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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Review: All Teachers Great and Small by Andy Seed

Title: All Teachers Great and Small
Author: Andy Seed
Publisher: Headline
Published: 21 July (hardback), paperback to follow in 2012
Genre: memoir

Find it at Amazon UK

The Blurb says:

Twenty-five years ago, newly qualified teacher Andy Seed moved to a remote village in the Yorkshire Dales with his wife Barbara, anticipating breathtaking views and the gentle simplicity of the countryside.

The picturesque scenery did not disappoint. But life as a primary school teacher was anything but simple. With a classroom full of colourful characters whose capacity for misunderstanding was exceeded only by their enthusiasm and their ability to leave him incredulous, Andy fell in love with teaching and with village life.

ALL TEACHERS GREAT AND SMALL tells the true story of Andy's first year at Cragthwaite Primary School - how he bravely negotiated the vagaries of the local dialect, made disastrous bids to provide a family home, naively and hilariously tried out new-fangled ideas in a school stuck in a 1950s time warp, and ultimately discovered a little part of England he was proud to call home.

Warm, touching and very funny, All Teachers Great and Small transports you to a time that may be gone but has never been forgotten.

My Verdict: an engaging summer read, especially, but not exclusively, for teachers.
Essentially a nostalgic read, this is perfect summer holiday fare. As a teacher, I had tremendous sympathy for Seed's tales of juggling new government edicts with the demands of the actual classroom, and enjoyed his depictions of parents' evenings, school trips and attempts to modernise the curriculum. He perfectly captures the clash between the old and new, in the rural community and in education more broadly, without being excessively sentimental and without a trace of cynicism. This is not at all a book that is specifically or exclusively for teachers, however, and the child characters will engage any reader, I've no doubt. The adult characters that populate Seed's version of the Dales are also rounded, quirky and entertaining characters who enrich the story immensely. As the blurb indicates, this is by no means only about Seed's classroom experiences, or the learning curve of the probationary teaching year, but deals with the whole deal of moving into a new area.

What I particularly appreciated about the book was its structure and organisation. It is exceptionally well-planned. Each chapter is titled by a child's name and includes an episode starring that child. Our knowledge of the children from Seed's first class therefore grows with each chapter, and he is careful only to include children who have already had 'their' chapter. This feat of planning ensures that although the book by necessity has a large cast of characters, we are never confused.

I enjoyed reading this and will look out for further books, as it is mentioned on Seed's website that this is the first in a series.

Review copy kindly provided by Headline.  This my eleventh review for the British Books Challenge.


  1. This sounds a really good read Beth. I love the title! It reminds me slightly of the books written by ex-schools inspector from the Yorkshire Dales, Gervase Phinn. Andy Seed has probably nabbed a great future title from right under his nose! As someone who has lived at the gateway to the Dales for many years, I look forward to reading this book and recognising lots of things in it. Thanks for sharing.
    The Time Sculptor

  2. Sounds intriguing and well-planned.


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