Getting Started with HPL programme at New Marston Primary School


We recently launched “Getting Started with HPL”, a 10-hour CPD programme for schools who want to understand the basics of the HPL philosophy and framework with a view to further engagement. This is particularly suitable for primary schools in the UK and our very first school, New Marston Primary, are already on board.

Under the ambitious new leadership of Tracey Smith, New Marston is a large primary school with courageous ideas for transforming the learning and lives of their children. Our Getting Started programme is ideally suited to this kind of environment and in February we launched with an energetic, sometimes funny, sometimes intense day of exploration at the school.

The idea of the programme is to firstly encourage a broad understanding of the philosophy of HPL and its research base. How do researchers and psychologists know that high performance is achievable by many more learners and why is it that thinking so vital in today’s educational landscape?

Having broadly established that – though there is a rich and deep mine of research that can be followed up – we aimed to look at some basic practicalities.

For example, what is the language of expectation in a High Performance school and classroom? We started with the legendary Peter Kay’s memories of classroom talk: “Who do you think you are, swanning in at this time?!” While we could all remember using such phrases, we moved quickly to the realisation that if a performance mindset is crucial in HPL, then the way we talk in the classroom – “I cannot do this …yet” – is equally vital. “I hope…” needs to be replaced by “I will…” both for us as professionals and for the children.

On a busy day, we also began our journey towards answering this question: How can we begin to lead children to mastery in a range of cognitive characteristics which we know are the building blocks of learning for the top achievers?

new marston getting started 2 cropped

 In the afternoon session, we began to define, evaluate and play with the Advanced Cognitive Performance Characteristics (ACPs). This is a really challenging proposition which is explored in much greater depth during the HPL Foundation Programme (the natural next step from “Getting Started”) and it sparked some very interesting and highly relevant debate about definitions and language in the classroom.

At HPL we are unequivocal about the ACPs and VAAs becoming the lingua franca of world class schools and we have many examples of children using, appropriately, very sophisticated learning language from quite an early age.

The takeaway challenge was for teachers to practice and play with one group of ACPs and report back at the next session with narrative and reflection on the process and its early impact.


"Staff really enjoyed the day and felt that HPL will fit in really well with the culture of high expectations that we have been implementing. Since the training, some of the teachers have altered their approach to some of their teaching and results have been really positive. We are looking forward to the next two modules very much."
Tracey Smith, Headteacher, New Marston Primary School


This was an energetic, challenging and hugely enjoyable first day on what could prove to be a long but ultimately highly rewarding HPL journey.

“HPL fits nicely with the higher expectations we have at New Marston Primary School,” said one colleague. “All staff hearing the rationale behind the project, and the background and development of other schools with a ‘challenging’ catchment, built the vision well.”

We go again at the end of March with our next session, when we will capture the ‘practice and play’ takeaway from this first session and evaluate the lessons learned by staff and children.
“Deliberate practice is for anyone who has dreams,” says Anders Ericsson in ‘Peak’. This is true for everyone, including myself, who can envision New Marston as a World Class School in the next four years…

by David Rowsell, HPL Associate Director

High Performance Learning
Elmfield House
New Yatt Road
OX28 1PB
United Kingdom
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