Ask Tom

Teacher, TES Connect blogger and behaviour expert Tom Bennett puts on his agony uncle hat and answers your education questions

One of my students is quite seriously overweight. I am leading a trekking trip to Wales soon and he has expressed an interest. I know he won't be able to cope at all with the walking and I don't want to be responsible for him. Any advice about persuading senior management that we need to intervene to either get him fit enough to attend or to stop him coming? They have so far said that we can't do anything.

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Yes: as part of the school's risk assessment, they have a legal obligation to identify possible hazards to the safety and well-being of the staff and students. A student who cannot physically cope with the trip could put themselves, and others, in danger. As a governor, I would not allow a trip to leave school if it wasn't safe for all participants. Remind your senior staff that they have a duty of care to all in and out of the school - particularly out. Tell them to step up, have the hard conversation and do their jobs. If they don't, then refuse to run the trip on grounds of safety and inadequate preparation. Remember, you'll be just as responsible as anyone else if anything goes wrong.

Bloom's Taxonomy - should this be central to my teaching or just one of many things I refer to? My head of department is obsessed by Bloom's.

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There is very little evidence that Bloom's Taxonomy even exists. It is a piece of dogma from the past, when teachers were prepared to swallow anything. It has no verifiable value. It posits a hierarchical dominance of some thinking activities over others and looks down on knowledge, when that is the basis of all understanding. Frankly, it's barely useful.

I've got two girls in my Year 1 class who are well-versed in what I can and can't do. If I approach them, they scream that I can't touch them or tell them what to do. So they carry on doing whatever they want, no matter what I try. After all, I can't touch them, they are right! Any advice?

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You say they're well-versed but they're wrong: you can approach them and you can touch them, within reason. Besides, you don't need physical contact to run the room. You need a voice, a pair of eyes, a list of rules, and the will to carry out sanctions and rewards. Maybe also a finger, to dial home and tell the parents how naughty they are being. That's all you need. Repeat until they realise you mean business.

Tom teaches full-time at Raine's Foundation School, London.

Agree with Tom's advice? If not, or if you would like to add to it, visit www.tesconnect.comasktom and have your say. Email Tom at

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