Matthew Burke, Headmaster of St Edward’s Senior School in Cheltenham, has worked in education for over 20 years. In this "Heads Up" series, Matthew will be in discussion with some of the country’s leading Headteachers, as well as those who support the work going on in our schools, tackling key educational topics and questions relevant to education today.

In the latest Podcast, Mathew Burke speaks to Deborah Eyre, Education Consultant, widely published author and former Director of the Government National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth. Matthew and Deborah talk about the benefits of the High Performance Learning (HPL) philosophy in schools, the competencies and behaviours that lead to success, language for learning and the importance of giving parents strategies to enable them to engage in HPL with their children. The pair also touch on what a successful school HPL programme would look like.


Kate Umpleby, Acting Deputy Head of Lower School Harrow International School Bangkok, explores High Performance Learning in Early Years Education. 

Download the PDF version here

From Learning - to Learning to Learn About 18 months ago, our school - Harrow International School Bangkok, embarked upon a journey to become a World Class; High Performance Learning School. The High Performance Learning framework developed by educational leader and writer Deborah Eyre is, in essence, an educational philosophy that ALL students have the potential for high performance, drawing on the latest research in neuroscience, metacognition and growth mindset.

Teaching to the top, and scaffolding support for those that need it to get there, is something that I have strived to practise throughout my 16 years as an educator – but metacognition, although not a new concept to me or within education, was something that definitely caught my attention and got me thinking.


Teaching from the top

Teaching and Learning - teachers teach and students learn – simple, right? For centuries, as teachers we have been imparting our superior knowledge and understanding on to our students. A simple transaction between teacher and student. The quest to find the most effective, efficient means of completing this knowledge transfer has dominated educational research for decades. 34 years ago, in Patricia Cross’s 1987 paper ‘Teaching for Learning’ she stated that ‘when students are actively involved in learning…they learn more’ and ‘if teachers set high but attainable goals academic performance will usually rise to expectations’. More recently, there has been a shift in focus to what a teacher brings into the classroom, their subject knowledge and pedagogical understanding. But is this enough? Is this really the best way to prepare the workforce of the future? I can’t help but feel we were missing something.


The “New Norm”, are our students ready?

‘Roughly seven in ten people are currently in jobs where we simply cannot know for certain what will happen.’

-Hasan Bakhshi, Jonathan M. Downing, Michael A. Osborne and Philippe Schneider; The Future Of Skills Employment In 2030

No one can predict the future. Is the ‘superior’ knowledge that we are imparting upon future generations going to even be of any use to them when they are applying for jobs as Extinct Species Revivalists, Organ/Body Part Creators, Mind Transfer Specialists or Drone Traffic Optimisers? Yes, we can shift our focus to developing skills in STEM. We can teach our students to be better global citizens and learn from our mistakes, but are we, as teachers, being naive and egocentric to believe that what WE know NOW, will be enough for our students in the future?

Ultimately as teachers, we are preparing our students for the future, that is our job. However, if the future looks different (and we know it does) how can we do that when we don’t know what we are preparing them for? We need to do more. If we continue as we are, we are setting our students up to fail. We need to press reset on education; we need to go back a step. I believe that the future lies in providing our students with the understanding of HOW they learn. If we do this, it doesn’t matter what happens in the future, our students will be prepared, they will have the toolkit, whatever is thrown at them, they will know how to ‘learn’ it. I am not saying that we don’t need to teach children how to read and write, of course not. But we alongside this, we need to be teaching them to be aware of the processes and skills that they are using while learning to read and write. For these very same processes may well be needed in the future when they are learning to read and write computer algorithms, or languages that don’t yet exist and if they know how to use them, it will make it a whole lot easier.

Now, I am not arrogant enough to think that I am the first educator to have these ponderings. So, as one does, I took to Google. As expected, there is some great research being done worldwide. A 2019 collaboration between Flinders University, University of Melbourne and Arizona State University is exploring ‘Teaching How to Learn’ promoting self-regulated learning in STEM classes. Gail Ellis and Nayr Ibrahim’s 2015 book ‘Teaching Children How to Learn’ offers a practical methodology for Primary foreign language teachers. However – there is very little out there regarding making this shift from simply learning to learning to learn, in Early Years Education.

Why? Yes, EYFS is primarily skills based already – physical, communication and language skills are all covered, but not the skills of learning. The Characteristics of Effective Learning again ensure practitioners are aware of how to ensure students are learning effectively, but it’s still neglecting to teach our children exactly HOW to learn in the first place. Being willing to ‘have a go’, Having their own ideas and Making links are nods in the right direction, but I can’t help but think we need to be more explicit than this.

Studies have shown that by 18 months old, children are already using spontaneous strategies to correct their mistakes during problem solving (DeLoache et al., 1985) by 3 years old children are able to monitor their problem-solving behaviour and at 4 years old they are able to use metacognitive processing in puzzle tasks (Sperling et al., 2000). Scientific evidence shows us that pre-school children are capable of the meta-cognitive processes involved in basic forms of planning, monitoring and evaluating. If they are doing it spontaneously, I believe we need to jump on that bandwagon. I believe that through our interactions in Early Years classrooms we can, and should, explicitly teach our students to plan, monitor and evaluate their learning. To question and guide students through the thought processes which lead to learning and to highlight it when we do so. Using questions to guide learning through play and challenges in Early Years.


The link between cognition and metacognition

However, this itself brings me to my next pondering – yes, we know they are capable of it at a subconscious level, but how can we expect children who are still learning to communicate full stop, to communicate at such a complex level? The answer is simple, and it is what we do every day, we teach them. We teach them the vocabulary they need to do it. Alongside the normal nouns, verbs and adjectives we need to be teaching our students the language of learning and thinking. I believe language is the link between cognition and meta-cognition. It is the link between children using problem-solving and critical thinking skills subconsciously to complete one task, and children using those same skills purposefully to solve future tasks.


The keyword sign for Thinking

This is exactly what we are doing at the Little Lions Early Years Centre, Harrow Bangkok. We are providing our young learners with a language of learning. Our youngest Harrovians at 18 months are learning and beginning to use the keyword sign for ‘thinking’. Our teachers are modelling it – ‘I am thinking about how Bobo is feeling’ - and as children do, our students are absorbing it.

Through Harvard University’s - Project Zero program – our Reception children are using visible thinking routines, such as See, Think, Wonder, to learn and understand that in order to learn, they need to question, and in order to question, they need to think critically. This is just the beginning, but I have to say, it’s quite exciting.

It is our responsibility as Early Years Educators to lay the foundations of learning – and we need to make them as strong and flexible as possible. From the very beginning we need to teach our students HOW to learn and by doing this, I believe, we will be preparing them in the best way possible for a future that no one can predict.

Kate Umpleby - 19th January 2021 Acting Deputy Head of Lower School, Harrow International School Bangkok


HPL Nutshells 15

Calling all artists! We are delighted to invite students from High Performance Learning Schools (including Pathway Schools) to enter our fantastic HPL Global Art competition. The theme for your artwork is ‘Empathy’- an essential VAA for High Performing Learners.


The competition is open to all 3-18-year-olds in HPL schools. Participants must enter through their school. Schools can enter in one or more of the following categories:

  • Category 1: Ages 3-7 (Early Years and Lower Primary)
  • Category 2: Ages 7-11 (Upper Primary)
  • Category 3: Ages 11-14 (Lower Secondary)
  • Category 4: Ages 14-16 (Upper Secondary)
  • Category 5: Ages 16-18 (Post 16)


It is important that you read this section carefully and that you ensure all work adheres to the requirements.

  • One only entry per person. Artwork submitted must be 2D (by this we mean it should be relatively flat).
  • Size should be either A5, A4 or A3
  • Entries can be produced on paper or card.
  • Entries should be submitted as a JPEG photograph or a PDF file by the HPL Lead in the school using the email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • The photograph filename must include the name of the student, the school and the entry category e.g. Chetan Mistry Royal Dubai School Category 2.
  • Entrants can use a range of materials and techniques from the following list: drawing (e.g. pencil, pen, crayon, pastel, etc.), painting and collage (photography can be integrated into the piece but we will not accept a standalone photographic entry). Sculptures and models are not allowed.


  • The closing date is 14 March 2021.
  • Entries will be judged on both originality and artistic merit. Judges will be looking for a creative, imaginative and inspiring response to the theme.
  • Winners will be announced by the end of March 2021.
  • The decision of the judges will be final.


  • Three winners will be identified in each age group - 1st place, 2nd place and 3rd place. Additional entries may be highly commended by the judges.
  • All winners and highly commended entries will receive a certificate. Winning entries will be displayed in a virtual gallery on the High Performance Learning Website.

GOOD LUCK Make sure to email your entries in plenty of time to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The very best of luck to everyone taking part.


 An extract taken from High Performance Learning World Class School St Mary's Cambridge's Accolade Magazine written by Global Lead Teacher Dr Andrew Flint. 

Feedback from teachers to pupils is a vital aspect of effective Teaching and Learning. It has a particularly central role within the High Performance Learning framework, because it fits entirely with the ‘with the students, not to them’ approach. This year we have chosen to make student engagement with feedback the central aspect of the House Points system: students receive House Points for successfully improving their work on the basis of the feedback from their teacher.

Effective feedback avoids trait-based comments such as ‘You’re so clever’ or ‘Great work – just what I would expect.’ These phrases suggest that the child possesses innate qualities or permanent, pre-established traits that cause them to succeed. They send the message that their ability levels are fixed. Instead, as an HPL school we encourage students to develop a growth mindset, to be confident that, through dedication and focused practice, all students can achieve at a high level.

When students focus on the grade or the mark they receive, they tend to compare themselves with their peers or to see the grade as the most important aspect of the work. Furthermore, problems can develop when students who are always used to achieving high grades find new work challenging and their grades dip. A student who has always received praise for being ‘intelligent’ and who believes that intelligence is a fixed trait beyond their control is less likely to possess the resilience to seek new ways to think or work that will be necessary for success as the material they study becomes more complex.

In contrast, HPL helps to create a culture in which the score on the work is less important than the lessons that they learn from it for the future. Instead of comments relating only to that piece of work, they receive guidance that helps to develop their metacognition, and advice on the kinds of skills or approaches that they might employ to improve in the future. It might encourage students to find connections with other work in that subject or to reflect upon how what they have learned in other curriculum areas might help them to see the bigger picture or wider topic.


Here are some examples:

• How did you get that answer? Could you explain what you did?

• Why do you think this piece of work was so successful?

• What made you pick this strategy to answer the question?

• Could you try a different strategy next time?

• What could you do differently?

• Compare this essay to the one you wrote at the

start of the year: what is different?

• This is a fascinating answer. Can you tell me more: what else do you think about this question?

• Has this work shown you any gaps in your understanding? What could you do about this?

• Where do you think this answer fits into the bigger picture?

• What skills did you use to answer this question?

• What other subjects could you use to help you understand this topic better?


By providing feedback that takes the form of questions of this kind, we encourage students to reflect upon how they can improve and take greater responsibility for their own learning. It supports them not to see the grade or mark as the main objective but rather to see their work as part of an ongoing process of improvement over which they have agency. Supporting students to develop a growth mindset helps them to succeed not only now, but in their future education and on into the adult lives and careers.

High Performance Learning
Elmfield House
New Yatt Road
OX28 1PB
United Kingdom
email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
phone book 2 +44 (0)1993 222408