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How to fix education – PP71

The topic of the week is Sue Cowley on behaviour and how to fix education.


It was great to be joined by Sue Cowley this week to find out about her background and pick her expert brains about education and behaviour!Sue is a well-known writer, presenter and teacher trainer. She did a B.Ed and then worked in primary secondary and international schools overseas. She also wrote books and did some supply teaching. She now does training and is involved with her local nursery school alongside running a writing club at her local primary school.

Early years

Sue says that politicians often don’t understand the impact of adult-children ratios. Working with small children is a bit like herding kittens so you need as many adults as possible.

Also, Sue thinks people would be shocked at how poorly-funded nursery schools are. Staff at her nursery cannot be paid even half of what a qualified teacher earns. The leader at the pre-school is a graduate with post-graduate qualifications but still gets paid less than a cleaner or a gardener.

‘Free’ child care actually costs pre-schools money. In some places, around £2.80 an hour is funded by the government but the rest has to be found by the institution. This can sometimes be handled via voluntary contributions from parents but that is not always possible.

sueSue explains that people’s understanding of play is often at the wrong level. Play in early years is crucial and it is planned for by the adults and structured to ensure the children’s needs are met.

What would you do if you were Secretary of State for Education?

Sue would remove half of the accountability measures currently in place. She thinks we have distorted education via these measures. She agrees with Paul that there has to be some level of checks and balances but she thinks that it’s in the training and recruitment of teachers that this should be addressed. Try and find the right people and train them in the right way. We should try to find those who see teaching as a vocation not just ‘the next thing’ after a degree.

What should the balance be between university study and school-based training of teachers?

Sue wonders if we need a longer period of training in schools and a longer period in university – she realises this is a difficult thing to do but it does work in medicine or law. Also, Sue thinks we should spend more time concentrating on how to retain teachers.

What are the problems with behaviour management schemes in use in schools?

Sue often finds when she goes into schools that very few members of staff have read the behaviour management policy. This is because policies are too long and also too complicated which means it’s very difficult for staff to apply.

In terms of consequences we just need a really simple clear system that everyone applies. With rewards, Sue believes teachers should be given the chance to be personally creative. She has seen some of the best rewards where teachers have come up with their own ideas


Pivotal Podcast Pocketbooks

PEpocketbook-BUNDLE2Newly-created Pivotal Podcast Pocketbooks are now available from Amazon including one on Restorative Practice. There will be a huge range of Pocketbooks from Pivotal Education, starting with the edited transcripts of some of the most popular episodes of the podcast.

The idea of releasing written versions of episodes came from listeners who wanted to be able to make notes and use the content in different ways. If you would like a particular episode to be converted into an ebook, please let us know!

(Creative Commons Sound clip by Johnny Pixel Productions, Inc. –



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