It’s PSHE!

Somewhat shocked to discover that “PSHE lessons improve pupils’ grades”. Closer investigation reveals research carried out on behalf of ‘PSHE Association’ so reflect that findings perhaps not so surprising given this context. Indeed, further reading of article appears to show that the “review of 1200 studies” (detailed definition of “study” not given) found academic results improved by implementing teaching aimed at “helping pupils to become healthier, more confident and more willing to take risks”. Admit to rolling eyes at this point in article and fight temptation to employ time-honoured phrase much beloved of Heads’ PA: “No shit Sherlock”.

Further hilarity ensues in precis of ‘Outcomes’ where, under the heading of ‘Physical health and emotional wellbeing’ statement is made that: “This had a positive impact on academic attainment, “by enhancing the physical and mental health of students”.” Relieved to discover that teaching about subject results in students learning about subject, but wonder too if quality of teaching may have been key factor in this rather than compartmentalising of subject within wooly umbrella of PSHE.

Willing to concede that personal cynicism at This Time Of Term may be colouring personal views on matter but at very least research puts my perviously confused mind at rest as to whether it is PSHE or PHSE. Until I forget again.

Belgian Whistles

Another email from the Head this morning in which various proposals are ‘muted’. Fight urge to respond immediately with message saying ‘I wish!’ but wonder if joke will be 1. understood and 2. appreciated. Suspect at This Time Of Term the answer would be neither so sensibly Hold Myself In Check.

Obviously this is time of year for wilful misunderstanding of the English language as The Twitter shares a story of reference to ‘Belgian Whistles’ in place of, well, if you cannot guess then it is a mute point really. Sorely tempted to create stock email response of “Belgian Whistles” for whenever someone sends message using incorrect terminology.

Now with added (secret)

Impressed with the reach of The Manchester Guardian’s ‘Secret Teacher’ column and inspired by recollection of another online diary called The Private Secret Diary I determine to re-brand my own attempt with inclusion of the word Secret. Entirely convinced that this simple addition (in parenthesis, no less) will catapult readership into the stratosphere. Or at least, perhaps, into double figures.

Rush of optimism (or more likely caffeine) additionally sees me making early Resolution to follow in the footsteps of aforementioned secretive writers to Turn This Into A Book. Share this thought with M who, at This Time In The Term understandably fails to summon pretence of positive support and instead merely offers withering roll of eyes.

Never Mind The Bullocks

Proof of provinciality today in big lunchtime alert about eight bullocks infiltrating school playing fields. To be fair, bullocks looked as perplexed as some members of the Leadership Team sent out to intercept. Fortunately four Year 11 students took control and directed rogue livestock back through gap in hedge normally reserved for smokers. Merit points dished out in abundance as result.

Acutely aware of possibility of unfairly conflating ‘provincial’ and ‘rural’ in this diary entry but feel opportunity too good to waste.


Email arrived this morning, forwarded from the DFE, about development of WORKLOAD REDUCTION TOOLKIT (their choice of ALL CAPS). Bemused to discover that email asks (in a tone of barely concealed desperation) for suggestions about how workload reduction might possibly be attained. Deadline for suggestions is 4th DECEMBER.

Fight off temptation to instantly respond with email suggesting first step may possibly be to not overload already overworked colleagues with additional tasks at ludicrously short notice.

Additionally fight temptation to respond with an observation that in the climate of competition engendered by the various Secretaries of State for Education over the past decade or so we would only be willing to supply suggestions of effective strategies for workload reduction on a consultancy basis and attach overview of consultancy charging structure.

Decide finally to click ‘delete’ and turn attention to next item on to-do list.


Devastated to discover that The Twitter has doubled the character limit of Tweets to a massive 280 and in so doing completely exploding my previously posited theory that 140 character limit behind dominant movement in education of reducing complex systems to ultimately meaningless lowest common denominator single words. Convinced that Life Will Never Be The Same Again.

Personalised Learning Checklists

Conscious of the fact that this ought possibly to be ‘Personalized’ with a ‘z’ because it may be another of these fashionable educational notions imported from the United States of America. Immediately start thinking of somewhat dark and inappropriate joke that M shared at breakfast table after reading about yet another mass shooting: “America just needs to start again from scratch, doesn’t it? Switch if off and switch it back on again.”

Reflect that although it made me laugh this perhaps is sign of The Times That We Are Living In or alternatively that M has spent too long watching television.

Main point of diary entry however meant to ponder the concept of Personalised Learning Checklists. J suggests we deliver input about these to colleagues at our next training opportunity, alongside something on aforementioned ‘Knowledge Organisers’. Barely withhold groan on reading email and immediately respond with request that if we do so can we please not use so much fashionable edu-babble. Entirely convinced that ‘List Of Things To Remember’ and ‘To-do list’ are equally valid terms for these concepts. Concede that if so, extended blog posts about such concepts become exceptionally difficult to write. As evidenced in this diary entry.

Rest case and tick ‘write diary entry’ off Personalised Learning Checklist.



HandmadeCyclist_Day2_67664_1024xWe often say that in teaching three things are inevitable: Death, taxes and OFSTED. To this list we ought also to add ‘the email about Missing Mugs From The Staffroom’.

Delighted to report that the Missing Mugs email was sent around to staff this morning by a member of our admin team whose job description, I am sure, does not involve ‘keep audit of mugs in staffroom’. This email follows inevitably from prior missives from individuals pleading for the safe return of their Special Mug (implicit in which is the accusation that some other unfeeling oaf has purloined it for their own malignant purposes, chief of which is to Irritate and Frustrate the owner of said mug).

Admit to feeling gleeful that email systems allow global sharing of such Important Topics, especially when inevitable use of ‘reply all’ is extravagantly applied by key colleagues whose guilt in mug appropriation is made apparent to all. Immediately try and remember The Time Before Email and therefore how colleagues managed such issues in those circumstances. Forced to conclude that because we were never made globally aware of the issue then plague of mug misappropriation simply never happened. File this conclusion in folder marked ‘Evidence that Computers Have Ruined Our Existence’. Revel in fact that such a folder exists on computer and once more celebrate a contradiction with coffee in Special Mug.

A List Of Things To Remember

Sense of unease over failure to discover the perfect App for to-do list resurfaces this afternoon whilst reading blog posts about something The New Generation are calling ‘Knowledge Organisers’. Understand there any number of different interpretations of what a ‘Knowledge Organiser’ actually is (or indeed is not) depending on whatever personal theory of educational enlightenment one is attempting to promote via one’s online presence, but seems to be essentially A List Of Things To Remember.

Ironically this determination to cloak simple concepts in clothes of complexity appears entirely contrary to notion of reducing things to meaningless simplicity that one railed against previously. Take some succour in realising that this is yet another splendid opportunity to Celebrate Contradictions. Do so with a small glass of sherry and another of Ianthe Jerrold’s marvellous detective novels. It is the end of half term, after all.

Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now

Entirely convinced way to best tell ‘real’ education professionals from those who view it entirely as ‘industry’ to be monetised and exploited for personal profit is in regularity of diary entries. Decide to trust only those who lapse into lengthy periods of apparent inactivity, resurfacing only occasionally during half termly holidays and at moments of extreme stress where unleashing thinly disguised diatribes is Only Means Of Survival. In rare moments of idle reflection wonder if this is more accurately sign of ageing process in self, but ingestion of caffeine puts mind at rest.

Half term too perhaps only time one gets nowadays to raise head above parapet of own to-do list in order to cast weary eye over educational landscape. Undoubtedly M much better versed in this kind of activity than I, so again she is source of precis of recent argumentative discourse on The Twitter surrounding the thorny topic of Should Learning Be Fun?

Once more appears that use of digital communications technologies drives individuals to consider issues in entirely binary terms. No room for middle ground or complex constructions of interconnected threads, but rather an insistence on This or That. Ones and zeros. Convinced there is some insidious digital corruption of the analogue world behind this, like some dreadful Computer Virus in reverse. M looks at me witheringly when I suggest this, but am entirely certain there is truth behind it.

Cursed to see value in arguments From Both Sides, perhaps predictably then find self to be somewhat ambivalent about question of Fun in Learning or indeed Learning in Fun. Entirely convinced however that most over-used and irrelevant word in education is ‘engaged’ and all associated derivations. Wholly convinced that conflation of the word ‘engaging’ and ‘fun’ behind confusion of issue for many people. Indeed, feel certain it is insistence on corralling complex relationships of ideas and activity into 140 characters that is at root of problem. Why this insistence on reducing things to ultimately meaningless lowest common denominator single words? ‘Engaged’, ‘Fun’ or indeed ’Serious’ are words that out of context are essentially meaningless after all.

M says this is All Very Well but what do I actually think? Concede to admit that with pistol held to temple one would tend to side with those who think pleasure and enjoyment are important ingredients of effective learning process. Would state further indeed that it is this notion of learning as interconnected sequence of iterative, cyclical steps which often appears to be missed by those who proclaim themselves as Masters Of The (current educational) Universe. It strikes me that an insistence on Following Rules and Silence At All Costs is something that frames learning as entirely linear narrative as opposed to post-modern elliptical or cyclical process and as a result continually reinforces a devaluation of multiple dialogues. (On re-reading this diary entry, would reluctantly admit that previous sentence perhaps overly influenced by aforementioned ingestion of caffeine).

Somewhat hesitant to admit that part of job one has always found most pleasant is dialogue with students. They do, after all, often say the most interestingly challenging things, and one ought always to feel challenged in life after all. Feel need to stress now, however, that the requirement to Actually Like Children has never been high on personal list of priorities for being an effective teacher. Not that one ought to actively dislike them of course, but there is as always a Happy Medium to be found. (As an aside, I have always been rather taken by LPW’s view that one can easily show interest in other people individually when one ultimately cares very little about people in general).

M looks over shoulder and suggests that use of the word ‘happy’ in previous paragraph seems remarkably appropriate in the circumstances. Not quite willing to go to the extreme as to suggest those forbidding the place of enjoyment in education as being “dead inside”, but the temptation is strong.

What is the point, after all, in going through one’s life in state of miserable seriousness?