Stepping Stones Early Years and Foundation Conference – 30 January, Belfast with Kym Scott


To sign up and provisionally book your space please click on the link below:

Last year we organised an “unconference” to celebrate the good practice of a range of Early Years and Foundation Stage colleagues. It was attended by over a 100 practitioners. We imagine that places will go quickly for a full day conference. Unfortunately, it isn’t a free event but it guaranteed to be an excellent day of professional development with Kym Scott, Early Years Consultant.

Should be amazing…no pressure Kym!



World Teachers’ Day 2016…Special Offer from The Galgorm Resort and Spa

If you read my last post you will know that tomorrow is World Teachers’ Day.

I was delightedgalgorm that the lovely people at the Galgorm got in touch and provided us all with one of their wonderful offers to relax and de-stress

World Teachers Day Offer:

  • Choice of 25 minute Treatment
  • Thermal Village Experience
  • Refreshments including Tea/Coffee and freshly baked Macaroons
  • £10 Spa Retail Voucher
  • Lunch in Gillies Grill
  • Each guest will also take come a complimentary gift bag containing a sample

£75 per person midweek (Mon – Thurs) Minimum of 6 guests

£85 per person weekend (Fri – Sun) Minimum of 10 guests

Guests can book by contacting our Reservations Team – quoting World Teachers Day offer.

This is not a sponsored post…but I can thoroughly recommend it! I availed of it last year with some University friends and it was the ideal way to catch up.


World Teachers’ Day 2016…valuing teachers, Improving their status.


On the 5 October I will celebrate alongside my colleagues “World Teachers’ Day”.


I really value my staff. I respect that many of them go above and beyond the call of duty. I try my best to promote health and well-being by offering the flu jab, cooking the staff breakfast, running staff competitions, providing treats and  the occasional reward bags. World Teachers’ day is my opportunity to say thank you.

As a school leader I believe that part of me role is to develop their knowledge and provide high quality opportunities for continuing professional development. I read Tim Manson’s recent blog  and then looked on the UNESCO website:

This year World Teachers’ Day marks the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. It is also the first world Teachers’ Day (WTD) to be celebrated within the new Global Education 2030 Agenda adopted by the world community one year ago.

This year’s theme, “Valuing Teachers, Improving their Status”, embodies the fundamental principles of the fifty-year-old Recommendation while shining a light on the need to support teachers as reflected in the agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A specific education goal, SDG4, pledges to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.      

Taken from UNESCO website

We are in a bit of CPD wilderness in Northern Ireland. We are left to develop the D.I.Y model of professional development with little or no funding.

There is little or no appropriate investment in CPD/ Teacher Professional Learning in Northern Ireland.   A nice shiny document called ‘Learning Leaders’ came out in March 2016.  But as yet there is no impact in schools. 

Tim Manson

Valuing teachers, improving their status…we have a long way to go! Having the opportunity to access high quality CPD makes you feel like a valued professional. I love going to courses and enjoy hearing about how other people are developing their practice. It reinvigorates me as a teacher and school leader. In the austerity age of school budgets, the EA have started to engage with school principals to find creative ways forward. The old order of Curriculum Advisory Support Service has past and consultation may lead to solutions who knows? If action isn’t taken soon the teaching workforce will continue to feel devalued. With little access to high quality CPD, not only will it leave teachers behind but have a large impact on enriching the achievements of our pupils.

I can’t decide whether I sit tight or continue to plough on with a raft of conferences, teachmeets and clusters to develop teachers in Northern Ireland. Those of you who know me will know that I am passionate about the power of sharing good practice so I doubt I will sit tight but what if we did?

The thought of it should motivate us all to be proactive and take control. Whilst I do feel like I am doing my own job and that of an event organiser, I do see the benefit for my own school and others. My point is I really shouldn’t have to.

Tim, I totally agree with you

Come on GTCNI.  Come on Department of Education – take a lead here and start INVESTING in your workforce and inspire the teachers of Northern Ireland so that they can be making a BIG difference in every classroom across our province.


Smile, Breathe and Be Fabulous. Sound advice for staff and school leaders.

“She turned to the sunlight And shook her yellow head,And whispered to her neighbor- -Winter is dead.”

Teaching is a people orientated profession. You deal with people big and small daily. You hear and know their stories; you know their strengths and weaknesses; you often are more than just a teacher to our young people. 

I am not going to lie over the past year – I have been stressed. Not because I dislike my job, but because I was allowing other people to give me their stress. Huge boxes of it. 

As I am a fairly caring person, I was allowing myself to focus on someone else’s needs without thinking about what I needed. 

During one particularly stressful episode, I stumbled across Brenda Shankey. She is wonderful lady, whom I have long admired for her style and expertise in the beauty industry. She is a very successful business woman and most recently has devoted her energies into the practice of Mindfulness. Most recently, she has released a book and audio book called Be Fabulous.

After a few initial contacts, I invited Brenda to come into my school before the start of the school year to focus on teaching my staff how to find time for themselves and prioritise their well-being before they can fully discharge their duties.

During her session, she told the staff to think about her mantra. Smile, Breathe and Be Fabulous. Taking responsibility for your well-being and mental health is the key to setting the tone for your classroom or your school.

A mindfulness reflection led by Brenda assisted us on focusing on our goals, our personal targets and helped us to reflect on what makes us happy. It was a team building moment and an experience that we collectively enjoyed together. The feedback from staff has been tremendous.

Thanks to @brendashankey for a lovely morning, learning all about taking control of our inner selves…
I needed to hear this. Thank you for arranging this. I feel happier already.
I really enjoyed that I am giving this a go. Her (Brenda’s) story is inspirational. I need to focus on what is important.

In the run up to opening school, in the stressful moments it has been great to hear the phrases that Brenda used by my colleagues to restore our balance. It has worked for me. I do feel more relaxed and I have slept better. As this term starts I am going to smile, breathe and be fabulous. Thank you Brenda for sharing your journey and inspiring us to take better care of ourselves. 

Brenda will be working with some Year 7 pupils in the autumn term to develop mindfulness for children. I look forward to sharing the outcomes.

You can contact Brenda through her website


The Shazam Style of School Leadership

The Shazam Style of School Leadership

Have you ever heard a speaker, wrote something down and implemented the suggested practice?

You have? You are an educational shazamer!

Shazam is a well known music app. It is widely used to find the names of songs and artists. For my talk for @EduFestNI. I decided that I would use this concept of Shazam to describe leadership styles.

You see for me leadership and learning, go hand in hand.

You need to understand pedagogy and keep up to date with it. You need to draw from the leadership experience of others and Shazam the good stuff. When you Shazam the right song you can fill the dance floor and sometimes get people moving without realising it.

As a teacher nothing made me happier than walking into a colleague’s classroom and seeing a good idea. I enjoyed reading Blogs, Twitter and Pinterest to see wall displays, hear new innovative practice and Shazam ideas.

As with Leadership you need to Shazam you need to keep abreast of what is happening in other schools locally and globally. It refreshes you and most of all it gives a feeling of reassurance that you are heading in the right direction.

During my talk, I talked about leadership styles and much more. I recommended several books to Shazam.  Most are fairly publications new but great thought provoking reads for teachers and school leaders.

These are:

The Best Job in the World – Vic Goddard

The art of standing out – Andrew Morrish

The Five Love Languages – Appreciation in the work place – Gary Chapman (A further blog post on Five Love Languages will follow in the Autumn)

Confident Teacher – Alex Quigley

Leadership matters – Andy Buck

Headstrong – Dame Sally Coates

As a school leader it is easy to get caught up in the everyday events of school and be so busy developing others you forget about your own professional development – so recharge and enjoy the music of other schools and leadership experience every and now again.

So before term starts, SHAZAM to develop your teaching or your leadership. You will be richer for it.





A lesson from the Euros…Dare To Dream… effort+belief=success

Since the 10 June, I have been enjoying every ounce of the Northern Ireland #daretodream hashtag as a school leader.

Since the Euros started our pupils have enjoyed a range of activities. They have been busy designing new football kits and writing letters of advice to the manager Michael O’Neill. We enjoyed a Northern Ireland Feast and had a Euro Shirt day for charity. The primary language of the school has been French for the past three weeks. A French cafe is in operation every break time, ran by an efficient Year 2 class. Several new football songs have been composed and the school flag is on tour in Paris.

For every match the team has played, we’ve sang a Northern Ireland song instead of one of our traditional assembly choruses. The whole school has even enjoyed doing the bouncy on the front lawn.  The mood in school has been great. The staff and children have been jubilant in their celebrations. Our parents have engaged with the whole spirit of our activities and shared many of our activities proudly on social media.

As an inclusive school, we also have noted the success of other teams in the Euros too, as we have children from Poland, Portugal, France and the Republic of Ireland.

For me the best part has been the #daretodream assemblies.

I have based all our assemblies over the past couple of weeks on this hashtag. I have focused the children on the fact that they too can dare to dream. I have talked about all sorts of football analogies. I’ve applied them to school life and our school values. The support staff has even started to attend, one even said that if her school assemblies where more like that when she was at school she would have went more often.

The highlight for me has been a dad who just happened to be former N. Ireland International Goal Keeper who volunteered to come in and talk to the pupils in assembly on Monday morning. He explained that whilst we can all dare to dream unless we believe in ourselves and work hard you cannot achieve our dreams.

It reminded me of the work of Matthew Syed. He writes that in order to be the best at anything you need 10,000 hours of practice. Without effort, challenge and belief you will not succeed. Talent, he believes is a myth without it.

Every endeavour pursed with passion produces a successful outcome, regardless of the result. For it is not about the winning or losing -rather, the efforts put forth in producing the effort.

M. Syed

In today’s modern world, I feel that our children expect success and instant gratification for little effort. I found it extremely humbling to hear one of our school dads and former pupil of a local school, telling my pupils that his success was down to his effort and belief in himself to reach the top.

Win, lose or draw regardless of whatever team you support. The biggest lesson we need to teach our pupils through the Euros; is that not one footballer got there on talent alone. They got there by working hard. We need to encourage our pupils to believe in their abilities and help them to fulfil their potential.