Relax and enjoy 17 heartwarming moments from the past year

From an 8-year-old refugee child nicknamed 'Spiderman' to a dog called Charlie Brown, there were plenty of stories which inspired and entertained teachers in 2016

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And so farewell 2016, a year that will be remembered for many, many reasons.

As well as the turmoil in the wider world, within schools there has been the chaos of primary assessmentchanging secondary assessment and rising concern about mental health. You can tell how bleak it is when the only (dim) light on the horizon in 2017 comes from Ofsted – where the next chief inspector has promised to “listen to critics”.  

But while 2016 may have fallen below the floor standard, it has not been entirely without merit. There has been fun, there has been sunshine and there have been teachers dressed as frogs.

frog teachers from richmond school yorkshire

* Richmond School leavers video, 2016 (see point 13)

Here we list some of the most heartwarming moments from the education world in 2016 – hold them to your heart and use their flame to comfort you in 2017. Looks like you’re going to need it.

  1. “It is not earth-shattering to say that schools are about relationships. But I would go one step further and say they are about love,” Colin Harris, a former primary headteacher, wrote. “Schools must show the best side of humanity.”

  2. Strictly’s Judge Rinder shimmied into the hearts of teachers everywhere when he gave a shout out to his former drama teacher and invited her to the show. “With a teacher’s belief you can do anything,” he said.

  3. The latest recruit to John Stainer Community Primary, in south-east London, has four legs, a curly coat and huge brown eyes. Charlie Brown, a labradoodle, has helped comfort, entertain and inspire pupils.


  4. Farts, falling off chairs and water fights – all made the TES list of 100 things to do by age 11. And a reminder for adults that there are some things we never grow out of.

  5. Meanwhile, in the US, Cody Dortch, 11, decided to thank the teachers at his elementary school with a slap-up meal. The pupil saved up $200 through doing chores and keeping back some birthday money, and took seven teachers out for a farewell dinner.

  6. Staggering home at the end of term with a pile of chocolate and booze may be what teachers think they want, but many a determined six-year-old has different ideas – Brian Walton, aka @oldprimaryhead1, has been gifted a fish, a sword and a mince pie with his own face on.

  7. In February, beaming down live from space, British astronaut Tim Peake amazed thousands of pupils when he answered questions and demonstrated waterball ping-pong while on board the International Space Station.

    tim peake

  8. Sir Ian McKellen told TES that Shakespeare belongs in the theatre, rather than the classroom, and reassured pupils not to worry if they found the texts difficult. “Shakespeare is difficult; these are old plays. But they are about things that still matter to us today.”

  9. In October, teacher Candice Brown won The Great British Bake Off with bakes including a pub made out of gingerbread and a bright blue peacock cake with a lemon and mint tail. She later left her post at Ashlyns School in Berkhamsted, Herts, with the support of her headteacher, who said she would inspire pupils.

  10. Working in a school which serves a deprived community brings Christmas into sharp focus as families deal with hunger, cold and debt – but still the children bounce into school for parties, the pantomime and nativity, wrote headteacher Siobham Collingwood. “Their resilience, energy and optimism humbles me,” she said.

  11. At the start of the year, former assistant principal Natalie Scott went to teach in the (now-cleared) "Jungle" refugee camp in Calais for charity Edlumino. There she met 'Spiderman', also known as Mohammed, an eight-year-old Kurdish refugee, who wore a Spiderman jacket. Her blogs from the camp won the TES blogger of the year award. Later, back in England, she wrote of Spiderman: “I miss his grin and his love of flying things and his particular excitement over the colour yellow.”

    pic of spiderman refugee boy in calais jungle camp

  12. “Thank you [teachers] for everything you do,” wrote Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts, on behalf of parents everywhere at the end of the school year in July. “Sincere apologies for all those times we forgot to sign the reading record.”

  13. And also at the end of the school year, what better way to make your Year 11 students remember their time at secondary school than inviting them to watch their teachers doing carpool karoake to Sia's Cheap Thrills while dressed as a nun and Sherlock Holmes. If the Department for Education wants any more teacher recruitment videos – it could do worse than look at the joy and creativity on show in these leaving films.


  14. An apology from a school bully, 28 years on, lifted a burden for both the victim and the perpetrator. “What I encountered at school was just the unkindness of an insecure boy, expressed in acts of aggression that, it turns out, have weighed on him as heavily as they weighed on me,” the anonymous contributor wrote.
  15. On A-level results day, former students and their teachers talked about what getting their grades meant to them. “Beth had a positive attitude and a strong work ethic... On results day, the girl who had been predicted Ds and Es received grades of ABC.”

  16. And more appreciation came, with a shout out to teaching assistants from Natasha Devon, the former government mental health champion for schools.

  17. And important as it is to learn about fronted adverbials, Anglo Saxons and photosynthesis – in the week after Sats, Sir Ken Robinson also reminded us of the joy of playtime.

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