St Marys School Cambridge

At St Mary's School, Cambridge we began our HPL journey in September 2017. We chose HPL as a strategic vehicle for the development of Teaching & Learning because of the way in which it combined our aims in terms of Teaching & Learning with our existing values. Like many schools, in recent years our whole school CPD has focused on issues like assessment/peer assessment, 'talk', and learning habits including developing a growth mindset. HPL brings all these strands and more together into a single coherent pedagogy which is as useful in Reception as it is in the Upper Sixth. It brings direction to any whole school approach through a clear sense of the pillars which underpin High Performance Learning. Clarity about specific cognitive skills along with the absolute importance of the right learning attitudes and behaviours mean that there is no need to tack on other initiatives alongside HPL. We were also attracted by the fact that HPL is not a one size fits all approach; it can and should be adapted and developed by each school. With a clear sense of our own historic values and a new digital platform which requires the training of students in broad 21st century skills, this very much appealed to us.

First steps in implementing HPL

During the Summer Term we began to lay some foundations. We amended our student Behaviour Policy so that its focus was readiness to learn and informed parents of the change. Heads of Departments were introduced to HPL first and completed some reading before a launch to the whole staff in September. During the Autumn Term some departments led pilot projects and all CPD has focused on HPL. During the Spring Term each of the year groups has been introduced to the ACPs in some of their curriculum areas and Year 10, in the first instance, is focusing on the VAAs in some of students’ tutorial time. A student advisory group of 'learning detectives' has also been set up to ensure students’ involvement, and parents have been engaged through an information evening.

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Impact of HPL so far

Perhaps because HPL is so holistic, the impact has been more varied and widespread than we could ever have expected. Our Junior School pupils have led the way in designing some fantastic animals to represent each of the ACPs and embed them into the school’s learning culture. Staff members have really welcomed the challenge of such a flexible approach and have experimented with all sorts of different ways of Teaching & Learning.

For example, quite practically, the Art Department was pleasantly surprised to find that a lot of the concepts contained in the ACPs were compatible with existing assessment criteria. This has led to the use of ACPs explicitly at GCSE and A Level.

Historians have loved that HPL encourages students to be curious and see the world through different perspectives. On a recent trip to Ypres, Year 9 students reflected upon the way that World War I is remembered: do we remember it accurately and fairly? The students visited the immaculate white-stoned cemeteries of the allied soldiers before visiting the German cemetery, with dark imposing trees and communal graves. Why were the cemeteries so different? What can we learn about attitudes to sacrifice? These are challenging, mature questions and students can and did formulate impressively nuanced judgements about the different ways loss of life is memorialised by the winners and losers.

Key stage 1 teachers have enjoyed the opportunity of thinking more carefully about structuring lessons around pupils’ questions. For example, instead of instructing an investigation into the absorbency of paper towels, the children came up with their own suggestions on how to set up the experiment. It has been liberating to give very young children more responsibility for their learning – it becomes much more of a partnership in learning.

In Technology lessons, teachers have found that so much of HPL is really about going back to thinking about how students learn, rather than how teachers deliver learning to them. It has meant setting the right challenges, the right learning atmosphere, and the right expectations. Our Head of Technology says: “I think that the difference it has made to me in my lessons is really taking the time to explore learning, making the learning process obvious, talking about it, bringing it all out in the open. It is a learning process for all of us.”

What have we learned?

Just do it! HPL is very complex in theory, but needn't be in practice. Essentially for us it has really been about the willingness to try new things. By doing this and trusting the students to talk about and own their learning we have moved a long way as a learning community in a very short time.


St Marys, Cambridge:


Want to find out more about HPL and the different ways you can implement it in your school? We have a series of webinars designed to give you some insight into what HPL is and how it can benefit your school, your students and your staff.

The webinars are:

Introducing HPL into your school with Deborah Eyre

Interested in the High Performance Learning concepts and framework but not sure how to implement it most effectively in your school? In this webinar HPL Founder, Deborah Eyre talks about the High Performance Learning approach and the various ways you can take it forward in your school - from a self-guided model to taking up the full support of the HPL team and going for our Award.


Is my school ready for the HPL Award?

Are you a successful and ambitious school looking to become world class? Do you want to focus on securing consistent, high impact pedagogy as the major lever for improvement? The HPL Award programme supports schools to develop the high performance routines that deliver advanced learning as standard and enable you to develop thoughtful, independent students able to pass tests and take their place as global citizens. Achievement of the Award is a confirmation of a school’s ability to provide an exceptional level of education for its students, using the High Performance Learning approach to enable them to reach high levels of academic performance.

In this webinar, Deborah Eyre, HPL's Founder, introduces the HPL Award, helps you decide if your school is ready for it, and lets you know how you can apply. 

Is the HPL Foundation right for my school?

The HPL Foundation programme is a year-long project that supports a group of enthusiastic and skilled teachers to embed the HPL philosophy in their classrooms, leading to a fresh approach to teaching and learning. At the end of the programme there will be a measurable impact on the performance of students in the target classes and the teachers will be equipped to operate as HPL Leading Teachers in order to engineer the roll-out of the philosophy and practice in their school.

In this free webinar, hear Associate Director Jeremy Reynolds:

• tell you more about the HPL Foundation programme
• explain the benefits of joining
• explain the next steps to becoming a Foundation School and starting your HPL journey

Getting the most out of HPL Membership

HPL Membership is a platform for teachers to learn about the HPL philosophy and access resources and tools that will enable them to use HPL in their classrooms and improve outcomes for their students. It includes a wealth of resources such as tools, articles and webinars - but how do you make best use of all this information, as a classroom teacher or as someone implementing HPL in your school?

During this webinar our Senior Programme Manager Angharad Eyre:

• outlines the benefits of HPL membership
• suggests effective and engaging ways to use the membership site and webinars
• explains how membership works alongside HPL programmes such as the Award or the Foundation programme.



Special report from HPL associate director Jeremy Reynolds
Our GEMS HPL schools, which began in September 2017, are now one term into their Award journey and making very good progress. The schools are Jumeirah College, Jumeirah Primary School, Royal Dubai School and Wellington International School, four of the highest performing and most visionary of the GEMS schools in Dubai and their individual variety and character is a great strength and feeds into a clearly emerging and mutually supportive group identity. As is a common approach to the HPL Award, each school is implementing things in a different way and with the first term of strategic planning and organisational setup behind them, the four GEMS schools have very exciting plans for the rest of this academic year. Currently completing my first monitoring visit to Dubai, including a group meeting plus visits to each individual Award school, it is brilliant to report back on what has been achieved and is being planned. 
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HPL has been launched with staff at Jumeirah Primary School and the Award has been received enthusiastically, with the school absolutely in the right position to embrace all that is involved. There is an emphasis on students taking ownership of their own learning and seeking to achieve highly  - e.g. with the school-wide phrase used in classrooms  "Do it, use it own it"; other changes include an end to grouping by ability in Maths. The school is looking at how the HPL language of learning can tie into what is already in use and there is an understanding of how HPL will develop new areas and deepen existing ones. There is interest in how the ACP and VAA progression levels can help here and parents have been been made aware of the school's Award journey.
 Rachel from Jumeirah Primary talks about how they have begun to implement HPL throughout the school.

Meeting with Jumeirah College's HPL Steering Group yielded a very interesting and productive discussion on how this group of staff could lead the way in the early stages of the school's adoption of HPL and ideas were given on how best to launch into the 'play and practice' strategy with ACPs and VAAs. Tracking the effectiveness and impact of HPL was very much in focus and one member of staff at the school has developed an interesting online approach for doing this that could well have wider applications.
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GEMS Royal Dubai School, a primary school in a very different part of Dubai, with a larger Emirati pupil population of 18%, is again in exactly the right space for HPL, with their total emphasis on the quality of pupil learning. We were able to plan a very useful way in which the competencies and skills developed through HPL will tie in with the school's widely adopted 'Learning Wave' approach. At RDS, some very eloquent pupils were able to articulate the spirit, if not yet the language, of HPL!
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 My school visits concluded at Wellington International School, where lessons observed showed how much fertile ground there is for HPL to take root and the working group assembled is very enthusiastic and raring to get fully underway; the school also has planned an innovative HPL mentoring project involving Year 8 students in developing their understanding of specific ACPs in their lessons. The school intends to 'walk the walk' with HPL and both primary and secondary are united in embracing all aspects of their Award journey.
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In their different approaches, albeit with many similarities, the four GEMS schools are fully engaged on their HPL Award journeys and everything augurs so well for the next stages. Already, we are seeing the possibilities of this group being the trailblazers for hopefully other GEMS schools taking on HPL in the near future and it is a fantastic group of schools to be working with.

In November, HPL was profiled to Ministers of Education and Health from Latin America and the Caribbean. The Washington DC-based Inter-American Development Bank chose HPL as its example of the way in which education can and should be altered to respond to our new knowledge around executive functioning emerging from Neuro-Science and psychology. 

The event, hosted by IDB and the ALAS Foundation, was titled "Using the Brain's Building Blocks to Transform Early Childhood Policy" and featured TED-type talks and discussions between prominent international policy leaders, academics and entrepreneurs on how policies can make us better thinkers and decision-makers.

Deborah's talk focused on how we can prepare children for lifelong success through improving schools and teaching practices, and you can watch it by clicking the image below (opens in new window).


High Performance Learning
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