Top 10 easy tips to start meditating

I know that it may feel like everyone is talking about meditation, but there could well be a good reason for that; it can change the way that your brain works, how you function, your emotions and how you value yourself.

With this in mind, I have put together 10 top tips that I hope will help inspire you to try some meditation:

1. Rid yourself of expectations

The best frame of mind for meditation is an open one. Allow yourself to experience every element of the practice without putting pressure on yourself to perform or think in a certain way. Every day you meditate is totally different which is why having a daily practice is the best way to feel its effects.

2. Give yourself time

To get into a daily routine, set aside 5 minutes of your day, every day, to meditate. No matter how busy or rushed you may feel, you can always find an extra 5 minutes or so that you can dedicate to ‘you’ time.

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3. Do what feels good for you

If sitting with your legs crossed is really uncomfortable, then there’s nothing saying you have to! This is all about finding time for yourself to find a position that works for you.

4. Don’t force it

A lot of people assume that when you meditate, you have to have a completely empty mind. Meditation is not about trying not to think, it is about being able to control your thoughts in the moment and bringing yourself back to the here and now when your mind wanders.

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5. Just breathe

Don’t worry about breathing deeply or softly, all of this will come with time and with the practice. All you need to make sure is that you don’t force your breath.

6. Use your imagination

Visualise your breath rising as you inhale and falling as you exhale. You will be surprised how much this will help you with your meditation and inner peace.

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7. Body Scan

If you are finding it difficult to get into the meditation, try to concentrate on relaxing one body part at a time. Start at your head, and move slowly down through your forehead, eyebrows and so on until you reach your toes. This also really helps if you are in bed and struggling to sleep.

8. Ground yourself

Focus your senses on how it feels to be standing or sitting on the ground, feeling the connection between you and the ground as you inhale. In reverse, when you inhale, imagine yourself floating away, light as a feather.

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9. Calming white light

A quick and effective way of instantly relaxing your body when it feels tense or anxious is to picture or imagine a stream of white light filling the body as you inhale and surrounding you as you exhale. You will feel the lightness fill your body and it will help give you a sensation of clarity and calm.

10. Try to make this a habit

As soon as you get into the daily practice of meditation you will see just how much of a difference it can really make to you. If you continue to do this day in, day out, it will no longer feel like a conscious effort but will feel like a natural part of your routine.

I would love to know how you get on if you start meditating and use these tips. The benefits of daily meditation are endless and I really believe you will start to love it just as much as me.


About our Community Expert


Kirsty Raynor

#TeachFit programme lead

Kirsty is a yoga teacher on a journey of empowerment, building confidence and pushing the boundaries of what traditional yoga is and can be.

She leads the TeachFit Yoga workshops in our partner schools.

What are Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)?

These can be experiences that directly harm a child (such as physical, verbal or sexual abuse, and emotional neglect) to those that affect the environment in which a child grows up (including parental separation, domestic violence, mental illness, alcohol abuse, or drug use). These experiences can have a negative impact on that child’s life experiences and health when they become an adult.

The term ACE came from a study that was conducted in Southern California from 1995 to 1997. Around 17,000 university educated people completed surveys about their childhood experiences, current health status and behaviours, and received physical examinations.

The findings of this research resulted in the development of the ‘ACE Pyramid’, which represents the link between childhood experiences, adult health and wellbeing outcomes:


Comparative studies were then conducted in the UK in 2012 & 2013 and found that there were similar links as in the U.S. to ACEs being strongly associated with negative behavioural, health and social outcomes for the people studied.

The 2013 study also found that almost half of the general population reported experiencing at least one ACE, with 8% identifying at least four (Bellis et al, 2014bc).

It is important to recognise, however, that there is a distinction between ‘normal’ stressful life events, such as parental divorce or illness of a loved one, and adverse childhood experiences which are very traumatic life events, such as being or seeing someone else physically or sexually abused. It is the latter experiences that will often be associated with post-traumatic stress disorder.

When exposed to stressful situations, the “fight, flight or freeze” response results in our brain producing hormones as part of a normal and protective response to danger. These hormones will usually subside once the stressful situation passes. However, when repeatedly exposed to ACEs, the hormone is continually produced, which results in the child remaining permanently in this heightened state of anxiety and unable to return to their natural relaxed and recovered state.

Children and young people who are exposed to ACEs, therefore, have increased and sustained levels of stress. They are unable to think rationally and it is physiologically impossible for them to learn or develop in the same way a child not having these experiences will; the more ACEs a child experiences the greater the chance of health and/or social problems in adulthood.

If a child discloses that they have experienced a traumatic experience there are things we can do to try and minimise the impact of those experiences. This includes:

  • Listening to the child’s experiences & think about how those experiences will have an impact on their healthy development and on their behaviours.
  • Recognise the signs, and don’t just think that the child is just misbehaving.
  • Try to help them become more grounded, give them choices and allow them to feel more in control.
  • Understand that it is likely this will have an impact on any attachment for that child and there will be mistrust. We need to try and build a relationship with the child that is different to ones they have experienced previously, or are currently experiencing.
  • It is important to remember that ACEs tend to be passed from generation to generation if parents do not receive support to reflect upon childhood stressors, and to explore how these may feed into current problematic behaviours and ongoing health issues, this, in turn, will impact on their ability to parent well.


About our Community Expert



Community Expert
As an experienced practitioner Child Protection, Safeguarding and Behaviour are key areas for much of Karen’s expertise and experience. She has been working with children, young people and adults for over 15 years in a multitude of settings which include dance and performing arts companies, local authorities, youth clubs, education and the welfare to work sector.

Karen’s main expertise is in safeguarding and behaviour management and modification strategies, with her most recent role being a national Safeguarding Lead. Karen has also been a school governor for nine years, two of which have been as Vice-Chair.

Karen has also run a behaviour unit (inclusive PRU) within an Academy and worked with the most disaffected students whose behaviour was disruptive who weren’t accessing the curriculum within the mainstream setting. She has and also worked with disaffected young people within a youth club, most of whom were at risk of permanent exclusion and carried out safeguarding audits whilst working for a multi-academy trust.

Managing Conflict in School Leadership Teams

Have you ever found yourself on the receiving end of a message like the above? I have. It hurts. It can be embarrassing or sometimes, it can be unexpected and offensive. When it comes to managing conflict, I’ve found myself in all types of situations as a receiver and as a giver, and how I manage these situations as a teacher and school leader has varied significantly throughout my career.

Such is the busy nature of school life, rarely are difficult conversations or conflicts of interest conducted in a climate where the process can move calmly or at a steady pace. Unless conversations are carefully engineered, individual thoughts and clarity for both the receiver and the giver as less likely to be well-managed and are likely to be emotive rather than logical.

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Safeguarding aside, what tends to happen in schools is that conversations are often conducted on their feet in corridors or constructed to be completed where both parties can meet together to discuss the issue before the next ‘school bell’ rings. In more serious cases, during the day or after-school hours are often best placed for serious investigations with various people and organisations in attendance to act as advisers and conduits of support for both parties, particularly when legal issues are involved and the implications are serious.

Once I received a difficult conversation as a teacher and I was supported by my union after a parent complaint. This was constructed during the school day when I had a free period. Naturally, I left the meeting feeling aggrieved but thankfully with very clear expectations. At the time and as a young teacher, I did not contemplate how difficult this conversation may have been for the person having to provide it. With hindsight, the person acting as my mediator provided an objective point which offered much-needed support and challenge.

However, I sometimes found myself in positions without support. Why? Well, as teachers we conduct countless conversations on our feet every day, with pupils parents and colleagues.

As with any school, incidents may be rare but sometimes unusual circumstances can unfold, such is the busy nature of school life.

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After the first three years of my career, I found myself working as a middle leader in charge of other teachers, leading a team of 13 members of staff in a large secondary school, supporting and challenging processes, thoughts and decisions as well as managing my own workload. It was highly rewarding, exhausting and challenging.

After seven years, as a new school leader, I suddenly found moving from a position where I was a leader of a small group of staff to being partly-responsible for all 200 staff and 1,500+ pupils. As one would expect, the shifting responsibility was dramatic and under strong leadership from Head Teacher, various difficult conversations were delegated according to need, time and personality.

What causes conflict?

In an educational setting, a conflict might be defined as ‘challenging’ for many reasons. Therefore it is important that every leader has a good definition of the type of behaviours that lead to a challenging situation, not only with pupils but with adults also.

When conflict does occur, a clear definition should be used to offer support to the people involved, and this and is likely to follow suit with professional Teachers’ Standards or the school’s code of conduct for employees. Generally, these rules follow typical human being attributes, but within the profession, there are specific details that will align with, for example, competency, professionalism and safeguarding.


Whatever situation you find yourself in, and I too have found myself receiving and managing a difficult conversation as a school leader, it’s very unlikely that the person leading the conversation will have had any formal training in managing difficult conversations.

The first time is always a steep learning curve, so it is critical to have a dress rehearsal to ensure the conversation is clear, objective and that you adhere to the facts. Most importantly, the person involved leaves with clear expectations and a potential resolution or consequence.

It is a really important process to get right, so below I’ve offered 7 tips to help get you prepared and in the right frame of mind.

Positional Power

The role of leadership brings with the position, positive and negative territory. Knowledge is power, but so is it positional and monetary. Often school leaders find themselves in two of these three positions in terms of power status.

They are is often the source of all knowledge – or at mostly perceived to know the answers – and they also have the positional power to be able to make decisions. In toxic school cultures, this status can be threating to the workforce, whereas in environments in which teachers thrive, potential difficult conversations, although they may still happen, are less frequent.


With this positional power comes the responsibility to eradicate poor behaviour in adults, but also minimise the risks. It is for this reason that I’ve always argued that leaders need to build their potential to become a ‘problem finder’, not just a ‘problem solver’.

Another way of looking at this is the glass half full, half-empty scenario. I’d like to consider myself someone who has a glass half full perspective on life, but I would clearly accept the others viewed my approach as a glass half empty stance.

For this reason, constantly looking for problems, gaps in knowledge or strategy ensure that schools, teachers and school leaders can be the best that they can be by adopting an approach in which one looks for potential issues prior to before they arrive, rather than solving them after they have come to fruition.

The nature becoming a problem finder is that you often seek out potential issues and have to deal with them. Equally, in the role of a school leader, you can find yourself acting more often as a problem solver. Whether this is solving other people’s problems, picking up issues that have been missed, or acting as a mediator between two or more other people.

Critically, how these conversations are conducted is what matters most. As the saying goes, people don’t often remember what you say, but they remember how you make them feel. So it is my conclusion, after 20 years of delivering difficult conversations and very high stressful environments, is to learn to deliver the difficult message, but provide it fairly, humanely and in a timely manner.

As with most things in education, funding and timing are often lacking, but there is never a good time to deliver a ‘bad-news’ message, so gathering the facts and knowing when to seize the opportunity is fundamental.

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So, if you find yourself in a position where you have to provide a solution to managing conflict, and the chances are that this will be high as a school leader, then not only will you need some training and tacit knowledge, but how good you are at having those difficult chats with colleagues will be your legacy towards sustaining credible leadership for the future.

How to manage a difficult conversation?

1. Have the conversation sooner rather than later

Too often we postpone the difficult conversation because we know that it won’t be easy, and potentially we drain our own energies and emotions. While it is important not to rush into something, procrastination simply makes the situation worse. Keep the matter private and professional.

2. Stick to the facts

Describe carefully the behaviour that has led you to speak to the individual. Have all the facts ready. Describe the impact of the behaviour on others, for example, students, colleagues or yourself. Ensure the person understands why there has to be a change in behaviour.

Always have to hand professional standards and school policies for reference or for non-verbal cues. If you do need to quote from them, allow adequate time for the individual to read the details before responding. Hopefully, this level of detail won’t be needed as an initial conversation is usually all that’s required to rectify most situations.

3. Focus on the future

Talk about what is going to be different in the future. Depending on the nature of the conversation, this could be specific procedures that are required to be put in place, or simply a verbal commitment from the individual to take what has been said and act on it.

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4. Show respect

No matter how important the issue is, always ensure that you show respect for the individual as a person. You are taking issue only with the behaviours and not the individual. Give the member of staff time to digest, respond and reflect.

5. Allow time

Even where the issue is perfectly clear and must be addressed, ensure the individual’s voice is heard. While you are dealing with a particular issue, you are also modelling a process that shows respect for all.

6. Keep tight control of your emotions

Don’t allow your emotions to get the better of you. To raise justifiable concerns in an unjustifiable manner simply creates more problems. Always be professional, and remember that the other person is not enjoying this either! Oh, and always have a box of tissues in close proximity and learn how best to respond or end the conversation if needed.

7. Reflect

Beware of replaying conversations again and again in your head; what you should have said or not said – this can be exhausting. Accept what is done and move on. Sometimes a small follow-up conversation or nod of the head is enough when next seeing or meeting with the same colleague.

If you recognise an issue with a colleague, you should talk to them honestly. It’s a matter of professional respect.



About our Community Expert


Ross Morrison McGill
Community Expert ~ Founder of @TeacherToolkit

Ross Morrison McGill, also known as @TeacherToolkit, is the ‘most followed educator on social media in the UK’. Ross has been a teacher for 25 years and is the founder of one of the most popular education websites in the world. He is an award-winning blogger, author and today, has worked with over 100 schools in 8 countries. The Sunday Times listed Ross as one of the ‘500 Most Influential People in Britain’ and today, he remains the only classroom teacher to have featured.

Dear DSL, who heals the healers?

Reflexive in that one doesn’t just focus on how you impact a pupils’, young persons, service users or prisoners life but how the interaction affects you professionally and personally. Which leads me to the question of ‘who heals the healers’?

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Over the last year, I have had the fortunate opportunity to train, consult and build strong partnerships with individuals and teams across the country who have a remit around safeguarding.

That being said, one thing that was apparent is that hardly any of them access clinical supervision despite their roles consisting of complex and difficult decisions around young peoples welfare. Such instances involved cse, grooming, youth violence or in some cases suicide.

With that in mind, how do we ensure that those of us working with vulnerable young people safeguard ourselves from compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma and in some case the Stockholm syndrome?

In short, the answer is we have to take the lead. This is especially true since the conversation around being trauma-informed is slowly gathering momentum. However, in the short term, we have to find outlets and ways that lead us to a place of self-care.

A practitioner shared with me recently that she had to have a child removed from a household and although it was the right thing to do and involved other siblings, she ended up crying in her car for an hour afterwards. As it happens, this practitioner at the time was 6 months pregnant and felt she wasn’t getting the appropriate support.

Whilst it is true that we are all wired differently and our individual self-care methods are different, safeguarding our young people is becoming more complex to deal with.

It is almost certain that all of us supporting young adults with today’s problems need support from one another so please check in with another rather than assuming that going home, having dinner and watching Netflix will heal us of the burdens we face.


About our Community Expert

Raymond Douglas
Community Expert

Raymond Douglas is one of the UK’s leading thinkers and “doers” around working with at-risk pupils and young people. A prolific trainer and curriculum developer he has created numerous intervention programs tackling youth conflict & violence aiming to reduce the number of those at risk of life-threatening behaviour involving guns, gangs, knife crime & extremism.

Ray has been an approved trainer for governmental departments and currently delivers within schools colleges, universities and prisons. Ray has spoken at TEDx and has worked nationally and internationally training & advising schools and local authorities around reducing systemic youth violence.

Today his Minus Violence program reaches over 10,000 young people & pupils per year and 2019 see the release of his first book Gangs Kitchen.

How schools can become employers of choice

In a competitive environment where demand exceeds supply, the best teachers, leaders and support staff can pick and choose where they will work.

Schools need to become Employers of Choice to retain, attract and compete for talented staff. Demand for quality teachers and leaders is high and will continue to grow. Demand is already exceeding supply and the education system is on the brink of being in a NET deficit as class sizes increase.

Being an ‘Employer of Choice’ simply means becoming an employer whose potential and existing employees want to work for, over and above others in the same marketplace, industry or geographic region.

Teaching is demanding. Engaging, managing and motivating today’s students, requires high levels of skill, energy and intellect. As a result of growing up in a digital age, many of today’s students have shorter attention spans, expect all the ‘bells and whistles’ of full production and demand immediate, personalised attention. That’s not easy in a traditional school environment with finite resources.

Demand for educators who are positive, enthusiastic and dedicated team players is high. The staff of this calibre have a range of employment options and can almost choose which school they would like to work at. When the packages offered are largely comparable, other factors come into consideration.

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1. Benefits

When it comes to retention, research shows us that benefits and development opportunities have a larger impact than pay. A reputation for flexibility can help your school to stand out and it is useful to be explicit in adverts and on websites.

Some examples of this are;

  • Holidays: how much work is required during the holidays? Are holiday dates, frequency and length in line with standard school practice, or are they unusual?
  • Flexibility on leave: what are policies for taking time off during term? How easy is it to get permission for family events, childcare or training?
  • Childcare: is there any support, facility or subsidy for looking after children?
  • Personal development: would the employer support personal studies, such as academic or professional qualifications, or would they subsidise or loan money for these?
  • Housing: does the school offer any support for finding housing, for relocating, or for subsiding costs? Some schools or schools offer their own housing at a much lower fee to teachers, for example.
  • Other benefits: employee discounts for certain purchases (e.g. certain shops or experiences), health and dental care, mental health support, fitness suites, etc.
  • As before, sharing stories can be powerful. Do you have employees who can celebrate a positive story about how they were helped back into flexible working after paternity or maternity, for example? Could you produce a case study of caring for an employee through a family trauma or serious illness, to emphasise how you value wellbeing and treat people with respect?

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2. Work-life balance

Employees will be interested in whether this job will still allow them time to live their own lives. Increasingly, schools are making more out of updated marking, data and lesson-planning policies that save teachers significant time.

Some leading headteachers are making waves on social media and sector publications by sharing their efforts to ensure that staff are out of the building by 6.00pm at the latest and only rarely have to take work home. With these schools increasingly in the limelight, there’s greater pressure on others to showcase their own sustainable workload practices.

School employees remain highly dedicated individuals, happy to go above and beyond, but a better work-life balance is ultimately better for employee and employer to get the best out of everyone.

Some questions to ask yourself about how you manage wellbeing in your school are;

  • Will employees have lunch times protected or will they be expected to work through?
  • What are the expectations on taking work home to do in evenings and weekends?
  • Are there policies on sending or answering out-of-hours emails?
  • How many meetings will there be outside of main commitments?
  • What is the email burden – is it manageable?
  • What extra-curricular activity is expected or encouraged?

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3. Development and recognition

Employees will be interested in the amount of training and learning that they can access. The Teacher Development Trust’s CPD Audit award is often seen in job adverts to signal how seriously some schools take development, while others are trumpeting their success on social media and local newspapers to ensure that their attention to development is visible to potential new recruits.

Employees will be interested in how the appraisal process works. With many schools moving away from graded lesson observation, teachers will be looking out for employers that are up to date in their appraisal practices. This could also include the extent to which teachers are held to account for their students’ exam results – there are so many factors outside of their control that we are hearing of more schools that are dropping hard performance targets and instead of following the evidence toward effort-targets instead.

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The recruitment and retention challenge shows no sign of easing in the next few years so it is increasingly important for schools to take this agenda seriously and not only review and address these areas in-house, but also ensure that they are looking externally for new and improved ways of working through trusted partners, like Opogo. Schools that fail to grasp this nettle could be seriously left behind, but the prize for making it a priority is becoming the Employer of Choice with the sort of reputation that money cannot buy.

If you can adopt a strategy that develops your school’s reputation as an Employer of Choice then you will find people are coming to you, wanting to work for your school and putting the choices in your hands. When partnered with streamlined technology that makes the candidate experience simple and time-efficient for a candidate, you can put your school in a powerful position and ensure that you are winning the fight for top talent.

Opogo’s latest release Opogo Talent is a fresh way for you to save up to 20% off of your current supply spend. This saving can be directly placed into offering some of the suggestions offered above, on top of the added employee perks offered through partnering with Opogo such as; Perk Box, free CPD and Leadership and NQT events.


About the CEO


Justyn Randall

CEO  |  Founder

With extensive experience and strategic skill in building leading global marketing businesses across multiple sectors, Justyn is the CEO and founder of Opogo.

From his deep understanding of the industry and its challenges, Justyn launched Opogo with the prime motivation of transforming the experience of educators within the industry.

Top books for special education (SEND)

It gives a brief breakdown of the content of each one and why they may be useful in practice. I have personally used every book in some way for my own school practice and training and find each one incredibly helpful for different circumstances.

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1. The SENCo Handbook
By Elizabeth Cowne, Carol Frankl and Liz Gerschel

It is always useful, as a new or experienced SENCo to have a handbook to ‘go to’ on the occasions that you are unsure of something. This seventh best-selling edition of ‘The SENCo Handbook’ is updated to reflect the new Code of Practice. It contains statutory guidelines and practical advice in order to help develop effective SEND practice in schools.

2. Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants
By Rob Webster, Anthony Russell (Contributor) and Peter Blatchford (Contributor)

Having used this book myself for staff INSET and training it offers much research and evidence-based guidance about how to effectively deploy teaching assistants and support staff.

The research carried out is detailed and the thing I like about this book is that it provides easily photocopied templates and resources to support decision-making and action planning. There is also a wealth of case studies to give practical and real examples of how to maximize the impact of support staff.

3. Inside I’m Hurting: Practical Strategies for Supporting Children with Attachment Difficulties
By Louise Bomber

This easy to navigate practical guide provides educational professionals with much-needed strategies, practical tools and the confidence for supporting children with attachment difficulties. The book places an emphasis on promoting inclusion in the school system by supporting the whole family.

Chapters within the book include: how attachment difficulties can affect a child’s ability to learn; providing an ‘additional attachment figure’ in schools; the benefits and challenges of getting alongside children who have experienced trauma and loss. The book also includes a photocopiable template for an initial meeting with the parents.

4. Take Control of the Noisy Class: Chaos to Calm in 15 Seconds
By Rob Plevin

This new book by teacher Rob Pelvin is an easy read and is written with humour and understanding. Pelvin has 20+ years’ experience in special education and mainstream settings; in his book, he provides a step-by-step plan for successfully managing the most challenging individuals and groups in today’s toughest classrooms.

Packed with powerful, fast-acting techniques – including a novel routine to get any class quiet in 15 seconds or less – this book helps teachers across all age groups connect and succeed with hard-to-reach, reluctant learners.

5. When the Adults Change, Everything Changes
By Paul Dix

This new book shows that it’s far more effective to change the behaviour of the adults in a school than it is to try to change the behaviour of the children. Dix draws on his own experience as a teacher, leader and trainer who has spent 25 years working in some of the most challenging schools, referral units and colleges.

Having firsthand experience of one of Paul Dix’s training sessions, this is powerful stuff and in this book, he manages to capture ‘real’ case studies alongside tried-and-tested strategies that have been used in a range of schools with a variety of backgrounds. The book demonstrates how these approaches place the focus back on adults and reiterate the importance of simple human interaction. Most importantly, it provides a clear message about the importance of children knowing who they can trust.

6. Learn to Read for Kids with Dyslexia: 101 Games and Activities to Teach Your Child to Read
By Hannah Braun M

Learn to Read for Kids with Dyslexia makes reading enjoyable and rewarding with fun-filled games and activities that teach children how to read fluently and confidently. Specifically designed for children aged 7-12, these engaging activities offer children daily opportunities to practice and hone their reading skills.

The book highlights areas such as, skill building in phonemic awareness and dysgraphia for each activity; it also allows parents and teachers to focus on strengthening specific areas that will help children become lifelong readers.

7. The Red Beast: Controlling Anger in Children with Asperger’s Syndrome
By K.I. Al-Ghani

“Deep inside everyone, a red beast lies sleeping. When it is asleep, the red beast is quite small, but when it wakes up, it begins to grow and grow. This is the story of a red beast that was awakened.”
This is an illustrated children’s storybook which was written for children aged 5+.

I have used it myself with many autistic children, as it is so accessible. I also find reading it and talking about anger in a fun way useful to help children with tips about how to ‘tame their red beast’. I also signpost parents to this book so that they can further understand how anger affects children with Asperger’s Syndrome.


About our Community Expert


Rachel Endacott

Community Expert
Rachel has over 21 years of teaching experience in a range of primary, junior and special provision settings. Rachel has held various leadership roles including Deputy Head Teacher and is currently Head of Inclusion in an outstanding Junior School in Maidenhead. Rachel has held the title of SENDCo for over 20 years and is passionate about helping every individual reach their full potential.

Recently recognised by Ofsted as having the skills to ensure staff take ownership of the support and progress of pupils with SEND, they also praised her ability to imbue staff with a desire to do the right thing for these pupils.

Her drive and ambition continue to improve the exceptional support within her own setting and Rachel’s satisfaction comes from seeing children with SEND thrive.

Webinar | Becoming a Subject Leader in Primary School

Becoming a Subject Leader in Primary School with Jasmin Choudhury | Tuesday 25 June 2019 | Webinar

Event description

Leading a subject area effectively is one of the most important tasks in securing high-quality teaching and learning in the classroom. Whether you have years of experience in that particular curriculum area, have a passion for that subject or you are stepping into your first leadership role, having the motivation and resilience to master new challenges as well as finding new and innovative ways of teaching will ensure your teaching has an impact.

Looking to successfully lead in a Primary setting? Join Community Expert Jasmin Choudhury as she takes you through her tried and tested strategies for effectively leading a subject area in school by giving you the skills to take the reins confidently.


What will be covered?

Throughout her session, Jasmin will talk you through the key areas of subject leadership, including:

• What to do if you want to be a subject leader?

• Why be a subject leader?

• Why are subject leaders important in schools?

• Your first steps as a subject leader.

• Developing monitoring techniques as a subject leader.

• Embedding passion, excellence and enjoyment of your subject.

• What to do if you are leading a subject you don’t enjoy.

• The importance of stakeholders in promoting your subject and holding you accountable.

• Preparing for Ofsted as a subject leader.

• Next steps after being a subject leader.

Who will benefit?

Aspiring leaders, NQTs, Year 3+ qualified teachers, middle leaders holding a subject and foreign teachers with specialisms.



When will the event take place?



Date: Tuesday 25 June 2019
 5:30pm – 6:30pm
Location: Online

Click here to book your free place now.


Speaker Profile: Jasmin Choudhury


Skilled in Coaching, Secondary Education, Classroom Management, Learning Environment, and Lesson Planning, Richard Endacott is an experienced teacher and Head of Humanities at Drayton Manor High School.

Richard is one of the Community Experts here at Opogo helping to lead our development workshops through his strong track record of delivering outcomes.

What is a Talent Pool and why should I use one?

This week Opogo has launched our brand new Talent section of the Web App. This new series of features enables you to source, offer and manage new and existing candidates in a few simple clicks. Interested? Keep reading.

What is a Talent Pool?

Generally speaking, a Talent Pool is a dynamic portfolio of people who you have worked, are thinking of working or you prospectively are looking to hire to join your organisation. The idea is to compliantly keep candidate details on file until the relevant job becomes available. 

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How do I manage one?

Creating bespoke Talent Pools to fulfil all of your current resourcing needs has never been easier. Through the Opogo platform you can now start searching through hundreds of fully-vetted teachers and classroom assistants using the new Talent Management feature.

Whether you’re looking within your existing Talent Pool, through the candidates recommended for you by the Opogo consultant team or searching the full Opogo membership, you can now see each potential hires profile, compliance, skills and availability and can offer them work in three simple clicks.

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How do I attract the right candidates?

Recruiting the right person is difficult, which is why, when you spot someone good, you’ll want to hold onto their details for future reference. However, how do you go about attracting the right people in the first place?

The key is understanding the skills profile of the person you are looking for and matching against that. Not just being offered a list of people deemed suitable.

This is why we’re giving our clients access to our membership through the Opogo Web App, so you can source and view all candidates, to give you total transparency if finding the right candidates for you.

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What are the real benefits of using a Talent Pool?

The biggest advantage of having your own Talent Pool is the reduced time-to-hire as well as lower recruitment costs.  Having a well-structured record of candidates could support you and help you to fill vacancies quickly.

To make the process easier, speak to one of the Opogo team to get you set up on the Opogo Talent pool.

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Opogo Talent will shave off hours of time from the recruitment process for educators and schools through its innovative transparency and 3-click interface.


To find out more about how Opogo Talent can benefit you, visit for more information


About the CEO


Justyn Randall

CEO  |  Founder

With extensive experience and strategic skill in building leading global marketing businesses across multiple sectors, Justyn is the CEO and founder of Opogo.

From his deep understanding of the industry and its challenges, Justyn launched Opogo with the prime motivation of transforming the experience of educators within the industry.

Tips for handling an Ofsted inspection

Although it is only natural to enter panic mode after that dreaded phone call, you need to look at the inspection from a different perspective. Get out there and do what you do…and do it well. Embrace it.

Use this as an opportunity to show off your professionalism, outstanding teaching and fantastic pupils.

For those of you seeking guidance, here are a few tips to help you survive the inspection:

1. Be yourself

Try to get through the day as normally as possible. Your pupils will try to act up if you try to change your teaching style or methods, so be confident in your ability and be yourself. Avoid experimenting with your teaching methods or changing the classroom around, as it might unsettle or alarm the pupils.

Of course, it won’t be a normal day when Ofsted inspectors are walking in and out of your classroom, but just try and do what you would usually do to keep pupils, and yourself, calm.

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2. Focus on books

When I was training as an NQT, I remember being told that it didn’t matter how outstanding my lesson was, if my books weren’t impeccable. Ofsted inspectors want to see pupil progress over time, not just in the lesson so focus on your marking.

Your formative and summative assessment and pupils’ response to feedback is clear evidence of this progress. Make sure you are setting clear targets for your pupils and that they are responding to them accordingly.

3. Keep it in perspective

Ofsted is every teacher’s nightmare, but it doesn’t have to be. Think of it as another observation by your subject or professional mentor. Even if you teach the worst possible lesson, it is unlikely to affect the entire rating of the school.

Instead, use this as a learning experience and opportunity to develop as a professional. According to Ofsted guidance, if an inspector observes you for 20 minutes, you can ask for formal feedback.

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4. Lay the groundwork

Middle and senior leaders look at the prospect of an Ofsted inspection from a different perspective and have other challenges and pressures to face. However, if the SLT has laid the foundations successfully and you, as a classroom teacher, have done the groundwork too – half the battle is won, even before the inspectors walk through the door. You should always be ‘Ofsted inspection ready’ as a classroom teacher.

5. Be prepared

Brush up on the school code of conduct and behaviour policy, organise your class books and take a moment to breathe. You might get asked for an entire class set of books, so have them ready for each lesson you teach.

Read the Ofsted guidance and be clear of what is expected from you. The most recent Ofsted guidance is very clear about what inspectors can do and ask to see. They cannot ask to see planning and they do not expect to see a certain type or amount of marking. So prepare what you can.

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The intense culture of scrutiny that most schools in the UK have – good or bad – have trained us for this moment. With learning walks and book scrutiny, formal observations are never that far away for most teachers, so you should be well prepared for Ofsted at any time.

Ofsted has nothing up their sleeves, it’s just another observation. So, teach the best lesson that you can. Focus on planning lessons the pupils can enjoy, let the adrenaline take over and try to enjoy showing off what you can really do in a classroom!



About our Community Expert


Simi Rai
Community Expert

Over 5 years of experience in educational settings throughout London, Madrid and Barcelona. Whilst studying English Literature and Language at King’s College London and the University of North Carolina, she fell in love with her subject – both the study of literature and craft of writing.

After graduating, she completed the Leadership Development Programme with Teach First, whose mission is to provide equality through education, and attained her PGCE in Secondary English at Canterbury Christ Church University. She was then appointed as Deputy Head of English at one of the highest performing schools in England in a London inner-city academy.

Following this, she completed her Leadership and Management MA at University College London (Institute of Education) and became the director of an English Language company based in Barcelona.

Developing a professional development culture in your school

To develop any kind of culture, be it behaviour, a common vision or building a new teaching and learning culture takes a good period of time to evolve, no matter what school you work in. Over the last five years, John Hattie’s research (Visible Learning) has been cited all over the world as a possible solution for evaluating ‘what works’ and ‘what doesn’t’ in our schools.

Of course, Hattie would not advocate this and we all should take each of the findings carefully and understand the context and how this may translate into our own school setting. We should look beyond the headlines and understand what others are doing and how this may or may not work in our own school.

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If you are familiar with Hattie’s research, you will know that ‘Collective teacher efficacy’ (CTE) sits at the very top of his 252 effect sizes on pupil performance (+1.58ve) – almost double the amount of progress made in one academic year when compared to any other effect size!

Yet, CTE is often misconstrued as ‘everyone doing the same thing’ in schools or has left many struggling to define what it actually is. Although ‘what teachers do makes a difference’ in keeping with a school’s vision and values are important, in its truest definition, CTE means ‘working together’ to have ‘appropriately high challenging expectations’.

For me, this is all about building a culture of regular professional conversations. The difficulty is how to put this into practice with time-poor teachers and funding challenges to ‘free up’ teachers to have time to reflect and share.

Hattie says in a series of visible learning videos: “That combined belief that it is [teachers] that causes learning”. It’s not the students or those from particular social backgrounds that impact on learning, when [teachers] believe they can make a difference and you “feed it with evidence” that you are, that is powerful.

In my view, read the research, tackle it together as a group of teachers, and then disseminate the evidence into your context and refine and revisit.

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If I can talk about some of my own work and experiences in school leadership, developing a culture for teaching and learning, building a greater degree of consistency from classroom to classroom across a large secondary school with over 100 teachers, developing a common format which also offers teachers a degree of autonomy is no easy feat.

In my recent work, working with schools all over the UK, I am frequently asked the same types of questions, particularly with schools who wish to get their teachers to ‘pull their socks up’ when it comes to delivering quality teaching and learning across all classrooms.

If we put safeguarding aside, I have always believed that teaching and learning trumps everything else in breakfast, including curriculum.

We can have the best curriculum mapped out on paper, but if we don’t have our teachers equipped to bring the curriculum to life, then a diet of content is of no use to anyone.

This starts with regular professional development and pedagogical conversations designed to develop a collective teacher efficacy from the ground up. When the logistics are put in place, and those at the very top place the greatest importance on this culture too – and take part – the transformation can happen. However, it is a long journey and it requires regular reminders and discipline from everyone.

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On my travels, I do not think any school was getting it wrong, was changing school population, the child’s reverie skills to rebuild a culture particularly when demographics change all the goalposts. Good teaching and learning is always good teaching and learning and for me, that starts with regular professional development conversations where teachers hold themselves to account and have honest and transparent conversations with one another about their practice.

It’s not complicated, but the challenge is to make teaching and culture prominent in everything teachers do around the busy nature of school life.Nothing else should get in the way!

Ross explores this further in his summary of the paper ‘Characteristics of effective teacher professional development‘, written by Sam Sims and Harry Fletcher-Wood.

To get some of the conversations going on in your school, below I have listed some of the questions I frequently pose to headteachers I work with:

Teaching and learning:

  1. What does day-to-day practice look like?
  2. Is there an agreed common set of teaching principles?
  3. What is the expectation for pupils from classroom to classroom?
  4. How does this change for performance? For example, school inspection
  5. How does the teaching change when another adult enters a classroom?
  6. If teacher performance is weak, what is being done to support the member of staff?
  7. If your school has moved away from grading lessons, what makes appraisal lessons different?
  8. Has your school embedded a coaching culture? Do all the teaching staff receive coaching?
  9. Is there a stigma associated with ‘being coached’?
  10. What has your school done to reduce teacher workload?


  1. Does the behaviour of pupils change when a school leader enters a classroom?
  2. When last did your school staff have a say in the behaviour/teaching and learning policy?
  3. Are teachers willing to have difficult conversations with one another?
  4. Is there a weak link in your leadership team?
  5. Is it being tackled?
  6. Is there a member of school leadership available every lesson of the day?
  7. Are all middle leaders aware that they are responsible for leadership across the school?
  8. What makes a teacher on an upper pay scale, different from someone on the main scale?
  9. Do you hear swearing on the corridor? Do you sometimes hear laughter?

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Professional Development:

  1. How does your school promote professional development?
  2. Is there a research lead who disseminates the latest information?
  3. Is this evidence/information also shared with parents?
  4. Does your school have a bespoke CPD programme for individuals?
  5. Can your school afford to protect 0.5% of its overall budget for professional development?

School culture:

  1. Why should I work at your school?
  2. How many teachers have left your school this academic year?
  3. What are you doing on social media to promote your school?
  4. What would Mr./Mrs ‘cynical teacher’ say about the latest school initiative?
  5. What does the school playground look like 30 minutes after the bell rings? Is there still litter on the floor?
  6. Is graffiti tackled immediately after it is found? Do your staff walk past litter?

From the many schools that I have been visiting, these are the common threads that are consistently requested by headteachers in all of the schools I work with. Of course, context matters and every school is unique, but there are some typical approaches that we can all learn from one another which I will be sharing in my new book, Just Great Teaching, published by Bloomsbury in September 2019. A summary of this can be read here.

What I can tell you, is that regardless of context and location, every teacher is struggling under the burden of marking and what every school must do, is reduce this burden by stripping away all the unnecessary myths, habits, approaches and techniques that have no impact on learning.

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If we can get this right in terms of teacher workload and instead replace this with forming a strong teaching and learning culture, then I do believe other ‘good’ behaviours and professional development habits will fall into place. However, all this comes with a huge disclaimer – everyone needs to do whatever is agreed, not just those school leaders within the school.

I have learnt that every school has a unique and individual journey and that these requests are common from school to school. What we need to do is strip away the compliance and replace this with commonsense conversations about teaching.


  • Standards for Teacher Professional Development.  (DfE, 2016; Menter, 2010)
  • Characteristics of effective teacher professional development (S. Sims , H. Fletcher-Wood, 2018)
  • Teacher workload and professional development in England’s secondary schools. (Education Policy Institute, P. Sellen, 2016)
  • Developing Great Teaching (Teacher Development Trust , 2015)
  • High Challenge, Low Threat (M. Myatt, 2016)

  • How To Create A Teaching and Learning Common-Sense Culture? (R. McGill, 2015)

  • Structures and Cultures (R. McGill, 2016)

  • Just Great Teaching (R. McGill, 2019)



About our Community Expert


Ross Morrison McGill
Community Expert ~ Founder of @TeacherToolkit

Ross Morrison McGill, also known as @TeacherToolkit, is the ‘most followed educator on social media in the UK’. Ross has been a teacher for 25 years and is the founder of one of the most popular education websites in the world. He is an award-winning blogger, author and today, has worked with over 100 schools in 8 countries. The Sunday Times listed Ross as one of the ‘500 Most Influential People in Britain’ and today, he remains the only classroom teacher to have featured.”