Winners and Not Winners

It just so happens that my assembly falls on Sports Day this week and it’s got me thinking about winners and not winners.

In any race there can only be one ‘winner’ – and by winner i mean the person who crossed the finish line first – unless there is a draw or a tie. There are always many more ‘not winners’.

When I ran the Leeds 10k there were thousands of people in that race. of course only 1 person could be the race winner – but really – there was more than one race going on there. I certainly had no hopes of being the very first across the line – my race was a much smaller race – on against myself. I wanted just to finish, at a slightly better time than I expected and perhaps just a step ahead of my friend also racing with me. On these terms I definitely ‘won’ even though I’m sure I was placed in the late 10’s of thousands over all.

Sports day can be really tricky for some learners because they judge themselves on the performance of one test. They believe themselves to be good or bad at sports depending on the place they reach in their race. But what if we stop seeing sports day as a test and start seeing it as part of a learning journey?

I love this video – it’s from class dojo and it’s all about resilience.

In it Mojo enters a competition, full of confidence, but he soon finds the challenge harder than he expects – This is a bit like lining up for the race at sports day and seeing who you are up against. As soon as the starting whistle goes you might realise that the other competitors are fast so winning the race will be challenging.

Once he realises the challenge is tough Mojo gives up and throws his model in the bin. I guess this is a bit like giving up on your race half way through or even finishing the race but deciding you are rubbish at the event and that you’ll never do it again.

It takes a good friend to point out to Mojo that his model has loads of great parts to it – and if he keeps on working on it, it will get better and better and stand a good chance of winning.

And this is the main message of my assembly this morning. Just because you are not the first person across the line – it doesn’t mean that you aren’t the winner. It means you are not the winner yet! Don’t give up. We know that practice really helps us get better – so if you don’t win your race this time, practice, practice and practice some more – so that when next years sports day rolls around – you are ready for the challenge in in with a shot at crossing that line first next time.

As for my racing – well – i still don’t think I’ll be first across the line at my next race. But I’ll be counting a faster time and a higher places as a win for sure!

Hope you all enjoy sports day


What Next?

Oh gosh! I’ve got so many thoughts swimming around my head after today I’m not sure where to start. So this a brief summary of some of the notes I made today – the comments that resonated, the ideas I loved, the questions I came away with and some other stuff too!

So the day started by highlighting 5 strands that are common across schools where innovative IT makes a significant impact on teaching and learning – these were

  • Visionary leadership
  • Innovative learning and teaching
  • Ongoing professional learning
  • Compelling evidence of success
  • Flexible learning environments

Some thoughts and questions that I picked up from the conversations during this part of the morning –

  1. Teachers are expert learners who guide learners through difficult tasks and technology has the power to amplify great teaching but technology can’t replace poor teaching. The key to integrating technology well is to be clear about your focus and what you want to achieve. How do we use the technology to give us a better outcome in learning?  It’s so important to keep the learning at the heart of what you are doing and not be driven by the technology or task. We spent some time this morning discussing the SAMR model – if you are not familiar with the model here’s a visual:

Many people who share the SAMR model acknowledge that the first stage ‘substitution’ is not really a transformative use of technology it’s just swapping a printed worksheet for one on screen, where as the ‘redefinition’ stage is where really transformative teaching and learning takes place and technology lifts learning to a place that it previously could never have imagined going.

In his talk this morning, Nick Fold (Academic Assiatnt Principal at Bolton School) put forward that actually, not everything needs to be redefined. That SAMR proposes a four stage journey with ‘redefinition’ seen as an ultimate goal that we should aspire to in order to show we’ve evolved highly innovative technology that transforms teaching and learning. But, he argued, we don’t always need to redefine everything. What’s more important is understanding how the technology you are using is elevating the learning. We can put together amazing and complex learning opportunities that redefine expectations of classroom practice, but don’t deliver the learning intentions. He suggests that actually, sometimes it’s okay just to substitute one form for another if we have a clear purpose for doing it and understand how it impacts on the intended learning.

In his words “How can we use the technology to get a better outcome in learning? What do we want them to learn and what’s the best way of learning this?”

This is nothing new for us – it’s conversations we’ve had many times before, but still relevant – hearing the message again and again helps to ensure that we keep the main thing the main thing.

2) Technology gives us the ability to be with our learners even when we can’t physically be with them. Again, this is certainly not a new conversation for us. We’ve visited this in many forms – our blogs, how our blogs can remove learning from the classroom and place it anywhere, social media platforms and how they work to take learning outside of the classroom and school, flipped learning and how we teach all children the right stuff at the right time when there are limited numbers of adults in a room, how we provide links to prompts and scaffolds but at the same time develop independence, how we ensure learning time is purposeful for all and no time is wasted on things that learners don’t need to be doing.

I guess the reason this stood out to me today thought is because it is still so relevant and may become more so as our school grows and our resources stretch to meet the rising numbers and differing needs. The things technology enables us to do in classrooms is so exciting and powerful – are we exploiting this as much as we could? And are we doing it all across school? Are we utilising the tools to the best we can to ensure we are available to learners even we we aren’t?

3) Keeping up with the professional learning – this is something. That can be so hard to find the time for but so important. I know Natalie has been working on this and he board in the staff room is just one way of enabling us to share what’s working – how else can we share our successes and help each other to learn and develop new ways of using technology to enhance learning in our classrooms? This is on my mind because we’ve got some staffing changes coming – how do we bring our new staff up to speed with the things that are well embedded already and at the same time keep ourselves learning and moving forward, picking up new things and staying ahead of the game. I picked up a couple, of ideas I loved from Foxhill School in Sheffield:

  • 5 minute seminars at the start of every staff meeting – a quick showcase of something that’s worked really well
  • Bright ideas board – somewhere we have a bit of time to ponder what’s on it – above the photocopier? Can we get better at using our teacher learning blog for this
  • Cross school SDM workshops once a term – including some workshops on use of technology for different purposes.

The TEEP pedagogical model

I found this interesting – this is the model that underpins teaching and learning at Bolton School. What I found really intersting about this is that when I looked really closely I thought this was very similar to the elements underpinning pedagogy at WCPS. In many ways this comes as no surprise – TEEP is based on research and evidence based practice and so is what we do at WCPS – but I found the visual representation interesting. This is not something we’ve tried to do before but if we had a model, I wonder how different to this we would make it? What would we add? What would we change?

What’s New?
So clearly the purpose of today was thinking about how your move on and continue to build  on the use of technology when you are already well on the journey. There was demonstration of new Apple developments in 9.3 that are designed to make it easier to put the technology into the hands of learners – some interesting developments for schools that seem to be filling some of the gaps that have existed before.

  • Shared iPad for student – ability to log in and see personalised content on a shared device
  • Classroom app for iPad – an app that Apple say is designed to give control back to the teacher to lead the iPad learning effectively
  • Apple school manager – unifying VPP portal etc – one single place to manage people, devices and content
  • Managed Apple ID – exclusiveLy for education – create on mass Apple ids for students. Can access content and iCloud but can’t purchase apps

Of these, Classroom is the thing I would most like to explore further. All versions of iPad Mini and anything above an iPad 2 supports iPad classroom app and it includes features such as the ability to see an overview of your class and their iPads, see who’s working on which iPad and keep track of their learning. You can view another iPad screen remotely so you can see which app is currently being used on the device and the blue bar at the top shows students that their screen is being viewed. From Classroom you can launch and lock apps on all devices and lock learners into the app you want them to use. You can lock all the iPads in the room at the touch of the button if you need to get attention quickly. You can see what your students see on their screen but can also pull up a mirror image of what’s happening on their iPad either on your iPad or on Apple TV oif you want to use it in the lesson. You can also create groups within the class and send content to groups or individuals using the app.

Finally, this afternoon, we revisited some tools that can be used across subjects and age groups to support teaching and learning – iBooks Author and iTunes U.

I love both of these apps – for very different reasons. iBooks Author is a powerful book creator tool that allows you to make multimedia interactive ebooks that look professional and can be used again and again. The downside is that you need a Mac to run the app but the results are astonishing. I love the idea of creating more of our own versions of these. I think that we could make some great interactive reading materials but also some engaging hooks, some intersting topic or project books that could be used to deliver or guide a project from beginning to end. I’ve previously had a little play with this but this is definitely something that I’d like to revisit – so I need a project and a class to have a go with!

Similarly for iTunes U – I’ve had a good play with this previously and developed content for KS2 and some staff content. Since I last used it some great new features have been added making it easier to complete a task, submit it and receive feedback from within the app. This just reminded me how much potential I think this app has across KS2, especially where we have 1:1 devices and again – I’m looking for a project and a class to try something out with!

All in all, a very thought provoking day!


The Dip

Everyone experiences ‘The Dip’

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It’s that bit of learning where the challenge seems overwhelming and we don’t feel like to can rise to overcome it. The dip is a difficult place to be – it makes us feel uncomfortable and knocks our confidence.

Have you experienced the dip? When was that and how did you get yourself out of the dip? Which learning muscles really help when you are in the dip?

Take a look at the video below – what advice would you give to Katie to help her get out of the dip?

Rising Stars – A New Start/INSET

This term marks the beginning of a new chapter for Rising Stars and today will be the first opportunity for us all to work together as a team under the new arrangements. On the 1st April I sent an email to the Rising Stars team to mark the beginning of our new chapter – it seems really relevant again today as today is all about getting started in this chapter. Here is a small excerpt from it…

“There has been a lot of focus over the last weeks on the sadness of endings and goodbyes – this has been entirely appropriate given the changes that have come into play and people who have moved on.

Today however I feel it’s really important to start today as a positive. 18 months ago we started a journey to keep our daycare and today, with all the legal documents signed and agreed – we can finally say we did it.

Today is a the start of a new chapter for Rising Stars – this part of the story hasn’t been written yet – it’s up to us to do that, on our own terms this time, entirely as we see fit. What an exciting position to be in! I’m so glad that you are all here to be part of that story as I know that working together, we can write a great one.”

Great writers plan and craft their stories, developing chapters and adjusting and tweaking them before going on the commit them to the book. Today feels like our opportunity to plan and draft the chapter we are beginning – to ensure the foundations are there to make this a strong one – one of our best.



I had the joy of visiting Darton College today and the opportunity of exploring practice and learning in their Y7 classrooms. It was such an interesting experience – with lots to think about:

What is challenge and progression – how do we balance progression of knowledge with progression of skills?

How do we strike the balance between control and controlled freedom for out learners?

How do we create climates for collaboration and talk so learners can develop ideas together?

These are questions we have already grappled with at Worsbrough Common and that we come back to when we examine our own practice but the valuable part of the morning was being able to examine these themes in a different place and with a mixture of eyes and perspectives – it almost reboots your thinking.

Tonight the thing that lingers with me though is a conversation we had on the meaning of perseverance. Of all the conversations we had today, this was almost a small and insignificant side conversation about a tiny element of conversation overheard in a classroom. But it’s stuck with me today because I’m thinking about challenges and how we face them and overcome them and what this means for us as teams, individuals and whole schools. 

 Today we’re were talking about what it really means to persevere – what is at the very core of this as a learning habit and behaviour? And the answer that came from our conversation? Perseverance is how you respond when you are faced with escalating challenge. It’s a sign of your resilience. 

Strong teams – in fact any team – will face periods of challenge alongside periods of success but the real test of your resilience as a team is how well you cope when the challenging times come. It is easy to be a great team when times are good, but when times are hard how well are we able to persevere and meet these challenges?

It’s sticking with me because this year we’ve faced many challenges – changes to our Children’s Centre, changes of staffing, growing in size very quickly – these are just a few. And the cost of these challenges is not insignificant – they have cost us in time, money, emotionally, intellectually – in every which way you can imagine. 

When our learners face challenges we tell them this is part of learning, in fact it is essential to experience challenge if you want to learn and grow. But when we face challenges of our own are we able to follow our own advice? Can we find our own inner resilience and perseverance to face the challenges and overcome them rather than take the easy path of giving up?

Today was about questioning practice but for me it’s also been about questioning myself. How resilient am I? Do I really persevere when the challenges stack up? Am I modelling what it means to be a resilient and persevering learner in the face of difficulty? How do I keep my resilience in tact when it feels like the challenges are stacking up or they are not quickly resolved?

Lots of food for thought to take me into tomorrow!



Pep Talk

I love this little pep talk from Kid President – Great words to start a new term with. There is always so much to think about and do at the start of term, and often so many pressures that can distract from the real work of school.

It made me smile a lot but it left me with something to think about too going into the new term….
“somebody’s learning from you. What are teaching the world?”

It’s time to get our learn on again!



On Monday this week we talked about Kindness in our assembly. Kindness can be such a small thing but it can make such a big difference. we watched this video about how one person doing an act of kindness can start to make kindness spread.

We could see how unhappy unkindness made the people around it from the beginning of the video but also how, as soon as one person started to share some kindness, others followed and soon there were lots of people doing some really kind things for others.

And kindness doesn’t have to be a big grand gesture or an expensive gift – kindness can cost nothing – it might be as small as a smile or holding a door open for someone – but the difference it make to everyone can be immense.

At the end of our assembly a challenge was set – to spread some kindness around the school and perform at least one small act of kindness for someone else in school.

Since Monday I’ve seen some wonderful examples of this – learners helping those who have fallen or are struggling with something. Learners showing great manners or donating books to the library. Even leaving nice notes and messages for their friends or staff. I’ve enjoyed immensely having learners come up to be and tell me about a kind thing that they’ve seen a class mate do or that someone has done for them. And with each story of kindness, I’ve seen lots of smiles. It’s impossibly to talk about some kindness you’ve seen without sharing a smile – showing how effective kindness is at making our school a happier place for everyone. Lot’s of these kind acts have been captured on our #proudofmyselfie blog – so do visit the blog and see the kind acts we’ve been performing this week.

And what about you? Have you joined in with spreading the kindness yet? What will your act of kindness by this week? How will you spread some kindness and happiness through our school in the next five days? I can’t wait to hear about it!

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Everyone makes mistakes. I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t and we spend a lot of time celebrating learners mistakes and teaching them that mistakes are fine as they help us to learn. So when as adults can it still be so hard for us to hear about our own?

For me I think it’s because it tests your resilience. some days it can seem like you fall from one mistake to the next and on days like this, when you have little time to reflect and process, it can be so hard to gain perspective on mistakes for what they are – a learning opportunity – and focus only the emotions they trigger instead. Because there is no time to process and make sense of what you are confronted with, your emotions take over, just like fight or flight, as our default position is failure. We find out we messed up and we feel like we’ve failed.

I guess feeling like this is fine (and completely human) No matter how resilient we are, we’ll have times where we feel like we’ve just completely failed – it’s the ability to recognise it, reflect on it and then think about what’s next that makes the difference. We can brood on our mistakes, try to deflect them or excuse them or even deny but in the end it doesn’t help and it doesn’t make us feel any better. If we are truly resilient and truly think of ourselves as learners then I think we have to face our mistakes, be happy to own them and accept them for what they are, and then learn from them and move on.

Because I really do believe we are all learners. I’m certainly still learning. I’m learning everyday how to be a better teacher, a better leader and a better headteacher and how can I possibly learn to get better if I never see where I’m going wrong, if no one ever gives me feedback or critiques my performance? I am going to make mistakes, I am going to get things wrong, and sometimes I won’t even realise it -and this is fine. This is how I will eventually learn, just like our learners do every day.

On my journey home today I couldn’t help but think about how we deal with our mistakes, how we as adults still need to work on our resilience and ability to learn form mistakes – because it can be so hard to do because sometimes our mistakes can feel overwhelming. Perhaps we need to listen to the messages we tell our learners everyday a little bit more closely and ensure we are learning our lessons along with them. Every day we give our learners permission to make mistakes that will help them to learn. Then we talk to them about their mistakes and we help them to move on. Perhaps we need to stop and remember to give ourselves permission to make mistakes too, and then not be afraid to talk about them and help each other to move on.

Tonight, rather than dwelling on my mistakes of the day, I’m going to focus on how I’ll learn from them instead. And I’m going to work on going to bed feeling positive about what I’ve learned from today rather than feeling bad about where I went wrong. It’ll not be easy – and I’ll have to really stretch my perseverance muscle – but I’m determined to tackle my mistakes like a great learner would – and hopefully get through tomorrow as a slightly better teacher, a slightly better leader and a slightly better person.

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We’ve come to the end of a cycle of lesson observations. As a school leader you realise you are in a very privileged position to visit lots of classrooms and see teaching and learning in action – indeed there is a good chance I’ve seen more of other people’s practice in the last two weeks than some teachers will get the chance to do in their whole career – which is really shocking.

I always learn such a lot when I visit any classroom and some things have really struck me as I’ve been in and out of classes around school. It’s times like this when I miss having a classroom of my own, because I’d love to be taking some of my thoughts and reflections back to my own classroom and tinkering with these ideas, thinking about how i would chance my practice or craft my lessons in different (hopefully more effective) way.

A couple of things there were striking….

Challenge Pathways.
In one lesson I was really struck by the journey learners went on through the lesson. It was a very well crafted lesson with a clear objective and a clear idea of how learning skills would progress around this objective. The teacher had thought about the starting point, but also the aspirational end points and all the points in between. All the elements of the lesson including tasks and activities were linked together, making a seamless progress pathway. Learners seemed to join the lesson at different points, but journeyed through it at their own pace, ending together at the end point. There was no cap on any groups progress – if they mastered their stage they were working it, they moved on the the next part of the learning and ICT and adults were well used to support this transition. It was such a well crafted session it made me think about how often in my own lessons, the differentiated task s groups were doing might have been very distinctive and not particularly linked together well. This means that effectively all my learners were on different paths with different end points. What I loved about this lesson was the real sense that all learners were on the same path heading for the same destination.

Expectations, Routines and Habits
I was really amazed by how well routines, expectations and habits are becoming embedded for our youngest learners already. In one of our KS1 classes, the children’s understanding on learning muscles, the 4T’s and how they can use tools in the environment was just so striking. A great focus must have been placed on developing these over the first five weeks of the year, but it was great to see as there was a real sense of how this class were ready to fly – they were ready to learn and have a fabulous year of learning because they already know what they need to do to be great learners.

Challenging Sideways
This is something we are all grappling with as we get deeper into a new curriculum and new assessment processes but in some classes I could really see how teachers were beginning to develop broad/deep challenge rather than ‘vertical’ challenge. And it made such a difference as it really explored where learners were developing proficiency in a process rather than deep conceptual understanding. I saw a lesson where a really well thought out challenge was used to probe learners understanding of number relationships at the heart of a calculation process. They learners had quickly learned the process and could adapt to suit bigger numbers without error – but what was really fascinating was when they were required to do something else with the process, and their knowledge of number patterns was tested. They had to really make links to basic number binds and reason around their mathematical calculations – and it was very much out of their comfort zone. It also really explored where calculation skills can often be much stronger than application skills – and how a lack of strategy can sometimes be the biggest barrier to progress. This session really made me think about how we assess next steps. Afterwards, in all other lessons, i was really tuned into the type of challenge offered and at times it was really hard to be clear about the direction of challenge – was it vertical or horizontal? and How could we make it broader/deeper rather than just harder?

Reflecting on all I’ve taken from this opportunity to observe and discuss teaching and learning with lots of different people all across school, I can see another issue being pushed into the spot light.

I;ve taken so much from this opportunity – but how do we provide all our staff with this opportunity so that they might reap this benefit too? It can be so hard to provide time for staff to spend time, observing, discussion and reflecting on teaching and learning beyond their own classes yet it’s so important. If we want to enable all our adults to continually develop and refine their practise, we need to ensure they have the opportunities to do it. This can easily slip down our list of priorities when we’re faced with all the practical issues that make up a typical day but really it should be at the top of our list. I love these two quotes – and I couldn’t separate them because I think they are closely linked. If we want our school to be an innovative place where exciting and cutting edge teaching and learning takes place then we have to provide options for all staff to experiment, try, play and take risks with new ideas. But where do new ideas come from if we don’t have time to observe, read, talk, discuss and collaborate?

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Over the next weeks and months we’ll be trying out a new model of collaborative enquiry for all staff in school – hopefully enabling opportunities for this to take place. I’m excited about what might arise from this opportunity – about what we might learn or uncover and how it might help to drive our school forward.