Shortly after qualifying as a teacher I began a 30-year stint in national education policy-making, much of it devoted to supporting our most able learners.

In 2010 I switched to freelance consultancy and writing, specialising in high attainment, fair access and gifted education. I introduced a social media alter ego – Gifted Phoenix – who blogged and tweeted on these issues, as well as wider aspects of national education policy.

He built a reputation as an independent and objective commentator who wrote balanced, authoritative and detailed posts underpinned by careful analysis of the evidence base, especially the published data. These old posts are still accessible.


After five years Gifted Phoenix returned to the ashes and I planned to retire from education. (This new blog was supposed to feature a variety of other personal interests, while also enabling me to indulge an abiding fascination with social media.)

Then I was commissioned by the University of Oxford to review effective practice in widening participation and fair access. I began to write new posts on that topic as a way of keeping up to speed with new developments, but I also found I had rather more to say about the schools sector too.

As I write this in summer 2017 I find myself increasingly disenchanted with progress in the fields I care most about. It is becoming ever harder to maintain a balanced and objective stance – and I am struggling to avoid repeating myself like a tired old broken record.

My beloved wife Kate died in July 2017 after a year-long battle with cancer and I am adding some new content dedicated to her memory. I have a ‘leftover life to live’. I might engage from time to time but you should now consider me officially retired.

Expect fewer posts, mostly devoted to wider interests, especially Dracup Genealogy. I’ve been developing a family tree since 2010, confining myself exclusively to online evidence. Now I plan to broaden my research methods, to focus more explicitly on the lives of individuals and the social history associated with them.

I plan more posts devoted to travelogue, literature and music.  I want to take more and better photographs to illustrate this blog. There will also be occasional experiments in creative writing, especially poetry.


Don’t expect a hive of activity. I’ll work at my own pace in the interstices between other priorities, publishing only when I’m ready.



Summer 2017


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