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Senior School Headmaster’s Blog


  • Weighing A Pig Doesn’t Make It Any Heavier

    Testing is something that teachers think a lot about. What is the purpose of testing? How often should we test students? What is the best way to do it? How much lesson time should be given over to testing when it could be used for teaching? Are UK children over-tested compared to pupils elsewhere in […]

    Tuesday 3rd March 2020

  • What Should We Teach?

    “Bitzer,” said Thomas Gradgrind. “Your definition of a horse.” “Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.” Thus (and much more) Bitzer.

    Thursday 6th February 2020

  • Degree Classifications Must Change

    The percentages of top grades at GCSE and A-level are now more or less static from year to year bringing a welcome relief from the annual chorus of ‘it was harder in my day’.

    Tuesday 14th January 2020

  • What Makes Great Teaching?

    At school in the early 1980s one of my favourite teachers was the magnificently named Dr Cattermole who taught Chemistry with spectacular flamboyance. A man who seemed to have become his own caricature, Dr Cattermole’s battered visage was entirely consistent with a complete disregard for even the most obvious of precautions for his own safety; […]

    Thursday 28th November 2019

  • Creativity

    How do we promote creativity at SGS? Creativity is a key skill for future employment, as technology threatens repetitive or predictable jobs, but an appreciation of creativity is also part of being a well-educated human.

    Wednesday 6th November 2019

  • Universities

    At the recent HMC (Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference rather than the Honda Motor Company or the Halal Monitoring Committee for those who have googled HMC!) Conference I found myself feeling sympathy for university admissions tutors, not an emotion I have often experienced in this context.

    Monday 7th October 2019

  • Cats, Curiosity and Care

    ‘Curiosity killed the cat’ is a continuing cause of crossness. Five minutes with a group of 5 year olds will convince even the most traditionally-minded of adults that harnessing curiosity and the plethora of questions that it produces is central to efficient learning; suggesting that curiosity and active enquiry is dangerous would be disastrous as […]

    Tuesday 10th September 2019

  • Holidays

    The long school summer holiday is under scrutiny again with renewed interest in reform sparked by the considerable variation now that individual maintained sector schools are free to set their own term dates.

    Friday 5th July 2019

  • Creative Subjects

    One of the highlights of this stage of the academic cycle is seeing the tangible results of a year’s worth of effort by students in the creative subjects.

    Tuesday 28th May 2019

  • Farewell

    We are just about to bid farewell to the Upper Sixth year group. Hopefully, the students will spend the next few days in further independent revision before showing their best academic form in the exam room in a couple of weeks.

    Monday 29th April 2019

  • Mathematics

    Memory

    Rightly or wrongly, examinations are partly a test of memory. Pupils must thoroughly learn vocabulary, factual details in case studies and technical terms to the point that they can be recalled without effort.

    Monday 25th March 2019

  • Studying Online

    Studying Online

    When I started teaching Physics (some considerable time ago) I would occasionally make use of an Open University video clip to illustrate some particular point at A-level. The characteristic brass fanfare still summons up visions of blurry pictures of OU lecturers with unusual facial hair and a curious dress sense.

    Monday 4th March 2019

  • Potential Fulfilled

    It is quite understandable that we hope that children will ‘fulfil their potential’. As a parent, it is a comforting thought that my children will achieve as much as they possibly can, supported in this endeavour by home and by school: none of their human talents will remain dormant or even underdeveloped.

    Monday 28th January 2019

  • Class Sizes

    Class Sizes

    One of the top three questions I am asked by prospective parents is ‘How big are the classes?’.  The other two are concerned with university destinations for Sixth Form leavers and with pupils’ happiness within the school.

    Monday 7th January 2019

  • Pupils at SGS

    Independent Schools – Dispelling the Myths

    I talk to a huge number of prospective parents at this time of year as families ponder the choice of secondary schools for their sons and daughters to enter next September.

    Monday 3rd December 2018

  • Homework

    ‘Why do we have to do homework?’ asked one of my more outspoken Fourth Year (Year 10) Physics pupils as I announced the details of the assignment. Impressively, the pupil followed up with the assertion that Finnish pupils do better than UK pupils without doing any homework.

    Monday 12th November 2018

  • Dr Stone with pupil

    Choosing a University

    The university application round is in full swing; at Stockport Grammar School many of our Upper Sixth students have now made an application with most of the rest to be completed over the next few weeks.

    Monday 8th October 2018

  • Senior School Headmaster - Dr Paul Owen

    The Fruitful Five

    Character education is a crucial component of a good education. A large research study of good repute looked for the character traits that correlate most highly with success in life; success in its broadest sense in terms of relationships, well-being and achievements as well as the easily measured financial aspects.

    Monday 17th September 2018