Category: Uncategorized

Why We’re Still Playing DnD Despite TSR

Over the past week, the TTRPG community was initially delighted at the return of TSR, the original creators of Dungeons & Dragons (DnD), and was left reeling at their subsequent comments regarding inclusion within the game. This is neither the platform to share those comments, nor do I want them here. And yet, we will continue to play.

As a long term player, I was introduced to the game many years ago by inclusive DMs* (who happened to also be my fellow computer science students… yes, that long ago!) who held no quarter with any form of discrimination and regularly discussed boundaries within storylines with their players. This enabled us to explore relationships and adventures in an environment where we knew without a shadow of doubt that we would never need to feel uncomfortable. After all, it’s just a game.

But it’s a game where you develop a strong bond with your character, particularly after many hours of developing their backstory and bonding with other players (and sometimes long running non player characters). It’s very similar to the bond an author forms when writing a novel over many months.

Gaelle Dark Dice
Gaelle of Vogelberg from Dark Dice (voiced by Holly Billinghurst)

Having played since the 1990s and more recently voice acted in several DnD podcasts as a regular player character, I made the decision to combine my enjoyment of playing DnD with teaching and start a regular teen DnD club at our tuition centre. This is such a natural combination as the aspects of creative writing & maths are automatically built into every game and the sessions have become a regular social activity for a number of local teens.

So of course, when the comments from TSR came out this week my first reaction was to feel incredibly protective of the fantastic group that we’ve created and ensure that both parents and kids are aware that our table will continue to be fully inclusive. If you want to create a gender fluid tiefling that uses their appearance to increase their charisma, then roll for initiative! Because of all places, a game where a druid could become a fire breathing squirrel is no place to deny someone gender expression. **

A similar argument came about when wheelchair “battlechair” mounts were introduced to DnD in an attempt to make the game more inclusive to players with disabilities. The same response is just as appropriate now as it was then: making your table inclusive to others by allowing them representation doesn’t just benefit individuals.

So for now, our DnD table isn’t going anywhere because the players are what make our games amazing, not the creators who have been AWOL for decades.

If you’d like to join Holly at her weekly DnD group in West Sussex, or one of their online sessions you can book your space here.

*DM = Dungeon Master. The person guiding the story.

** within age & context appropriate boundaries

Tools For Online Teaching & Tutoring (Webinar)

Tools For Online Teaching & Tutoring (Webinar)

Thank you so much to everyone who joined me for the live webinar on using tools to run classes and 1-2-1 tuition online. It’s so great to see people working together to make things work in a difficult situation.

I have uploaded the recording of the webinar here which is free and open to watch – if you have any questions, or would like me to add anything else into upcoming sessions please do comment below.

Important Update (26th March 2020): Since recording this webinar Bitpaper have announced that they will be charging for the use of their platform from 1st April.

You can sign up for future webinars here.

Using Online Whiteboards

Following the webinar above, lots of you have been asking me about which online whiteboard to use for tuition, especially when you want to collaborate with your students live. As a quick introduction and to answer some of these questions, I’ve recorded a quick comparison of the tools I’m looking at right now.

Have you found these webinars useful? If you’d like me to run online training for your company for up to 75 participants, please get in touch.

Computer Science Classes Vs. Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Computer Science Classes Vs. Coronavirus (COVID-19)

To date, we’ve been very British about the whole thing and avoided mentioning the c-word, but in all likelihood, we may face interruption of education on a global scale. As such, we’ve taken an ethical approach to ensure that we can offer as much as we possibly can during this difficult time for students & teachers.

For our current students, please rest assured that as all lessons are currently held online, unless a member of the team is unwell we will be continuing with lessons as usual. We are aware that the increased use of the Zoom platform (and pressure on ISPs in general) during this time may cause a slight reduction in the quality of calls, however we are not expecting a significant impact at this time.

If your school has been affected by closures due to COVID-19, please do get in touch. We are offering the following to support teachers & students:

I would dearly love to open up the whole site during this time. However, in doing so we would run a very real risk of not being able to provide the current services. Instead, as a company, we are happy to donate what time and resources we can to assist our colleagues in education at this time.

We will continue to update this page following official advice.

How Much Does Tutoring Cost in The UK?

How Much Does Tutoring Cost in The UK?

The difference between tuition and teaching is vast, and nothing brings this home more than conversations about the cost of private tuition. So, what better topic to celebrate the 1st birthday of the TeachAllAboutIt website than a discussion about the cost of education?

It’s a brave move discussing the cost of tuition openly, especially on social media. As a society, we have become incredibly polarized in our view of access to education and discussing the payment in exchange of tuition or resources has become a taboo subject. I’d like to dispel some of the myths in this post and explain why tutors charge what they do.

According to, the average hourly rate for a private tutor in 2019 is between £30 – £60 dependent on experience, location, and sucess rate. That’s not to say that some tutors don’t charge outside of this range, but from experience upwards of £35 per hour for GCSE is pretty standard. So why do tutors charge so much per hour?

Firstly, it’s important to remember that private tutors are outside of the mainstream education system, and as such are businesses in their own right. Unlike independent schools, they do not have charitable status and have a delicate balance to create in making their lessons as accessible as possible, whilst also earning enough to cover what they would otherwise earn in a classroom (remember that a school will purchase resources, books, and office space on behalf of a teacher, whereas a tutor is responsible for purchasing everything from the fees that they charge).

In so many business networking groups, the phrase “you get what you pay for” crops up again and again, more often than not when someone talks about being burnt by a too good to be true deal. This is often switftly followed by the sharing of a form of the diagram above which is a visual representation of the standard IT phrase, “you can have fast & cheap, cheap & good, or fast & good, but not all three”.

But how does this apply to private tutors?

Well, the old adage of “you get what you pay for” applies just as much here as any other industry, albeit with an extra dimension of the free to access learning.

Fast may apply in a number of ways. In the case of private tutors, fast can mean a number of aspects – this could apply to availability. Expecting a prime space to be available immediately is a tall ask for popular tutors. In fact, most will offer a waiting list of up to 6 months or more. Seeking a tutor during the quieter summer months is highly recommended as tutors are often fully booked within the first few weeks of the autumn term. Alternatively fast could apply to the length between starting tuition and the exam. Spaces are not only limited towards exam season, but the nature of tuition becomes more intensive and often means additional independent work or longer sessions.

Cheap is a subjective term for tuition. Parents have questioned the cost of £5 for a group lesson, only to be followed by a parent who questions why I only charge £41 for an A Level lesson. Comparing tutors to each other requires a certain understanding that not all tutors have the same baseline of education and training that teachers do, and indeed not all tutors are solely working as tutors (this may or may not be a positive for you). All of these are factors to consider when comparing on price – An A Level or undergraduate student will generally charge far less than a qualified teacher. Lower cost lessons are absolutely available with highly qualified tutors with high success rates, but expect these to be in groups or with larger volumes of independent study. My advice to all parents considering tuition is to ask for qualifications of the tutor (DBS goes without saying) – having a teaching qualification will give your child’s tutor insight into the psychology of learning. There’s a reason why all teachers must hold this post-graduate qualification, and it’s not to show off!

Good lessons are an expectation from any tutor. I cannot contemplate offering a student or parent lessons that wouldn’t help them progress, after all what is the point of tuition if not to help the student make progress and build confidence? However, high quality tuition requires preparation, time, and effort. In turn, good tuition requires either a longer time within groups or using independent resources, or the cost of the more intensive 1-2-1 lessons. Ultimately, if I don’t feel that I can provide you or your child with the highest quality of tuition, it’s likely that I will offer you a place on my waiting list or refer you to a colleague. I know very few tutors who wouldn’t do similar.

Free lessons are one of the most searched for term for private tuition. As a private tutor, I work with a huge array of families. No two family situations will be the same, just as no two students will be the same, and financial situations are no different. The Venn diagram highlights this well – most full-time tutors will be engaged with a certain amount of pro-bono work either through their own company, or by working with organisations like The Tutors Network. Either way, the free tuition that you are able to access will be paid for through balancing the fees of other students to allow for lower cost access for those that need it.

Whatever you are looking for in terms of tuition, take the time to talk through your needs as a family as well as the educational needs of your child with your tutor. You never know what solution they may be able to come up with!


For more information about GCSE Computer Science, revision resources, online tutoring, online courses, and teacher CPD, visit

Why GPS Isn’t The Solution To Knife Crime – A Computer Science Approach

This morning I was sent a link to a tweet suggesting that I read the responses for some amusement. I duly did so, and I’ll admit some of the responses did make me chuckle. But then I considered the suggestion from a teacher’s perspective and realised that the suggestion really did come from a place of good intention, but also from an ignorance of technology.

Tweets like this one by @td_ward highlighted the reason for me writing this rather lengthy blog. The frustration expressed by people who understand technology is utterly understandable, but are we doing enough to educate those that don’t understand?

In 2017, 0.4% of female A Level students, and only 5% male A Level Students elected to study Computer Science according to the Department for Education’s report on take-up of academic subjects in 2017. Those numbers have risen slightly, but not enough. The removal of the GCSE IT qualification has reduced the numbers of students studying a computer technology subject substantially.

Why have I included those statistics?

Because, the fewer young people that study technology but use devices that seem to work as if by magic, the more people will make mistakes like Scott Mann. So, rather than ridiculing him, I want to use this as a learning opportunity to look at the potential for technology to make an impact on knife crime, not just in the UK, but anywhere.

bath ducks bathing bathroom bathtub

One of the things we teach in Computer Science is to avoid the solution until we understand what problem we are trying to solve. Decomposition of a problem often allows us to identify problems that we didn’t realise we were actually trying to solve.

Much like rubber duck debugging, explaining the problem in enough basic detail so that even a rubber duck could understand quite often helps us to identify the real problem on our own (many thanks to my husband who acts as my own rubber duck when I get frustrated with code on here! Quack quack)

What Problem Are We Solving?

Knife crime is quite a big issue and has so many aspects that a simple solution may well not be enough. So let’s decompose the problem (this is a fictitious conversation to show how I would decompose the problem – please do get in touch if this could be more accurate):

What’s the problem?

We need to solve knife crime

What would a solution look like?

A reduction in the number of cases

Does the problem lie with the weapon or the person?


Which one could technology help with more?

The knives

What is the problem with the current solution? (carrying a knife with a blade longer than 3″ is already an offence)

We can’t trace the knife to the person

Why doesn’t DNA testing work?

It takes too long & isn’t always accurate

What information do you want from finding the knife?

The owner, the address, and for it to be a deterrent


Using this conversation in my head, I would assume that what Scott Mann was actually trying to suggest was a way of firstly deterring people from carrying knives, but also a way of reliably tracing them back once they were found. I could of course be wrong and he was indeed trying to track each one like a vehicle can be.

So let’s look at some possible devices that are small enough and would link to his idea:

An NFC Chip

The chip that I believe Mr Mann was referring to (I could of course be wrong, but I live in hope) is actually an NFC, or Near Field Communication chip.

Using the breakdown of the problem above, this actually could be a potential partial solution. NFC requires no power to run, so could be easily implanted into the handle of a knife, or added as a sticker or such once a knife is bought.

NFC technology is wonderfully useful for storing small amounts of registration data. There are a number of different types of NFC – those that we use in our phone are powered and can send & receive data such as files and contact information, or the less powerful passive NFC used in payment cards that allow a reader to access information using a ‘tap’ of the card.

What’s the downside? Well, using NFC to identify a knife would be as simple as having an app on a phone to read the data, but only at distances of a few centimeters. This would be fine for searches, or in the sad cases where the knife was used. However, the data would be accessible to anyone with a reader so there would be a serious issue of data protection. Inside the home, this would be less of an issue, but in the case of work or fishing what would prevent someone from walking past and reading your data? In short, not a great deal.

It is for this same reason that anti-NFC wallets have been created.

An RFID Chip

RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification was actually developed before NFC and like NFC has a variety of types both powered and unpowered.

If you’ve ever taken your pet to be “microchipped” then you’ve used a form of passive RFID. Your pet is not actually bionic or powering the device, but the chip is powered when a reader is placed nearby and activates the chip to send data.

RFID chips can be placed in an amazing amount of devices and are often used to open doors via security cards, or to save identification information to retrieve a lost device. The potential to use RFID as an identification tool has some distinct possibilities – RFID can be programmed to only be read by certain devices (like pet microchips), although there’s nothing to stop someone developing a reader as this is an open standard and would need to be for all manufacturers to include them.

Passive RFID can also be read from up to 25m which means that the ID could be read from a safe distance (but probably not soon enough). The longer range active RFID can have ranges of 100m, but then how many knives are there within a 100m range at any given time, and the issue of power crops up again.

RFID is indeed small enough to add to any knife, but then a database of every knife would be needed. The owners of the Pet microchip database will tell you how difficult it is when the users don’t update their information – this has become easier with the introduction of a website to keep them up to date. But, if people are reluctant to update ID information about pets that they love, how likely are they to update data about their kitchen implements?

A GPS Chip

In his original tweet, Mr Mann suggested placing a GPS device on every knife sold in the UK. GPS chips can be quite small, but there are a few issues with this.

GPS is a wonderful invention and has been used to track people and devices to within a few meters. I use this on a daily basis with my children as they come home from school (with their consent!), and would be quite literally lost without it every time we travel.

Unfortunately, placing a GPS device requires a power source. Try an experiment with your phone to prove this: Monitor your battery usage for an hour with your location services switched off, now using the same apps & in the same place switch on your location services & monitor your battery usage for another hour. The difference in power consumption will explain the first issue.

In order for this system to work, you would need to charge your knives. Simply allowing the battery to run out would then take the knife “off the grid”.

The second issue with this is detection. I mentioned that I use GPS to track the location of my children (or at least their mobile phones – they don’t have GPS implanted in them!), but with their consent. In order to see their position they have to individually allow me to see their position, and it’s something that they can switch off at any time. An ethical debate comes up when a device like this is embedded in a device with implied consent that the location can be seen by a governing body.

  • Is implied consent enough? (GDPR)
  • What if the knife is stolen?
  • What if you use them for work?
  • Do the benefits outweigh the loss of privacy?
  • Who is monitoring the data?
  • What if the data is hacked?

Of course, in almost every news story my inner teacher will spot an educational element, and this was no different. In fact, in writing this blog, I spy an exam ethics essay question!


For more information about GCSE Computer Science, revision resources, online tutoring, online courses, and teacher CPD, visit

Creating A Classroom Escape Room

Creating A Classroom Escape Room

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt this year, it’s that I love a challenge. And nothing bit me harder than the escape room bug.

Now, not that I’m competitive (much) but over the course of a weekend away with friends we smashed three room records and laid down enough trash talk for a full wrestling match. And it was while we were enjoying a well deserved gloat after our final room that it hit me – this NEEDS to be turned into a computational thinking lesson!

And so my ‘welcome back’ escape room idea was born.

Now clearly I wouldn’t be able to recreate secret doors and hidden rooms in my version, but the idea was to recreate the sense of urgency, teamwork, and fun that we’d spent an eyewatering fortune on…. without it costing a fortune?

What you need (hardware)

I actually found it easier to plan out my escape room puzzles once I’d bought all of the bits and pieces that I needed for each team. In my room I had two teams with slightly different puzzles for some of the locks, just to avoid cross-team espionage (it’s almost like I know them!).

For each team, I bought 5 boxes of varying sizes. The boxes were plywood boxes which ranged from £1.50 to £3 each. I then bought a tin of walnut colour varnish and painted them all to make them look like old boxes.

Unforunately, it’s really difficult to get hold of boxes with clasps that can be used for locks, so I had to add my own. I managed to buy some really nice ones through Wish (although they took a few weeks to arrive, they looked great) and the rest were £1 each from The Range. Assembly was pretty straightforward, with only minor bloodletting – the moral of this story is to add a small square of plywood behind the clasps for the sake of fingers; yours and the kids!

Finally, you’ll need a combination lock for each box. This was actually the most difficult part because they’re really expensive in shops and this was nearly the end of the whole project. However, if you look online and don’t mind waiting you can pick them up for around £3 each.

Cost Per Team (5 – 6 students):

  • Boxes x 5 = £10
  • Clasps x 5 = £7
  • Varnish = £3
  • Padlocks x 5 = £15
  • Total = £35

If you’re balking at the price of the lesson so far, remember that this is an initial outlay.  And you could make this much cheaper by asking for donations of small boxes and old padlocks.

Once you have a set of boxes, you don’t have to buy it all again to run another escape room puzzle, all you need to do is redesign the game. I plan to reuse these with two year groups at least once each half term, so it’s only an expensive resource if you don’t plan on reusing it.

Setting Up The Puzzles

You can be as simple or as creative as you like with your puzzles, and the great thing about it is any puzzle can be linked to the curriculum.

classroom escape room japanese puzzle box

I started my teams off with a spacial awareness puzzle – a Japanese puzzle box which requires you to find a hidden drawer in which I’d hidden their first clue. Of course what I hadn’t predicted was for them to struggle more with this than any of the number or literacy puzzle I set!

The clue inside here led them to the next box , although just like a real escape room, I hadn’t told them which box they needed to look at next, so all locks had to be tried.

classroom escape room picture lock

One puzzle I was particularly proud of involved buying a set of scrabble tiles which were hidden in a box. When the box was opened, this was their only clue. Using the scrabble tiles, they needed to create a word – on the back of the word were the symbols that matched a particularly beautiful Chinese padlock.

This may seem like a simple puzzle, but there’s a literacy link in there. However, even better is the logical step that the word chosen has two letters the same. As the teams became frustrated that they clearly had the answer, I floated past with “how many ‘o’s are there in soon?”.

classroom escape room mirror puzzle

Another puzzle with a literacy link was the poem. One box contained nothing but a printed poem (in a script font & crumpled up so it looked old & tatty).

The poem was The Mirror by Sylvia Plath. It’s a particularly descriptive poem and indicated that they needed to use the mirror to solve the next puzzle. In using a poem to describe an object, they had to decipher the meaning of what initially is a very odd piece of text. It worked far better with my maths heavy computer scientists that I’d expected.

The same was true of the log book. I wrote out some odd looking notes that appeared to be the increasingly maddened scrawling of a ship’s captain. I included some piratey drawings and diagrams as red herrings, but also a word on each page that had been encrypted along with a number either as a date or as a word – this was the key.

classroom escape room caesar cipher

Ciphers are brilliant for these puzzles, and if you’re adding these as part of a computational thinking lesson, you can create the ciphers that are linked to your syllabus plus some additional ones as an extension. In these boxes, the two parts of the cipher wheel were hidden in separate boxes and the message started in plain text then hinted at the encryption method.


With all five boxes completed, to add a bit of competition, there was only one final box between the teams making it a race to the finish!

I took rather a lot of pleasure in having left a visible clue to solve the final box in plain sight for the entire time – in this case I used a letter combination lock that spelt out the word MARCH as the code to unlock, and on the table with the final box (which also held the mirrors and several other objects) was a date cube with 30th February showing… which is of course, March.

classroom escape room letter lock


So, was it worth it?

Absolutely. 100% worth all of the effort that went into the session. I used the classroom escape room with my returning students as a brain ‘reboot’ and my new students as the ultimate ice-breaker. In fact, as an ice-breaker it worked a treat – I’ve never had a class gel together so quickly and I put a large amount of that down to the positive moments they had together in that very first session.


What next?

The next step is to package up the printables from this game and release them as part of the TeachAllAboutIT October resources bundle for our members to download and play with in their own classrooms. After that, my Christmas escape room “Secret Santa?” will be in my classroom with more of a focus on combining the answer to exam questions to solve the codes.

Have you used an escape room in your classroom? What tips can you give other people to enhance lessons?



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For more information about GCSE Computer Science, revision resources, online tutoring, online courses, and teacher CPD, visit


Paths to Success – Games Developer & Start Up Founder

In the seventh in the series of my Paths To Success blog series, I’ve been talking to John Dalziel who took the leap into games development after working in software development. For the last five years John has been working for an online gaming startup, firstly as a developer and more recently in a dev-ops role. They’re an entirely remote company with employees all over Europe.
For those of you who haven’t been following the blog series so far, this year I’ve been particularly interested in the paths that people take after education, especially following the increase across the UK in encouraging schools and colleges to embed employability into their lessons. The first time I tried this with students, I was met almost audible rolling of eyes – kids have genuine skills in detecting something that’s been “embedded”, much like a careers version of hiding vegetables in their spaghetti. They know.
So instead, with the new academic year upon us I decided to buck the trend of the many posts telling students that “results don’t matter” (they do, you worked hard), or “I didn’t need GCSEs” (no, but you had something else) and create a positive set of real careers stories to help motivate both my students and other teachers. I’ve been talking to an array of interesting people about how education shaped their own employability skills and their often irregular paths to success.
Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 15.23.00.pngHi John, could you tell me a little bit about your experience at school.
I adored school. I had a terrible home life and school felt like my ticket out (and it was)
With it being the start of the school year, I have to ask: do you have a particular teacher that you remember?
I have fond memories of Mr Pauline who ran the Maths department. That department had the only computers in the school (about a dozen BBC Micros and an Apple II) and my friend and I used to run the school computer club.
Could you tell me a little bit about your experience at college / university?
A lot of my friends studied computing at University and I would often hang out there with them, even though I wasn’t on the course. I was pretty good at drawing so in our group I became the graphics guy. I can remember working on a big Silicon Graphics machine to build a logo for a “roguelike” game they were making
Is there any other advice you would want to give to students receiving exam results this year?
The web is full of knowledge and opportunity. If you don’t get the results you’re hoping for, it’s not the end of the world.
Thank you so much to John for giving up his time to tell us about creating a gaming start up, and proving that it’s more than just an idle dream!
John can be found at where you can see his work.

How To Bloom As A Tutor

Ah, the words that bring fear into the heart of every trainee teacher across the land – Bloom’s Taxonomy. But with tutoring not having the same pre-requisit for training that teaching does, not everyone is familiar with the term.

The arguments for and against professional status for tutors are likely to go on ad infinitum. There are a great many unqualified tutors who work absolute miracles with individual students, and likewise a number of teachers who fail to make the transition to tutoring. With all this aside, all of us can benefit from the metacognition brought about by using Bloom in our lessons.

For the uninitiated, Bloom’s Taxonomy is simply a hierarchy of learning that shows how students build from foundations to deeper learning. We often imagine it like a pyramid showing how the foundationslead to the pinacle of learning.


In doing this we actually do us and our students a disservice. The visual of a pyramid gives the impression that students must remember before they can apply, or analyse. In fact, the benefit that a tutor has over a teacher with a classroom of 30 or more is that we can provide the space and structure to analyse and create as a conduit to remembering.

Essentially, our ultimate goal is for our students to leave us with the ability to create the new using their understanding of the knoweldge that we facilitated.

All Ages Bloom

The idea that only older students will reach the higher levels of learning is simply wrong. In fact, the youngest of our learners are the ones who take to deeper learning much easier.

Listen to any 5 year old tell you about a specific interest. They will likely tell you the names of all of the characters (remember), will explain how they relate to each other (understand), will berate you for mixing up genres and tell you why they are different (analyse), and will have made models and drawings of their favourite characters (create).


Using Bloom For Progress

Tutoring is a much more intense process than teaching, and it is this one to one contact that allows us to push progress forward. However, its also presents a risk that we create over-reliance on our assistance.

By presenting a topic of study alongside an expectation of the student analysing, evaluating, or creating forces me to take a step back. It also creates an environment where it is ok for my student to feel very slightly out of their depth, because like a parent teaching a child on a bike we’re close enough to catch them but provide more reassurance than anything else.

In the classroom, I was taught to sing a verse of Baa Baa Black Sheep in my head to force myself to give students thinking time after a question (it feels ridiculous, but please try it!). I have used this technique far more in tutoring where the pause seems to last forever. Over time, I have realised that my brain is actually running at a rate of ten to the dozen and my students benefit from that pause.

Not Just 6 Words

By using the verbs given in Bloom’s taxonomy, I can word my questions to them and indicate the level of response that I want from my student. But it’s when we delve deeper than purely those six words that Bloom’s really becomes useful.

Imagine for a moment the last tutee that you were sat with. You have shown them an exam question and they look at it blankly… What do you do?

Using Bloom’s, we can prod them in the right direction:

Can you show me any key words in that question? (Remember)

Could you rephrase that question, so it makes more sense to us? (Understand)

Where have we seen that phrase used before? (Apply)

What do you think the difference is between this and that? (Analyse)

How can you tell that is the correct answer? (Evaluate)

Now you know how to answer it, can you think of your own exam question that would test your knowledge? (Create)

In short, most of us do this naturally already but use verbs that resound with each level. There’s nothing wrong with this at all, and in fact there are a whole host of resources providing word lists that link to the stages of learning.

The Bloom’s Taxonomy Teacher Planning Kit is an incredible resource to have when planning objectives or questions to help move students forward. I particularly like the example questions at the bottom.


Despite not changing a great deal since the 1950s, I am a huge fan of Bloom’s Taxonomy as a planning tool for my own tutoring. You could almost say I bloomin’ love it!

Do you use Bloom’s in your tutoring practice? How have you used it? I’d love to hear from you.




For more information about GCSE Computer Science, revision resources, online tutoring, online courses, and teacher CPD, visit

Paths to Success – Digital Forensic Investigator & Author

In the sixth in the series of my Paths To Success blog series, I’ve been talking to Scar de Courcier, a research psychologist (psychology of religion) who also writes about digital forensics and consult on child protection & international security issues. Scar also runs a writing & translation agency,
For those of you who haven’t been following the blog series so far, this year I’ve been particularly interested in the paths that people take after education, especially following the increase across the UK in encouraging schools and colleges to embed employability into their lessons. The first time I tried this with students, I was met almost audible rolling of eyes – kids have genuine skills in detecting something that’s been “embedded”, much like a careers version of hiding vegetables in their spaghetti. They know.
So instead, with exam results now out for the year and choices being made about next steps, I decided to buck the trend of the many posts telling students that “results don’t matter” (they do, you worked hard), or “I didn’t need GCSEs” (no, but you had something else) and create a positive set of real careers stories to help motivate both my students and other teachers. I’ve been talking to an array of interesting people about how education shaped their own employability skills and their often irregular paths to success.
Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 15.17.25.pngHi Scar, could you tell me a little bit about your experience at school.
I adored school. I had a terrible home life and school felt like my ticket out (and it was)
With it being the end of the school year, I have to ask: do you have a particular teacher that you remember?
Most of my teachers at Steyning Grammar School were fantastic and inspirational; I was very lucky! They refused to let me stop believing in myself and helped in practical ways as well as providing emotional support. A few years ago I wrote a poem about them:
Could you tell me a little bit about your experience at college / university?
I was a very academic student and assumed I’d love uni. I didn’t. I found the other students on my course weren’t as interested in the subject matter and it made for a frustrating and difficult environment. After a year I was offered a position on a research team, so I ended up skipping the normal route through uni and going straight to academic research.
Is there any other advice you would want to give to students who received exam results and are making their choices for the next step?
Anyone studying GCSEs, if you’re worried about your exams or coursework and it’s getting you down, try not to be. As long as you try your best, that’s all that matters and there are ways to get back on track if the worst happens with your results. It doesn’t all rely on your GCSE results.
Thank you so much to Scar for giving up her time to tell us about her varied career and the path she took to arrive where she is now.

Scar can be found at and where you can see her work as an author and read about some of the amazing experiences that she has in digital forensics, or you can see her latest book, Windows Forensics Cookbook on Amazon.

Letter To Myself #EdChat

I loved reading this letter to his newly qualified self from The Nerdy Teacher. And it got me wondering, if I were to talk to myself ten years ago and give myself advice, what would it be? So here it is:

desk job cropped

Dear Holly,

So you just got a phonecall suggesting that you take on a part time role teaching A Level Computing. That’s going to be one heck of a jump from your routine of rocking up at your programming role with pink hair with Friday lunches with the boss and wine.

Life as a developer is tough and rewarding… but the next decade is going to be a rollercoaster! You’re going to meet kids who, like you are that square peg in a round hole. They may not be the ones who get the A* grades, but you’ll make much more of an impact on them than an exam grade.

Ah yes, the kids. In one job you’ll be greeted by a year 9 with “we made every other teacher leave, you’re next” – that same kid is going to hug you when they get their A Level results. Persevere. You won’t win every battle, but the victories will be worth it. Others you’ll remember like your own – possibly because they spent so much time in your classroom. Giving up your lunchbreak is time well spent.

You’ve always been your own harshest critic, and teaching is going to make you reflect on every lesson. A single complaint will overcast a hundred compliments & thank yous. And because of that, your ability to build resilience is going to either make or break you. You’re never going to get used to the crushing feeling when the outcome doesn’t reflect the hard work. But remember that all the time that you feel crushed by results it means that you still care.

That teaching diploma is going to be tough going, especially as you’re teaching full time alongside it. Make the most of the friendships you make with fellow teachers in training – they’ll turn out to still be your partners in crime years later. In fact, you’ll meet a number of people who make a significant impact in your life over these ten years. Treasure those people; they are all too often gone too soon. Teaching fills our hearts with love, but doesn’t do wonders for the blood pressure.

Oh, and just when you think you’ve got it all together and you’re feeling top of your game, life is going to throw you a massive curveball and you’re going to need to negotiate teaching alongside some interesting health issues. As it turns out, your talent and passion for working with individuals is going to help there, and online tutoring is going to be the saviour of your career (and sanity!) as your ability to physically negotiate a classroom reduces.

Strangely, things will end up going full circle with you using your background in Computing to build a website that helps hundreds of kids learn computer science. Because of that site, you’ll end up writing for a number of places including the BBC.

I can’t tell you what happens next, but have faith in your ability to fly by the seat of your pants. You’re going to need it. Oh, and carry pens – the kids won’t.