When you think of Cleethorpes, you may think of this:


or this


Once a centre of industry and a true Northern Powerhouse, Cleethorpes and Grimsby have struggled over recent years. When we think of it today we may think more of the people we see in television programmes such as Skint and the like. I’d like to redress this by  inviting you to Cleethorpes on Thursday June 18th for a Festival of Teaching and Learning that will be taking place at the brilliant Middlethorpe Primary Academy. Now, I know what you might be thinking…’s miles away. it’s in the North. Well, why not give it a go. I promise you a fantastic day featuring the brilliant educational minds, wit and wisdom of:

Darren Holmes (@enquire1)

The Real David Cameron (@realdcameron)

Dave Whitaker (@davewhitaker246)

Rob Smith (@redgierob)

Kate Davies (@kathrinedavies)

Ronnie Woods (@eltronnie)

Ian Bland (@Blandpoet)

John Murray

Simon Beswick (@SimonLBeswick)

Rebecca Rennox

Rachel Ingham (

4D Creative (

PLUS fabulous stands, offers and a blooming raffle! There won’t be any stand up-sit down bingo unfortunately, due to Health and Safety concerns 🙂

If you’re reading this and it simply is TOO far away for you to consider, please could you share this post with colleagues who might be able to make it.

Come and see where learning and teaching is in the North: at the cutting edge!

Details of booking here:

Hopefully see you there.

teach learn fest

cleeth It’ll be ace.



There’s a great new resource for anyone who is after fresh and original scripts to use in their settings. By settings I mean school, college, university, community theatre, amateur dramatics society and so on.

When I was a full-time Head of Drama leading my team of brilliant anti-glee-clubbers, we were always on the lookout for good stuff to use with our kids. Sometimes we would have to resort to writing pieces  ourselves for them to perform because it was so often hard to find pieces that would fit the bill. Not anymore. is now LIVE and is choc-full of great writing for you to check out. I was asked to contribute via Twitter a while ago, so I cleared the bottom drawer of a few monologues I have written (and performed) over the years.

You can contribute as well. Just check out their website. It’s really easy to use and it’s a great place to keep those pieces you have lovingly created in the past. The site can help fellow teachers and the like to find the perfect script for their needs and I believe the charges to organisations are fair.

They can also be found on Twitter @treepress

I’m proud of my page that’s gone up – take a look here:

Get your work on there and spread the word!

There may be something there for your next production!





First, a short film that sets the scene:

A big thank you to Paul Dix (@pivotalpaul) for setting me this challenge which for him came from @teachertoolkit. The spirit of #twitteratichallenge is set out below.

 In the spirit of social-media-educator friendships, this summer it is time to recognise your most supportive colleagues in a simple blogpost shout-out. Whatever your reason, these 5 educators should be your 5 go-to people in times of challenge and critique, or for verification and support.



There are only 3 rules.


  1. You cannot knowingly include someone you work with in real life.
  2. You cannot list somebody that has already been named if you are already made aware of them being listed on #TwitteratiChallenge
  3. You will need to copy and paste the title of this blogpost and (the Rules and What To Do) information into your own blog post.



What To Do?

There are 5 to-dos you must use if you would like to nominate your own list of colleagues.


  1. Within 7 days of being nominated by somebody else, you need to identify colleagues that you rely regulalry go-to for support and challnege. They have now been challenged and must act as participants of the #TwitteratiChallenge.
  2. If you’ve been nominated, you must write your own #TwitteratiChallenge blogpost within 7 days. If you do not have your own blog, try @StaffRm.
  3. The educator nominated, that means you reading this must either: a) record a video of themselves (using Periscope?) in continuous footage and announce their acceptance of the challenge, followed by a pouring of your (chosen) drink over a glass of ice.
  4. Then, the drink is to be lifted with a ‘cheers’ before the participant nominates their five other educators to participate in the challenge.
  5. The educator that is now (newly) nominated, has 7 days to compose their own #TwitteratiChallenge blogpost and identify who their top-5 go-to educators are.

I joined Twitter in 2009 having just left my full time teaching job to explore other avenues in education. I still had to pay the mortgage and support my family and I found Twitter to be an excellent platform to share my work. At the time, it was also a cool place to be, to share ideas, celebrate work and so on. In sharing work, you also, I guess, bare your soul – well, your values, if nothing else. I have learned so much from people on Twitter and I’m really grateful. I’m lucky to share much of my working life (but I won’t say ‘day-to-day’ as that’s not how it works for me) with quality people such as @davewhitaker246, @debrakidd, @janeh271, @simbar3, @rkieran, @kathrinedavies, @mobo40, as well as the great folk at @itlworldwide (including @ninajackson, @bravehead, @lisajaneashes, @ictevangelist, @surrealanarchy, @cristahazell, @markfinnis, @philbeadle, @geogphil, @fullonlearning to name a few). I also meet great people as I travel around doing what I do. Anyway………….

My five recommended Twitter educators who have, perhaps not knowingly, supported me over the years are:




A thoughtful and innovative gent who is clearly up to his neck in quality inquiry and when I look at the stuff he’s doing and thinking, I want to cheer.


Colin Goffin


A thoroughly decent cove who appears to have a big job to do but maintains a lovely sense of warmth and wisdom about him – even on Twitter!


Natalie Scott


I’m nearly breaking @TeacherToolkit’s rules here. I haven’t worked with Natalie yet but will be doing in July. She’s a committed educator working on The Isle of Wight and is trying very hard to have an impact. Her tweets are positive and she’s been a great champion of the school she’s working in.


Jarlath O’Brien


I’ve met him just once in the flesh, but here is a bloke who does the business as a Headteacher of a Special School. I’m very passionate about Special Education as those of you who follow my work will know, and Jarlath’s approach to leadership and learning (as seen through his blog) has much for mainstream colleagues to think about.




I have known Tim through Mantle of the Expert work for around ten years and yet I think we’ve only sat down for a beer once in all that time. He is a credible educator who does the business in the classroom as well as leading professional thinking and learning. He’s also dead brainy.

So that’s my list. It was hard to put together and if I could I’d add another five straight away who’ve popped into my head whilst I’ve been doing this.

Here’s some honourable mentions (and forgive me if you don’t appear, this is very much on the fly)













@jamieportman – who got me on Twitter in the first place!!

….and many, many more!


Having a brew with Independent Thinkinking Ltd.

logo itl

Hello again!

Although I’m a freelance educator, the organisation I’m most closely affiliated to is Ian Gilbert’s Independent Thinking. It’s an organisation that has supported me and my work tirelessly over the last five years or so. I am now an associate director of the organisation and very proud to be so.

I had a mailshot through this week which offered a list of twitter ‘handles’ and blog addresses for a number of ITL associates including Martin Robinson (@surrealanarchy), Mark Anderson (@ICTEvangelist) Zoe Elder (@fullonlearning) and Lisa Jane Ashes (@lisajaneashes).

Someone missing from the list is the brilliant Dr Phil Wood (@geogphil) and his blog He is well worth a follow!

Here’s the link:



Images that Grip


Twitter is a fabulous resource for images.

I use images a lot to hook classes in and write about it in my book.

I wanted to signpost some Twitter places where you could find images instantly and that may work as stimulus for your writing, History or Drama work.

Hope this brief list helps:





I’d also like to point you to this fabulous blog by @ictevangelist for some brilliant apps, many of which use image as a starting point.

It’s here:


dust bowl



I have just tried to gather the videos of me that are available on You Tube into one place.

It can be found here. Just click on the PLAYLIST icon in the top left hand corner:

It’ll give you a flavour of my work with children and also with adults.

I’ve also put in a bonus video of Ian Gilbert talking about @itlworldwide.



TOOLING UP : Digging Learning Holes


Okay. Tool up.

You need:

  1. A shovel
  2. Some branches
  3. A class
  4. A repertoire of instant classroom engagement
  5. To ignore 1.and 2. as they are metaphors

The image projected on the wall is of workman and surveyors dangling from the top of the Empire State building. The camera points down watching the men working as New York City sprawls out beneath them, dizzying and splendid. The men are talking ignoring the camera and focussed on the task in hand. Gripped in their work, casually holding on to their mortality without, it appears, a care in the world.

The context is a Y11 borderline English Language GCSE ‘group’, created especially for the session with me. The teacher welcoming me into school with a brew and biscuit whispers a ‘good luck’ as I go into the classroom. Ouch.

It’s empty. Just desks and chairs.

I get the projected image up. I’ve used it with teachers before as well as primary kids. It makes some adults and kids woozy with its perspective, and I’m hoping it’ll have a similar reaction today from these more streetwise teenagers about to experience a structured ‘intervention’. The expectation is that we get some writing done. These boys (as they all turn out to be), don’t want to write.

I wait.

I suppose the shovel is the preparation – my tool digging the hole to catch these lads off guard, a trap manifested in the photograph. The branches covering the hole are my behaviours: my demeanour – the way I’m just sitting at the side of the room waiting for the group to arrive, with butterflies running amok in my stomach as they often do. I feel like this a lot when working with a class for the first time. It’s the calm before the storm. Then the rapport-building tsunami that whips around my head kicks in as the first young man walks in.

The trap is set. And it works: hook, line and thinker.

He enters, eyeballs me, then looks at the men hanging from the top of the Empire State Building. The back to me, eyeball to eyeball.

“I could do that,” he says.

It’s not a conversation starter from him; it’s a statement of perceived fact. It’s him projecting his own view of the world onto a picture of a view of the world. It’s also a declaration of investment.

Now, I’ve got a choice. Here is a possible response to his casual statement:

“That’s splendid. Now please sit down and let’s wait for the others to arrive.”

Yes I could say that. But of course I won’t. I say this:

“Really? I couldn’t. No way!” (that’s me delving into my creative repertoire and pulling out teacher fallibility)

“Why?” he hisses in a grinning biddable way, “You scared?”

And that’s it. When his peers arrive he pulls them into the conversation around courage, heights, fears and spiders. When we settle and look back at the picture, we see the workmen and consider what circumstances have led them to the top of the tall building. We enquire into their motivations (‘earn a living?’) and make assumptions about the lives that they might lead. We consider the document they must have signed to get them so high up. And we talk of their attributes and qualifications.

And then we create it. An official document. An agreement between The Empire State Building and these blue collar contractors. It is created in draft form in their books to be transformed into an ‘authentic fake’ (and GCSE piece) later.

Now, put this through your edu-filter. I know this is an anecdote regarding GCSE children but I can offer similar responses from much younger people. For example, a Year 4 child when looking at the same picture recently asked, “What have they got in their bags all the way up there?” The class decided the men were carrying photographs of loved ones.

The investment in the work grew from the ‘settler’ activity at the start of the session – something to do straight away. Too often as teachers, we are bogged down with administration, registers, school lunches and other routines. Don’t get me wrong, routines are very necessary in any classroom and are there for a reason: to get what needs doing done.

Five great humanising routines (to go with all your admin routines):

  1. Meet and greet dripping in botheredness
  2. Habitulisation – helping the children know where they are and understand what is expected of them (quick rule reminders)
  3. Great questions from the word go (is questioning a routine? Yes it is when used to as part of the launch of your day)
  4. Positive and corrective language
  5. A fabulous ‘settler’ that that protects the children into the learning of the session.

Don’t forget, a settler doesn’t necessarily have to link to the whole session. It’s there to do what it says on the tin: to settle your learners into a mood for learning and enquiry; to get them happy to be with you, to support them in leaving their baggage (physical or otherwise) in the appropriate place. This is the stuff you’ve obscured with the metaphorical branches I mentioned at the beginning. This is the hook. The lure.

The best place to start hooking children into learning is to begin with your greatest resource and take a look in the mirror; who do the children see when they walk into your room? Teachers need to have some basics that they often forget to mention at teacher-training institutions. I call them specific teacher acts:

  • smiling
  • laughter
  • enthusiasm
  • energy
  • patience

These are perhaps a little groan-inducing for the more weary reader, but to a child, these are vital; and, like our hearts, we need to wear them on our sleeves. What do these ‘acts’ look like in your classroom? Could you consider them? Should you consider them? You know what? They can be really hard to muster, but I hope you agree that they are important. I’d want my child to be taught by someone who was good at all these things. Wouldn’t we all?

It’s those first five minutes that show who you are as a teacher and what you expect from your children. Try not to waste them.

Stuck for ideas? Get on the internet for starters, or even Twitter if that’s your thing.

Five great image resources on Twitter to get your kids hooked in:







Ten Great Expectations

  1. We are always polite
  2. We listen when asked
  3. We endeavour to do the best we can
  4. When asked, we shift into learning
  5. We always try to get ourselves unstuck
  6. We respect our learning space
  7. We help each other be brilliant
  8. We use thinking time appropriately
  9. We have fun
  10. We celebrate success

Also what about…..

  • A fat (open) question on the whiteboard – a new one every day. Two minutes to think, two minutes with talk partners, then feedback responses. For example,

‘Why do we have bones?’; ‘How can we reduce poverty?’; ‘What are we going to do about the Big Bad Wolf?’.

  • A fascinating photograph as described above — type ‘rich poor contrast’ into an image search engine and you’ll see what I mean. This image stimulus can invite the same process as the fat question.
  • On a pen drive, build up a collection of powerful images and questions that you can access quickly, no matter what room you are in — this is particularly good for colleagues who supply or who are on cover supervision.
  • And never underestimate the power of using appropriate music

Tooling Up: Digging Learning Holes originally appeared in Teach Primary Magazine in September 2013