Learning. In one way or another it’s been in the news.

In mid May, a father won a court case over the legality of keeping his child away from school for a family holiday. He need not pay the fine the judge ruled, given the child’s good attendance record.

Earlier in May, a number of parents kept their primary age children out of school for a day in protest at new tests. 40,000 names appeared on the petition for the boycott. ‘Let our kids be kids’ was the refrain, they are being ‘over tested and over worked’

One mother said of the tests. ‘They are difficult and joyless’.

(‘Difficult and joyless’ could be applied to more than one business culture I know.)

The debate about these decisions continued for days. Was this selfishness? Or was this reclaiming a human view of our world?  Having seen how truly difficult the tests are (the schools minister Nick Gibb was unable to answer one of the SATs questions for 11 yr olds during an interview on BBC’s World at One. : it went viral, wrapped in a sort of ‘glee halo’) I can only agree with ‘difficult and joyless’.

And isn’t a holiday, a family experience, valuable?

I’m a ‘yes’, but. There’s another factor to consider.

And its not fashionable: the power of the group.

We say ‘group think’ to denote rigid, compliant, airless, habitual, self-protective thinking-in-a-rut.   But there is a power to a group that works brilliantly together to solve, create, imagine, and transform that is nothing less than magical.

A group needs time to form, and to establish the sort of real and healthy contact that makes thinking differently possible. A group needs time together.  A group can generate so much more than the individuals that create it.

Learning something in a group is a different experience to learning alone.  Yes, always rebel against joylessness. Yes, plough your own furrow if that’s needed to realise an opportunity.


Remember your ‘group’. If it’s working well, your presence and contribution is an incalculable part of that group’s potential.


Penny Hunt's blog coffee conversationsI am ready for the apocalypse.

My lucky pencil case made it through the summer, my neatly written project is ready to hand in, and my hair is properly tied back.

I am ready.

Back to work / back to school: is there difference? A few more buttons to do up. A bigger bag to carry. (Literally. A big satchel I see, as I check out the trend pix).  But there’s a huge difference, oh chums and classmates.image02


The smaller people will re-invent themselves. They will do things they’ve never done before.

Now is a ‘real’ New Year.

Forget all that old January new-year nonsense.This is the time to make some resolutions.  You know how the grown up January resolution thing will go. More focus on fixing things, more pointless attempts at getting closer to some random standard of perfection, more simplification and tidiness.  (Our smaller selves had such interesting stuff amongst the scrumpled up sweet papers at the bottom of that satchel.)

The beauty of resolutions made now is that they can be fun. This new-year doesn’t fall straight after a giant delivery system for stress and calories, so none of the new stuff has to be remotely about self improvement. (Or is that ‘punishment’?)

Resolutions. Revolutions. Let’s do new stuff.

(Before the apocalypse. Step away from the newspaper)

Here are some suggested little revoresolutions, with a loose connection to education, that feel as of they might be enjoyable as well as helping with the new term.
(Not a single mention of fitness or weight)

Wonderfully naïve’.

The new chairman of Tesco, Dave Lewis, late of Unilever, has been asked to come into his new school earlier than planned. (They really needed the Head Prefect to be there apparently). His approach? He says he will come in a spirit of being ‘wonderfully naïve’. Sounds like a great antidote to that groundhog day feeling that so many grown ups report about going back to work.

W H Auden on Penny Hunt's blog
W H Auden

Thou shalt not do as the dean pleases’.

A rebel resolution from Auden’s ‘Under which Lyre’. He was reminding students at Harvard in 1946 – when all were war weary and the world was wounded and destabilised – to retain their individuality against collective pressure, to protect a sense of being a free spirit. It ends with ‘Thou shalt not live within thy means, nor on plain water and raw greens’ which as a counter to tired January resolutions feels like it should probably be on a T shirt. (We’ll ignore the line ‘thou shalt not be on friendly terms with guys in advertising firms’.)

We’re not laughing at you we’re laughing near you’.

Robin Williams’ John Keating character in Dead Poets Society threw everything at the rigidity of the prep school at which he taught English. Perhaps he sometimes sounded a little schmaltzy. But the beauty of this thought as a resolution is that in one breath it gives permission to laugh and then the perfect line to deliver if others disapprove. Brilliant.

You can be creative in anything- in maths, science, engineering, philosophy – as much as you can in music in or in painting or in dance

Ken Robinson’s 2006 TED talk (can over 25million views be possible?) and the follow up books and papers all talk to the difference between being trained to be a good worker and being trained to be a creative thinker. This particular wee sound bite is handy because it feels inclusive and encouraging. It reminds us to enjoy doing the most unlikely things. A creatively-made cuppa, anyone?

Happy new year and new term dear fellow newly-polished-shoes wearers.