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.



Originally posted on LinkedIn, this guest blog by Simon O'Grady, Head Teacher, outlines how the HPL process has been a key driver of school improvement for The Edron Academy, Mexico City.


The Impact of High Performance Learning on School Improvement

Our journey to become a HPL World Class School has had an overt and overarching influence in strategic ways. It has brought clarity to our mission, vision, and values; it has developed progressive measures of teaching quality and student success; and, it has impacted on student attainment. This article outlines how the HPL process has been a key driver of school improvement at The Edron Academy, Mexico City.

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Starting from First Principles

At the outset of our journey, we reviewed our basic educational principles, across all parts of the School. Through our school improvement strategy team, we have aimed to:

  • Set high standards for all our students by measuring, challenging, and eliminating within school variation (WSV).
  • Define the attributes and qualities of the students we are educating, which led to a review of Edron core values and an introduction of Edron core skills.
  • Challenge the conventional wisdom on expectations, via newly established professional learning communities.
  • Redesign curriculums to meet the needs of our students in order to embed those characteristics that support student success; this has led to a radically altered the curriculum for key stage 3 students with an associated abandonment of the grade culture.

Make the use of assessment data more effective by focusing on the formative and by evaluating progress through independent measures of value-added.

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From Principles to Practice

Our journey to become a HPL World Class School motivated change in five key areas: Strategic Planning, Teaching Quality, Student Success, Attitudes to Learning and Competitive Advantage.

1.   Strategic Planning

HPL has become a core aspect of school improvement planning at all levels, with associated performance indicators on student progress and attainment end of Key Stage, and qualitative measures of student wellbeing set against the School’s core values.

Edron Core Values and Core Skills were reviewed and revised, to establish a coherent language with school mission, vision, and values, consistent with HPL competences. Core Values were aligned with HPL VAAs and Core Skills were made consistent with HPL ACPs. To make it fun, we commissioned cartoons, using the Edron lion to visualise the characteristics of academic performance (ACPs) and the values, attitudes of attributes that underpin successful learning.

Evidence source: Edron Learner Profile, Edron HPL Cartoons

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2.   Teaching Quality

To embed HPL competences, the school designed new ways of improving teaching quality (aims, measures and outcomes) to meet its strategic objectives. Framed as Enabling Effective Practice, four key aspects were elaborated: High Performance Teaching, Student Progress, Contribution to Wider School life and Contribution to CPD. Teacher-led in spirit and substance, the process required evidence of HPL competences in planning, in assessment and in lesson delivery. Our professional learning communities were used to develop the key themes for pedagogical improvement; for example, embedding HPL concepts in learning and teaching.

Evidence source: Enabling Effective Practice: Policy & Procedures, Learning Walks, Staff Attitudinal Surveys

3.   Student Success

HPL required a radical review of core data for the purposes of measuring student success. The school had used qualitative measures on attitudes to learning with some success, and these were refined to be a basis for evaluating progress on values and attitudes. However, there was no history of measuring and using value-added at key staging points. HPL initiated two key developments: the introduction of GL Progress Tests in English & Maths to measure value-added in KS2 & KS3, and the investment in CEM value added measures at end of KS4. In addition, the introduction of new Assistant Head roles, focused on Curriculum & Assessment and Teaching & Learning, supported the mechanism for tracking of student success.

Evidence source: Evaluation of GL Progress Test Evaluations (KS2)

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4.   Attitudes to Learning

There has been an attributable improvement in attitudes to learning as a result of HPL. Over the period of its explicit introduction, student voice surveys for secondary students and primary pupils report strongly positive values. For example, 82% of KS2 pupils register the use of HPL in (most or all) lessons, 72% understand why HPL is being used and 49% note that HPL is helping them be better learners.

Evidence source: Edron Student Attitude Survey

Edron Home Learning (EHL)

The sudden closure of schools in Mexico and immediate introduction virtual schooling have tested student approaches to learning, requiring new levels of learner maturity, with organisation, perseverance, and resilience. Edron Core Values (Empathy, Determination, Respect, Optimism & Nerve) encompass the qualities needed for effective home learning on an extended basis. To support our students, our online lessons make explicit reference to How to Think & How to Behave. Edron teachers have made translations of HPL home learning guidance into Arabic, French, Mandarin and Spanish.

Evidence source:    Edron Student Attitude Surveys, Edron Home Learning

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5.   Competitive Advantage

Prospective parents are introduced to HPL at the point of admission, and they like it. This has been a positive force on admission, with a net gain to the school roll of 108 pupils (2018-20) and a mean increase of 16% in school roll per annum.

 Evidence source: Edron Admissions Data

New parents are introduced to Edron Core Skills & Values, consistent with HPL ACPs & VAAs and set within the Edron Learner Profile; this happens via our parent induction meetings, led by phase leaders. Parents are imbued with the conceptual language via the regular communication; for example,  with Star of the Week pupils in lower school are recognised for demonstrating the HPL skills and values during that week, within and beyond the classroom. Furthermore, HPL is explicitly referenced throughout the website in order to keep parents informed about the School's HPL journey.

Edron Talks (to parents) have been held on HPL, most notably with a fantastic introductory session with our HPL Coach, David Rowsell. Finally, we have survey feedback from parents for the purposes of accreditation. the impact that HPL is having upon their children in school.

Evidence source: Parent feedback, FaceBook on Edron Talks

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In sum, High Performance Learning raises expectations and outcomes. It is a powerful framework for school improvement and a progressive way of raising standards.



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