I love a good aphorism, and I also like lists. I keep being asked what I think about stuff so, in the spirit of clarity, here’s a list of some of the things I think about education:


  • Getting behaviour right is the top priority for schools; when that’s cracked everything else will be possible. Until it’s cracked, nothing will work well.
  • Blaming teachers for the failure of a school to implement and stick to a robust behaviour system is morally reprehensible.
  • Misbehaving is a choice: if children behave badly in your lesson, it’s not your fault. Although it is your responsibility.
  • Every time you decide to let a school rule slide you are actively undermining your colleagues.
  • Don’t talk to parents about behaviour, talk about progress. Then they will talk to you about behaviour.


  • Students should enjoy learning, but enjoyment should not be our aim.
  • Time spent embedding classroom routines is always time well spent.
  • Think carefully about what you choose to do; you can only do one thing at a time, and there is always an opportunity cost.
  • You are the expert. No one else teaches your subject to your class in your classroom. If anyone ever tells you what you should have done differently after 20 minutes observation, politely ignore them.
  • Some students can do what you do, some can’t. Consider how you can be more explicit.
  • Planning activities is usually a distraction; focus on what you want your students to think about because that’s what they’ll remember.
  • There is no one way to teach. What you like is just what you like: never try to impose it on anyone else.
  • This goes double for marking: no one knows whether marking is particularly effective and they certainly don’t know the best way to go about it.
  • Differentiation is getting everyone to do something difficult and providing them with the support they need to be successful.
  • Metacognition just means thinking about how you went about a task. Dressing it up as anything else is foolish.
  • Stop asking teachers to talk less; think about how to improve teachers’ talk.
  • Independent learning often results in increased dependence.


  • Any policy predicated on the belief or expectation that teachers can or should work harder will fail.
  • Preparing for Ofsted is not CPD.
  • If I’m any yardstick, we are often wrong about what’s right: to err is human. We must be ever vigilant of our extraordinary capacity for self-deception.
  • The mark of great leadership is that it goes unnoticed.
  • You may think you’re being supportive, but how does the other person feel?
  • Never introduce a new initiative without removing an old one.
  • If a teacher is getting great results, leave them the hell alone. Or, better still, learn from them.
  • Give thought to how you could make meetings shorter.
  • If at all possible, offer interview candidates the opportunity to sleep on it. Rushing into making appointments is bad juju. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to sleep on most decisions.
  • If someone does something differently to you, try to see if there’s anything you can learn from them.
  • Something always has to give, but never compromise on your principles.
  • If you’ve given a course of action sufficient thought and actively looked for errors in your thinking, all will probably be well. If you do anything because someone told you to, it’ll probably be shit.
  • Everyone can be better at anything.

Data & targets

  • Learning is invisible. Any judgement made in the class room about how pupils are learning is guesswork at best. Any attempt to turn this information into data is witchcraft.
  • Always remember that target grades are made up.
  • Data doesn’t distort the curriculum or decisions about what to teach, people do.
  • What we teach is what we assess. Can we choose to assess what we value?

General advice

  • Let’s not celebrate failure; failure is just giving up before you’ve succeeded.
  • Go home as early as you can. Staying late is not in anyone’s interest, especially if you have children.
  • Turning up everyday is the most remarkable thing a teacher can do. Be proud of your attendance.
  • Try to avoid working through your lunch.
  • It always pays to acknowledge the invaluable role played by support staff.
  • Some children go whole days at school without speaking to anyone; you might be the only person they speak to today.
  • It’s always easier to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission. Beware those who insist on permission being sought.
  • Be honest and strive mightily to do your best: you will be forgiven.
  • Never let morality get in the way of doing what’s right.
  • The hardest thing to learn is when to stop.

Feel free to add what you think below.