No idea why #nurture1415 has affected me more than #teacher5aday but I initially steered clear from this one – is it the successes part?

When I look this closely at my life I tend to turn into a morass of self hatred – well I haven’t done anything very well – my house is falling apart, my kids are neglected, the only reason I have a job is no-one has actually found me to be the charlatan I really am and my husband, well he’d leave me but he’d have nowhere to store his kayaks. That kind of thing.

I don’t like to stop and think about myself – I once went to a meditation class and had to leave as I felt sick – the coach told me I’d probably never fully relaxed. This was before kids too.

Although I couldn’t engineer twins, I sometimes wonder if I’ve made myself so busy to stop myself thinking deeply – if I reflect too closely about the meaning and minutiae of my life I may fall into a coma of realisation which I would never recover from.

So without delving too deeply here are my 5 good things about last year.

1. I didn’t get sacked
2. My husband hasn’t left me
3. My kids can converse with adults without swearing
4. I went to ResearchEd
5. I have made some lovely friends on Twitter and have only been blocked by two people, I’ve started blogging and going to Teach Meets

Here are my 5 things I’m going to work on:

1. Not getting sacked and making an impact – I’m creating a 6 week intervention for year 1s who are behind in reading this year – of course I want it to work for the school but I’d like it to work for more schools across Dorset too.

2. Prevent husband from leaving for another year – I have covered this in #teacher5aday – it involves three trips together rather than just one

3. Kids – keep them happy, keep up their self-esteem – teach final one to ride a bike for days out without tag a long

4. Go to Northern Rocks – loved ResearchEd and want to attend one event each year – next year TLAB16 possibly?

5. Continue with Twitter, blogging and Teach Meets

Phew that didn’t hurt too much – now where’s my to do list…..



#teacher5aday – The M5 and the Sewage Works

My partner and I have four young children and we both work full time.  It doesn’t leave a lot of space for us to spend time alone together but for the last two years, Jonny has organised a weekend away for our wedding anniversary.

This year, we left much later than intended; I had some work to finish and we hadn’t had time to pack beforehand.  It became quite fraught.

We finally left and when we reached Exeter I posted this on Facebook:


How I was feeling at the start of our weekend

I did eventually get out of the car and slipped into something more waterproof mumbling about being murdered or, because it was so dark, cycling straight into the canal.

It was not so bad though, there were cats eyes on the edge of the tow path and no murderers in sight.  I began to feel cheerier and shouted to Jonny, who was paddling up the canal with the kit, that I would meet him at the cottage.  When I arrived I lit the wood burning stove, put the kettle on and knew then that we would have a fabulous weekend.


I cycled ahead to light the stove


The view from our bedroom in the morning


I even volunteered to paddle back on Sunday – me under the M5

And we did have a fabulous weekend and, when we got back, I felt refreshed and a better parent for it and a better teacher.  My feelings on the Friday evening were ‘it’s not worth going’, ‘I’ve got too much to do’ but as soon as I got on my bike in the pouring rain I began to relax and a mixture of exercise, rest and time with Jonny was a great tonic.

After reading @clyn40’s http://myfethoughts.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/my-teacher5aday/  #teacher5aday I thought, for me, although my kids come first, it is Jonny and I who need to make time for each other; we used to have weekends like these frequently – we climbed, kayaked, cycled but with teaching and our own children, it has been the first thing to go.

This time together was precious but should we do it more than once a year?  I’m certainly going to try.

Work is fine – I do a good job.
The kids are fine – they have a lovely life.
Jonny and I?

We are strong, we’ve been together 24 years, but we are not unbreakable. We become more fragile the less time we spend together.

So, next #teacher5aday?
Another tow path on our Bromptons; this time Bradford upon Avon to Bath. Next, go out in our double sea kayak which I’ve only been in once. It will be difficult finding childcare and the time but I think we need to try.

Thank you @MartynReah and @clyn40 for making me think about this and I look forward to reading more #teacher5adays.  Do read the others here: http://martynreah.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/teacher5aday-week-1-5-updates/.


Topsham Lock Cottage

Exam Access Arrangements – GCSEs, A’levels and Functional Skills

Exam Access Arrangements are designed to level the playing field for any students who have a persistent and significant need.

So, someone who takes longer to process information, will require extra time – someone with illegible handwriting should be allowed to type and someone whose reading is in the ‘below average’ range (a standardised score of 84 or below) will need a reader and/or text-to-speech.


Bell Curve showing 84 or below – the standardised score required to be eligible for certain Exam Access Arrangements.

There are many different exam arrangements but here is a list of the most common:

Ones which do not require applying for online but schools should have evidence in student’s file that it is his or her usual way of working and why.

  • Word Processing
  • Rest Breaks
  • Prompt
  • Small environment or separate room
  • Exam scanner pen (this reads individual words but does not have a dictionary attached)
  • Modified paper (enlarged for example)
  • Coloured overlay
  • Read Aloud
  • Assistant for practical elements of test

Ones which require evidence from a standardised test performed by a specialist with a practising certificate or by an Educational Psychologist (alongside a history of need for the student).

  • Reader/Text-to-Speech (including TTS in the reading section of the English paper as no human reader is allowed) – this may be for comprehension even if decoding ability appears good
  • Scribe or speech recognition
  • 25% extra time

There is also more than 25% extra time and an Oral Language Modifier (OLM) – these require a standardised score of less than 69 for extra time in processing or a documented complex need and under 77 in comprehension or a documented complex need for an OLM.  A student who has severely slow processing skills may require this – the SENDCo should decide on this however – how resilient is the student to concentrate in exam for this amount of time? Would it be better to provide rest breaks?

An Oral Language Modifier (OLM – I will blog in more detail about this) can change the carrier language of an exam paper – they are not allowed to rephrase subject specific words or words from an article, in the English paper, for example.  David Didau recently blogged about how the word ‘futility’ put many students off from choosing what was otherwise an excellent question in an English Literature paper.  An OLM would have been allowed to change this word.

The Joint Council of Qualifications (JCQ) are the ones who decide which reasonable adjustments can be made for examinations; they are also responsible for ‘quality checking’ this within schools and visit exam centres every year.  There is some talk of inspectors visiting classrooms next year to ensure Exam Access Arrangements are the candidate’s ‘usual way of working’.

Some signs to look for in your students:

  • Poor spellings – I am still struggling to decide whether really poor spellers should forgo SPAG marks and have a spell checker on – some students use a narrow vocabulary due to their spelling difficulty and word processing with spell checker on would really benefit them – enough to lose SPAG marks though? I don’t know.
  • Illegible handwriting
  • Often asks for help
  • Use Teaching Assistant regularly for help
  • Difference between written and verbal language
  • Poor organisation of thought
  • Poor memory
  • Poor reading ability
  • Comprehension – struggles to understand text despite being able to decode
  • Often struggles to finish work on time
  • Struggles to understand instructions
  • Often a delay when answering questions

I believe that EAA will go one of two ways in the future:

1. Become much easier to come by – let anyone have whatever they need – I have never seen a good reader benefit from text-to-speech and speech recognition is difficult to master, so unless it really helps I doubt a student would persevere.  If ‘futility’ could have been explained to a student – would it really have been a problem? They weren’t being tested on that word were they?  Extra time is an issue – would a student go on forever?  I don’t know but I feel sure most come to a natural end eventually.

If this became usual, it would not only benefit students but also a school’s budget.  There are now companies selling these expensive exam pens, companies running courses for anyone (don’t need a degree) to pass a specialist certificate so they can use and report scores from standardised tests, companies running yearly update courses and companies creating standardised tests which cost a fortune.  Schools are paying a heavy price for Exam Arrangements.  Yes, EAA levels the playing field but it is just about allowing students to show what they know without being hampered by time restrictions, the inability to access text or the inability to record answers.  Unless students needed such adjustments, they really wouldn’t bother with them.


2. Michael Gove will return to the DFE if the Conservatives win the next election and ban all EAA.

(although he would need to get past the Equalities Act 2010 to do this – and me)

Future blogs on this – Which assistive technologies should schools invest in for EAA and What is an OLM?

Any questions please let me know.



Twitter has hashtags #

These took me over a year to work out (I’m a slow learner) and I hadn’t realised how useful they were or, how important they are in a conversation. Picking up a thread if everyone has used the hashtag allows you a good overview.

Hashtags then trend and can be very funny. #notamosque highlighted UKIP’s error in thinking Westminster Cathedral was a mosque and people began tweeting pictures of random buildings. My favourite had to be a Mecca bingo hall.

You may have also noticed #ostentatiousbreastfeeding following Claridges’ request for a woman breastfeeding to cover herself up with the the largest, starchiest napkin you’ve ever seen.

Anyway #genderedcheese is my hashtag and thanks to @gazneedle I now have illustrations. The reason for #genderedcheese came from a photo on Twitter (sorry I don’t know who and I’ve tried to track back), showing different cheese for boys and girls.


On the same day a professor had said there was no point in spending money encouraging girls into science as those who have a propensity towards it will ‘follow their calling’. http://ow.ly/z2s6u

A few days later I saw an all male panel discussing education.


And it seemed to me that we have to challenge these things; we have to realise that images do have an impact on boys and girls.  I visit lots of schools and always look for the photo board in reception – is your leadership team all male? Also this, by TeachFirst:


But it can be more pernicious than this. David DavisMP recently referred to ‘Tiger Mums’ in the race to Grammar school places, like there aren’t any competitive Dads out there. http://moregrammarschools.co.uk/

David Cameron put down a fellow female MP by saying ‘Calm Down Dear’ and women are often told they are too emotional or too strident or that they flounce – gendered phrases, gendered images, gendered attitudes.

And then, the very paper who should be reflecting our views does this:IMG_0615.JPG

So, #genderedcheese has made me aware of the subliminal and the downright in your face messages we receive and I will continue to use it when I see all male panels or any overtly gendered images or toys or articles or blogs – I don’t expect it to catch on but would love it if you just noticed.

Here are some hashtags, twitter handles and blogs to have a look at.

Good to follow on gendered toys and books (these people are really changing how manufacturers and book sellers advertise)

@lettoysbetoys #lettoysbetoys


A campaign which challenges stereotypes and limiting roles to young girls.

@amightygirl is the world’s largest girl empowerment marketplace with books, toys, music, and movies for raising smart, confident, and courageous girls!

Good to follow for questioning gender issues

@betsysalt (a headteacher)

@ideas_factory (Primary School Technologist.Master Computer Teacher)

@suecowley (Writer, teacher, trainer, presenter, chair of preschool committee: suecowley.wordpress.com)

@LCLL_Director (Executive Director: London Centre for Leadership in Learning, IOE & Assistant Director: School Partnerships, IOE)

@Dr!eatonGray (Senior Lecturer in Education, researcher and writer.)

@annashipman (Technical Architect on GOV.UK)

@ruthkennedy (Public Service innovation | systems thinking | leadership | design | learning)

@kejames (scientist @mdibl (DNA barcoding/citizen sci), co-founder/director)

@edyong209 (Science writer, freelance journalist, husband. I CONTAIN MULTITUDES–on partnerships between animals & microbes–out in 2016. flavors.me/edyong)

@Spacecatgal (Head of Development at Giant Spacekat.)

Campbell-nominated author of: BLACKBIRDS, UNDER THE EMPYREAN SKY, BLUE BLAZES, more.

@nomorepage3 – campaigning for The Sun to drop page 3 – yes this is still happening 😦

@50:50parliament (Petitioning party leaders to debate and take action to make Parliament more equal )


I also know @tombennett71 and @hgaldinoshea consider a good gender mix important at #ResearchEd

A few blogs to consider

Possibly one of the best blog on women in education by @benniekara


This is just superb – http://lareviewofbooks.org/essay/gender-blah-blah-blah/#.VKKtHd382LY.twitter

Do super-hero films have women talking to each other about anything other than men?

Proper research on women aren’t in top jobs

This by @suecowley on the machoisation of education http://wp.me/p3iyKp-wN

@debrakidd’s take on her experiences http://debrakidd.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/woman-know-thy-place/

@annashipman on encouraging women to speak at conferences http://www.annashipman.co.uk/jfdi/how-to-get-women-speakers.html

@phylogynomics I always like it when men notice too – sometimes there’s tumbleweed on the twittersphere but this is great; he refused to be a keynote speaker when he looked back at previous guests http://phylogenomics.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/turning-down-endowed-lectureship.html

From one of the most sensible heads I’ve encountered on Twitter @RosMcM

The always great writer @miss_mcinerney reminds us how gender disparity works both ways

This is great – Joan and John – composite experiences of two research lecturers (thanks to @PamelaSnow2 for this)


This is a great blog by Summer Turner (@ragazza_inglese) on a teacher’s duty to challenge stereotypes:

 And my original post: http://wp.me/p4sUgv-Z

Thanks to @gazneedle for his shamazing illustrations.


Dyslexia – The Indicators

Identifying Dyslexia

This is the final post in a series I have written on Dyslexia:

What is it?  https://mainstreamsen.wordpress.com/2014/11/08/dyslexia-how-to-help-in-secondary-school/

How to support in Primary School?  https://mainstreamsen.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/dyslexia-how-to-help-primary/

How to support in Secondary School? https://mainstreamsen.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/dyslexia-what-is-it/

I’ve tried to break down into age groups but it is a rough guide .  No one indicator means dyslexia, it is more a pattern of behaviours which make up a ‘spiky profile’.

Professor Julian Elliot’s latest book, the Dyslexia Debate, questions the validity of the term dyslexia. http://www.dur.ac.uk/resources/education/research/DyslexiaDebateResearchBriefing.pdf

Dyslexia Debate

I have sympathy with his view but ultimately feel the term ‘dyslexia’ is still useful. That said,  ‘Identify difficulties and put strategies in place’, so, if you want to replace ‘dyslexia’ with ‘reading difficulties’, go ahead.

From Early Years

  • Lack of rhyming ability
  • Seems to struggle with saying what they want to say
  • May forget the words they want to use (word retrieval)
  • May mispronounce words ‘babana’ for ‘banana’
  • May struggle to sound out (my daughter came out of the toilet and sounded out  ‘f-u-k’ a few years ago; I  was about to tell my son off for making his sister sound out  swear words when I realised she was trying to sound out ‘fl-u-sh’.  She was only 4 at the time but actually, at 6 still struggles with phonics and is a little behind with her reading – I am not concerned but ‘aware’ as is her teacher)
  • Counting – may not sequence 1-10 (in comparison to typically developing peers)
  • Memory – doesn’t appear to remember instructions – may forget what he’s gone to fetch
  • Slow to process information
  • May struggle to write the letter corresponding to the sound

From Primary KS1

  • Letter/sound correspondence is not coming automatically along with the group
  • Struggles to spell corresponding letters to sound – may mix letters up – for cat writes cta

  • Doesn’t appear to be picking phonics up as well as her peers – when you say b-e-d  she replies ‘bunk’ or something similarly random
  • When trying to read simple CVC (consonant vowel consonant) words he may not use the correct letter at the beginning or end of the word
  • Still struggling with rhyme and other abilities such as alliteration (name me some words beginning with ‘b’ like bat).
  • Syllabification – struggles to work out how many syllables in words, even with clapping
  • Elision – is the ability to manipulate letters within words – say ‘cat’ without ‘c’ (at)
  • Memory – appears to struggle to remember instructions, may forget things
  • May need longer to work things out – often last to finish (this may result in getting muddled and frustrated)
  • May struggle with sequencing – times tables, alphabet, days of the week/month etc

Pupil may be given extra support which should remediate any difficulties – if interventions do not appear to be making a difference however and the difficulty appears more persistent and significant then an assessment may be wise. (Wave 1 to Wave 2)

From Primary KS2

  • Similar difficulties to above but although knows letter/sound correspondence may still struggle to blend –  laboriously sounds out letters without putting the chunks of words together
  • May be able to read simple words such as cat, dog but struggle with initial blends such as sh and ch or later sl, str
  • May appear to read more complex words they have learned through stories and subjects by sight, yet easier words are still a struggle e.g. not decoding to read
  • Reading still at sounding out stage and hasn’t reached fluency (by approx year 4/5 in age appropriate books)
  • Spellings – over phonetic, bizarre, missing vowel sounds, correct letters but in wrong order, lack of syllables
  • Enjoys listening to stories but appears disinterested in reading themselves
  • The gap is beginning to widen between him and his typically developing peers in literacy
  • May have good language ability which appears better than spelling and reading skills
  • May shine in subjects which do not require reading and writing
  • Avoids work – needs toilet frequently, constantly sharpening pencils, offers to help a lot

Wave 1 interventions have not made a difference, Wave 2 interventions have been put in place –  difficulty is still persistent – may require Wave 3 (specialist 1:1 support)

Secondary School – KS3/KS4

  • Teachers express surprise at poor spelling and writing ability
  • Resists reading out loud in class
  • Spellings errors as above
  • May appear disorganised – loses work, papers always scrunched up at bottom of bag
  • Forgetful – leaves books in lockers, repeatedly asks same questions
  • Easily distracted (attention and concentration)
  • May misinterpret instruction
  • Slow Processing
  • Poor short term memory
  • Class clown – poor behaviour so withdrawn (maybe frightened of exposing difficulties)

Sixth Form/FE

  • May have become proficient in reading but writing still doesn’t appear commensurate with ability
  • May be using Assistive Technology to remove barrier of reading and writing
  • May appear disorganised – late with assignments – can become overwhelmed with work load
  • Still needs extra time to process information
  • Needs adjustments for poor short term memory

Higher Education

  • May use assistive technology
  • May require 1:1 support in a weekly session to enable them to keep up and run through language of assignments (tutors should be specialist and a member of ADSHE/PATOSS or similar)
  • Written work may still not match with verbal ability – it may seem ‘chunky’ rather than ‘flow’
  • Structure of work poor  (random order)
  • Many universities have stickers which students with dyslexia put on assignments – this reminds tutors to make a reasonable adjustment for written work
  • Still slow to process and will require extra time
  • Will still have short term memory difficulties
  • Inconsistent with understanding – some things seem obvious to her (maybe even more than the rest of the group but simpler concepts she may not get at all – often basic skills worse than higher order skills – Richard Branson admitting to not knowing what net profit meant despite being a successful entrepreneur for instance or degree level mathematicians who still can’t do times tables).

None of these behaviours suggest dyslexia alone but would certainly warrant a request from SENCO to investigate further.

First question should be: Is this student achieving at similar rate as his typically developing peers?

(Always be aware of month of birth MOB rather than year of birth YOB at least in primary; although some research I read recently suggested it may take up to sixth form to even out).


Anagrams of words e.g Tried/tired

Over phonetic or incorrect phonic patterns hallow for hello mysstayk for mistake

Bizarre spellings wuwdl for would

Unusual sequencing prtort for parrot

Lack of vowels and syllables trg for turning


Misses out words or parts of words (often suffixes) when reading

Fails to recognise familiar words yet can read longer, less visually similar words (may be linked to specific subjects) – in a college I used to work in I had Horticulturists who could read complex Latin names for plants while confusing ‘when, where and we’re’ and horsey students who could spell equestrian but not ‘myself’.

General ‘at risk’ signs

Sequencing – struggles with dates, time, days of week and months, alphabet, times tables and left/right confusion. Do they know address, telephone number, date of birth? Look out for those students who wear digital watches – a real help for them.

Time keeping


May use incorrect grammar E.g someone what knows rather than someone who knows Sat by/on table rather than sat at the table

Performs unevenly through day or week (good days/bad days) ‘I know she’s capable as she’s done this before’.

Appears to day dream – not listening

Easily distracted – poor attention and concentration

Excessively tired – yawns a lot (maybe due to amount of concentration required rather than being up all night on the Xbox – although I’ll leave that up to you to decide)