Back to school blues?…Surely not! You are a change maker, a nation builder … You are a teacher!

On Wednesday, our pupils returned and  whilst I stood in front of them in assembly I couldn’t help thinking how blessed I am to be a teacher. 

As our first assembly started, the pupils all filed in, they sat in rows, wearing their smart new uniforms, I stood up and actually found myself feeling quite emotional. You may think this sounds slightly gushy but standing in front of them renewed my commitment to do the very best for them. As they all waited for me to speak, their smiling eyes reminded me that with teaching and with headship comes with much responsibility. 

The powers that be trust me to to care, nurture and educate them but more than that, they want me to do my upmost to ensure my pupils fulfil their potential.  

As a started to speak and reinforce the school values, I realised once again, that they trust me too. 

So whether your a school leader, a teacher or a teaching assistant…

Remember… Our young people need you to be the best you can be in the classroom, to come ready to make every day count. For some you, you will be a role model, the whisper of encouragement and the builder of self esteem. 

You have the power to make every young person feel like they matter. You have scope to develop dispositions that can change the world. 

So don’t have the back to school blues… Think positivity about the impact you can make as you shape the thinking and attitudes of the young minds who will, in the future, lead our society. 

Be a change maker… be a nation builder… Let’s make a difference this new school year.

Hero or Hero Maker 

An extract from my #niedcamp keynote … I said a whole lot more but I’ll skip to the good bits. 

  Photo courtesy of Alistair Hamill 

It has been a long standing joke that I wear my pants over my trousers, like many superheroes gone before me. To be honest initially I enjoyed the compliment until I thought about how ridiculous it would look if I trooped into school dressed in such a manner. 

But it did make me think.

Roland Barth comments

‘The best principals are not heroes; they are hero makers’

I have reflected on this for some time. My background is in school improvement and curriculum support – I quite liked the idea that I had swooped in to assist someone’s educational disaster. Being a hero was fun, I was quite good at it. 

I felt I footed the bill, I had some true heroic qualities – I have great courage, I am extremely caring, I could demonstrate selflessness and could show patience – I thought I was truly the hero of the hour at times. 

In my first leadership post, I soon realised that I could not be the hero full time. Fire fighting the day to day issues is pretty exhausting as for wearing the pants over my trousers – I looked ridiculous! 

I quickly realised that I needed to look at the people around me to see who I could develop to become a potential leader and ultimately assist me to fight against another school day. 

In order to become a hero maker, I knew I had to make modifications. I had to be like a radiator and be a better role model.

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others 

Jack Welch

  1. Lead by example – not only in management but by demonstrating that I understood my superhero power – teaching. Pedagogy shouldn’t be your kryptonite. Not knowing your craft makes you weak.
  2. Believe in teamwork. I love the leadership example of Sir Dave Brailsford and his belief in the concept of building successful teams. I shared this clip from investors in people about his five top tips for outperformance
  3. Mentor and coach my colleagues make them podium people.
  4. Motivate the staff by celebrating success and rewarding them when possible
  5. Relationships at all levels are vital to the hero maker. No one wants to work with someone who displays mushroom management qualities i.e they get covered in manure and when they have an idea if they mention it they risk getting their head chopped off! Promote colleagiality.
  6. Inspire others through my enthuasim – if you show you not care you will create that culture. Make the little things count. Remember you create the weather and influence the temperature in the staff room.
  7. Have a vision not for the here and now but for the future.
  8. Don’t forget the children and young people in your care are tomorrow’s heroes – in everything you do at school make them your focus. Your staff will see your moral purpose shines through if you put the kids first. 

Remember a hero says “go” and a hero maker says “let’s go”

Be the Nation Builders – teachers matter #niedcamp

A few people asked me to type up what I said when I opened @niedcamp on Tuesday 18 August.  

I’ve left my initial introductions, thanks and the boring housekeeping bits out. Photo courtesy of Alistair Hamill

I believe you are the change makers in Education. Our tag line for #niedcamp was one day to make a difference. I believe you are the people who will make the differences to our young people. You are the change makers.

I recently read a blog from the United States by the Secretary of State for Education, A Duncan. In it he states:

Teachers are our nation builders—the strength of every profession in our country grows out of the knowledge and skills that teachers help to instill in our children.

Northern Ireland has moved on and we must move on knowing that their future is our future. 

Today, I want to remind you that for our pupils education is in the here and now. In the words of Ken Robinson’s words – the first 18 years matter… They aren’t a rehearsal. Every day in your school counts. 

We as teachers have a responsibility to teach to the highest possible standard in order to ensure our children and our children’s children have the knowledge, dispositions and skills to equip them for the unknowns of the future. 

The work of Carol Dweck reminds us that we too can grow our mindsets.  

So use today to develop yourselves, to share what is happening in your schools, to network with your colleagues and to celebrate all that is good in N. Ireland’s schools.

You have one day to make a difference – ready, steady, grow…

Be professionally empowered by #niedcamp. 

It’s on my Radar – a visit to a new interactive safety and life skills resource 

Sometimes I moan a bit about how tax payer money is used but the creation of @Radar in Belfast is one of the best ideas I’ve seen in a long time. 

  On my approach to the venue, I saw the most horrific scene of a car crash and it was with great intrepidation that I entered the building! I was warmly greeted by Stephen and Craig who took time to show me round.

Radar is the first interactive safety and life zone learning environments in Northern Ireland. The vision of the PSNI, it is truly a jewel in the crown for educators, community groups and others wishing to promote well being and preventative education. 

Walking around the centre this morning, I was amazed by the amount of real life facilities that pupils can interact with. RADAR boasts a full sized street scene, with a house, bus, train, court room, prison cell, shop, police station, boat and much more.  

I was able to see range of everyday risks like water, fire, and electrical safety. I also had the opportunity to drive a car and have a deepened understanding of dangers that can be faced even when approaching traffic lights. 

I even learned quite a bit myself regarding house dangers, some 4000 serious injuries occur in N. Ireland homes. Some happen as a result of fires. The bedroom scene advised by the Fire and Resue Service truly brought home the importance of talking about escape plans. 

The planned programmes for Key Stage 2 and around drugs and alcohol, anti social behaviour, and e-safety will have a huge impact on society. The promise of people living with the aftermath of accidents or people who’ve committed a crime talking to young people is fairly hard hitting. I am in no doubt that this experiential approach is something that no young person visiting will forget. 

The success of preventative education can be hard to measure but the folk at Radar are confident it will have a positive effect. So much so that a longitudinal study by the University of Ulster has been commissioned to assess the impact that this will have on future generations. 

With over 50 partners this is a resource that is going to have a huge impact on the children of Northern Ireland. Many public and private sector businesses are supporting this sound initiative and I know it will be a great success when it opens. 

I certainly will be signing our pupils up!  

For more info see 

RADAR is Northern Ireland’s first fully interactive, safety and life skills education centre. Opening in September 2015, RADAR is interactive, informative and fun. RADAR enables young people to explore dangerous situations in a risk free setting. RADAR has been designed to inspire, engage and inform young people on how best to keep themselves safe. It’s a ground-breaking and innovative way to educate children and young people.

Shared Economy – A teaching perspective 

I’ve a lot of very random thoughts at the moment mainly in preparation for niedcamp but I am totally captured by the thought of the concept of shared economy. 

For those who have no idea what shared economy is please take a few moment to view The People Who Share website. 

I love this whole concept that people freely give. They share what they have; their physical or human resources. I’m no economist but in an age of educational austerity, I think this is something we as educationalists can develop.

As a school leader, I have been somewhat lured into a very foolish thought, that I am competing with local schools to ensure my school is the biggest and the best. Yes, it is important that my students get access to the highest standard of teaching and learning but I think some are missing the bigger picture.

The reality is, our schools should develop the shared economy to ensure all pupils regardless of the school they attend have the biggest and best access to resources both physical and human. 


Deploying the concept of the shared economy to education would lead to further collaboration and ensure the richness of resources is shared equally throughout our schools. 

In Northern Ireland, we have a Shared Education model, area learning communities and the Key Stage 3 Literacy and Numeracy project which are starting to develop and embed this type of collaboration. 

The impetus on schools is to adopt the bottom up approach to CPD. The demise of DE directed style of training has led to schools developing trusted colleague networks and professional groups of teachers coming together to devise their own CPD.

I’m excited and nervous about speaking at niedcamp but I know I will be contributing in my own way to develop a shared economy of CPD.