A bbc Interview with Simon Kidwell @simonkidwell

Welcome to the next #bbcinterview with Simon Kidwell @simonkidwell
Please introduce yourself...

My name is Simon Kidwell, I'm the Headteacher at Hartford Manor Primary, I also work for Cheshire West as an Associate School Improvement Advisor, and I'm the Branch Secretary for Cheshire NAHT. I grew up in Stoke and have spent my career teaching across Staffordshire, Cheshire and Stoke-on-Trent.

What made you become a teacher?

My friend's son Joe.
Richard and Caroline were my best friends at University and still are gorgeous and valued friends. When I met their son, Joe, I and hadn't much idea what I was going to do with life post-University. I had little contact with younger children growing up, as my sister and close cousins are all of a similar age, and always thought that if I did go into teaching, it would be as secondary maths specialist; however, I had an epiphany when I realised that I could communicate with this four-year-old. Subsequent evenings spent reading Mr Men Books sealed the deal.  I applied to Keele University for a PGCE and have enjoyed the last 24 years immensely.


What is your favourite part of the job?

Every year I block out time to join year 5 and Year 6 on their Lake District and London residential visits. Accompanying children and staff on residential visits is a privilege. I return from these visits re-energized and full of admiration for the work of our fantastic staff and children.

Those moments seeing children outside of school in a different environment are so important.

What has been best thing you have done at work this year?

Learning First Chester.
After attending the inspirational  #LearningFirst Conferences. I worked with colleague Headteacher, Andy Moor @amoor4ed , and Alison Peacock's wing woman, the tireless Julie Lilly @JulesLilly,  to bring the caravan of educational love, #LearningFirst to Chester. A room full of Galacticos of the educational world gave up their time, pro bono, and we had the most "learningful" day with 200 plus educators. The cherry on the cake for me was the attendance of our Chair of Governors, ten of our teachers and six of our children, sharing their pupil research at a workshop.


Again, so important to hear pupil voice. Sometimes it´s easy to forget their views on Education.

What is the most frustrating thing about teaching at the moment?

Punitive accountability. I'm not against assessment or the collection of quantitive data to help improve schools and pupil outcomes.  What I am against is the use of data to label children, and furthermore to punitively judge schools. Scaled scores should stand alone, and arbitrary damaging terms like age related expectations need to be binned. Floor standards and coasting measures are an another label that needs to assigned to Room 101 terrible educational ideas. The measure was introduced by Nicky Morgan and designed for a previous curriculum and assessment system.
Sean Hartford and the best inspectors use data to raise questions, and I would like to see the same principled approach applied across all RSCs, all LAs and all inspection teams.


What songs would be on your driving to work playlist?

I love music and try to get out to see live music as much as I can. I rediscovered the joy of small venues when my friend Mike was organising small unplugged events at his bike shop.
Back in February 2015 the headliner for the evening was Luke Jackson, a young singer songwriter from Kent. I'd spotted Luke earlier in the evening and assumed he was a teenage friend of Mike's daughter. He opened with an acapella version of his song Sister, and I was blown away by his vocals and presence. I've seen Luke at least six times since and I shout about his music whenever I get the opportunity. In January he tours the U.K. with Ed Sheeran's songwriting partner, the magnificent Amy Wadge. I recommend you get tickets if he's playing near you. Alongside Luke, on the playlist, I'd currently include  Kaleo, John Bramwell, Future Islands, Billy Bragg, Elbow and Amy Winehouse.


What is the funniest thing a child has ever said/written in your class?

It's not particularly funny, but it's one that sticks in mind. When I was working as a full time teaching Deputy, the school had a policy of keeping a behaviour book, and children whose names appeared in the book had to miss a proportion of their Golden Time. A long term supply was working in Year 3 and unfortunately used the book as her main classroom management strategy. One Friday when names were being read out a spirited year three pupil, with a keen sense of justice stood up, grabbed the book, tore it in half,  and proclaimed "this book is a source of misery for all children in this school". I'm still in contact the pupil. He has just graduated from Oxford, where he read PPE- a career in politics beckons.

Future Ed. Sec.?

What is your guilty pleasure?

After listening to the wonderful Sue Perkins interview on Desert Island Discs, I'm currently going through the back catalogue rediscovering the best show on the radio. Kirsty Young is a wonderfully warm and generous interviewer and brings out the best in her guests. Education and its power to shape people's lives is a recurring theme in all her interviews.

If you weren´t a teacher, what would you be and why?

A politician
Growing up in a coal mining family in the 1980s it was difficult not to be engaged in politics. Since I started teaching, I have been more of a political spectator; this was until last year when my political flame reignited. The reason for my re-engagement  was what Michael Tidd calls the dog's breakfast of primary assessment. At the 2016  NAHT Conference, I challenged the then Secretary of State, Nicky Morgan, to move away from a secure fit. She replied with a bland politicians answer. I earned short term notoriety and appeared in every National Paper and the second slot on The News At Ten when she labelled me a sexist for asking a follow-up question - ´Was she was in charge or Nick Gibb?´
The press coverage was mostly positive, and since then I have been invited to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Specific Learning Difficulties at Westminster, I have met Nick Gibb at Sanctuary House to discuss assessment reform, and I am now the Branch Secretary for NAHT Cheshire.


What are you passionate about (teaching-related or not)?

Mountains and big landscapes. Despite living in the plains of Cheshire, I'm passionate about mountains and their surroundings.  I've just returned from trekking the Laugavegur Trail in Iceland and have spent previous school holidays trekking in the Himalayas, Alps, Morrocco, North America and Scotland. Switching off in the holidays can be a problem for me, but there's nothing like trying to pitch a tent in volcanic dust storm to focus your mind away from school
Mountains also provide a powerful metaphor for school leadership. The writings of Joe Simpson, John Krakauer, Sir Edmund Hilary and James Rebanks continue to inspire.


Wow, didn´t know you were teaching´s answer to Sir Ranulph Fiennes!

If you had to pick one subject/topic to teach on a loop forever, what would it be?

I didn't enjoy History at school as it seemed to focus on isolated facts and dates, rather than how we should learn from the past. The reformation period and the relationship between Monarchy, The Church, and the people, is fascinating, and most importantly it gets children thinking about big ideas.

What is the most effective resource/technology/app you use in the classroom?

It's 12 years since I taught in the classroom on a regular basis and there are practitioners far better qualified to answer this question. However, regarding staff CPD and communication I have to opt for Twitter. All of our teachers tweet about the fantastic curriculum on offer at Hartford Manor. Many of our teachers engage with #PrimaryRocks #ReadingRocks and  #LearningFirst communities, and a large proportion of our teachers have attended weekend  Edu conferences. We are living in a golden age of communication; the democratisation of educational knowledge is transformational, and I urge all teachers to engage.

My practice has certainly exploded since I´ve started using it!

What is the most effective routine/method/system you use in the classroom?

A healthy balance between teacher and pupil talk. The very best teachers engage their students as learning partners. They teach children to speak articulately about the learning process. Certain structures can promote student talk, but the key is honest and trusting classroom relationships.

If you had to pick 4 people (Twitter or otherwise) to invite to a dinner party who
would it be and why?

In Simon Smith´s recent interview he kindly said we recently had a dream dinner party line up at my house back in May. Pie Corbett @PieCorbett Simon Smith @smithsmm , Ed Finch @MrEFinch and Jack Brown @jack_m_brown were present that evening. However,  in the interests of gender balance, I would like to invite four inspirational female educators to join us.

Alison Peacock is a force of nature. What she achieved at Wroxham, #LearningFirst and now the Chartered Colledge is remarkable. She is the standard bearer for teachers across the country, and I am proud to know her. Alongside @AlisonMPeacock I would like to invite the irresistible Ros Wilson. Her tales from her time as a secondary teacher and Bernard the B******d and would have us all in stitches. Next, to @rosBIGWRITING I would have the magnificent  
Mary Myatt @MaryMyatt. Her style, wit and clarity around leadership and learning are second to none. Finally, I would invite Justine Greening. She has made a promising start in her first year as Secretary of State and is proving to be a good listener. With all the brilliant educational minds around the table, I'm sure we could solve 95% of educational problems.


What is the best and worst advice you have been given as a teacher?

Mick Brookes, former Primary Headteacher and General Secretary of the NAHT,  told me that he was proud that when he Headteacher he wasn't the best teacher in his school. This thought has stayed with me in my 12 years as a Head. I believe my role is to enable all the teachers in our school to be a better teacher than I ever was.

The worst advice- 15-15-20-10 punctuated with some brain gym!


Final Question: What drives you as a teacher?

Enabling staff to the best they can be.

If you could choose one person who you´d love to have the bbc interview treatment, who would it be and why?

Alison Peacock. I am fascinated how she made the from journey class teacher to one of the most respected and authentic voices in education.


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