Sue Cowley on behaviour and how to fix education – PP71

Paul Dix
Paul Dix
Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne


It was great to be joined by Sue Cowley this week to find out about her background and pick her expert brains about education and behaviour!

Sue is a well-known writer, presenter and teacher trainer. She did a B.Ed and then worked in primary secondary and international schools overseas. She also wrote books and did some supply teaching. She now does training and is involved with her local nursery school alongside running a writing club at her local primary school.

Early years

Sue says that politicians often don’t understand the impact of adult-children ratios. Working with small children is a bit like herding kittens so you need as many adults as possible.

Also, Sue thinks people would be shocked at how poorly-funded nursery schools are. Staff at her nursery cannot be paid even half of what a qualified teacher earns. The leader at the pre-school is a graduate with post-graduate qualifications but still gets paid less than a cleaner or a gardener.

‘Free’ child care actually costs pre-schools money. In some places, around £2.80 an hour is funded by the government but the rest has to be found by the institution. This can sometimes be handled via voluntary contributions from parents but that is not always possible.

Sue explains that people’s understanding of play is often at the wrong level. Play in early years is crucial and it is planned for by the adults and structured to ensure the children’s needs are met.

Sue CowleyWhat would you do if you were Secretary of State for Education?

Sue would remove half of the accountability measures currently in place. She thinks we have distorted education via these measures. She agrees with Paul that there has to be some level of checks and balances but she thinks that it’s in the training and recruitment of teachers that this should be addressed. Try and find the right people and train them in the right way. We should try to find those who see teaching  as a vocation not just ‘the next thing’ after a degree…

Read the full show notes on the Pivotal Education site

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