Misc. Writing


It has long troubled me that a significant imbalance exists between research in further education and research in schools, and the result is a college sector that is ill-equipped to bargain in the currency of data. Data, particularly numerical data, is a powerful persuader in this digital, marketised world. Yet, whilst schools speak in numbers to policy and press, further education finds its voice lost in a dialogue we are not yet fluent in. As a result we are disempowered when challenging the systemic neglect and reactive reform we continue to have imposed upon us.


As the number of sixteen to nineteen year olds in further education soars, funding per learner trickles in continuous decline. 

For as long as economy comes before ecology we will continue to pour investment into buildings to contain students in classrooms with no teachers.

A thirty five percent decline in pay against inflation has extinguished our ability to recruit or retain staff; adding fuel to the fires that a skeletal body of burnt-out teachers scrabble to contain.

More than half of our colleagues leave this sector within their first three years. Those who stay seek to preserve their emotional and financial wellbeing by chasing livable salaries into leadership roles that remove them from the classroom.

Expertise is developed over time, yet policy-makers’ negligence has cultivated an environment where no teacher can afford to invest time.

So we are reclaiming our time.


I arrived on campus for the first time in many months last week. I was juggling mixed feelings about my return, and on pulling up to the car park I realised that the barrier code was internally lost amidst the surging cognitive turmoil. I was flummoxed. I had arrived at this barrier every day for many years; predictable in my every move, like clockwork. I was always early to beat the morning gridlock and ensure my preferred parking space, equidistant from both entrances. I would wave to the canteen staff as I passed their windows, and they would wave back, knowing I’d soon arrive at their counter amidst the bustling breakfast club for my essential email purge accompaniment; the latte. I would unlock the office, pop some porridge in the microwave, lift the blinds and make my way around my colleagues PC’s, prompting their slow, sluggish awakening in preparation for everyone’s arrival, before settling at my own desk.

This morning already felt very different. A porter rushing past in disposable gloves let me through the barrier. I didn’t recognise the solitary, masked face as I passed the kitchen window, and my red car seemed jarring against the vast concrete sprawl of empty spaces.


There are many factors that can affect the time taken by a kettle to reach boiling point. Impurities in the water can have an impact, atmospheric pressure can alter the boiling point, an accidental change in altitude could have a devastating impact on your brew. Perhaps you’ve spent many lustrums scrolling on Wikipedia instead of descaling the kettle, leading to calcification, increasing the insulation between water and kettle? 

The above are all incorrect, of course. The reason your kettle is taking a megannum (one million years) to boil is because you’re a teacher desperate for a cuppa and your next lesson starts in 10 minutes. 


I strive to embed the celebration of their authentic selves into everything that we do together, or that I support them to do independently. And yet the persona I wear to class is carefully constructed, albeit with their best interests in mind.

I recently caught up with a Mary Myatt seminar where we were reminded that as educators we are human beings first, and professionals second. To me, this accentuated the need for our intrinsic humanity to shape and inform our best teaching selves. Our compassion, potential for connection and vibrant imaginations are invaluable and transferable, all underpinning the creation of powerful student-teacher relationships.

That being said, there are a few very human quirks of my own that I’ve spent considerable time carefully editing out of “Teacher Me”, and I would like to share one of these with you today.


I wake up at around 2am. I seem to be on the couch. Re-runs of The Office continue to hum softly from the corner, casting a flickering light over the crumpled blanket I’ve crafted from students’ homework. I roll out from under the weight, letting the papers cascade on to the floor, where the dog will silently eat them. 

I wake up at around 4am and wonder if I returned that parent’s phone call.

Probably best not to do so at this very moment.

I wake up at around 5.30am and decide to wait for my alarm. I have a sleep tracker somewhere in my mobile’s chasm of apps, but I don’t need it to tell me that I’m knackered. 

I check on the marking but it continues to exist.


Questions carry the potential to drive thinking, and fresh thinking sparks progress. Questions mark the beginning of a journey. And every person you have addressed is gifted the opportunity to become a travelling companion in the expedition, creating and sharing winding pathways of thought, illuminated by bright ideas and always moving forwards. Answers are the finalising punctuation; the full stops. But nurture a working environment that relishes the whole sentence and watch the cartography of your questions unfold. 

Please, ask away.


A petition gathered tens of thousands of signatures and showed them the power of a single voice in sparking a movement. Gentle, hopeful walks through their home city showed them the power of collaborative action. Arriving at the appeal hearing in coaches to show peaceful solidarity with their friend and classmate, they smiled so broadly, and charmed the security guards so completely, that they were ushered into the courthouse. They were given their own viewing room, where they witnessed the exceptional consequences of their influence. They cheered, cried, hugged and sang all the way back to college. They embraced their friend, classmate and fellow resident with unfiltered gratitude for his presence, and I once again marvelled at their collective potential.


Oh yes, teacher friends, this year our achievements extend far further than the field of teaching and learning. We have courageously navigated the treacherous terrain of technology-enhanced learning clad in slippers and yoga pants. We have battled the trolls of the worldwide web clutching nothing but a home-made coffee and a visualiser. We have equipped ourselves with blue light filter glasses and gazed steadily into the very soul of poor internet connection.

I have witnessed with admiration my further education colleagues across the country pioneering fantastically creative solutions to the unexpected hazards we’ve encountered in the realm of working from home.


'By the time I made my peace with this and poured myself a half time dram, Scotland were out, so I did what all loyal fans do; I declared the remainder of the tournament dead to me and looked elsewhere; in this case to the Olympics. Immediately I noticed a wealth of lesson plans splashed across Twinkl, teaching blogs and Pinterest. From slide templates, to maths activities, to history of the Olympic games, if you wish to merge your teaching practice with the heightening buzz of the games, there are resources ready and waiting to help you bring this herculean contest to your classroom.

I would like to propose an alternative integration though. I propose that, instead of embedding the Olympics into our lessons, we take our lessons to the Olympics.

I am not suggesting a national field trip here, not least because the risk assessment amidst Covid would be eye-watering. I am proposing we compete.'


'There are many uncertainties within the teaching profession. It is impossible to know what unique challenges and triumphs each academic year will bring, what each term may offer or what individual students may bring to class on any given day. 

There are, however, a number of absolute certainties. 

You will spend every Sunday night paralysed with anxiety that your morning alarm will malfunction, which has obviously never happened before. You will be so worried about sleeping in that you will not sleep at all.

At the beginning of every academic year, term, half term and week, you will endeavour to save a significant sum of money by preparing lunches and flasks of coffee in advance. You will make a sad-looking salad and accidentally leave the flask on the kitchen counter. This will ruin your day.

You will spend the money that the sad salad saved you on mountains of stationery every weekend to replace the superfluous amounts you begrudgingly donate to student pencil cases. Of course your stationery spending will far outweigh your measly salad savings, so you are now broke. 

Being broke, you will now enter the Cycle of Half Term. I tried very hard to think of a catchier title but I’m a Very Tired Teacher, so Cycle of Half Term is what we’re going with for now.


I don’t know about you, but the last academic year categorically did not go out with a bang for me. There was no sprint to the finish; only a fatigued stumble across a hazy line. I was itching for a finale of any description; a clear mark of completion, and so we decided to hit the road and head north the very next morning. My fellow educators will understand that this is an intrepid move. Our body clocks are relentless timers counting down to feverish self-destruction at the mere hint of a holiday, but it was a risk I was willing to take in order to leave 20/21 as far behind me as my PCP mileage-capped car would allow. After the obligatory celebration with colleagues the evening before, I hopped into the car at the crack of noon and set off. Of course, at this early stage of any given holiday, school and college staff are experiencing an intense cognitive overload. As a result, one hour northwards I realised we had not left a key for the cat-sitter. Much swearing and several hours later I am wilting at the wheel, and quite certain that we must be a considerable distance from our home in Leeds and my professional responsibilities. As dusk descends I spot a sign for a campsite in a small, picturesque village to our right. I have assessed our distance and direction, and asserted that we are likely in the northern quarter of the Lake District, a mere stone’s throw from the Scottish border. This seems like a journey worthy of a brief stopover, and so we pitch up and wander into the tranquil parish to source dinner. Friends, we were in Dent. We had not even made it out of Yorkshire.