Tackling Poverty and Disadvantage in Schools (Estyn)


This report is a useful reminder of the reluctance of many schools that I saw to engage in the BHLP project. The report highlights the difference between schools’ efforts at identifying and supporting underperformers, with fewer efforts to identify and support disadvantaged learners.

The implications for me are mainly around how I can contribute to a whole-school effort to improve identifying, tracking and supporting disadvantaged learners. Specific ideas like after-school clubs for those without access to good home support for homework are valuable – I need to consider how I can help implement something like this once I get my feet under the table at school.

Police officers in schools

Police Officers in Schools (pdf)

This report caused me to reflect on an awesome behaviour management programme at Kingsmead School in Barnet. A dedicated staff member (ex-police man) led the behaviour management team, and provided seriously good support to teachers in working with poor behaviour.

It really reinforced to me the expertise that police officers can offer to schools in this area, but also the need to get the right person for the job. This report gives a very useful reminder of some of the challenges for officers in taking on this role.


Multi-agency working

Multi-agency working

I would love to get involved in multi-agency working at school – I remember how valuable the BHLP pilots were back at OPM. I do wonder how much capacity there will be for this type of work at present in schools, given the funding shortages, but its definitely one to investigate. Or perhaps a longer aspiration – to get involved in the pastoral side of school and to bring a multi-agency focus into school?

Parental engagement

Parental engagement

It’s really important for me to remember that many parents’ experiences of education will have been quite negative (often particularly so with maths), and so it will be really important for me to support and encourage them to take a more positive attitude with their own students.

It makes me wonder whether I could offer any form of support to parents particularly with their maths skills? This would probably be a commitment too far, but perhaps one to come back to.

Bring on the learning revolution


There’s so much that could be taken from Ken Robinson’s talk – not least a personal challenge as to how maths fits into an agricultural teaching model, and to what extent and how I can give every student an authentic experience of learning in every maths class.

But the main point I want to take from this video is that every student has dreams and aspirations, and every one of those dreams and aspirations is equally worthy of realisation. My role as a teacher is just as much to nurture, extend and help students to realise those dreams as it is to impart mathematical knowledge.

A central mantra of Teach First is raising aspirations. I think this doesn’t quite reflect the reality of young people’s lives. It assumes that aspirations are too low. Perhaps young people present with aspirations that are too low, but I strongly suspect that deep down, every one of the students I come into contact with will have wild aspirations. We all do. So I think rather than focusing on raising aspirations, I will try to focus on unearthing aspirations.

7 habits of highly effective people

7 habits of highly effective people

Habit 1: Be proactive

This reminds me of something I read years ago: that successful people are simply those who tend to say yes to things.

Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind

One way I can achieve this with my students is to ask them to imagine what they want to do with their life, what they want to achieve from the lessons, what they want to achieve today etc. in their first lesson, and to keep returning to those things.

The author recommends developing a ‘personal mission statement’ to develop this habit. This is a little trite for me, but I could adapt it by asking my students to develop a one-paragraph statement of what they want to get out of my class, and to stick that in the front of their books (or alternatively a YouTube vid or similar). Perhaps this might be the first day’s homework? I’d want to keep it confidential and encourage students to overcome their reluctance to open up.

Habit 3: Put first things first

Hmmm…yes! I need to cultivate this habit if I’m going to survive as a teacher! Recognising when to stop, and having the confidence to do so, is something I’ve developed over the years, but I often get caught up in my desire to do everything and over-stretch myself.

But, the key challenge here is to know what to ‘put first’, for me and for my students. On a personal basis – is family first? Or is teaching? Obviously family at one level, but how can I achieve that. And for my students, what is it that will persuade them that devoting extra time to their school work over and above any distractions is a valuable use of their time? One immediate response to this question is to make the tension and question explicit to my students – let’s discuss it and see what they come up with.

Habit 4: Think Win-Win

Essentially, cooperate! But for me the key point here is that you need to have confidence in your own goals and actions. Only they can you accept that someone might do things differently, or be seeking a different outcome, respect that and yet stick with what you believe in.

In the classroom, cooperation is a vital habit to develop – I think it can be achieved is by valuing and rewarding it as a teacher, clearly and consistently, for example by awarding marks for group work based on how well you work within the team.

Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood

Essentially, listen! I find I’m most able to do this when I feel comfortable, content and valued. Thus I can encourage the same in my students by creating a safe environment for them to work in (although I can’t control their immediate environment outside the class!). It’s also worth making this an explicit aim in any group work.

Habit 6: Synergise

Essentially, cooperate (again!). Once again, I can encourage this habit in my learners by making explicit the value of group work, and encouraging them to value differences of opinion and approach.

Habit 7: Sharpen the saw

More than anything else, this is the habit that I think I will need to develop next year. I am quite resilient, but I need to absolutely ensure that I don’t neglect my broader needs, particularly social and spiritual. Teach First should be an awesome supply of social interactions, as long as conversations aren’t all about teaching! And, for spiritual health I should keep cultivating a little bit of daily meditation (perhaps I should do this each morning?). Funnily enough, a night of clubbing also does wonders for me spiritually – perhaps I can find a fellow techno-head on Teach First? Or get Marko over for a few weekends a year?

These habits are really useful for me, and they are equally something that I want to cultivate in my students. I particularly like the focus on habits – rather than something you consciously do all the time, these things are habits you can cultivate, so that you do them by default. This is particularly important I think.

The question becomes, therefore, how to encourage these habits in my students? By rewarding them I guess. But with so many other things going on in the classroom I need to think carefully about how I put these messages across, and how I can reinforce them. One interesting point is that I can encourage them both explicitly, by making reference to them, or implicitly, by the actions and behaviours I display in the classroom.