Insights into the #LearningFirst speakers

On this page you’ll learn something about some of those speaking at this (ground-breaking? No…) groundswell @BeyondLevels Sheffield event. Leah Stewart has done a fabulous job of researching and collating these gems for us. Leah blogs on education at

Leah has provided the opportunity to…

“Read this content to gain real insights into the people behind the well-known names and impressive sounding titles. Put another way: impersonal bios, awkward first person intros and PR style testimonials – be gone!

Because now is the time to showcase and celebrate education putting humans on the stage – with fears, hopes, frustrations and love for the vocation of education and their students, just like you.

As you read, look out for reasons to trust and speak with these individuals on the day. If inspired, why not connect with them in advance of the event, or afterwards via online means?

Quotes have been selected from the online presence of each speaker, so are naturally not representative of the whole person, nor are they intended to accurately reflect current views but will, hopefully, prove to be entertaining and reassuring for anyone who may feel on the edge of this conversation. You ARE welcome, baggage and all!

As Chris Chivers recently said – “The system works through human effort; needs a humane response to human frailty” –

See you at Sheffield, or online @BeyondLevels and #LearningFirst”

Prof Dame Alison Peacock will be hosting the auditorium sessions @AlisonMPeacock @BeyondLevels
Co-author of Creating Learning without Limits, Executive Headteacher The Wroxham Primary School

“I believe we should do everything possible to encourage colleagues throughout the teaching profession to believe that participation in professional debate is a vital. The real fascination of teaching is that often what works best feels unquantifiable and defies fine measurement”

– Alison, via

Ann Mroz @AnnMroz
Editor and Digital Publishing Director, TES

“Confidence was riding high when I sat the key stage 2 English grammar, punctuation and spelling sample paper. How hard could a test for 11-year-olds be? I whipped off the test in 20 minutes – the full 45 minutes was clearly for children and pedant pussies – and sent it off for external marking. I was left with a strange feeling, as though I had been tested more on whether I knew what a tool was called than whether I knew how to craft something beautiful with it”

– Ann, via

Mary Myatt @MaryMyatt
Author, High Challenge, Low Threat: How the Best Leaders Find the Balance

“One of our greatest needs in life is to have our voices heard. It touches the deepest part of our being when we have the right to speak and be heard. This level of hearing is an affirmation of our true worth”

– Mary, via

Marc Rowland @natedtrust_marc
Associate Director National Education Trust

“Meeting accountability targets and Ofsted grades are a by-product, not the end goal. Clarity of purpose and clarity of aims are fundamental”

– Marc, via

Natalie Packer @NataliePacker
Member of DfE Commission for AWL

“Our pupils are the starting points for defining our curriculum; 1) Get to know them really well 2) Engage parents 3) Believe in them”

– Natalie, via &

Sarah Earle @PriSciEarle
Senior Lecturer: Primary PGCE, Bath Spa University

“Enthusiasm for working scientifically is more important than specialists for primary science”

– Sarah, via

Dr Wayne Tennent
Senior lecturer on the MA in Education, University of East London

“The teacher of reading can show children how to comprehend text; what each child makes of the text they read will be dependent on their experience of the world. And this is what makes investigating children’s reading comprehension so fascinating”

– Wayne via

Lucy Rimmington @Teacher_Ofqual
Senior Manager, Strategic Relationships, Ofqual. Ofqual policy

“…the assumption really, amongst the teaching community and certainly from my perspective, is that if you’ve got very strong leadership, good teachers, good teaching and switched on students, then all that hard work will lead to increased grades, however (and this is something which is quite new to me now I’ve joined Ofqual and seen the other side of things) if a small group of students do better it actually means another group of students somewhere else in the country is going to do less well, because nationally the grades aren’t going to improve year on year”

– Lucy, via

Jo Penn @JaPenn56
Primary & Secondary Governor, NLG, Founder @UkGovChat

”As governors and leaders we must guard against getting caught up in thinking too much about the ‘problem’, wasting valuable and limited time and resources revisiting issues without identifying solutions and acting on them in a timely fashion. Tempting though it may be, dwelling on the problem itself doesn’t resolve anything: identify it, find a solution and act. I’m off to the spare room, make of that what you will”

– Jo, via

Sean Harford @HarfordSean
Ofsted, National Director, Education

Quote from David Didau – “In my conversations with Mike Cladingbowl and new National Director for Schools, Sean Harford, I’ve found a real willingness to acknowledge the mistakes of the past and provide clarity and guidance to minimise the likelihood of school leaders frantically trying to deliver ‘what Ofsted want’ in the future. Ofsted really is trying to reinvent itself…”

– via

Carolyn Robson, CBE @CaroDunelm
Vice Chair, Teaching Schools Council

“#jesuiseuropeen Reflecting today on the importance of collaboration and partnership. We need to work together across Europe not alone”

– Carolyn, via

Seamus Oates @HeadTBAP
CEO of the TBAP Multi Academy Trust

Quote from the Guardian [N.B. this is from 2011] – “Headteacher Seamus Oates stands in the corridor and greets the late arrivals with warmth. A lot of pupils arrive for the free breakfast club that starts at 7.30, but those who arrive after school has begun are rarely reprimanded for coming late because staff are so eager to reward the fact that they have turned up at all”

– via

Shirley Clarke @shirleyclarke_
Author and researcher: Outstanding Formative Assessment – Culture and Practice

Quote from the TED – “Shirley Clarke helped to popularise the terms Wilf (what I’m looking for), Walt (we are learning to …) and Oli (our learning intention is …) after they were coined by teachers on one of her courses. She now thinks Wilfs and similar acronyms should be scrapped. ‘The more high-profile AfL becomes, the more it gets misinterpreted,’ she said. ‘It is about improving children’s learning, not just a quick fix.’ Ms Clarke said that when she started the work in 1998, the idea of learning objectives (what pupils were learning) and success criteria (whether they had learnt it) were new. ‘So Walt, Wilf and Oli, at that time, were wonderful,’ she said. ‘Teachers were making them into characters – into dogs or cats. Walt you can’t really go wrong with, but Wilf was a bit of a disaster – it meant teachers were giving children the success criteria instead of asking children to generate them. It made children think, ‘This is about doing what the teacher wants us to do.’ Even worse, using animals meant some young children were saying, ‘We’re learning this for the dog’. So now on all courses and books, I say get rid of them. It has blighted me. There may be teachers still using them, but they ought to be throwing them away. I now talk about learning objectives and success criteria.”

– via

Michael Tidd @MichaelT1979
Deputy Headteacher of a primary and nursery school in Nottinghamshire

“Some teachers have an aversion to tests; it’s an aversion I sometimes share. When children are tested on material from standardised papers halfway through the year, often all we learn is that some children haven’t learned what they haven’t yet been taught”

– Michael, via

James Pembroke
Helping schools make sense of their data.

“I admit that it took a while for the penny to drop. Once I accepted, and then embraced the death of levels, I’ve been continually re-evaluating my thoughts on progress measures, and have had this nagging feeling for a while now: that our entire approach is not just flawed but is a fabrication, constructed to meet the ever increasing pressures of accountability. We have come to accept these measures, made them part of the common language of assessment and tracking even though they bear little or no relation to what happens in the classroom. Progress is actually an individual thing, occurring at different rates and dependent on numerous influencing factors yet we pretend it isn’t so we can continue to produce numbers for those that demand them, never really questioning their validity. We have blindly stumbled into complicity, becoming willing participants in a major scam, and perhaps architects of our own downfall. But now with levels gone I think it’s time we did a little soul searching and asked ourselves a rather important question: Can we really measure progress?”

– James, via

Kate Sowter @Top_kat1
College of Teaching

“To flip this system, teachers must become active in discussing and agreeing what is a good education. To break out, we must have the time and space to hone our craft, to understand how to critique research to influence our practice, and to celebrate the development of good practice. Flipping cannot happen without securing trust; externally and internally. Building on this, the purpose of a good education must then be debated, to influence policy and direction. ‘Flip The System’ is a text for teachers; calling them to action, and urging them to recognise that their voice is absolutely the most powerful force for change in education today”

– Kate, via

Kerry Jordan-Daus @KerryJordanDaus
Canterbury Christ Church University ITE, research into Teaching and Learning

“I am not sure where the women’s movement has been for me for the last 20 years, but on Saturday, I felt the power we have in our hands. I am feeling at least 10% braver.

10% braver means I will say no and mean it

10% braver means my voice is important and will be heard

10% braver means I will decide what is important and follow my dream

10% braver means I do not have to apologise for who I am and what I believe”

Kerry, via

Ben Fuller
President of AAiA (Association for Achievement and Improvement through Assessment)

“When I wrote for Schools Week about the Department for Education (DfE) requirements regarding exclamation sentences, little did I expect it to capture the imagination of the national media in quite the way it did. However, much of the media coverage included an important misconception, which I feel needs to be set straight. It also tended to focus very specifically on the debate about exclamation marks rather than on the bigger picture of what has happened in assessment this year. I would like to address both of these issues. Firstly, the “exclamation sentence” issue has been misrepresented as being about punctuation, whereas in fact it is an issue of sentence construction and categorisation…”

– Ben, via

Anne Heavey @ATLAnneH
Education Policy Advisor, ATL

“So yes, there are huge concerns about the Government’s reforms to key stage 1 and 2 assessment and accountability, but let’s not despair just yet. In fact let’s do the opposite. Let’s share the great things we are doing and celebrate the great practice going on in our primary schools, above all share the good news!”

– Anne, via

Frances Child
Vice Principal, University of Birmingham School, Director of School-Led Initial Teacher Education
Rob Webster @maximisingTAs
MITA Lead & Researcher, UCL Institute of Education

“But, I hear you ask, if more TAs becoming teachers, where will their replacements come from? Well, that’s perhaps another blog for another day, but those 3 million apprenticeships the government want to create by 2020 will have to come from somewhere”

– Rob, via

Ros Wilson @rosBIGWRITING
Education Consultant and creator of Big Writing and Power Writing

“Writing is an art form. A piece of completed independent writing is an expression of the writer’s thoughts and feelings towards a stimulus, it is unique and personal to that writer. It is as a painting, or a dance, or a gymnastic sequence – the culmination of learning and practising skills and techniques and then bringing them together as a whole. It is only when that final performance that is a totally independent expression of the writer is judged that we know how successful we have been in teaching the craft. Children who have been truly empowered to behave like writers, and who are familiar with writing independently, will be perfectly capable of producing their highest standard of work without the help or direction of an adult. Teaching pupils to write without support or direction is part of the ‘job’ of teaching them to ‘behave like writers’. That is what almost all writers do!”

– Ros, via

Dr Ally Daubney @AllyDaubney
Incorporated Society of Musicians; University of Sussex ITE

Quote from drfautley – “But the bit of ‘evaluate’ that I have been thinking about is that of ‘placing value on’. Ally Daubney and I have been thinking about this with teachers, and I think it is really interesting. What do we value, how do we evaluate what we value, and then how do we assess it? The old saying “do we assess what we value, or do we value what we assess” is central here”

– via

John Tomset@johntomsett
Headteacher at Huntington School in York, England

“Well, over the past few weeks, as my energy has waned post-pneumonia, friends, colleagues and governors have been my First Aid geese. Everyone has a backstory. If I have learnt anything this year, it has been from chatting with my colleagues about things other than work. We all have a life going on beyond Huntington, a life which is more important and which is often emotionally demanding. I am amazed, on a regular basis, at how colleagues keep doing a great job when they are living through difficult times outside of school. Our colleagues are first and foremost people, something school leaders like me do well to remember”

– John, via

Prof Sam Twiselton @samtwiselton
Professor of Education and Director of Sheffield Institute of Education

Quote from Times Higher Education – “Professor Twiselton said that ‘admitting there are some things that schools can do a lot better than a university can’ was one of the things that Sheffield Hallam had not ‘been afraid’ to do. ‘You have to not be precious,’ she said. ‘I see this when I have meetings with other universities. They think we can do it all the best, but we can’t. There is no substitute for someone who has been at the chalk face, working with the latest curriculum and initiatives’”

– via

Andrea Carr @andreacarr1
Managing Director at Rising Stars and Hodder Primary

“This is just the beginning of my lifelong journey for multicultural education. Thank you for opening my eyes Brandelyn”

– Andrea, via

Mick Walker
Former executive director, Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA), and trustee, Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors (CIEA)

“I believe there is real hope and a massive opportunity for the teaching profession to take the assessment bull by the horns and use it to regain professional standing. Dare I say, drawing on the experiences of those around in the days before the national curriculum, teachers can take back control. Indeed there used to be a world where teachers roamed free and levels of attainment were beyond common imagination. Ironically, this was an age much celebrated by some politicians”

– Mick, via

Leora Cruddas @LeoraCruddas
Director of Policy, Association of School and College Leaders

“When did we decide as a nation that we would allow successive governments to tell us how to teach or what to teach? When did we accept that Ofsted has a mandate to prescribe our teaching practice? The next phase in improving our education system must come from the profession itself. Part of the journey is reclaiming the theory and practice of teaching – a reminder to ourselves and government that teaching is a profession, underpinned by a body of knowledge”

– Leora, via

Karen Walker @KarenWalkerEduc
Regional Director of CfBT Schools Trust (sponsored by Education Development Trust)

“So I’m 300m down a Polish salt mine and the DfE email me a date for a school inspection – on a Sunday! No hiding place!”

 – Karen, via

Simon Cowley @SiCowley
TSC Regional Representative for South West, School improvement and performance management responsibility for White Horse Federation

“We took our ‘levels’ thinking hats off and started to browse for a new improved version to support assessment in the new era. Our initial thinking led us to the security of an electronic tracking tool. This enabled us to track pupil progress and produce reports which allowed us to analyse the points of progress for a cohort or particular group. Then the penny dropped. We were replacing levels with levels and were not making the most of the freedoms recently given to us to create our own assessment system that worked for our settings and pupils”

– Simon, via

Alison Ley
Deputy Headteacher, Castle Hill School

“Teacher led research is the way forward

– Alison, via

Di Leedham @DiLeed
English/Literacy/EAL teacher

“If those with knowledge about EAL sit quiet and compliant then they are likely to remain wallflowers in the corner a while yet. However it’s not really the DfE I want to connect with when I bang drums and thump tubs. I am most hopeful that if I and others can reach enough head teachers and system leaders who are willing to share, review and refine existing EAL provision then a tipping point can be reached whereby it becomes axiomatic for schools to plan strategically for EAL. When someone creates a bright burning fire why would you not choose to sneak a few glowing embers for yourself. Best practice EAL is a crucible for so much more than just bilingual outcomes. I just read this from Becky @shadylady222 and it made my heart sing. Enjoy…”

– Di, via

Dr Julian Grenier @juliangrenier
Headteacher, Sheringham Nursery School and Children’s Centre

“Out ice-skating during an unseasonably warm Christmas Eve, on an unexpectedly wet rink, I saw a device for hire called Bobby the Seal. Some children were holding onto Bobby whilst adults pulled them round. I wondered – is this because of fears about children falling and hurting themselves? Or because it feels like too much work encouraging them along, helping them up when they fall, and providing comfort when needed? I suspect that in the 1970s, many parents would tolerate or ignore their children’s crying and hurt after falling over. Today that might seem harsh, and you might get looked at. My hunch is that many of us are afraid to see our children fall or fail – and these aids offer a way of mediating our fears. But the result, surely, is that it becomes harder for children to learn new skills. I just can’t imagine how you progress from Bobby, to independent skating. Nor can I see how you learn about managing your own risks if your scooter is tethered to an adult arm. Isn’t it time to let the children go?”

– Julian, via

Dr Mark Boylan
Reader in Teacher Education, Sheffield Hallam

“This paper reports on some exploratory research with one class of Year Eight students. The students were given the opportunity to express their views on a variety of teacher questioning strategies in whole class interactions. The students’ responses highlight that feeling emotionally and intellectually secure are important factors influencing willingness to participate. A key finding was the importance of having an opportunity to discuss questions for many students. This was particularly true for female students”

– Mark, via

Kat Schofield @PearlOchreRose
Consultant Headteacher, PGCE tutor, LA Advisor, Governor

“So then the BIG job arrived, nothing had prepared me for the 24/7 365 aspect of Prep school headship, but I embraced it and worked my socks off! It was a very special experience and I had amazing opportunities. The summer production went to the Edinburgh Fringe to be performed (ek! – and I managed to organise all of that!) The choristers and their families needed looking after over those major festivals of Easter and Christmas, but also sang to royalty – when I say 365, it was 365. So, what of life? I struggled with parental guilt. And then a third child decided to make an appearance – the timing couldn’t have been worse, and for me it tipped the balance. After 4 whirlwind years I said ‘don’t want this anymore’ I desperately wanted to get to know my new baby and work was getting in the way of that. So now I’ve set myself up as a consultant (schools pay me to run inset / staff meetings / coaching support) but what is next? I’ve got 25 years of career left and I’m seeking a new job title!”

– Kat, via

Prof Martin Fautley @DrFautley
Professor of Education at Birmingham City University

“However, I suspect that the problem here is not so much that music teachers need convincing, but that managers do! Much of my unsolicited email from music teachers is about issues they have with SLT understanding this. I would go so far as to posit a binary – SLTs who ‘get it’, and SLTs who don’t! I hear about both of these, but not much of an in-between positionality. The fight therefore is in persuading ‘the powers that be’ that music lessons should be, above all else, musical; and that as a result assessment should be musical too. But key in all of this is the notion that progression should be musical, and evidenced in and through music. So, next time you are having a cup of coffee, and worrying about how to prove progression, try to think about being musical!”

– Martin, via

Gary Wilkie @grwonline
Headteacher of Sheringham Primary School, CEO of the Learning in Harmony Multi Academy Trust

“I don’t mind being held to account if the inspection system we have is the right one. Is actually saying, as an association, ‘just go away Ofsted’ going to help us? That’s giving up. Let’s try and get an inspection [system] that works”

– Gary, via

Gareth Davies @gareth_davies
Managing Director and co-founder of Frog Education

“Well, when we started Frog it wasn’t in education as all. We were building websites for small businesses through content management software and we met a head teacher through one of our resellers who said ‘Oh that’s brilliant. If you made that work for schools that would be really exciting!’ So we spend the next 6 months modifying the software so it worked as a school intranet. We worked for 5 or 6 years building that up gradually and in around 2006 in the UK people cogged onto the kind of things we were doing”

– Gareth, via

Diane Swift @diane_swift
Director of the Keele and North Staffordshire Primary SCITT

“I’ve #justpledged to create spaces for reading & playing in Calais”

– Diane, via

Asher Levin @MrALevin
Teacher of Computing . Working on a cognitive science in education project.

“At Starbucks keeping up with my own CPD development. Currently reading Why don’t children like school – a cognitive scientist approach”

– Asher, via

“@LucyMPowell @NickyMorgan01 Can we not have people who have been involved in education, making the decisions and leading change?”

– Asher, via

Gemma Andrews @G_Andrews09
Head of Learning and Development, AET

“Teachers of the world, let’s talk up the profession… it!”

– Gemma, via

Lorraine Oldale @WixHead
Headteacher of  Wix and Wrabness Primary School

This follows on from a discussion we had in staff meeting yesterday; How often we unknowingly limit our students”

– Lorraine, via

Gill Kelly @lifeisnotaline
Associate of ITL, Consultant Headteacher for Eos Education

“I wrote the book when I was a deputy head and we were building a new school and ‘Building Schools for the Future’ was still alive and well – may it rest in peace. What was really important from the outset, from our point of view, was that if you’re going to ‘transform learning’ (which was the tag line of ‘Schools for the Future’) you had to engage in relationships and people and mindsets. So don’t assume that when you’re building a new school (or an extension, or a refurb or whatever you want to do) that it’s about the panes of glass, the bricks and the mortar. You’ve got to think about the people first and what’s going to go on in that building to then create the environment around it. Now that seems really simple, but actually it was totally forgotten when we started our process and it was down to the school to force that through”

– Gill, via

Charlotte Hacking @charliehacking
Early Years, Primary Advisory Teacher, Learning Programme Leader (Central) CLPE

“It’s really important for billingual children to be able to continue to share ideas and discuss in the language in which they are most fluent. It is vital to remember that as a pupil is in the process of acquiring a second language, it can have negative cognitive effects if they are deterred from speaking and communicating in their first and hinder academic progress as cognitive complexity increases in school curriculum. It is therefore important to nurture a learning community that recognises the positive aspects of bilingualism and how this has the capacity to enrich all learners”

– Charlotte, via

Seamus Gibbons @ShayGibbons1
Headteacher, Langford Primary

“I was amazed at the enthusiasm that my class of eight-year-olds had for our Tudor topic, particularly Henry VIII’s six wives. Their most frequent question: “Who was Henry’s favourite wife?”

So I decided to consolidate their understanding by role-playing a Jerry Springer style show with one child playing Henry and six others his wives. I told the children we were going to create a time machine to bring Henry and his wives back and they were going to work in groups to work out which wife was the favourite”

– Seamus, via

Lisa Pettifer @Lisa7Pettifer
Head of Professional Development Nelson Tomlinson School

“‘Are you an arts or a science person?’ my geography teacher asked me during my GCE options meeting in 1981. She completely flummoxed me. I couldn’t understand why a geography teacher would want to know this (nobody had told me she was also the school’s career adviser). We were in Grimsby: it was a working class area, and you got a job where you lived. What did it matter whether I was into the arts or the sciences? Twenty-four years later, I wonder how many young people still don’t get the big picture and what going to school can mean for the rest of their lives. I’m a bit of an arts person, it turned out…”

– Lisa, via

Sameena Choudry @EquitableEd
Founder of Equitable Education

“As I was contemplating this issue I had barely walked another half a mile when I came to a set of traffic lights. As I was about to approach the traffic lights an elderly woman, smartly dressed with a shopping bag on wheels misjudged her step and tripped over hurting her knee.   Both myself and another man who was speaking on his mobile, quickly dashed over to help her get up.   The woman was recovering from the shock of falling down and wanted to remain on the ground to get her composure so the man moved aside and let me tend to her. It soon became apparent that despite my attempts to offer assistance and comfort to this woman, she couldn’t really comprehend what I was saying and looked puzzled. She said something in English which I wasn’t able to make out clearly but I noted a French accent. Unfortunately my O’ Level French wasn’t adequate enough to assist. At this point the man who had continued with his conversation in English suddenly detected the woman’s accent and promptly switched to French. As we both helped her up, he was able to sooth and reassure her in French until she felt well enough to continue her journey.   This encounter made me reflect on the importance of first language and how common it was for speakers of diverse languages to use these languages routinely in a cosmopolitan city because it was the norm”

– Sameena, via

Binks Neate-Evans @BinksNeateEvans
Headteacher, West Earlham Infant and Nursery School

“Some years ago I was the head teacher at your school and some of you might know me. On April 26th 2015 I am facing a BIG personal challenge and am running the London Marathon in aid of NSPCC. I hope I will be able to come and be inspired by you and talk to you about getting ready for a very big challenge”

– Binks, via

Sarah Mardell @sarahmardell
Deputy Headteacher, West Earlham Infant and Nursery School

[N.B. this is from 2006] “I am a nursery teacher in a large primary school. Every year my TA and I make home visits to 52 children in the first 2 weeks of September before we start to welcome children in. The benefits of visiting children are extremely valuable but I feel they are at risk of ceasing. This is because as from this April nursery classes I believe, are required to be open for 38 weeks of the year in line with main school. Our head is going to pose this question at the next Headteachers’ conference but as yet the nursery teachers I have all spoken to have no idea how we can be open from the beginning of September and make home visits. Any ideas or ways around this please!”

– Sarah, via

Katie Mack
EYFS teacher (lead teacher for EYFS), West Earlham Infant and Nursery School
Karen Wilding @karenwildingedu
Independent Primary Maths Consultant and NCETM Professional Standard holder

“I’m on a life-long quest to show children (and teachers) the application of maths in their everyday lives. What better reason is there to learn new skills and reach deep into your ‘mathematical toolbox’ than a topic that everyone is talking about? In two weeks it is Remembrance Day in the UK. The day that back in 1918, on the 11th hour of the 11th day on the 11th month, World War 1 finally came to an end. Whilst I was growing up, this day focused upon the important memory of the huge numbers who fought and in WWI and WWII and although this continues to play a very significant role, we now also remember those who are fighting today. A subject that touches many of our children’s lives”

– Karen, via

Marc Hayes @mrmarchayes
Teacher, Bader Primary School, Leader for Science, Languages and Learning Dispositions

“At lunchtime today, I was fortunate enough to view a fantastic history lesson given by a secondary colleague when our children were out at a transition day. During the lesson, it was evident that my history teaching needs to dramatically improve (another blog post!), but also that my children lack knowledge of key words and concepts which I would expect Y5 children to know but that I haven’t taught. This troubled me. So, from Monday, I’m going to include dedicated vocabulary development time in all my lessons, for all subjects. I look forward to finding ways of delivering vocabulary instruction across the curriculum, and sharing them”

– Marc, via

Lee Card @eduCardtion
Deputy Headteacher and SLE

“When I first approached the title for this piece, I questioned the credibility of the clichéd-sounding phrase ‘fast-changing world’. Many of you will have been subjected to the 2006 ‘Shift Happens’ video clip; possibly the most terrifying piece of ‘revolutionise education quick’ propaganda in recent years. I lapped this up a few years ago. Many times since I have used the phrase ‘revolution not evolution’ amidst the soundscape of more experienced, sage professionals stating that quite the opposite was, in fact, the way sideward”

– Lee, via

Jo Palmer-Tweed @JPTteach
Executive Director, Essex and Thames Primary SCITT

“As teachers we are professional voice users, but we don’t have any formal training as a matter of course. My voice is my tool. If I break my leg I can still teach but if I lose my voice I can’t

– Jo, via

Paul Scales
Teacher, Subject Leader for MFL

“I spent my gap year helping to teach maths at my old school. I wanted to put something back into my school, and help the teachers who helped me. University has focused me – I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be”

– Paul, via

Alan Eathorne @aeathorne
Assistant Head Teacher at Meadowdale Primary School. SLE for research and curriculum leadership for Affinity TSA

“Fascinating observations of resilience today. Areas to explore = how children perceive and use the support adults give them”

– Alan, via

Stef Edwards @stefguene
Primary Teacher, Headteacher, System Leader and EdD student

[N.B. this is from 2008] “I’m a primary head. Are we really expected simply to accept this situation? Children’s life chances and therefore the choices that are available to them in the future are affected by the results of these tests – often the classes they are allocated in Y7 are decided on the basis of their KS2 levels. Headteachers and Y6 class teachers reputations and careers can be made or broken by these results. Is anybody taking this seriously? The whole situation is beyond belief”

– Stef, via

Summer Turner @ragazza_inglese
Director of Teaching & Learning, East London Science School

“I’ve always felt Teaching found me – walking into a classroom for the first time since leaving school and watching a commanding female teacher weave a magic spell over her pupils with literature – I remember feeling that I had found my home. Yet two years later, worn from an onslaught of behaviour management and an ill-balanced workload, it began to feel like the roof of my home was leaking. Seeping through were the negative images and words whether from politicians, the media or most sadly other teachers. And then my colleague, Chris Waugh, encouraged me to explore the world of Twitter. I was already online but unsure what I was doing (hence the silly Twitter handle) or what I wanted to say but with guidance I began to cut a path for myself. The next step was a TeachMeet – this one at Tom Sherrington’s previous school KEGS. Suddenly I felt that: yes the roof of my home had holes but the sun was shining! Being in a room surrounded by teachers determined to be better, to do better by their pupils was amazing but even more so was the generosity of spirit which I found there and which I find today”

– Summer, via

To end this journey here’s a short message sent via email from a teacher who is not yet on twitter or blogging, but courageously gave permission for her words to be shared with you now, in hope they’ll help kindle the kind of honest conversations #LearningFirst stands for…

“I have been told something really funny today at school. I firmly believe in being kind. I think it makes such a difference, when we seem to all be struggling with this frantic rhythm we are meant to follow no matter what we do. So I go around school smiling and smiling and smiling and smiling. Smiling for the people that do not smile, because they are too tired or too sad or just busy. Smiling to those students that are struggling or even to the ones that don’t. Just smiling (is exhausting!!!). A colleague today told me, ‘you are so compassionate. I think you should work in a “special” school, perhaps for children with disabilities. Somewhere where compassion is good and valued.’

And I thought… hold on a minute… but Compassion (and as you say, A HEART!!!!) is so missing in many mainstream schools!!! for sure we are SCREAMING for compassion, for a heart and soul in the middle of all this grey buildings and all this pressure to achieve. For sure this is where I am most needed, where I am meant to be. But perhaps I am wrong? You have a heart? Go to a special school. Interesting???”

See you at Sheffield, or online @BeyondLevels and #LearningFirst

Leah Stewart
Me? I’m a 20-something Portfolio Careerist exploring ‘The Meaning of Education’ over at

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