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Piano Portals- brilliant!


Stephen Marquiss is more than just a brilliant pianist… and he is brilliant!

He has thought deeply and long about the art and science behind learning to play. He is challenging the orthodoxy, and this examination of teaching and learning is stunning.

Learning should unleash joy. It should not be conducted under sufferance.

Explore the site. Watch the videos.

Something for learners and teachers of all standards, and across the genres.


Justice has taken too long…

A number of colleagues contacted me after I reported on the battle Trystan Williams has undertaken to clear his name.

I am utterly delighted to say that another hurdle has been cleared with ease.

Quote: “The agency found there was no case for Mr Williams to answer following his dismissals as head teacher at the Springfields Academy in Calne, a school for children with complex learning, emotional and behavioural difficulties.

The announcement follows a similar decision by the Crown Prosecution Service in October 2014 that no charges would be brought against Mr Williams or his deputy James Lynch.

Mr Lynch has also been cleared by the NCTL who will now pass the information to the Disclosure and Barring Scheme (DBS) formerly the Criminal Records Bureau and Independent Safeguarding Authority.

Mr Williams said: “It is the first time I have slept properly in 21 months. This is the first major step forward and I am looking forward to getting my life back on track and cracking on with what I do best.”

I understand that Trystan is relentlessly pursuing those individuals who were responsible for prolonging proceedings against him, who tried time and again to destroy him despite evidence stacked in his favour. One wonders sometimes if there is any difference in the words prosecute and persecute.

I wish Trystan every success in exposing the lamentable behaviour of certain officials, who went well beyond “risk aversion” in an attempt to hide systemic failings on their own watch, perhaps.

Too many good leaders have had their careers blighted by either wrongful persecution or the tyranny of the “compromise agreement”.

Let Trystan’s case be a beacon of hope.

The insanity of the slogan

This would have stuffed the individuals who went to fight in Spain against the Fascists in the late thirties… it all hinges on the word “terrorist”, What were the French, Czech and Polish resistance fighters in WW2? And didn’t the west empower “resistance fighters” against Gadaffi… and look what that’s led to? And what about Palestinians who, after half a century of state sponsored terrorism against them, have nothing to lose but their lives? We need a smarter politics in the 21c, or we may emasculate those that fight for democracy. I suppose it hinges on how and where you fight, rather than what you fight for….

Britain First

Sing with Sassparella- 2 weeks to go!

It’s still not too late to join the fun! Contact me if you are interested.

Selwyn Hall

Box is a village on the A4 between Bath and Chippenham.

Selwyn Hall is at the end of a small turning off the main road.

There is limited parking at the bottom of the road by the tennis courts, so share cars where you can!


231 Bath – Chippenham Leaves Bath Bus Station 09:05 and 09:35 (it takes about half an hour to get to Box)

Returning to Bath 18:27 and 19:03


Bring a bottle of water (you can refill). We will provide tea or coffee on arrival, please bring your own flask if you think you will need more especially at lunchtime.

(It’s a small kitchen and not very practical to have more than two or three people in there at any one time….)


Bring sandwiches, a picnic if there is a group of you… or bring some food to share! We will put out a big table, and eating together will be a great opportunity to get to know each other. There is a Co-op in the village, and a pub as well for those who would like a liquid lunch!


Wear comfortable clothing and bring some layers. It may be cool to start with, but could warm up considerably with everyone singing along- be prepared.



10-10.30am arrivals/ registration tea/coffee welcome

10.30-11.00am warm ups/ preparation

11.00- 1.00pm learning first 3 songs

Probably Dancing in the Streets, Tracks of my tears, Reach Out, I’ll be there

(There will be regular leg stretch/comfort breaks)

1.00-200pm lunch break

2.00-4.30pm learning more songs

Probably Heard it through the Grapevine, My Girl, I Wish, Superstitious, Tears of a Clown

(There will be regular leg stretch/comfort breaks)

4.30pm band arrives / short break

5.00-6.00pm perform with band

6.00pm finish



Any problems call Marius on 07803 136745

Sing with Sassparella- a new community singing opportunity for 2015!

Sing with Sassparella- a new community singing opportunity for 2015!.


Courageous Curriculum Design: 10th July 2014 Engineers’ House, Bristol

Courageous Curriculum Design: 10th July 2014 Engineers' House, Bristol

Conference details confirmed. This is open to system leaders, primary and secondary Headteachers and Principals, anyone with an interest in curriculum design, innovation and future thinking. Although initially emerging out of work with South Gloucestershire Headteachers, this conference is designed to re-invigorate some collaborative thinking across CUBA (Counties that Used to Be Avon), served by the same LEP.

Reflections on a long hard week for the Daily Mail

The recent spat between Ed Miliband and the Daily Mail may have come as a surprise to some, who may not have associated this rag with the Murdoch obscenities that have dragged down the reputation of the British press of late. Some may even have considered the Daily Mail to be a “respectable” broadsheet, presenting a relatively right-wing viewpoint to a relatively balanced, informed and open-minded readership. Well, I am glad we have a free press. I am glad papers like the Daily Mail spout their rhetoric without restriction and without apology. Why? Because, in a free, relatively fair and relatively progressive, humane and open society (I am talking on a world-wide scale here ranging from North Korea to Finland), it’s important to know what bigots, xenophobes, racists, sexists, disablists, homophobes are actually saying and thinking… so that you can counter-punch with all your weight and might.

My first brush with the Daily Mail came when I faced the wrong end of an

Daily Fail

Employment Tribunal: I was falsely accused of sex discrimination in the workplace… because I allegedly gave male colleagues new executive chairs, but left a hapless female colleague with a chair that made farting noises when she sat on it. You can imagine, the free press had a field day (with The Sun publishing a picture of an Executive chair with cartoon farts coming out of it). It even made “Have I Got News for You?” and various other satirical programmes, around the world, for a couple of crazy weeks in March 2006 (google it- the internet never forgets- this is how the Guardian recorded the denouement One of my senior (retired) female members of staff wrote to the Mail in defence of my chivalry… the fact they also published a picture of her reclining on a chaise longue is neither here nor there… they were supportive of me, and totally dismissive of a litigious process that allowed “women” to make such “spurious claims”.  Even when the Mail support you, it makes you feel very uneasy indeed.

My next collision came in 2011, as CEO of ASDAN Education. Michael Gove, supported by Alison Wolf, had begun the process of eliminating all qualifications from school league table reckoning that “weren’t academic enough”. ASDAN’s qualifications did not fit Gove’s narrow view of what constituted an academic qualification, so it came as no surprise to get, one day, a call from one of the Daily Mail editorial team. They expressed “concern” that young people could get a GCSE in claiming the dole… of course, nothing could be further from the truth. I spent an hour explaining the power of our qualifications to engage, motivate, equip weak learners with the skills they need to succeed in academic qualifications, how our qualifications did not replace GCSEs, but supplemented and complemented an academic or vocational diet with the accredited competencies to do better in both. Mail 2 Well… I could have been talking Chinese… well, actually, left wing “pinkie” liberal garbage.

The story that was published played to the right wing gallery… what more could I have expected? Reasonable-ness? A fair hearing? A balanced piece of reporting? Both sides of a complex argument? No. I am not naive. I am not jaundiced. But what particularly upset me were the readers’ comments which followed the on-line version of the story. “Cripes!”, I thought, maybe there really are intelligent and well-educated people in this country who would like to repatriate me to India because of my father’s Goan heritage. Maybe there is a swathe of middle England who fear a meritocracy…. who fear societal change.

The Daily Mail likes to confusticate politics with patriotism, hence the attack on Miliband’s father… Their assumption is anyone with vaguely socialist principles wishes to destroy Britain and the values that underpin British society….well, actually, what socialists like Miliband Senior might have been wanting to do is help build a better, fairer British society by QUESTIONING and REBUILDING values… Of course this is a threat to inherited wealth, inherited power and influence and the privileges enjoyed by a ruling class. If that is the case, BRING IT ON!


Education will beat bullying- not prison

Education will beat bullying- not prison

An excellent article in TES, highlighting the concerns that many have regarding the “criminalisation” of bullying.

Society already has a sophisticated toolkit, with sanctions ranging from light to severe, to deal with bullying through the legal system.

But where do you stand?

Playing at the Bristol Balloon Fiesta today with Cindy Stratton

balloon fiesta

Stephen Fry, Putin and LGBT awareness

An interesting letter (below) from Stephen Fry to the Prime Minister.

From a Headteachers’ perspective, I have always been more than aware of the fact that 10% of my school population is likely to be LGBT, 60 young people in 1000

Even in our pretty tolerant society, some of these poor young people have suffered to the point of self-harm, clinical depression and considering ending their lives because of bullying and victimisation from the communities they were born into.

The question is: do these policies come from Putin, or are they deeply embedded in Russian social values?

We as a country are sometimes pretty hard on ourselves. This is a good thing, because you will not get social change through complacency.

On reflection, we should look to other countries as well to see how far we have come.



Dear Prime Minister, M Rogge, Lord Coe and Members of the International Olympic Committee,

I write in the earnest hope that all those with a love of sport and the Olympic spirit will consider the stain on the Five Rings that occurred when the 1936 Berlin Olympics proceeded under the exultant aegis of a tyrant who had passed into law, two years earlier, an act which singled out for special persecution a minority whose only crime was the accident of their birth. In his case he banned Jews from academic tenure or public office, he made sure that the police turned a blind eye to any beatings, thefts or humiliations afflicted on them, he burned and banned books written by them. He claimed they “polluted” the purity and tradition of what it was to be German, that they were a threat to the state, to the children and the future of the Reich. He blamed them simultaneously for the mutually exclusive crimes of Communism and for the controlling of international capital and banks. He blamed them for ruining the culture with their liberalism and difference. The Olympic movement at that time paid precisely no attention to this evil and proceeded with the notorious Berlin Olympiad, which provided a stage for a gleeful Führer and only increased his status at home and abroad. It gave him confidence. All historians are agreed on that. What he did with that confidence we all know.

Putin is eerily repeating this insane crime, only this time against LGBT Russians. Beatings, murders and humiliations are ignored by the police. Any defence or sane discussion of homosexuality is against the law. Any statement, for example, that Tchaikovsky was gay and that his art and life reflects this sexuality and are an inspiration to other gay artists would be punishable by imprisonment. It is simply not enough to say that gay Olympians may or may not be safe in their village. The IOC absolutely must take a firm stance on behalf of the shared humanity it is supposed to represent against the barbaric, fascist law that Putin has pushed through the Duma. Let us not forget that Olympic events used not only to be athletic, they used to include cultural competitions. Let us realise that in fact, sport is cultural. It does not exist in a bubble outside society or politics. The idea that sport and politics don’t connect is worse than disingenuous, worse than stupid. It is wickedly, wilfully wrong. Everyone knows politics interconnects with everything for “politics” is simply the Greek for “to do with the people”.

An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 on Sochi is simply essential. Stage them elsewhere in Utah, Lillehammer, anywhere you like. At all costs Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilised world.

He is making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did Jews. He cannot be allowed to get away with it. I know whereof I speak. I have visited Russia, stood up to the political deputy who introduced the first of these laws, in his city of St Petersburg. I looked into the face of the man and, on camera, tried to reason with him, counter him, make him understand what he was doing. All I saw reflected back at me was what Hannah Arendt called, so memorably, “the banality of evil.” A stupid man, but like so many tyrants, one with an instinct of how to exploit a disaffected people by finding scapegoats. Putin may not be quite as oafish and stupid as Deputy Milanov but his instincts are the same. He may claim that the “values” of Russia are not the “values” of the West, but this is absolutely in opposition to Peter the Great’s philosophy, and against the hopes of millions of Russians, those not in the grip of that toxic mix of shaven headed thuggery and bigoted religion, those who are agonised by the rolling back of democracy and the formation of a new autocracy in the motherland that has suffered so much (and whose music, literature and drama, incidentally I love so passionately).

I am gay. I am a Jew. My mother lost over a dozen of her family to Hitler’s anti-Semitism. Every time in Russia (and it is constantly) a gay teenager is forced into suicide, a lesbian “correctively” raped, gay men and women beaten to death by neo-Nazi thugs while the Russian police stand idly by, the world is diminished and I for one, weep anew at seeing history repeat itself.

“All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” so wrote Edmund Burke. Are you, the men and women of the IOC going to be those “good” who allow evil to triumph?

The Summer Olympics of 2012 were one of the most glorious moments of my life and the life of my country. For there to be a Russian Winter Olympics would stain the movement forever and wipe away any of that glory. The Five Rings would finally be forever smeared, besmirched and ruined in the eyes of the civilised world.

I am begging you to resist the pressures of pragmatism, of money, of the oily cowardice of diplomats and to stand up resolutely and proudly for humanity the world over, as your movement is pledged to do. Wave your Olympic flag with pride as we gay men and women wave our Rainbow flag with pride. Be brave enough to live up to the oaths and protocols of your movement, which I remind you of verbatim below.

Rule four: Cooperate with the competent public or private organisations and authorities in the endeavour to place sport at the service of humanity and thereby to promote peace.

Rule six: Act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement.

Rule 15: Encourage and support initiatives blending sport with culture and education.

I especially appeal to you, Prime Minister, a man for whom I have the utmost respect. As the leader of a party I have for almost all of my life opposed and instinctively disliked, you showed a determined, passionate and clearly honest commitment to LGBT rights and helped push gay marriage through both houses of our parliament in the teeth of vehement opposition from so many of your own side. For that I will always admire you, whatever other differences may lie between us. In the end I believe you know when a thing is wrong or right. Please act on that instinct now.

Yours in desperate hope for humanity

Stephen Fry

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