20 Months’ Reading Progress in 10 Months

This week, we carried out our first set of nationally standardised assessments. These show the progress our pupils have made throughout the year in reading, English and Maths.


Pupils are delighted with their results. The average Michaela pupil made 20 months’ reading progress in 10 months. Over half our year 7 pupils now have a reading age of 14 or above, and our SEN pupils have made rapid progress, catching up quickly with their peers.


Of course, there are many factors that have contributed to these outcomes, and we are very much aware that we still have a long way to go, and that we must maintain this as the school grows. However, a few people have been asking us how we achieved these results, and whilst I don’t think there is one formula to rule them all on this one, here are a few ideas that have played a part in making this happen.


  1. How to get them reading: which diagnostic assessments are useful? How should pupils be grouped? Which intervention programmes work best? What are the key focus areas in reading instruction? This blog provides a broad overview of our approach to reading at Michaela.


  1. How to motivate reluctant readers: in this post, I argue that habits, a feeling of success and increased challenge are important levers to pull when trying to motivate reluctant readers.


  1. How to read texts in lessons: At Michaela, pupils read thousands of words every day, in subjects across the curriculum. How could teachers go about this? What should reading look like in a lesson in any subject? This blog gives some examples of what this might look like.


  1. How to increase a pupil’s vocabulary: Vocabulary acquisition and extension is complex and boggling at times. In this post, I summarise some approaches we read about in Beck et al.’s excellent book, and a few other things we do to build vocabulary.


  1. One Hundred Classics for Every Child: The simplest way to improve pupils’ reading is to get them to read loads. Here’s how we will give every child a minimum of 100 classics over five years.



I should add that nothing here is revolutionary or new. Everything you will read about in the above posts has been pinched from stuff we’ve read, seen or heard about over the last few years.


Like I say, we aren’t experts, nor do we think that these are necessarily the best ways to get results. I’d welcome others’ tips and views on all of this, so please feel free to add what you do in the comments below.


Finally, whilst this is all very encouraging, I’m mindful of Kipling’s profound words:


            If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

            And treat those two imposters just the same


Results most certainly are not everything, and I wouldn’t want us to pin all our hopes on them or grow complacent. It’s important to see this triumph as a bit of an imposter, and not to let it distract us from doing our best by the kids every single day. That is, after all, what we’re all in this for!


Tabula Rasa

This much I know about…how truly great schools are not grown overnight

I have been a teacher for 26 years, a Headteacher for 11 years and, at the age of 50, this much I know about how truly great schools are not grown overnight.

This is a longer than normal post…please stick with it!

Ros Tweet

The Road Not Taken. I like the film Sliding Doors, where the main character, Helen, a London PR executive, is fired from her job and rushes out to catch a train and two scenarios take place. In one, she gets on the train and comes home to find her boyfriend in bed with another woman. In the second, she misses the train and arrives after the woman has left. In the first scenario, Helen dumps her boyfriend, finds a new man and gradually improves her life. In the second, she becomes suspicious of Gerry’s fidelity and grows miserable. Sliding Doors explores the road not travelled. I don’t think you can be properly human if you haven’t wondered what might have happened to you if you had, at a certain moment in your life, made a different decision. Where could you have ended up? What if ?

Our very own sliding doors. Huntington School celebrates its fiftieth birthday next year. In those fifty years, I am only the fourth Headteacher. I began as Headteacher at Huntington in September 2007, having been a Deputy Headteacher at the school 1998-2003; between those two spells at Huntington I was Headteacher at Lady Lumley’s School. In essence I have known and loved the school for 17 years; it has got under my skin. In January 2008 we set a ten year vision for the school, called Vision 2018. I declared very publicly that I was committed to Huntington School for the next ten years, at least. I was 43 years old at the time and would be 53 years old in July 2018. That was the core of my working life and realising Vision 2018 for Huntington School would be the single most significant achievement of my working life. We had a core purpose – inspiring confident learners who will thrive in a changing world – and a set of core values which reflected the culture of the school: Respect-Honesty-Kindness. In 2007 I inherited a set of results which were the school’s best ever: 59% of students had attained 5 A*-C GCSE grades with English and mathematics. In 2008 that headline figure rose to 60%. In June 2009 we had a light touch inspection conducted by a humane, intelligent HMI. She accepted our claim that our summer 2009 data projections would see an improvement on the 2008 figure. She liked our plans for developing skills across the curriculum. We were close to being awarded an Outstanding judgement; instead we were judged to be a good school with many outstanding features. There were more grade 1 sub-judgements than any other grade; nothing was worse that a grade 2. Two months after we were inspected our headline figure fell from 60% to 57%. In 2010 the headline figure fell further to 55%. I knew, despite what the data was saying, that we were on the right track; we were concentrating on changing the culture of the school so that we could improve the quality of teaching. A supportive governing body held its nerve. In 2011 the headline figure rose to 63% and the following year to 65%. In 2013 it was 75%. In November 2013 we were inspected. We needed, according to a less than sympathetic Lead Inspector, one more set of good results before we could be classed as an outstanding school in OFSTED terms. In 2014 our headline figure was 72% and we were in the top 14% of schools for both progress and attainment at KS4 with a value-added figure of 1026; furthermore in 2014 we were Sig+ for progress at A level, AS level and Applied A level. Our Ebacc figure for 2014 was 39%. For the 2015 Year in-take we had the most first choices in the City of York and were the most over-subscribed school. For four of the last five years our Pupil Premium students’ average points score, GCSE only, was higher than the same measure for all students nationally. We have just been made a Pupil Premium Reviewer school. All we want to be is a truly great school and to provide for our local community’s children the best possible education. We crave authenticity. We want our practice to match our rhetoric. We are on course to make Vision 2018 a reality.

You may make your own luck, but, what ifimagine if we had been inspected three months later in September 2009 rather than June 2009; and then imagine if that inspector had not been an enlightened HMI but one of the 1,200 inspectors recently judged not to be up to the job by OFSTED, and not only incompetent, but s/he was also one of the horror story vindictive types, about whom tales abound; and then imagine that instead of getting a good with many outstanding features judgement, the school was classed as Satisfactory (now known as Requiring Improvement), because the results were on a downward trend, with a programme of HMI visits imposed upon us; and then imagine if the Governors were spooked and began to lose faith in our project to realise Vision 2018; and then imagine we were re-inspected in September 2010, when the headline results had fallen further to 55%; and then imagine that the Local Authority began to doubt what was going on and decided to put pressure on our increasingly uncertain Governing Body to replace the school leadership, because, after three years the results are 4% worse, for goodness’ sake; and finally imagine that by April 2011 I was looking for a new job as my replacement set about charting a new course for Huntington School, the Vision 2018 boards having been consigned to the skip…an OFSTED inspection just three months later coupled with a spiteful Lead Inspector and Huntington School could have been a very different place today.

trees mushrooms

Oak trees. I know that every single student has but one chance of gaining a good education; however, there is no short cut to improving a school’s performance. Schools in difficult circumstances require, more than most schools, years of persistent, doughty leadership by a dedicated Headteacher utterly committed to improving the lot of the disadvantaged. When I explained the narrative of Huntington School’s improvement since 2007 to the audience at last week’s Pupil Premium Summit it struck a chord with many people. Afterwards I chatted with Sir John Dunford; my tale had reminded him of a 2009 OFSTED publication entitled Twelve Outstanding Secondary Schools: excelling against the odds. When he had read the stories of the twelve featured schools one thing struck him – he knew all the Headteachers, because they had all been around for a long time. As the report itself says, There should be no misconceptions: turning around the fortunes of a flagging school in challenging circumstances is very hard work and requires unwavering self-belief and perseverance. Improved results do not come easily and there can be setbacks.


The following is utterly typical of those twelve schools who excelled against the odds: Harton Technology College, South Tyneside has avoided any of the complacency that could envelop a very stable staff, a core of whom have served in the school for most or all their careers. Ken Gibson, the headteacher, is one of these, appointed to this post five years ago having held a range of other posts in the school before becoming a deputy headteacher. He has three natural advantages: he knows the community as well as anyone, having been brought up in it; he is an inspiring leader; and he excels as a teacher. In every sense, he leads by example. His involvement, drive and vision are admired by staff, who strive to emulate these attributes. He and the governors have built a team of staff that espouse the core values and high ambitions of the school.

mail war

How do we grow Ken Gibsons? Not by the headline grabbing rhetoric of declaring war on schools. We need to nurture great headteachers, not denigrate them. Great Headteachers will then commit to growing truly great schools over the long term. Let’s learn from the many examples of how it takes time and commitment to grow truly great schools. I think Twelve Outstanding Secondary Schools: excelling against the odds should be essential reading for all those at the DfE currently involved in the Coasting Schools policy…

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Big system, little system – put them in a cardboard box

In a rare moment of escapism, I visited a city this week. On the journey there, I purchased a coffee from a vendor at a train station. It was one of those open shops where you stand and collect the hot beverage at the end of a line. I like excitement and variety, so I bought a white Americano.

“What is your name?” asked the lady behind the counter.

“Why?” I asked confused.

“We need your name to write it on the mug. What is your name?”

“But there is no one else in the line or queue,” I responded looking at the empty space surrounding the whole shop. Not a soul. Nobody lurking behind the sugar. Nobody hiding amongst the cakes and muffins.

“We just need to for the person making the coffee.”

“But, there isn’t anybody else it could be for. Just me. ”   

“I am sorry, sir, but it is the system we follow”.


“I’m sorry?”

“My name is Chris.”

“Thank you. If you would like to wait over there, we will call out your name when it is ready.”

“Yes, because you might lose me in the crowd of people here,” I grumbled.

“Sorry, sir?”

“I just said, thank you.”


I am not a miserable person, but this little exchange hit a chord for me. Somebody following a system because that is the process they always follow come rain or shine. The whole thing was ludicrous in the context. My coffee was not going to get lost in the making of it. There was only one customer and only one coffee. It wouldn’t take a leap of imagination to make a connection that the one coffee being made is for the one customer in the shop.  

The problem here is that a system was in place for dealing with a problem that at that moment wasn’t a problem.

Like cogs in a watch, schools run by a series of processes. Each person has a role and a job to do. The cogs turn and things progress. If there is a problem, then we try to fix the problem and get things running. How do we fix a problem? We put a system in place. All too often a system is introduced to staff through the medium of a flowchart.

My role in school is to deal with subject problems, but, occasionally, I address whole school problems. That little exchange in the line for a coffee made me think about new ideas, processes or procedures are introduced in the school’s machine.

Because people feel the need to pin down systems and processes in schools we have flowcharts made. Flowcharts, for me, are the epitome of evil. A series of box drawings reducing a complex process into a simple yes or no chart which only belongs in Cosmo magazine, helping me, or any reader, to make important life decisions like what kind of bikini that suits my body shape or who is my perfect dream date. When people read these kinds of flowcharts in a magazine, they know that the process is artificial. They know that the chart hasn’t included every possible eventuality, because readers are smart enough to understand that; so when they are deciding on which Bruce Willis character from a movie matches their personality best, the reader knows that Mr Willis has been in hundreds of films, yet the flowchart only has six possible options and one of those is a cartoon.

Flowcharts reduce the complexity of behaviour to a simple yes and no process.

A child is causing disruption in the classroom.

Is the child threatening the life of others in the class? Yes / No

If no, give a demerit.

If yes, call for assistance.


The Smell of Success

Of course, flowcharts are only the way a new system is introduced. The system itself often causes the problems. There are thousands and thousands of schools. Each with their own sets of systems. When I moved schools, I noticed how like a nasty odour they followed me.  And, that’s what is often happening in schools. They move like smells. Somebody visits another school and they like the smell of the potpourri in the toilets, so they bring the smell to their school. Smell this. What do you think?  Tah dah! The school has a lovely smell.  I know, I am talking in metaphors. But, it rings a lot of truth. Let’s call this the ‘smell of success’.

Schools are constantly in search for the ‘smell of success’ and it becomes something spread by rumour. This school uses pine fresh and they got an outstanding. This school used hint of mint and they got a good for this. This school got ‘Ofsteded’ and they did well and they used beef flavoured monster munch. The problem, and this is the big problem, is that the success of a smell or a process is often based on the context of the problem. A process used in a small school works well in a small school because it is…..um a small school. A process used in a large school will not always work in a small school and visa versa. The solution works because it is the right cog for the right machine. Each school is a different machine and needs a different shaped cog or smell – Oh dear, I think I am drowning in metaphors.  You get my point. This idea of people spreading best practice is good, but the assumption is that those people have the Holy Grail solution is false. Simply: it works for them.    

Mea cupla!

I am guilty of the next part. It is a universal truth: a recently promoted teacher in a school will feel the need to prove their worth by introducing something new. Very rarely will you get a person in a new position saying the following comment: “I am going to carry on with what the previous person did before me and not change a single thing. It worked before, so why should I break it.”

Yes, you could argue that schools need an influx of new ideas and processes, but that needs to be measured. Look at all the recent new changes we have had to deal with in education. Rightly so things have calmed down a bit as people realised that actually there were too many changes. A hard lesson I have had to learn is that you can’t change everything and you can’t do it now. I have learnt that it is better to think tactically when to introduce something and give people time to adjust to things. Golden rule: the first day or week back is never a good way to introduce something new. Better to do it before a holiday so that it has had time to settle in people’s minds. People can handle change and they do embrace changes.

Spring Clean

It is funny how processes and systems disappear without any ceremony, but I think it is always handy to declutter before introducing new ideas and initiatives. People are far more likely to follow or support a process if they know that they don’t have to do another as result. Pile all the new processes together and on top of each other and you’ll have a tower that can only do one thing… topple.  


Plus, I think all the time the impact on teaching and learning should be measured. Every new idea should have the learning experience factored in when using it. There is no point having a new system if it reduces the quality of teaching in lessons. The lessons and the learning should come first. What will improve progress? Teaching. What will improve attainment? Teaching.  The more things people have to do, the less time people have to do the important things.


I am in reflective mode and I am looking at what are the problems I need to address and what are the possible solutions. Me cuppa from the shop made me think about the whole process of new ideas in school and departments. The sad truth is this:

The winning solution to solve problem X in your school is …. one of seven hundred possibilities. It is the school’s job to find the right solution for their school.
When looking to improve things, I think the questions I will be asking are these questions:

What is the problem?

Why is there a problem?

What are the different possible solutions people have used?

Why do those solutions work in those particular contexts?

Which solution best fits my school?

What is the impact on learning? Will it hinder or improve learning?

What are we going to stop doing to ensure this new solution is a success?


Thinking back to the lady in the coffee shop. I think it was the blind obedience to the process that bothered me the most. Logic was neglected as a result of the process. A process should not defy logic and a simple bit of thought could have highlighted how that process was a waste of time.


Thanks for reading,



Learning from my mistakes: an English teacher’s blog

Let’s talk about lists, baby!

In the mad panic before the exam, teachers throw everything, metaphorically, at the students with a hope that one last thing will stick and be the golden nugget aiding their success. This year I threw a few things and one of those happened to be lists. In fact, I then thought I would throw lists at everything, and everyone, with some interesting effects.

Structurally, there can be three main places to list in a sentence: at the start; in the middle; and at the end.

1] Coffee, Twitter and music keep me sane.

2] I wonder how I ever coped without books, TV and the Internet as a child living in Wales.

3] Wales has a historic tradition of singing, playing rugby and cwtching.

Surprisingly, teaching students to write using lists is at times like going back to the beginning. The simple problem with a list is that it is generally used as a simple functional device: “I need to list these objects I placed in my bag.” However, students don’t actually see it as a tool which can be used to aid meaning.

A list at the start of a sentence can help to bamboozle a reader when you link odd combinations of words.  

Frogs, eggs and paperclips are just some of the things I can draw with skill.

A list at the end of a sentence can cause a sense of drama.

The door shoved open and there stood a man with eyes of pain, loathing and death.

Of course there are other effects, but that is up to the student to discover. However, a list in an unusual or particular place can cause a sense of expectation.

 On the cold, dark and lonely moor nestled a cold, dark lonely house where sat a woman in a window with cold, dark and lonely thoughts.

The flexibility of a list isn’t just limited to where you list in a sentence, but it is also what you list. Now, my shopping bag contains eggs, flour and milk. My annoyance, anger and humiliation was evident when a returned home to see that I had incorrectly, mistakenly and stupidly forgotten to buy wine – the important ingredient for all meals.
Listing different types of things can produce some interesting effects.

A list with emotions.

Fear, worry and disbelief were reflected in her eyes.

 A list of verbs.

The shadow in the distance blurred, shimmered and juddered.

 A list of adverbs.

I sat typing angrily, quickly and secretly at the computer.

A list of prepositions.

The car rushed through, over, across and under trees.

A list of pronouns.

The woman opened the letter wondering if it was from him, her or them.

 A list of words with the same prefix.

The inescapable, inevitable and indomitable secret haunted her as she walked in the room.

A list of words with the same suffix.  

The view created a hopeful, grateful and meaning feeling in the man.  

A list of similes.

The bird sat on the branch like a solider waiting for the signal, like a man frozen in time and like a statue.

A list of colours.

The trees yellow, sunburnt orange and vivid red leaves smothered the child’s view of the sun.

 A list of sounds.

The crunch of the glass echoed, repeated and boomed through the empty room.

I could go on and on. There are so many variables. Yet, we often neglect to teach students to experiment, steal and play with lists.  Students could also consider how many items they put in a list. Or they could consider the order that items go in lists.

 The beauty of lists is that they are not limited to just writing. Lists have a valuable benefit for analysis in English. They can highlight complexity and multiple meanings.

The article persuades, shocks and advises us of the dangers of smoking.

Looking at that one sentence, shows us that the student understands that the text has a number of purposes. If the student places those purposes in the order they occur in the text then student will be commenting on the structure of the text as well as the purpose of a text.  

 A list of the writer’s purpose / message.

Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ highlights how men view love, damage relationships easily and struggle to articulate and manage their feelings.

A list of the reader’s / audiences’ feelings.

The audience respects, idolises and fears Othello at the start of the play.   

 A list of words to describe the text/ character.  

Macbeth’s insecurity, naivety and inconsistency combine to fuel his downfall.

A list of techniques.  

The use of alliteration, words associated with pain and the word ‘danger’ combine to create a sense of fear as the poet expresses the reality of the soldier’s fate.


The humble, little and rarely used list has so much potential. Maybe, before we throw in a fancy term or a technique that only one Victorian poetess used on her deathbed when writing about the beauty of woodlice, we should consider the lovely, left out and little list.

Thanks for reading,


Learning from my mistakes: an English teacher’s blog

The Force is strong in you – I can see it from the blood test.

The point where I lost interest in Star Wars was when they tried to rationalise the Jedi powers. As soon as a character mentioned that stuff in your blood made you a Jedi, I lost all interest in the series of films. Part of me died. As much as I try, I cannot get excited about the new Star Wars films. The trick has been revealed and the magic has died. A simple bit of exposition rewrote a complex aspect of a series of films.

Every school is different. A different location. A different set of teachers. A different set of students. A different set of influences. Like Star Wars, the magic is lost if you try to rationalise what makes your school unique, different and one of a kind. The soul of a school is lost when you rationalise it based on a series of numbers. The data says this. You see feelings don’t get a look in when you try to rationalise things. We feel that it is this. Yes, but the cold, hard data says this. You can rationalise and evidence facts, but you can’t rationalise feelings. I have a warm glow about my school at the moment after several days of fun activities. Can I pinpoint what it is? No. Can others feel it? Yes. Step into my school on an average day and you’ll feel it. But, can you evidence it? No. Well, unless you have a magical ‘feelingometer’.

A school is more than its parts. However, the problem with education all too often it is the sum of its parts being measured. But the glue, the magic, or the tiny creatures that hold a school together isn’t measurable. Yet, when we want to improve things, we look at others and look for the magic ingredient. We look for the critters in the blood that will create the magic. The truth is, is that there is nothing simple about schools. When we start to understand this, then maybe things in education will improve.

Let’s take reading. I loved David Diddau’s recent blog on reading. Please take the time to read it. In it, he explained some of the approaches one school is taking to tackling reading. Their approach is interesting and it is one way of dealing with things. But, and let’s be clear on this, it isn’t a ‘wholesale’ idea. It is an idea for one school based on the school’s DNA. It’s blood. Therefore, I thought I’d share the approaches to reading that my school uses and some of the plans for the future. They are based on the DNA of my school. Therefore, they might not work in your particular context. However, the more strategies we expose, and share, the more chances a person has to finding the combination of strategies that will work.

Reading Point 1 – Cover  

We have been doing this for a while now, but like most things we need to refresh it a bit. We often use cover lessons for private reading. The first twenty minutes is dedicated to silent reading. It helps to calm a class down and get students ready for work, but also it helps with the ‘pants-where-is-the-cover-work’ moment and ‘what-on-earth-are-they-expected-to-do’ feeling you get at the start of a cover lesson. This reduces the amount of planning by 50% and it makes cover have a clear purpose. We support this by having some book boxes in the classroom.  

The curriculum is full and finding time for reading is a challenge for all schools. Many students don’t read at home, so we have to get clever with how we use time in schools. Instead of cranking up the DVD player when students when half of the class is away on a trip, get the books out.

Reading Point 2- Transition

In primary schools, the reading culture is often superb. That is often lost in the transition phase between primary and secondary school. This is partly due to the different contexts of teaching. Students are taught in one classroom in primary school and they are taught in several classrooms in secondary school. I tend to read when I am at home, but I don’t take a book out with me when I am shopping. Why? I cannot get into the zone for reading when I am moving from one place to another very quickly.

We need to be clear about the status of reading. I spoke to Year 6 parents about reading in our introduction evening. I informed them of the problems we face, as parents and teachers, with reading and how reading habits change in teenagers. Plus, I also informed parents of the demands of the new curriculum and GCSEs on reading. I told parents that reading at home is a powerful tool in helping a student succeed.

Transition work has always related to writing in my school. We have asked students to prepare something for some writing in the first week or we have asked students to write at home. This year, I wanted the focus to be about reading and make the message clear about reading. That is why all our Year 6s have been given a sheet and on it they have to write down what they have read over the summer. Their English teacher will be reading them in September and they have an opportunity to impress them.

I am getting students to see the importance of reading. I think students know how writing is important, but the reading gets forgotten. The parents and the students will get to know now how important reading really it. Like all things in education, I am a PR agent. This time my client is reading.

Reading Point 3 – Reading logs
Reading logs are nothing new and original. They are often used in primary schools, but secondary schools rarely use them. One of our focuses for next year is homework and I often tell parents is that reading is part of the homework we expect students to do in English. I tell parents that students should be reading for at least fifteen minutes a day. I say that again and again.

This year we are making English homework booklets. It will contain pages for spellings, research, vocabulary, sentences and pages for reading. We are going to get students to write down the reading they do in the week. And, we are making parents aware of this. Again, we are making the message that reading is important clear. I will probably text parents termly to make sure students are completing their reading.

The teachers will sign the reading booklets once a term and the best booklets will receive a reward.

Hopefully, the process will make explicit to parents, students and teachers how much reading students do. Let’s see the conversations in parents evening, because that will be something I want mentioned by staff. The booklet will be our record of how much they do.

Reading Point 4 – Points

Again, I have stolen something from primary school. We have used a number of incentives to promote reading such as events, competitions and quizzes. We have used a number of different reading resources, but I think simplicity is the key.

Every book a student reads will be logged in the homework booklets. However, each book will be given a score out of 10. The higher the score, the more challenging the book. The teacher will decide the score and it will vary from student to student. There will be no charts charting the score of each book. Teachers might suggest a book is a ten, but there will be no hard rule to the scoring. This should be very easy and quick for teachers to do.

Each term we will produce a leader board of scores and at the end of the year there will be prizes and I might even consider certificates for level of readers.

The process is simple, but it feeds into a particularly masculine aspect. A challenge. Turning the reading process into competition. Plus, it makes the quantity of the reading and quality of the reading at the heart of the process.

Reading Point 5 – Books

We have always used the Bookstart option of buying students a book. It has been a great opportunity to promote reading, but I don’t think it has always helped our weaker readers to develop as readers.

This year I am going to use the money for something different. This year I am going to buy a new set of books. The purpose of these books is to build and create enjoyable reading experiences.  We have six sets and six terms. Each set is going to be given the book at the start of a term and they have to read it by the end of term. The reading will take place at home.

Geoff Barton made a very good point about the sociable dimension of reading. It is a sociable thing. I often talk to people about books I have read and listen to their book suggestions. With this set of books, there isn’t going to be any ‘work’ about. No book review. No drama activity. No essay. Not a single thing that can be classed as work. It is a book that students are reading. The only thing I want is it to be a social activity. We are going to look at building opportunities to get students to talk about it. Get sets to discuss the book after they have read it. Get them interested and engaged.

The hope is that this can be done with other year groups, but this year I am going to start it with Year 7s. One more book a year and another brick in the wall of their reading experience.

At the moment, I am looking for something engaging and enjoyable. I want the whole experience to about reading enjoyment so that it will inspire them to read more. That’s why I am probably going for a David Walliams’ book. Before you shudder at my choice, the same students will also study parts of Dickens in the year and the opening of ‘Jane Eyre’.

Reading Point 6 – More books

There is money, very little money, within budgets to support students such as pupil premium and KS2 transition. I am considering making rucksacks of books for these students. There is such a thing as book poverty. It is not uncommon for a student to live in a house with no books. How are we going to instil a love for reading when they cannot read? Libraries are an important place, but the home is where the heart is. That is why I am looking to buy books chuck them in a rucksack and give them to the students. For thirty pounds, it is amazing what I can get.  

There are hundreds of great books out there and putting a few in a bag could be a personal library that they can dip in, when they want something.

Oh. And I am not going to make a big song and dance about it.  Nobody will know. Just the student.

Reading Point 7 – The Opening / Articles

This was done with the Carnegie book award in another school. The school made all the students read the opening chapter and then got students to judge the best on the opening. We tried it this year.

Often there is time in tutor time to do some reading, but all too often that reading can be directionless. This year I am going to photocopy article and opening chapters from new novels. The students read and discuss them in 10 minutes. Will this inspire you to read the rest of the book? Do you agree with the writer? Both these questions form the basis of the reading. They allow for a high level of engagement as students search the text to support ideas.

Therefore, we are going to use our library for the texts and get students to engage in these short reading tasks. It gives students opportunities to read a variety of texts. Students need help finding the right book. This is just another way.
These are just a few strategies I am using or will use next year. A lot are general PR stuff. However, they do not work unless everybody is part of it. If staff are on message, then the school is sending students the message. The more students see that reading is important, the more likely they will treat it as important.

Staff will know that…

·         Students must have a reading book in their bag at all times.

·         Students will read at the start of most cover lessons.

·         Students must read at home several times during a week.

·         Students’ reading is being monitored.  

·         Students will get points for every book they read.

·         Students will be given reading opportunities to read often in lessons and especially in tutor time.

·         Reading is something that must be discussed and talked about.

Not one strategy is the key. Something here will hopefully develop and improve the reading of students. But, I am not going to search for the magic in the blood. I am just going to throw a lot of magical things and use the Force. For the Force is strong in reading, my friend.

Thanks for reading,


Learning from my mistakes: an English teacher’s blog

Washing the grit, resilience and sand out of the classroom

I have had enough GRIT to last me a lifetime. I have had it in my sandwiches, my swimming trunks and in my mouth as I slowly eat an ice cream on the beach whipped by windswept sand. Sand, or the educational term goes, grit seems to be in vogue at the moment. I happen to be an expert on grit as I used to sell it in various forms: builder’s sand; play sand; ballast; pea gravel. You name it, I have sold it.

There are endless schools across the country making their students develop grit, or determination, as most sane people would call it. SLTs are lecturing students how they shouldn’t give up. YouTube videos of a plucky underdog who thinking at first they will not achieve something and then because they found some magical, gold coloured, grit in their pocket they discover they can actually do it. All this wrapped up in an emotional montage of tears, air punching and a track from Take That.

But, I have a problem with all this. We are teaching students that the magic gold dust is within them. Everybody is an underdog and you can do it. We, particularly British people, love an underdog. Look at our films, books and newspapers. One parent fought a school about uniform. The parent won. Hurrah!  One employer was unfairly fined. He fought the company. He won. Hurrah! We love it. Even our superheroes follow this pattern. They are all weak people who have an inner strength and some sparkly magic that will help them beat the big, bad baddie. Hurrah! Gosh, even Harry Potter is a typical example of this underdog figure. He beat a big, scary wizard. Hurrah!  

Resilience is part of the national collective. We will not surrender. Keep soldiering on. K.B.O. I could, at this point, make numerous references to British history where we have had to be resilient if the face of adversity. I will not, because every event in history from these sunny isles features two opposing forces and the least likely to win, wins because they were resilient. Looking at the classroom, this plays itself out regularly. The student that complains about the injustice of a sanction. A parent complains about the school’s rules on a haircut. The school council petitions for a change because something isn’t fair for them.

Is the problem with British students that they aren’t resilient enough? Are we drowning in sea of hundreds of students whose are not tough enough to give something a go?  I, honestly, don’t think that is the case. A lot of this resilience training seems to come from America. If I may be bold to say this, but I feel that it stems from pockets of social inequality. Occasionally, the message before a child steps into a classroom is a message of: there isn’t a slim hope of success. The idea of an ‘American Dream’ has died and hidden itself from the nightmares of reality. I believe this ‘GRIT’ training has worked for some Americans. It has helped generally tough children to toughen up and deal with reality face on.  

Travel across the Atlantic Ocean and we see people trying to bring about changes here. We want to improve things. What can we do? I know, let’s make students tougher. We need to make them resilient. Umm, but, sir, aren’t they resilient enough already? I think they are. Our students are resilient enough. They queue without given up halfway through. They put up with poor conditions in schools such as too hot or too cold conditions. They put up with hundreds of exams in a small space of a month.

So if our students are resilient and gritty, then what is it that stops them from being even better? I think it is consumerism. Over the years, we have allowed education to become consumer led. The rise of student voice is a typical example of this. Students see themselves as the consumers of education, which they are to a point, but they are leading the system more than the educators.

The consumer is always right. Isn’t that the case?  

       They demand what they want.

       They focus on their desires and occasional needs.

       They want things now.

       They see themselves as the centre of the world. 

But, how does this playout in the classroom? A consumer of education might do some of the following:

       Blames the person next to them for their lack of work.

       Forgets a pen.

       Only works hard when it is an assessment.

       Sees that effort is nothing to do with work. It is all about ability.

       No sense of urgency.

       Gives up quickly.

       Doesn’t think for themselves.

       Asks the teacher for the answers.

       Searches for problems. 

Recently, someone tweeted about student interviews to judge the success of the teacher. I find it hard to trust the judgement of someone who isn’t able to vote or drive, or even operate heavy machinery or perform heart surgery, when adults struggle to agree on simple educational matters or lesson grades. The consumer puts themselves at the centre of the world. Like a small baby, they will scream until their demands are met. A frantic parent runs around offering food, drink, comfort or a changed nappy. Not having a pen isn’t about resilience. It is about expectations. An expectation that someone, often the teacher, will sort things out for them. That isn’t resilience. That’s laziness.

Yes, some of the things here might be attributed to a student not being resilient and a deep-seated lack of confidence about the work, but honestly I think a lot of these can be attributed to the student feeling that they are the passenger in the learning process and not the driver. They are passive. They are reliant. They are content. They relaxed. They are comfortable. Do we make work too comfortable for students?

What if students were drivers instead of consumers? They might show these attributes:  

       Will learn from their mistakes.

       Always equipped. If they forget something, they will find a solution themselves.

       Sees that the effort is important.

       Works quickly, but effectively.

       Thinks for themselves. 

       Never gives up. Asks to do it again, if possible.

       Asks the teacher questions about improving.

       Searches for solutions.

I feel that the position students put themselves in is more important than grit. Are they at the centre of the universe? Or are they orbiting something else? As individuals, they consume what they want and how they want it. They watch television according to their desires. They eat food according to their desires. They are holding the remote control, but they are not the makers of things. They control but don’t do. Look at the classroom, students like to control but they are hesitant to do. How many students do we know who spend more time arguing about the work than spend time doing the work?

I heard one person moaning about having to wait to see a GP in a NHS surgery this week. They felt it was ridiculous for them to wait a fortnight to see someone over a minor ailment. They felt it was their given right that they should be seen straightaway. They felt that they had the control. They felt the world owes them something. They thought they were at the centre of the universe.

If we look at how the world is today and you see some interesting points. There is a clear rise in xenophobia. There is a rising fear of others and that all comes back to the individual. It is how the individual feels and what the individual fears. Added to this, everybody and his friends are sharing their individual thoughts or feelings on social media. We can spout (including me) our individual thoughts or feelings, whether they be offensive or not for the world to hear, because, after all, I ‘think’ I am right. We don’t care (well I do) what other people think or feel because the individual is more important than the rest of society. Then, we drive off in our cars, little tanks, shouting at the world for not being able to drive properly and not being courteous towards us. The think we are more important than the rest of society.

Maybe, we don’t need the resilience that is being peddled in schools. Maybe, we need to build resilience against individualism. Get students to think of the whole class and not just themselves. Maybe, we have allowed students to become too individual. Their individual desires affect learning and not necessary their needs. The needs of the class far outweigh the desires of the individual.

Are the students that seem to be ‘non-resilient’ in the classroom struggling to assert their individualism? It is not that they are lacking grit, it is just that there are too many strong individuals in the class that they can’t function effectively in a group. Ofsted seems to be cracking down on behaviour in the classroom, but isn’t the behaviour highlighted often a result of individuals being too individual and not conforming to expectations?

Take Twitter, a collection of millions of people all with their individual thoughts and feelings. Some are hidden from conversations because of the loud few. Does the quiet majority need to be more resilient? Or, do the loud minority need to be more resilient? The answer to this is probably no to both counts. We need a balance. The quiet and the loud need to function successfully together, but in a way where one dominates at the hands of the other being neglected.

Thanks for reading. I am off to wash the sand out of my swimming trunks.

Learning from my mistakes: an English teacher’s blog

Do gender differences make a difference?

It’s a well-known fact that boys underachieve. Every statistic tells us so. But ever since writing this post I’ve been suspicious of gender as the root cause for differences in achievement. Yes, girls outperform boys but is this due to fundamental differences in gender? Or is it more to do with expectations, perception and bias? Or is it, perhaps, an illusion? Might differences in performance be due to other, less beguiling causes?

There’s no doubt that boys and girls are biologically different. But, as Gertrude Stein put it, “A difference to be a difference must make a difference.” Do the very obvious biological differences between the sexes actually make a difference to their academic performance?

This debate between two eminent Harvard professors of psychology, Steven Pinker and Elizabeth Spelke on the science of gender and science is fascinating:

But it’s also very long and I imagine few readers will set aside the two hours needed to appreciate their arguments. Very briefly, Pinker argues that the reason that women are under-represented in the physical sciences and mathematics is, at least in part, due to biological differences whereas Spelke argues that these differences make little difference and the under-representation is due to social factors such as biased perceptions and unequal opportunities.

What’s particularly interesting is that both cite much of the same evidence and research to support their arguments. The facts are not really in doubt, the debate comes down to a matter of interpretation.

Apparently for most human characteristics, while the mean scores are identical for men and women, there are more men at the extremes. Take this example of the normal distribution curves of male and female IQ scores.


There is more variability between the data set of all men than in the data set of all women. to put it another way, if there are more male geniuses there are also more male idiots. Might the fact there are more male professors of mathematics and physics be because there are simply more very clever men? Another reason might be due to men and women’s different priorities. Pinker suggests that men are, on average, more likely to prioritise status at the expense of family. Men seem also to have a preference for things over people. If community service is at one end of a career continuum then physics or engineering would be a the opposite end. Not only that, men are statistically more likely to take risks, work longer hours and think mathematically.

Spelke, rightly, points out that the differences Pinker cites are not deficiencies and that there’s a mismatch between reality and expectations. She shows various examples of the effects of gender labelling such as experiments where participants are told that a baby is either male or female, or where participants are told CVs are from male or female applicants and then asked to evaluate either the child’s behaviour or the merits of the CV. She says that where performance is unambiguous, everyone agrees. If a child’s reaction is clear, there is no dispute about it, but where interpretation is called for, female children are more likely to be viewed as fearful, and sweet whereas males are more likely to be labelled angry or strong. In the case of CVs, star candidates will be feted no matter their gender, but in the case of more mediocre candidates, male candidates’ track records are interpreted as more productive and experienced and are far more likely to be offered jobs.

This is covert rather than overt sexism. Parents do not necessarily deliberately treat girls and boys differently, but of course they treat angry or fearful children differently. Employers may genuinely want to bridge the gender gap but it’s more reasonable to prefer more experienced and productive candidates. I’m as guilty of this as anyone as I explored in this post. It’s certainly not the case that I deliberately favour male contributors, but it may well be the case that I judge the contributions of men and women differently. It’s impossible, Spelke says, to judge intrinsic aptitudes while society’s perceptions are so biased.

Both scientists make excellent points, both agree that girls get better grades at school in all subjects and both concur that biased perceptions and unequal opportunities are pernicious, but where Pinker says gender differences make a difference, Spelke says they do not.

As a father of daughters, I worry about all this. Despite the likelihood that they will outperform their male peers at school, statistically, there’s little doubt they’ll struggle more to make their mark on society. If this is, in part, due to real biological differences, does that make matters better or worse? When surveyed, women’s priorities include:

  • Being able to work part time for a limited period
  • Living close to family and other relatives
  • Having a meaningful spiritual life
  • Having friendships.

Men’s priorities are:

  • Having lots of money
  • Inventing or creating something of worth
  • A fulfilling, full-time career
  • Being successful.

Does it really matter to what extent these priorities are socially constructed? I have no idea, but it’s clear which of these sets of priorities is more likely to help my daughters forge ahead in the world of work. Is it also clear which list is more likely to make them happy? I recognise myself in the second list and feel at least a little ashamed.

Of course, women deserve the opportunity to be as successful as men in any field in which they wish to compete. Feminist activist, Gloria Steinem said, “There are really not many jobs that actually require a penis or a vagina, and all other occupations should be open to everyone.” She’s right. But we ought also to remember that fairness is not sameness. Obviously women should be allowed to judge their successes differently, but maybe society ought to reward rather than punish women for these differences?

I had intended  to start with this quote from self-proclaimed ‘dissident’ feminist Camille Paglia, but on reflection decided it might work a lot better at the end:

In the theory of gender I began from zero. There is no masculine power or privilege I did not covet. But slowly, step by step, decade by decade, I was forced to acknowledge that even a woman of abnormal will cannot escape her hormonal identity.

Vive la différance!

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David Didau: The Learning Spy

Top Blogs of the Week : Schools Week (July 2015)

Schools Week have published my review of the best blogs of the week.

Andrew Old’s top blogs of the week 6 July 2014

Activities: the devil will find work for idle hands to do

By @JamesTheo

An English teacher explains how his department has abandoned its old belief that lessons could be planned by identifying great activities to do, and then working out what could be learned from them. “This is the cult of activity: an unconscious belief that occupying pupils with something is the most important part of lesson or homework planning, over and above deciding what it is that we want pupils to learn.”

Continued in

Andrew Old's top blogs of the week 6 July 2014
Andrew Old’s top blogs of the week 6 July 2014

Scenes From The Battleground

This much I know about…helping OFSTED improve lesson observations

I have been a teacher for 26 years, a Headteacher for 11 years and, at the age of 50, this much I know about helping OFSTED improve lesson observations.

Members of the Headteachers’ Roundtable met with Sean Harford today, one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors and Ofsted’s National Director for Schools.

Here is a Twitter conversation I had with Sean a week ago:


And here is my letter to Sean…

Hi Sean

Now that we do not grade lesson observations, when it comes to performance management observations we can ask colleagues, ‘How would you like to be observed to help you best develop your teaching?’ That question alone changes the dynamic of the observation process. The consequences of that decision are outlined in my book.

Here is one thing, however, which we are trialling which is improving the observation process and is not in my book!

It goes without saying that you can ‘smell’ whether learning could be going on in a lesson. From lesson observations you can see to a great extent whether the students are working hard and paying attention; in other words, whether the classroom climate is right for learning.

Such a function of observations is limited, however; it is very difficult to trace the learning going on in the lesson and to judge the depth of learning because it is going on inside students’ heads. Articles by Professor Rob Coe and others have made this point, as I am sure you have read.

We subscribe to a great extent to Rob Coe et al’s assertion that great teaching is that which leads to improved student progress. Consequently, we are experimenting with scrutinising the work produced from the lessons we have observed so that we can trace the golden thread from the teaching observed through to the students’ outcomes. It can mean that we don’t meet with the teacher whose teaching has been observed until a couple of weeks after the observed lesson, because it may take that much time for the learning that has taken place as  a result of the teaching observed to be manifested (or not) in students’ work.

It makes so much sense and it encourages teachers to evaluate the impact of their teaching much more thoroughly and deliberately. And if such a process is taking place in a fear-free environment, it allows teachers to modify their teaching if the way they were teaching doesn’t really impact positively upon students’ learning, as evidenced by the work the students produced.

This process is best supported by the use of IRIS video technology, which captures a record of the lesson from a fortnight ago which we can refer to when we are reviewing the students’ work which derived from the lesson. IRIS video clarifies both reviewer’s and reviewee’s hazy memories of what happened during the observation.

I think this approach encourages teachers to think much harder about the golden thread which links teaching through to student outcomes. It’s not mind-bogglingly innovative, but it does have a grain of common sense at its core. I maintain that the approach is improving the observation process because it is helping improve the quality of teaching at Huntington, which must be the main purpose of any lesson observation system.

Incidentally, colleagues at Huntington are using IRIS video independent of their observers/reviewers and arriving at interim Performance Management (Development) meetings with video they have shot of their teaching which they want to show their reviewer. It’s what can happen when the school climate is largely fear-free.

Sorry I can’t make the meeting on 7 July with Liam et al from the Headteachers’ Roundtable, but do let me know if you want to meet up to chat this through further.






Reading is a rebel act: on the role of school libraries

My library was dukedom large enough

The Tempest, Shakespeare

Some people are never happy. After writing my last post on how it might be possible to get students to read more, one commentator criticised that there was no mention of school librarians. Well, it was a blog post: the list of things which went unmentioned dwarfed what was written about. This post seeks to rectify that omission.

Changing the culture of a school is a big ask. By the time they reach secondary school, many children are aware that reading isn’t cool. According to the National Literacy Trust, less than a third of students read outside of school and about 20% say they feel embarrassed if their friends saw them reading a book. In far too many schools, it’s not considered cool to be clever. I’m not aware of any surveys of young people’s attitudes towards libraries, but anecdotally, they don’t seem to be particularly positive. But it wasn’t always thus, was it?

As a youngster, I spent a lot of time at my local library. Not possessing a TV and not being keen on team sports, there didn’t seem a lot else to do in the late 1970s. I loved the library. It wasn’t so much a sanctuary as a treasure trove. I read everything and anything. I began with Asterix and Tin Tin before graduating to grown-up fiction. The librarians got used to me borrowing all sorts. None of the library staff stick in my mind as complete personalities – they were a shifting array of shushing, no-nonsense women who either smiled, raised their eye brows or frowned at my eclectic choices. Back then Eric Van Lustbader was quite popular but the librarian wouldn’t let me borrow a copy of Ninja. At the time I was incensed; later I discovered is would have been pretty risque fare for a ten-year-old. I even borrowed audio recordings and found myself quite taken with The Goons, and I owe my understanding of the laws of thermodynamics to Flanders and Swann.

The school library at my secondary school was an extraordinary place (at least in my memory) full of darkened corridors, hidden nooks and the most surprising finds. I read Lord of the Rings in the first term of my first year and Crime and Punishment in the second. I’m still not sure which I prefer.

In my third year of secondary school, I found myself minded to truant. There were, as far as I can remember, almost no consequences for this as long as you turned up for either morning or afternoon registration – they weren’t fussy which. I began by ‘missing the bus’ with a group of similarly disaffected pals but eventually graduated to taking the bus in the opposite direction into Birmingham city centre. I’d head to the central library and read. It’s only in retrospect I realise quite how odd this sort of behaviour actually was, but back then it seemed entirely reasonable to miss out on double physics and supplement my education in the manner of my choosing.

To cut these meanderings short, suffice it to say, I’d always felt at home in libraries. That is, until I became a teacher. While I was off becoming way cooler than I’d ever managed to be as a pupil, libraries had undergone a similar transformation. Suddenly they’d been redesignated Learning Resources Centres and were full of computers. During break and the lunch the geeky children no longer read, they surfed. Or played games. Or did something else utterly incomprehensible on the computers. In one school I worked in the ‘library’ was actually closed during lunch as there were three lunches split over an hour and a half and lessons were scheduled in there. In another school there was no library. The books had been cleared out and redistributed across various classrooms in order to fit even more computers in there! Librarians are now routinely expected to be glorified reprographics technicians and when they’re not laminating stuff, they spend all their time feeding the beast that is Accelerated Reader and producing endless reports on the number of words children have read.

I’m certain there are many excellent school libraries out there as well as ranks of inspirational school librarians. Sad to say, I’ve not had the fortune to share a school with them. All the school librarians I’ve known have been excellent people and right-minded lovers of books, but have been shackled by demands so varied and immense that they’ve not been able to do what they most believed in.

What’s worse, as a young English teacher I came to dread library lessons. Otherwise mild-mannered children would turn into truculent oafs at the mention of the library. The majority would sit and quietly chat, a few would actually read and some – I see now that it was those for whom reading was a constant reminder of their inadequacies – would spend most lessons ‘choosing’ books or pretending to read them whilst engaged in some more nefarious pursuit. My role was to be the Reading Police. I would march around crossly spotting books being held upside down and ensuring that no one saw reading as a pleasure. I’ve come to believe that while silent reading is what we should aim for, it doesn’t necessarily make for a great school experience. Since those early days I’ve tried hard to make more of library lessons than this and have met some small success, but rarely have I been able to pass on the magical appeal, the irresistible tug I felt for libraries.

Onelibrarian I worked with stands out. Toby Dyer was an incongruous figure. For one he was young – in his late twenties – and for another he was cool. Much cooler than any librarian has a right to be. He had a tattoo which read, “Reading Is A Rebel Act”, a sentiment that rang deep within – this was how reading always felt to me as a teenager! (A paraphrase of Michael Harnett’s famous phrase from Farewell to English.) He made it his business to imbue books with edginess and danger. He engaged in what he called ‘reading terrorism’ – bursting unannounced into classrooms, reading a passage of prose or poetry and then dashing off, cackling maniacally. His library was chaotic: he had a rather timid assistant who seemed to do all the actual work while Toby made his rebellious way through the school. His approach was not uniformly appreciated. He got a lot of complaints and a fair few reprimands. Regrettably, he moved on rather rapidly.

I met up with Toby last year. During our reminiscences, he told me about a reading assembly he’d given one World Book Day. He took the stage, his face a thunderclap, wielding a copy of Kevin Brooks’ The Bunker Diary. Although this book won the Carnegie Award in 2014, it’s probably one of the most controversial children’s books ever written. Anyway, Toby told his audience that he’d caught a year 8 boy reading the book and had confiscated it. He told them some of the more salacious details and said that the school absolutely could not endorse such filth. He said he’d heard there were other illicit copies floating around the school and that he was running an amnesty in the library: if copies were handed in before the end of the week no further action would be taken. Apparently he got the deputy head to go along with him. Anyway, he left his ‘amnesty’ pile lying around, unsupervised in the library and by the end of the day, every copy had been borrowed. The book became the most talked about reading phenomena since Harry Potter first hit the shelves.

Now, I’m not advocating Toby’s methods or suggesting this is how school libraries should be run – he’d probably have terrified me as an eleven-year-old – but I do think that in ever so many schools, libraries have become sad, neglected places. I’m really keen to hear about any examples of great practice of running school libraries or of making reading lessons come alive to share and pass on to other schools.

NB – I should point out that I am not nor have I ever been a school librarian. Anything I say in the post should be seen purely as a product of my own rather narrow experience.

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David Didau: The Learning Spy

Employment figures for 2014 in the UK

Employment is the most basic requirement for the development and growth of an economy and United Kingdom is not an exception in this regard. From the past few decades, the world economy is in the grip of unemployment and even the economically developed country like UK had to face the brunt of this situation. However with the arrival of the year 2014, there seems to be a lot of improvement in the employment situation of UK. In the recent report drawn by the Statistical Authority, it was found that the unemployment rate in UK has reached its all time low of 7.1%. It is pertinent to know that this rate was 7.4% in the last three months of 2013 and economists around the world had anticipated for a decline of merely 0.1% which is very low as compared to the current reports.

According to office of National Statistics(ONS), there is a fall of 167000 people who’ve been affected by unemployment in the current year. Now there are just 2.32 million people in UK that are devoid of employment. The decrease in unemployment rates in the present year even indicate that now maximum number of people in the UK are having work and are capable of supporting their families. This value even indicates the biggest ever quarterly increase in the employment levels of UK. Despite of all the predications made by labor markets around the world, today Britain is experiencing an economic revolution that certainly needs more fuelling from the government.

This rate of unemployment at 7.1% is the best so far, ever since the economy of UK has started recovering from economic depression. According to ONS, following statistics relating to employment in UK in the year 2014 have been generated so far:

  • The rate of unemployment among the active population in UK is around 7.1% in January, 2014.
  • The total number of people that have a job and are actually working comprise of the 30.15 million of the total population.
  • UK government grants certain allowances to the unemployed population and it is astonishing to know that the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s allowance in January 2014 fell by 27600 people. So now the total number of people claiming such allowance is just 1.22 million.
  • The ONS conducts employment and unemployment survey every month but compares between data of three months i.e. quarterly comparisons are made.
  • In 2014, the economy of UK experienced a major change because the employment rate jumped by 280000 points to reach the biggest quarterly high of all times to record a number of 30.15 million. An important thing to note down is that such an increase in employment was last seen in Britain in the year 1971. The employment though increased well, it was the wage growth of people that drew attention of various governmental agencies. The wage growth in UK is going flat at 0.9% from the past 5-6 months which is not even at par with the current inflation rate of 2% here. Thus much of work is required to be done in this regard and a lot of major policy changes could improve the same numbers.

    There are many learning based employment apprenticeships schemes in Birmingham available for young people (aged 16 - 19 etc) - one provider of apprenticeships (Gordon Franks)