Tag Archives: podcast

The Line⤴

from @ EduBlether

On the back of thinking about all the small things that lead to successes in a school, I thought it would be apt to consider the other side of this. One of the seemingly small things that add to a considerable amount of disruption and wasted learning time, in all of the schools I have ever worked in, is the line. I’m going to discuss the various problems I see with this accepted norm, and then I will try to consider some alternatives.

One of the main issues I have with this is the wasted teaching and learning time that could be better spent doing anything else. The time it takes between a bell ringing and children getting into a classroom is huge. Let’s do some quick maths on this. A conservative estimate (based purely on my own experience, with admittedly no scientific rigour applied), would be that it takes at least 5 minutes once the bell has gone to have a class ready to come in at the start of the day, after break and after lunch (at least!). So this is potentially 15 minutes each day, which is about 70 minutes across the week, taking in to account the half-day! That is over 44 hours across the school year.

I don’t want you to think I am ever condoning counting minutes and seconds and making sure every possible part of time is accounted for. This would be dangerous for a large number of reasons. But when there are so many other issues, it begs the question, why are we wasting our time on a bizarre and old fashioned custom that gives nothing back?

Ordinarily, children have been playing in an unstructured and child-led way, then a bell goes (quite abruptly) and they have to stop immediately and form a line, one behind each other. We often scorn them for not being straight enough or for continuing conversations. Quite militaristic when you think about it? But this is quite difficult for a lot of children to do (I think I would struggle to be honest) especially if they have been engaging in high energy play. What are we achieving by standing in line? Efficient management of people cannot be an argument here due to the amount of wasted time. Compliance?

I don’t like the idea of continuing to do something one way just because it is the way we have always done it. I want to know what the alternatives are.

Comment below with any suggestions on alternatives to lining up.

All the small things⤴

from @ EduBlether

I have been thinking a lot recently about all the small things that I do in my job as a Depute headteacher. Now, there are a lot of high-profile strategic things that I do which are of great importance (I’m a very important person do t you k ow?). Things like having an overview of attainment for example, or working through complex pastoral concerns. Yet for me, this is not what my job is really about.

I would argue that the most important part of my job is a collection of small and seemingly insignificant things. The things that go unnoticed and can’t fit nicely on a spreadsheet. I am talking about things like standing on the school gates in the morning and saying hello to as many people as you can. Or the times I play football with the children who just want to tackle a teacher, but then I somehow managed to avoid their lunging feet and score a wonder goal. Or even something as simple as noticing when a child gets a haircut and giving them a compliment. In fact one of the easiest things, yet the thing with such a profound impact is the simple act of smiling. We don’t measure how many smiles we have managed to raise at the end of the school year, or how many times we made a child laugh, but it is exactly these things that are so important to me. I am not for a second saying that I want to start measuring these things, all I am saying is I want to spend time recognizing how important they are.

These things are so important to me because they build relationships. It is these daily interactions that build a culture in a school. It is these small moments in time that collectively add up to so much more. So it is for this very reason that I am going to embrace my misspent youth listening to Blink 182 and spend more time celebrating all the small things that I do in my job. I feel that this will allow me to appreciate the tiny successes that happen every day.

What are the small things that you do that you would like to shout about?

Do grades really matter?⤴


This week marked the start of the a level results being issued whilst over a week ago the Scottish higher results were issued. And if as predicted, it leads to a greater focus on the number and type of candidates gaining entry to university, is it now time for a rethink?

Interestingly, English students go to school to collect their results, knowing that if things don’t go quite as planned there is support at hand with advice and back up plans able to be put swiftly in place. Conversely, the Scottish system has evolved where most young people receive a text or letter through the post. Any support and advice is generally provided by skills development Scotland rather than school based staff. Although most schools will retain a support offering for students to discuss course choice changes and provide advice.

However, as various announcements are made by political parties about the suitability of the university entries system and suggestions made on how to improve it. Labour propose students receiving an offer based on actual grades once the exam results have been published. Presumably, this would lead to university terms starting later or exams being brought forward into March or April to allow time for results, offers and university places to be accepted.

But isn’t there a better way? Should students who want to go to university simply be allowed to attend, assuming they have provided evidence that they can attain. Maybe not necessarily requiring a grade to join. This would mean universities changing their competitive approach to higher education. However, would quality be reduced? Or would students from disadvantaged backgrounds be more able to gain entry to university?

Would this lead to the suggested devaluing of the National 4 qualification which has a pass/fail approach. I’m not sure it would. I think that have an external, final exam was retained then we would retain the integrity of the qualification.

Would this also ensure that all students continue working hard right up until the end. Reports suggest that some students do not exert the same effort when they receive an unconditional offer. This is despite the fact that the university is making the offer based on the application submitted and the subjects studied being detailed on the application.

Overall, we should consider refocusing the timings of exams, results and university offers so that offers are received towards the end of the academic year. I am not sure the Scottish education system is quite ready yet for a pass/fail approach to higher and subsequent entry into university.


Episode 16 – An EduBlether with David Cameron⤴


In this wide ranging interview, David Cameron shares his thoughts, experiences and wisdom. An exhilarating interview.

Listen to Episode 16 – An EduBlether with David Cameron.

The sun is still is still shining…⤴


The sun is still shining and the music keeps playing. It must be the summer holidays. As I jet off to the south of France for a final week of rest before returning to school, I reflect on the seven weeks of the summer and look forward to the year ahead at school and beyond.

At the beginning of the summer, I jetted off to Mozambique, the Kingdom of eSwatini and South Africa for a world challenge trip with school. Twelve students and three staff made the 3 week long trek across Africa experiencing a marine conservation project, trek, Kruger national park, supporting a neighbourhood care point and some much needed rest and relaxation. It’s hard to believe now that the summer is nearly over. But what has been learnt about my time in Africa. Well, for one, how fortunate we are in having access to clean running water, access to free comprehensive education and free healthcare. It is hard not to feel a certain sense of guilt that I and many other people take all of the above for granted.

During the holidays a major task has always been to ensure that I completed my 8000 final assignment for the SCEL Into Headship programme. Due date: 19th August. I am pleased to say that I have now completed that assignment and after many redrafts and poorly constructed sentences, it now reads rather well. I never thought at the beginning of the holidays that I would have come to this point. What has struck me about my learning, I definitely need a deadline to motivate me! I also feel as though this summer, my work life balance has not been as balanced as it would normally be. I have always advocated for a holiday to be a holiday as I recognise the important work staff do throughout the year, including evenings, weekends and feel that holidays are a safe zone for work.

As our political landscape becomes even more scary, with the prospect of an early general election, crashing out the EU and a second independence referendum, I feel that the time is right for some optimism. The benefits of the holidays are always the increased time for thinking. But what positive rays of sunshine are there?

Well, for one the start of a new term is always enjoyable. Meeting new staff, new pupils and parents. It also provides an opportunity for a fresh look at aspects of the school improvement plan. Staff and young people are always much more up for it in this first term when compared to other terms.

What will be interesting to see is the development of some developments this year on a political front. For example, what will happen with the review around jobsizing toolkit which was promised as part of the pay review. Or indeed, how will the GTCS standards review impact our work in schools including the recommendations of implementing a lead teacher role within the existing career structure. Furthermore, how will the rhetoric of collaboration and empowerment play out as we continue to see the regional improvement collaborative embed themselves. Will the headteachers charter delivery empowerment for school leaders to develop their own curriculum and staffing structures. And will greater financial freedom lead to greater decision making?

I want to end with a key learning point from this year’s into Headship conference, led by Gayle Gorman.

Gayle highlighted the desire to move from a politically-driven system to a professionally-led system.

If realised, this will lead to a sustainable, embedded change out with the reach of changing government priorities. It may also lead to a greater clarity of purpose across Scotland rather than interpretation of policies being adopted by groups of politicians of different persuasions.

As the summer holidays draw to an end, please keep smiling and stay optimistic.


An EduBlether with Vocabulary Ninja⤴

from @ EduBlether

We were lucky enough to catch the Vocabulary Ninja to have a chat about his new book, his app and vocabulary in general. It is hard not to get passionate about vocabulary after reading this, we are sure you will enjoy it as much as we did.

Can you tell us about how you became the vocabulary ninja? Was there a long and gruelling training regime? Let us know about your journey.

Vocabulary Ninja stated quite simply out of a reflection on how one particular year had went, the results the Y6 pupils achieved and how things could be improved. Within this period of refection, I decided that vocabulary would become a driving force of everything that happened within the classroom and around the school.

I decided to introduce a word to my class everyday, and because I was doing it anyway, I thought that I would share it. So, I created a blog and Twitter account and shared the word of the day every day for people to use. That’s it. I’m really proud to see where Vocabulary Ninja has developed in the 2 and a half years it has been running. One of the best things about it, is the people you get to engage with as a result! It’s amazing! Who knows what will happen in the next 2 and a half years.

As someone who is a true advocate for the power of words, what is your favourite word?

Well that is a tough question. In terms of how I have seen a word used in such a skilled way by a pupil, it would have to be translucent. A pupil used it to describe the wings of a dragon, it was a real lightbulb moment for me personally and the pupil, as to the impact this word had on the writing, and the deeper meanings it portrayed. She pupil built a vivid image of this dragon using words such as emaciated and frail. Perfect!

Is your book only relevant to the teaching of English and Literacy, or will the content be useful and transferable across the curriculum? 

It’s a great question. The book is stacked with ideas to support reading and writing, via vocabulary. However, there are over 50 topic word banks based upon the national curriculum, etymology sections that swirl their way through history, geography and science, and most importantly a range of content to your mentality towards teaching vocabulary.This mentality has the same applications across the curriculum, not only thinking about vocabulary, but in everything that you do as a teacher. You’ll see what I mean!

Your book recommends some fantastic ideas, strategies and games for improving vocabulary in your classroom. Which of these is your favourite and why?

I think simple things are the best. My favourite is the word of the day, the original and the best. The beauty of the word of the day is that it has so many applications. The main aim of the word of the day is to widen and deepen a pupils vocabulary. By discussing the associated SPaG, word classes and definitions with pupils, then giving then the opportunity to apply. Then revisit, use orally through the day and week. Slowing helping pupils seethe word in action. It’s a mindset – it’s free. Words are there all around us, as teachers we must make them a priority in our classrooms. If someone was to implement one idea from the book, it would be this.Further to this. The free Vocab Lab App has been a revelation! Nearly 100K downloads and the feedback that I receive is wonderful! If you haven’t downloaded it for your personal or school iPads yet, then you are missing out!

What do you see as the main barriers to children developing a wide ranging vocabulary? How do we, as educators, best work against this? 

Honestly, and I touch on this in the book. You, teachers. And a child’s home life too, but yes teachers can be a big barrier. So, ok, this is a barrier, but let’s not look at it as a negative, but rather an opportunity for change. By making vocabulary a priority of our own and thinking about it as a valuable ally, rather than the enemy, then we can begin to win the war of words! 

You have also developed a Vocabulary Ninja app. Can you tell us a little about how this came about and what the app does? 

I love the apps that I have created so far. The Vocab Lab is amazing really and is due for an expansion upgrade very soon! The Vocab Lab has 100 very common words that pupils often use within their writing, mostly because the have no alternative. As a year 6 teacher, the App for me, was a way to impact on more children at once and to promote independence. The App gives 6 alternative for each word – children (and adults) love using it.Plus – it’s free! I also have a Word of the Day App too, again totally free. This has both Words of the Day, appear in the App every day! Super handy! The App’s are designed to make teachers lives a little easier, reduce workload and improve outcomes for pupils and schools.

Finally, there are so many competing agendas in a school. Why do you think vocabulary is so important and what can it do for our learners? 

I honestly don’t think there is enough time in the school day for vocabulary to become a competing agenda item,  and rightly so. But it must form part of teachers daily routine, part of your mentality and your schools ethos towards learning.Words impact and unlock the curriculum. Quite simply, if pupils understand more words, then they will be able to access more of the learning opportunities put before them in science, english, maths, PE, in conversations and so on.

There won’t be a test, it isn’t measurable, but its impact will be profound.

Website – www.vocabularyninja.co.uk

Blog – vocabularyninja.wordpress.com

Twitter – @VocabularyNinja


An EduBlether with Ian Eagleton from The Reading Realm⤴

from @ EduBlether

Ian Eagleton has taught for several years and is an English Co-ordinator. He has a passion and enthusiasm for motivating children to read and write. He is also the man behind the fantastic Reading Realm website full of great interviews, reviews and resources.
His new app ‘The Reading Realm’ has just been released and it is fantastic.

Hello Ian, can you tell us about your passion for developing children’s enthusiasm for literacy? Where does this come from? Why did you decide to focus on this aspect of learning?

 Reading and writing has always been an important part of my life. I have very fond memories of my mum reading to me, every night. I remember Alfie and Annie-Rose and Garth Pig and the Ice-Cream Lady. I remember joining in with the story. I remember my mum drawing pictures for me every night of children’s book characters and leaving them out for me to colour in – I still have the scrap book we filled up together.

However, it wasn’t until Year 6 that I actually began to enjoy reading for myself. Reading up until that point involved practising sight words, which were kept in my Grandad’s old tobacco tin. Reading also meant ploughing my way through a very dreary reading scheme. In short, I really despised independent reading time!

Luckily, in Year 6 I had a wonderful teacher called Mrs Perry. She pointed me in the direction of her well-stocked class library and I found the Supergran books. I was off! I suddenly began to read voraciously, every night, until the early hours of the morning. I whizzed through Supergran and all the Roald Dahl books and then began exploring other books and series. There’s something comforting and familiar about reading a series of books when you first begin your reading journey, especially as a nervous child who thought I wasn’t very good at anything!

Mrs Perry also encouraged lots of creative writing – she wold often give us a starter and then just leave us to write away. Or she might give us some characters and challenge us to weave them into an exciting story. I loved listening to her read very day, on the carpet. I remember vividly giggling away to Rebecca’s World by Terry Nation. I also fondly remember being sat at the Listening Station, headphones on, escaping into the world of The Enchanted Horse. There was also lots of drama, plays, acting and art in her class, which I loved and freedom to create – one day, Mrs Perry allowed me to write a story for the younger children in the school on the new school computer. She applauded my use of repetition and the next day I waited with baited breath as the computer painfully, slowly, gradually coughed my story out, over the course of an entire day. What a feeling!

In my own classroom, I have always dreamed of re-capturing this magic. The magic of creativity and escaping through books into far away worlds, full of adventure, excitement and new friends.

What advice would you give those working with children to encourage a love of reading and writing? How do you develop this with individuals as well as at a whole school level?

Read every day. That’s my main one. Sometimes I’ve heard the excuse, ‘But we don’t have time…’ Reading to your class is arguably the most important, effective means of raising literacy standards and inspiring a life-long love of reading in our children. It creates an amazing community feel – for a brief moment you are swept away together as a class on a journey and everyone is exposed to challenging, exciting vocabulary, complex storylines, jokes and fun, dilemmas and wonder. It has always been my favourite thing to do during the day.

I have also tried to include a wide-range of books when I’ve read aloud to my classes – fiction, poetry, non-fiction, short stories, animations of stories, audio books and so on. The app very much aims to replicate this. I’ve tried to include a range of lots of different genres, from lots of authors and publishers around the world.

I often feel that if we can invite children on this reading journey with us and share a special part of ourselves through the books we choose, that they will see the importance and value of reading for themselves.

The Reading Realm app looks fantastic. Congratulations on creating an app! Can you tell us all about it please? Who is it for? What does it do? Why should we download it? 

Thank you! The Reading Realm app is for children aged 5 to 13. There are extracts and passages from classic and contemporary children’s fiction, non-fiction and poetry. With each passage there is a discussion guide and a range of spelling, grammar and word games. I’ve tried to keep the questions in each discussion guide as open-ended as possible – this is not about answering questions for a test or exam preparation! The discussion guides are there to encourage children to explore their opinions and ideas about a text. The games include lots of interactive fun and all the spelling and grammar is linked to the text – this was very important to me.

There are a number of high-profile authors, poets and publishers involved in the project, who have kindly allowed me to use passages from their books. These include Abi Elphinstone, Sinead O’Hart, Eloise Williams, Kathi Appelt, Neal Zetter, Karl Nova, Guy Bass, Holly Webb, Saviour Pirotta, Jackie Marchant, Flying Eye Books, Maverick, Stripes and Lantana.

The tagline is ‘Journey into a world where stories come to life…’ which may give you a flavour of what the app is trying to achieve.

I think the app will provide teachers, parents and children with lots of engaging stories and expose children to new authors. The app also has a variety of weekly Reading Challenges and suggestions, the key aim being to encourage young people to visit their local library and spend some time poring over its bookshelves.

I hope The Reading Realm offers children something special and, with the click of a button, gives them the opportunity to escape from the comfort of their chair, just for a little while, into a magical word where words shimmer, stories weave their magic, characters come to life and exciting, strange and new adventures wait for them.

I wonder if you could also tell us about the process of designing an app. Where do you even start with something like that?

It’s very long and very complicated and very tiring! I think the last time I slept properly was last October!

The app began when I started teaching whole class reading lessons to my children about four or so years ago. I was struggling to find enough books for the children to all access. I was struggling to find books that would engage everyone in the class and I was getting fed up of all the reading worksheets on offer! Luckily around the same time, I became involved in, and led on, a whole school project to improve Reading and Writing across the school. This eventually led to me completing my NPQSL, which focused on raising whole school standards in English.

I started by reading lots of books about reading, writing and vocabulary: Aiden Chambers, Michael Rosen, Doug Lemov, Donalyn Miller, Daniel Willingham, Margaret Meek, Jane Oakhill, Maryanne Wolf, Mem Fox, Teresa Cremin, Timothy Rasinski, Isabel Beck, Steven Pinker and many other great writers have helped shaped my ideas and views.

I also signed up to the Research-Rich Pedagogies website and began exploring what else was going on in schools and searching for examples of good practice. I found Jon Biddle’s work on Reading Rivers really useful and began reflecting upon my own identity as a reader and exploring where the gaps where in my knowledge – I wanted the app to include as wide a range of stories and poems as possible.

I then set up for a few years a Parent and Child Reading Group, after-school, for children in my class and trialled a lot of the resources, games and ideas I was making for the app, as well as exploring how the resources might work in small groups and in whole class situations.

When I was sure that the resources were of a high-standard, I contacted a brilliant app developer called Doug and began talking to him about my ideas. There were lots of scribbled drawings sent over and we talked about what would work and what wouldn’t be possible – at this stage I had quite a few ridiculous, out-landish ideas!

I then spent an awful lot of time contacting authors and publishers and talking to them about the app and what I was trying to achieve. To my amazement, they were all really impressed and a huge number of them agreed to work with me. From there, it was sorting out copyright and permission agreements, which took around four months! I discovered that the world of children’s publishing is an incredibly friendly, supportive place and that lots of authors believed in what I was trying to achieve.

The initial suggestion that the app would take four weeks, didn’t quite go to plan! There was so much to do and so many more authors and publishers had gone on board that I ever dreamed of, that the app ended up taking about six months to create. During all this time, the app developer (Doug) and I were in weekly, sometimes daily, contact – he has been phenomenal! Patient, hard-working and full of creativity.

My husband, who creates databases and software and is an IT consultant, also helped hugely. We were often up until midnight testing ideas, choosing colours, designing games and arguing! My Dad even came over one weekend to help copy and paste thousands of lines of code into spreadsheets.

The app then went out to trial and lots of teachers, children and educators got the chance to feedback and give their views. Things were amended and changed and eventually the app has been released. It can be downloaded via the Apple Store and sells for a one-off payment of £2.99. There are plans to release a second version of the app next year, which focuses on non-fiction, and also plans to write even more original material for the app, but I think we all need to sleep first!

It’s certainly been a challenging, exhausting journey but I think we have produced something that is very special and I’m incredibly proud of the app.

Can you finish up by giving us your top recommendations for the next books we should read? What books are coming out that are getting you excited? 

There are so many! This really is the ‘golden age’ of children’s fiction. I’ve particularly enjoyed Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan, The Fox and the White Gazelle by Victoria Williamson, The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell, Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, Emmett and Caleb by Karen Hottois and Delphine Renon, Scavengers by Darren Simpson, The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson, The Star-Spun Web by Sinead O’Hart, The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods by Samuel J.Halpin,  and Kate Wakeling’s beautiful collection of poetry Moon Juice.

Before recommending some new books that are coming out, I think I’d also like to recommend some old favourites! Supergran by Forrest Wilson, The Enchanted Horse by Magdalen Nabb and Rebecca’s World by Terry Nation are all fantastic and should not be over-looked!

I think I’m most looking forward to Abi Elphinstone’s Rumblestar (I was sent a proof-copy and it’s quite something! Funny, exciting, thrilling and moving and I’d say her best yet!), The Scarecrow by The Fan Brothers and Beth Ferry, Tad by Benji Davies (my favourite children’s author/illustrator) and High-Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson (I love what Knights Of are doing!).

There are so many exciting children’s books coming out and already out! I love hearing people’s recommendations and opinions on them all. Talking about books is possibly my favourite thing to do!

Visit The Reading Real website for some great interviews, reviews resources and more.

Follow Ian on Twitter – @reading_realm

Download the app here

Episode 13 – Professional Learning⤴


Listen to this episode on spotify, apple podcast, soundcloud or any other podcasting app. You can also click on the picture above to listen to this episode.