Today we have a new blog post from one of our fantastic authors, Jonathan Gravells, author of Mentoring: Getting it Right in a Week. Here he explores what exactly mentees want from their mentors and their schools.

Agreeing clear expectations, at both and individual and school level, is one of the proven ingredients of successful mentoring. Here are some expectations that would come at the top of our list.

6 things you should expect from your mentor

  1. Credibility & competence – There are skills and knowledge associated with being a good mentor and you should expect your mentor to have taken the trouble to acquire these. Do they have to have more experience than you as a teacher? Well not necessarily, as plenty of successful peer mentoring partnerships can demonstrate. However, mentoring partnerships often benefit from mentors having different experience, as this enriches the learning.
  2. Willingness to learn – Competence does not mean your mentor knows it all. We can all get better at what we do and your mentor should role model this. Furthermore, in the best mentoring partnerships the mentor learns from exploring their mentee’s experiences too.
  3. Attention – Good listening is important of course, but great mentors do so much more than this. They give their full attention to their mentee, in an effort to really understand what motivates, frustrates or frightens them, and to find ways forward that will really suit them, rather than simply conform to some established formula or standard.
  4. Empathy – Because they have taken the trouble to really understand what makes you tick, great mentors will be able to put themselves in your shoes and realise why you respond to situations and events in a particular way. But they will also remain objective enough to help you question these responses.
  5. Challenge – So, empathy and supportiveness are key to good mentoring, but we also learn from having our assumptions and preconceptions challenged. The best mentors help us to tackle things we might not otherwise have had the confidence to address.
  6. Freedom to be your best self – Great mentors do not impose their strategies or recipes on you. They acknowledge that good teachers are not all stamped from the same mould, and the most successful ideas and improvements will be those that suit your personality and strengths.

6 things you should expect from your school

  1. Clear purpose for the mentoring – Unless your school is clear about what it wants to achieve from mentoring as an institution, then what kind of message is it sending mentors and mentees?
  2. Proper evaluation and improvement – Demonstrating the impact of mentoring, justifying the continued investment of time and money on this aspect of continuing professional development, and finding ways of making it work even better will reinforce everyone’s commitment to the process.
  3. Proper training and ongoing support – As the recent National Standards for ITT mentors rightly point out, mentors (and I would argue mentees) need not just adequate initial training in the skills and techniques of mentoring, but processes to ensure continued improvements in practice.
  4. Time – Unless schools find ways of allocating sufficient time to mentoring as part of staff development, the evidence suggests mentors and mentees will struggle to maintain commitment to the process.
  5. A positive environment – Another crucial observation from the National Standards is that mentoring can only thrive in the right environment. This means a sensible separation from performance assessment and monitoring , demonstrable support from the top, and respecting the need for mentoring to take place within a safe space.
  6. Agreed definition and ground rules – This positive environment will benefit significantly from clarity around mentoring roles and responsibilities and the basic ground rules governing these learning conversations.

Jonathan Gravells, Director of Fargo Associates, January 2017

If this blog post interests you, why not look a bit further? Details of Jonathan’s Mentoring: Getting it Right in a Week can be found on the Critical Publishing website. In addition, why not have a look at the other titles in the In a Week series; Lesson Planning: Getting it Right in a Week by Keith and Nancy Appleyard and Behaviour Management: Getting it Right in a Week by Susan Wallace.

If you have any questions, you can reach me at – as always, we would love to hear from you!

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An Afterthought- The London Book Fair

Hello everyone, so this time last week I was at the London book fair for the first time.

Here is a short reflection of my three days there!

So my first London Book Fair was… well… I can’t really sum it up in just one word so let me try and set the scene for you.

I had been told stories about the book fair before. Most of these recollections involved variations of the same sort of terms: ‘amazing’, ‘grand’ or even more simply ‘cool’. However, none of these accounts prepared me for 3 floors, two grand halls and about fifteen coffee shops…

When I first entered Olympia I was honestly at awe. I know that’s cliché to say and I wish I had a more original way to describe it but it’s true- it was awesome. When you think of the phrase “book fair” you can’t help but visualise a few tents filled with eager, cultured-looking, London-living booklovers engaging in fierce debate over various plot twists, hidden-messages and characterisation. The term is outstandingly misleading and doesn’t quite do the event justice. So for all those who know very little about the book industry the book fair is most definitely a business event.

I’ll try and clarify what I mean by that- publishing, distribution, sales, publicity and printing companies are all there to look for opportunities to grow their businesses. For the most part the stands are manned by one or two employees whilst the rest of the team are preoccupied with back to back meetings. I for one can vouch for that, both directors of Critical Publishing had meetings every half hour from the beginning of the day till the end, most of which were planned and booked in the two weeks leading up to the fair!

When there is some free time available, seminars run throughout the day in about seven different conference rooms where the range of topics available is nothing short of impressive, I’ve got the list for you here. I filled my days attending these seminars, meeting with other interns and getting to grips with the fact that I was only aware of a small fraction of publishing companies out there.

Do you know what I loved most about the fair though? The fact that everyone spoke to each other or knew of each other or made an effort to network with people they hadn’t met yet. For such a massive industry, it is ridiculously tight-knit and that is comforting to be around- booklovers stick together!

Oh and I almost forgot- the free wine was a great bonus too!

So all in all, a great few days filled with books, business, a lot of walking and an excessive amount of caffeine.

Word on the street is that Frankfurt is even bigger… so I look forward to someday going there too!

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If you have any questions you can reach me at – as always we’d love to hear from you.

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Are you excited for the London Book Fair?

Ladies and Gentlemen- it has arrived!

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The London Book Fair– the biggest, the baddest and the most anticipated book fair of the year!

Julia Morris, co-director of Critical Publishing, would like to share what she is most looking forward to at the book fair this year.

Not long now! Just one sleep until the London Book Fair starts. It’s an exciting prospect.

The scale of it all certainly has the capacity to daunt. Critical Publishing, with a staff of 3, is clearly a tiny fish – if not a speck of plankton – in a very big sea. But equally it’s the number and quality of exhibitors that really makes you feel part of what is a thriving, innovative and creative industry.

It really is a chance to drink in everything around you, from some of the hugely impressive stands of the big publishers to the more modest tables (scattered with equally impressive products) of smaller companies. It’s a great place to get ideas, see what your competitors are doing and get your head round some of the latest tech.

There is a glamorous side to the event, with the chance that you might just brush shoulders with a great author or an up-and-coming celebrity who has just released their autobiography. But for me the event is characterised by the more down to earth necessity of meetings, catch-ups and networking. Back to back appointments see me rushing from one end of the great hall to the other, desperately searching for that elusive stand number and the even more elusive place to sit down.  I look anything but glamorous by the end of the first day!

However at that point there is always the IPG party to revive the spirits and a refreshing glass of wine to enjoy with friends and colleagues.

If you’re at the book fair then come and say hi to us.

Any other questions please direct to – as always we’d love to hear from you.

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How to ACE your Interview!

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Sadly, this is the last day of extracts from Andy and Mel‘s new book ‘Getting into Secondary Teaching‘… but oh what a good last extract it is.

In this snippet the text discusses what to expect and how to best prepare for your interview.

Chapter 10- Successfully applying for a secondary ITE place

Student teacher voicesRebekah:I think in general the application process, especially the interview, is very daunting, but it gives you an insight into the year to come. It is a very challenging course, but extremely worth it in the end!

James:             The interview was perhaps the hardest part, due to a lack of previous interviews. It tried to prepare for the possible questions that could come up and made sure that my personal statement was not exaggerated.

Tom:Prepare for questions and be aware of current changes in education. Answer truthfully and honestly. Don’t try to lie about gaps in your subject knowledge!

What might you be expected to do at your interview?

You may be asked to make a brief presentation on a given topic, or you may be asked to teach a lesson on a particular theme. In these cases, if you are in school, you can anticipate that you will be asked to work with pupils in some way, though not all schools will expect you teach a full lesson to pupils. You could be asked to reflect on this at a later stage of the interview.

If asked to present, make sure you follow advice given on style and content. Stick to time limits (and make sure you have rehearsed the presentation, allowing for the nervous impulse that will speed your speech up under the duress of the moment). Address the people present in the room, your audience, and interact with them in as relaxed manner. A presentation is an opportunity for you to be seen in the communication mode that secondary school teachers use in almost every lesson:

  • addressing a group of people as an audience, engaging and holding attention, articulating a train of thought;
  • communicating ideas clearly and succinctly;
  • sign-posting the talk for the audience with verbal emphasis and appropriate gesture; summarising and managing visual aids or resources.

Try not to over-rely on a prepared script or prompt cards, as this will tend to make your talk rather dull. Have the confidence to know your major points and talk freely around your subject; it will always be more interesting and engaging.

You will be given the opportunity to respond to questions in a personal interview which will probably be with one or two tutors or school-based colleagues. Some interview panels can have more people present. You will have an opportunity to talk about your reasons for coming into teaching; what makes you choose your subject as your specialism in secondary school; and what you have learned about teaching and learning from your recent experiences in school. You should always answer with your own thoughts, making use of your preparation and research without trying to give a ‘correct’ or complete answer. The interviewer will ask supplementary questions, probing to see how much thought you have given to your future in teaching.

If you want more advice on prepping for your interview then read this blog post from our trainee teacher blogger Taylor Cornes.

For more details on book then go to our website where ALL titles are currently 15% OFF.

Otherwise please feel free to message in with any questions for us or for Andy and Mel at

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Why knowing your “subject” is so important.

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We all remember that teacher don’t we.

The one that we dreaded going to lessons because of. The one that made it impossible to stay awake in class. The one that just read out of a textbook.

Our book ‘Getting into Secondary Teaching‘ highlights the importance of being enthusiastic, energetic and, most importantly, informed about your “specialist” subject to ensure that your learners are engaged and eager to learn!

As a teacher it is important to “know your subject”, as quoted in the book- it makes it easier to teach, to translate and to encourage understanding.

Read this great extract to see what happens when you don’t have good subject knowledge.

The effects of not having good subject knowledge

Subject knowledge is identified as an important indicator of the quality of teaching. If you have a high level of specialised subject knowledge you will have:

  • a vast range of factual knowledge about your subject;
  • a deep understanding of the theoretical aspects of your subject;
  • a conceptual framework for organizing your knowledge;
  • knowledge of the ‘big ideas’ in your subject;
  • a range of ‘stories’ about your specialist subject which aids the giving of explanations.

At the time of writing the current School Inspection Handbook, OfSTED (2015) notes that outstanding teachers ‘…demonstrate deep knowledge and understanding of the subjects they teach’ (p 46). Your depth of subject knowledge therefore has a clear impact on the quality of your teaching.

However, it is a different story if your subject knowledge is not strong. In a study carried out by McCarthy and Youens (2005), they identified a lack of robustness in the subject knowledge of student teachers. Further evidence comes from Richardson (2006), who observed that in some lessons, early career teachers’ misunderstandings were evident and misconceptions expressed by pupils went unchallenged.

Sanders et al (1993), writing about experienced teachers, report that teaching outside one’s subject specialism appears to have an impact on the quality of lesson planning. Such issues include difficulties in structuring lessons, lack of confidence and depth when responding to pupils, lack of creativity and lack of challenge that extends the pupils’ thinking and use of what they have learned in a lesson. The overall impact is a narrowing of the range of activities, analogies, models and illustrations that help develop pupil understanding. Consequently lessons can become more rigid, constrained and less creative. Childs and McNicholl (2007) agree and add the feature of selecting and using resources. Even with extensively resourced schemes of work, teachers operating outside their specialism can be disadvantaged by not having the specific subject knowledge to make an informed choice of resources.

[F] Reflective task

  • Think back to some of the lessons you had at school where you struggled to understand what was being taught.  Why do you think it was?  Was it because the subject content was too difficult?  Was it because of the way in which it was presented?
  • Now put yourself in the place of the teacher. How might you avoid the same thing happening in your classroom when you are teaching?

To know more about how to keep your learners engaged in your subject area then visit this link here.

For more details on this book then go to our website where ALL titles are currently 15% OFF.

Otherwise please feel free to message in with any questions for us or for Andy and Mel at

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Professional Learning as a Secondary Teacher

For those that have just tuned in, this whole week we’ll be giving you free extracts from our newly published book ‘Getting into Secondary Teaching‘.

In this snippet the book discusses reflexivity and reflective practice.

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Reflection and reflexivity

The concept of reflexivity is often referred to in discussions of reflective practice as a way to enhance the quality of reflective practice.  Reflexivity has been defined as:

an ability to recognize our own influence – and the influence of our social and cultural contexts on research, they type of knowledge we create, and the way we create it . . In this sense, it is about factoring ourselves as players into the situations we practice in (Fook and Askeland, 2006, p.45).

While reflective practice focuses on learning from professional activity reflexivity emphasises the importance of our own beliefs and actions in the type of professional activity we become involved in.   Advocates of this model of reflective practice argue that developing the ability to be reflective and reflexive comes from committing to practicing it.  Taking time to reflect-on-action by thinking, writing, discussing issues with peers and colleagues and researching key issues are common ways that your ITE course will maximise your opportunities to be reflective and reflexive.

Two student teachers, Lily and Hannah, share their experiences of reflection and why they found it such a powerful mechanism for learning.


Lily:Reflection is the best tool that an outstanding teacher can have. With my specialist subject being such a broad subject including such varying topics, no teacher is going to be outstanding in every area; certainly not in your training year anyway. There is no excuse however, for not teaching a unit far better the second time you teach it. Regardless of the topic, every unit of work and indeed lesson should become better after each time you teach it; I believe this is the difference between good and outstanding teachers.

Hannah:A reflective and reflexive teacher can critically evaluate their lessons and identify strengths and areas for improvement and focus on these areas in future lessons. A reflective teacher will aim for continuous improvement so that their lessons enable students to make high levels of progress.

If you want access to the reflective task that follows this passage then go here!

For more details on book then go to our website where ALL titles are currently 15% OFF.

Otherwise please feel free to message in with any questions for us or for Andy and Mel at

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A post from the authors of our NEWLY published book!

Welcome to our second entry!

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Andy Davies and Mel Norman, authors of ‘Getting into Secondary Teaching‘ (OUT NOW and 15% off on our website) have prepared this blog post about what being a secondary teacher actually entails.

So if you are an aspiring teacher, looking for an honest insight into the teaching career then this is the book for you!

– Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. Nelson Mandela

– It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge. Albert Einstein

If messages such as these touch you in any way, perhaps you are thinking of a career in teaching. Teaching is a very rewarding profession; a teacher influences the lives of many young people and truly can make a difference. Working in initial teacher education we are always looking to help new entrants to join our profession.  We have a commitment to supporting people from all walks of life to become teachers so that the diversity of the teaching workforce reflects the diversity of society.  Increasingly however the actual process of deciding on which pathway, completing an application and preparing for interview has become a more complicated process and currently many news stories describe sometimes challenging working conditions and point towards a forthcoming shortage of secondary teachers. Alongside our colleagues we have often discussed the need for more help for potential applicants to make informed choices about whether secondary teaching is for them.  This book fills that gap giving an honest assessment of what being a secondary teacher entails with discussion of the day-to-day realities, how to apply and  advice on how to thrive during training and afterwards.

In writing this book we wanted to give an honest account of the highs and lows of life working in secondary schools. To do this we collaborated with colleagues with many years experience and success working in schools and teacher education who have written about areas of specialist knowledge and expertise.  “Getting into Secondary Teaching”also offers examples from experienced teachers, teachers in training, pupils and even parents who tell it to you ‘exactly as it is’ so you know the expectations of the many different facets involved in being a teacher.  The book also encapsulates research, theory and practice in teaching to enable you to develop an informed stance on important themes in secondary education.

While “Getting into Secondary Teaching” provides essential advice to help you through the entire process of deciding on what pathway to apply for, where to apply, how to prepare your written application and what admissions tutors are looking for in interviews it is also designed to provide preparation for starting a training course too. There is accessible information explaining the impact that current policy has on teachers, advice on working with young people, explanation of how to develop into a subject specialist and guidance on how to maintain your wellbeing during the challenges of secondary teaching.

Our book ‘Getting into Secondary Teaching’ will give you all the information and encouragement you need to select the right pathway to becoming a teacher who will be able to unlock the potential of the young people teaching and guiding them towards a fulfilling education and future beyond school.

For more details on book then go to our website where ALL titles are currently 15% OFF.

Otherwise please feel free to message in with any questions for us or for Andy and Mel at

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