When our education minister proudly announced, in late July, that teachers on the main pay scale would be getting a partially funded 3.5% pay increase I was really pleased. In fairness, it was the end of the school year and I was really tired. You could have told me that a cat had just vomited into one my shoes and I would have been grateful that at least I still had one unsoiled brogue meaning that I could at least hop home.

Headteachers were lamenting the fact that the pay rise was not fully-funded. Damian had presumed that schools would already be budgeting a 1% increase and the government would pick up the rest of the tab. But what about those schools who could not afford that 1% increase? At the time, I shrugged my shoulders and gave up my offering to the great big Business Manager in the sky so that my school was able to budget for that 1%. Selfish, I know. But it was the first day of the school holidays and I was really tired. You could have told me that a seagull had emptied its bowels all over the roof of my car and I would have winked and been grateful I’d never bought that convertible.

Then there were the debates about those teachers on the upper-pay and leadership scales. Why were they being penalised? I absentmindedly tweeted that I was OK with this and that I was just pleased that those at the lower end of the pay scales were getting a well-deserved pay rise. In fairness, it was the start of the holiday and I was still really tired. You could have told me that a dog had piddled over my summer suit and I would have calmly said that it was August now so I wouldn’t be needing that any more as it was time to unpack my heavy woollen tweed three-piece and my waterproof cape.

As the summer holiday began and the pressures of school life retreated and became as distant a memory as an electable left-wing opposition party, I began to engage with those people who were not happy with Damian’s summer gift. I saw their point. Those teachers who were just stepping up were being penalised and it wasn’t fair. My initial relaxed stance on the matter was born out of my own very personal circumstances: I live on my own and have no dependants, therefore my salary is fine, for me. Not only have hundreds (thousands?) of teachers been significantly affected by the recent years of pay freezes but now there is no real financial incentive to develop their careers.

And then I was alerted to another little tit-bit of information about the pay increase that had passed me by. The pay rise is not for all teachers on the main pay scale. It’s only for those at either end – the bottom and the top. Those teachers who are in between will have to make do with a 1% increase (as long as their schools have budgeted for that, of course.) When I first read this, I thought it was a mistake. My memory of the news headlines were all about how it was ‘a fully funded pay rise of up to 3.5% – or between £800 and £1,366 – for classroom teachers on the main pay range’. I don’t remember Damian opening his blow-hole and saying that his wonderful news only applied to those teachers just starting out or those who had reached M6.

But the more I read the more it dawned on me that when Damian spoke of ‘teachers’ he meant ‘some teachers’ and when he talked about the ‘main pay range’ he meant ‘a bit of the main pay range’. This therefore does not mean that teachers on the upper pay scale or leadership scale have been pitted against those on the main pay scale. What it means is that it’s the NQTs and M6s against the world. It’s like an educational Hunger Games where the young and the weak must join forces with the old and weary as they do battle against the embittered but ambitious middle leaders when it’s time to buy a round in the pub on Friday nights.

Unless, of course, schools have done more than just budgeted for a 1% pay rise of all staff. Maybe they have budgeted a 1% pay rise for M1 and M6 and a 3.5% pay rise for all the teachers in between. Or maybe we can pay our staff in supermarket coupons?

Either way, you have to hand it to the current government, because they have played an absolute blinder. And, fair play to the Tories, because they have been playing the long game more than I would have thought was possible. If we go back to when Gove decided to tear apart teachers’ pay and conditions and replace it with more ‘freedoms’ that allowed schools to set their own pay spines, he must have known that he was making it impossible for any future minister to award a universal pay rise for all teachers. Why? Because his freedoms brought about a convenient unknowing.

Think about it. As soon as schools were able to set their own pay increments (and lots of schools did go pay and conditions crazy) it meant that nobody knew what a teacher in, let’s say their third year, was getting paid because it would all depend on their individual school’s pay policy. By allowing schools to play about with the scales, Gove ensured that those teachers trapped in the middle would be at the mercy of austerity ridden politics.

What’s more, he did it in a way so that when teachers do not receive an advertised pay rise, it’s not the government’s fault. Because how can the treasury agree to a universal pay rise when they have no idea what the majority of teachers are getting paid from school to school? So, all the minister can do is to award it to what is known: the top and the bottom. If anyone else wants a piece of the action, then go ask your school’s Executive Board. Either way, it’s your fault for being mid-way through your career, or its your school’s fault for not having any money languishing in an off-shore high interest saving account.

Maybe I’ve read it all wrong. Maybe I’ve got the wrong end of the stick. To be fair, it’s the end of the holidays and I’m quite tired because I had to get up at ten o’clock to buy some pick’n’mix. I hope I am wrong and that this blog didn’t need to be written. I hope so because I don’t fancy having to choose between giving lots of teachers a pay rise they deserve (and which is in line with some of their colleagues) or pushing my school into a massive deficit.

If I am right though, I’ll still be tired. I’ll be tired of feeling like I’m walking around in cat-sick filled shoes in a dog-piss stained suit with seagull crap on my head. Which translates as being tired of spineless politicians waxing lyrical about their half-baked efforts to improve a profession they clearly have no respect for, in an attempt to con the public that they’re doing a decent thing.

Guess Who?


It was a piping hot bank holiday Monday so what better time to stay indoors and play ‘Guess Who?’ After stumbling upon an original version (circa ‘82) my friend and I thought it would be fun to revisit the game where you attempt to narrow down a line-up of faces to a single mugshot via a series of questions about their appearance. We noticed that, this being an early incarnation of the game, the ethical diversity of the Guess Who gang was slightly limited, and, that the women made up just over 10% of the population (although they were all conveniently huddled together in one corner of the playing board so they could all easily be knocked down in a single handspan – thanks Hasbro!)

Inevitably, before we started playing, we carefully studied the characters’ faces. By doing so we began to discuss what sort of lives they’d led and soon we had hit upon a neat idea: Would it be possible to play the game by asking questions about their lives and experiences rather than their appearance? For example, which of the Guess Who gang has no desire to be promoted above their station (Herman), which character would not help out a friend in need (Claire) and who loathes their job and is trapped in a loveless marriage (Robert). It turned out that you could play Guess Who in this manner, thus proving that you can judge a book by its cover.

After a successful 90-minute match (ending in a stalemate of three wins each) it was time to go home. But I couldn’t get these colourful – praise be for Anne, last name ‘Token’ – characters out of my head. The more I thought about them the more I became convinced that I had met them all before…they’re all educators!

Susan susan

Sweet on the surface but self-assured Susan. She’s taught in every year group and there isn’t anything she doesn’t know about education. Whenever a new initiative is launched, you can rest assured that Susan is somewhere in the staff room, rolling her eyes, and whispering to the NQT next to her ‘Oh, they’re trotting that idea out again, are they? I remember doing that in the 70s.’ She’s only ever taught in one school. She has a planning file that she will not deviate from. She’s never gone for a senior leadership position, but everyone knows she’s the real ruler of the school.




Quiet old Herman. Last to leave the staffroom when there are cakes on the table, so he can pop a few in his pocket for later when no one’s looking. (Well, it will save him from having to eat tinned chilli again when he gets home.) Everyone likes Herman although nobody can remember ever having a conversation with him. He is described by everyone as kind but dull. The advancement of ICT has nearly ended his career twice: once when he failed his performance management technology target after his head found out that he hadn’t even turned on his very expensive visualiser at any point during the year, and a second time when the ICT technician punched him in the head after he used permanent marker on the electronic whiteboard. But still Herman survives.





Bernard is a God on Twitter. His uncompromising views on education policy, discipline and teaching styles have seen his followers grow to Mariah Carey proportions. (At one point he was even considering getting his account blue ticked.) He courts controversy and will fight to the death (well, to the block) over issues that mean a lot to him or even more to someone else. His teaching has been described by each of his line managers as ‘average’ – something he sees as being proof that education in this country is going to hell. Bernard is not a happy man.





Old smug-chops! Richard is always ahead of the curve. He knows about every initiative at least an hour before everyone else, and by the time they’ve finished reading the memo he’s already blogged about it. Richard describes his teaching style as enigmatic. ‘I refuse to be labelled as a ‘this’ teacher or a ‘that’ teacher,’ he says. ‘I just do what’s right for the kids.’ His colleagues call him Mr Fad and believe his penchant for insisting he be called by his first name is the reason why he is so popular with children and also why the children do not behave for them. Richard’s goal in life is to set up a progressive free school in Kenya.





All Alfred ever wanted was to be a bass player in a hard rock band. He no longer cares about anything to do with teaching. The only reason he turns up is because he needs the money to support his excessive gig-going lifestyle. In class, Alfred has two settings: angry and less angry. He has nothing but disdain for school leaders and he holds his colleagues in contempt. His pupils, however, can provide an occasional respite from the drudgery of teaching, when they ask him to once again go through the differences between the bass styles of John Paul Jones and Craig Gruber. Alfred hasn’t marked a book since 2009.





She’s passionate. She’s cool. She’s full of ideas. Few of them are any good, but her colleagues feel so protective over this enthusiastic young teacher that they haven’t the heart to tell her. She once wore a green beret when teaching MFL and got judged ‘outstanding’ by her university tutor. Maria now has an extensive collection of hats. Before and after school she can be found marking her books, bare footed, whilst listening to Fleetwood Mac and Eva Cassidy on spotify.





Philip. Just gets on with his job, doesn’t he? His books are always perfectly marked. His lessons are meticulously planned and his children make excessive progress. He is well-liked by staff, children and parents. He is a supportive colleague. He is even friendly towards Bernard! He arrives at 8:30am and leaves by 4:45pm. On Mondays, he shares tales about his work-free weekends along with the pictures of his healthy children and the treehouse he’s making in his massive garden. Bloody Philip. I hate Philip.





Oh Anne, what happened? You were once so full of life. Remember that time you took your class on an impromptu visit to the British Library because none of the children said they liked books? You changed lives that day! But, over the years, the system has worn you down. Some say it all started when you were put in charge of managing the school’s risk assessments. It’s true, you haven’t agreed a school trip for nine years now, claiming that it’s just too darn risky. Last year, you even banned the staff party. Come on Anne, come back to us!





Paul is a chair of governors. He has been a governor since 1975. He is a kindly man, even when he is dismissing the headteacher over the school’s recent ‘good’ Ofsted inspection. ‘We were hoping for outstanding.’ He constantly reminds the governing body that they should not be concerned with the operational side of the school. He will then look over the rim of his glasses, towards the Acting Head and ask what time she wants him in tomorrow to help conduct staff appraisals.





Tom is now an Ofsted inspector. He joined the inspectorate after failing several headship interviews. He is a positive and diligent man who always looks for the good in schools. Tom is often the third additional inspector during an inspection. It is his role to sit and have lunch with the children and find out about SMSC. Tom feels happy that he is making a difference.





Eric is no longer allowed to work with children.

My inevitable exclusion blog


Where to start?

Well, normally these sorts of things start with a disclaimer, so here goes: I value the safety of everyone in my school community. I would never seek to put others at risk for the sake of maintaining a ‘positive’ exclusion record. I understand that some children, in a mainstream setting, are a risk to others and that this does not mean I am ignorant or intolerant of SEND issues. I believe I can distinguish between identifying where provision needs to improve so that needs are better met and the occasional need to draw a line in the sand because some behaviours are not safe or acceptable.

Now I need to say how difficult I find exclusions.

This bit is easy because it is true. Like all headteachers (surely?) the thought of permanently excluding a child is something that I hope I don’t have to face too often in my career.

Fixed term exclusions, not so much. I’m quite comfortable issuing those. I don’t mean I dish them out like doses of Ritalin at an overly boisterous Kindergarten but, in the right circumstances, it can be totally appropriate to send a child home. It can break a cycle of sudden and escalating behaviour; it can send a message to parents that further engagement from them may be necessary; it re-establishes expectations across the school; it signifies to staff that they can trust you; it gives everyone some space that enables quality restorative reflection and time, so that strategic plans can be made going forward.

It’s also important to know when you won’t issue a fixed-term exclusion. If a child, whose behaviour escalates unless they are well managed, is not ‘well-managed’, and this results in them displaying ‘unacceptable’ behaviours…I may not exclude.

This does not mean that I’m an adult-blaming wishy-washy pupil-apologist. I know that sometimes a child’s behaviour is totally disproportionate in comparison to the adult’s behaviour that triggered it. For example, on any given day, a teacher may be rigidly following the school’s behaviour system whilst not taking into account any contextual reasons that could explain why a child is finding it difficult to manage their behaviour. As a result, when the teacher enforces a rule, the kid kicks off and throws missiles all over the place, smashing windows and calling the teacher a ******* useless ****. Now, I am not going to tell that teacher that they ‘should have known better than to use the school behaviour policy and what did they expect the child to do, so please apologise’. No, I’m going to issue a fixed-term exclusion because that is the right thing to do. The child’s behaviour was disproportionate and dangerous. I’m also going to put things in place that safeguard this from happening again…one of these things might be to support the teacher in being able to use a bit of professional nuance when managing behaviour because behaviour policies are sometimes only as good as the people using them.

This is all fine, if we’re talking about children who manage their behaviour perfectly well 99.9% of the time. But, if a child whom we know needs additional support and strategies (so that they can manage their behaviour within a mainstream setting) is put in a situation where they haven’t got the skills to survive, that’s a different story. For example, I once worked with a child who, for many reasons, found life a bit tricky. One day, this child was finding it difficult in the classroom and ended up under a table, growling. I was a relatively inexperienced teacher at the time and I didn’t really know what to do, so I tried ignoring it. Some other children, at the back of the class, saw this as an invitation to mess about. This, I thought, was unacceptable. Like an IDIOT, I told them that I already had one immature child in the room who was heading for a detention and I didn’t need any more. The girl under the table stopped growling, poked her head out from under the table and called me a ******* useless ****. She then proceeded to run at me and hit me in the crotch with a bead string. Luckily, at exactly that point, the Head walked in and calmed the whole thing down in about 0.8 seconds. The child wasn’t excluded. A decision I didn’t even think to question because it was my fault. I had humiliated her in front of her peers like the ******* useless **** I was. She remained in my class, did very well and we never spoke of that day ever again.

I have seen similar things happen throughout my career. Incidents like this occur when children – who we all know struggle – end up in situations and the adults make it impossible for them to return to normality, safely. An upset child, prone to anger, will not calm down if they are bombarded with comments related to the consequences of their actions. An adult who rigidly uses school sanctions towards a child in a heightened state of arousal is actually antagonising the situation. A child having a meltdown who is being ‘positively handled’ without any de-escalation is probably going to hurt you. In these cases, it may not be appropriate to issue a fixed-term exclusion because the adult could have acted differently.

Lessons must always be learned. The child must always know, at some point, that their response wasn’t safe/appropriate/acceptable. Restorative conversations must be had, as should better training and support for the adults who work with the child. That way, in the future, if everything that could have been done has been done, a fixed-term exclusion can be issued and more challenging conversations about ‘what next’ can be had.

So, what about the ‘what next’?

How many FEX make a PEX?

And what about negotiated transfers?

I have experienced a few negotiated transfers with limited success. When they haven’t worked I would say it was down to ineffective levels of additional support in place during the transfer. Very rarely does the change to a new school fix everything. It may put a plaster on it, but eventually, the plaster comes off and you see that the wound hasn’t healed. Timing is important. Negotiated transfers should be a phased process. If you rush it then it won’t work. Every stakeholder has to be committed to the fact that a good transfer takes time. But that creates its own set of challenges. Is the child not with any provider on the days they’re not with you? Does that mean they’re at home? Can the parents/carers manage that with their work commitments? Is it safe for the child to be at home? Who pays for any additional provision because, unless I’m mistaken, none of us have any loose change behind the staffroom sofa to pay for six weeks of alternative provision. It’s a complicated process and all too often it is the depressing prelude to a permanent exclusion.

For schools, the end of the road is the permanent exclusion. And what a depressing end to the journey. It wouldn’t be, if it guaranteed the child a place in specialist provision that helped the child better understand themselves and their behaviour. But, I don’t think it does. There isn’t the funding, or the level of specialist provision, for that. Too often it results in a child being out of education for a period of time – something which must rank as the least helpful alternative – whilst local schools argue over who definitely can’t have them. (That’s unfair, actually. I’m proud to be in a local authority that holds panels for ‘hard to place’ children and in my experience, every headteacher who sits around the table has been compassionate, supportive and committed to finding the best solution for these children.)

But deep down everyone knows that a child whose behaviour isn’t safe – not just unacceptable but genuinely and often scarily unsafe – is a damaged child who needs the very best level of care and provision. If they don’t receive this, then who knows where their behaviour might end and how it might impact on them and others? This trumps any concern I have about off-rolling and abuses of behaviour and admission policies, and, is a contributing factor as to why I find it difficult to reach that PEX decision. For I know that as soon as I make that decision my influence on that child’s life ends and this sits uncomfortably with me. I find this difficult because, by the time it’s reached that level, the excluding school has a better insight into the life of that child than anyone else. And, despite the inevitable paper trail, it is a reality that all that knowledge will fade, and eventually disappear. When that child is no longer on your books, people no longer care about your insight.

If I were to make one change in the process for permanent exclusions it would be that the excluding school would have to become an independent advocate for that child until they are no longer of school age. Because, whereas I am fine with saying that a child can no longer be educated in my school because they are not safe and they need better than what I can give them, I’m not so fine with the implied follow-through message of: and I no longer care. If we care enough to say that our setting is not appropriate for these children, we should be made to care about what happens to them when we have told them they cannot return. Closing our gates should not mean the same as turning our backs.