Thursday, 26 October 2017

School Cyber Attack Danger

Schools are not safe from cyber attacks. Here's a bit of information about one we experienced recently:

So, everything was normal. No sign of anything going wrong. Then, on a teacher's computer, during a lesson, the mouse began moving around 'by its self'. Computer shut down, taken off the network and checked. No sign of what was going on. Then, another machine experienced a similar issue and someone experienced it in their own home too.

We took the site offline so that we were no longer connected to the outside world. While offline, we changed passwords, reset settings and checked over the network and servers. All appeared to be ok, so we went back online. But, within hours of being back online, we experienced the same issues again.

So, again we took everything offline and if laptops went off site, they were kept offline too. This time, some passwords had been changed, parts of the servers altered and laptops taken control of. 

Over a year on, we don't know who was responsible. Nothing, as far as we know, was taken and nothing damaged, and no money was requested. It would appear that the person responsible used the school's network as an area to play and try things out.

We changed all passwords, wiped and re-setup all computers and then went back online. Since, (fingers crossed) all has been ok. However, from the experience, here are a few things we learned:

- Keep software up-to-date. One of the ways in was through an old, unpatched OS;

- Apple computers are susceptible to attack. Our Mac system was attacked, not the Windows system;

- Don't use one admin password across your network. Have different passwords for different hardware/systems;

- Set up users as standard users and have separate admin accounts that can be accessed and used by those who need to;

- Store passwords somewhere secure on paper - not on part of the network;

- Create passwords using a password generator;

- Keep a system backup off site (even if it involves the administrator carrying the discs its on home);

- Don't assume you're not a target;

- Check and double check what's being installed and by whom;

- Don't just give access to the full network - how much access do mobile devices need? pupils? visitors?

All things we should have known? Probably. We're now far more aware of the dangers. This incident was mostly just inconvenient for a few months while we sorted it out, but it could have been worse. Police were involved, many technical people came in to assist, but, as we said, we never found the root of the issue. We don't want it to happen again...

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

PosteRazor Data

Looking at data, or any information about groups, cohorts or whole school, on pieces of paper? Why not stick it up on the wall? Large.

We recently did and it helped look at it in a different light, as a group, pointing at things - stepping forwards and backwards. In addition to on-screen and printed A4 paper.

How did we do it? The paper copies that were to be handed out to those at the meeting were also saved as picture files and enlarged with the program 'PosteRazor'. They were printed, put together and stuck on the wall.

It worked quite well. They stayed on the wall for a while too, to allow us to keep glancing at it.

PosteRazor that data (and more fun and engaging things)...

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Changing Behaviour from @UKEdMag

In September 2017, we wrote about behaviour systems for #UKEdChat's monthly magazine:

To read the full article, and the rest of the magazine, click here.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Eat Your Lunch Early

We're programmed as teachers to stick to timetables. Rigid break, lunch and lesson times. As a new office-based leader, I often found lunch and break times being interrupted. 

Why? Well, behaviour issues, but it's also when I can talk to colleagues and they can come and find me. Solution? Make myself a cuppa and eat my piece of fruit just before break (I stick the kettles on for everyone at the same time too). Also, eat my lunch just before lunchtime. For me, food is really important. I soon lose energy if I don't have it. I get some funny looks when I'm eating at the ‘wrong time’, but I can cope with that!

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Early Morning Media

Do you and your school leaders keep on top of education news? If you think a summary 362 days a year delivered to your inbox would be useful, this is for you...

Early Morning Media provide a service called Head Lines, "Our editors bring together the best news, views and comment from the national media of interest to education professionals.  Subjects covered daily include primary schools, secondary schools, Ofsted, the curriculum, government policy and opinion and comment."

Image credit: 

Importantly, the annual subscription covers any number of recipients within a single school.

To trial, go here. We've shared, as we find this a rather useful service our school subscribes to.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Soft Starts

Some time ago, we noticed that on rainy mornings, we were having a calmer and more productive start to the school day. On a 'normal day': children arrive on playground, teacher goes out on duty and at the allocated time, blows a whistle to indicate everyone should come inside. On a 'rainy day': all doors opened 15 minutes before 'school start' so that pupils and parents wouldn't get too wet - teachers on duty required to go out to say that the doors are open.

So we started a little trial with the Year Five pupils. We invited them to sign up to come into school slightly earlier and 'get on with some learning' if they wished to. About half the year group did and it worked well. This then carried on as a rather informal arrangement with children allowed to come in early if they wished to read or change a book. 

In the autumn of 2016, we watched a webinar (See video at 23:35) organised by Whole Education. In that webinar, the term 'Soft Start' was used and this is what we chose to adopt for our change in how the school day would begin. We discussed it as an SLT. Year Heads took it back to their teams. Finally, we discussed it as a whole staff; raising issues, resolving them and identifying the process. 

There were many issues raised: parents following children in, teacher 'teaching time' being extended, fire regulations and more...

Here is what we have done:

At 08:35, a door is unlocked by a member of SLT. This is the door all children (yes, all 480) must enter through. The member of SLT stays there to welcome children and talk to parents if required.

At 08:45 all children should be in their classrooms and the register is taken. As a record of who is in the building, the children move their name on an 'Present/Not Present' board in their classroom as they enter.

At, or before 08:55 the teacher should be able to begin their first lesson.

That's it.


Some parents thought we'd moved the start of the school day. No, still expected at the same time.

Some children have required reminders to 'come in and get on' independently.

Some Y6 pupils initially took to hanging around outside school as opposed to coming in. 


On assembly days, everyone is now in the hall about 10 minutes earlier!

Children are allowed a bit of gossip and catch-up time as they unpack in the extra ten minutes they have.

We have gained learning time.

Less parents are interrupting teachers at the start of the day.

Members of SLT greet children and parents.

Many classes put out a task to be done that can help out a discussion or task later in the day.

The late children really stand out and can be spoken to about time keeping.

It really could not have gone any better. There has been the odd thing to iron out. Like, in hot weather, children finding an open door at 08:20! But, those have all been sorted. We will continue next year. All year groups, and adults in our KS2 have coped with this and we know of primaries who do similar in every year group.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Lesson Observation Privilege

Day-to-day, I hear and see wonderful things going on around the school. Also, learning walks offer an insight into practice. But, a lesson observation, seeing the entire lesson, gives a special insight. As a senior leader, it's a privilege to be able to go into colleagues' lessons and observe them and the children in that class at work.

Now, I'm observing colleagues, whom I work with and know are excellent teachers. I want their lesson to be a success. I want to see their best practice. I want to be able to give loads of good feedback. So, before the observation, I get a little nervous: for them! I don't want it all to go wrong. I don't want to have to come back. I want to be able to give loads of praise and a couple of pointers for how something could have been better. Also, I want to do my best to not get in their way, or the children's. I don't want to write too much, or too little. What if I frown at the wrong moment, smile too much or look away at a vital moment? It's a minefield! There's a possibility I'd rather be observed and observe (maybe).

In my experience, they've gone well. I've seen wonderful lessons, by excellent teachers and pupils who want to learn. I've been able to alter my own practices as a result, feedback to others about what they can learn from colleagues and get those observed to tell others about what they've been up to.  

It really is a privilege to come and observe another teacher teach. To see them at work, to learn from them and provide feedback. Remember, if you're a teacher, if I come to observe you, I'm (oddly) about as nervous as you are...

Friday, 14 April 2017

Give a Little Praise

In schools, we have a tendency sometimes to treat members of staff (colleagues) like the children. In the past I've received stickers, House Points, certificates and so on...

When a colleague is helpful, I often say to them, "Oh, give yourself 20 House Points". It's a bit of a joke and a bit light hearted; they have no where to record the house points, but it acknowledges my gratitude. 

In the past, Year Three children received marbles as a reward. When I wanted to thank a Year Three teacher, I sent a Year Three pupil to say thank you, with a marble for them - the pupils thought this was great!  

Now those certificates... I received my certificate of NQT induction in a whole school assembly, I've received attendance certificates at the same time as the children and other colleagues, and more recently I received (in a staff meeting) acknowledgement of my passing NPQSL. 

We often give each other stickers as a thank you or well done too. Many a time I've been in a shop or petrol station still wearing a 'Head Teacher's Award' or 'Brilliant' sticker. 

At times I've found this a little odd, but reflecting on it and now looking on it from a leadership perspective, we're not patronising each other, treating each other like children or 'being a bit silly', we're thanking and working with members of our team. It's important. We know how much the children value these things and use them to support and thank each other too.

Recently, I saw this Tweet:

So, the next day, I grabbed a handful of praise post cards and set off to find a child from each class. I asked the child to, 'Write something they wanted to thank their teacher for'. The comments were lovely. We sent them all out on a Thursday and they landed on most door mats on a Saturday morning. A nice surprise just over half way through the year. There was some mystery around how it happened for a little while and many teachers told me how much it meant.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Meeting Every Child

As a leader, how well do you know the children in your subject, year group or school? As a teacher, you spend 190 days in the company of your class and therefore get to know them quite well quite quickly.

However, as a leader, that's different: more children and not as regular contact. So, it's important to find a way to get to know them.

Our head runs weekly birthday celebration - on a particular day, those who have a birthday that week go along to receive a sticker and have a chat. The children think it's all about their birthdays (which of course it is), but it's also about seeing each child and getting to know them a little.

Something we've done, as assistant heads, is release each class teacher for a lesson to allow them extra planning time (important), but also, in turn, got to see each child in the school and teach in every classroom.

How well do you know each child?

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

On Friday 27th January 2017, we attended the BETT Show in London and Liam presented at the TeachMeet that followed.

He presented about how his classroom practice has developed since writing 'Shoes Off If You Love To Learn' during the autumn term. 

 Image Credit: @pamelaaobrien

Do you keep your shoes on in your own house? Do you always work on a chair at a desk? Where would you choose to sit and read? Does how comfortable you are affect your ability to learn?

There a times when children need to be sat at a desk. But, how's about offering them a little more freedom about how and where they work? And, do they need shoes on in class if they're more comfortable without them on?

UKEdChat kindly captured the talk here & here (from about 15:30).