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Tom came to teaching with one goal in mind – to be an inspiration. He continues this mission by providing workshops for students and teachers in all aspects of learning to learn.


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What Cleethorpes beach can teach us about learning......

Tom Barwood

One of this summer’s highlights (for me at least) was to go to the Cleethorpes Airshow. Cleethorpes if you are not sure is located in NE Lincs and is the coastal seaside resort next to Grimsby and not far from where I grew up and where my parents still live.

This airshow had a number of great advantages. First and foremost it was free. Second it was viewable from the beach in a deckchair and third the sun shone. For once, as a plane loving Dad with a wife who wouldn’t know a jumbo jet from a bubble car and kids who are too young to care, I got what I wanted without interruption. The kids played in the sand whilst my wife read her book and I was left to discuss the merits of the Hurricane over the Spitfire with my grown up nephew.

It was a day to be treasured. Every flying icon was there and to see these planes ‘strutting their struts’ across the sweeping vista of the Humber estuary was just amazing. The Red Arrows, as ever, lived up to their French motto ‘Eclat’ and were brilliant.

rec arrows.jpg

There was also another fascinating connection in that most of the planes e.g. the Typhoon fighters, the Red Arrows and The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight are all based in Lincolnshire which was known in WW2 as ‘bomber county’. Therefore it was no surprise that the regal highlight of the day was a fly past by a Lancaster bomber. However during the various circuits by the plane a strange thing happened – everyone stood up and started applauding.

I couldn’t help thinking to myself that we were clapping for one of the original WMDs. These planes were built to carry and drop the maximum number of bombs and therefore by definition kill the maximum number of people. The plane is also an inanimate object so I don’t think it would fly better as a result of the clapping and with the best will in the world I don’t think the pilot could see most of the audience let alone hear them.

Despite all these philosophical objections I soon found myself clapping along too and quite enthusiastically. What had happened to me? Where was my carefully honed sense of neutrality and warm liberal embrace of the modern Europe? One afternoon on Cleethorpes beach and I had reverted to type?

I think as someone who has always felt something of a fish out of water what gave me the warm glow of contentment was a long forgotten sense of belonging. For once I felt I had every right to be there and every right to join in. Belonging was one of the important building blocks of the BASIS model which Alistair Smith used to talk about in his original accelerated learning programmes.

With working class white boys now being the most widely underperforming group in our school system I think we had better start thinking quick about a new sense of ‘belonging’ for these students which will improve attendance and attainment before we generate a section of society who start to look at extreme politics for their rightful place – and all that comes with that.......