Wild Horses and the Playground Rodeo


There are two sayings that fit this blog – the first is ‘it takes a whole village to raise a child’ and the second is ‘you can take a horse to water…’.

But what happens when the whole of your village has tried, repeatedly, over a number of years to help raise a child but has become exhausted from offering second chances, being verbally abused and lied to?

Our village has asked for the support of surrounding villages and their learned elders or horse whisperers, however, due to our on-going involvement with said elders previously, we have been employing many of their sacred ways with our children already. These elders come to our village for an hour ‘each’ week and observe or meet with children and then leave as quickly as they came in a cloud of dust leaving us to wrangle once more with the mustang.


Now, it should be noted that we have some seriously experienced stable hands and a number of seasoned rodeo riders in our village, people who have seen many things and who’ve wrangled some of the most angry (vulnerable) stallions in this territory. They are used to getting thrown off now and again and have learned how to dodge the odd wild kick here and there. So when we ask for support from beyond our village it needs to be timely, robust, joined up and impactful so that we can work together to give the soul in question the best possible chance of success.

However, sometimes the answer seems to be to lead that horse to another meadow or plain and allow them to sample the grazing in that area – maybe it’s the grass, the water, the shade, the other horses or villagers that make the difference or simply the opportunity to start again with no history or saddlebags.

Sadly, despite our efforts, one mustang has had to leave our meadow recently for the wellbeing of the herd was at stake, I just hope that she hasn’t been branded by the time she reaches her new plain.


Image credits





Safety first

Today is day two of closure at my school.

Some people, mainly our children, will undoubtedly be over the moon with a further extension to their weekend, others, however, will not.

Why is it such a big deal? Well, so much time and effort goes into the end of every term in schools – especially the Christmas one. Events are arranged and practiced for, parents plan to take time off to watch that special moment where their child plays a donkey or a star. Staff, who are working hard to cover absent colleagues, are stretching themselves so that our children can enjoy this special time of year.

But the decision to close is never taken lightly. For me it has to come down to the safety of our school community. Is it safe for our caretaker to be out on the snow and ice working alone? Could disabled visitors access the site safely? What if the cleared paths ice over again, like they did after clearing yesterday? Do we have the staff capacity to receive all 410 children on to the site when staff are travelling from miles away? Will everyone be safe on their journey – whether that be on foot, by car or public transport? All of this must be taken into account and if any of the answers are ‘no’ then the decision is obvious.

I totally understand the desire for as much education as possible for our children, however I cannot and will not compromise anyone’s safety.

‘Dorking we have ignition…’

So the gates to the ‘chocolate factory’ were open, some of the other lucky golden ticket holders were already there and I was greeted by the hosts with the most – Stephen and Sarah. I placed my lovingly made lemon possets in the fridge (what bake off?) and settled into a semi-comfortable chair to get to know some of the other souls that had made their way into this darkest corner of Surrey.

The weekend itself was a triumph of organisation and a celebration of collaboration. The fact that everyone chipped in with the various chores meant that things were done efficiently leaving sufficient time to enjoy some libation in the company of like minded thinkers. And like minded we all were, alike we were not. A real diverse mixture of ages, settings and backgrounds which meant that we were sharing practice relevant to those settings and backgrounds meaning we listened to each other and took from it not only nuggets of ideas but also the understanding of what schooling is like across the country – its differences and similarities.

So where does that leave me? Well t-minus 10 days until my head teacher leaves the building forever (yes, that’s right, granted 2 weeks early to enjoy the sun drenched beaches of Thailand) leaving me to take the reins for the foreseeable future (at least until July). Two weeks during which I will aim to maintain my deputy role, teach my classes, cover the head essentials, coordinate the Christmas Carol service, serve up Christmas dinner for the children, dress up as Santa, as well as organise the leaving do and January training day.

But what an opportunity. The chance to implement my own changes at whole school level where I have the final say. I’ve made changes before and have been supported through them by previous head teachers – but now there’s no one to pull me back at the last minute… that’s worrying. What if I mess up? What if we have a huge disaster? I’ve got so many unanswered questions barrelling through my mind it’s hard to focus on the ‘now’, not the ‘what if’.

So SLTcamp enabled me to reassure myself that I do know what i’m talking about (a bit) and that no one in their right mind would give you control of a school if they didn’t think you were capable of leading it. But I guess that’s just where, as teachers, we sometimes have those feelings of insecurity, those feelings of being a fraud, being found out that we don’t know as much as the next person whose been doing it longer. However there lies the key – experience. Experience is what you make of it. For me there is no replacement for it although how do you get it without doing a job?

SLTcamp also ticked lots of boxes for me about things I might like to build upon at my school or consider implementing. I like Dave Brailsford’s ‘aggregation of marginal gains’ – in that if every member of staff could tweak one or two elements of their existing practice then that could make the extra ‘magic’ that would push us forward collectively for the benefit of the children and their futures.

So, to end, I will continue being the (novice) Twitter guy on my staff and will continue to eulogise about the benefits and enlightenment that can be found in the palm of your hand. I will promote the use of PLNs and as proof will hold up SLTcamp as a window to the future of CPD.

Golden ticket

A camp – I was in the scouts, I can cope right? The last camp I was on was in 1997 in San Bernardino, California working with children from gang land south central LA, blind children sponsored by a charity and asthma sufferers having ‘a breath of fresh air’ (I know) in the mountains – a truly eclectic mix.

Ok so I think SLT Camp is for me so I decide to get a ticket. The initial batch of 24 sells out like it’s a One Direction concert. Plan B – sit with iPad in hand refreshing every 10 seconds as the time ticked down to 12.00 and make sure I press the ‘male ticket’ button. I do and to my surprise I have 15 minutes to process my order. I’m in. I feel elated, really chuffed, like Charlie Bucket when he found the golden ticket he had been searching for.

So if i’m Charlie does that make @MsFindlater and @mrlockyer the grandparents – the architects of this new adventure? And surely the role of Willy Wonka has to go to @TeacherToolkit taking us through this fabulously free-learning experience on Friday night…

Like Charlie the initial elation from getting a ticket then turned to thoughts of excitement and apprehension of what to expect. No fear ‘you’ve got mail’ was the tweet – all of a sudden there was a list of trials and challenges to complete. A bake-off (forget the grandparents think Paul and Mary!), finding a charity and blogging about the event (√). Then there’s the options – presenter, leader, facilitator, scribe, camp maker or finisher – which to choose?

The event excites me. The unconference where the learning is free form and shared by other senior leaders will be the recharge that is inevitably required in the middle of November.

But what about the dress code? ‘Happy and comfortable’ they say – judging on the creations i’ve seen in the staff room over the years the mind boggles! …should I take my woggle then?