Evidence from Research Schools – practical examples.

Mobilising the Evidence

One of the most important roles for Research Schools such as us, is to support teachers and leaders who work in schools and colleges to mobilise the research evidence that is out there, so that it can make a positive difference to the students we teach.  At our INSET day today, five of our fabulous teachers did just this.  They shared how they have taken the evidence we have shared with them over the last couple of years and implemented it in their classrooms.

What evidence?

Over the past couple of years, rather than flitting from one topic to another during INSET days, we have tried to focus on some key themes that we believe, if embedded across the school, will have a significant impact on student learning.  They are:

So today, five of our teachers talked about how they have done this.  Here is a summary of each presentation.

Retrieval Practice – Alex Mohammed (Science)

Like many teachers, Aex has been thinking about how he can support his students with retrieving and recalling knowledge from across the whole specification, in preparation for the new terminal exams.  He also wants to support students with elaborating on their responses, by linking together ideas and thinking more deeply about what the topic they are being taught.  So Alex, has turned to the ideas of retrieval practice and elaborative interrogation.

In order to do this, Alex has thought about the questions he asks students at the start of the lesson.  In the example slide above, you can see that he starts the lesson with a variety of recall questions.  The black questions relate to what they have studied in recent lessons (this is for a Y11 group).  The red questions go back to what they studied in Y10 – Alex calls these ‘link back’ questions.  When choosing his ‘link back’ questions, Alex tries to pick questions that have a common thread.  So for example here, they are all linked to blood and the circulatory system.  This encourages students to understand the links between the topics they study, an important aspect of elaborative interrogation.

As a result of this, Alex has noticed the following:

  • Students appear to have an increased knowledge of the specification.
  • Students are becoming adept at making the links between topics
  • They are also becoming better at self-prompting, leading to more elaboration in their answers.
  • Through having a ‘How Science Works’ push within these ‘link back questions’, students are becoming more familiar with the key core skills within science and other subjects.

Knowledge Organisers & Explicit Vocabulary Instructions – Beth Clarke & Kate Haslett (History)

In history, following Fran’s input at our November INSET day on explicit vocabulary instruction, Beth and Kate set to work on implementing these ideas in history.  They came up with a very clear plan of what they wanted to do:

Explicit vocabulary instruction

  1. Identify and agree tier 2 words, using the academic word list.
  2. Identify and agree tier 3 words.
  3. Discuss ways of implementing STI (see Fran’s post in the link above) and how to share strategies at Subject Planning & development Session (SPDS)

Knowledge Organisers

  1. Review what we already have in place for units of work.
  2. Use guidelines to make decisions about future knowledge organisers for history.
  3. Discuss three ways of using knowledge organisers in lessons and when to share strategies at SPDS.

Their starting point was their existing knowledge organiser (example above).  After much discussion, they decided that this had too much content on one page and wasn’t really in a coherent format.  So they set to work on splitting this up into three topics:

Each topic now has it’s own knowledge organiser, with 10 key people/events for students to focus on.  They also used this to clarify key tier 2 terminology that was used in exam questions.  Here’s an example:

Once they had produced them, the history team then discussed a consistent way of using them.  Students are given them at the start of the topic and are encouraged to use them to produce flashcards and dual coding activities (more on this later).  They are also referred to in lessons and used as a revision tool for quick quizzes at the start of lessons, where students are expected to spell the word correctly and recall the meaning.

To develop the use of the knowledge organisers further, when students produce a piece of extended writing, in response to a question, they highlight the words/names/events they have used from the knowledge organiser.  This reinforces the importance of these words/names/events.

Beth and Kate then went on to describe other ways in which they are developing explicit vocabulary instruction:

Sentence stems

Students have to complete a sentence that has been started for them that uses the new vocabulary.  For example:

1.In Anglo-Saxon England, the burh was …

2.The housecarls in Harold’s army were …

3.The submission of the earls at Berkhamstead was …

Test Sentences

Students are given the new vocabulary in two sentences.  they have to decide which sentence is using the new vocabulary correctly.  For example:

Example 1:

1.One way in which Anglo-Saxons lost their land was through forfeiture.

2. One way in which Anglo-Saxons rebelled against Norman control was through forfeiture.

Example 2:

  1. The housecarls in Harold’s army were untrained men obtained from the land.
  2. The housecarls in Harold’s army were highly trained and professional.

Dual coding

Students are encouraged to use visuals and writing to help them remember key events.

Geographical Literacy – Sam Atkins (Geography)

Sam has been looking to tackle the following challenges in his classroom:

  • The breadth of vocabulary in KS3 students
  • the ability of students to:

–Know and understand the contextual meaning of tier 2 (geographical) words




These are important issues to tackle, as by doing so students will be able to articulate a wider range of responses and therefore produce higher quality responses.  Sam is seeking to eliminate the common response that we often hear from students:

“ I know what I want to say, I just don’t know how to say it”

Like Beth and Kate, Sam has been using test sentences:

This usually includes 10 key words for a particular topic and is used as a homework task.  the same words are then reinforced by using sentence stems:

Sam has also been trialling an approach that brings together a number of metacognitive approaches, when supporting students with interacting with a text:

As you can see from the photograph above, students a given some text about a particular topic (in this case, the North Pole) that they read and stick in the middle of a double page spread.  They then do 4 things with this text:

  • Image – they turn the information in the text into an image, supporting the idea of dual coding.
  • Summarise – they pick out and summarise the key points from the text.
  • Elaborate – in this section, the student elaborates on the points made in the text further e.g. what are the risks to the north pole ecosystem?
  • Question – do they have a question they would like to ask the author, to find out more?

What has Sam noticed since implementing these approaches?

  • Students will continue to misspell words, even when re-writing alongside the model example. Repetition is crucial.
  • Accuracy in identifying the correct test sentence, does not always translate into accuracy when completing sentence stems. Effective practice is crucial.
  • Knowing what summarise/elaborate means, does not always mean knowing how to do it effectively. Modelling is crucial.
  • Students will ask questions about a text, to which the answer is already apparent. Explanation is crucial.
  • Initial attempts at dual coding by students may result in over-elaborate diagrams. Effective feedback is crucial.

Explicit Vocabulary Teaching – Tod Brennan (English)

Tod started his presentation by telling us a story of an actor friend of his who missed out on a number of roles.  When asked during auditions to ‘be bashful’ he would break into ‘Hi Ho’ from snow white and the seven dwarves, or bash the script on the table.  Why?  Because, he simply didn’t know what the word bashful meant.  He was an intelligent individual who had done really well in life, but just hadn’t been exposed to that particular word.  How many of our students don’t understand an exam question (even though they may have the subject knowledge) or might miss out on opportunities like this in the future, simply because of a limited vocabulary?

Tod has been addressing this by explicitly teaching tier 2 vocabulary (see example above).  He has been using direct and clear explanations, using ideas and examples that the students will probably understand.

He then develops this, by testing their understanding of this new vocabulary:

As can be seen from the slide above, Tod uses a number of approaches to support this.  For example, matching the words with the correct meaning, using new vocabulary to complete a sentence and writing a synonym for the new vocabulary.  By using a variety of approaches like this, students become immersed in this new vocabulary.

What has Tod noticed since implementing these new approaches?

  • This is just the start of their journey to using these words naturally.
  • It will be a battle, many students don’t encounter these words regularly and are unlikely to encounter them again.
  • It is therefore important that I revisit these words with them, and that we do it often.
  • A plan for the whole year’s vocabulary would enable this.
  • On a personal level I will use MCQ’s to further discussions about why certain words are wrong, and tease out small differences between synonyms.

Revision – use these approaches with students!

Top 10 Revision Strategies

In Evidence in Education, Memory for Learning, Teaching & Learning by Alex Quigley4 Comments

Year after the year, the same pressures attend exam revision. Each year teachers try the old favourites, alongside a few new revision strategies to keep our students interested. Happily, we now have a wealth of evidence to support some revision strategies over others as we approach the revision stretch.

We know that students are not the most reliable when it comes to judging their own learning, with regular self-testing proving the most effective antidote. We also know that some strategies, like re-reading and using highlighters, are largely ineffective, whereas as quizzing does the trick. We know that a little ‘deliberate difficulty‘ may well prove a good thing for revision, and that ‘cramming‘ is inferior to ‘distributed practice‘ (or spreading revision out over time), when it comes to remembering.

We should be careful not outsource an approach to revision to a company promoting the following strategies, or to puff up the confidence of our students. A successful approach to revision needs to be deeply rooted in subject knowledge, and sustained over time, so subject teachers need to explicitly teach the strategy, model it, and offer guided practice before we expect our students to use them effectively.

1. Quizzing. Good old fashioned quizzing is an ideal vehicle to get students self-testing, which is proven to be a robust revision strategy, so that students can calibrate their knowledge and remembering. There are various types of quizzes, of course, such as short answer quizzing, multiple choice or a hybrid of the two, with different question types suiting different purposes.

2. Flashcards. Flashcards are a very familiar tool used by students. Crucially, however, too many students fail to use them for effective self-testing – (only 30% in this research). Clearly, we need to train students to design, or find, effective revision flashcards, before then training them in their use. Students should also beware dropping flashcards they think they know.

3. Graphic organisers. Students need to be active in revision, not just reading their notes and doing some colouring in with a rainbow of highlighters. Graphic organisers are a handy vehicle to get students reconstructing their revision topics, making meaningful links and connections (in cognitive science, this is labelled the ‘generation effect‘).

4. Cornell note-taking. Another strategy that utilises the ‘generation effect‘ is the well-known note-taking approach: the Cornell method. Named after the US university, this strategy gets students thinking metacognitively, asking questions, noting key terms, and summarising the content being revised.

5. Exam wrappers. This helpful feedback strategy, labelled ‘exam wrappers‘ because they wrap around information on how the student has revised, offers important information for the teacher to help diagnose how effective, or extensive (or not), revision has proven. Also, it can prove a good way to help puncture student over-confidence in their revision. See these online examples HERE and you can find a useful Word template HERE.

6. ‘Just a minute’. A long time favourite strategy of mine, ‘Just a Minute’ takes the classic radio game and adapts it to almost any topic, text, or examination revision term. Put simply, students have to talk for a minute on the given term/topic – no pauses, no hesitations. Slips or repetitions or micro pauses lose a ‘life’ – three strikes and you’re out. This strategy harnesses the ‘self explanation effect‘. In short, if you can elaborate on a topic and explain it well, you have retrieved it from memory – a good revision act – as well as likely consolidating it too.

7. ‘Prepare to teach’. Similar to ‘Just a Minute‘, the ‘Prepare to teach‘ strategy involves the common idea of getting students to teach a peer a topic/term from their revision. Once more, it gets students to elaborate on their knowledge. Even expecting to teach appears to have a positive impact on students learning material, so this seemingly inconsequential tweak can have very beneficial effects.

8. ‘Select, elect’. Another revision strategy that gets students thinking hard about their revision is ‘Select, Elect‘. In simple terms, you get students to  ‘select’ the most salient facts, ideas, concepts, or terms, from a given revision topic, before then asking them to ‘elect’ what they deem the most significant knowledge or idea/concept that they need to understand for their examination. This gets students actively engaging with their revision material, whilst being metacognitive about what is the most salient information they need to remember.

9. Topic ranking. Remember that students are often not the best judge of their own revision and how  effective it may or not be. By getting students to rank their own knowledge of their topics being revised, they deploy the important metacognitive strategy of evaluating their learning. Though they will likely be inaccurate – indeed overoptimistic – in their judgments of their knowledge and learning, it still helps students better calibrate their revision and monitor their ongoing progress.

10. Past questions. Ok, so no rewards here for originality: students need to practice examination questions, over and over, well spaced over time. The effect of exploring worked examples or exam answers, as well as writing their own, helps students process, practice and refine their revision to meet the parameters of exam success.

Related reading:

Homework – what works?

The Truth About Homework

In Evidence in Education, Teaching and Learning by Alex Quigley0 Comments

“Most homework teachers set is crap.” Dylan Wiliam, ResearchEd 2014.

The subject of homework inspires strong opinions. Teachers, parents and students themselves all have a view on the matter and those views are often diametrically opposed. Dylan Wiliam, back in 2014, shared a very strong opinion that didn’t exactly condemn the evidence and action related to homework to the dustbin, but he poked a gaping hole into our every assumption about homework and its impact.

At Huntington School, we battled with the issues and surveyed the best available evidence, from the EEF Toolkit (Secondary and Primary – note the crucial differences here: homework is much more effective with older children), to specific recent studies on homework (this one via Dan Willingham). The IEEBest Evidence in Brief‘ newsletter has done a great job of collating homework research HERE. Certainly, knowing the evidence base can help our decision-making, though it is of course a little more complicated than that.


Homework (or home learning, or “extended learning” as we relabelled it at Huntington) is seemingly most effective when it involves practice or rehearsal of subject matter already taught. Students should not typically be exposed to new material for their home learning, unless they are judged more expert learners. Complex, open ended homework is often completed least effectively; whereas, short, frequent homework, closely monitored by teachers is more likely to have more impact. This could include summarising notes; using graphic organisers to recast classroom materials; guided research; exam question practise; guided revision etc.

Home learning is proven to be more effective with older students than their younger counterparts. This is typically because they are more able to self-regulate their learning and they have more background knowledge to draw upon. For similar reasons, high ability students typically benefit more from home learning than low ability students.

Teacher scaffolding is essential to guide effective home learning. Parental involvement is desirable, but it should not be essential, otherwise the nature of the task is likely too complex for successful completion.



Cathy Vatterott (2010) identified five fundamental characteristics of good homework: purpose, efficiency, ownership, competence, and aesthetic appeal.

  1. Purpose: all homework assignments are mean­ingful & students must also understand the purpose of the assignment and why it is important in the context of their academic experience (Xu, 2011).
  2. Efficiency: homework should not take an inordinate amount of time and should require some hard thinking.
  3. Ownership: students who feel connected to the content and assignment learn more and are more motivat­ed. Providing students with choice in their assignments is one way to create ownership.
  4. Competence: students should feel competent in completing homework. In order to achieve this, it’s benefi­cial to abandon the one-size-fits-all model. Homework that students can’t do without help is not good homework.
  5. Inspiring: A well-considered & clearly designed resource and task impacts positively upon student motivation.


We should pose ourselves some tricky questions:

  • Has the purpose of the homework been made clear to students?
  • Are the students in possession of all the resources required to undertake the task independently?
  • What are the existing beliefs about home learning (students & teachers) that we need to recognise/challenge?
  • How can we best leverage parental support for home learning that is effectively communicated?
  • How do you plan to provide specific and timely feedback to students on their home learning?


Maybe Wiliam is right and that regardless of the evidence, too much of the homework we set is just crap! The challenge is certainly a healthy one given the cost in terms of time for all involved. We should expect that every teacher and school leader understands the nuanced evidence that attends homework, with the differences that relate to individuals, groups and students of very different ages and stages of development. We will still be left with tricky decisions and no little disagreement, but we will be better off having tackled the issue properly.

If you want to read more about the evidence that attends homework, then try the following:


The blog first appeared on the Huntington Research School blog – take a look HERE and sign up for the newsletter from our great team of teacher-writers HERE.

Unpacking Meta-Cognition

Last week Samuel Ward Academy Trust shared the following image, a snapshot from Dr Jonathan Sharples’s presentation on their Trust PD Day:

metacog definition

So, this week, a little more elaboration on such a promising approach within teaching and learning.

A glance at the EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit will highlight meta-cognition’s low cost (single ‘£’), high evidence strength (four padlocks) and high impact (+8 months)As seen below, when plotting toolkit strategies using cost per pupil and effect size, meta-cognition is clearly highlighted as one of the most promising set of approaches and interventions that we should consider for pupils’ learning.

source: J Sharples, EEF Presentation, Jan 2018

So what is involved?

With the help of extracts from the printable EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit summary and a couple of other useful sources, here we go …

Meta-cognition and self-regulation approaches (sometimes known as ‘learning to learn’ approaches) aim to help learners think about their own learning more explicitly. This is usually by teaching pupils specific strategies to set goals, and monitor and evaluate their own academic development. Self-regulation means managing one’s own motivation towards learning. The intention is often to give pupils a repertoire of strategies to choose from during learning activities.

Dylan Wiliam describes and explains it with clarity and precision in this short linked YouTube clip.

As broken down in the image at the start of this post, successful meta-cognition requires knowledge of task, strategies and yourself as a learner. Applying this knowledge through planning, monitoring and evaluating learning is something that we as teachers, parents and carers should take every opportunity to actively encourage and model.

This can often be done by encouraging pupils to ask themselves questions such as these from this Inner Drive poster below; the simple act of modelling this to pupils by verbalising your own thinking as a teacher, can be a powerful influence and illustrates the teacher as ‘model learner’.

At this point I would add that meta-cognition is not ‘achieved’ through a plethora of posters or checklists within lessons, rather by it being embedded within learning and instruction in the classroom. Hearing yourself and your pupils say things like these further question stems below would tend to indicate meta-cognition is ‘in progress’.


source: Pinterest

Meta-cognition and self-regulation approaches have consistently high levels of impact, with pupils making an average of eight months’ additional progress. The evidence indicates that teaching these strategies can be particularly effective for low achieving and older pupils.

These strategies are usually more effective when taught in collaborative groups so learners can support each other and make their thinking explicit through discussion.

A final example of how we can model and encourage meta-cognition, courtesy of the dual coding of Oliver Caviglioli, illustrates how just a few words/prompts can be all that is required:


source: Oliver Caviglioli, teachingHow2 library

However, a word of caution …

The potential impact of these approaches is very high, but can be difficult to achieve as they require pupils to take greater responsibility for their learning and develop their understanding of what is required to succeed.

There is no simple method or trick for this. It is possible to support pupils’ work too much, so that they do not learn to monitor and manage their own learning but come to rely on the prompts and support from the teacher. “Scaffolding” provides a useful metaphor: a teacher would provide support when first introducing a pupil to a concept, then reduce the support to ensure that the pupil continues to manage their learning autonomously.

EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit summary

So, what should we consider?

Before we implement meta-cognition in our learning environment, we should consider the following:

1. Teaching approaches which encourage learners to plan, monitor and evaluate their learning have very high potential, but require careful implementation.

2. Have you taught pupils explicit strategies on how to plan, monitor and evaluate specific aspects of their learning? Have you given them opportunities to use them with support and then independently?

3. Teaching how to plan: Have you asked pupils to identify the different ways that they could plan (general strategies) and then how best to approach a particular task (specific technique)?

4. Teaching how to monitor: Have you asked pupils to consider where the task might go wrong? Have you asked the pupils to identify the key steps for keeping the task on track?

5. Teaching how to evaluate: Have you asked pupils to consider how they would improve their approach to the task if they completed it again?

New Year Gold – a selection of ideas from schools by Tom Sherrington

New Year Gold: A selection of brilliant ideas from some fabulous schools

To kick off 2018, here are some of the best ideas I’ve come across on my travels to various schools around the UK.  I’ve limited most of this sample to practices I’ve encountered in more than one school  – to avoid the sense that things can only happen in specific contexts.  Where relevant I’ve named the schools doing something more niche.

Knowledge organisers and retrieval practice

A lot has been written about knowledge organisers this year.  However, I see a lot of variation in the way they are used.  Crucially, investing time in knowledge organisers is not about creating them or making them look pretty; it’s about using them routinely to secure good foundational knowledge.  In the best cases, students have clear quizzable knowledge organisers in their possession (not just dumped online) and engage in regular quizzing as part of lessons.  Retrieval practice can be engaging and buzzy, it is always low stakes whilst being rigorous with students showing excellent recall of prior learning.  It’s quite astonishing the difference it makes if students are given the tools to develop secure recall – the materials and the strategies.   Of course, recall is a bedrock strategy; a platform for wider, deeper learning. But when it is weak, so is everything else.

Planned Reading

I’ve encountered some superb strategies for planned reading.  Two particularly good approaches were:

Structured reading at Michaela: an amazingly thorough approach with pre-printed texts showing key words, numbered lines and a taught routine for whole-class reading.  Above all, students are given high-volume diet of subject-specific reading every day.

Early morning daily reading at London Academy: Every tutor group in Year 7-9 starts school half an hour early so that they read together every day: that’s 150 minutes of reading time per week  – extra! This was also coupled to lunchtime tutor periods where reading interventions took place for those that needed it.

I would say that in too many schools students don’t read enough each day – but it can be done.

High Frequency, Low Stakes Developmental Lesson Observations

The best practice I see is where schools have dropped set-piece formal lesson observations altogether replacing them entirely with learning walks or with multiple short unannounced observations.  In at least five schools I’ve visited, staff spoke very positively about this: no more showcase lessons, no more grades, lots more feedback.  Teachers like to get feedback.   Of course flags can be raised if things are not going well but mainly teachers are evaluated on a more rounded picture and get a steady flow of feedback. Leaders devote a lot more time to being in and around classrooms which has lots of spin-off benefits.

Systematic QA Systems

I’ve encountered some excellent simple systems that leaders use to make sure they are keeping on top of things and safeguarding against the possibility of things slipping:

The power of 10: a big school where 10 leaders would drop in on 10 lessons by different teachers with a focus on 10 identified students, one per lesson, every 10 days. This was all mapped in advance but with leaders having the freedom to plan their set of 10.  This meant they really knew what was happening in quite a systematic way.  Teachers got feedback on the specific agreed focus for the cycle.

One-a-day; five-in-five: Various schools tackle the challenge of parental contact – with hard-to-shift persistent absence cases for example – with pastoral leaders or tutors identifying the priority cases each week and setting the goal of addressing one per day or five in five days.  This makes a long list manageable; better to succeed with five than be overwhelmed by 20.

Weekly light touch departmental book scrutiny, one year group at a time: Year 7 one week, Year 8 the next and so on. This was a 30 minute scan each week by subject post-holders, all book sets gathered and then sampled; nicely manageable and routine for everyone.

Built-in CPD

I’ve now seen several schools that follow ‘the Huntington model’ -as I call it. This is where time is taken from the timetable once a fortnight or every three weeks, to create a routine slot of time for staff CPD.  Various other schools have taken every minute of directed time and given it to weekly staff meetings, a high proportion of which are exclusively for CPD.  One school made Mondays and Tuesdays longer, freeing up the whole of Friday afternoon for weekly CPD. Yes, weekly!

CPD should not be snatched, begged or borrowed or confined to INSET days.  Built-in CPD is the way to go and lots of schools are showing the way.

Alternative Parents’ Evenings

At School 21, they replace regular parent-teacher conferences with termly exhibitions where student work across the curriculum is showcased with students on hand to talk about it. This changes the focus entirely, doing a different job to the usual progress check, but is a great way to engage families and to put the work at the centre.

At Parliament Hill, Year 7 parents’ evenings involve key staff and senior leaders seeing parents for an extended appointment where the students present a portfolio of their best work in the year.  This puts students and their work at the centre and helps to embed the school’s learning culture with students developing the capacity to talk about their learning and progress from an early stage.

Family Dining

I’ve only seen this at Michaela (and Eton!) but I’ve heard of other schools that do it: students sitting at tables together to eat shared meals in a family style – not the normal canteen queue.  It’s quite wonderful to see in action, all part of building cultural capital and the school ethos.  I wrote more about my Michaela visit here.

Intelligent Data Reporting

To be honest, there’s a lot of misdirected effort in this area but some schools are breaking through to report attainment and progress in a meaningful way. The best systems I have encountered have a similar basis: cohort-referencing.  This means that subjects assess in their own way, using appropriate modes of assessment to generate scores of various kinds.  These are then processed into standardised scores – usually around 100 in common with other national standardised tests – that are reported alongside raw scores.  This system is much more secure than using 1-9 scales and flight-paths or the horror-show of learning statement banks.  It’s honest about standards having meaning in relation to the cohort and allows different subject methodologies to work without having to fudge the equivalence of grades across subjects.

Higher Education Visits and Aspirations

In some schools, the ‘we’re all aiming for university’ aspiration is a tangible feature of the ethos and curriculum.  Some schools take whole cohorts of students on a university visit at least once.  At London Academy their goal is to take every student in KS3 to a university every year: it’s an impressive commitment.  At other schools the programme of university engagement – with visiting speakers, returning students etc – starts in Year 7.  It’s not left to the Sixth Form.

Building Test Confidence

This is genius.  At Parliament Hill, students in science (especially those in the middle sets) are given advanced notice of topic tests.  They see the actual questions perhaps a week before the test and are given detailed learning checklists supported by revision material directly linked to the tests. Students begin to see that, if they learn the material, they do well on the tests; that they are not doomed to fail. For some, this realisation is a break-through. It’s obvious really but if students can’t get 80% on a test they have seen in advance, they won’t get 80% on a test that is a surprise.  The aim is build confidence; to show less confident students how to link learning activities around certain bits of content to the process of being tested.  They’ve had huge success with this – and their excellence FACE It strategy.

Behaviour Systems that really work

In a couple of schools I’ve visited  – including Bedford Free School when I visited in April – they use a card system for all minor transgressions. In every lesson, if students do everything they are meant to, they give themselves a tick; if not, the teacher marks their card.  At the end of the week, students with 100% ticks get a reward – they go home earlier than those students with less than perfect cards who stay on for an additional study period.   It was a powerful motivation to keep meeting expectations; a system students valued.  And it worked incredibly well.

At another school, they had really cracked the issue of students missing central detentions after school. Anyone missing would have an internal exclusion the next day running 10am to 5.00pm – so the missed detention was wrapped in.  Very well structured work was provided in the behaviour centre.  They would not be allowed to attend lessons until this day was completed, however long it took.  By sticking to this absolutely – even when students were absent for days avoiding the internal exclusion – they had brought numbers of detention-duckers down to a tiny handful.  This meant that fewer students would then get detentions and everything was improving on a positive spiral.

Personal Development Programmes

Around the country schools are developing some superb programmes to incentivise students of all ages getting involved in character developing activities as part of the wider curriculum.  The Ely College PLEDGES system is a brilliant example.  It combines incentives around attendance and achievement with service, participation, leadership, diversity and giving.  The Prior Academy Trust Baccalaureate developments in various schools are also excellent – as featured in this post –  with programmes for KS3 students and Sixth Formers.

Specialist PSHE lessons

Generally speaking, PSHE is treated horribly badly across the system.  I’m not a fan of drop-down days or of morning tutor slots being used to teach SRE, drugs, careers – and all of the other massively important areas that make up a good PSHE programme. Where it is done particularly well, PSHE is given a weekly lesson and teachers are divided up into rotating teams where they develop a degree of specialism in one area.  This allows students to be taught a proper programme of SRE by people who have the confidence and knowledge to do it well.   It’s a good model.


Thank you to all the schools for the great work you are doing!