I have been a teacher for 25 years, a Headteacher for 10 years and, at the age of 49, this much I know about Northern Rocks 2014.


It takes time to grow into the North. In my first term as a Headteacher, when a highly anticipated blizzard seemed to have arrived on the North Yorkshire Moors midway through period 1, I summoned the buses and sent everyone home by midday; the sun duly beat down upon a spring-like afternoon and a colleague rang me late in the evening, emboldened by a pub lunch, a long country walk and her third glass of wine, to tell me the staff thought that the southern city-boy had gone too early.
You live on the border. That’s a line from Simon Armitage’s book, All Points North. I’ve spent my life living on borders: I stood with the smokers at school but never smoked; I loved the punk mosh-pit but played county golf; I live in the Roman capital of the north, but I’m a southerner…the dangerous edge of things: the honest thief, the tender murderer, the superstitious atheist.
With apologies to Heaney, I feel like, An inner émigré, grown grey-haired/And thoughtful.
The borders between the current educational dichotomies were in clear view today at Northern Rocks 2014. From being welcomed by The Socialist Workers Party newspaper sellers to Dominic Cummings’ unbridled libertarianism, the event oozed tension. I loved the catholic nature of the day, the divergent views, the emerging challenge to the new right of centre orthodoxy.
Coincidence? Both on the same day, one in Leeds, one in London:

logo NR           Policy-Exchange-Logoroad%20to%202015%20static%20showcase-01_b547a5c3fe1ac11820c4dc121678db15

Less is more. I try to take a small number of things from a day like today, when so many ideas are given up to us. So here are the six golden Northern Nuggets of wisdom I took home this evening:

1. Be even bolder about shaping our own destiny because the politicians really have no idea what they are doing – Dominic Cummings;

2. Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching: Evaluation Instrument is a must-find document – Professor Rob Coe;

3. Pair up your A level mathematics teachers and get them to teach each other the elements of the A level specification they find the most difficult – Tom Sherrington;

4. Imagineering is letting your imagination soar, and then engineering it down to earth – Hywel Roberts;

5. When you’re talking at an event like this, there’s no need for nerves because your audience is on your side – my talk;

6. If Rachel Orr picks up a microphone, listen!

Northern Rocks 2014 left me feeling like Harold Whittle in this 1943 photograph from Hywel’s presentation – it’s the precise moment Harold could hear for the first time ever, courtesy of a newly-fitted hearing aid!

The photo, taken by photographer Jack Bradley, shows the moment that Harold Whittles hears for the first time after being fitted with a hearing aid

Emma and Debra made a huge contribution to the teaching profession today and helped five hundred delegates grow more confident in reclaiming autonomy over their own pedagogy; from a southern man to two northern women – thank you, thank you, thank you!

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This post has 6 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed your talk John and it certainly set me thinking a lot about our school. Would it be possible to email you directly about your schools approach to observations there’s a number of questions that occurred to me in the car on the way home that I didnt ask which I’d rather wernt fully public?
    Ps I hope Ryan is okay now that the finger of doom has been lifted!

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