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Curriculum Ed 2019

I toyed with writing a post about Curriculum Ed, mainly because I didn’t want to misinterpret any of the vast information that was presented by speakers far more knowledgeable than myself. But then if I have misinterpreted, it could always be a starter for discussion, and I’ve been really keen to think through what I’ve heard, and the best way to do that is through writing about it.

The Ofsted bit

Although Sean Hartford (@HarfordSean) didn’t start the conference, it is his talk that introduces the focus on curriculum. There’s already been quite a bit of comment over what Sean said, the two “controversial” points being that both academisation and Ofsted’s focus on data have led to a narrowing of the curriculum in English schools, and that Sean can’t believe that over 90% of schools have good behaviour, despite Ofsted figures showing this. I, for one, am pretty pleased that Ofsted are reviewing their practices and looking to improve, rather than thinking it’s already good enough. Isn’t that what we all do? The behaviour issue was with respect to schools being able to support students for one, or two, days to be on their best behaviour! It will be interesting to see Ofsted’s approach develop, as the initial idea of talking to those who get the brunt of poor behaviour does feel like it may have a few road bumps in the way. With regards to the personal development part, Sean did say that schools can’t solve society’s problems by themselves, but they can implement quality programmes that will support in this quest.

So by reviewing the framework, Ofsted have developed the Quality of Teaching judgement to include a focus on curriculum, and particularly a curriculum which has a narrative, otherwise it only serves the top few percentage of students who remember everything. The curriculum shows the intent, but Ofsted will also be looking at how this is enacted in the classroom. Ofsted will go from top level overview discussions with subject leaders, and then making a “deep dive” into classroom practice for current aspects of the curriculum, looking at books whilst in discussion with teachers and students. For me, the opportunity to explain my pedagogical reasoning for what and how I’m teaching is really positive, rather than a judgement with no discussion. Sean did talk about group work verses Direct Instruction, emphasising that research has shown both methods to be effective, if either are implemented in a way that makes them effective.

Along with the three keynote speakers, delegates all had the daunting job of selecting which 3 speakers’ sessions they would attend out of a cast of 20. Not an easy choice with the calibre of speakers there. For the sessions I attended, there were two main themes. One being curriculum as a narrative and the other along the lines of what do we teach and powerful knowledge.

Curriculum as a narrative

Clare Sealy (@ClareSealy) stepped in to open the conference as Christine Counsell (@Counsell_C) was not at all well at the start of the day (and very graciously, Christine hung around and spoke for the final keynote, and on her birthday no less!). Before developing the metaphor of the curriculum being like a box set, Clare took a few minutes to revisit building schema, and the differences between assimilating schema (nicely slotting in new knowledge to what we already know) and accommodating schema (where we have to rearrange what we know to take into account the new knowledge), as described by Piaget. Although both are a part of progress, it is the accommodation that plays the more significant part.

The box set metaphor comes in the difference between a series, such as The Simpsons, and a serial, such as Game of Thrones. Whereas the series are a group of stand alone stories, a serial will build over time, with both character development, sub plots that link into the main plot and conflicts. I’d never heard of the phrase “Chekhov’s gun” before, but liked the idea that if something is going to be a part of the narrative, there needs to be a reason for it. Clare went on to extend the metaphor to show how in her setting, primary, they are creating a whole Chekhov’s armoury for KS3.

Christine also spoke on a similar context for secondary English and Humanities. Using the example of teaching Animal Farm at KS4, Christine suggested how much richer the learning could be had the students been exposed to the Russian Revolution in KS3 and taken that knowledge into their Animal Farm lessons for the English teacher to draw upon and extend in terms of the literature. This is then a narrative that goes across subjects in the curriculum.

Clare explored how a serial of lessons would look, beginning with quite shallow learning where what could seem to be unconnected bits of knowledge are introduced. In subsequent lessons though, the students are being directed to the knowledge required to make connections. These begin with the “Previously…”, recapping those bits of knowledge which need noticing as students start to accommodate new knowledge in their schemes. This all leads to the deep learning, “to understand the relationship of the parts” (Willingham).

Knowledge, Powerful Knowledge and Knowledge about Knowledge

To quote Christine from the end of the conference “teachers must have a relationship with the knowledge they teach”.  Earlier, I attended an encapsulating session from Di Swift “Enabling Teachers to Build Knowledge about Knowledge”, which echoed Christine’s sentiments.

I discovered here that there were far more types of knowledge than I realised, and came across the term “Social Realist” for the first time, which I’ve been able to delve a little more into since Saturday. Di differentiated between craft knowledge, the know how, and the need to understand the why. This was aimed particularly at teachers being able to explain their pedagogical reasoning for what and how they are teaching, and I would imagine links in to what Sean was saying about the deep dive when making judgements about the curriculum and how it is enacted in the classroom. Di also pointed out how activities should serve the knowledge being taught. This is something I’ve been passionate about when planning and working with ITTs; that we begin with knowing what we want students to learn, and the resources we use have to fit into this.

Ruth Walker’s (@RosalindPhys) session was entitled “Powerful Knowledge”, and I could tell that she was very passionate about the works of Michael Young and, for her, the importance of implementing this into schools in the most effective way possible. Di had already introduced Michael Youngs opinion on Powerful Knowledge to me in her session, and how this changed over time, from an elitist version of just forcing what powerful people thought was knowledgable onto others, to a knowledge that is empowering and allows others into making informed choices about that knowledge.

Ruth used the definition of powerful knowledge as a combination of both substantive knowledge and disciplinary knowledge.  Although Ruth gave definitions in her presentation, I needed more clarification, and found Christine Counsell’s description in her article for Impact (Taking Curriculum Seriously, Sept 2018) to help:  “Substantive knowledge is the content that teachers teach as established fact….Disciplinary knowledge, by contrast, is a curricular term for what pupils learn about how that knowledge was established, its degree of certainty and how it continues to be revised by scholars, artists or professional practice.”

Martin Robinson (@Trivium21c) also spoke about powerful knowledge in his presentation “Cultural Mobility: An Argument Against Instrumentalism”.  His description included 4 parts: knowledge that moves beyond the particulars of experience; knowledge that makes sense of and improves the world; knowledge that is cognitively superior to that needed for daily life; and a knowledge that is distinct from common sense knowledge.

Di continued with her presentation to introduce Legitimation Code Theory, and in particular Semantics. IMG_8329This is something new to me, but I the main idea I took away was that knowledge was built through the relationship of contextual knowledge and “the big ideas”, and travelling between these two parts will improve understanding.  I imagine this to be similar to Piaget’s accommodating schema. Di believes that the best education system is one where the curriculum is coherent, and the concepts are organised. Therefore when planning, it should be the concepts that are planned for first, then the context (topic) and finally the cotnent (facts).

Ruth continued passionately talking about powerful knowledge, with her 10 points about knowledge. Point 8 stood out for me, “It is fair and just that all children should have access to this knowledge”, reinforcing what Ruth mentioned earlier in her presentation, that “background and social class shouldn’t determine what is being taught”.  In order to implement this powerful knowledge in a curriculum in schools, Ruth identified 3 key areas that needed to be addressed in order for it to be implemented successfully:

  1. Get behaviour right – teachers need to be able to teach with a crystal clear policy;
  2. Share the vision and intellectualise the staff – one way this can be done is through reading, whether book, blogs, twitter, journals etc.; and
  3. Treat it as a grand project and project manage it.

Ruth will be presenting again at ResearchEd Rugby, 15th June 2019.

For Martin, I understood that he was expressing that powerful knowledge, along with some other aspects of culture capital, is not enough to enable the main function of the curriculum, which is to provide meaning. Martin began with meritocracy – that those with the IQ and effort will result in merit – and claimed if the belief success is down to your IQ and merit, then if you are not successful then it is also down to you. Next was Habitus and cultural capital – if you take on the right cultural habits then you can move up the success scale – so that IQ and effort now results in social status, leading to social mobility.  But he says that the only time in history this has changed is following the second World War. Martin also mentioned cultural literacy, and how culture had acquired a snob value – something that’s only needed to get on in the world.

Martin closed by asking the question, “how do we give students the space for freedom to think for themselves?”, and the desire for the pursuit of knowledge.  He described his T shaped curriculum, which gives breadth for a foundation of knowledge, before going into depth, and leads students to make their own decisions. So instead of teaching, as Arnold describes, “the best which has been thought and said in the world” as an aim, bring students to the point where they can be part of the conversation of what the best might be.

A Conversation with Culture

Christine concluded the day at Curriculum Ed, with her talk about “Curriculum as a Conversation with Culture”.  I enjoyed being able to just listen to Christine talk, although it did mean that I don’t trust myself to write about some of her presentation, but I did take away a few notes and interpretations of the latter part of her talk.

Firstly, the more you know, the more you see when introduced to new material.  Secondly, difficulty is relative to degrees of familiarity, and familiarity can be crafted.  Thirdly, every subject is a pursuit of Truth, and as teachers we should be clear that what I’m teaching is not all there is; it is just a selection.

In conclusion, Christine spoke about 3 common muddles when looking at, or designing the curriculum:

  1. That curriculum design is treated as an audit – an aggregate of its parts, rather than a narrative.  Christine reinforced that the curriculum is a narrative, and that we must know why each part of the curriculum specifies that part of knowledge.  This also included the idea of muscle memory – that time spent on the basics releases time, and allows for creativity later.
  2. Treating all subjects the same.
  3. The failure to treat the curriculum as a sum of its parts.  Christine used the example of teaching Animal Farm as a KS4 novel, and how much richer the teaching could be if students had been prepared in history in KS3 with the teaching of the Russian Revolution.

So an excellent day was had at CurriculumEd.  I apologise if I have misinterpreted, or written something wrong! Thanks of course go to all the speakers who gave up their time to present (the only disappointment being that I missed out on some as there was too much excellent choice), and to Steve (@SputnikSteve) and Jo (@joanneowens) and their team for organising an excellent conference.

Edexcel Paper 2/3 Prep

I’ve put together a list for my students of what came up on paper 1 and what hasn’t appeared so far.  Health warning: mine are target 6 students, so there are some topics missed out, and I have done this having left the paper at school, so I may have forgotten something!  However, as always, if you find it useful, use and adapt as you wish.  Questions all taken from edexcel past papers, and using new spec questions as much as possible.

Revision listMaths Higher GCSE 2018 Topics after paper 1

Edexcel Higher Warm Up

This warm up powerpoint is aimed at students targeting a grade 6.  It’s a mixture of reminders and questions – it’s possibly got too much in, but as I was writing it I just kept thinking of something else I hoped they remembered! Feel free to use or adapt as you wish!

Exam Warm up

Exam Warm Up

Mathsconf13

My sixth mathsconf, so it’s about time I blogged about the fab day organised by @Emathsuk and his team at @lasalle.

As often as possible I try to start mathsconf with the Friday night meet up.  It’s a great time to catch up with maths teachers we’ve met along the way and through Twitter, as well as meet new folks.  Despite a mix up with Julia, @Tesmaths, trying to meet in the foyer of the hotel, then realising we were in different ones, I made it up to All Bar One with Jo, @jolocke1.  We’d both started new schools in September, so lots to chat about.  At the bar I was chatting with @rach_2210 who was in Sheffield on her first mathsconf, and through our “where about do you teach” introductions, discovered we lived in the same town a couple of miles apart, and Rachel teaches at the school my 10 year old has put down as his preferred choice!  Small world! It was lovely to catch up with Jo, @mathsjem, and hear of her experience so far as head of maths.

So onto the mathsconf.  After introductions from Mark and Andrew Taylor of AQA, who talked about post 16, it was over to Matt Parker, @standupmaths, who as you can imagine, was an instant hit.  Not only was there lots of laughing out loud, but some neat maths too:

Choose a random 2 digit number, cube it and Matt will tell you the original number.  It’s all to do with expanding a trinomial and the affect on the 10a and b when cubing.  Going to have to explore this one a little more – but isn’t that the point – creating a hook to explore some maths.

Spreadsheet Picture

img_1070.jpgThen Matt introduced us to his favourite spreadsheet.  Just a spreadsheet with cells coloured in red, green or blue, but when you zoom out it’s a picture of Matt!  Here’s mine, created from Matt’s pixel spreadsheet downloader on his excellent website think-maths.co.uk.  Amongst other things there are downloads for building 3d fractals, including a festive fractal Christmas tree, and if you visit megamenger.com, you’ll find details on building the world’s largest menger sponge from business cards, along with all downloads and instructions.

Matt finished off with a round up of websites and events.  I’m particularly hoping we’ll be able to take some year 11s to the mathsinspiration.com event in Birmingham in November.  Fingers crossed!

During speed dating I met Jack from Nottingham Uni Samworth Academy who showed me the spreadsheet they had made to support strategies for rewarding positive behaviour and effort.  It was just the thing to implement with a couple of my groups, as I was looking for ideas of how to record all the positiveness in the classroom.  Pete, @MrMattock showed us BBC Skillswise, the adults learning site, and the resources it had for older children who needed further support on the basics.  Clear resources without the gumpf!  I was also able to have a catch up with Bruno, @MrReddy, and was happy to share that one of my first responsibilities in my new department is to get TTRockstars properly up and running!

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This was my contribution – at the end of school on Friday, a year 8 lad was excitedly telling his form tutor all about the probability tree he created and what each of the parts meant.  He was in the nurture group, and the hook to get him engaged in probability trees was making it! All from my colleague Emily next door.

Onto the sessions, and first it was Sarah, @Schamings28, with Developing Resilient and Confident Mathematicians.  Perfect, as 3 out of my 4 teaching groups are nurture groups, and resilience and confidence are in short measure.  Sarah gave an inspiring workshop, clearly addressing the issues and giving excellent practical advice for taking back into the classroom straight away.  img_1076.jpgShe gave some excellent phrases to use to support confidence and resilience, as well as ideas for resources that get pupils practising resilience in low entry challenges which can then be used as a starting point to praise the process of resilience.  I would highly recommend Sarah’s workshop if she were to do another one.

Next was an overview of Richard Skemp’s work: Relational Understanding and Instrumental Understanding from Gordon, @gordon-brough.  I thought the effects of instrumental and relational teaching and learning was very pertinent. I have downloaded a copy of the paper so I can read through it again.

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Jonny’s, @studymaths session on Primes, Patterns and Purposeful Practice was a whirlwind of ideas to engage students in their maths learning.

img_1112.jpgFrom “tricks” for squaring n+0.5 two digit numbers, based on expanding brackets like earlier, to factor skyscrapers, HCF/LCM pyramids, the Ulan Sprial, Goldbach’s conjecture, happy numbers, Kaprekar’s routine, Sierpinksi triangle and Chaos Game to name a few, Johnny provided us with many ideas, with quite a few being being enable from his excellent mathsbot.com site.  It’s always great when you get an “aha, that’s perfect for when I teach …. next week” moment in a session, as well as a collective “wow” that came with the Chaos Game.  Jonny’s session slides can be found here.

Finally I went to see Amir, @workedgechaos, and was treated to a review of how he would and does implement turning research and “current thinking” into practice with his staff. Amir has been a head of department and is now an assistant vice principal. It is very true that there is so much out there at the moment that it can easily become overwhelming.  img_1123.jpgAmir took his big 3 – Bloom’s Mastery, Englemann’s Direct Instruction and Cognitive Load Theory and looked at the common themes.  He then boiled it down to Question, Model, Check, Praise and Retrieve.  It is, of course, a bit more detailed than that! You can find Amir’s slides and handout here. Amir shared with us an overview of a year’s scheme and how this was delivered each week.  For spacing and retrieval, I loved how a topic was spread over several weeks (but not taught over several weeks):

Week 1: Topic A

Week 2: Mini test on topic A

Week 3: DIRT on topic A

Week 7: Review lesson on content A

But it’s not only the speakers and workshops which give great ideas.  I happened to bump into Naveen and Dani, @Naveenfrizvi and @danicquinn, and got to ask a couple of questions I was intrigued about.  Firstly rolling the timetables and implementing it with a group, and secondly from Dani’s podcast with Craig Barton @Mrbartonmaths, where she said they differentiated by time, so lower groups went slower. I just couldn’t fathom how these groups could have the same expectations if they went slower.  The answer is obvious really – they have more time; more lessons!

I know I can’t do justice to some excellent workshops in such a short summary, but if it means that it interests someone to attend the next mathsconf14 in Kettering, March 10, then that’s great. A huge thank you to Mark and his team for another fantastic day of maths teaching CPD, and all the speakers who gave up their time to prepare and deliver such wonderful sessions.

Next for me is to give back and deliver a workshop myself, but for that I need to know I have something to offer that will be of interest to others and that’s worthwhile for teachers to give up their time for.

TMBrownhillsOh, and I almost forgot, I need to do a bit of shameless plugging of our #TMBrownhills on Saturday 18th November, featuring @teachertoolkit Ross McGill, author of Teaching Backwards @oteacher Mark Burns and many local teachers presenting on classroom practice.

 

GCSE Foundation Maths Folders

In September 2015 I inherited a foundation year 11 class.  The class had previously had low achievement levels and included a few pupils (at least 50% if I remember correctly) with SEN. We struggled during the first half term, particularly with getting maths notes and examples written in books.  I was printing out an awful lot of write on worksheets and gluing them into books.  I then read @mathsjem’s post on resourceaholic.com about her foundation group in which she wrote about the folders she used to organise their work and study packs for each lesson.  See her updates on this here and here.  I thought this would be an ideal way of working with my year 11 group, particularly in supporting their note taking, so many thanks to Jo for introducing me to this plan.

The ring binders were such a fab idea, and it just so happened that at the very point I was thinking about this, a friends workplace were closing down and skipping a load of lever arch ringbinders, which she kindly collected for me.  Perfect!

Two years on, and it appeared so successful after the first year, that I repeated it last year with a similar year 11 group.

I’ve added a page with the folder sheets I have used over the last couple of years.  I’ll admit I’m quite anxious about putting them all on as I know I’ve used resources that others have kindly shared.  I’ve gone through and deleted resources that are from subscription or prominent sites. I’ve linked to TES resources I’ve used from there, but I’m still worried I’ve missed something that someone else took their time to create, so please accept apologies in advance and let me know if I need to credit you.

The first benefit of the folders is the organisation of the students work.  We had 5 sections: Classwork, Homework, Assessments, Practice Papers and BBQs (more on those later!). It’s great to sling the assessments and past papers into after the follow up work.

Sheet headingFor the classwork, I prepared a page, usually double sided, for each lesson, with the learning question already written on.  I also decided to number the sheets with unit and lesson number on!

The real bonus of these sheets is that notes can be laid out for better referral back to them, and all the questions are already on there, so no glueing in! They tended to get a pattern of boxes for facts and speech bubbles to annotate examples.

Although it took time to make these sheets, these were the resource for the lesson.  I didn’t make a powerpoint to go with them, as I used the visualiser I was lucky to have in my classroom.  It wasn’t just a “copy these notes down”; as I was filling them in the same time as the students, it was all about the questioning too.

The BBQs are my starters I use.  They stand for bread and butter questions; I first used Just Math’s bread and butter questions here, but then I wanted to use certain questions for my group, so developed my own. At the start of the year, I chose a selection of questions and then for four lessons in a row they would do the same set of questions (different numbers!).  However, once we started doing papers, whether in class or for homework, I would choose mostly fluency questions which most of the class had got wrong, so the first session has more guided questions and then the next 3 would allow for further practice on these areas.  Next job is to upload these!

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I would totally recommend using folders for GCSE work.  I would imagine if I were to do these with a higher foundation group, or a higher group, then I would leave more blank spaces for the students to make their notes, rather than the prescriptive layout I’ve been using with the groups I’ve had.

Sharing good practice #mathsconf6 resources

Eeek, I’d been all prepared and printed out resources I had thought to share for speed dating at #mathsconf6, only to leave them on the printer at home. So next best thing I could think of was to get hubbie to take a couple of pics, email them to me and post about them on here. 

What I was thinking of sharing was a resources from another maths teacher that I had found extremely useful, and had shared with my department, for tackling problem solving, and the difficulties students have sometimes in getting started on a problem. 

Back in July I read this post from @mrlyonsmaths on his blog mrlyonsmaths.wordpress.com about problem solving and the lack of resilience in even starting at solving a problem. Mr Lyons suggestion was inspiring and I’ve used his resource as a basis for problem solving with my groups this year. 

  
This is Mr Lyons’ problem solving scaffold, with descriptors of each section. He’s generously made it available to use it/tweak as required on his blog, following link above. 

It’s a fab way of getting students started on a problem as to begin with they are rewriting the key points of the question. Highlighting is good when you recognise where you’re going to go next, but for the less confident pupils, thus actually gets them started on writing something, and then some maths just seems to lead on from there. 

  

These are just three examples of questions I’ve used the format for, for different year groups and abilities of students. 

So a big thank you and shout out to @mrlyonsmaths for giving some of my students an entry way into problem solving. 

A day in the life

In an attempt to get myself blogging more regularly, I decided to join the #MTBoS blogging initiative, so here is my first entry, a day in the life. I thought I’d choose Tuesday of this week, as it was a full day of teaching, followed by parents evening, but as it happens, there was to be a twist in the tale.

adayinthelife

7.15: Today my husband was able to take the boys to the childminder, so I can head straight to school, arriving at 7.50. Before school time was devoted to marking my year 10 assessments. There were only 10 of them, so I knew I had time, and was even able to set up the tracking spreadsheet, as well as getting all my resources in order for the day ahead.

8.35: Department briefing, which I came out of with quite a to do list! School starts at 8.50 and I was straight to assembly with my year 9 form. This weeks theme is setting high expectations.

9.10: The teaching starts with yr 12 maths resit group. Just had 7 pass their November resit, so the class had shrunk a little, and with mocks going on, there were even less! Started as I always do with a corbettmaths 5aday, then it was working through a past paper as they have their mock at the end of the week. Saw an email that the head had to cancel all her praise appointments with pupils….

10.10: Guidance with my form. We were looking at Businesses today. A split lesson, so half an hour of Guidance, then half hour break, before the second half hour of Guidance. Had good discussions around a Dragons Den clip, and which offer was the best. Saw an email that there was a full staff briefing at 3.20pm.

11.40: My beautiful top set year 7. A group full of high ability pupils, who love learning. Spent some improvement time on their home learning and previous class work, then it was into learning how to plot a graph from its equation.

12.40: Year 11 GCSE foundation group. These are a hard bunch of kids. Most haven’t got much motivation and very little belief in themselves. They were calculating circumference of a circle, and could do it, but were struggling to settle down and focus just on their work.

13.40: A half hour break for lunch, in which I printed out my data sheets for parents evening, then onto the last lesson. Another year 7 group, set 2 (out of 3). Again, started with some improve my work in their home learning, then was finishing their first algebra topic on formula – writing and substituting into. A lively bunch, who are on the whole quite keen, but chatty too.

15.10: The teaching day finished and time to head for a staff meeting. You may have guessed by now that the head had received the OFSTED phone call in the morning, and they would be arriving the next morning. Our school is currently requires improvement and everyone had been working really hard to improve. We knew they’d be coming soon, so not unexpected, but not great timing with most teachers about to head into the hall for 2 1/2 hours to meet with year 8 parents. I make a phone call to my husband to see if there’s any chance he can take the boys to the childminders again in the morning so I can head straight into school.

16.00: Parents evening starts and it’s busy to begin with. Have lots of positive things to say to most parents. It gets a bit quieter towards the end, and although my last 20 minutes weren’t booked, I stay until the end as I really wanted to see those 2 parents who hadn’t turned up earlier, and am just hoping they were late.

18.30: They didn’t turn up, so I head back to my classroom to start preparing for the next day. Most of my lessons are planned, but I had some assessments for yr 11s to file in their folders, which now really need to be in there before tomorrow’s lesson. Those other little tidying jobs on my list couldn’t wait now either.

19.30 I finally leave school, seeing several classroom lights still on as I head for home. It’s not that we want to be different for OFSTED, but know everything must be at the best of what we do, something that would be impossible to do all the time, although it always what we strive for.

21.00: I’ve been home half an hour. Boys were in bed, and my husband has made tea. I’ve had a sit down, refuelled, and it’s back to work. I knew I had my feedback lesson to prepare for year 10s, but with our visitors now coming, I also had to change my planned year 7 lesson from a basic skills fortnightly lesson to a normal curriculum lesson, my seating plans to update and print out in case they were needed, the Teacher Toolkit 5 minute lesson plans to fill in – this wasn’t too hard as I plan in my head using these – and a couple of tweaks to my yr 11 and yr 8 lessons.

00.30: I fall into bed knowing the alarm is going off in little over 5 hours. I wouldn’t normally stay up that late working, but I want to do my best for my school over the next two days. We work extremely hard to do our best for our pupils and I want OFSTED to see that.

adayinthelife