Highlights of 2013 and Hopes for 2014

The Blogs that have opened doors in 2013
The Blogs that have opened doors in 2013

I’ve enjoyed reading several of these posts from other bloggers so I’ve decided to join in. I’m going to keep it to 10:10, instead of 13:14 – so I can keep it going in a manageable way in future years.

Highlights of 2013:

1. School Success

I’m lucky to work at a school like KEGS; we’ve been successful in lots of ways and this year we had our very best GCSE results which was exciting. We also had some wonderful concerts and other events, developed our provision in many areas and recruited some great new teachers. I tried to capture the essence of the school in this post: KEGS Spirit: A 2012-13 Sampler. It gives a flavour of the things that make working at KEGS such a joy.

I’m really pleased with the way our CPD processes are evolving and with the way we handled PRP. Our new Departmental Review process and the introduction of Lesson Study having joined the National Teacher Enquiry Network have also been very rewarding.

2. Teaching Physics and the co-construction process.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my teaching in the last year. I had Year 11 and Year 13 and now I’ve got a Year 9 and a new Y13 group. I wrote about my exam results post-mortem – some highs and lows – and the co-construction process that has been so rewarding. I love doing it and telling people about it. Most recently, I’ve been getting into using Edmodo although I’m still very much at the novice stage. My ipad is becoming more crucial to my life in and out of the classroom, even though it presents some issues at times. Mainly, I just love teaching my subject.

3.@Headguruteacher Blogging and Twitter

Well -it has been an unbelievable year. I’ve managed to sustain the blogging with a steady output, a growing readership and twitter following. I’m probably too interested in the blog stats and twitter numbers- the ‘ego strokes’ as I heard a psychologist describe them – but they’ve exceeded my wildest imaginings from a year ago. In the last few months, I’ve had over 1000 blog views per day on average…even when I haven’t written anything. I continue to be delighted with the feedback and encouragement others give me; I especially enjoyed writing the Great Lessons series..it was good to have a sustained focus.

The twitter-blogging world has led me to meet so many people and brought me to so many great ideas, great schools and inspiring teachers. I’ve realised that I can’t really handle twitter-debates. I’m too soft but also don’t like the way they never end…someone has to have the last word; I often find that people are quick to sneer and the 140 characters leads to a lot of rudeness. So I’m a bit one-directional on twitter; it’s my way of publicizing the blog and to have a few limited exchanges every so often.

I’ve also decided not to worry too much about the ‘self-promotion’ hang-up. My sense is that blogs are in demand – but people don’t know they are there unless you tell them – fairly often. I’ve discovered that lists on twitter can include people you don’t follow – which helps filter out some of the noise. I have moments of being uncomfortable with the ‘guru’ bit.. I have a @TeacherHead account waiting in the wings…but then I’ve decided it hasn’t done me any harm and I’m sticking with it, for now at least.

4. The Headteachers’ Roundtable

I was thrilled to join this group and it has been one of the joys of my year, working alongside people like John Tomsett, Ros McMullen and Vic Goddard – people I’ve previously admired from afar. The conferences and gatherings have been wonderful events drawing people from across the country and from every sector. Our meeting with Michael Gove was fascinating as I documented here. Working with HTRT has also enabled me to meet Fiona Millar, Glenys Stacey, Alison Peacock, Sam Freedman, Stephen Twigg and various DFE folk such as Tim Leunig. All fascinating people striving to make the education system better.

5. The Proper English Baccalaureate.

A year ago, this was a side of A4, a diagram and a short blog; now we have schools trialling it for real and lots of people talking to me, the HTRT and Whole Education about taking it forward. I describe the journey here. I’m very optimistic that we can take this further. I wish I had more time to focus on it; really we need a major backer with money to hire people who can drive it through professionally.

6. The Labour Skills Taskforce

I was thrilled to be invited to join this group by Chris Husbands, Director of the IoE. I joined Labour in January this year, determined to make a contribution, and this has given me the chance to do that. It’s been exciting to be part of the policy making process, adding my voice and chipping in ideas. I’ve got a meeting with Tristram Hunt next week along with Chris to discuss the next installment of the Taskforce policy consultations..exciting times. This wouldn’t have happened without the blog and HTRT opening doors.

Related to this was working with Labour Teachers so organise the #LabourTM at the party conference in September. This brought together John Tomsett, John Blake, Helene Galdinoshea, Kev Bartle, Joe Kirby and Ros McMullen amongst many others, with Stephen Twigg in attendance. A great event ..possibly worth repeating at every conference!

One of Stephen Twigg's last speeches on education. Spot the edu-twitter folk out in force.
One of Stephen Twigg’s last speeches on education. Spot the edu-twitter folk out in force.

7. Festivals, Conferences and TeachMeets

It would be a long list if I listed them all. I’ve enjoyed hosting #TMEssex with Martin Burrett @ICTMagic and Andy Knill, usually supported by the wonderful Chris Waugh @Edutronic_Net, one of the people I admire the most in education! The KEGS #DigIT Festival was also a great success – about 800 people came to my school on November 9th for a giant geek-up! Mark Anderson was one of them – which I was thrilled about. Visiting Clevedon in June for #TMClevedon was amazing – I met David Didau, Jim Smith, Zoe Elder, Mark Anderson and Hywel Roberts all on one day. The Sunday Times Wellington Festival was another treat – my first go at doing a session at an event on that scale; it was a thrill to be in a small room that then over-flowed. A highlight of the year for sure – captured here.

The ResearchEd event organised by Tom Bennett and Helene GaldinOShea was very special. It was great to be involved in and to learn from. The agenda is crucial as is the way it was so strongly led by practitioners. Again, I wrote about it on my blog. Finally, the SSAT National Conference was a good way to end the year. That was another phenomenal treat in terms of meeting people I respect enormously. I’ve tried to capture the issues in my ‘Taking Stock of the Education Agenda’ posts.

8. Writing my first book.

Geoff Barton asked me to contribute the Science book for a series called Teach Now, aimed at new teachers and trainees. It was daunting but with Geoff on hand to give encouragement and his expert editorial eye, it flowed fairly well. Along the way I had a partner in crime – Alex Quigley (@HuntingEnglish)- who was writing the English book at the same time. We enjoyed several exchanges during the process. My wife’s immediate reaction when I finished the 50,000 words was – “don’t do another book, it isn’t worth it” which tells you something! It took up many many hours but I loved doing it and I hope the book will do the job it’s designed for: to inspire and encourage new science teachers to love the job as much as I do and to do it well. It comes out in May 2014.

9. Family

There were some big shifts in our family life. My wife returned to being an Assistant Head at a school in Camden, giving new energy to all of us. It’s amazing how much impact a new challenge with new people and an inspiring Head can have – she’s never been so happy at work. My son went to secondary school – it’s great to follow his journey and, so far, it’s been fabulous for him. Every Sunday morning I’m a touchline Dad, following his football team. I love that. My daughter is now in Year 11 and it’s been interesting looking ahead to Sixth Forms, seeing her organise her own voluntary work and generally get stuck into studying whilst also having a big social life. School and home do blur a bit because we’re a 100% education-focused family!

10. Personal

Personal highlights of the year were going to China -( see A Chinese Education), going to the Latitude Festival and then visiting Pompeii on our family holiday. I also rediscovered a string of songs on tapes that I converted to mp3s via Garageband – (see the collection here) inspiring me to return to making some new music next year. I often tweet out links to posts that feature music, knowing full well that people almost never listen…but it’s a personal joy I’m still keen to share, regardless!

Hopes for 2014

1. Continued School Success

I need to put this first at all times will continue to do so. We’ve got some exciting things coming up and I’m optimistic about the future in terms of student outcomes. We’ve got lots of international links, ideas for music in the curriculum and a bold plan around EPQ and GPR for the Sixth Form.

2. To do better with communication:

The 360 review process I undertook in October suggested I could do better in making sure I tell people what is going on and acknowledging the work and interests of others more swiftly and positively in some instances…some things pass me by that shouldn’t! I am determined to do better in this area, whilst recognising my limits and my inclination to let people get on with things!

3. Learning Lessons blog takes off along with Lesson Study and other research-engaged CPD

We’ve launched a blog to accompany the Learning Lessons series and that is set to expand next year. Look out for a very special piece of work about Learning by Heart. I predict that it will inspire lots of teachers to get their students to learn more things by heart across the curriculum. Lesson Study has got people excited already and I hope that takes off. I’m thrilled to be hosting the next NTEN Conference at KEGS in February. David Didau and David Weston are coming to KEGS! Yay! More widely, using the NTEN CPD standards, we’ll be trying to reach Gold, having secured Silver last year.

4. The KEGS Vision Building process, looking head to 2020 yields an exciting end-product.

We’re taking the whole of 2014 to engage all members of our community – students, staff, parents and Governors – to shape the next five year plan, leading to 2020. Our Vision for KEGS in 2015 will be the starting point but then we need to look aheatd and agree on where we’d like to be as a school. I want us to take a big stride forward as a cutting-edge Grammar school with a role in the community that is deeper than ever. The final document will capture the consensus of the community, ready to launch in January 2015.

5. A strong partnership with local primary schools has been established.

I’ve been in discussions with a couple of local Heads and their Governors; I’ll be working as NLE to support one of them. We’ve identified a number of possible ways we can work together and that has lots of possibilities. The next year will bring those ideas off the page in one form or another. I’m especially interested in community literacy and raising parental aspirations. More on this in due course!

6. My first book is published and the second book written

The Teach Now series will be out there during the year – who knows how well it will do, but it’s exciting. I get about 60p a copy after tax – I won’t be making a fortune! However, I’m already in discussions about the next book: it will be book aimed at all teachers, linking ideas in the Great Lesson series with my Plantation to Rainforest metaphor. Essentially it is about making teaching what you want it to be….taking ownership and responsibility whilst expressing your passion and expertise. I may have to ease off the blogging to a far greater extent this time.. or else I may never see the kids!

7. Headteachers’ Roundtable and Vision 2040 have a clear focus and start to deliver.

The HTRT group is actually quite fragile because we all have schools to run. I’m hoping that in the next year we can build an infrastructure as a Heads’ think tank that will allow us to function more efficiently and effectively in the long term. With Vision 2040, the SSAT action group that I chair – I’m hoping that we get plenty of submissions and that our report starts to take shape. It feels like a bigger task than we can manage at times….but I’m hopeful that the end product will be of real value.

8. Labour Party is in the driving seat ahead of the 2015 election.

I think the country needs this…and I hope to play some part in supporting Labour in making this happen. But they need to get their act together soon!

9. Family

My main hope is that my daughter’s GCSEs go well and that she gets the success she so deserves. I hope my wife and son continue to enjoy their new schools… and get to fit in all their other interests too. I won’t dwell on this too much but the main thing is that we’re still a fit and happy unit just as we are now. We’re planning a return to Indonesia in the summer of 2014 – visiting Jakarta where we spent three happy years, and Bali, the site of many fabulous holidays. Can’t wait!

10. Personal

This is of no interest to anyone but I want to end the year fitter and leaner, with more bike miles under my belt and fewer car miles on the clock. I also hope to have made some more music… it’s been too long since the last composition found its way into being.

Happy New Year to everyone who reads my blog for supporting me this year. I’m deeply grateful.


  1. Tom, it’s been great watching your blog and ideas develop over the last year. It was even better actually meeting you briefly at ResearchEd 2013 and getting some sense of how dynamic you really are. I’ll buy a copy of your Science book when it’s out as I’m sure it will be a thoughtful read, like all your material. Thanks for sharing everything with us and please don’t change your pseudonym!


  2. Good to read, Tom – this has been an amazing year for you, and I have found your writing and your example inspiring.

    I hope 2014 is another excellent year for you, your school and your family. I’m sure it will be because you will Make It So ( in Jean-Luc Picard style…)


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