Shy Bairns Get Nowt

Chloë Hynes, #FEtapestry seamstress implores us to make our own space in FE – and be vocal about it.

TES* let us down. It’s not just the removal of a platform for FE practitioners, it’s also political; kicking Cinderella out. Let’s not forget, she was only ever relegated to the basement anyway. Cinderella however, int a shy bairn (she just gets the short end of the stick) and has the opportunity to write her own story, in the way she wants it to be written.

I didn’t intend this blog be a political commentary with such a negative introduction. However, I thought it pertinent to use recent events to point out the why for writing about your practice (yes YOU). The illumination of practitioner’s voices we need to disseminate, broadcast, share and amplify.

So what was the intention of this blog? I attended the last #OTLA Round Table in June with #FEresearchPodcast hosts Jo and Alistair. It occurred to me that there are an increasing amount of opportunities** for practitioners to talk about their research and share with the sector, but it takes a lot of confidence to put your head above the parapet, write about your own practice and pressing ‘SEND’ on that submission email.

With that said, here’s a few writing tips from that round table (let me know if you have more and I’ll add them!):

  • Struggling with an empty page? Record yourself or use speech-to-text then tidy up later.
  • Get some time away from the screen and give yourself some time, space and stillness for composting.
  • Read through different audience spectacles: Will it inspire a practitioner to make a change in their classroom next week? Is it of value to those in leadership? What relevance does it have to those with specific provision challenges e.g. prison education, community learning etc.Screenshot of Jo's status advertising her biweekly writing rooms. Click to access.
  • Go out of your comfort zone: write for different people, places and audiences. Write reviews, articles, blogs and do podcasts.
  • Just write. Wake up in the morning and write. Take a book everywhere with you. Write on the bus. Write lists, ideas, plans, poems. Just write.
  • Write with peers online or IRL (in real life) in writing groups or study days
  • Use a multimedia approach to planning (or creating, if the guidelines allow) so you can be inspired by an array of relevant content. Have a look at these research reports for inspo.
  • Approaches to disciplined productivity (ie anti-procrastination) inc Pomodoro which includes 20 min slots of focussed writing, Shut Up and Write which does what it says on the tin, or use the app Flora a tamagotchi for adults that has the potential to allow you to grow IRL trees.
  • Chat as a project team about data and feedback and ask someone else (preferably not related to the project team so has fresh eyes) to take notes.
  • Get out the monkey house***: Ask someone else to read it.
  • Lastly, we discussed the strange irony of English teachers being quite hot on ensuring their learners plan, draft and edit but they sometimes find it hard (or can’t find the time to do it themselves. So Sue (Lownsbrough, Regional Specialist Lead for the NW) suggests we should: Plan plan draft edit edit edit edit (YES that’s 4 edits!)

I hope these tips are of value to you. If you’ve got this far and you’re still unsure; I urge you to just give it a go; You do have something to say that other’s in the sector would find useful if not inspiring. To get the ball rolling, why not start with a blog or collaborate with a colleague? To wrap up, I’ll point to the title of this blog, with a call to action:

Shy bairns get nowt, so let’s make some noise about our own practice and that of our peers in all reaches of the sector.


*Whilst it’s tempting to ‘cancel’ or boycott TES to make a point, I implore you to keep keep reading and sharing all their FE content. Don’t forget, that our peers and colleagues have authored a lot of their great content. Like this FE Heroes piece by Stacey Salt about the digital resilience of practitioners during lockdown and this excellent article about the importance of collaboration over competition in FE research by Sam Jones.ways to amplify! click for more info

** There are multiple networks, membership bodies and collectives you can join which will enable you to:

Bear in mind that this list is not exhaustive, and you may find other reasons (and indeed other networks not mentioned here) that you find of value. If you are active on Twitter, there are FE research communities springing up all the time e.g. #FEspeaks, #OTLA, #CuriousFE, #FEresearchmeet, #CfEM. These constellations of practice change and adapt with the need of the sector and as such, they grow organically. Something missing? Why not set up your own?!

Publishing opportunities with specific submission details for publishings oppositve (and more; it’s a live document so will grow over time (and when I have time to add more!)), check out this collection.

*** When you first go into the monkey house at the Zoo, you notice the smell and dirt. After a while you stop to notice it as you’re focussing on other things. If someone else were to come in, they would notice anything unsavoury straight away! The metaphor describes spending so much time on something, you no longer read with a fresh or critical eye. Credit: Tim Gunn (Project Runway Season 4: Finale with Chris March)

Chloë Hynes


I’m an ESOL and Digital specialist with an art degree and an MA in drama. I’m currently a Creative Development Officer for Claire Collins Consultancy which translates to a pleathora of exciting roles including digital trainer, #OTLA mentor, PDN #FEtapestry director, social media comms, marketing and branding, website and resource design, and curriculum writer.

Additionally, I’m incredibly lucky to be working with the #APConnect team this year (21-22) on their #APskylark programme and #FestivalFridays.

From a practitioner whose voice was once stiffled, amplifying practitioner voices is at the top of my priorities list!