All posts by Juliet O'Callaghan

Blogging about Agnus Castus, psychology and other stuff.

Myth #3 ‘Seven Myths about the Knowledge Rich Curriculum’


Help! My child hates reading

In my professional role I often come across children who say they ‘hate’ reading. In this video I discuss some of the reasons behind this feeling and what you can do as parents and to help your reluctant reader become an avid reader.

The one about the menopause – when Agnus Castus is not enough…

For nearly ten years now Agnus Castus has been all I needed to deal with the various symptoms of PMT, but now the dreaded change is upon me and the hot flushes and low mood sent me on a search for a solution. Check out what I did on my new Youtube channel:

Making all children wear trousers is not a gender neutral uniform policy

Piers Morgan criticises Lewes school’s gender neutral uniform – BBC news


although I don’t agree with Piers Morgan’s reason for finding the Priory school’s uniform policy absurd. It do agree this school has still got it very wrong. Is this really an attempt at a gender neutral school uniform policy, or rather is it a blunt tool to cover up female flesh to avoid addressing/ acknowledging the objectifying attitudes to women that continue to proliferate in society?

Priory School in Lewes said it made the change after concerns were raised over the length of skirts worn by pupils.


Examine the pictures produced by the school and ask yourself if it obvious which figures are boys and which are girls?

Of course it feckin’ is! The boys have trousers with a smart crease down the front. The girls have slimmer, figure hugging trousers. The girls wear ballet shoes, the boys big chunky shoes (this school is so behind the times, ballet shoes are so yesterday, DMs are where it is at for boys and girls and those who identify as a third gender, intersex or no gender). The girls have long hair, the boys short. The girls pose in a way that accentuates their little delicate, weak hands. The boys ram rod straight, their big, strong hands behind their backs or straight down their sides (a physical manifestation of holding it all in, even those really useful emotions of fear and regret and sorrow).

Gender neutral clothing means boys and girls and those who identify as a third gender, intersex, or no gender wear whatever uniform that they feel ‘right’ in be that a skirt, trousers, shorts or a dress; and that the school rules are applied equally to all. Better still, scrap uniform altogether and instead develop a set of guidelines applicable to all that ensure safety and fairness such as, no heels, no obvious branding logos etc.

What gender neutral clothing is not about is covering up flesh and stifling individual expression by making everyone the same. So although Piers Morgan’s objection is coming from a quaint, but frankly last century Chauvinism (yawn), I do get his discomfort and I strongly urge Priory Academy to have a rethink and engage with their student body – who will already have the solution – and roll out a gender neutral uniform policy that really is what it says it is.

Becoming and Educational Psychologist: Part 4

Effort grade

As promised for those who are interested in my research, here is a link to a Prezi summarising the findings.

With only a few months to go until I complete the doctorate, it is time to thank all those people that helped me to get there.

My thanks to Dr Juliet S., my thesis tutor, for her unequivocal enthusiasm for all things growth mindset and her encouragement and sage advice when at times it all felt a bit too overwhelming. Thank you for containing me and my ideas so they could be realised.

A big thank you to Dr Dino for your no nonsense statistical advice and answering my many, and at times, rather confusing questions. Thanks to my placement supervisor, Dr Clare, who kept me grounded through many a supervision session and always showed a positive interest in my research, helped me to share it among my colleagues, and saw its potential in changing practice in our schools.

Thank you to all my colleagues on the course who must have got pretty tired of hearing about process praise and growth mindset, but nevertheless always listened and offered fresh and useful perspectives on what I was hoping to achieve. I couldn’t have done it without you guys.

Thank you to my parents, children and friends who understood when I didn’t want to talk about how it was going and always reminded me of the end goal and how proud they are of me.

A very special thank you to my husband, John, who – faced with my ambitious data collection strategy – brought expertise and calm to what seemed like an impossible task, from developing the smartest, leanest database possible for inputting data, to spending hours clicking boxes in said database every evening and weekend for months on end. You have no idea how much your practical support, belief in me, willingness to listen carefully, and offer insight into my idea from its early inception to its completion have helped me to produce something I am really proud of. I am really lucky to have you in my life.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the support of the three schools in my placement authority who agreed to give this intervention, and me, a go. To the teachers and teaching assistants who had the task of getting in excess of five hundred pupils to complete the questionnaire, twice. To the pupils for completing the questionnaires with such thought and at times remarkable creativity. To the participating teachers who embraced their golf counters, filled out the google form every day for four weeks, and allowed me into their classrooms to observe their maths lessons; and to the senior leaders who provided me the opportunity to work with their teachers in a year of immense upheaval in the primary curriculum. Your contribution has been incredible.

A Grammar school system I would buy into


If we think it makes sense to take the top 25% of pupils at aged 11 and put them into a school just for them so they can reach their potential unhindered by those who learn more slowly, then why don’t we think it makes sense to take the bottom 25% and put them into a school just for them so they can reach their potential unhindered by those who learn more quickly?

If we are to return to a period of educational segregation then let’s make sure all the best teachers and resources are in the schools for the bottom 25%.

If the bottom 25% were given all the advantages of a grammar school with a curriculum tailored to play to their learning strengths such as strong visual memory, creative and practical skills, just think of the impact on crime, employment and mental health.

The IQ test (on which 11+ is based) was designed to identify children who were significantly behind their peers on academic performance (in the bottom 2% of the population) so they could be offered tailored, specific support to enable them to catch up and fulfil their potential. Instead we use it to identify the children who are likely to achieve well in whatever school they attend.

So I say YES! to a grammar school system that gives the bottom 25% the belief that they are special and worth investing in. The other 75% will do just fine in a mixed ability comprehensive. Won’t they?

Of course, if this really were the grammar school system then children would need to be tutored to fail and it would be patently ridiculous to encourage academic failure, yet the grammar school system the Conservative government would like to resurrect does exactly that.

Branding 75% of 11 year olds as failures will hardly encourage success.

Author note: I am firmly for inclusion for all children – schools that value all pupils and adapt the curriculum and setting to accommodate all learners, tend to develop caring and nurturing pupils who understand that everyone has strengths and everyone finds some stuff difficult.

Politics: Falling for Jeremy

Dearest Jeremy,

It wasn’t love at first sight, more like a cigarette end down the back of the settee*  that smouldered unnoticed for many long hours through the dark night of the Brexit campaign. By dawn, the seat was alight, but even then I could have put it out with a bucket of cold water. However, the flames were fanned by the whoosh of resigning MPs until they caught the flapping curtains and before I knew it the wallpaper was on fire and my bucket of water was as much use as the Parliamentary Labour Party.

(*Damned EU bureaucracy ruining this analogy with their meddling and insistence settees are made of fire retardant materials.)

I tried closing all the doors and windows, denying my new found love of oxygen, but doors and windows have gaps and I live in an old and creaking house with floorboards.

Loving you is far from easy. My friends, family and mainstream media think you are a bad influence and that I have been brainwashed. They think I am fantasist with limited self-control*, that I have been caught up in a tsunami of the lefty unwashed* and that you, like Charles Manson*, expect cultish devotion*.

(*comments made by the Guardian and some of its readers – )

They criticise you for wearing sandals and having the charisma of an ageing labrador* and they think if they point at these faults I will return to my senses. They’ve even tried setting me up on a blind date with a man called Owen who says the same things as you while wearing a crisp white shirt with his sleeves rolled up.

(* the headline of a piece in the Independent recently

But as long as you wear those sandals without socks and try not to slobber on me I’d still choose you over Owen.

What they don’t realise is I don’t care how you look, or how you sound, although whispering dirty socialist slogans in my ear does send me all a quiver. It’s the fact you live what you say. You believe what you speak and you refuse to evade questions, however loaded they maybe.

Before I met you I was labelled as an idealist as if it were a dirty word. Now, because of you, I know that I am democratic socialist and that I am not alone in believing that there is a better way, one that respects everybody and not just those who have a ruthless streak, inherited power, intellect or money.

Because of you I have learnt about our political history, how neoliberalism was heralded as the end to our ills, but didn’t deliver. How democratic socialism is not a return to the past but a recognition that market forces alone cannot protect the disabled, the poor and ill because some things are not about profit, but about humanity.

It’s funny how others think I have become a blind follower when my eyes have been opened wider than they have ever been before.

However, I feel I must be very clear with you Jeremy. It is your ideas that I am in love with and the fact that despite your age, you remain optimistic about the nature of people, and that you still believe – after years of being ridiculed and misrepresented – that people can be better, do better, and care for one another regardless of differences between them.

If your ideas turn out to be hot air, spin and flim flam just to win my vote, I will dump you quicker than Farage’s escape from Brexit.

Yours adoringly but conditionally,


We need to talk about Children's Mental Health

Reflections from a Consultant Clinical Psychologist

Filling the pail

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." - As W. B. Yeats never said

Mobilising Psychology for Social Change


My views on Teaching & Education

Sara Crowley

Words - writing, books, reading, musing.

Scenes From The Battleground

Teaching in British schools

 Body of Evidence

Medical journalist Jerome Burne investigates...

Mom At Work

Work is the easy part.

Juli Townsend's Transition to Home

Moving back to Australia after ten years living overseas

Anne R. Allen's Blog... with Ruth Harris

Writing about writing. Mostly.

Helen Bowes-Catton

sexuality, research methods, social justice

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