My First Week as VP @Darton_College

20170605_090606My first week @Darton_College

Back when I interviewed for the post of VP @Darton_College in February, I knew, without reservation, that I wanted the job; I knew I wanted the job after I’d completed the ‘learner panel’; I knew, having taught ‘int tarn’ for the majority of my educational career, this was an opportunity to ‘come home’!

My first week back in Barnsley has not disappointed. Here’s what my first week as VP @Darton_College looked like:

Penciled in planning my Y9 English lessons (my subject specialism is PE) with my talented English teacher sister. Fiction this week: analysing texts (Havisham). Got the overview and questioned and probed as Mrs O’ broadened my mind. I’ve learned so much about such a small facet of the life and times of English teachers this week – tough gig! Imagine how much I’ll have learned in the next 4 weeks before order is restored and I begin my new timetable. PE.

Whistle stop tour of my roles on the school duty rota: where to be, who to look out for, how I should always check the clock as there’s no bell, and who to call when there are ICT issues (it’s Mr Clapham in case you were wondering). Mr Clapham was very busy when I had laptop/audio related problems in my first English lesson! I was beyond caring though when a learner spouted, “Oxymoron, Sir” as I flashed up the first stanza of “Havisham’ on the board. “Where’s the Oxymoron?” “Beloved sweetheart bastard”. This was met by a huge intake of breath from the rest of the class as they were taken aback by said learner’s confidence in using a profanity so blatantly in front of ‘Sir’! The confident learner’s response to the shock of his astonished audience was, “I’m allowed to say it coz I’m quoting”. Yes you are, lad. Fantastic! Utterly impressed by what my predecessor must have taught these learners, they are on it! I would have never expected, having looked at the profile of this class, this level of accuracy in identifying language devices, or more surprisingly, the confidence in sharing them! What did I learn on Monday? My Y9B English class need pushing! Final Monday reflection – “Eyup, Sir. How’s it goin?”

Tuesday (half day – cheers Northern Powergrid – See Sheffield Star!)
SLT meeting, 7am: information overload; accelerated learning without a doubt. Note to self, please ensure you are more proficient at using Google docs: calendar, drive, basically Google everything, and put your pen down; you don’t need it; you work in a truly 21st century school, as part of an innovative team – get with the programme! Jargon came thick and fast too: RAP (always meant something else to me), Commitment Board (this is not about effort in the purest meaning of the word, but I see the link), learners (not students at DC; a habit that I’ll find tough to break), Data Bible (holy smoke! More support Mr Woodcock please!), SDM (never knew my mobile uploads were public as a default setting – cheers Julie and Dave; that’s a lot of posts to change!) CTLs (must stop referring to them as CLTs). The list is endless!

Met with the gaffer; my first line management meeting with KDa. It basically turned into a mentoring session with the agenda items being the things in bold from Tuesday’s learning, and chewing the fat regarding QA and ‘T&L Department Reviews’. Note to self, at DC we are resilient learners, even the staff. When the gaffer says, “Go and figure it out”, she means it. Resourcefulness (I now know how to bookmark text on a Google Doc – do you KDa?!?!?)! Squeezed in department line management meeting and then headed to the CTL meeting to present and share the process of summer term T&L reviews. On a more sombre note- missed Fin’s football for the first time in a long time.

Had another line management meeting and talked PE – comfort zone! Can’t wait to teach as part of the PE department at DC. Felt a little bit more like part of the DC staff body today. Engaged in banter and cheerful conversation with loads of learners throughout the day. I’m really enjoying it here.

Difficult conversation. Did the necessary evil and spoke openly and honestly; right outcome for DC learners (I once heard Mark Finnis say – difficult conversations only really become difficult conversations if we delay having them – sorted, cheers Mark). Had third line management meeting of the week and taught my final lesson of the week to Y9; they’re all over the enjambment in ‘Havisham’. Finally, finished the ramblings of the new VP T&L @Darton_College. However, the best part of today was the warm, fuzzy, proud feeling I got when a Y10 DC learner called into my office and said, “I just wanted to say congratulations on getting the Vice Principal job, Sir. Hope you’re settling in and enjoying it.” Note to self – these young people, these students, I mean learners, are brilliant, so when you’re knackered, frustrated and exhausted in November, or even next week, remember that!

Final thought; the learning curve this week has a gradient similar to that of the Swiss Wall in Avoriaz, the toughest I’ve skied; it gets easier every year I ski it though!



‘Regarding your emotional intelligence and leadership research’

A while ago I came across a retweet; the original tweet was from a primary school teacher and from what I can gather a very passionate primary school teacher at that. Her Twitter username is @RobertsNiomi and below is a copy of the original tweet.


Now, I’m not normally one to respond to this type of open request but I was compelled to do so for 2 reasons. Firstly, I am really interested in emotional intelligence and I believe it isn’t given the credit it deserves in leadership. I’m not sure of any consideration being given to it when recruiting leaders in education. However, my field of experience in leadership is not so vast so it may, in fact, be happening in places. Secondly, I was further compelled to respond as there was nothing good on TV!

The DM I sent is below (minus the numerous typos, spelling mistakes, and expletives!).

‘I think emotional intelligence is, without doubt, one of the most important things in leadership and unfortunately the most difficult skill/attribute to develop.

Being able to assess emotional states and go on to be able to choose the correct course of action, be it to empathise, challenge, reason with, engage, read, grow, empower and inspire, is an ability that is extremely rare. The truly great leaders possess such attributes – not just those leaders in education but leaders in all walks of life.

Personally, I believe emotional intelligence is something that schools up and down the country should be investing in. Emotional intelligence, much like intelligence, to some extent may be genetically predetermined. However, what Dweck tells us about intelligence (the fact that it is not a fixed trait but can be grown) is surely inclusive of emotional intelligence? If this is in fact true, to not offer emotional intelligence CPD to leaders is seeing schools ‘miss a trick’. For some schools I believe this type of CPD would see huge impact; for others it would be a marginal gain but what I do know to be true, is that nobody ever got worse at their job by knowing and understanding the people they lead. I’d say that is a nailed on fact!

Sorry about the ramble, but you asked for it!

As you can see I think emotional intelligence is a big deal!

Hope I have helped.’

(Can you remember the days when we only got 146 character for a DM😜)

The response I got from @RobertsNiomi is below:


A couple of months ago, I watched a TED talk by Rita Pierson. I urge you to watch it; she’s funny and the message she sends is clear from the word go when she references James Comer. “No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship”. I whole heartedly believe this.  The best teachers invest in their students: they get to know them; they find out what makes them ‘tick’; they are able to empathise with them; they make them believe that they believe in them. I think the best leaders should do exactly the same. Perhaps, “no signicant [leading] can occur without a significant relationship”

How much investment in do schools offer middle and senior leaders in developing and honing emotional intelligence? Does emotional intelligence CPD exist? Is anyone offering it?  If so, has it changed how you lead day in, day out?

I wait in anticipation for the findings of @RobertsNiomi little research project and I wish her all the best in her presentation.


Guest Blog for Christopher Horner.

Growth Mindset, it’s not Rocket Science, a 66 year old plumber told me that (cheers Dad).

Can I predict which students will achieve/exceed target/potential based on ‘loose’ evidence of their mindset??? (When I say loose, I mean loose so don’t start on the high horse around validity of data and reliability of the test etc!)

I asked Chris if I could write this on his blog long before I was a blogger! I asked him as I knew it would be ‘untouched’ and ‘uncensored’!!!


Guest Blog for Subject Support – In house, differentiated CPD

Just a cheesy but effective way of ensuring no stone is left unturned in providing CPD opportunities that are appropriate for all.

Fill Ya Boots! CPD Menus: A differentiated approach to in-house CPD.