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Inaccurate and misleading media reports fuel the government’s divisive agenda to disempower teachers by pitting parents against them in much the same way that scaremongering amongst the general public has been seen in recent months when nurses, doctors and firefighters discuss strike action as their only option in their individual disputes.

Teachers, like most workers, have taken a pay cut in recent years in real terms, but this is not their only grievance. In recent years, workload has increased vastly due to additional bureaucracy, stress-related absences are rising [source] due to constant monitoring and threats of capability action are rife for those whose performance is not deemed to be at least “good” in every criteria that is outlined by Ofsted and school policy which in itself increases workload. This has led to many documented cases of work related stress [source] and workplace bullying:

“At around 20% (of over 10,000 cases), teachers, lecturers and employees in education are the largest group of callers to the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line.” http://www.bullyonline.org/workbully/teachers.htm

Teachers are leaving the profession in droves with approximately 47,700 leaving in 2010-2011 [source] and when polled:

“77% of young teachers said that in their experience, the Coalition Government’s education policies are having a negative impact on the pupils they teach;
97% of young teachers said that the Coalition Government rarely or never respects or values teachers;
Nearly four in ten (39%) of young teachers said that the punitive accountability system was the main reason for 40% of new teachers leaving the profession within five years. Giving all teachers a pay rise in line with the cost of living and giving them more professional autonomy would most encourage new entrants to remain in teaching, young teachers said;
Over half (56%) of young teachers said they had experienced bullying and harassment during their teaching careers;
Administration, inspection and lesson planning are the biggest generators of excessive workload, according to young teachers.”
(https://www.facebook.com/nasuwt)

Statistically, it is interesting to note that somewhere in the region of 50% of new teachers have already left teaching within their first five years and in a joint survey by the county’s two largest teaching unions the NUT and the NASUWT 84% of teachers felt demoralised and over 50% had seriously considered leaving the profession in the previous twelve months [source].

Discontent in the teaching profession is high but staff are determined to ensure that their pupils receive the best that is available to them. I recently spoke to one teacher who had logged a total of 96 additional hours of work to ensure that ONE pupil received the additional support that he was entitled to.

Those outside of education may be unaware of the additional tasks undertaken by teaching staff. Marking and preparation make up a proportion of this as you would expect but many hours are needed every week to complete additional tasks such as: completing individual education plans for children with additional learning needs, dealing with pupil indiscipline, telephoning parents, entering pupil data onto school database systems so that the progress can be monitored and analysed, writing reports, analysing performance data, producing and updating seating plans, writing and re-writing work schemes to reflect constant changes in school policy to meet new Government directives, undertaking quality assurance of work schemes, pupil work, teacher’s work etc., undertaking intervention with pupils at lunch times or after school to allow them to catch up following an absence or if they’re falling behind their target grades, many hours of operational and planning meetings, etc. The list is seemingly endless and I’ve yet to meet a teacher who has said that they go home at night and they are completely up-to-date!. Far from refusing to undertake additional tasks, teachers are constantly on the lookout for software and tips from colleagues that help them to complete these tasks more quickly.

What is less widely reported is how the Government is systematically dismantling the state education system itself in an effort to re-build something that resembles their private or Grammar school experiences. Changes to the National Curriculum are imposed seemingly with little regard as to what the professionals who will be delivering it actually think of it. The Government favours Ebacc which leaves little room in the timetable to teach creative subjects such as Drama, Art, Music and DT and in doing so devalues them creating concern amongst many teachers [source]. Coursework in many subjects has already been shelved and written exams have been introduced into BTEC courses which means many of our weaker learners are likely to struggle to achieve their desired grades. How can removing the ability to allow pupils with different learning needs and abilities to succeed be a sensible policy? To quote Albert Einstein:

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Which, sadly, in reality translates to:

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To clarify what the media fail to report; it’s teachers’ pay AND pension AND changes to working conditions AND workload that is under dispute part of which is removing from them the ability to help all children to succeed in whichever area of education that they are able to excel in.

Cordelia 2014

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Day of strike action

I’m on strike today …. I know this will be highly contentious and parents around the UK will be up in arms because they have to look after their children but enough is enough.

I estimate that I work approx 70 hours a week even though I only physically teach children for about 20 of them and I know with absolute certainty that no matter how many hours I put in, I’ll never get to the end of my “to do” list nor go home with that “job well done feeling”. I work through many of my holidays and weekends.

It never used to be like this. I’ve always worked long hours preparing resources and marking work, knowing that what I did helped the pupils to learn and that I was doing a good job. I’ve been praised in the past for my teaching and my results and although I know that I’m not “outstanding” teacher material, I know that I made a difference and that I cared passionately about my job and the future hopes and dreams of my pupils.

Now, I spend hours wading through a bureaucratic nightmare of endless paperwork, planning done in triplicate, endless meetings etc that leave me so tired and lacking in free time that lesson planning, marking and subsequently my teaching are suffering. Worse still, so is my health. I rarely find time to eat or have a cup of tea at work and I’m finding it difficult to sleep, waking at silly o’clock thinking about something that I’d not had time to do.

I worry about the pressures placed upon teachers today and believe that these are detrimental to education as a whole.

My resignation is written …. it has been for some time but I’ve never been accused of being a quitter so it sits, unsigned, ironically at the bottom of my “to do” list!! I’ll never go back to teaching.

Today, I could have gone to work, signed in, done planning, marking etc and marvelled at how much I could get done with no disturbances and left at lunchtime to attend an arranged network meeting and received a full days pay for doing no teaching at all. Instead, I’m off to see my mother whom I’ve only managed to find time to see once in the past seven weeks then still going to the meeting because many colleagues have put time and effort into putting it together and above all else we are professionals with morals and scruples. Solidarity has its price!

I worry for all pupils …. not because I’m planning on looking for a career where I actually occasionally feel that I’m doing a decent job instead of constantly being in the firing line … but because, having spoken to many, many teachers over the past year, shockingly almost all would quit teaching if they could afford to do so!

A more demoralised profession, you would be hard pushed to find.

Cordelia 2013

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A day in the life …

A day in the life ….

Ever wondered what it’s like to teach…?

06:20​ Alarm.

06:50​ Off to work after checking in on mum.

06:55 ​ Call in to son’s to feed cat as he’s away on business.

07:25 ​ Arrive to work.
​ Log on to computer in my office.
​Unpack marking that I did last night.
​ Print off work that I emailed from home.

07:35​ Go to staff room.
​ Photocopy work for L2 and for tomorrow.

07:40​ Go to R80 to log on to computer.
​ Set up, re-thread and fix sewing machines ready for L1.
​ Switch on white board and upload lesson info.

08:00​ Go to R90 to log on to computer.
​ Switch on white board and upload lesson info.
​ Check work and put out onto desks ready for L2.

08:10​ Sorting out work for my group that the cover teacher is taking whilst I’m taking an absent colleague’s exam group.

08:20​ Check email for important messages.
​ Print off two emails for pupils.

08:25​ Continue sorting out work for cover teacher.

08:35​ Go to R80 to teach L1 (Textiles, Y8).

09:35​ Dismiss Y8 and head off to R90 to teach L2 (Y11 GCSE group) – their teacher is on long-term absence.

10:35​ Dismiss Y11 and cut across corridor to take my Guidance group – today’s topic is “Mental Health” – pass on the two messages.

11:00​ Back to my office.
​ Print off photos taken during L2.

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​ Put photos into pupils folders ready for their next lesson on Monday.
​Boil kettle to make first cuppa of the day then decide there’s no time.
Grab a bottle of water.

11:15 ​ Go to R80 again to teach L3 (Textiles, Y9).

12:15​ Dismiss Y9 pupils.
​ Open bottle of water!
​Need toilet.

12:20​ Go to office, check emails.
​ Got to another building to sort out issues with some pupils throwing pizza in a corridor.
​ Begin investigation by talking to several staff to find out what happened.

12:45​ Arrive back at office.
​ Make breakfast – Ready Break.

12:55​ Go through class lists to narrow down culprits – down to five possibles.

13:15​ Head over to Student Services to issue “call back” notices to five pupils.
​ Sorted out two other issues on the way.

13:45. Arrived back in office.
​ Checked list of jobs that I’d hoped to do today to see what could be done in 15 mins.

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​ That’s only the lesson related jobs!
​Tidied away all the dry Y7 tie dyed fabrics.

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13:55​ Head off to R80 for L5 (Textiles, Y8).

14:00​ Y8 arrive.

15:00​ Dismiss Y8.
​ Keep one boy back for misbehaving.
​ The five pizza boys fail to arrive for their “call back”
Still need to go to toilet.

15:05​ Telephone Student Services – they arrived there and are being directed to me.

15:15​ Boys still fail to arrive.
​ Telephone Student Services again to arrange detention for them for failing to attend.

15:20​ Arrived five mins late to meeting.
​Oooooo cake!
​Group discussion.
​Sitting next to cake.
​ Too distracting.
​ No one will ever know!
Brush crumbs off blouse

16:25​ Back to office to begin tasks.
​ Lesson planning for tomorrow first.
​ No … hold on … finally go to toilet!

16:35​ Difficult meeting with staff member that I line manage.

16:55​ Information to write up regarding another incident.

17:00​ Back to lesson planning.

17:15​ L1 complete – easy as mostly already done.

17:20​ Finished tidying drawer … procrastination at its worst!

17:25​ Begin planning L2-5.
​New textiles project for Y7 pupils.

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​Before I forget, phone parents about Y10 boy whose failing to meet deadlines with coursework.
​ Get back to planning.

19:35​ Sister (just out of hospital) phones … mam’s got no electricity … will I go and see if I can do anything?

19:40​ Phones mam … she’s had no electricity since 08:30 this morning.
​ Log off.
​The rest of the work will have to wait.

19:50 ​Leave work.

20:20​ Arrive at son’s house (who’s now home) to fill up flask with boiling water.
​ Beds and baths offered … we’ll see how it goes.

20:40​ Arrive at local pizza shop.
​ Walk around to get some milk while pizza cooking.
​Collect pizza.

20:55 ​ Arrived back at mam’s.

21:00​ Pizza shared … first hot food she’s had all day.
​ Oh yes … first cuppa of the day!

21:30​ Second cuppa.
​ Flask emptying quickly.
​ Men outside digging up path!

22:25​ Woohoo electricity back on.

22:30​ Workman came to door to check on mam … somewhat handsome and here’s me in my PJs!

22: 45​ Phone hubby to wish him good night didn’t mention handsome workman did I say I was working away from home at the moment?

23:00​ BED!!!

I have to say that the saving grace of today was that it was Thursday …. if it had been Tuesday or Friday it would have also been duty day which means a long walk to the other side of the school site three times per day to stand in the cold and shepherd wayward souls.

So next time hubby says “What you been doing all day?” I think I’ll just pass on this URL.

The irony of it is … I’ve been so busy, this all happened last Thursday!!

Tired again, good night!

Cordelia 2013

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Education in Scotland

… a personal perspective

I’ve been teaching a number of years and before moving to Scotland worked as the Head of Design Technology in a busy department in one of the top comprehensive schools in England.  A progressive school, praised by Ofsted as “outstanding” in all areas and mentioned twice in the Houses of Commons as a model of good practice.

So, with excellent references and a good honours degree perhaps you’d share my thinking that it wouldn’t take too long to find suitable teaching employment in Scotland … think again!

DEAR DIARY ….

30th June 2011: It’s the last day of term and everyone is excited and looking forward to the holiday.   I need to take off my teaching head and don my B&B head as I’ve 7 weeks of non-stop breakfasts, cleaning and evening meals ahead.

9th August 2011: Today I met up for lunch with the ladies that I’ve been working with for the past 21 months in Home Economics (HE) … naturally, we talked ‘shop’.

16th August 2011: First day of term… the Local Authority (LA), haven’t phoned … my friend & colleague has however and wonders where I am. She’s sorted all my class lists and done my food orders ready for me starting.  #Bless

18th August 2011: Friend & colleague been on phone to say that she misses me and the children are asking where I am…two were crying because I wasn’t there!

19th August 2011: Phoned LA who tell me that the job is to be advertised and they’re not filling it in the meantime.  I can’t apply because the LA won’t appoint outside of my own subject (Technical) (even though there’s no legal reason preventing them) and (apparently) I’m not qualified to teach the subject I’ve been successfully teaching for 21 months.

PS: Head Teacher (HT) telephoned me to apologise; she didn’t know of the LA’s intentions.

PPS: Telephoned the General Teaching Council in Scotland (GTCS) who suggest reminding the LA that due to a repeal of the Education Act some years ago they could legally appoint me.

PPPS: HT phoned back again and said she also got nowhere with the LA.

24th August 2011: Colleague telephoned and tells me they have a retired teacher doing the job that they’re “not filling in the meantime”.  #Annoyed

26th August 2011: LA have sent my P45 and backdated it to 15th August 2011.  #Hmmm

5th September 2011: Contacted my Union for advice.  Been emailing back and forward all day clarifying points and details.  Head’s spinning! Union contacted LA who told them that they send the P45s out every year “as a matter of course” … odd how I don’t remember one arriving last year!

9th September 2011: The LA have advertised the job today … 0.5 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) Permanent.

12th September 2011: Thought “sod it” and applied for the job anyway!

13th September 2011: Union contacted to say that they think I have a case for asking LA to give me a permanent contract as I had continuous employment with them for 2 years (according to the LA’s own regulations).

14th September 2011: Sent a letter to the LA requesting permanent employment.

19th September 2011: Had an email from the LA saying that the job has been changed from permanent to temporary! Spoke to Union who don’t seem alarmed – they really need to wise up…!

3rd October 2011: Emailed recruitment to ask for an update on the advertised job … advised that the post was “in process of being leeted for” and that they’ll email when they know.

PS: No work since June … worried about paying mortgage.

9th October 2011: Held Craft Fayre today at the Lodge and raised £80 for local charity. Friend and colleague came to support and also told me that the job has vanished – the classes have been given to any teacher who had space on their timetable and they have supply in for lessons that couldn’t be covered.

11th October 2011: Letter arrived from the LA saying that I am not entitled to permanent employment as I had not worked for them for a continuous two years … I’m two weeks short apparently!!

PS: …and because they didn’t give me any work for the first few weeks of term there’s a break in my contract so I’m not entitled to any further employment rights and I’ll have to start accruing entitlement and wait another two FULL years until I’m once again eligible.  #Angry

18th October 2011: Noticed that adjoining LA have advertised a teaching job as “term time only” and adjusted the pay accordingly.  I think that should be filed under #WTF

19th October 2011: Decided that life’s too short to be away from those that you love and that the LA can shove teaching in Scotland where the sun doesn’t shine.  Telephoned the General Teaching Council in England (GTCE) to re-register: one form, 10 mins to fill in (unlike the 42 separate documents I had to photocopy and submit to the GTCS a few years ago (yes I did count them) … unnecessary bureaucracy and NO that doesn’t mean that they have higher standards!).

24th October 2011: LA still haven’t bothered to email me, as promised, to let me know about the job that they advertised as permanent but now no longer exists. Thought that I’d better update the Union … for what that’s worth!

25th October 2011: I was booked to do a day’s supply today at a different school.  The Principal Teacher (HOD) was so pleased to see that it was ME who turned up (having previously interviewed me for the job that the LA refused to employ me for) the school promptly booked me until Christmas … so the LA are now employing me FULL TIME in a HE job that “I’m not qualified to teach”…!! #Madness

30th October 2011: Friend and colleague telephoned … the retired supply teacher doing my old job was not happy that the LA have cut HER job to 5 hrs per week!

11th November 2011: Two possible jobs in the TES today … a maternity cover and a HOD job – guess I know what I’ll be doing this weekend!

12th November 2011: GTCE have sent my full registration certificate this morning #Efficient

P.S. I’ve posted my applications for the two jobs.

28th November 2011: Wow … have an interview on Friday for the Maternity job … told school and they wished me luck but said that they’d be really sorry to lose me.

2nd December 2011: Decided early this morning to withdraw from the interview … very difficult decision … I need to focus on a permanent position.

5th December 2011: Received phone call this afternoon inviting me to interview on Monday for the HOD job.

12th December 2011: Interview day – feeling very nervous – it’s the first one I’ve had in 8 years in England!  36 applicants and 4 interviewed.

PS: Didn’t get the job but I appointed and mentored the teacher who did when she was a new teacher a few years ago! #Ironic

22nd December 2011:  Today is the last day of my current contract … school have put in a request to keep me … no word from the LA. #Typical

6th January 2012:  No phone call or contract so no idea if I’m at same school on Monday or if I have any work at all. Telephoned LA.  Snotty woman on phone said that they had been done on Wednesday and mine will be with me shortly.  I’ll not hold my breath!

1st February 2012:  Emailed my HT to advise him I’ve seen a HOD job that I’m applying for … he replied: “We will certainly miss you from the school” #Bless

6th February 2012:  Received my Post Graduate Diploma Certificate from Newcastle University this morning.

9th February 2010: Phoned LA:

Me: Should I be attending school next Tuesday for the Inservice day?

LA: You have a full-time contract so yes, it’s part of your contract.

Me: I do not have a full-time contract … in fact I have no contract at all since you haven’t bothered to post one to me even though I’ve telephoned to chase it up and since you wouldn’t pay me last year for attending an Inservice day I’ll be damned if I’m coming in next week if you’re not going to pay me.

LA:  Let me check *kept on hold for a while* Yes, you’re definitely full time so you will be paid for the day and I’ll ensure that your contract is in the post straight away.

As usual, I’ll not hold my breath!

10th February 2012:  Received telephone call inviting me for an interview.

21st February 2012: Interview day. 42 applications, 4 interviewed. #Nervous

PS: Didn’t much care for some of the staff but no worries as I didn’t get the job either!

22nd March 2012: Another interview today … worst one yet. The staff were just plain awful – so relieved when I didn’t get offered the job!  Decided that I’ve had enough – it’s a long way to go each time for interview and I’m so tired and demoralised!  Confidence is at an all-time low!!  Telephoned good teaching colleagues who I know can put things into perspective for me.

13th May 2012:   Applied for an Assistant Faculty Leader job today that I really like the sound of.  It’s the highest position I’ve applied for and would be a promotion on the job I used to hold in England.

16th May 2012:  LA have advertised the HE job that I’m currently doing but cannot apply for.

23rd May 2012: Telephone call inviting me for an interview.

29th May 2012:  Interview day.  No nerves … this feels right!! 28 applications, 4 interviewed.

PS: HT phoned me at 2pm to offer me the position. #stunned

30th May 2012:  Went to school with a heavy heart … I should be feeling proud and happy but I’m sad to be leaving.  Lots of hugs from all.

PS: My P60 arrived today.  It’s wrong … again #ffs

12th June 2012: Another school in the LA that advertised for a HE teacher and got no applications phoned my HOD today to see if I was available to book for August.  Nice to be wanted

13th June 2012:  The lady who applied for the job I’m currently doing was interviewed and appointed today.  She’s lovely and I know that she’ll be very happy working with my wonderful colleagues.

26th June 2012:  Last day of teaching in Scotland … end of an era! Lunch with the ladies was sad.  HT gave me a huge hug before I left wishing me every luck and success in my new job and was so sad that I was leaving *crying* (me that is!)

31st August 2012:  Starting my new job on Monday …. beginning to get nervous!!  Had three phone calls from LA desperate for me to teach HE again this year as they’re short staffed. My P45 hasn’t arrived “as a matter of course” this year … apparently they can’t send it until I officially resign in writing!! #colddayinhell

.

Selling the house and winding up my husband’s business are the next steps I guess.  We’ll miss the country life but hopefully find time to visit our Scottish friends from time-to-time.

.

It’s difficult to put into words the level of contempt that I have for my previous LA.  I’ve spoken to many teachers about my predicament over the past year and been saddened to learn I’m not alone.  One said she was on short-term contracts for 18 years and another doesn’t know who’s going to be working in her department from one week to the next!

But I have a wonderful new job and I’m looking forward to seeing more of my family.

As a final note of irony … not only am I teaching Food and Textiles Technology (HE) … I’m in charge of the department!!

.

Copyright © 2012 by Cordelia

All rights reserved

Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge

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The Public Sector Strike

I’m a member of the NASUWT, one of 29 Trade Unions which will be on strike today, Wednesday 30th November 2011, in protest of the Government’s proposed changes to pensions.

Whilst teachers appear to be bearing the brunt of the bad press by a government hell-bent on squaring them up against parents through vilification and emotional blackmail, little is said about the many other areas of the Public Sector which will also be striking.

So why so much vitriol against teachers?  Well that’s simple … they’re an easy target.  How many members of the public will be inconvenienced because their bins will be emptied a day later or because their local municipal golf course will be closed and let’s be honest … we’d rather hope that the Tax Inspectors stay on strike!!

I don’t hear cries in the newspapers or on TV from Government ministers vilifying the school caretaker who will be on strike, nor the pensions officer nor the librarian.  No, they focus on Education; persuade parents that everything is the teacher’s fault and swiftly shoulder the blame from themselves to teachers hoping for sympathy from inconvenienced parents.

Please be assured that your child’s education will not suffer from one day’s industrial action … I do not know a single teacher that does not work relentlessly to help, advise, mentor and counsel every one of their wards and has not done a lot of soul-searching before putting an “x” in the ballot box to vote for strike action.  Many, like myself, are supply staff, whose pay and conditions have been drastically eroded along with their pensions and many, like me, because they are taking a day’s industrial action, are deemed to be breaking their contract and thus forfieting their employment entitlements as well as losing a day’s pay. With the schools closed, I couldn’t work supply today so I lose a day’s pay either way!

Please do not let the government undermine what the Public Sector are working to achieve by ostracising teaching staff for their actions.  This is not a Teachers’ strike … it’s a Public Sector strike!

As the Guardian states ” About 2.6 million people were balloted – across the range of public sector posts from teachers to immigration officers and care workers – with an estimated 750,000 voting yes. It will be the biggest bout of industrial unrest since the 1979 winter of discontent.”

Feel free to argue that you disagree with all strike action, or that you disagree with everyone that is striking today and I respect your views but please don’t become a Government puppet and disagree with the strike just because you needed to make alternative child care arrangements for the care of your child … the truth of the matter is, you can’t object to a teacher taking the same industrial action as a greenkeeper or a librarian just because their actions do not inconvenience you.

Copyright © 2011 by Cordelia

All rights reserved

Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge

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I’ve been learning to teach for almost 20 years now … I say “learning” because every day brings new challenges and just when you think that you’ve conquered this whole teaching malarkey someone or something throws a spanner in the works and you’re back to the drawing board.

Now normally it’s the Government … but I’ll save that rant for another post!!

I’m currently teaching out of my comfort zone … having trained in Design Technology I’ve taught Product Design, Electronics and Engineering for 15 years but have been doing long-term supply, teaching Home Economics in my current school.  The children are quite surprised to learn that I have a welding certificate!!

This particular spanner was completely of my own doing … I thought that all eventualities had been covered: bowls, sieves, wooden spoons etc. lay in nice neat piles for collection by the pupils.  All the ingredients that I required for the demonstration were strategically placed on the centre table and the whiteboard displayed a carefully crafted recipe:

  • 50g margarine
  • 2 x 15ml spoon (tablespoon) of icing sugar
  • 50g plain (all purpose) flour
  • 1 x 15ml spoon custard powder

…complete with learning intentions and success criteria and a beautiful picture of what the end product was going to look like:

My Delicious Empire Biscuits

Things were going as well as could be expected … the children had creamed the fat and sugar and were waiting expectantly for me to impart a few words of wisdom.  Gathered around the centre table, they’re hanging onto every word and I picked up what I thought was the dish with the specified quantity of plain flour and sieved it into my mixture.  Picking up the other dish to add 1 x 15ml spoon of custard powder … I realised that I’d mixed the two up!!

To be fair, at this point I could have bluffed my way through … they didn’t know what was in the dishes!!  My old Head Teacher always used to say, “Cordelia, you’re too honest for your own good!” … I was never really too sure if it was a compliment or not … but I’ve always maintained that, “honesty’s the best policy” and if you expect it from children then you have to lead by example…!

“That’s what happens when you talk and work at the same time, but of course you’re not going to make that mistake because you’re not going to be chatting!!” I said emphatically as they giggled.  Then, taking heed of the poster on the wall:

Picture courtesy of the internet

…I completed rolling and cutting then put the biscuits into the oven (150 °C / Gas Mark 4 for 15 mins) and the pupils completed their recipes using the correct ingredients!!

You’re wondering what they tasted like now aren’t you? Delicious (if I do say so myself) … I also appear to have inadvertently discovered Millie’s Cookies secret recipe for gooey white chocolate cookies 🙂

Copyright © 2011 by Cordelia

All rights reserved

Balkissock Lodge

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