Scotland is Ace


I’m really proud of the work I’m contributing to North of the Wall. Scotland is a hotbed of creative curriculum and it’s a thrill to be part of it, albeit in a small way. I’m indebted to The Real David Cameron (@realdcameron), one of my key edu-heroes, for inviting me up there a couple of years ago to speak to colleagues in Edinburgh.

In May I’ll be contributing to the event detailed here:

Hywel Roberts Leaflet 2016 1 STIRLING

In June, I’ll be joining a number of my colleagues from Independent Thinking in an event in Edinburgh. Check back to (@itlworldwide) for details of this.

Hope to see you there.



Hold a Child’s Hand…….

Last June I presented at The Sunday Times Education Festival. Prior to the day I was invited to write a short piece for Schools Week. The link to it is here.

I was thrilled to be asked to write it and I was keen to simply capture the idea of what pedagogy means to me.

I’m in deep now writing the follow up to OOPS! It’s pulling together well and may well be the most unusual teacher book you’ll ever read. Maybe. Take a peak  here. 

Thanks. And sorry for the long gap between posts!


BAD HAT HARRY and IMAGINEERING: Making the Curriculum Your Own


Here is the front cover of my new book. Please judge the book by its cover! It’s getting written and I’m loving it. It’s a book about reclaiming the curriculum, how we can bung some wonder back into lessons and a compendium of stuff that I’ve been using with children in primary, special and secondary schools up and down the land. And abroad. It’s going to be a worthy follow up to Oops! and I hope it’ll be of interest to you. It’ll be published in July 2016 (these things take time). The lovely Jane Hewitt, my longtime friend and in-another-life colleague, has provided the image on the front as she did with Oops! She’s a very talented photographer and she can be found @janeh271.

It’s been a difficult second of a book (see previous post and I know that some of you may have pre-ordered a copy of a book I was trying to write called The Oath. Frankly, I found it really hard to write. I like the idea of a handbook for great teachers, but suddenly, not long after I’d written about 20,000 words, the concept of an oath for teachers  became a political hot potato ( and I felt like I was crawling up a hill of treacle. I want to say thank you to those of you who saw that book on platforms such as Amazon and pre-ordered. You were never charged as I never finished it. This one however….this book is…..well, I’m so excited about it.

This week I have taught children from nurture groups in Y2 and 3, a class of Y5, worked with primary classroom practitioners, outstanding Teaching Assistants, ITT trainees and tomorrow I’m having a morning with SEN headteachers. It’s varied, for sure. And at the centre of it all, are the children.

Cheers. Hope your Friday goes well and the weekend is great!


Of course you know where that’s from 🙂

Championing Children and Adults

In the past I’ve been called a ‘tree-hugger’ (amongst other things), and you know what? I’m really happy with that. I think it’s because I’m one of those trendy teachers who, you know, uses big paper and open questions. I even use masking tape when appropriate, but that’s because I like Poundland.

In reality, like most educational tree-huggers, I just want stuff that works for me in the classroom where I find myself teaching at that given time. I’m not a proper teacher anymore as I don’t work full time in one place. I am in the fortunate position of being able to teach in different settings in different places.

The most challenging environment I’ve spent time in is a special school that supports children whose behaviour cannot be supported in mainstream. It’s now over five years ago that I was first asked to work with colleagues and children at Springwell Special Academy in my spiritual home of Barnsley in South Yorkshire. We rebuilt the curriculum from scratch. It is rooted in inductive pedagogy, inclusive practice and unconditional positive regard. The lessons have to be worth behaving for (a statement that has got me in warm-to-hot water before, without an understanding of context) and the engagement of children, through routine, high expectation, and Executive Principal @davewhitaker246 ‘s mantra of warmth, intimacy, banter and trust is paramount. In this setting Drama is often used as a vehicle to deliver some of the curriculum. We call this blended approach to some subjects (with an emphasis on literacy) ElementsContext-building and narratives are used to build an investment in the content. This emotional engagement enables the teacher to ask bigger questions and often gives the children a reason to write, beyond ‘because you have to‘.

I champion this school and its work in much of what I do – I am basing much of my MA on the place – so I thought I’d share @danjohnsonnews ‘s piece for The Victoria Derbyshire Show that was aired a few months ago. It’s revealing not only to us, but perhaps to those who make bigger decisions around children and young people. It also offers a stark reality-jolt to the needs of those children who are still in mainstream and perhaps not in the best place for them. But that’s the tree-hugger in me coming out again.

Here it is:

For more information about the school see



Five Songs

Songs in the Key of Life

So, in response to the five key tracks of my years, I have written the following deep in the Scottish highlands whilst listening to Mark Knopfler’s soundtrack to the wonderful movie ‘Local Hero’. I wanted to add pics and vids but I’ve got no chance here!
Music is a big part of my life and always has been. I learned the piano as a kid instead of participating in sport. Mrs Scollins was my teacher and she didn’t suffer fools. I practiced because I was frightened not to. My aim was to be able to play:
I Don’t Like Mondays by The Boomtown Rats

Tiny Dancer by Elton John 
By the time I hit my later teens I could do both. When I was still teaching full time, I played number one at The Holiday Inn in Barnsley on their reception grand piano with the whole staff singing. It was the Christmas do. 
I also play the double bass and have two musical high points:
Playing at the Royal Albert Hall when I was 17 with the fab Bury Youth Orchestra

Being part of beat combo Vest and Pants, a radio 2 tribute band who fuse country and punk and call it ‘Cunk’. Being part of a band is ace. I also play bass guitar in a function band called A Flock Of Beagles. Love it. 
Coming up with five songs is nigh on impossible and by the time I publish this (wifi willing), it will have changed. Here you go:
1970s. We didn’t have a record player until 1979. I was 8. I was going to choose Do Nothing by The Specials which I bought from Vibes record shop in Bury precinct. I would become a stalwart of that shop for many years to come. The song I am going to choose is Listen What the Man Said by Wings. My Dad loved Wings and it reminds me of him. Even last night when it came on the iPod and played back with digital grace.

1980s. Life’s What You Make It by Talk Talk. From a brilliant album called Colours of Spring. It is sublime. I had a record player to Uni and played this and Tom Waits to death. I still love it. More often now it is part of the playlists that see me on long train journeys. The eighties were my musical decade where I grew out of Madness and discovered Billy Bragg, Joe Jackson, REM and The Smiths.

1990s. Adulthood. Responsibility. And all that jazz. Sometimes (Lester Piggott) by James. Susan’s House by Eels. I love both these bands. They are both brilliant live and have outstanding back catalogues. So they are joint third.

2000s. Leslie by King Creosote. Listen to it. It is beautiful. Kenny Anderson’s King Creosote are my favourite band. That’s it. 

2010s. Mathematics by Cherry Ghost. One man Manchester band. A beautiful tribute to the trials and tribulations of falling in love. ‘Meet me on the corner by the fire escape, and I’ll be waiting.’ Seek them out.
That’s my five. I hope you enjoy them. 

A Day in Somerset

Hi all

I had an ace day at a school in Somerset. Honestly, it was so good I’m writing this. I do a lot of gigs in schools and I can honestly say, they all go pretty well. I put this down to the fact tha teachers are essentially kind and patient people. And I’m not messing. Really, I do have a good time a lot of the time.

Anyway, today I was doing the first of two days in a special school federation in Somerset. And what an ace day it was. The audience are sharp and knowledgeable, and won’t suffer fools. Fortunately we have a few laughs early doors and recognise the need for warm humour – a tool we use every day! I went through a load of strategies today and the feedback was great.

Here is a collection of the posters we created at the end of the day that illustrated what we were taking away from the day. That’s me thinking about value for money. I’m charging the school for going in – I want it to be value for money – the LEARNING HAS TO TRAVEL. I hope this illustrates some work that will be taken on.

Scannable Document on 8 Jun 2015 18_46_27