The History of JONK

It is wonderful that the timeline in this section enables us to reflect upon the huge number of factors, people and events that have shaped every aspect of the philosophy of education and leadership that has now become known as the Joy of Not Knowing.

The fascination with an inquisitive approach to learning and to life led me to initially pursue a career in scientific research. When I later retrained as a primary school teacher, I was incredibly lucky to be offered the opportunity to form part of a two-year research project, as an NQT that involved twelve schools in Bristol looking at effective provision for more able children. This project, which was entitled Flying High’ and led by Professor Deborah Eyre and Lynne McClure introduced me to a wide range of fascinating pedagogical initiatives which I then started to incorporate into the daily life of the classroom to inspire all children with a lifelong love of learning.

The impact of this was fabulous and led to several very interesting collaborative pieces of work, presentations and publications. It is also fascinating to reflect upon how this approach and philosophy of education started to then gradually evolve as a whole-school approach, whilst I progressed though senior leadership and then headship. It is fascinating that the history of JONK is continually evolving, changing and moulding itself through all the work, studies, ideas and contributions that schools, higher education establishments, teacher training courses and university research departments are currently contributing to.


Thirst for knowledge and enjoying a quest for the unknown begins with career as a research scientist.


Christ Church Primary School and Flying High Action Research Project; Marcelo as an NQT in Bristol; this project introduces me to a number of initiatives designed to develop childrens’ higher order thinking skills.


Approach leads to publication of Measuring the Speed of Sound with a Year 5 class demonstrating how the approach enables children to develop their problem solving skills.


Marcelo develops a Thinking Skills Approach to the Day where higher order thinking skills are promoted across all activities and throughout the day.


Marcelo joins Westbury Park Primary School in Bristol and trains as Level 1 P4C practitioner and embeds philosophy in the timetable and as part of the Thinking Skills Approach to the Day.


School Beacon Project introduces Marcelo to a values led approach to education and this is incorporated into the Thinking Skills Approach.


Marcelo and Alan Rees, Headteacher at Westbury Park Primary School publish Start Thinking, a book of open ended thinking skills challenges for children to enjoy as they enter the classroom in the morning.


Marcelo and David work with the University of Bristol to see how the concept of lifelong learning dispositions can be adapted for and incorporated into the primary school classroom by linking the dispositions to an animal, each publish a chapter in the book Powerful Learning.


Marcelo publishes several articles in the Journal Creative Teaching and Learning describing the Thinking, Lifelong Learning and Philosophical Approach to Teaching and Learning.


As Deputy Headteacher of St. Bartholomew’s CE Primary School, Marcelo helps whole school to develop and embed the approach; marked impact observed with regards to standards, behaviour, home learning, love of learning, parental engagement. Here Comes Philosophy Man is published in Creative Teaching and Learning as well as in peer-reviewed journal ‘Gifted Education International’.


Marcelo becomes Headteacher of Hertford Infants and Nursery School and whole approach is introduced, supported by introduction of whole staff multi-professional teams. Whole school approach becomes known as the Joy of Not Knowing to encompass what has now become a whole school philosophy of education and of leadership. JONK articles published in Creative Teaching and Learning.


The concept of the JONK Learning to Learn week is born to enable schools to devote the first week of the academic year to teaching children how to learn to learn and how develop a lifelong a love of learning.


Approach leads to school showing year on year increases in standards, attendance and first choice preferences. In 2012 school is judged Outstanding by Ofsted for the first time in its history.


Marcelo joins the University of Brighton on secondment and introduces concept of JONK to initial teacher training modules and to school in Santander, Spain.


JONK approach leads to development of children as learning leaders who produce first whole school child version of the school development plan. School develops own set of lifelong learning dispositions in young children friendly language.


Concept of JONK Thinking in Playgrounds launched and article published in Creative Teaching and Learning.


Marcelo becomes Headteacher of Balfour Primary School where JONK philosophy enables school to develop teachers and students as researchers and introduce whole school sets of values, lifelong learning dispositions to support the meeting of children’s rights.


The JONK Teaching and Learning Model of Excellence and Enjoyment is developed and includes the eight areas of teaching and learning that have most impact on childrens’ outcomes.


Latest articles published in Creative Teaching and Learning demonstrating impact that the JONK approach has on children as leaders of their own learning and of school improvement and on the potential for children to become active participants in community partnerships.


First Annual JONK Schools Network Conference takes place at Viscount Nelson Educational Trust Conference Centre, Norfolk.


Marcelo founds the JONK Thinking and Learning Educational Consultancy Enterprise to help schools establish a learning to learn ethos and culture.


Publication of books JONK Start Thinking Early and Empezar Pensando.


Publication of book The Joy of Not Knowing.

Success Stories

I have already had some very positive feedback about the session so many many thanks for your contributions

- PGCE Course Leader

I'm a PGCE Primary student at Brighton and was really inspired by your lecture today. I studied Philosophy as part of my degree and love the idea of incorporating that into my lessons at school.

- Student | University of Brighton

We are 2 PGCE students at Brighton University and were recently at your highly inspiring lecture. We are currently on a placement in a year 3 class and have been given the opportunity to run a learning to learn/ PSHE day on the first day back after half term. We would like this day to focus on team building and PSHE type games in order to re-establish class rules and relationships. There is currently a lot of low level disruptions and behaviour issues, which is inhibiting learning. We would like to address these issues- can you help?

- Student | University of Brighton

I just wanted to drop you a little message to thank you for bringing in Marcelo this morning. To put it simply, he was utterly inspiring. His philosophy, ideas and approach to teaching has instilled in me a great deal of enthusiasm ahead of SBT2 and I cannot wait to get going again.

- Teacher

Thank you! The lecture you gave today at Brighton University was superb, a real inspiration to see that it is still possible to create a more holistic approach to learning that isn’t ruled by the chasing of numbers and figures; that views children as human beings with infinite potential rather than statistics. I would love to have any further tips you are willing to share that would help me implement this ethos into my teaching approach. I really felt that the information you provided today complemented yesterday’s lecture on ability grouping and has given me plenty of food for thought about my practice in the future.

- Teacher

Firstly, thank you for such a refreshing lecture this morning. Speaking with fellow students, it's easy to get bogged down with worrying about planning and progression and levels, but this morning has been an exciting reminder of the joys of working with children. I noticed you mentioned maths investigations in your presentations which really interested me. I am teaching my first lesson of this placement this week, and have been asked to focus on an investigation that uses multiplication. Although I have looked at various websites and books I am yet to be inspired. Do you know of any resources that may be of use to me? I am working with a year 3 class of varied ability and really want to inspire and engage them, but so far I am not finding anything which I think could successfully do this.

- Teacher