Keep Calm and Teach British Values

Bizarrely this isn’t about forming orderly queues, having afternoon tea or making small talk about the weather. Which is a shame as I consider myself very talented all three…

My first instinct when I was “told” what values we should be teaching was despair. I looked at the list and noticed the omissions which are so many values I hold dear and dramatically shook my head. After all I mainly teach Religious Studies so I’m used to spending a great deal of time exploring morality, ethics and values from various perspectives each day. Following a bit of reflection I’m a lot calmer; I’d like to share why for those of you whom, like me, were initially shocked by the list.

What’s it all about?
The whole British Values idea has come about following the Trojan Horse scandal which, to summarise briefly, means an incredibly small minority of schools were teaching anti-British values and for want of a better word abusing the trust they had to support those young people by pushing radical agendas.

It flagged up certain values as a key priority for schools in the eyes of the powers that be. Is that such a bad thing? I know our school is focused on developing good people as well as trying to secure academic success. It’s also given RS a bit of extra credence, which, in this ebac world, is honestly appreciated.

So what’s the problem?

1) The Values Chosen?
The main British Values that have emerged from government documents are:-
Respect for the rule of law
Mutual respect
Personal and Social Responsibility
Respect for British Institutions

(Note that this is not intended as a definitive list or as guidance, but to give a flavour of the values being promoted at present. If you want to make sure you are Ofsted ready I’d recommend following their guidance rather than mine, that’s what it’s there for.)

I don’t have a problem with these values; I do have a problem with the ones that have been omitted. Where is love, compassion, charity, caring, thoughtfulness, the value of family and friendship. What about these values? I’m sure you can think of others that are close to your heart too.

Upon consideration I thought to myself these are the values they’re worried about after the Trojan Horse crisis; not an exclusive list of values. I can’t imagine if Ofsted turn up in our schools when we’re doing a fundraiser they’ll reprimand us for promoting charity and caring for others. I’m sure no right minded person wouldn’t want us to promote a wide range of positive values that produce well rounded, thoughtful and caring young people. They’ve just found a few values they’re worried about.

2) Measuring The Values?
The natural reaction to any declaration that will be measured is “Are we doing this?” With the values above I’d wager that the vast majority of schools are and should be very proud of the young people they send out into the world to enjoy their lives as part of society. As schools we make a huge investment in the whole child.

The scary part is the next question “How do we prove it?” The obvious way is to audit what’s going on in school. Once you’ve gone through the visitors, assemblies and RE syllabus you’ve probably covered most of them. I’m not suggesting that SMSC or values education is the sole domain or responsibility of RS departments; but I am confident we make a valuable contribution.

In reality the role models the teachers in school provide is likely to be the most powerful way of sharing values with your learners. Everything we say and everything we do is seen by our students and it has an impact.

Although I’m not an Ofsted inspector I’m aware that they tend to be quite astute. If an inspector were to walk around your school, watch the children interacting in around the school and lessons, and talk to them they’ll have a pretty good handle on the values of your young people and your school.

3) “British” Values?
This for me was the confusing part, if we look at the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights a lot of those ideals are held by most nations on Earth. If we look around the world many nations have democracy, care for their families, have the Golden Rule which appears in almost every religion and culture. It’s hard for me to understand what’s so British about values that most people around the world hold. I imagine that some groups may worry that their values may be forgotten amongst this phraseology; I think the semantics of this may cause more concerns than the reality when we look at the shared ideals of most people. I can however imagine the political implications of Britain suggesting that all nations should have identical values to us and forgive them on those grounds for their choice of terminology.

Stay calm, teach them to be beautiful human beings who appreciate and respect life and each other and we should be OK. Everything else is semantics. Well, apart from missing out drinking tea; what could be more British?

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE



#100wordbookreview Perfect ICT Every Lesson by Mark Anderson

This book provides a smorgasbord of ideas to enhance your students learning using digital technology.

Passionate about using technology for the right reasons, not just for the sake of it, Mark shares his philosophy and various models of using ICT in education.

Containing easy to follow advice on student blogs, utilising your ICT suite effectively, e-safety advice, learning with social media and setting up class blog projects I really feel anyone wanting to add some digital to their learning should read this book.

The book also contains links to numerous further treasure troves of information which can be accessed online.

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE

Getting DIRTy

What it is…
DIRT means Directed Improvement and Reflection Time (a term coined by @jackiebeere); which basically means setting aside some time for learners to act on the feedback you have given them. If you were told to improve without receiving time to do it you would consider it unrealistic, the same applies to the learners in our care. They need time to grow. This is the y (why); because DIRT time is where students are focused on gaps in their learning to help them improve or on stretching their current understanding. With my DIRT tasks I’m normally trying to cover one of the 4c’s.

4 C’s
Corrections: Sometimes something is plain old wrong; it might be spellings or complete misunderstanding of a concept. You might want them to find the answer or you might give them the information and ask them to apply it to show they now understand.
Clarification: If you want more detail or you think they’re confused or vague ask them to go into detail or point them in the right direction.
Comparisons: Making them look at similar and different pieces of information to either provide opportunities for analysis or to intentionally create cognitive conflict (purposefully confusing them to force them to consider the issue in depth.)
Challenge: If they’ve got the idea it’s an opportunity to stretch them in either their thinking or their knowledge.

Why the green pen?
We get students to do their DIRT work in green pen so that we can immediately see where their improvements are. It’s also good for students to be able to quickly identify that their additional efforts in DIRT time make a difference to their performance. An added bonus is that if anyone external were to look at the books there’s immediate evidence of learners acting on feedback.

Some ways to get DIRTy
1-DIRT Mats

These are templates you can use to give specific instructions regarding common mistakes. This saves marking time by telling a student exactly what they need to do in DIRT time with a pre-written instruction.

The step by step process was…
1) Identify 8 common errors.
2) Put them on a template, such as the one’s available from @grahamandre
3) Write “DIRT Mat No.1-8″ in student book

Specific instructions given to improve in 13 characters; Twitter would be proud.


2-Tick & Target
We give feedback for each major assessment and for at least one mini-assessment for each topic using this method. The feedback sheet is a list of success criteria for the task; we highlight success criteria as appropriate, for some tasks it means highlighting what they did, for more formal tests we highlight next steps. (I know this could be confusing, but they come with instructions.)
They also get a tick and a target at the bottom of the criteria checklist, the tick is something they did well and the target is their focus to improve their learning.

3-Ask Questions
Most simply done you just write a question in their book based on what they’ve written to extend their ideas, challenge their thinking or encourage them to reflect on a different aspect of the concept. It’s just like asking questions normally, but you write it down, simple.

You can also write questions in their books as you’re walking around the class; or use a verbal feedback stamp, ask them the question and make them write it themselves for speed (and to conserve the world’s red ink supply.)

4-Peer Assess
Peer assessment is a great way to get students reflecting on what makes good work, study success criteria, share ideas and engage in peer support. This should be used carefully though; it isn’t a way to avoid doing marking, it’s an alternative marking strategy which has its own value if done well.

My advice to making it work…
1) Always use criteria.
2) Make them refer to the criteria.
3) Make sure they know you are available to adjudicate
4) Check it. (It’s still quicker than marking it all yourself.)

If it’s really good feedback that a student gives comment on that too, reinforce your expectations.

5-Close the Cycle
There’s no point asking them to do improvements if you’re not going to look at them. This may just be a tick or a few words to acknowledge the DIRT has been done. It’s much better when they’ve made real improvements and you can tell them to reinforce the value of that extra effort. If they think the DIRT doesn’t get checked some students may select not to do it; closing the cycle by letting them know they’ve done as you asked no matter how simply is important….
If it isn’t enough add another DIRT task…

Now go get DIRTy…
Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE


I also really recommend having a look at what @PeteJackson32 has to say about Self Assessment on @pedagoo …

More recommended (essential) reading on DIRT (via @dan_brinton) which I heartily agree with:




And finally, out of humility, Dan didn’t recommend his own, but I do: Dan’s Blog

#100wordbookreview Flip Your Classroom by Bergmann & Sams

This is a must have book if you are interested in starting your own flipped classroom journey. It takes you through the big idea behind the flipped classroom before giving you all the essential tips you need to make it a success in your own classroom. Bergmann and Sams were the pioneers of flipping classrooms and they talk at length about their vast experiences, the thoughts behind why they first decided to do it and their successes and failures along the way. You’ll find everything you need in this book from two of the world’s leading experts in this field.

Guest review by:-
Jon Tait – @TeamTait

Jon’s website can be found here…


#100wordbookreview Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Five Dysfunctions is delivered in the form of a fable, Lencioni offers the reader a chance to reflect and also to consider the fact that the obvious is often not always the most impactful. It explores leadership behaviour and promotes the idea of ‘professional conflict’ to avoid group think and consensus without commitment. In an educational world of constant change, this book offers a short approach to leadership that reminds all of the purpose and the need to challenge the big issues, not just the small ones. Recommended for anyone facing leadership block. Easily read in an hour or so.

Guest Blog by:
Glyn Potts – @GlynYOGIPotts


It’s all about the Extra

As a naïve PGCE student I was led into an ageing headmasters office. Nearing retirement he had clearly been reflecting on the purpose of schools when he started to tell us what he thought it was all about.

With mischief in his eyes he told us not to tell his staff, but what they did in the curriculum wasn’t that important. Every school delivers the curriculum; that’s not what makes school special, it’s not what childhood memories are made of. No-one will remember the worksheets you make or solving algebraic equations on a dreary Wednesday afternoon. What they remember is beating their rivals at rugby or football, playing in concerts, singing in the choir, celebrations, trips and school plays. That’s what makes childhood memories; that’s what makes school special.

Although I think the curriculum is important; I really bought into what he said about the extra that makes school special, that makes it a memorable time with a place in our hearts. I really believe we can add that special into other aspects of school too…

Giving students responsibilities gives them a purposeful part to play in the wider life of the school; our prefects help out at lunch time, attend school events, plan our leavers prom and collaborate in the design of the yearbook, act as ambassadors. Our celebrations are often hosted by our Head Boy and Head Girl, who do a fantastic job. These students leave with memories of playing a major role in their school and a feeling of great pride for their contributions.

There are fantastic opportunities to develop students as teachers and leaders too; get them to share their skills with staff. Projects like Digital Leaders are a wonderful way to enhance staff and create memorable moments. It doesn’t do any harm when they apply for university or jobs either.

Activity Days
Almost every school stops the timetable for students to have special activity days; whether with a specific curriculum focus or staff sharing their interests so that students get to experience new things, these days should be special to our students. I know it can be hard when you’re operating outside of your comfort zone, doing very different things with students to our normal classroom routine, but remember it’s worth it.

Real people coming into school is exciting; I know my students will remember when Andy Mouncey came in to share his Cracking the Spine project. It’s far more exciting to hear a World Record breaker talk about his own adventures than me doing an assembly on it.

Within the last year we’ve had people from the Universities, college students, a replica Lindisfarne Gospel, sporting legends, prison guards, police, local artists and many more. These people offer a different perspective on issues which students value and create memorable experiences.

Link to Blog on Andy’s project:
I’m proud to say the young man who ran the whole 268 miles himself was one of ours.

It’s a small thing but those conversations you have with students on break and lunch duties mean a lot to them. When they look back on their school days do you want them to remember that the teachers cared about them and had time to talk to them?

I’m not suggesting your lessons become all style and no substance, that way madness lies. What I am suggesting is that from time to time when you’re planning a lesson, don’t just think about outcomes and activities, think about how you can make it a little special.

Dream Big!
In our school we love to go big and creative. We have a Room X which is periodically transformed into a new themed learning environment; it’s currently the set of Lost, complete with sand, netting and a fake campfire. Sadly it doesn’t toast marshmallows.

Before that we were using Room X to investigate the Ripper murders in our Whitechapel set.

Outside we have our award winning replica WWI trench where hundreds of primary students have been guided through an immersive learning experience, complete with smoke, loud bangs and Bluetooth sound effects, by “Captain Henderson” (AKA @MrHumanities).

What big project could your school make happen? What could you be doing to make childhood special? I hear of so many creative projects to make school spaces special in primary; what ideas can we take from them?

Final Thoughts
I’m not saying forget about the curriculum; a good education changes lives and I assume that’s why many of us become teachers. I’m just suggesting that if we really think that schools should be special places, shouldn’t we be the ones doing stuff to make it that way?

If you’re doing special things in your school and you’re on Twitter please come to #PedagooFriday and share a little of your magic.

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE

Why Teachmeets Are Awesome!

I only attended my first Teachmeet a year ago and I would already have difficulty telling you how many I’ve attended. They vary from small gatherings in cafes and taverns to highly corporate events with huge production values and bags of prizes. The things that tend to be the same are the reasons I’ve attended so many in the last year…

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the phrase “If you only take one thing away…” but it’s often used for a reason. Every Teachmeet has a stack of presenters freely sharing ideas they have used in their practice. Some you may have come across but they’re shown in a new way, some a reminder of things you haven’t done for a while and some brand new sparkly ones.

Or as I like to call it…meeting interesting people. Most people go to a Teachmeet in their local area; making it a great way to build a professional network of passionate educators you can draw on for advice, support and to bounce ideas off. You never know…you may even make new friends. I tend to look confused at these things as I’m processing so many ideas but feel free to come over for a chat.

It’s not just hearing about ideas; many presenters are kind enough to offer links to their work, further resources and share their recommendations if you want to find out more about what they’ve shared. Even the most low tech will generally send you a copy of their resources by email if you ask politely.

Real People
There are a huge number of professional trainers and speakers I have immense respect for. I believe there’s real value to be had from formal training courses, but it’s a special thing to hear from “real” teachers who are facing challenges and sharing their solutions.

It’s scary to get in front of your fellow educators and say “Hey, look at me, this is what I do!” but it is a great experience. The audiences are just like you so they don’t judge or think you’re being arrogant; they realise you’re just putting some ideas out there for others to think about. It doesn’t mean that everyone will like your ideas or agree with them, but I’ve yet to see a negative response to someone brave enough to share. The presenters aren’t saying theirs is the only way, just what they’ve tried. So if you’re in two minds I really recommend having a go; my favourite presentations are often from first timers sharing how they do what they do.

Cheeky Bonuses
I’ve been fed like a king, had free bars, came home with goody bags of toys for my son and won books and electronic subscriptions. I’ve seen a fair few people go home with a free iPad. All of which for free; I’m not saying that that’s reason enough to go to a Teachmeet, it’s all about the learning, however it is the icing on the pedagogical cake.

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE
Now for an unflattering picture of me yabbering on at Blake’s…
“Just when I thought I was out; they pulled me back in.”

Link to Teachmeets I’ll be attending in the near future…

Recommend reading; @ICTEvangelist on Making the most of your First Teachmeet:

If you need persuading to present take a look at this by @TeamTait :

#100wordbookreview Action Research in the Classroom; Learning Through Practitioner Enquiry by Baumfield, Hall & Wall

A detailed, well constructed and accessible guide to conducting educational research in your own classroom. As well as providing a variety of methods for both qualitative and quantitative data capture and analysis it also offers guidance in selecting the best methods for your project.

Taking the reader step by step through the research process helping them design, carry out and analyse their projects effectively. This guide also gives a deeper understanding of research methodology which will assist when reading educational research articles.

This is an essential handbook for teacher researchers wanting to measure their impact and reflect on their practice.


The Spy Who Loved Literacy

On the 13/11/14 we were fortunate to have David Didau visiting to share his thoughts on the Secret of Literacy.

David shared his philosophy on literacy and reminded us not to make assumptions on what students knew; just because “we” can do things implicitly doesn’t mean “they” can. We need to share those skills, techniques, methods, habits, call them what you will, with students explicitly so they can practice and ultimately master them. I felt this made great sense, not just for literacy, but for everything we do, cracking the concepts for them so they can access the knowledge they need.

A huge numbers of ideas were shared but one that really excited me, that I could instantaneously drop into my practice, was Slow Writing. Don’t be fooled by the name, it’s about carefully crafting writing rather than rushing to get the task done.

The Basics
Students are asked to write about something in five sentences. I have already used this with Parables, geographical processes and historical ideas. Each sentence has a specific rule which must be followed, for example.

1st sentence: Must be a question.
2nd sentence: Must be exactly 5 words.
3rd sentence: Must use an illustrating phrase. (I have these on the wall so students aren’t confused.)
4th sentence: Must be 16 words exactly.
5th sentence: Must start with the word “Therefore”.

There are a lot of additional nuances and ways to develop this technique on the link at the bottom.

Most students got straight into it whilst trialling this, some needed a little more support, but they were all desperate to share what they had written and there was an increased focus on the way they wrote. The initial student feedback was that most found it a challenging way to write, but an enjoyable challenge. The quality of the writing which I have seen so far in the trial pleases me as it not only covered the content effectively but also showed more flare and complexity.

To support those who have found it challenging I have taken to joining in on the whiteboard to model how I construct sentences and explicitly talk through my thinking processes.

This has been well received by my classes and some students have already thanked me for making the process clearer to them.

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE

This is just my dilution of Slow Writing so I provide a link to the @learningspy blog here…


#100wordbookreview Finnish Lessons by Pasi Sahlberg

This tome reveals the mystery behind the success of Finland in international educational measures. Exploring the socio-economic, cultural and political journey which has led Finland to its success and sharing lessons we can take along the way.

Most relevant for educators is the in depth look at what makes Finnish teachers so successful; the prestige of the career, action research focus within practice, time to plan, prepare and be part of the holistic life of the school amongst others.

With lessons to learn and raising many questions about education this should be essential reading for school leaders and governments.