Your child’s school is now closed and all learning is online. Suddenly you have been thrust into the role of a teacher helping your child engage in virtual learning. You have no experience of it and it can be frustrating. It’s a big change for them and a big one for you. It may start as fun and a something of a novelty but that is unlikely to last. You are in it for the long haul.How do you and your partner stay sane?
1. Make it clear from the start that they won’t have to work as long as they do in school. We feel better if we know what is expected and in the case of home learning, it is hard to sustain a full day of engagement. Remind yourself and your child that learning comes in many forms and that just talking and playing games is a form of learning. So maybe just the morning doing formal schoolwork and more informal activities after lunch.
2. Keep a routine for getting up, breakfast and starting work. Most children learn best in the mornings so make the most of that productive time. Keep to the routine you had when they were in school and instead of heading out to school start work at home. It’s tempting to go for an extra lie-in but avoid it. We are all more productive if we have a routine and stick to it.
3. Clear a space before starting work. If we want our children to be motivated to achieve, we need to demonstrate that they are entering the ‘school’ space and that their attitude and behaviour – and yours - is going to reflect that. If you have a space that can become the ‘schoolroom’ then that is ideal but more likely this will be the kitchen table. With older children, it may be their bedroom.
4. Help them get started. ‘Rather than helping them download the material from schools and then saying, “OK off you go, I will be back in an hour to check on you”, instead take five minutes to make sure they understand the lesson or task and can get started. Of course, you may have work to do of your own but you will get fewer interruptions if they know what they are doing.
5. Make sure they have everything they are going to need.When teachers are trying to make activities interesting and engaging they often ask children to do practical tasks. This may involve drawing or cutting out and glueing.So it helps to have paper, pencils, felt tips, safe scissors etc. Basing the craft materials you might have at home already. There is nothing more annoying than a constant stream of requests for materials.
6. Build-in time for breaks. If your child is older, especially if they’ve started secondary school, you can challenge their lack of motivation by highlighting the importance of working hard. They need reminding that the work they’re doing now is preparing them for future success and that it’s worth putting in the effort now to have more choices later in life. This can be more effective in building motivation than pointing out short-term gains, such as a good mark in a test.
7. Show an interest in what they are doing. Children are not used to working alone or online and it’s natural that they will get bored or feel frustrated. You will need to judge when they simply cannot do more but you can extend the point at which that occurs by showing an interest in what they are doing. If you have helped them get started then when to drop in to check how it’s going you can ask and maybe make suggestions etc.
8. Celebrate effort rather than achievement.This is always better for the child. If your child struggles to motivate themselves, it can be tempting to offer incentives. The problem with bribery is that it creates a mentality where children are just looking for what they have to do to “win the game”. ‘It’s better to reward the effort than achievement, whether that’s with praise and kind words or something concrete.’
9. Build-in rewards but keep down the sugar.We all like to have a reward when we have done our work and stayed on task. Little rewards can make a big difference but do avoid too many rewards that involve sugar, for example, sweets and biscuits. Otherwise, they will be ‘bouncing off the walls’
10. Share the burden with your partner if you can. It is likely that both you and your partner will be working from home. Rather than both of you being half available, better to decide who is supervising the children over a given period of time and take it in turns. Employers know they need to be flexible in these extraordinary circumstances.
Finally, show them some love.At the end of the ‘school’ day and also during it keep showing that you love them. It’s a tough time for everyone and tempers may fray. It’s understandable but in the end, a child needs to have the reassurance of knowing that they are loved so – show some love.
This blog has been written by Dr Rebecca Glass. Dr Glass holds a PhD in genetics and has a particular interest in its influence on student performance.
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In some of the top performing British International schools in the world, we see significant numbers of staffi who do not believe that high performance is attainable for the vast majorityii of their students.Indeed, in a recent survey, nearly 60% of staff felt that there are students in their classrooms who are not capable of high performance (Figure 1), despite the overall school performance being consistently good, achieving over 60% A*-A grades at IGCSE. This doubt in students’ ability is likely to cause these schools to plateau; they will not further improve on these scores if staff believe they are already doing the best possible.
Unfortunately, this belief around student ability is a common but misguided one. It stems from amistaken view that intelligence is partly inherited so, whatever teachers do, some students are destined to fail. Our research found that over70% of staff believe student intelligence is partly inherited. Not only that, this figure does not alter with the length of a teacher’s career, suggesting that they will begin and leave their career with the same misconception. Teachers’ classroom expectations around what is possible are shaped by these beliefs.
We know from a growing body of research that this belief is outdated and incorrect; intelligence is one of the least inheritable traits as it has no obvious genetic linkiii. Throughout a child’s lifetime, as a result of their experiences, changes to DNA occur and it is these that determine a child’s skill development and intelligencelevels.Other myths such as the incorrect assumption that you cannot achieve in a subject because your parents werenot very good at it, is also damaging. It is these views, held by teachers and parents, that contribute to the self-doubt that holds many students back.
When surveying the studentsi in these top performing international schools, we found that over 40% do not themselves believe they can get good grades;a surprisingly high percentage. Furthermore, nearly 65% of students, like their teachers, do not believe everyone is capable of good grades. It is these doubts in themselves and others that hold students back from achieving high levels of performance and we urgently need to challenge misconceptions if we want more students to reach success.
High Performance Learning (HPL) accredited schools commit to believing and behaving as if all students are capable of high achievement. They signal this to students and their families and use the HPL framework to strengthen teaching and learning, intentionally and overtly building the competencies that create academic and personal success. They set themselves a level of expectation that is much more ambitious than in the past regarding the art of what is possible and the percentage of their students who could leave having demonstrated high attainment.
Schools that become accredited HPL World Class Schools by joining the HPL Award Scheme really do see this change of mindset impacting on student outcomes and they see it quickly. Results increase year on year with a greater percentage achieving the top grades every year and overall scores going up. Indeed, the percentage of students achieving top grades has increased, on average, by 8% in schools during the two-year Award Scheme, and continues to increase annually as the school deepens its engagement. These figures compare very favourably with statistics for the UK national average which has remained constant (Figure 3).
But what really excites schools leaders about HPL is not just the results, it is the positive and optimistic culture that they feel in their school and how students and staff embrace the challenges of learning without fear. This translates into schools where everyone is focused on building success in each individual student, regardless of their starting point.
Doha College, a top performing international school, is one of many of our schools to announce exceptional examination results this year.
2019 recorded the best IGCSE results in the school’s 39-year history. The Principal of Doha College, Dr Sommer, commented:
“As the first accredited HPL school, we are now looking back at the best public examination results ever achieved at the College for the third year running, not to mention the immensely positive impact on the culture of the school, the relationships among and between students, staff and parents. Now that the intrinsic features of the philosophy have pervaded all areas of the school, we are confident that generations of Doha College students will benefit in the years to come.”
The expectation that every student is capable of high performance, regardless of their background, is a vision that every school can embrace, and our accredited World Class Schools are exemplifying a future for education that is inclusive of everyone and routinely delivers high performance without pressure.
Dr. Rebecca Glass,
This blog has been written by Melanie Saunders, Director of Quality Assurance and Accreditation at High Performance Learning.
What does it mean to be an HPL Global Lead Teacher? Andy Flint, Kirsten Parker and Kate Slipper are the first to achieve this accolade which recognises the influence that a great teacher has across a whole school – and the capacity for modern media to extend that influence beyond your own school and even beyond your own country.
High Performance Learning revolutionises teaching, but more importantly, it revolutionises learning. The HPL mantra “with students not to them” is captured in a comment made by Helen from Jack Hunt School, that it makes students think about the process of their learning. Andy believes that “the impact for students, and for teachers, has been profound.” Being part of a Global network with classroom practice at its heart is great for teachers but it is, of course, great for schools as well. Regardless of the preoccupation of policymakers, great schools know that its what happens in the classroom that makes a difference. The opportunity to recognise and reward the “core business” is very appealing for school leaders who want their best teachers to enjoy their work and to maximise their impact.
Global Lead Teachers have met some exacting standards and are committed to demonstrating, through their practice, the belief that every child has the potential to be a high performer. Moreover, they model this mindset for their colleagues and enjoy leading global subject networks, showcasing their practice at HPL events and developing their HPL practice within and beyond their school. Being a Global Lead Teacher means you are plugged into the mainframe of education. Schools which aspire to become, and remain, world-class look beyond the boundaries of their own country to learn from, and lead, an international drive for excellence which expects more than “top marks” in the local inspectorial “test.”
What makes being a GLT really special, though, is the opportunity to influence and inspire teachers, and through them students, in schools across the world. The Practice of an HPL Global Lead Teacher can change the lives of students in countries where they have never set foot. Our GLTs say that HPL makes students “more energised and more autonomous,” as well as “more creative and less worried about taking risks,” – isn’t this what we all want for all of our students - to have the tools to be active partners in their own learning and the confidence to take their place as global citizens?
Hear what HPL teachers have to say here:
If you're an existing member of the High Performance Learning you access these on HPL Online:
Quality of education: Schools need to show they are offering a well thought-out, knowledge-led curriculum and one that also promotes mastery of skills, whilst allowing pupils opportunities. In this category are the three ‘I’s: Intent, Implementation, Impact.
Behaviour and attitudes: A focus on behaviour, conduct and attitudes to their education, attendance and relationships with peers and staff.
Personal development: where the focus is on the curriculum extending beyond the academic and vocational, developing character and preparing them for the wider world of work and modern life in Britain.
Leadership and management, leaders will be judged largely in the same way as they were under the previous framework. Leadership judgement continues to include safeguarding and governance and now also includes a focus on pupil movement.
This blog has been written by Professor Deborah Eyre. Her thoughts reflect 40 years research into how the most successful learners think and learn and how to structure curricula design to develop those same competencies in all pupils.
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Most English schools are now starting to focus more on the curriculum. One reason for this is Ofsted’s increased interest in exploring what the school is trying to do and how it implements that vision, as well as focusing, as previously, on the result of that effort in terms of student outcomes.
Indeed, becoming an HPL school explicitly helps a school to have a coherent and consistent educational approach that is already focused on all four of the Ofsted categories. It sets out intent, creates an agenda for implementation and secures impact.
However, HPL is not simply responding to the Ofsted agenda. This sea change in how schools approach their work is also a response to the canon of literature that supports the idea of knowledge acquisition and personal attributes as being fundamental to educational and lifetime success. If curriculum is defined as being all the learning opportunities that pupils experience in school then defining the curriculum becomes a core responsibility for the school.
So what knowledge should we set out in the curriculum as being that which should be secured and how best do we ensure that pupils learn that knowledge in a way that means they remember it and can use it?
At the same time, how do we use the curriculum to develop the behaviours, attitudes and values that are so crucial to personal development and confidence? A well-ordered classroom, engaged students and the development of values, attitudes and attributes are key to both cognitive success and personal development. They are not a separate agenda. They do not happen somewhere else. By focusing on a curriculum and culture that develops all of this at once the task is both more manageable and more effective.
These are the fundamental questions and they need to guide the process of curriculum design and delivery.
Agreeing the non-negotiables for the entire school
WCV 14 times more significant than variation between schools!
It is tempting to approach curriculum design entirely from a subject perspective and indeed subjects are very important (Counsell, 2018) and the main engine for change, but preceding the detailed work in subject departments should be a discussion around the vision or ‘intent’ for the entire school. If you do not have this then in school inconsistency will occur. In a great article for Secondary Ed, (2016), Gerald Haigh reminds us of the work of David Reynolds at NCSL on within school variation (WSV).
So senior leaders need to take the initiative and instigate discussion and debate around the non-negotiables underpinning curriculum design across the school alongside subject and department work. That way you gain some cross school consensus and also have a mechanism for monitoring implementation.
1. What kind of student are we attempting to produce?
This question is at the heart of any good school’s ‘Intent’. Of course, when posed in school it runs the risk of veering into generalised statements but done well it can act as a driver for all that is to come. HPL suggests that your school creates 3 statements of one sentence each and covers the following areas:
Academic achievement – what are our ambitions around knowledge and expectations?
Global citizenship – what do we want in terms of pupil overlook and behaviours?
Enterprise and confidence – what dispositions do we want our pupils to have? We want them to have knowledge but also be able to use it confidently. They need to think for themselves.
These statements help at the subject curriculum design level because they can steer subject thinking and also enable some consistency of approach across the school. Key ideas such as social justice can be captured here as well as entitlement and tolerance.
When planning in subjects occurs the intent statements can help to provide a cross check to ensure that these simple statements are indeed reflected in the design of units, in their sequencing and in any implied pedagogy.
2. Agreeing the level of expectation we will set?
We have come a long way in our understanding of what pupils can achieve. First we thought it was all in the genes (Terman, 1925), then along came the idea of the zone of proximal development (Vigotsky, 1978) so whatever we had in genes could be developed. Then fixed versus flexible mindset (Dweck, 2007) and now Ericsson (2007) indicating that all of us have it in us to be high attainers.
Great schools, whatever the backgrounds of their intake, are always ambitious on behalf of their pupils. But now they are rejecting entirely the notion of the Bell curve where high attainment is seen as a target outcome for only a minority and instead expect it of all pupils regardless of starting point. Of course, whatever level of ambition you set at the whole school level this should be reflected in subject curriculum design and if, like all HPL schools, you want a significant uplift in the percentage of pupils attaining highly then you would expect to see a move from some pupils learning at high levels to all pupils learning at high levels with support where needed. This ambition will be explicitly reflected in all subject content, sequencing and associated pedagogy. It is a non-negotiable.
In practice this means pitching lessons at a high level and helping everyone master the content and skills by making use of the ACPs and VAAs. This involves using minimal differentiation but rather increasing the level of support for some. Also using an intelligent approach to pupil grouping - only setting by performance where deemed necessary and scaffolding learning so lower performing groups are still aiming for the same high level outcomes. An ambitious curriculum that is only applied to a small percentage is not ambitious!
3. What is the curriculum?
At the subject design stage you should therefore see each subject actively setting a high level of demand, building subject knowledge and disciplinary skills and the HPL cognitive competencies.
There is currently a deal of concern in English schools regarding what is meant by a knowledge rich curriculum. At the subject level Ofsted defines knowledge-rich’ approach as one in which curriculum leaders are clear on the “invaluable knowledge they want their pupils to know”. So it means deciding what facts and skills you want to teach in each topic or unit of work and using assessment to ascertain whether they have indeed been learned.
But of course these units do not stand alone, rather they are arranged in a sequence so that knowledge becomes gradually more sophisticated and key concepts and skills are returned to on a regular basis. This process is sometimes called ‘spiral curriculum’ planning. By returning to key ideas they become more embedded. This is particularly important in ensuring that those pupils who are slower to understand or who only learn enough to pass the test do actually have the opportunity to master the knowledge and retain the knowledge taught.
In short, a successful knowledge-rich curriculum should be designed to help pupils remember what they have been taught so that it is permanently lodged in their working memory.
Subject disciplinary skills
Learning knowledge does not in itself lead to expertise in a subject. Pupils also need to learn the rules and conventions of the subject and its technical language. They need to think like a mathematician or a historian, know what knowledge is useful and in which circumstances. It is this repertoire that enables learners to approach new knowledge with confidence and sense where it links with existing knowledge. The earlier this process starts in children’s education, the greater the number of pupils who will achieve mastery of the knowledge.
So, if we want our pupils to not only have knowledge but be able to select when and where to use it, then we need to systematically build the techniques that enable this to occur. Again this is an area where you could leave it to individual departments but inconsistency is the likely result.
HPL advanced cognitive competencies (ACPs and VAAs)
High Performance Learning provides an underpinning school-wide approach which provides a framework for building, within the subject, the competencies that ensure high attainment. This approach uses the advanced cognitive performance characteristics (ACPs) and values attitudes and attributes (VAAs) alongside subject knowledge and subject disciplinary skills. Together they create a robust offer. For pupils to achieve competence in the ACPs and VAAs they need frequent and regular opportunities to practice them. So they need to be pro-actively built into the curriculum design alongside knowledge and disciplinary skills.
The ACPs and VAAs provide a language for learning which can be shared across the school but interpreted within the subject. This is not about teaching generic skills, it is about recognising the power of cognition and teaching pupils how to think and behave as a learner in order to gain maximum impact. Some of these ACPs and VAAs are well known and used already and some less so. What is key is that they need to be developed systematically if all pupils are to attain highly.
4. Making effective use of the of assessment
The two main types of assessment, in which students demonstrate knowledge and understanding are, either in an informal and continuous way (formative) or show what has been learned at the end of a set period of time or unit of study (summative). Despite all the work of Dylan Williams (2011) and others stressing the importance of formative assessment (Assessment for Learning) in generating confidence and competence in the subject discipline, many schools are overly test led. This has narrowed horizons and led to a preoccupation with the short term as opposed to viewing curriculum as having dual functions - learning new material and simultaneously building the foundation for the more advanced learning that will come later. You might call this second aspect ‘developing subject expertise’. It is the ability to operate within the rules of the subject.
If you restrict teaching to being primarily focused on what might come in the next test and don’t engage with the wider ideas around the subject, then not only will you inhibit growth in the subject discipline, you also disadvantage the test takers. If the question comes up in a slightly unexpected form your pupils will be unable to respond because they have not really mastered the content to a level where they are confident to use it. So a school wide discussion around the role of summative assessments and tests is required. Then agreement as to their position - as a checking mechanism rather than the syllabus.
HPL teachers use formative assessment to gauge current performance, progress and – crucially - the current gap between it and high performance. They then use it to plan next steps. They do not see assessment of individuals as a predictor of long term outcomes, but rather as a snapshot of the current position and an indicator of what needs to be put in place in terms of planning and interventions to close the gap for the group and for individuals.
So when reviewing curriculum design in any subject you would expect to see opportunities for base line assessment (assessing what pupils can do before a unit or topic begins) at the start of new topics and for ongoing formative assessment within the unit, punctuated by formal summative assessment at key points, maybe at the end of a term.
5. Making sure we secure the basics
Finally, the basics of language and Maths underpin all other educational achievement. It opens the door to new ideas and thinking so it must be the responsibility of all departments to contribute to ensuring everyone has fluency in these areas.
But in curriculum design a focus on securing the basics does not necessarily mean reducing curriculum demand in those areas. It is important to structure curriculum in the expectation that rapid progress can be made by those who start out with reduced levels of literacy and numeracy. It is not the case that ‘behind now’ means ‘behind always’ – or at least not unless you make it so. Even in the secondary school this should be the maxim.
Again this is a school wide issue but the solution lies within each department. It is not merely a problem for Maths and English. Debate on curriculum design should include how to accelerate the progress of those not yet at ease with the basics without resorting to endless dull catch up sessions that narrow horizons and reduce the chances for social mobility.
Subjects should be encouraged to make full use of technical and disciplinary language and not dumb down because some pupils currently have limited literacy or numeracy skills. Equally, the language of cognition, the ACPs and VAAs, are necessary if you want to create precision in thinking and learning.
Tom Sherrington has written extensively and usefully on the curriculum in his ‘Teacherhead’ blogs. He likens curriculum design to a map and breaks down the curriculum design into three areas:
Big picture scale, overarching principles and values – because these ideas inform or dictate the decisions that are taken. Which subjects to teach and with what weighting. What is mandatory and where the choices lie. How to link subjects together into a coherent whole – for what purpose. In the landscape of learning – where should we go? Where should we spend our time?
Within subjects, what the fundamental knowledge is – what must be taught and experienced in order to develop a secure representative exploration of the domain; how knowledge in different forms should be sequenced to maximise the depth and breadth of understanding; what knowledge should be taught in order to match the values and aims of the school – and, implicitly or explicitly, what has to be left out, even if it remains out in the hinterland, to be referenced or discovered later.
How the curriculum is enacted; the way knowledge is explained, explored and communicated interacts with the knowledge itself; journey and destination are connected.
Using the High Performance Learning framework and its tools and techniques helps senior leaders and classroom specialists undertake a curriculum refresh and redesign with confidence. Start with agreeing the non-negotiable principles that underpin how we approach curriculum design in our school and then hand over to the subject teams to use these principles and make it a reality in their subject. Better still join us and we will help you become an accredited High Performance Learning school.
Professor Deborah Eyre, is Founder and Chair of High Performance Learning. My thoughts reflect 40 years research into how the most successful learners think and learn and how to structure curricula design to develop those same competencies in all pupils.
Baddeley & Hitch (1974). Working Memory. Psychology of Learning and Motivation 8, 47-89.
Dweck, C. S. (2007) Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, New York: Random House USAEricsson, A. K., Roring, R.W., Nandagopal, K., (2007). ‘Giftedness and evidence for reproducibly superior performance: an account based on the expert performance framework’ in High Ability Studies, 18(1), 5-56.