someone else?

School inspections are changing in Scotland.

Cognitive Activation in Maths

A DfE funded NFER report on Cognitive Activation in Maths – teaching strategies to use to solve maths problems.

21 September

Starting School Age – and an appropriate curriculum

Two articles today from the Conversation.  I think that the first one backs up what EY teachers have been saying for years – the reception curriculum is not suitable for such young children! …

It’s really great that the Government have said that children born between April and August can now start school a year later and can then stay in that group for the rest of their education.  However this article now highlights the fact that perhaps a delayed start for summer babies will mean that spring babies are now disadvantaged?  With an increasing amount of evidence, surely there will come a time when curricula in the UK will have to change to be suitable for our youngest learners. …

A free conference about educational research

If only I lived nearer Sheffield as this looks really interesting but I can’t get there and back in a day.

20 September

Making Memories

This article shows what happens in your brain when you make a memory.

Education for All

This Unesco policy paper talks about how more ambitious targets are needed in the goal of education for all.

19 September

The Global Cardboard Challenge

Have you heard about it? The Global Cardboard Challenge. This could be done in schools, by voluntary groups or even in your own home with your children!  Their aim is to find, foster and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in children around the world to raise a new generation of innovators and problem solvers who have the tools they need to build the world they imagine.  What a great aim!

A More Prescriptive Curriculum?

This piece from TES argues that a more prescriptive curriculum would be beneficial with all children across the country learning the same thing at the same time – what do you think?
18 September

I’ve read a lot over the years about the benefits of Singapore Maths so I’m delighted to have booked a place on one of their courses today.  Here is an article explaining the principles of Singapore Maths.

Singapore maths

Another piece about Singapore Maths.

17 September

Global Education Conference

Have you signed up for the online Global Education Conference?  It is on today but they are also having a week-long conference in November.  I’ll post a note about anything exciting I see.

I’ve now logged in and there are more than 100 events today and a few tomorrow!

First great idea – share your healthy lunches – encouraging teachers, parents and children to share their ideas into a worldwide slide show – you can join here

And another fun activity for your classes to take part in – add the number of hours of sunlight (that’s sunlight not sunshine!) to this interactive map to help them understand that the amount of light you get is based on your location.

Global Goals
Great film from Global Collaboration Day linked to world’s largest lesson – only 6 minutes but powerful!

World Education Games

World Education Games are back again in October.  We found this was a great way to engage children – in maths, spelling and science.  Here is the link:

16 September

Universal Primary Education

An article from the newspaper about the long term benefits of universal primary education – I wonder how long it will be before this is achieved?

15 September

Growth Mindset

With an ever increasing focus on developing a growth mindset in our students, are we getting it right?  In this interview, Carol Dweck outlines her fears about whether it is fully understood by teachers trying to develop it:

The Impact on Sleep and Attainment

The Education Endowment Foundation are looking for schools to take part in a study to see how a later start in the morning impacts on attainment.  The results won’t be available for 2 years but it will be an interesting read. If you would like to know more about it or would like to join in, here’s the link:

Technology in the Classroom

This OECD report looks at the potential of technology in the classroom and compares access to computers for students in different countries.

14 September

Global Goals – and helping students to be globally aware

Last week I shared information about the World’s Largest Lesson taking place later this month.  I’ve included the link from Unicef below but I’ve also included a selection of other websites I know of to help children become more globally aware.  Hope they are of use – many of them are charities.  If you do take part in the lesson, send me some info and I’ll include it in my blog.

Largest Lesson:

Other resources:

13 September

Hand Up!

The English Government’s Behaviour Tsar has apparently advocated reintroducing children putting their ‘hands-up’ to answer questions.  The schools I have worked in have never stopped using this as a method of answering – sometimes.  The teachers have just made sure that they use it as one method in their teacher toolbox of strategies.  It’s still of a bit of a concern for me that a behaviour tzar is needed!

12 September

Bilingual Children

I’ve spent the majority of my career working with bilingual children. A recent piece of research has shown that bilingual children lag behind in English until the age of 5 but then catch up.  This is a summary of the research:

Here is a link to other papers by the same researcher – she focuses on migration, labour and the economics of education – they all make an interesting read partly because of the current situation across Europe but also for me because I have worked so much with children being educated outside their home country and also in a language which is not their first language.

This is a lovely little Ted-Ed video about the benefits of a bilingual brain!

And some more research into bilingualism

11 September

Helping with Maths Home Learning

Apparently parents who are anxious about maths pass this on to their children  – according to research from the University of Chicago


A recent report into child minding in England.

10 September

Are we obsessed by failure?

Here is another piece by Hattie – accompanied by a video.  One of the things he says is that in the business of education, we love to study failure.  This got me thinking and I think he is right – from the smallest thing in the classroom to entire systems, we tend to ask ourselves ‘Why did that go wrong?’  Surely we it would be better to be more reflective and think ‘Why did that go right?’ on the days we were successful.

9 September

Literacy Websites

Here is a collection of websites I’ve used with children aged 4 to 7 to help them improve their reading, writing and phonics or websites I’ve shared with parents to help them understand a bit more about how they can help their children with literacy.  Hope they are of use to someone!  – this is my favourite phonics website.  It’s free and you only pay a little for the app if you prefer to use a tablet.  The graphics are great quality and really keep the children interested and the quality of the material is fantastic!

www.readingrockets.orgthis is an American site which gives great advice for parents.  There is also a fun stuff section for using with children.

www.storylineonlineactors reading their favourite stories. of lovely activities. great phonics activities. advice on teaching reading and for parents supporting the reading process.  Some fun stuff for children and links to the Oxford Reading Tree. simple little reading game – the website has lots of other resources for other areas of the curriculum.

WORLD’S LARGEST LESSON – week beginning 28 September

Is your school taking part in ‘The World’s Largest Lesson’?  It’s a great way for your children to learn about being Global Citizens and the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

Global Goals

Resources are available here and are also available on TES.

8 September


You may have seen the page doing the facebook rounds about what time children should go to bed.  Wilson Elementary in the States posted it to their facebook page as helpful advice and it has gone viral with comments not only on their page but in newspapers, parent blogs etc.  I’m not sure where the evidence is from which helped the school to come up with this chart.  However, what I do know is that the children I come into contact with seem to be getting less sleep now then they did when I first started teaching and that huge percentages of children come to school tired each day.  This will impact on their performance.

Here is a link to advice from the NHS:

However, more scientific information can be found in the Journal of sleep research:

or from the webpage of the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University:

7 September


The media coverage of the refugee crisis over the last few days has been difficult to watch.  As an adult it is difficult to understand and I wonder how this is being discussed in schools?  Do teacher have the right resources to inform children.  I also wonder if as a society we are doing enough to help children to develop social skills to help them understand the world we live in and how they can be positive contributing members of our global society?

6 September


Here are some ideas from Newcastle University about how to get children to want to do maths outside the classroom.

5 September


4 September


Recent research from Cambridge University shows that the use of TV, Internet and Computer games reduces GCSE grades.  What is interesting is that it seems to suggest that it is not just because that it is time spent not studying but that it is actually linked to the technology.  I only read the summary but would be interested to read the full report.

3 September

2 September


In an attempt to help children get outside more and be healthier, Aberdeen Council is removing No Ball Games signs across Aberdeen.  I wonder if this will catch on?


On June 5, TES carried an article which stated that national standardised testing would not be reintroduced to Scottish Primary Schools:

However, less than 2 months later, an announcement has been made that tests will be introduced from 2017.  I was teaching in Scotland the last time testing was introduced and I’m not sure what impact they made on improving teaching and learning.  I’d love to know the evidence behind the decision and how the government thinks their new tests will improve teaching and learning this time round.  It will be interesting to see teachers reactions to this too.

1 September


Upstart Scotland is an organisation which is campaigning for education to start at seven in Scotland.  The reason they give is that this is the starting age for school in the most successful European countries.  I’m not completely decided.  I think that children should start school at an earlier age but that the curriculum should be much more child initiated and play based.

31 August

30 August

Today I’m providing training at another school in Doha.  I thought I was running a workshop for 25 people but there are more than 100 educators in the ballroom of a hotel and I’m up at a podium.  Adaptability is what it is all about!

The Standard for Early Years Practice

The Scottish Government believe that this qualification is making a difference in Early Years.  As an EY practitioner, I firmly believe that young children deserve a highly skilled workforce.  Whether or not this needs to be a degree, I’m not sure but I think there has to be sustained professional development as mandatory for practitioners working with our under fives.


Big Write has been very popular in many English schools and International schools.  Any teacher I know who have attended the training or used it in their classrooms spoke very positively about it.  However, this recent piece of research from NfER shows that it has had no real impact on attitude or attainment in writing.  This is a relatively small study of only a few schools but makes an interesting read about something so many people have bought into.  More strength in the argument for evidence based practice?

29 August


What do you do on a day when it is too hot (45 degrees) humid and dusty to go outside and the pool is very busy?  I’ve got a little bit of work to do and tonight I’m meeting up with a friend I worked with 6 years ago but I saw a link to a Japanese method of multiplication, then from that saw links to other methods and thought they were worth sharing.  I don’t think I would replace the different methods I’ve used but great to show children other methods of learning and all much more visual and practical so maybe good for those who are struggling!  Great for linking maths to International Mindedness!  Hope some of you find these interesting too!  I’m not sure why one is coming through as a video you can watch straight from here while the others are only links.  Not any in-depth reading but something interesting for me to watch on a hot weekend – which for those at home will probably be a wet weekend!

The first is the line method and is said to originate in Japan:

The second is said to be either the Chinese or Mayan method – I haven’t spent my time checking which it is and something makes me think that it is the lattice method rather than the lettuce method but I could be wrong!  However, it is a different way to show children how to multiply – I think that you would be best to prepare the grids in advance or it could take a while!

Now the third method is the hands method for the 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 times table and I think it is clever – I always find that children like to see a few tricks!  However, I also think that this would be great to use with children initially struggling when they start to learn the higher tables – not something to replace other methods but something to get them started when other methods are not working and something which I think teachers will find interesting!

28 August


I spent a lovely afternoon and evening with a family I knew 8 years ago – international travel is great for letting you reconnect with your past!  I’ve been reading quite a lot recently about growth mindsets and found these classroom displays about it.  The first is from  Fieldcrest Elementary School and the second is from a blog called mathequalslove.  I thought that they were powerful but simple and thought these might be useful for teachers getting displays ready for the start of the new school year.

Growth Mindset 1

Growth Mindset 2Growth Mindset 3 (2)

27 August


I’ve just finished 2 days of IPC training with a lovely group of enthusiastic teachers at Pearling Season International School in Doha.  They have worked hard over the last 2 days and thought about they changes they will be making to their programme and how to introduce the Assessment for Learning Programme.

Today’s reading comes from NFER.  For any EY teachers out there or anyone else interested in the English Government’s Baseline Assessment for Reception children, this is an NFER research paper funded by the DfE.  This looks at the views of teachers, parents, schools etc and outlines their thoughts on the new assessments:

26 August


Wow this is an amazing Kindergarten in Japan – the architect is speaking about how he has designed the building to allow the children free-flow and to teach them to take risks!  A bit different from any KG/nursery/EY setting I’ve ever visited!

25 August

Up bright and early today – well early anyway as I’m off to Doha in Qatar for a week to do training for 2 schools there.

I’m not sure I completely agree with this quote because life gives us many experiences.  I certainly think that my understanding of the world and the things I appreciate has been developed because of all of the travel I’ve been fortunate enough to do and all of the people I’ve been privileged enough to meet!

24 August


This is a from The Centre for Education Statistics in New South Wales about what works best based on evidence based practice.  It brings together seven themes from a bank of evidence they have collected for what works to improve student educational outcomes.  This site has some other interesting articles too!

23 August

It’s still about engagement!


22 August


This article is from New Zealand about creating high expectations in your classroom.  It comes with great links to other sites, gives examples and also video clips to back up the different strategies being recommended.  A really easy read/watch and lots of other useful links on the site too!

21 August

Not much time for reading or writing today – 230 boxes arrived yesterday of all the things I’ve gathered since leaving Scotland 18 years ago.  I’ve now had to admit that I’m a hoarder!  Part of the 230 boxes were 2000 books – mostly ones I’ve used in schools.  It will be good to be back somewhere with quality libraries with lots of choice for a while! A few weeks of properly unpacking in-between though!

thinking quote

20 August


A little inspirational Ted Talk as we approach the start of another school year.  For me, the last sentence really says it all, “We can do this because we are educators, we are born to make a difference!”

19 August


This is a very simple little article on pinterest about why education in Finland is so good.

18 August


This is a short video (the latest in a series) from Michael Fullan about his commitment to improving the system.  Michael has spent years working to improve education for all – I’ve loved reading some of his books which are an easy read and always give ideas which I feel are practical as well as thought provoking questions which can be good for personal reflections and staff meetings.  If you watched the videos, I’d certainly recommend them – the series (all 22) are available on his website but this one gives an insight into why he has spent his life trying to improve eduation for all.

17 August


Here’s something I wish I thought of – what a great way to spend time out of school!  A teacher has travelled the world to places which come high on league tables for education to see why they are constantly coming so high (Canada, Finland, Japan, Shanghai, and Singapore).  She is now writing a book about it and has raised the money for the book by crowd funding. I look forward to reading it when published: 

16 August


Having just completed a 2 day Kagan workshop which I really enjoyed and could see lots of ways it could be used in a classroom to improve learning, I decided to look for some of the research relating to whether it does make a difference.  This piece of research is not so recent but looks at how Cooperative Learning Structures Can Increase Student Achievement.

15 August


Robert Marzano and John Hattie are both very well respected in the world of educational research.  However, they don’t both always agree.  Here is an article which outlines the strategies they both agree on – as well as examples of each.  It’s really easy to read and is something I think all teachers should be reading to see how to really make an impact in their classroom.

14 August


I agree completely with what Hattie said – when looking for new teachers, teachers who were passionate about what they were talking about always got my attention.

“Teachers who are passionate about making a difference are more likely to make a difference” John Hattie

13 August

More words of wisdom from Einstein


12 August


Education in Finland constantly does well in world rankings.  This article highlights the reason why – and teacher autonomy and high quality education for teachers is what seems to make the difference.  Is this something other countries could emulate …. and would they want to?  I certainly want to find out more.

11 August


When writing a Guardian article, Estelle Morris the former Education Secretary for England stated something like “Education doesn’t have the sort of shared evidence base that is available to medical staff – and politics fills the gap.” I think that politicians should have an interest in education but I don’t think that education should be influenced by party politics so that when a party changes, new educational policies are quickly introduced so that the political parties are seen to be making their mark on education.  However, I think that the much more important question from her quote is to ask why do we not have enough quality based research in education.

10 August


A great first day of learning for me at the Kagan workshop – cooperative learning.  Met a lot of great teachers from Aronslokka Stole, Norway.  The headteacher has complete autonomy over her budget and so felt it was worthwhile to bring all her staff – 27 teachers for their professional development and team building before the start of a new academic year.  How fantastic to have a professional development budget like that or the autonomy to decide that teacher development is worth spending money on!  Great presenting from Gavin – making it lively, interesting and thought provoking.  I would love to be heading back into the classroom in September to be using some of the strategies but I know I will be able to use them in training!  I would also like to learn much more about the different Kagan strategies and the research they are based on.  I really think they would make a difference in the classroom if used properly.  

9 August

IMG_3453 (2)

Heading off to Cheshire today to attend a Kagan course on cooperative learning.  I’ve used a few of the techniques before but would like to learn more.


8 August


Yesterday I shared a link about France banning wifi in nurseries for very young children … this is in contrast to the article today which is about the increase in wearable technology in education.

7 August


The number of devices and the way we use them in the classroom is constantly increasing.  However, France has now banned wifi devices in rooms with under threes.  If it is not safe for young children, is it safe for the rest of us ….. and what about our houses etc?

6 August 2015


Nature or nurture?  Passing higher maths at age 11. Whatever it is, WELL DONE!

And something a little controversial that a politician is reported to have said – sad to say, I think it could be true!

The impact of parents not talking to their children – scrolling through emails, and catching up on Twitter – is leaving school kids unable to speak properly.
Tristram Hunt  – Politician

5 August 2015


Well done to all of those students in Scotland who were celebrating as they received their exam results yesterday.  The media yesterday reported on their annual question – are results going up because exams are getting easier or because teaching and learning is improving?  Not a debate the students want to hear the day the results arrive.  By today the focus in the media  was on the pass rates – most specifically that the pass rate for higher maths was 33.8%.



4 Aug 2015


Interesting to watch/listen. It seems that the latest research is showing that older children learn foreign languages better.  However, in this piece of research they used the same teacher to ensure the same methods etc. were being used …… my thinking is maybe that’s why they got these results, as 5 year olds need a different approach to learning than 11 year olds!  I’m going to look at some more of the research to see what I can find out.


3 Aug 2015



2 Aug 2015


This article shows the increase in demand globally for English medium independent schools.  Good news for all us international teachers?


1 Aug 2015



31 July 2015


Here’s a Guardian article about recent research in neuroscience and whether it dispels the myth about learning styles ……

I really enjoyed co-presenting the EY Workshop at the IPC summer school today!  Delegates from all over the world asking lots of interesting questions.  Always lovely to share my experiences and learn from others.

30 July 2015


Attended a couple of really interesting workshop sessions at the summer school and then it was great to catch up with some friends and then meet many of the other trainers and IPC staff. ~(Photos from IPC facebook page).


I’ve worked in schools using the IPC for the last 15 years and I really believe that it does help children develop personally and socially as well as academically.  If you would like to learn more about the IPC, here is a link to their website:

29 July 2015

How Do you build motivation? Carrot and stick or intrinsic motivation – linked to developing a growth mindset? Here’s what one blogger thinks:

How To Build Motivation

Published by thinkreadtweet

Does the skill of motivating others come naturally, or can it be learned? What gets you out of bed in the morning – particularly, during the holidays? The attraction of a nice warm bed and a book is often a stronger pull than being up and outside – especially if the British summer has arrived in the form of endless rain! The cosiness and precious opportunity to dwell in another world for a few hours can far outweigh the more mundane world that awaits us. For others, that first glint of daylight is all that is needed to be up, showered and outside ready to tackle the multitude of jobs that have accumulated over the term. Staying in bed for even a minute after waking would be unthinkable! What we find satisfying, we find motivating. But we all find different things satisfying, don’t we? What one person finds enjoyable another finds unpleasant. One person’s Marmite is another’s disgusting black goop. So, what motivates different students? Some teachers believe that education should be its own reward, …

Really happy to make it to London for the IPC European Summer School.
IMG_3441 (2)

28 July 2015


A great 2 days of training with some really enthusiastic EY teachers …… now time for what should be a 21 hour journey to London and just been told there is a 3 hour delay for the first flight.  It’s going to be a long night!

27 July 2015


Another old one, but something I could watch again and again.  The RSA animates are such an easy watch but really get to the point.  This is my favourite – Sir Ken Robinson on Changing Paradigms.—changing-paradigms/

I’m really looking forward to starting the training today at GS School Jakarta.


26 July 2015



25 July 2015


Are you concerned with what knowledge children now need in a world where any piece of knowledge is available instantly?  This RSA short by John Lloyd is an interesting watch on the subject.

I’m off to Jakarta today to give some IPC training – looking forward to the training but not the journey!

24 July 2015



23 July 2015


Almost 10 years old now but still relevant,  Are you guilty?


22 July 2015



21 July 2015


Are you bilingual?  Do you teach children who are bilingual or multilingual?  This is a TedEd video showing the benefits of the bilingual brain – a simple little video worth sharing: 


20 July 2015



19 July 2015


Do you have specific learning zones in your classroom? This article states that there are 7 zones every classroom should have.

And an accompanying poster:


18 July 2015



17 July 2015


Could you ditch your desk?  This little article says that it will have a positive impact.  What do you think?


16 July 2015



15 July 2015


The Backward Brain Bicycle – a great little video showing trying to relearn a skill!  Well worth a watch and good for sharing with children when teaching about how our brains work and about KSU.


14 July 2015



13 July 2015


An interview with John Hattie about knowing your impact as a teacher – linked to his book Visible Learning.


12 July 2015


The Educational Endowment Foundation issued a report on the impact of the physical environment on learning.  I’m sure most of us just use the classrooms we are given without paying too much attention to noise, light, temperature, air quality, design and decoration …. well we probably think a lot about what we put on display but not the actual decorations.  Perhaps we should ………


11 July 2015


Recent research has backed up what Hattie has been saying – that class size has minimal impact on attainment.  I wonder how many teachers would agree?


10 July 2015



9 July 2015

I promised myself that once the school year ended and I got home, I would spend 30 minutes a day reading articles, blogs, publications etc linked to education and learning.  Some of it is new and some of it is something I think still make an impact.  I’ve now decided to share some of the things I read.  This little blog is a selection of what I’ve read as well as quotes I’ve seen that strike a chord with me.  None of this is my work, just my attempt at developing a growth mindset. I hope that some of it is of interest to others. Terry