Penguin (PVL)
Penguin (PVL)
Teachwire Logo

From Amazing to Active to Awful – Every Kind of Inset You’ll Ever Attend

Teachers are required to complete regular Inset days so that they understand just how awful learning is when you’re on the receiving end

  • From Amazing to Active to Awful – Every Kind of Inset You’ll Ever Attend

Jon Brunskill tackles teacher training in the only way he knows how…

1 | The relevant one

Although you spend all day with young people, you obviously have no idea what makes kids tick, but don’t worry! This can be easily rectified with a speech from a ‘relevant’ speaker who by virtue of racking up a few thousand YouTube hits will be able to enlighten you as to how school is now, apparently, obsolete. You’ll be treated to a bingo-style rundown of all the latest crazes that you can use to make your stuffy old lessons ‘engage the kidz’.

If encountered: marvel at their breathtaking lack of understanding of audience as they rhetorically question the importance of maths.

2 | The research one

Teachers have recently been taken by the charming notion that if we embrace research evidence, we’re basically like doctors, or something. The best way to do achieve this is to invite in a consultant – with no academic qualifications higher than a PGCE – to present cherry-picked anecdotes and hastily bodged pie charts. Yeah, just like doctors.

If encountered: the ‘research one’ has around a 97% chance of becoming the ‘debunked one’ within three years. Wait it out.

3 | The active one

We all know that everyone learns best while experiencing nauseating levels of anxiety and social awkwardness. What better way to achieve this than by inviting a speaker who, due to having nothing of meaning to actually convey, compels you to ‘get out of your seats’ and form a human tractor with the Y6 team who you have only properly spoken to once before. But making a human tractor definitely has something to do with learning though. Definitely.

If encountered: dear headteacher, I hereby tender my resignation. I’m joining clown school in an attempt to regain some dignity.

4 | The techy one

A school year wouldn’t be complete without the annual promise of new technology that will ‘revolutionise the learning process and bring education into the 21st century’, which in practice means pissing about with some VR goggles so you can look around the ocean in 360 degrees. This will be followed swiftly by an announcement by the headteacher that, obviously, the school can’t actually afford them.

If encountered: ask the question that every teacher is thinking – what do you do when nobody has charged the bloody iPads?

5 | The ‘inspirational’ one

As artist Chuck Close once said, “Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work.” This high energy speaker bandies around vacuous slogans to do with achieving your goals, without a whiff of actionable advice. They’d have you believe anything is possible, but will be out the door when the real hard work begins…

If encountered: challenge them to keep up that motivational spiel for six hours a day after arriving before 7am to mark 30 books. Then we’ll see who’s inspirational.

6 | The debunked one

Education has an hilarious habit of falling hook, line and sinker for more or less every new fad and gimmick going. It can be pretty painful to let BrainGym quietly die in the night after all of those training sessions and whole class displays. Of course, this doesn’t stop Inset trainers from peddling all sorts of nonsense. Learning styles? Right brain learners? Multiple intelligences? 21st-century skillz? If you’re buying, they’re selling.

If encountered: what’s the polite way to tell someone that they’re full of crap?

Jon Brunskill is the head of Year Two at Reach Academy Feltham. He tweets at @jon_brunskill and you can find him at

Sign up here for your free Brilliant Teacher Box Set

Get 8 KS3/4 maths lessons with expert teaching techniques

Find out more here >