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Don't forget to book for our 4th annual conference The Art of Coaching - Creating a culture that cascades outstanding teaching and learning on 29th June 2017 at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire

Tackling mental health issues in school must must be part of developing a whole school culture of positivity

new year2017


There is considerable interest and several speeches this week linked to the topic of mental health and how we are dealing with it as a society. For educators the most important is the one Theresa May delivered on Monday where she announced that she wants to tackle the "completely unacceptable stigma" surrounding mental health. She announced funding for training staff in schools to help teachers recognise when pupils might be experiencing mental health issues. The spectrum of mental health is wide and the causes many, so although this announcement is to be welcomed and goes some way to recognising that there is a problem with the mental wellbeing of some of the pupils and some of the staff in schools, it may not fully address the underlying problems that are at the heart of this and it may lead to a sticking plaster solution that does not fundamentally address the problem.

Wellbeing and resilience are at the heart of all of us feeling positive about what we do on a daily basis and what it is we want to achieve with our lives. School should be a safe and exciting place where challenge and purpose fill our days whether we are a recipient of the learning or a facilitator of that learning. We need to build a school culture that creates independent, happy learners who embrace challenge, see effort as their passport to ultimate success and understand how mistakes can lead to learning. The past few years have left the profession reeling, a new curriculum, changes to how we approach assessment, different rules for inspection and changing goalposts in relation to accountability have all added to an already heavy workload. This has, inevitably led to a range of consequences including workplace stress, sickness, loss of self-esteem and an alarming number of individuals who have chosen to leave the profession altogether. The way forward is to address the fundamental issues that cause us to suffer from any of a range of mental health issues and not to fund us to recognise those issues once they are with us.

There are several ways that this can happen:

  • Constantly reinforce what people do well and try not to dwell on what they do less well
  • Focus on individual strengths and ask your staff to share what they think they contribute to the school's vision
  • Create a culture where individuals share what they do well and work together to improve an aspect of their teaching
  • Plan CPD so that all staff learn how to use open, deep and rich questioning techniques that challenge and stretch their colleagues and their pupils
  • Make lesson observation an integral part of your CPD plan, no judgement just an opportunity for colleagues to learn from each other
  • Build a coaching model into your CPD strategy so that a group of coaches can support others and where a culture of trust develops and spreads
  • Ensure it is clear to all staff that taking risks and trying out something new is welcomed. Mistakes are part of the change process and lead to learning
  • Encourage effort and not just success in assessing pupils, build a repertoire of positive words and remember the power of 'yet', 'but' and 'might'.

There is no greater boost to morale than that feeling that you have put as much effort into something as you can and those that matter to you recognise that. We all need that feeling of self-worth that allows us to pick ourselves up in the face of adversity or have the resilience to try a different approach when something doesn't work. Being positive is infectious and can have such an impact on how each individual deals with the many changes and challenges they face on a daily basis. The best framework with which to develop this approach is one that embraces coaching. Make it your New Year's resolution - to have coaching as an integral part of your CPD strategy.

A happy and positive new year to you all,


Join us at our 4th annual coaching conference The Art of Coaching - Successful Strategies for Outstanding Learning and Achievement at Woburn Abbey in the Sculpture Gallery on 29th June 2017.

Practical solutions to ensuring a culture of well-being, collaboration and the celebration of learning and achievement through effort

There is no point in planning any CPD for staff unless it is directly focused on what the school is trying to achieve and can be followed up to ensure that it has a measurable impact on individual, team or organisational change. All the training we design here at Learning Cultures is linked to current educational thinking and practice in schools and or colleges. I have highlighted the current focus on mental health in my introductory article above. This is a vital and key component of ensuring a school population thrives and learns. We have several training opportunities linked to the well-being and mental health of both pupils and staff in a school. There is a separate article below that focuses on the value of coaching as a framework for creating a culture of trust, positivity and well-being across a whole school or other similar organisation. We highlight three training opportunities that will be highly beneficial for those who have more direct responsibility for the mental health and wellbeing of both staff and pupils in the school.

Mindset Matters - Unlocking learning in the classroom using Growth Mindset techniques challenges us all to focus on the difference between a Fixed and a Growth Mindset and to question limiting beliefs that intelligence is fixed at birth and cannot change with focused effort and stretch. This event promotes the development of techniques that help pupils to become resilient and independent and supports the development of an approach that gives all learners the opportunity to succeed through effort and engagement.

Psychological Well-Being - promoting emotional health, mindfulness and wellbeing to optimise learning and achievement -This course explores psychological wellbeing (Carol Ryff) and how it is proven to significantly impact on outcomes for learners. The practical application of strategies and techniques underpinned by the above theory provides solutions to current challenges within the classroom: promoting independent learning, fostering resilience, ensuring progress at all key stages and creating the right environment for learning.

Fairytwists - immersive pupil led story telling with puppets, masks and props. Fairytwists support the delivery of SMSC and PSHE education in the primary phase and will contribute to the embedding of literacy skills in other curriculum contexts other than English. This is a delightful opportunity to focus on well-being and resilience in a creative and interactive way.

Click on the course titles to find out more and book your place.

The new Chartered College of Teaching will be taking members later this month


The Chartered College of Teaching is a new independent, evidence-led professional membership organisation for the teaching profession. It has been established to give teachers an opportunity to be part of a body that has a similar status to other professional institutes that are chartered such as accountants, surgeons and surveyors and to ensure that the teaching profession is given the level of professionalisation of other similar constitutions. Membership is voluntary and members will enjoy many benefits including being a part of an organisation that informs the professional standards and code of ethics necessary for teaching.

This is the first time that the profession of teaching has had the same status as other professions in the country. Membership will give access to a wealth of opportunities for professional development, the sharing of findings from relevant and important research and the security of being a part of a college that exists to support the furtherance of excellence and improvement in the teaching profession.

If you haven't already, make sure coaching is at the heart of your CPD strategy, it will make a difference

Coaching has an impact at all levels of an organisation and in a school it can provide a palpable way to breaking down subject or year group divides, work successfully as a tool for transition, build opportunities for cross curricular dialogue about teaching and learning, the embedding of literacy and numeracy and building robust curriculum maps. Once a school realises the power coaching can have on bringing tangible change to the school, to leaders and managers, to a teacher or to a member of the support team and to the individual learner in the classroom, there is no turning back and slowly there is a willingness to change, to focus on the positive and to collaborate and communicate good and best practice rather than dwell on what is not working well. Many of the issues raised as part of the recent emphasis on mental health and well-being can be dealt with using some of the coaching techniques and skills we support staff to develop.

We have developed a range of well-researched and extremely well - received coaching courses that provide a learning platform for every member of the staff within a school from the Senior leadership team to the support teams and even for the Governing body. Some schools start with developing a group of willing teachers who join our Coaching Towards Outstanding Teaching and Learning day, others start with developing the senior leadership and middle leader teams by attending both on one or other of our Leading a Coaching School course or our Aspiring to Leadership - a coaching event for middle leaders. Some schools start looking at the pastoral process and join us for our Coaching for Pastoral Leaders event where we look at using coaching for behaviour and developing coaching conversations with parents as well as focusing on how coaching can enhance the role of the pastoral leader. We also offer coaching programmes for subject Leaders, Teaching Assistants and Support Staff and for Cover Supervisors. See below for our full list of coaching courses.

  • Leading a Coaching School or College
  • Aspiring to Leadership - a coaching programme for middle leaders
  • Coaching Towards Outstanding Teaching and Learning
  • Coaching the NQT - Going Beyond Mentoring
  • Advance your Coaching - The next steps towards excellence and improvement in teaching and learning
  • Coaching for Cover Supervisors
  • Coaching for Teaching Assistants and Support Staff
  • Behaviour Management - A coaching solution
  • Psychological well-being - Promoting emotional health, mindfulness and wellbeing to optimise learning and achievement
  • Coaching for Subject and Faculty Leaders
  • Coaching for Pastoral Leaders and Year Heads
  • Lesson Study - Improving teaching and enhancing learning through professional collaboration and enquiry
  • Mindset Matters - unlocking learning using Growth Mindset techniques
  • Creating the Expert Learner - Developing the learner voice
  • The Art of Lesson Observation

Join us at our 4th annual coaching conference The Art of Coaching - Successful Strategies for Outstanding Learning and Achievement at Woburn Abbey in the Sculpture Gallery on 29th June 2017.

Sharing some of our successful INSET events

A cost effective way of ensuring highly effective training reaches out to as many people as possible is to plan an in-service day where we come into school and deliver a programme either tailor made to your needs or where you choose an off-the-shelf course to be delivered.

We have put together a list of some of the INSETs we undertook last term. Click here to download the list. School staff and trainers all seemed to have a very rewarding experience at each and everyone of the events we have organised. We look forward to a similar rich and eclectic mix of training to report on at the end of this term. Dawn Hanafin is the person you need to speak to to book an INSET, email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 01746 765076.

Achieving mastery is about working at greater depth and creating learners that are unconsciously competent in their use of skills to access knowledge and understanding

The phrase 'working at greater depth' seems to be replacing the word mastery but essentially means the same thing. The overarching aim, whatever we want to call it is to ensure that where pupils learn a concept, say the use of connectives, they can apply that skill in a variety of different subjects and contexts and not just as an exercise in an English or literacy lesson. Mastery surely means that learners are able to move out of their comfort zone and think for themselves about the skills they are learning and how they can apply them.

In primary schools teachers often have the luxury of teaching both the English and Maths programmes of study and the foundation subjects to their year group. It is often cited in OFSTED reports or in feedback from lesson observation that teachers miss opportunities to deepen pupils skills and knowledge in literacy and numeracy in the context of their subject learning elsewhere. Critical planning of how the teacher will deliver the subject matter is essential in ensuring that the pupil can firstly use the skills they need to access the subject knowledge and then make sense of it. Identifying the skills the pupil will use to access the knowledge is a critical first step and provides the pupil with the opportunity to see how the skills they are using in a literacy or numeracy lessons are being applied in the context of learning elsewhere. Developing a scheme of work should start with identifying the skills a pupil will use to learn, such as listening, reading for meaning, writing for a purpose, research and enquiry or group work that involves discussion. These are all skills a pupil will use to access their learning in a subject specific context. Pupils can then begin to develop these skills and start to understand that they are using the same literacy skills across all their learning. In the same way where number skills naturally occur, for instance where a graph will support the interpretation of a survey or experiment or where a formula is needed to work out the area of a field, the pupil can see that this is something they have learnt in Maths or their numeracy learning. In this way the teacher is guiding the pupil towards unconscious competence in their use of literacy and numeracy skills and they are 'mastering' that skill or 'deepening their understanding' whichever you prefer.

Make sure you have a vocational offer.  It will provide breadth and depth and can make a difference to the successful outcomes for many who find the purely academic route challenging

It is now possible to include three vocational qualifications as part of the third basket of options that pupils can choose from that will count towards their total tally included as part of Progress 8.  For many schools this will provide an opportunity for a broader educational offer for those learners who will struggle to achieve though the purely academic route. There is a comprehensive list of allowable vocational qualifications which you can download by clicking here.  The introduction of a tested element is still problematic for some but for many a change to learning in this way can mean opportunities for a successful outcome that they would be unlikely to achieve through a traditional academic curriculum.  Join us at our Delivering a Vocational Pathway that Counts event and build a vocational curriculum to ensure that all pupils achieve their full potential.

Use this term to plan a robust transition strategy - ensure all pupils achieve their full potential

Now the year has turned and the new Year 3 or Year 7 cohort have had a term to settle in it is a good time to reflect on the efficacy of your transition processes and have a robust plan that builds in effective partnership, opportunities to build on prior learning and ensure there is a seamless transition from Year 2 to 3 or from Year 6 to 7.

Transition is is a vulnerable time for many pupils and the well researched dip in performance of anything up to 39% when pupils move from one key stage to the next, means that it should be at the top of every school leader's agenda. High levels of performance linked to a flight path from a distinct starting point will define the success of a school at the end of Key Stage 1 and 2. Accountability is based on the level of progress pupils make as they move through the years within a key stage.

We have two events that focus on creating a highly effective and seamless transition strategy that builds on prior learning, ensures pupils thrive and make the significant progress expected of them.

  • Moving on - Seamless Transition from Key Stage 1 to 2 - Creating a continuum of learning
  • Crossing the Transition Bridge - Seamless learning from primary to secondary school

Another important event that will be of great interest to those involved in the process of learning for Key Stage 3

  • The Importance of Key Stage 3 - A springboard for deep learning at Key Stage 4 and beyond

Enriching the curriculum - the value of enterprise, careers, IAG linked to SMSC and PSHE

OFSTED have recently published a report based on an investigation of 40 secondary schools into the provision of enterprise education and other curriculum strategies that prepare learners for the world of work. The conclusions from the Getting Ready for Work report are that on the whole there is a woeful lack of curriculum time given to careers, enterprise and vocational education. The report concludes that there is little coherence and a lack of strategy by government, business organisations or individual schools to create a co-ordinated approach to addressing some of the issues around poor provision. The rational behind the report is clearly linked to the decision to leave the European Union. One of the implications of Brexit is that we will have to harness home-grown talent and encourage the creativity and innovation of young people entering the job market at age 16, 18 or after an apprenticeship or university. 

We have three training courses linked to this agenda and we continue to undertake our own research and build new content in response to the changing policy linked to this important element of the choices schools make in planning a wider enrichment curriculum for learners as they move towards preparation for work or the next stage of their education post 16.

  • Designing an Enterprise Curriculum - Creating a coherent programme that builds resilience, creativity and the skills for work and life
  • Delivering Careers Education and Information Advice and Guidance (CEIAG)
  • Delivering SMSC within a 21st Century Curriculum

For primary colleagues we have a lovely new event that takes a very different and topical look at some of the issues that affect youngsters such as bullying, self-esteem, equality and diversity, health and fitness to name but a few. Fairy Twists is immersive pupil led story telling using puppets, masks and props. It is an innovative and highly interactive approach using some excellent resources. Click here to find out more.

We also offer a training course that looks specifically at planning and delivering a vocational education curriculum which has been updated to focus specifically on the role of vocational education as part of ensuring pupils have a range of choices that provide breadth and balance and ensure individual learners can access a curriculum that will allow them to achieve their full potential.

  • Delivering a Vocational Pathway that Counts


For the coaching bookcase:

  • Results Coaching - next steps in leading for growth and change by Kathryn Kee, Karen Anderson, Vicky Dearing, Edna Harris, Frances Shuster provides some useful insights into keeping up the momentum as you develop a coaching culture
  • The Sage Handbook of Mentoring and Coaching in Education by Sarah Fletcher and Carol A Mullen - a useful reference book to add a few new perspectives
  • Instructional Coaching - a partnership approach to improving instruction by Jim Knight. Instructional coaching is an American idea which is worth exploring in relation to its place as part of a coaching culture
  • Emotional Coaching - a practical programme to support young people by Robyn Hromek looks at the use of coaching to help young people with some of their issues

I was going to read Iris Murdoch's A Fairly Honourable Defeat; over Christmas, it didn't happen, suffice it to say the house was full of bugs, children and very comfortable family members all enjoying the log fires and winter walks. I will read it by the time we write the next newsletter!


  • Theresa May announces funding to support schools tackle mental health issues
  • Social integration. The MPs’ cross Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration released an interim report setting out six principles including clearer strategies, local action plans, better data and compulsory ESOL classes where necessary, as a basis for improving community cohesion
  • Digital naivety. The Children’s Commissioner published a new report highlighting the issue of more young children using the internet but without necessary safeguards and calling as a result for compulsory digital citizenship in schools, stronger data protection and a Children’s Digital Ombudsman
  • A recent report from OFSTED called 'Getting Ready for Work' looks at how 40 schools provide for Careers, IAG and Enterprise Education and how ultimately they prepare learners for life and work after the age of 16. We have produced a two page summary which outlines the main points and recommendations. Click here to read it or download it.

We have listed here some of the most recent reports that make important reading. The latest OFSTED annual report, highlights the 'comparably low status of teaching' and the chronic issues linked to recruitment and retention of staff. The recently published report on the number of 'coasting schools' suggests that there are a significant number of schools where the results for pupils do not improve over time. The latest PISA results suggest the profession has a lot to do to ensure we can truly say we are world class players in the global education family.

An important innovation for all our consideration in the new year is the brand new Chartered College of Teaching which will start to take members from January 2017. Membership is voluntary and gives those working in education the opportunity to join an organisation that has the same professional standing as other membership organisations such as the Chartered Institute of Accountants, Surveyors or Physicians.

The new year brings opportunities for the profession to drive its own agenda for change and work together towards a vision where all learners achieve their full potential. We love being a part of this agenda for change. We took a long break over Christmas and New year and are now back in our brand new offices to also carve new and innovative learning platforms for educators.