PhD Student in Ed Policy (more commonly found at

Edu Maps

Below are the birthplaces of all UK Education Secretaries (bar Geoffrey Lloyd, Fred Mulley & John Patten – if anyone can find those I’d be most grateful). Only one was born outside of the UK. See if you can find them.


#AcWriMo – Lessons so far

It’s week 3 of AcWriMo – only one more left! – and I’ve been pondering on today’s walk to the library about lessons learned so far.

Making myself work for a set time of 3 hours is vital – Some people work on words, some do mini-time (e.g. pomodoros). I need the full three hours, and here’s why. If I don’t commit to big blocks of time I give myself ‘breaks’ when things get hard. I will avoid doing the hard stuff if I only gave myself a small word target, or if I could goof off every 25 minutes. When you have set your mind on 3 hours and 2000 words you have no choice: You have to write through the hard stuff.

I goof off when the going gets tough: As noted above, the times when I most hated having the 3 hour big-word target was when a paragraph of idea was pissing me off. Notionally I could write “SOMETHING HERE ABOUT MOTIVATION” and then come back to it later, but if I was going to meet my word-count target then oftentimes I had to write the something about motivation whether I was ready or not.

Not being ‘ready to write’ is not a good enough reason for avoiding writing – A lot of people discussing #AcWriMo have said that they feel being forced to write is actually counter-productive. They need more time for reading, re-writing, and thinking, rather than yet more writing. For me, this simply isn’t true. There are other hours in the day when I can read, think and re-draft, but if I don’t force myself to generate words then I won’t. Furthermore, I’ve been amazed at what happens when I just keep typing. It’s like my brain has already though through most ideas and they start to come out – even if half-baked – when I have to keep writing.

There is a downside to writing a lot – It does force more re-drafting. I have to re-draft at the best of times, but that’s because I’m a crappy verbose writer not because my thoughts aren’t clear. Writing before you’ve really thought through your ideas does, unfortunately, mean that they’re not always in the correct order (and sometimes they’re just plain rubbish) so, sad as it is, this means even more re-drafting.

I need not be pathological about re-drafting – Because I now know that I must re-draft I’ve found that it can become a wonderful distraction and the last two mornings have mostly consisted of me re-writing the same words as the day before. That’s unacceptable, and it’s cheating. Me and myself had a word on the way back from the library and it won’t be happening anymore.

Dragon dictation software is wonderful – The day I wrote well over 3000 words in 2 hours, that was down to Dragon. Dictating only works at certain times – when I have draft notes together and there’s time to go over the punctuation etc. But it saves my hands (RSI is going to set in soon) and it gets the typing job done quicker than via manual means. I like.

Being productive feels really good – I’ve put together a scrapbook of all the things I’m writing. They’re starting to mount up quickly. It’s impressive. And I have to remind myself that it’s only been 2 and a half weeks so far. Exciting times.

Day 3 – Eugh.

Today was harder. Writing a report about governance that I have had to collate information from all over for.

Today I wrote 739 words for the final article and 1,014 words in the research notes. I actually wrote about 800 original draft words too that have been deleted, but I don’t count those.

Then I wrote a draft complaint for the FOI request I am currently toiling over. That is sitting at 520 and now I am waiting to find out whether to send it or not.

appreciate being able to write different types of things and still have it count towards my word count. I do think that it’s easy to fetishise one type of writing over another but each of these papers are being “sent” to someone and thereforeI am counting them as part of AcWriMo. This means that blogs will also be counted where they are part of ‘work’ but not where they are just part of my whim (like this one!).

I also finished my primary source analysis on English progressive schools a week early yesterday. Being in AcWriMo helped me be excited about the project and also made me want to ‘complete’ it because I couldn’t face the idea of writing on it for 3 hours EVERY DAY and without other things to distract me it was just easier to get it done.

It’s below. I’m quite pleased with it.


Monday 5th November – 12 Blogs!

Today’s #AcWriMo involved finally sorting out the Mutual Understanding Blog that I have been meaning to get to. In total there were 12 posts, I reckon each is about 200 words of my work (and then some of others) meaning a total of 2400 for today.


You can see the fruits of this labour here:

First Day of #AcWriMo

First two hours of #AcWriMo have been greatly productive.

Have done a draft of my Primary Source Analysis for my history class. It’s way too long, currently sitting at 1546 words (needs to be about half that) but at it is going to be a great resource for the longer paper. It has also made me think about a new idea to do with wives in education history that I don’t think has been explored elsewhere.

The second piece is hard to count wordwise because it is on a powerpoint presentation but I think it will have been at least 300 which helps me meet the 1800 daily word limit I have set for myself. And even if that doesn’t work then the 117 words I have written in this blog so far is definitely edging me over!


AcWriMo meets Shut Up and Write!

#AcWriMo = one-month challenge to write a crazy number of words that you declare in public at the outset and that you marathon towards. Note: not a sprint, a marathon. Taking part requires forethought, planning and mental preparation – hence the use of the #AcWriMo hastag and website to make sure you have some buddies to give you a lift when you need it.

Shut Up And Write= San-Francisco-started movement whereby people get together at specific times, drink coffee, ‘shut up and write’, then drink some more coffee. By setting a specific time for this ‘social’ activity people make sure to turn up, because other people are writing nearby you don’t get distracted, and the reward at the end gives a feel good kick. Plus, there’s coffee.

My Evil Plan > #AcWriMo PLUS Shut Up and Write

Starting on Sunday 4th November for five days each week (Sun to Thurs), for four weeks, I will be by the coffee shop at the Student Center between 7.20am  and 10am and in that time I will write at least 36,000 words.  That’s right: four weeks, twenty days, 36,000 words, approx. 1800 day. Totally do-able.

Why the schedule? To incorporate Shut Up and Write!  I understand that not everyone is free every morning (especially not Sundays, especially not Thanksgiving week), but I will be there each day ready to take on the challenge and I’m hoping some people will come and partake in the fun too. If you know you have writing projects to do this half-term, and you can do one or other of the hour, just think how much better your day might be for knowing you have some ideas down on paper!  NB: You don’t *have* to write 36,000 words (though people tend to be more successful if they do set something of a challenging goal).

And if no-one turns up, ever, then I will just have to turn to #AcWriMo on Twitter during breaks for inspiration!

So the  planned schedule goes like this:

7.20 – 7.30: Hello…grumble…coffee..log-on

7.30 – 8.30: Shut up and Write

8.30 – 9.00: Coffee!

9.00 – 10.00: Shut up and Write

10am – Freedom/morecoffee/cake/exercise/hot-tub

Eugh. This sounds hard. Why are you doing this again?

I will ask myself this question a lot, so here are the answers for when my mind hits low notes: (1) I don’t have any choice. I *have* to write this many words this month anyway because there are so many deadlines, (2) It means I can spend all the time after 10am feeling glad that I wrote something and not worrying that time is getting shorter, (3) It’s only 20 days. I dragged myslf into an inner-city comprehensive school every morning at 7am for the past 6 years in order to teach in pretty difficult circumstances. If that’s possible, then *this* is a cinch. Just twenty days. E-z.

Right, I’m pumped. All that’s left is figuring out my comfy clothes and trying to rope other beings into the plan. After that, we’re good to go. 36,000 words. The dream starts here.