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Introduction Launching our new online learning strategy

I write this newsletter with a certain amount of trepidation. What will schools look like and what does the future hold for all of us working in education for the foreseeable future?  I took the decision in March to run all our courses virtually over the summer. There was no real choice if we as a business were to continue. Learning Cultures is 10 years old and we have built an enviable reputation for the CPD we offer to the education profession. I was determined not to let that go. Online CPD has proved to be a huge success; we have used live webinars to deliver two half day sessions throughout the summer including through August. The feedback has been amazing. We have also developed a suite of Moodle training packages that schools can buy to run at a time to suit their specific timetables, perhaps for a whole school INSET or as part of a series of half day or twilight sessions.  We are going to continue to offer our live webinars throughout the autumn and into next year and are planning to put some more of our training courses onto our Moodle platform for schools to buy. The autumn suite of live webinars will run as morning sessions or twilight sessions.  We feel sure that this choice will help all schools and colleges to continue to offer their staff excellent CPD: something the profession most definitely needs to have as part of an ongoing drive for excellence and to ensure all staff have the skills and resilience to manage learning in these very strange times.

The future is uncertain, but what is crystal clear is that there will be far reaching changes to how we educate in the future. I have chosen a few of the issues that have been at the forefront of discussions I have had with many colleagues and school leaders. There are questions that need answers and we have created new content to many of our courses to make sure we can provide the challenge and the knowledge to support all those who educate to ensure that learning continues and all learners achieve their full potential.

We look forward to working with you to shape a new future for CPD and learning.


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Transition - a renewed sense of urgency

Our Crossing the Bridge - Transition from key stage 2 to 3 has been very successful this summer with delegates joining us for live webinars on several dates over the last few months. The difficulties for all young people moving to their secondary school will be amplified this September. The opportunities to build relationships over the summer have not been possible. Data from tests or from formative assessment will not provide the same clear view of ability and it will be hard to gauge how much learning has taken place for those who have been home schooled since March. Our course provides some excellent materials and resources that will give those with responsibility for transition the tools and skills to forge strategies that will ensure pupils do thrive and succeed in their first year in secondary school and beyond. We look at the very daunting statistic that suggests nearly 40% of pupils dip in performance from the end of year 6 to the end of year 7. We offer solutions and innovative ideas for how to change this. Just imagine if that dip in performance became an increase and continued throughout key stage 3.  The data at the end of year 11 might look very different. 

Key stage 3 is an important phase and getting it right in year 7 is essential. Join us to make sure that for those pupils in this year 7 and in readiness for next year you have the answers to how to make progression guaranteed for all those joining your school from their small, safe and cosy primary school.

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Why coaching will be the best way to help staff and learners make sense of the new normal

Isolation is not a word we would use as part of a coaching model. The lack of interaction over the past few months may have taken its toll and returning to work for many professionals in education will be a daunting prospect. Coaching can help and may be the answer to ensuring that teachers share their worries, their successes and their goals for the future. Creating a coaching culture is all about highlighting the positives, sharing good practice and creating the right opportunities for professional learning conversations to take place that foster resilience and self-belief.

As schools and colleges reopen there is an imperative to find time for all staff to talk about their own understanding of how they have survived the last six months, how have they supported learners to learn outside the classroom?  How have they home schooled their own offspring?  How have they coped with their relationships and maintained their friendships?  How have they prepared for the return to a very different school environment? Talking is a powerful healer and it can allow for individuals to see new perspectives and draw conclusions that are not so easily found from within. Where conversations are managed in a positive and structured way using coaching, they provide the catalyst that allows each individual to shape their own goals and aspirations, articulate their fears and express their hopes for the future. Coaching shines new perspectives on what might seem difficult or sometimes insurmountable obstacles.

Join us for our Introduction to Coaching twilight session and then choose further coaching courses that can be delivered as live interactive webinars either the slightly longer version in the morning or as two hour twilights. We can also offer to deliver all of our coaching programmes for some or all of your staff as bespoke packages. Send us a note via our Contact us page and we will be in touch.

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How can teachers capture the unplanned learning of the past six months?

How do we learn? The past six months have given everyone who educates time to ponder this conundrum. Robert Bjork asks a different question in his forward to David Didau's book What if everything you knew about education was wrong? He asks, 'How do we think we learn?' He says that where we see learning as what is produced as an outcome is actually measuring performance and is not necessarily learning that will be retained over time.  Learning is not a one-dimensional process and it is not something that just happens when the learner is in school; it is a life long process built through a myriad of experiences and opportunities for acquiring knowledge and having the skills to apply and access that knowledge. The experiences of the past six months and those that will emerge moving forward from here will shape all our lives and it may be a very long time before we truly realise what we have learnt along the way.

It is essential that teachers at any stage across the education spectrum recognise that their learners have had a variety of experiences and certainly older children will have found out quite a lot more about themselves, how they have made use of time, learnt to work independently, kept in contact with friends, learnt new domestic or other skills, talked to their parents more, learnt to live more harmoniously with their siblings or grandparents, survival tactics when faced with adversity. Acknowledging that learning can take many different forms needs to be a part of the recovery process and part of building a new normal that does not dismiss the past six months but uses the experience as integral to the learning process for both teachers and their pupils. We have created a 15 top tips guide for using the experiences of being away from school as a result of Covid 19.  Download the PDF here. We have used a variety of pieces of research to put together these top tips some of which will be included in the resources section of this newsletter.

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What is blended learning and how can we use this new pedagogy?

Blended learning is a term meaning a mix between learning in the classroom and learning remotely using technology or other learning tools. Although schools and colleges are now returning to a classroom setting it is very clear that social distancing and the looming issues around local lockdown may well mean that the virtual classroom remains a distinct feature of our future plans for learning. Therefore, a blended approach is bound to be on the agenda for many. The opportunities for creating a rich and deep curriculum that ensures a blend of face to face teacher led learning opportunities and a more independent learner led virtual experience may well enhance the outcomes for those involved. Managing this, however, is not easy and will require a great deal of planning and soul searching. 

From in-depth research and consultation we have designed a new online training course for teachers and others to look closely at how to implement a strategy for blended learning which is most definitely the way we need to plan for the classroom of the future. Find out more here. Blended Learning: Mixing the virtual with the actual - a pedagogy for the future.

We cover:-

  • Investigating and sharing teaching and learning strategies that will support independent and distance learning
  • Putting the spotlight on behaviours and the protocols that deliver successful outcomes for both learners and teachers
  • Exploring how to build in challenge that deepens learning and stretches potential
  • Overcoming the issues of engagement for those learners who have limited access to technology, a lack of parental encouragement of who are disengaged from the process
  • Assessing learning through motivational dialogue, positive outcomes and deep reflection
  • Sharing practice and learning strategies through the development of a coaching approach

There has never been a better time to review the way we teach, reflect on how learners can adapt to new ways of learning and build on what we have learnt from the past few months.

Blended Learning: Mixing the virtual with the actual - a pedagogy for the future  A new online learning course for all those involved with planning new learning content and building on the last six months of learning differently.

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What should appraisal look like this autumn?

Performance management and appraisals should continue during the pandemic, so says the Department of Education. However, they say that school leaders should be pragmatic and that teachers and other staff should not be penalised or disadvantaged due to a situation that is out of their control.  This is a good time to look closely at the process of appraising staff. It is a necessary part of school or college life but it should be an opportunity to create a dialogue that gives all staff a chance to share their strengths and aspirations for the future and carefully define what it is that they want to achieve over the next year or longer. Where the emphasis lies with a respective line or senior manager to set the agenda and suggest the improvement points that need to be made, individuals who are the recipients can be resentful and unhappy with what is being suggested. They will, if nothing else, find themselves in no way owning their own goals and objectives.

The time away from school will have given everyone an opportunity to re-appraise their role, their future ambitions and their needs in terms of family, friends and their time at work.  It may well be that judging someone on their performance is inhibited because of the lack of data about exam results, SATs or other forms of summative assessment. Developing strategies that are more concerned with a learning agenda and professional development will lead to more successful outcomes. Where coaching is an integral part of appraisal it is designed as a two-way process that involves both parties focusing on the positive and what has been achieved over the previous twelve months or so. The appraisee is encouraged to be candid about their strengths and the gaps in their learning and how these might be filled through high quality CPD and opportunities to share their practice with colleagues.

The last six months have been challenging on all sorts of fronts and it is unlikely that individuals feel confident about how well they have met their targets or objectives from their previous appraisal. To offset this why not determine a different approach and begin by asking all staff to say what they have learnt during their exile and how they intend to take that learning forward as part of new and innovative approaches to teaching and learning. Create a learning culture through positive dialogue and a determined desire to ensure that all staff feel valued. It will be welcomed and will create much more empowered teams.

Why not buy our online learning Moodle course Re-thinking Appraisal and Performance Management- Creating a coaching culture that leads to influential change through positive learning conversations it will provide all of your line managers with the resources, videos and presentations to learn how to use a range of coaching skills to support a two-way appraisal process that delivers excellence and improvement across the whole organisation.

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Lesson observation - what is the new outstanding?

Some school leaders have attempted lesson observation during the spring and summer while schools are closed to most learners. I wonder what they were looking for and what they found. Lesson observation needs to have a purpose other than trying to find out who is doing well and who isn't. Leaders need to work with those who manage teams and individuals across the organisation to focus on what it is that creates outstanding learning and teaching in a range of subjects and settings.  Where there is a clear understanding of what good and outstanding looks like there can be a positive dialogue that can go beyond the lesson being observed and ensure that good practice is cascaded widely. Where improvement is needed there should be a clear strategy and effective professional development agreed with both the observer and the observed. 

Observers need to have a clear understanding of why they are observing and what they are looking for as we return to the classroom. A few pointers here may help to affirm what they might want to focus on as a new approach to assessing the good or outstanding lesson:

  • Teachers need to have effective strategies that allow them to acknowledge what learners already know or don't know about the subject being taught especially where there has been some work set for home learning
  • There needs to be an approach to teaching that takes into account how learners worked in their home classrooms, alone, unhurried and in an unstructured way. Does the lesson reflect that the learner may need to work differently or adapt to being back in the classroom? Have a look at our 15 top tips for helping learners make the transition from home schools to the classroom
  • Do teachers explicitly focus on the skills and knowledge that learners need to develop and to recognise the skills they have used during their six months at home?
  • Learners will have had to develop a range of independent learning skills in order to work effectively from home without the intervention of the teacher. To what extent is this reflected in the way the teacher imparts his or her subject knowledge in the classroom?
  • Learners have become adept at using a range of interactive technology in their homes including mobile phones, games, videos and platforms for direct interaction. This needs to continue in the actual classroom if the learning is to be consolidated
  • There should be evidence of opportunities for learners to work together in pairs or groups to share their learning, work successfully as members of a team or solve a problem together
  • It needs to be clear that all learners are challenged and are building on prior learning and working towards carefully sequenced pathways and end points. These need to be woven into what has or has not been part of the learning at home

Our online Moodle course The Art of Positive Lesson Observation - creating a culture where lesson observation is a collaborative part of continuous professional learning will give all those who observe a wealth of materials, presentations and resources including a focus on how observing learning may need to change to incorporate ensuring that there is a tacit acknowledgement of the learning or lack of it during lockdown.

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How will teachers assess learning, past, present and future?

The most successful strategies for assessing learning are where the use of dialogue and challenging questions focuses the learner on where to go next, how to improve and how to analyse the problem.  This has probably not been possible when a teacher is working with a group of learners through a virtual platform.  It is much more likely that assessment has been purely linked to output and whether the learner has engaged with the task and made some effort to complete it.  Assessing how much learning has taken place and by whom is going to prove difficult.

One of the most effective ways in the current normal, now most learners are back at school, would be to ask learners to work in groups where there are opportunities to share information learnt. Those that have deepened their knowledge, remembered the facts and can recall the concepts and the context will through articulating what they know consolidate their learning. Those that haven't done much learning will hear how others have learnt and learn something themselves.

Future assessment needs some thought in the new reality.  We all need to ask ourselves whether the current system is fit for purpose in assessing learning or whether it simply tests recall and short term memory. We need to find the assessment strategies that foster opportunities for learners to reflect on how they are improving and what else they need to do to progress. They need to use their learning to demonstrate that they can reason, interpret, analyse, evaluate and create. One wonders how the challenges of imposed isolation have given some of our most intransigent learners these skills as coping strategies that will stand them in good stead as adults. We must find ways to assess the new learning this year and beyond that challenges learning and builds a new generation of resilient and thoughtful learners. Buy our Moodle package to challenge your teams to think differently about assessment,

  • Formative Assessment - Creating the pedagogy of challenge, progression and deeper learning in the primary school
  • Formative Assessment - Creating the pedagogy of challenge, progression and deeper learning in the secondary school

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  • Remote Learning Rapid Evidence Assessment a report from the EEF
  • The EEF Guide to Schools Planning 2020 to 2021 - practical relevant and evidence based
  • Supporting teachers in to school efforts published by UNESCO/Teacher Task Force /ILO in June 2020

Books that have been invaluable to me and my team here at Learning Cultures over the past few weeks and months as we look at making changes to the way we train to support the education profession to make changes to their teaching so that learning is seamless.

  • What if everything you knew about education was wrong? by David Didau a book highly recommended to me by several colleagues
  • Learn Better with Desirable Difficulties: Desirable difficulties can transform your life by James Haupert
  • Memory: Handbook of Perception and Cognition by Elizabeth Ligon Bjork and Robert A Bjork
  • Blended Learning in Action Catlin Rice Tucker, Tiffany Wycoff and Jason T Greer
  • Balance with Blended Learning: Partner with your students to reimagine learning and reclaim your life Catlin R Tucker
  • Essentials for Blended Learning: A standards-based guide (Essentials for online learning) Jared Stein

I am reading The Testaments by Margaret Atwood.  It is not for the fainthearted but having read the Handmaid's tale I see more what Margaret Atwood is focusing on in terms of her imaginings of what could happen when fanatics take over, especially for women. I have just finished the five books that make up the Cazalet Saga written by Elizabeth Jane Howard. I so enjoyed following the fortunes and lives of this family, it was perfect reading to sooth the soul during the enforced stay at home we have all lived through. I thoroughly enjoyed them from start to finish.

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  • OFSTED will visit 1200 schools across England during the autumn term with the aim of telling parents, government and the public about how schools are managing the return to full education of pupils - these are not inspections and will not result in a grade
  • There is an early years support package to help close the 'Covid language gap' announced by the Department of Education. This a £1 billion fund that state funded schools can apply for
  • The Department of Education have published this September Development Matters: non statutory guidance for the Early Years Foundation Stage
  • There is Government Guidance on remote learning and teaching during the Corona Virus 'lockdown'
  • Guidance was published on 4th September Education Plans for September 2020

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