The BETT Show 2016 featuring UKFEchat’s ‘Staying motivated’

Several months ago I was approached by Sarah Simons (founder and ‘matron’ of UKFEchat) and asked if I would participate in a discussion panel for the 2016 BETT Show. Obviously I said yes without any hesitation. This was going to be the first time Further Education was being represented at this famous event.

I have been fortunate to be able to contribute to all three UKFEchat eBooks, and it was the second one (Staying Motivated) BETT wished us to discuss at the event. Despite them giving us the ‘graveyard shift’ (5pm to 6pm) on that mild January afternoon it did not matter to us. The fact that we had the recognition of being of interest was enough. Slowly our merry UKFEchat band are being acknowledged as maybe having something worth saying, and more importantly worth listening to.

The four questions asked to David Patterson, Nicky Hawkins, Patrice Miller and myself were as follows –

  1. What are the biggest barriers to staying motivated for FE and skills professionals
  2. How do you give yourself a motivational kick up the rear?
  3. What are the most successful strategies to unite and energise a team which has lost its enthusiasm?
  4. How do you combat a case of the CBA (can’t be arsed) for students?

Some of my responses were –

  1. Limited time due to so much of it being spent on retention and achievement, which causes far more administration work. In turn this impacts on quality time spent on teaching and learning, which means the opportunities to develop classroom resources are put to the ‘back burner’. Also the humble Lecturer 1 role is becoming more demanding.
  2. Chatting to other teachers on Twitter, especially UKFEchat can help motivate you and you can get great teaching advice and ideas too. The students when they have those ‘lightbulb moments’, staff room banter and the realisation that if I did any other job I would be bored to tears.
  3. Cakes, biscuits, my sweet drawer. CPD that is decided and done by us, not imposed on us. Emails, face to face talks from SLT team on how well we are doing and actually remembering to thank us for going above and beyond when covering staff sickness and having last minute tasks thrown at us for the sake of precious data crunching…
  4. Humour rather than raging red faces and finger wagging, class competitiveness and maybe a few sweets.

What I personally took away from this event is that the twenty or so crowd (next year it will double I’m sure!) of FE professionals all clearly felt the same way. In that I mean the small things help keep us motivated, and that being part of a supportive staff team is vital for survival in the world of teaching. Not everyone is in a supportive team and that is where things can really pull you down.

So a message to SLT, check your staff rooms!

#Nurture 15/16


I’ve sort of done this in my last blog, but I thought I’d best check out what I said in Nurture 14/15. Don’t worry I’ll keep it brief!


  1. I sort of managed ‘me time’. It generally happened in the wee small hours of the morning. Usually whilst staring at the bedroom ceiling thinking about everything and anything.
  2. The development of online learning resources (in response to FELTAG) have been done. However some things definitely need changing. I have quite a few students who struggle with independent learning. Possibly because they struggled to stay in school and spent most of it in PRU’s? Not sure, but I’ll save that for another blog.
  3. I’ve had a great time at various #UKFEchat events. Most memorable are the TES FE Awards, Ofsted and the first #UKFEchat conference.
  4. My daughter is at the secondary school she and I hoped for and loving it.
  5. I continue to engage with twitter and have attended several educational events.


  1. Progress ‘me time’ to being actually during the day and not sat staring at walls thinking about work etc…
  2. Look at changing the content of the online learning resources. This will involve a discussion with the students concerned.
  3. Continue to attend the #UKFEchat events and contribute to the weekly discussion forums.
  4. Keep my daughter on track with her school work (she has a lazy streak).
  5. As last year, I will continue to engage with twitter and I am already booked in for Primary Rocks in March and Northern Rocks in June.



Thanks to @ChocoTzar for starting the Nurture posts back in 2013.

Thanks to Sarah Simons (@MrsSarahSimons) for all the great stuff she does for FE with #UKFEchat. Also for being a great friend.

Thanks to my good friend @cherrylkd for being my conference buddy, beer buddy, natter buddy, cheer up buddy…The list is endless!

Thanks to @sezl for letting me be part of her 50 before 50 challenge. Also thanks for making me laugh a lot at your wonderful humour on and off twitter.

There are many more I could thank for keeping me sane throughout the year, but I’ll shut up now. You all know who you are.


It has been a tough old term.


The festive holidays are upon us and I swear I could almost hear a synchronized sigh of relief from teachers all over the land!

So how was your term? Mine was tough and I’m writing this for selfish reasons. I want to just pour out my little soul about this term. It’s been tough for a number of reasons. So much so that I drafted my resignation in my head at least fifty times. I’ve never felt so low about education and more particularly with Further Education.

  • Everything seems to be needed to be done months before it should be and a million times faster!
  • Teachers are so busy doing admin work that little time is left for focusing on quality teaching and learning.
  • Yet again we are being given a list of what Ofsted wants and some colleges are still insisting on grading internal observations.
  • Students and staff have struggled with the maths and English agenda of the government and we are all at our wits end with it all. I have touched on why here.
  • Finally there is little money for FE and therefore retention and achievement is even more important than ever. This is leading to some teachers values and beliefs being pushed over the edge.

With all this going on my own personal health has impacted on my feelings towards teaching. It would seem early menopause is not much fun when teaching. It is extremely hard teaching when you feel like you are about to combust with internal rage over your board marker not working, or that you are about to physically melt infront of your students. Unfortunately it seems to bugger up your hormones and leave you feeling like Jekyll and Hyde.

At the October break I focused on my family and made sure I didn’t look at work emails or take work home with me. I did take part in the first UKFEchat conference however (see here). The combination of both actually helped lift me out of my negative slump towards teaching. Slowly I managed to talk myself out of being a shop assistant and all other daft ideas I had. As for the health issue, I’m just going to have to ride the storm, as so many other women do.

So what will I do to get through the next term?

  • I will continue to ignore college emails out of office time.
  • I will strive to do all planning and marking at college, not home.
  • I will keep most weekends for my family and friends.
  • I will go to the local pub more with @cherrylkd
  • I will attend Primary Rocks, ReseachEd, Northern Rocks and hopefully another UKFEchat conference (these events are great to help boost my motivation for teaching and learning).
  • I will learn to play the piano.
  • I will get a dog (the cats will get over it).
  • I will reduce the amount of crap I eat at college. Sweets and crisps are not a staple diet.

I think that will do for now. Merry Christmas to you all.


The #UKFEchat Conference 

After many months of planning, Sarah Simons finally stood at the podium in the main conference room giving her opening speech to the #UKFEchat delegates. David Patterson and myself continued to register the delegates and guest speakers (I had the privilege of hearing her emotionally charged speech the night before). We were unsure how the day would go or even if enough people would turn up. One of our worst fears was that we would have more speakers than guests! Thankfully we didn’t. Over a hundred people came from various Further Education and Adult Learning sectors. All with varying levels of experience, expertise and interests.

Click here to see who was speaking on the day to give you a taste of what went on.

I myself had the opportunity to chair the Strength in Unity panel, this is something that has been a particular interest of mine for sometime (see here). The panel comprised of Lou Mycroft (Tutor Voices), Tim Weiss (Education Training Foundation), Andrew Harden (UCU) and Professor Angela McFarlane (College of Teachers). Despite feeling immensely nervous in their presence, I pulled myself together and introduced the panel and then asked the following three questions –

  1. What is the value of being part of a membership group within the FE and Skills sector in light of the changing landscape?
  2. Policy is set for the next five years, what is the best position the sector could be in five years time?
  3. You have all said how your individual organisation can support the Further Education and Skills sector. How can we leverage the best impact from your collective works?

Each answered the questions in such a positive way and it was very clear all wanted the best for FE/ALS. Furthermore it was apparent that each wished to work together collaboratively rather than separately. After the discussion panel had finished the panellist continued to speak to one another and I was left with the feeling that I was witnessing the start of something big. There will be a podcast of this soon on the #UKFEchat website.

Later on I was able to unchain myself from deputy matron duties and attend the final session, which was the Ofsted debate chaired by Stephen Exley. The main message that came across for me, was that Ofsted want us to stop feeling like we have to jump through hoops when they arrive. It was clear from what Dr Matt O’Leary and Paul Joyce (HMI) said that poor management strategies were to blame for the stress caused by graded lesson observations. Some SMT’s will use graded lesson observations as a basis to judge performance and will use it to also get rid of underperforming staff. Hence why some refuse to stop grading. However Ofsted will not insist on colleges stopping their internal graded lesson observations. They want colleges to have autonomy on this. Perhaps then what we need is for the colleges that are not grading internally to help the colleges that are. Hopefully they can help them see the real benefits of not doing so and the impact it could have on staff moral and teaching and learning. See here for more insight into the debate.

It has been an absolute honour to have been asked to help out along with some of the other regular #UKFEchatters. The whole buzz from the day was incredible. I’m still reliving it now in my head.

There will be presentations, podcasts and photos coming soon to the #UKFEchat website from the day, keep a look out!

Finally a big thank you again to our sponsors City & Guilds, TES, Education Training Foundation and Toshiba.

Had a bad lesson?

If you haven’t had a bad lesson then that’s great and quite frankly remarkable. For the rest of you I recommend you read the new #UKFEchat book. It is packed full of further education teachers disastrous lesson experiences. More importantly they (myself included) also share what they learnt from these testing lessons.

UKFEchat 3 Cover

To get your copy simply click on this link – #UKFEchat and download for free!

Huge thanks to Sarah Simons, Iain Simons, City & Guilds and TES for making this third book possible.

Help my GCSE results were rubbish!


Not getting the right GCSE results does not mean your life is over. If I had thought like that in 1988 I wouldn’t be writing this now! This September I will be teaching level one students (students that through a variety of reasons have not achieved the GCSE grades they had hoped for). There will be a range of challenges this year for these particular students. The focus within the classroom for them will not only be on building up their confidence academically, but finding ways to help them determine what career path to choose.

The thing that has struck a chord with me during August enrolment this year, is seeing the clear disappointment (and for some embarrassment) of not achieving those C or above grades.  A particular moment comes to mind whilst I was enrolling a young lady who refused to make eye contact and grunted the odd word to my questions. Her parents were sat either side of her trying to cajole her and point out the positives. I carried on talking directly to her about the course and how better English and maths grades could be achieved. I then talked about the future once completing the year-long course. What seemed like an eternity to gain a glimmer of eye contact was actually only five minutes. Eventually with my incessant positivity and examples of past student successes, I finally gained eye contact and the grunting stopped and a smile returned to her face. My heart went out to her and in truth I saw a reflection of myself in 1988.

We can call level one courses all sorts of things but most students just see it as the boobie prize, and liken it to their schools bottom set classes. So with this in mind during last weeks induction I worked hard on focussing on how this year will help these students. I talked about ways they could get their English and maths grades up and what potential careers paths they could take with the right qualifications. I suppose you could say we built a sort of plan, one that at present looks more like one of those maze puzzles, but a plan nonetheless.

I appreciate that some of these students achieved low grades primarily down to their poor behaviour and attendance. However this is not the case for all and even if that was the case, you have to ask yourself why were they like that? Everybody deserves a second chance.