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Don't sweat on my suede

am beginning to wonder if I have some strange, benevolent effect on the careers of those around me in my office, as a number of them have recently moved on to better things. The closer their desks are to mine, the more likely they are to land a peachy new position.

Alternatively, perhaps I have some severe but hitherto not commented-upon personal hygiene problem that galvanises those forced to share my space into drastic action. Time, and the application of anticipated Christmas cosmetics, will tell.

A couple of the recently-departed offered support to primary schools and I have found myself taking on some of their roles.

I have been taken aback by some of the differences between primary and secondary schools. For a start, there is always a small group of tearful pupils in the foyer of the primary. Often, children are holding ice-packs to various parts of their anatomy. On my first non-secondary venture, I was met by a bizarre pastiche of the three wise monkeys: hear no evil due to ice-pack on ear; see no evil due to ice-pack on eye; speak no evil due to ice-pack over mouth.

I am happy to pass on a piece of advice that was given to me. I am sure that, though it was superfluous in my case, someone else will be able to make use of it. Never, ever, ever, ever wear mohair or velour with an infant class. You will immediately disengage a substantial number of your pupils who will want to stroke said fabric. Some will sit dreamily at your feet, running hands over a suede shoe, oblivious to everything else.

This hasn't happened to me (obviously) but I know it is true. So there are a couple of differences for you. Forget methodology, group work and the like. Those are the important ones.

Now to the recent HMI conference on good practice in science. I had a gig there, a workshop on primarysecondary liaison within a cluster. Since I was only gigging for half the time, I was able to attend other people's talks. I was pleased to see that the conference organisers had refused to pigeonhole attendees by sector. The mohair of primary attended labs on DNA with the velour of secondary. Forget the differences. We are all science educators together. That was the feel-good message I took from the event.

Presenting workshops does put you under pressure, though. On reflection, if I were to do one thing differently at the conference, I would probably have put on some decent underarm deodorant. If your closest colleagues won't tell you, a varied audience of teachers, advisers, inspectors and secondees certainly won't.

Gregor Steele has decided against ever turning up at a primary school in his sheepskin flying jacket.

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