Retention and Recruitment

When the HMI informed the surrounding headteachers that OFSTED had been given the task of investigating teacher retention and issues with recruitment, she didn’t smile and apparently failed to see the irony of the announcement. Nobody said anything due mainly the possibility of reprisals.

I have worked with many teachers, my favourites are those that see their job as both a passion and vocation. As a parent, these are the type of people I want my own children to encounter and be enthused by. There is however an incompatibility with the modern system and my worry is that genuine teachers will either be driven out of the profession, or become so emotionally upset that they have to quit. Why do they get upset? Well the reason is that they care too much.

When we value what we measure rather than measure what we value, beliefs and passions are relegated to the scrap heap. The question is: Can you teach something when you know it is of little value to the pupil? If it is worthless and feels pointless, can you pursue someone else’s aspirations when you don’t believe in what you have been asked to do? I would argue that if you are a child centred educator the process would be like chewing tin foil.

‘Bean counting’ is one thing, but when it dominates every thing we do,say and deliver it becomes too much for many teachers or leaders to take.

We are haemorrhaging staff because the atmosphere of apparent accountability is toxic and sour to taste. People have never minded being judged, but it helps to be involved in the conversation. Dialogue only works if it is a two way process.

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Mental Health – Role Models

Mental Health is quite rightly a societal obsession at the moment. I feel so sorry for modern day kids and especially teenagers trying to live with the constant bombardment from the ‘edited versions of other people’s, lives.’ Modern communications are a great gift, but at the same can be seen as a life damaging curse.

I was always taught and indeed have thought that adults should aim to be role models for our youth and yet when I look around; especially in the wider scope of my work, the baggage many colleagues carry is a great concern. What use are schools to our youth if those our youngsters encounter on a day to day basis are stressed and unhappy? The balance between accountability and a broad and healthy curriculum is a fine one to tread.

As there are nowadays fewer places to hide, life and it’s associated ups and downs becomes less forgiving and increasingly damaging, especially when (via social media) we are on constant public parade!

Within the past few years I have heard Headteachers and senior leaders debate the best beta blockers, I have been shouted at because after suggesting a colleague might be binge drinking with the curt response: ‘A bottle of wine a night is quite normal;how the hell could I sleep otherwise?’ I have helped alcoholics, dealt with colleagues breakdowns and have seen the mess oppressive accountability can make of once canny individuals. With our ‘bean counting ‘ educational system which is the absolute antithesis of all I hold dear, We can only wonder; ‘is it possible to display the personal attributes that children need to see, when it feels like the educational landscape is crumbling? ‘ Or should we just pretend all is well?’

Schools should be social models (especially for children who have less than perfect home circumstances). It is good for pupils of all ages to see staff positively interacting with an abundance of honest happiness. Perhaps one of the best things we could do for our children is to focus on our own mental health and that of the staff they encounter.

I don’t doubt the intuition of young people, they know when adults aren’t happy. When we consider the future health of our younger citizens, perhaps we should see ourselves in the same box and seek our own solutions at the same time…

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Skip Rat 89: A Teacher’s Story

They had nicknamed me the ‘Skip Rat’ ; it was however a term of endearment and to some extent pity, as the young teacher foraged through the throw away card and paper of the local supermarket skip . The luminous arrows and price discount posters were ideal for classroom displays and artwork. I didn’t of course know any different and enjoyed the banter with the supermarket staff who started to keep me all the ‘specials displays.’ It never occurred to me that such need was a sad reflection on political priorities, it was all I knew, schools and teachers had a philosophy of ‘make do and mend.

There wasn’t really an alternative, I believed passionately that I wanted to be the best teacher possible, and saw my ideas and enthusiasm as my number one resource.

Fast forward 30 years; history has taught me the power of investment, with a peak in the early part of this century to within the last 10 years, a gradual decline. Teachers and leaders have effectively become social workers, mental health experts (mmm?) for families and children ; every undesirable aspect of societies problems being neatly added to the existing burdens of education.

You can’t find societal cures in a skip outside a supermarket; the difference is, there is now a shortage of funding to the detriment of education, but the same outcomes (and more) as in the glory years are expected throughout. As an enthusiastic Skip Rat I always did my best, but was free from bean counters, obscure measurements and the threat of job loss if my pupils didn’t make ‘linear’ appropriate progress. 

I prided myself on the wide curriculum I offered  and the acquired skills of those pupils that left my class. Pupils deserve the best we have to offer. As a leader, I want teachers focused on teaching, they should not have to beg for resources, they shouldn’t have to supplement and replace many aspects of social services. We are educating future generations, it is a mistake and an insult from the powers that be, not even to admit there is an issue. Austerity has not ended, I see it everyday……

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Can schools cure society?

Schools are held accountable for most of societies ailments (an ever increasing list). Not a day passes where we are again asked to take responsibility for yet another aspect of life that is going wrong.

Schools can make huge contributions to society, but with the increased notion of an ever ‘narrowing of the curriculum’ (easier to succeed if you influence what you measure) those that need most are more likely to gain less. We value what we measure, we don’t measure what we value…. when things go wrong schools are inevitably told to narrow what they do and to ‘make sure the stats are right.’

When you look at Ofsted outcomes they mainly chart the fact that you are more likely to succeed if you go to a school in an affluent area:

with that in mind the more deprived the school the narrower the curriculum will more likely to be in order to keep the wolves at bay.

If we are to influence the attitudes of our future societal members we have to offer alternatives that parents sometimes are unable to offer themselves.

Whilst curriculum is effectively being strangled by our current regime of false accountability the current state of the nation means: The more affluent you are the broader the curriculum you are likely to receive.

If we are to help cure the issues of society it seems common sense to direct help towards where it is needed most. Curriculum should reflect context and be a vehicle for offering what is needed, a means of empowerment.

It seems clear that our nation’s media and politicians want us to champion every aspect of childhood; to some extent I believe that schools should reflect societal need, we do however need the flexibility and tools to offer solutions where the need is most… at the moment our hands are tied.

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Mindfulness Oxford University have undertaken a lot of research with regards to this, with chief advocates being celebrities such as Ruby Wax who I believe has studied for a degree with them. She seems to have certainly found that it works for her! Check out her Youtube presentation (very human review of mental health). Mindfulness is all about the inner self and state of ‘Being.’ The argument goes that we spend the majority of our time ‘doing things’ but that we rarely exist in the current moment, the ‘now.’ Through focused meditation/ thought we can learn to live more in the current moment, we can also learn that we can’t change the past, and we can only influence the future…

Mindfulness is closely related to Buddhist teachings. It helps people process life and teaches them not to dwell on thoughts that can damage our health. It also teaches us that perception varies. It has been proven to make people healthier and most certainly happier. The very nature of it means it is hard to get the practices wrong.

It is a definite way of quantifying thinking and the issues thinking can create. ‘Neural plasticity’ means we can change at anytime, the meditations certainly make you feel calm. Our minds have the power to make us feel fantastic, or indeed awful. By understanding and drawing ourselves into the current moment we can change the way we think and feel.

Learn to pay attention to what exactly is happening!



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Power of Now…

The Power Of Now (Eckhart Tolle) 
This was a specific book I read (Very deep!), the book itself was really heavy going (for an ordinary bloke like me!) it outlines the fundamental philosophy relating to Mindfulness. It is an interesting read, but is something you read a bit of,then  contemplate a lot ! I have heard of people hosting study groups using each chapter as a starting point. Not fantastically accessible, but there you go! To give you a flavour Eckhart Tolle can be heard via youtube. What is it like to truly be in the present moment? What matters most in life?South Shields


Eckhart Tolle


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Contributions to sustainable Leadership;What is NLP?

Contributions to sustainable Leadership
What is NLP?

Do you ever wonder why when working with people they do the oddest things or why you get some people who are about as subtle  as a house brick? Do you meet people who appear oblivious to the concept of empathy? Do you wonder, why or how your colleagues stir up hornets’ nests of contempt/misunderstanding? NLP is for me, the study of people, what they do or say and how they interact.

My experience of: 
NLP stands for ‘Neuro Linguistic Programming ‘. Neuro stands for thinking/thought, Linguistic for language and Programming refers to the fact that in everyday life we fall into different patterns of thought and language i.e. we are programmed (by our own reactions and those of others) to think in specific ways. By recognising these communication patterns, both verbal and nonverbal and becoming aware, we can increase our ability to communicate with different people. We can also wrestle with and alter thought patterns that harm us personally. One colleague described it as ‘A toolkit for Leadership.’
I first came across NLP whilst helping a colleague, I was very sceptical and ‘put off ‘ by initial generalisations portrayed on Youtube and the mass media. Looking more closely whilst taking the NLP ‘Practitioners’ Course’ I began to realise that Richard Bandler and John Grinder had looked to collate the best practice i.e. most effective; as proven by success rates. The language patterns suggested work really well with people  as does the fact you analyse your own ‘map of the  world’ and learn how it is important understand the perceptions of others.
You realise that although we are social beings that both seek and need interaction to live a fulfilling life, we make many things up, assume mind reading abilities and live our own stories that often harm and upset both ourselves and potentially others.
The above is a brief resume, NLP qualifications appear to be expensive, but if you divide the price between the eight days it suggests, it is quite average with regards to associated charges. Does it make a difference? As with all things if you are prepared to listen, learn and consider, the impact could be life changing; it certainly created an absolute interest for me personally.
You will see correspondence courses (would do as well to buy a book) on offer via all kinds of media, I would however say that there is no substitute for a well trained consultant.
Wikipedia Says: 
Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is an approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in California, United States in the 1970s. NLP’s creators claim there is a connection between neurological processes (neuro-), language (linguistic) and behavioral patterns learned through experience (programming), and that these can be changed to achieve specific goals in life Bandler and Grinder also claim that NLP methodology can “model” the skills of exceptional people, allowing anyone to acquire those skills. They claim as well that, often in a single session, NLP can treat problems such as phobias, depression, tic disorders, psychosomatic illnesses, near-sightedness, allergy, common cold, and learning disorders.[7][8]
NLP has since been overwhelmingly discredited scientifically, but continues to be marketed by some hypnotherapists and by some companies that organize seminars and workshops on management training for businesses. There is no scientific evidence supporting the claims made by NLP advocates and it has been discredited as a pseudoscience by experts. Scientific reviews state that NLP is based on outdated metaphors of how the brain works that are inconsistent with current neurological theory and contain numerous factual errors. Reviews also found that all of the supportive research on NLP contained significant methodological flaws and that there were three times as many studies of a much higher quality that failed to reproduce the “extraordinary claims” made by Bandler, Grinder, and other NLP practitioners. Even so, NLP has been adopted by some hypnotherapists and also by companies that run seminars marketed as leadership training to businesses and government agencies.


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