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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.


Think it worked

It did...


Do you have what it takes?

Tom Barwood

Yesterday I had a really interesting meeting with someone who has devised, and is perfecting, a number of products and courses for the education sector. Those of you who know me, might know who I am talking about and you may wish to 'skip' this section!

In a full and frank discussion about shared opportunities and ideas it came clear to me that to be successful as an entrepreneur there are a number of traits or characteristics which define those that are successful.

1) They are obsessive - about their product or service

2) They have a nearly delusional level of self belief

3) That self belief gives them the energy, enthusiasm, resilience, persistence and sheer bloody mindedness to carry on in the face of opposition or resistance

4) They can often occur to others as 'unreasonable'

5) They are very focused on themselves and not others

I feel that I have something of a special take on this as my father was a moderately successful entrepreneur who built up and then sold a reasonably sized building company so I grew up with someone who manifested many of the qualities above. I have no complaints about my upbringing although only when talking to others did I realise that not everyone lived as we did.

So my real question is - are entrepreneurs born or made and can you be successful without necessarily being so single minded? My answer to the first question is one which I can't still answer. I ponder it because I certainly haven't inherited an entrepreneurs gene but try to act as if i have - maybe to please my Dad or because it is a world which makes sense to me.

Is entrepreneurship born out of insecurity, a desire to prove something or out of sheer necessity when there are no other alternatives or is it in your destiny from day one? 

As George Bernard Shaw once said 'it is the reasonable man that alters himself to suit the world and the unreasonable man who alters the world to suit himself'. Maybe it just about your view of the world?


Differentiation - good enough for pupils so why not for CPD?

Tom Barwood


February 24, 2015

Yesterday I spent the day delivering a workshop on differentiation to teachers from the Association of Muslim Schools at Birchfield Independent Girls school in Aston, Birmingham.

My brief told me that there would be 40 teachers and although I had a chat with the head beforehand and found out that there would be other speakers there too I knew very little else. I found it a little hypocritical to try and deliver a one size fits all presentation when the workshop was about avoiding precisely that!

So, after delivering a brief idea of what my definition of differentiation was I then set about discovering more about my audience.

It turned out they were from schools all over the country; there being 400 schools in the Association. Some taught primary and some secondary. There was a mix of about 40:60 men to women, 6 had EAL, half were born outside the UK, there were six different first languages. They had qualifications ranging from no GCSEs through CSEs (remember those!) to degrees, masters degrees and one person with a Phd. The only common link was that they were all Muslim.

Why is it that people seem so scared to ask these type of questions? Once I had established the composition of my audience I was able to progress but also acknowledge them for what a wonderful kaleidoscope of resources, ideas and experiences they brought to the event and how much I was looking forward to learning from them.  The day went really well, I learned a lot and had a good fun.

To date I have worked with the 7th Day Adventist schools, a Catholic and Anglican high school, the Exclusive brethren and obviously the AMS. Being outside of the mainstream system I have researched each one carefully to make sure I fully understand their backgrounds and taken the time to question as I went along.

From now on I have decided that being asked to work and present for a whole day off the back of a few line brief on something like differentiation is basically lazy and irresponsible of the school. I will only work with those schools who are prepared to share with me sufficient contextual information as necessary to do the job properly. Otherwise they can stop being so lazy and do what the rest of have to do - read a book on the subject and then try to put it in to practice.

Hey you, Ofsteda yourself!

Tom Barwood


Have you ever thought about Ofsted-ing yourself? I have this particular treat coming up soon when I will sit down with the inspector to go through the data and check on my attainment levels. As a self employed person this means it is time to meet with the accountant, go through the end of year figures and work out what profit we made. I can tell you already that the grade will be ‘inadequate’ or at least ‘requires improvement’.

After this yearly shock fest of ‘death by data’ I always ask myself why I bother doing what I do and generally beat myself up for being such a numpty that I don’t make more money (cue the negative internal dialogue!).

Copyright Matthew Johnstone 'Quiet the Mind' 2011

Copyright Matthew Johnstone 'Quiet the Mind' 2011

Then I start to reflect on what I have been up to recently and ever so slowly a broad grin spreads across my face. I didn’t leave the world of full time teaching (with paid holidays, pensions, sick pay and job security) to get rich. I did it to be an inspiration, to make a difference and have fun.

On those three counts I am doing incredibly well. In fact you could even say it is 'Outstanding'. As a family we survive financially but also whatever happens I accept that this was my choice. No one forced me to go freelance. Every choice has consequences.

In the last two weeks I have delivered a session on motivation and feedback to a group of tennis coaches at Riverside tennis club, presented on collaborative learning to a group of staff at one of Britain’s most prestigious independent schools and then, in a ‘rock and roll changeover’ gone straight down to Devon to work with a group of primary teachers on classroom management (this was a double bill with the enigmatic Oliver Quinlan).

Returning back home I then went off to an IRIS training session at the amazing Kenmore Park Infant and Nursery school before heading down to London again for the Whole Education Conference. Buoyed up by that I headed over to Holland to deliver ideas on how to deal with stress to the staff at the British School of the Netherlands. From there it was back home and then off to Chester to work with all of Year 10 at the Queens School on thinking skills and when I got back from there I had a day to catch up before making the final presentation in a series of four on the psychology of motivation to a group of outreach workers from Queens Park in Bedford.

So why is necessary to share all this, let alone blog it? Am I trying to make sense of my life or just brag a little?  Actually it may be a little of those but the main things I want to do is show just what is possible and to remind myself of the where my focus for success lies.

If ever it looked as if I was actually going to go bankrupt then I would take drastic remedial action but sometimes you need to sit back and take your eye off the data and refocus on what really matters.