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Translating espoused values into a policy for Learning. Part 1

The other day I had a quick look at a school’s Learning and Teaching policy. It was written in a style that gives you a warm glow, you just know that the writer has a genuine feel for the subject. But as a piece of writing to capture the school’s beliefs, values and subsequent practice of learning it left me very confused. Had I been a young teacher thinking of applying for a job in ...
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Goldilocks stretch

My two children go to a lovely infant school that is keen on learning. Each child at the school has a Learning Journey book which display their work, interesting comments they have made about what they are doing, comments from the teachers, next steps for their learning, and so on. They are a wonderful record of the children's progress. The school also uses the wide-spread 'traffic light' sticker system in these Learning Journey books, which ...
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/ / Parent power

Learning to be Robots?

Two things caught my eye this week – did you see them too? The first was an ad in the TES from a school in London that is seeking a Detention Director. Do you, the ad begins, like order and discipline? Believe in children being obedient every time? When I last looked online, TES was saying that just under 2,000 people had looked at the ad in the previous 24 hours, not all I presume ...
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A visible learning journey: introducing learning characters

Chris Taylor, Head at Patcham Infant School, has written another insightful piece for us. This week he explores the introduction of learning power heroes to his pupils. How do you help infant children develop the notion of learning muscles and become better learners? Patcham Infant School and Nursery Class is not unlike many other schools in that we have introduced learning characters to aid the children’s understanding of how we can learn better and develop ...
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/ / From the 'chalkface'

Perseverant Polly, patient pony.

This heartwarming video came up on my Facebook feed this morning.  I don't usually take more than a glance at these apparently random videos (although at least it wasn't cats) but there was something about it that piqued my interest: small girl, bright pink, filly net skirt, counterpointed comically with wellies and a hard hat. Unusual and fun. So I watched on, and spent a minute or so wishing, willing this small girl to make it ...
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A Visible Learning Journey

In this guest blog Chris Taylor, Head Teacher at Patcham Infant School and Nursery Class, highlights some of the brilliant effects Building Learning Power has had on learners at his school. Take it away, Chris. A few weeks back Patcham Infant School hosted a Creative Curriculum evening for Key Stage 1 parents. This meeting is held annually to give parents an overview of how we deliver the requirements of the curriculum. This was the third ...
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/ / Leading for learning power

Building Learning Power from scratch

I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days last week at a new free school in London that accepted its first intake (120 year 7 students) last September. Having previously spent two days working with the newly appointed staff in June, I was keen to see how their vision was taking shape. The vision is based around Brave Hearts, Bold Minds, underpinned by ‘Brave enough to listen to our Hearts, Bold enough to ...
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Questions questions questions!

On the importance of asking, exploring, and generating questions. Babies are beautiful, aren’t they? All rolls of soft flesh, wrapped in fluffy cotton, angelic looks, and giggles like nothing else. And then they learn to talk; often the first words are ‘Mummy’ or ‘Daddy’. This (very) quickly develops into ‘Mummyyyyyy?’ and ‘Daddyyyyy...?’: the questions begin. For small children, there is no limit to the number of questions they seem to want to ask, and also ...
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/ / Parent power

Walking the walk

When I ask senior leaders about learning walks, most say that they do them regularly. When pressed about what they actually do during such a learning walk, the answer is usually more about walking than learning. A few systematically gather data about learning that can be used to monitor changes in the school’s learning culture, but mostly it is management by walking about, sometimes observing teaching rather than learning, sometimes monitoring levels of student engagement ...
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Smiley, sparkly classrooms

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about life changing times for two of my grandsons. I'm happy to report that the elder has become the cook for his friends and the youngest is still skipping happily to the new adventure....school. This week I've been struck by what my youngest granddaughter has been asked to think about at school. She has just started in Yr2 and her class has been asked two really important questions; What ...
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Homework?

There has been much excitement on Facebook this week about setting homework for primary age pupils. The trigger was a teacher in the US who wrote to her pupils’ parents that she would no longer be setting homework as there was no evidence that it works. As is now so often the case, the social media furore enticed many news outlets to report on the story. This was followed little more than a week later by ...
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/ / From our own correspondent

New beginnings: old habits?

For many young people this week has been the start of a new phase in their lives. In my family my oldest grandson was proudly driven hundreds of miles, in a car packed to the roof, to begin his university career. My youngest grandson donned his crash helmet and scooted his way to 'big' school, just like many other 4 and 5 year olds across the land. Both my daughters cried. Of course they cried about this big life ...
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In praise of Think Pair Share

Almost every classroom I go into has children talking, working and learning together for considerable periods. Sometimes this group work is carefully managed and structured by the teacher, but too often it is little more than children sitting around the same table working together or near each other. Frequently stimulated by the poorly specified invitation to ‘work together’, at its worst it is one child doing it and three children watching – organised intellectual truancy ...
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/ / From our own correspondent

Never look at a lesson the same way again!

I returned home recently after two wonderful days undertaking a learning review in a welsh medium school in North Wales. You might think sitting around in lessons all day watching students learning would be easy, but spotting which learning behaviours they are employing and how their teachers are stimulating this to happen always leaves me exhausted. And when the conversations are all in Welsh, that is even more the case ! The school chose to look ...
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The Scottish Solution?

I work in schools in all corners of the UK, but increasingly in Scotland. The first flight to Edinburgh or Glasgow, a day’s work with a school and the last flight back is just feasible with schools in the central belt. But why the interest in BLP in Scotland, when most English schools are currently being forced to grapple with new GCSE examinations and ‘life after levels’? The answer is simple – Scotland’s Curriculum for ...
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Three cheers for inactive learning!

When I talk to students about the types of lessons they enjoy, they invariably mention lessons where they are ‘active’. For them, active means playing sport in P/E, or acting in Drama, or doing an experiment in Science, or making something in D&T, etc. Dig further, and what they mean by active learning is that they are physically active. Not sitting down. Not writing. Doing something. Anything, so long as it’s not sitting down. And, ...
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What does it really mean to get ‘better’ at learning?

Teachers are familiar with the need to assess, record and report on curriculum progress and attainment. The world is full of levels, level descriptors, tests, diagnostics, examinations, point scores, value added measures, and the like - even in 'life after levels' !! But they all refer to the acquisition of the knowledge, skills and understandings defined in the National Curriculum. But what of the child’s progress as a learner ? Where are the comparable measures ...
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Building Learning Power and Mindfulness

I have worked with colleagues at South Dartmoor Community College for six years now. Under the inspirational leadership of Hugh Bellamy, they have retained - during a period of educational turbulence - a dedicated commitment to the enhancement of learning for all students. Hugh - with whom I have had the privilege of working for twelve years altogether - is the most principled, passionate and opportunistic principal whose tenacious drive for inclusive education is beyond ...
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Do I have to repeat myself again and again?

Discussion is a key feature of learning, whether it be working in groups, think pair share, or engaging with a question and answer session. The spoken word is a frequent medium for learning. It follows that effective listening behaviours are necessary if the student is to access the learning. Why then, do so many teachers despair over their students’ poor listening skills? Listening operates at three levels: Listening to an expert (often but not always ...
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Take a risk with your learning – Guest blog from Katie Holt

This week's guest blog comes courtesy of Katie Holt, Coordinator of Learning & Teaching and the Student Council at South Dartmoor Community College. Take it away, Katie 'Take a risk with your learning.' This is often something we say to students who tend to play it safe when it comes to their learning. So in the spirit of modelling life long learning the teachers at South Dartmoor Community College decided to do exactly that when they ...
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