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by Melanie Saunders, HPL Associate Director

 "I was surprised by how clear-minded and knowledgeable they are."

Carlo Rovelli was very impressed with the students at Sydenham School when he visited in October, and no wonder. This is a highly reflective school where creative staff are really using the High Performance Learning framework to shape their students into the kind of confident, independent learners who can inspire, "the world's most inspiring physics teacher.".

The school has a history of pedagogy-led leadership where "lesson study" supports staff research into their own practice and professional development. This approach has been adapted to focus on introducing HPL's Advanced Cognitive Performance Characteristics (ACPs) and Values, Attitudes and Attributes (VAAs) into lessons and assessing the response of students. The school is currently encouraging staff to plan their lessons around playing with the ACPs and VAAs before moving on to map their coverage across the curriculum in a more formal way.

Rovelli has spoken about "beauty in mathematics" and this is certainly evident at Sydenham where I had the privilege to hear from maths teacher Seliat Agboola about the approach she has taken to expanding challenge and enquiry in mathematics. Her "learning pits" require children to exercise resilience and perseverance in tackling a mathematical challenge with no obvious solution. A range of different cognitive approaches are promoted which students must employ in order to climb out of the pit.

It was truly inspiring to see HPL in action at this HPL Pioneer School. Like Rovelli, I'm impressed.


 Author: Deborah Eyre    Posted: 30 Nov 2016

When I was in school we used to learn about heroes. From Grace Darling to Albert Schweitzer. Martin Luther King to Dr Barnardo. This all seems very old fashioned now. They were presented to us as important and untarnished – glorious individuals. As people who made their mark on the world and made the world a better place. It may be that in real life their stories were more nuanced, but that didn’t matter. As we looked across the lives of these people my classmates and I were introduced to a series of ideas which would influence us not just in school but throughout our lives.


We learnt that each of us as an individual has it within ourselves to make a difference. These were not special people but normal people who took it upon themselves to do special things.

We learnt that no one told them to take action. No one gave them permission or nurtured or coached them. They themselves took the decision to step up and lead in order to make change because they thought it was important.

We learnt that this major change, which was so admirable, had often started with a small step or an incident which could easily have been ignored but instead was the trigger to start to take action and take a stance.

We learnt that in making a difference the journey was inevitably fraught with problems, frustrations and even danger but that in order to succeed you needed to forbear through the dark times and hold fast to your ambition.

So it occurs to me that if we want to instil these same kinds of values, attitudes and attributes then maybe we need to talk more about heroes. We have plenty we can use, and not just those of the more recent past such as Nelson Mandela or Mother Teresa, but also those active today – and not just famous people, but also people who achieve great things locally or quietly.

Why is this important?

Well, if we are serious about wanting better social mobility these types of role models are important ones. They demonstrate that anyone, regardless of background, has it within themselves to succeed. They just need to want it enough and be prepared to be unswerving in their efforts to achieve it. It gives individuals the confidence to take action and shape their own destiny. They don’t need to wait to be helped.

Equally, if we want a more compassionate society then these types of role models teach us that it is each of us who makes that happen by our own actions. By having empathy for the plight of others and being prepared to step in on their behalf. Big problems are not the preserve of others – they belong to us all.

Romantic ideas, maybe, in the twenty first century where the media routinely creates heroes and then routinely destroys them. But I would suggest that if in school we want to counter the cult of celebrity and instead focus on individuals becoming high performers through their own efforts, then we need to provide the heroes and their stories for them to emulate. 

Author Simon O'Grady. Posted on 7-July-2016

In the first of our series from schools adopting High Performance Learning, Simon O’Grady, Principal of the British International School Cairo (BISC), explains why he wanted his school to be one of HPL’s pioneer schools.

Why we’re adopting HPL in our school

Being principal of a school widely regarded as the best school in Egypt has its challenges.

Our school, the British International School, Cairo (BISC), is 3-18 day school with 1000 pupils. Our aims are to promote the values of a pluralist society and provide equal opportunities to all pupils. Set within a broad-based education, all children are encouraged to strive for excellence and to become active, caring and thoughtful young people.

Author Deborah Eyre. Posted on 28-June-2016

Originally posted on edcentral

Providing challenge for top performers in the classroom is one of the most difficult and long standing problems in British education. Whilst some schools do really well, they remain the minority.

When it comes to gifted/more able students, your school is likely to be in one of the following categories…

… read the full blog post here

Image courtesy of jk1991 at

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