Next steps

August in the UK – GCSE and A-Level students get their long-awaited results and either finalise or revisit their next steps – University? Gap Year? Resits? BTEC or A-Levels or Apprenticeship? Proudly Instagram their results slip, or slip into a corner and cry?

GCSE-prep starts in earnest for the new Year Tens – sometimes even the Nines. Early-entry English can be tough on students – many need another year to develop their skills of inference and response, one of the key areas in my lessons, whether online or in-person.

Eleven-year-olds get bus passes and oversized blazers and ties for the move up to Secondary School in September. Proper ties for the private schools, clip-on, strangle-resistant versions for the state ones – so I’m told. Maybe it’s a myth. Boys with long hair are shorn, girls wonder if earrings are allowed in PE. All of them now have phones and belong to unwieldy Whatsapp groups, and not a single one has any idea what they’re in for in Year Seven.

Some of the new Year Sixes have spent the summer learning homophones, shuffling sentences and finding odd ones out for the imminent 11-Plus and Independent School Entrance exams. They’ll have a brief respite before everyone starts worrying about the SATs.

Four-year-olds get grey shorts or red gingham dresses – the Reception class uniform. Landfills thoughout the country overflow with rucksacks, pencil cases and lunch boxes, education apparently depending upon new equipment every September. Such are some of the rituals of Leaving, Going Back to or Starting School.

Meanwhile teachers stagger back from Greece and Cornwall, swapping schemes of work and tales of woe on Edu-Twitter. And private tutors like me open up their timetables to children at all stages of education, whether they’re in school or home-educated. In my case, it’s Key Stages 3, 4 and 5 – pre-GCSE, GCSE and AS / A-Level. Students can join me at any point in the academic year, for long-term tuition or short, focused boosts on areas that need attention. Have a look at my Lesson Information page for more details – and do get in touch if you think your teenager might benefit from one-to-one lessons in English Language and/or Literature with an experienced and successful tutor. Happy New Term everyone!

What doesn’t work?

Great addition to my resources for developing inference skills. Children who find it difficult to access non-literal meaning in words, and dread the reading comprehension tests in school, often relate more easily to visual material, and can practise the skills of inference and deduction without pressure. I think next week’s students will enjoy ‘reading between the lines’ of this wonderful picture by the Chilean artist, Oscar Ramos, entitles Does Not Work.  Thanks to the folks at Once Upon A Picture for their brilliant finds.


First Day

8.50 am. Infants and Juniors troop past our house on their way to school. The cat’s in the front window watching them, trying to get her head around the mystery that is children. Why are they not stopping to play with her? What’s with the new shoes and the too-long dresses?  Why are they poking each other with shiny new gel pens?



Yes, it’s the First Day Back. La Rentrée, as the kids lucky enough to have holidayed in France will know it; their gel pens came from Carrefour. But wherever these primary pupils sourced their new-term goodies, they’ll all be thinking the same. Will I sit by my friends? What’s Mrs X really like? Please don’t make us write about My Holiday …

Students ‘doing English’ with me know there’s often poetry in my lessons (frequently sourced from the fabulous Children’s Poetry Archive – see link below). Here’s a helpful poem for all the children wondering how to deal with their new classteacher.  And a message for my new Year Fives and Sixes – don’t try it on me!!


Heebie Geebie, Hurple Burple
 Time To Turn My Teacher. . . PURPLE!

Simply chant this magic spell
 soon your teacher looks unwell:
 purple cheeks and purple nose
 purpleness from head to toes

Feed her beetroot every hour
 see her fill with purple power
 bloomin’ like a purple flower
 how she’ll scream
 when in the shower!!!

How to Turn Your Teacher Purple and Other Sizzling Science Poems (A&C Black, 2011), © James Carter 2011

How to Turn Your Teacher Purple


This is also the First Day of my blog. English With Dr Julia Fowler .  There’ll be info and snippets for GCSE students and 11+ parents, links to stuff I like and find useful, and thoughts on literacy coaching.  Looking forward to hearing your thoughts too!