4th May 2018 Spot the difference. Or, where’s Trotsky?

‘Fake news’ is a current obsession. Fabrication and false narratives undermine public discourse and confidence in institutions. David Clark, an advisor to Tony Blair’s 1997 government noted recently that some governments are currently trying to lead the world into a ‘wilderness of mirrors.’ My…

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27th April 2018 What makes someone a good teacher?

 If you have the answer to the above question you have the potential to become very rich indeed. A vast industry exists around ‘good or outstanding teaching.’ From professional organisations offering 12 week mentoring courses through to happy amateurs theorising in their sheds about the most…

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28th March 2018 Sinfonia Intitolata Bonaparte

In 1804 Beethoven was putting the finishing touches to ‘Sinfonia Intitolata Bonaparte’ when he received notice that Napoleon, a figure he admired for being both revolutionary and virtuous, had declared himself Emperor of France. Barely able to contain his rage, the composer shouted: 

‘So he is…

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9th March 2018 Mr Bagley

In 1995 the Committee for Standards in Public Life suggested 7 principles that should guide all public servants. Lord Nolan’s report identified the need for public servants to demonstrate selflessness: integrity; objectivity; accountability; openness; honesty and leadership. Those principles are…

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2nd March 2018 - Adverse Weather Protocol Learning Curve

Unsurprisingly, the focus for my letter this week is the weather. The week has been characterised by an obsession with the Met Office, Red and Amber Weather Warnings, driving conditions, fears over safety and the hugely difficult decision taken to close the school. As you are aware, the school’s…

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16th February 2018 Rituals & Milestones

School life is based upon a series of rituals and reoccurring milestones. Ill-fitting uniform on the first day of school. A new school bag. Replacing lost PE kit. The Christmas service at Durham Cathedral. First lessons in options subjects at GCSE and A Level. Last days of term. Results days.…

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9th February 2018 Some Battles Are Never Completely Won

“Sir, I was completing my homework on Anti-Semitism in 1930s Germany and I found a website which said that the Holocaust didn’t happened. Is that a common view?”

 

A year 9 student asked me the above question at the end of a lesson. He waited until other students had left and was clearly a…

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2nd February 2018 Votes For Women

A boy and his father are involved in a car crash. The father dies and the boy needs urgent surgery in order to survive; he will die unless operated upon quickly. He is rushed into the operating theatre. The surgeon enters at speed, ready to operate, but stops, stating ‘I can’t operate on him. He’s…

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Tags: Suffragettes, Lydia Pearson

26th January 2018 Lydia Pearson, Libraries & About The Young Idea

We have a number of invigilators in school this week as year 11 students are completing mock exams. On Wednesday an invigilator asked for directions and I explained that ‘You need to go straight past Lydia and turn right.’ They nodded, but rightly, looked a little perplexed.

Lydia is the name…

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19th January 2018 Old Photographs

 

If you look very closely at the above photograph (left) you will see two small human figures; one man having his shoes cleaned by another. It is titled ‘Boulevard du Temple’ and was taken in 1838 by Louis Daguerre. It is the first known photograph to feature a person. A year later, in…

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12th January 2018 Vive La France & An Introduction

As a history teacher at Durham Johnston it is always obvious that you have returned to school in January when, walking along the corridors, vigilant but thinking of tea, you are accosted by inquisitive 6th form students.

“Excuse me sir, how many economics ministers did Louis XVI have between…

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