My favourite thinks: some of my education inspirations

21st November 2015 at 00:41


Tom Bennett on some of the voices in education that inspire and inform him


One advantage of new social media has been the emergence of voices that, previously, would have been heard only as far as their voices could carry them. In teaching that used to mean the back of the classroom, or if you really bellowed- the end of the corridor. But virtual platforms became magic carpets, adverts projected onto the side of the Moon. As long as the world is awake to read it, you can be read. 

I started on Twitter five or six years ago, tooting my little trumpet to an empty coffin. But keep tooting, people. I did, and was thanked with an audience. Now people think I’m rubbish all over the world

And one of the pleasures of this Brave New World is coming across bold new voices, or new to me at least. People with fantastic ideas, brilliant minds, who surprise and inspire you, or irritate and confuse you enough to reconsider your prejudices, like the grit in an oyster that sicks up a pearl.

Here is some of the grit, and the brilliance, that I’ve found. Some of them you’ll be well aware of, maybe others not. Some of them will soothe your brow, others will shake you like a snow globe. 10 years ago, where would you get such teachers broadcasting on such a public platform?

This list is partial, incomplete, and prey to my every vice and prejudice. I’d sooner pass a kidney stone than describe this as my Personal Learning Network, but they do, every one, light a fire under my complacent, biased ass. Omission from this list says more about my incomplete faculties of attention or memory, than my esteem for the oubliette. Thank you, every one, for giving so freely of your minds. If I have any kind of platform, feel free to share it with me. I'll scooch up.


Banter International


Dr Diana Sisson and Dr Betsy Sisson @Sisson_Sisters…

For a start their twitter handle is The Sisson Sisters, which is reason enough to hit follow like a monkey with a toffee hammer. American literacy experts 

Michaela Pinkerton @kaiako_nz

One of my favourite voices from the Southern Hemisphere, and my favourite one from New Zealand. Writes about inclusion, representation, Maori education, and matters rural. Kia Ora!

Charlotte Pezaro @cpezaro

Teacher and PhD from University of Queensland; writes about teaching, science and technology education, and sceptical inquiry. Believes in the Oxford comma. Took me to a zoo in Sydney.

Sara Hjelm @sara_hjelm

High school administrator in Gothenburg, Sweden. a relentless dynamo, offering a powerful insight into Scandinavian education. Tweets more than I do, which is concerning. A finger in every Lutfisk.

Corrine Campbell @corisel

School leader, primary teacher. NSWTF Rep and MHTA secretary. Hosts ALL the podcasts from Oz and knows everyone. The first Oz account you should follow

Karin Chenoweth @karinchenoweth

I met Karin when she spoke for researchED in New York, and she was fascinating. Writes about school leadership, closing the gap, inclusion.


Academia and research

Dr Natalia Kucirkova @NKucirkova…

Fascinating PhD writer on technology, and an honest analyst of when tech does- and doesn’t work in the classroom. So refreshing to hear emergent evidence in this field, which is often dominated by advocates and early adopters. 

Professor Sam Twiselton @samtwiselton

An oracle of HE; Professor of Education and Director of Sheffield Institute of Education. She got Carter. 

Professor Becky Francis @BeckyFrancis7…

Professor of Education and Social Justice at King's College, and fascinating generally

Dr Bethan Morgan @DrBethanMorgan…

Leads the SUPER (School-University Partnership in Educational Research Masters in Education) Network, Cambridge University’s version of the Power Rangers, working with schools on research since before researchED was a twinkle in my pirate’s eye. 

Prof Marilyn Leask @MarilynLeask…

Teacher, researcher, BERA council member and co-author of the excellent MESH guides. Formidable

Abigail Parrish @MissAParrish

Ex-languages teacher, now PhD researcher into choices and languages. Active, lively and smart

Dr Sandra Leaton Gray @drleatongray

Lectures at the IoE in London. Also has a sense of humour.

Dr Becky Allen @drbeckyallen 

Statistics is another country, spoken only by a priest class. Meet the High Priestess. 

Kieran Dhunna Halliwell @Ezzy_Moon

Kieran once told me that she hated too much attention; so I asked her to present at researchED Scotland, and now pay tribute  to her here. Psychology, culture, identity, research

Working in School- leadership


Katherine Birbalsingh @Miss_Snuffy

Katherine has two phaser settings: KILL and…who am I kidding the other one is KILL too. Makes a torpedo look indecisive and lethargic. Built a Free School out of will and ambition; an Ayn Rand for our time, whether the time wants it or not. See her school and boggle at what is possible.

Naureen Khalid  @5N_Afzal

Naureen is a too-rare breed: the governor tweeter. She is also one of the nicest people you could ever meet. At least one of these reasons is reason enough to interact with her.

Micon Metcalfe @miconm 

Jedi Knight of wisdom on governance, finance and procurement. If Kid’s Company had her on the trustees, they’d be lending David Cameron money right now.

Susie Wilson @Concordmoose

Teacher, blogger, research lead, and funny, funny lady. Quite posh, but to be fair my bar isn’t high.


Working in school- classroom


Summer Turner @ragazza_inglese 

English, languages, feminism, education politics and everything else. Annoyingly wise beyond her years.

Bodil Isaksen @BodilUK

Maths talk, teacher talk, straight talk. An engine of perpetual fascination.

Lucy @honeypisquared

Maths, intelligence, feminism, politics and system-flipping.

The modern miss  @TheModernMiss1

A supply teacher! Who blogs! What’s not to like? Encourage her- she’s only just returned to writing/ Anonymous.

Katie Ashford @katie_s_ashford

The ingenue fatale of core knowledge and writer of many ‘100 books you should have read’ lists, as every student in her school knows, and will one day thank her for (but not yet). Extremely clear, confident writing about literacy, grammar and english. 

Hélène Galdin-O'Shea @hgaldinoshea

The humblest woman in UK ed with the least to be humble about. Helped me turn researchED from an envelope into a spaceship. The engine behind Teach Meets and simply one of the most amazing figures in the world of teacher autonomy. Writes not nearly enough, but if you’re wise, speak to her. 

Sinead Gaffney @shinpad1

Primary teacher, literacy adviser, eternal optimist. 

Tarjinder Gill @teach_well

An inner city primary teacher uber-trad. Her words are unmistakably unminced. Tweets like the last Spartan at Thermopylae. 

Jo Facer @jo_facer

Curriculum designer and reader of ALL the books and thinks you should be too. Core knowledge size queen. 


Brilliant Minds


Daisy Christodoulou @DaisyChristo

Daisy knows more about two things than I ever will: assessment, and the history of the Carry On film franchise. If you haven’t read her ‘Seven Myths of Education’, resolve this immediately. Oh, SID

Philippa Cordingley @PhilippaCcuree

CUREE grand dame and evidence wrangler, with energy and enthusiasm enough to light a starship. I live in her shadow. We ALL do

Lucy Crehan @lucy_crehan…

If you get a chance to hear Lucy speak about her adventures in international education, commit violence to do so. If there isn’t a TV series in her exploits, then there is no hope for edu-telly. Edu-nomad/ pirate/ globe-trekker/ tomb raider. 

Mary Whitehouse @MaryUYSEG

Project Director York Science & C21 Science. Also PGCE Physics tutor, and a consummate good egg of such proportions I’m surprised no one has turned her into an omelette. 

Sarah Simons @MrsSarahSimons

Two things you need to know about Sarah: 1) she was on Corrie 2) she knows everything about FE 3) She was on Corrie 4) That’s three things 5) Wait

Amanda Speilman @amanda_spielman

Chair of Ofqual since 2011. She was one of the founders of the Ark Schools academy group and was formerly Research and Policy DIrector there. A kind encyclopaedia on everything from policy to process.

Ruth Miskin @RuthMiskinEdu

There’s no one like Ruth; see her before the agents of whole-word reading kidnap and imprison her. The Queen of Phonics and literacy. Will tell you how little she knows about education before demonstrating a perfect grasp of everything in education. 

Sarah Ledger @sezl

Has a list of fifty things she intends to do before, presumably, our alien overlords return to claim us. Big engager on social media, the kind of person who offers you a cup of tea and a Victoria finger

Joanna Williams @jowilliams293

The Van Helsing of sacred cow slaying; education, identity politics, apocrypha. And a brilliant writer

Rachael Hare @Rachael_Hare 

Runs ITT for the Harris Academy group and member of the DfE working group looking at ITT reform. Like many names here, frighteningly well-informed. 

Natasha Porter @NPorter83…

Ex-Policy Exchange and now working with the DfE and the MoJ, so you might hear less from her in the future. Talks sense, loves justice. 


There are many more, but these are some of my reach-for writers in education. Perhaps you could try a few on for size?