rachel announcement

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Rachel Tilden Walker as Director of Programmes of High Performance Learning.
Passionately committed to HPL and its mission, Rachel is a strong advocate of high performance for all pupils and of the importance of creating world-class schools. She is committed to the HPL philosophy and framework as it inspires teachers to deliver high performance for the many, through ongoing professional dialogue and transformational practice.
Rachel is an experienced school leader, educational technology expert, and school improvement consultant. An experienced headteacher, she transformed a failing infant school into a thriving and successful primary, through radical curriculum redesign, building a new team and securing external investment for new opportunities for learning. As a school improvement consultant, she supported schools through new building designs and in managing change, to achieve unique and inclusive learning environments. As an expert in education technology, her team leadership had centred on innovative software solutions, fostering creativity and collaboration.
She has also commissioned research with leading universities to build partnerships on a range of pedagogical themes: assessment, engagement, and enquiry-based learning. Rachel has a strong commitment to research-led practice and continuous improvement. Her belief that there is always a route is supported by her experience of using ed-tech solutions.
Rachel assumes the role following the retirement of Anne Howells who has given HPL outstanding service. We pay tribute to Anne for her first-class work in developing and delivering our programmes. Anne will be maintaining her work with HPL as an Associate Director and an Accreditor of World Class Schools. 

Westbourne House

This guest blog is written by Barbara Langford (Deputy Head) at Westbourne House. It originally appeared in their school magazine.

Some things never change, and although we have not been physically in school for the last 3 months it is report time again. 

Reports are always a time for reflection; What has the pupil learnt, how are they progressing and what should they work on in the future.  This year however reflection seems even more pertinent as we think about what we have all learnt on a micro-level from a global pandemic. 

The first thing that strikes me is how many of the High Performance Learning characteristics our staff have shown. Going through the Values Attitudes and Attributes (VAAs) I can tick them all off. 

Empathetic - Their concern of society and the ability to work together recognising differences and similarities between people has definitely shone.

Agile - They have all had to adapt to a completely new way of teaching. Demonstrating a willingness to innovate and invent new and multiple solutions to our new situation. They have experimented and been open-minded. 

The hardwork, perseverance and resilience has been evident to all in the quality of the lessons produced that each take hours of preparation while tackling new technology as well as the new challenges of how to impart knowledge and skills remotely.

How about the Advanced Cognitive Performance Characteristics (ACPs)? Well, here again, I can see the staff have used all these in their lessons; Self regulation while at home, alone, they are constantly evaluating the lessons and self correcting, creating new teaching styles by building on existing skills and getting to the stage by the end of term where talking on zoom and setting lessons on line has become an automatic skill.

So the staff have risen to the HPL challenge and shown how they model this behaviour for the children. 

What about the pupils? As I write my reports I am able in almost every instance to draw on the VAAs and APCs and feel proud of the pupils in my care. Some curriculum knowledge may have been lost in this term but the skills that the pupils have learnt are far more long-lasting. 

Empathy; The ability for almost all the pupils to realise that although they don’t like this situation, it has been so much worse for so many others has been heartening. They have looked out for their friends and told teachers when their peers are struggling. They have organised fundraising ventures and virtual chats and have shown that in adversity the Westbourne House pupil can rise above their own immediate worries. 

Technology; This is an easy one, all the pupils are now confidently working with a variety of programs and many are typing at speed. They whip between programs and different websites with ease and have been happy to share their skills and knowledge with other pupils and staff. 

“Mrs Langford, if you look in the top right corner and press that button with the dots on it you can mute us all”

Agility; There is a preconceived idea that the only reason pupils work is because they have exams looming. I spend many hours refuting this because one of the joys of schools is learning purely because it is interesting not necessarily useful. In our “new world” we have made all our lessons optional to all pupils and yet almost all pupils have still fully engaged in the learning. They have shown enterprise and the ability to be curious. Importantly they have shown the intellectual confidence to experiment and work in unfamiliar contexts. 

Meta-thinking and Analysing; Pupils have continued without constant support from staff to self-regulate and strategy plan. They have worked logically, reading instructions independently and have learnt to figure out ideas and concepts with less help. These independent learning skills are the foundations of a life of learning and will help immeasurably in the future. 

Finally, I have been impressed by the originality and intellectual playfulness of the pupils. Given a wide range of tasks and assignments they have produced extra-ordinary work in extra-ordinary circumstances. 

This guest blog by David Rowsell, Associate Director at High Performance Learning, looks at HPL and the post-lockdown school

This will look different in every country and context in which we, as HPL, work.

Despite my knowledge of the HPL framework and many of our schools, I would not presume to tell you how best to serve your communities at this challenging time. In particular, I am not about to hold forth about the vital health and well-being issues that all of your staff, students and families will face. If I know HPL schools, I know you will do this brilliantly with intelligence, compassion and purpose.

I do, however, present a range of questions which might stir debate around the longer-term “lessons of lockdown” and how the positives of this challenging period might be built upon in the coming months.

The pandemic has exposed some truths and disrupted some thinking about the education world of the last 20 years – in terms of developing the mindsets, thinking, systems and routines some of which will enable staff and students to truly achieve the high levels of performance of which research suggests they are capable.

Five debates for the post-lockdown High Performance Learning school

  • Purpose: What is our purpose as a school? How has that vision been sharpened by the lockdown period? What is our moral commitment as professionals? What has the crisis shown about the knowledge, skills & values which matter most in our schools and communities, now and for the futures? 
  • Aspiration: What are we doing that promotes that aspiration? What else could we do if we did not fear judgement? What would be our educational equivalent of aiming to win the World Cup? What would we ditch, keep, grow and make even better?
  • Agency and autonomy: Amongst students and staff, the growth of autonomy and agency has been a marked feature of lockdown. How will we best capture this positivity, recognise and celebrate it, and take this energy, skill and momentum forward into the new era? How can we build this into our curricular a, our pedagogy and our professional learning?
  • Schools as civic entities: How can we continue to develop the concept of schools at the heart of our communities? How can we promote further dialogue on the future with our stakeholders and our community based on imagination, inclusion, care & consciousness? When is the time? What are the appropriate tools to encourage this thinking? How can we become even better at building our capacity through collaborative professionalism within and beyond the school?
  • Intelligent accountability: How can we become a school which is characterised by high challenge / high support? How can we ensure that accountability measures (standardised tests, inspection, performance review) serve our school and the experience of children rather than narrow and diminish it? How can we develop professional performance metrics which are teacher-led and feature deep learning, inquiry and genuine professional growth? How can we become a school which is even more clearly defined by our humanity, not our students’ grades or inspection outcomes?


How does High Performance Learning help?

The HPL philosophy, framework and culture is ideally placed to help our family of schools with these emerging opportunities.

Our framework makes explicit – through its accent on ways of thinking and behaving – the necessity of a holistic view of education, developing young people for excellent outcomes, via deliberate practice and real enterprise, adaptivity and empathy so that each of them has the vision, capacity and wherewithal to lead a full, rich and purposeful life.

This also applies to our approach to the development of all staff within our schools, honouring their experience, skills and values through coaching and validation, and encouraging authentic collaboration with parents and communities.

As a result, HPL schools will become civic entities; genuine activists, pioneers and system leaders in their communities, nations and the world of education.

The dreadful tragedy of the last few months notwithstanding, could there be a more exciting, purposeful and worthwhile challenge and a more treasured legacy for the courage and vision displayed by educators the world over these last four months?

David Rowsell HPL Associate, June 2020

This guest blog by David Rowsell, Associate Director at High Performance Learning, looks at HPL and the post-lockdown school


“Schools of the future will need to think harder about what makes us first class humans”

- Andreas Schleicher, OECD, April 2020


It seems self-evident that schools will never be going back to ‘normal’. Partly this is down to the science of COVID19 and the absolute need for a vaccine or semi-permanent social distancing and other measures.

Just as importantly, the pandemic has exposed some truths about the education world of the last 20 years – in terms of mindsets, thinking, systems and routines which prevent staff and students from truly achieving the high performance of which research suggests they are capable.

At the same time, the best of ‘lockdown learning’, as observed in schools across the world, provides opportunities upon which the High Performance Learning approach is ideally placed to build, ultimately giving as many schools as aspire to it, the chance to be truly world-class.

The best of ‘lockdown learning’

Building on this through High Performance Learning

Student skills and qualities especially resilience and agency – many students in lockdown have displayed a very real aptitude in respect of managing their own learning and enquiry

The HPL framework makes explicit to all students and gives them regular and frequent opportunities to deliberately practice, the ways in which great learners think and the way they behave, particular in respect of self-regulation and autonomy

Teacher autonomy and agency – many professionals have flourished in the context of having to rise to the challenge of providing the highest-quality learning opportunities while remote from their schools.

The HPL framework provides the scaffolding for great learning – but honours the profession by giving all professionals the chance to choreograph this for their own contexts.

Professional collaboration – while achieving the above, teachers have also displayed wonderful examples of co-creating and sharing creative, innovative and inspiring teamwork to overcome the challenges.

The HPL framework foregrounds the importance of collaboration for staff, their leaders, coaches and students. This ensures that a common language of great learning and values becomes the most important strength of the school for all stakeholders.

Moral purpose and schools at the heart of their communities. During the lockdown, many professionals have taken time to reflect upon the core purpose of education for their students, colleagues, families and communities, distilling from great practice what matters most

The HPL framework makes explicit to all in the school community the essential but insufficient nature of outstanding academic achievement and sets this in the context of essential values, attitudes and attributes which students will need to lead a full, rich and purposeful life.

High challenge, high support – schools are emerging from a time when low support and high threat have been a real concern in terms of morale, retention, recruitment and performance. Lockdown learning has shown a path away from this.

The HPL approach to becoming world-class, foregrounds the kind of professional learning which features inquiry, deep learning and genuine growth and accountability measures which serve the experience of children rather than diminish it.

Professional voice – during lockdown we have witnessed the positive power of social media, professional associations and bodies and exemplar schools in promoting the resurgence of education.

HPL has built – and welcomes others to join – a family of 100 schools of astonishing variety across the globe who are involved in helping each other to be even better.

Schools across the globe during lockdown have shown an agency, verve and purpose which has been truly remarkable.

The HPL philosophy challenges all in the education filed to ask themselves “What can a great school also be?” and then coaches them through a framework which can help answer that challenge for all their students, staff and communities, and help them to become truly world-class.



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