It’s not personal – teenagers in education

This week a vast number of teachers will be returning to secondary schools and to colleges with a mixture of vigour and panic. That’s not ALL teachers of course, but there are countless numbers who fall into this category.

I know this to be true because I’ve been one of them.

To qualify this, teachers of teenagers will be having a particularly tough time. I’m not disregarding the incredibly challenging early years and primary sectors, but with impending decision-making for GCSEs for year 9 and looming GCSE finals for years 10 and 11, the constant quest to improve self esteem for a huge quantity of teenagers in secondary school is an uphill struggle.

Also, tutors in college will be dealing with teenagers who may have found themselves disenchanted with their college studies, perhaps they struggle with the volume of work for their A Levels, or with the continual assessment of BTEC.

The pressure...

There’s more belly for the fire within it

I love New Year, not just because it beautifully rounds off a family-orientated period of the year but also because I’m able to shift gear a little.

It’s a puzzle why this seems to be a profound time for self-realisation (after all, it’s only another day, right?) but it never fails to be so. I suppose this is due to being more rested, full to the brim of my favourite foods, and have had time for reflection.

Since starting my training business in 2010, the challenges and goals are mostly professionally related and the fire gets right back in my belly.

But this year it seems that there’s more belly for the fire in it, so I’m trying to carefully place a realistic ‘food challenge’ for the next few months, too.

It’s hilarious to imagine following some of the structured eating plans which abound on TV adverts and magazines, particularly as I also...

What I learned from my worst lesson


One of the wonderful things about working in the lifelong learning sector is meeting people for whom education is a late-arrived gift.  Some people embrace it and others bring memories of their very worst experiences of the classroom.

My first encounter with an inclusive classroom came when I returned to FE many years ago after working in an international commercial organisation in their training department.  My children were small and I started teaching ICT to 16+ year olds in evening classes.

All was well until I received a letter from the supporting learning department of my college to inform me that my class would consist of a couple of students with additional learning needs, including one who had no hands.

(The point to consider is that this was an ICT class and students were expected to achieve a Level 2 in Computer Literacy and Information Technology (CLAIT) in 30 hours (3 hours...

The Footballers took it really badly

During late summer I worked with an organisation who provide anti-racism talks to schools around the country.

Trainers are from (mostly) a football background, whether high profile players or coaches.  It was such an interesting day with them, because the reasons for the need of classroom strategies became clear.

In the world of high discipline training schedules during a football career, followed by after-dinner speaking engagements, and perhaps an element of sycophantic followers, you have a captive audience.  Nobody thinks you are DOING this talk to them – far from it!  Many will have paid good money for the privilege of being in the same room.

So with that background, nothing can prepare you for a class of young teenagers.

In their sessions at schools, the trainers were finding it difficult to maintain ‘control’ of difficult (low level) behaviour.

“They don’t listen to what we say” was part of the problem, “I get really...

You’re late, why should we wait?

You’re late, we’ll wait?   In my beloved FE sector, there are teachers/lecturers who fall into two parties - the “do’s” and “do nots” - when it comes to starting class on time.

If a timetable states that a class starts at 9am, at 2.30pm or at 6.30pm, that is the time that the class starts.  Yes?

In FE we pride ourselves on being the last bastion of defence before real life sets in for learners who’d like to do well in their chosen career.  We also have adult learners who are retraining, upskilling or just plain and simply enjoying learning something new.

But a class start time is a class start time.  So why the dilemma?

I was recently interviewed for a radio discussion about lateness and timekeeping generally, in the education sense.   The debate ensued because Hampshire County Council had...

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