Learning Assistants: maximising impact

Learning Assistants (Teaching Assistants or Learning Support Assistants) are a large, and indispensable, part of the school workforce, yet research has found the support they provide has no effect on pupil attainment, as schools tend to inhibit their potential, rather than release it.

MITA (Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants) provides evidence-informed school improvement services based on the extensive research and development work they have conducted at the Institute of Education, London. They offer service to schools, local authorities, federations, chains, and partnerships of schools on how to maximise the impact of Learning Assistants.

Check out their website and blog to explore the research, find courses or conferences and keep up to date on best practice.

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You Can Learn Anything

Check out this video from the Khan Academy highlighting why it is crucial for educators to develop growth mindsets in the children they teach.  We used it to inspire and develop growth mindsets in our staff on training days and the children during assembly.  Enjoy.

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Assessment: from government led to student led

The aim of this post is to challenge and provoke thinking about what quality assessment really looks like.  Currently, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding assessment in education and it has always been a highly charged and debated topic among academics and teachers.  This post should help identify the limitations of levels and, hence, why they have been removed from the new curriculum.  Furthermore, the power of student led assessment and critiquing will be highlighted and why this needs to be developed across far more schools in England.

One of the biggest changes in the new National Curriculum is the removal of levels and what this means for future assessment.  Watch Tim Oates, chair of the expert panel which informed the review of the national curriculum 2010 to 2013, talk about the purpose of changes to assessment in the new curriculum and rationale behind moving away from levels.

Although having been teaching and researching passionately for many years, Ron Berger’s outstanding findings on student led assessment has only recently become more widespread as a result of his video entitled ‘Austin’s butterfly’.  It does not matter if you have seen this video before, as it inspires every time. Watch and wonder.

The video illustrates the power of Assessment for Learning (AfL), specifically feedback and the use of success criteria (although Ron uses the term ‘critique’ to include all the elements of effective AfL).  Furthermore, Ron’s most recent book entitled ‘Leaders of their own learning: Transforming schools through student-engaged assessment’ is an excellent read and another investment worth making.

Amazon.co.uk describes the book as follows: ‘From Expeditionary Learning Schools comes a proven approach to student assessment Leaders of Their Own Learning offers a new way of thinking about assessment based on the celebrated work of Expeditionary Learning Schools across the country. Student–Engaged Assessment is not a single practice but an approach to teaching and learning that equips and compels students to understand goals for their learning and growth, track their progress toward those goals, and take responsibility for reaching them. This requires a set of interrelated strategies and structures and a whole–school culture in which students are given the respect and responsibility to be meaningfully engaged in their own learning. It includes everything teachers and school leaders need to implement a successful Student–Engaged Assessment system in their schools.  It outlines the practices that will engage students in making academic progress, improve achievement, and involve families and communities in the life of the school.

Assessment continues to be an ongoing struggle for many teachers, often causing much anxiety.  With the theory and rationale behind the abolition of levels explained by Tim Oates and the inspiring work of Ron Berger and his colleagues, it is an exciting time to be a teacher and be able to develop a child-engaged assessment system that is grounded in the principles of AfL and tailored to the school, children and teacher’s setting.

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What’s the purpose of education?

Have a look at one of the videos we used to inspire our new curriculum at Hamford Primary Academy.  No more words needed.  Enjoy.

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The Educators

Just in case you’re not a regular BBC radio 4 listener, The Educators is an excellent series currently running at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesdays.  Sarah Montague interviews leading figures from education in half hour episodes.  We are currently up to episode 6 of 8 and links to them can be found below:

Episode 1: Ken Robinson

Sarah Montague asks Sir Ken Robinson why he thinks schools are a barrier to creativity.

Episode 2: John Hattie

Sarah Montague asks what really makes a difference to a child’s ability.

Episode 3: Tony Little

The headmaster of Eton College talks to Sarah Montague about his formula for success.

Episode 4: Daisy Christodoulou

Teacher and writer Daisy Christodoulou thinks children are being taught the wrong things.

Episode 5: Paul Howard-Jones

Do we become more effective learners when there’s a chance of winning something?

Episode 6: Sugata Mitra

Prof Sugata Mitra explains why children need more freedom to teach one another.

Please post any thoughts in response to listening to any of the episodes.

Categories: Curriculum, Teaching and Learning | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Genius Hour update!

Further to my post ‘What would be your Genius Hour?’ on June 3, 2014, here is a website link to the UKEdChat discussion on Genius Hour.  The session set out to explore the following:

  1. How do you currently integrate students interests in the classroom through learning experiences?
  2. What is the benefit of pursuing student passions, interests and talents in the classroom?
  3. How did you hear about the concept of Genius Hour?
  4. What problems do you think you might encounter while implementing Genius Hour?
  5. Share one thing that you have learnt about Genius Hour this evening.

Further to the excellent ideas raised during the discussion, UKEdChat also provided some very useful website links to help support the implementation of Genius Hour:







Please post any of your own ideas and experiences below.

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Jumpstart! Grammar: Games and activities for ages 6 – 14

Here is the excellent partnership of Pie Corbett and Julia Strong’s latest offering in their crusade to develop the quality of children’s writing: Jumpstart! Grammar: Games and activities for ages 6 – 14.  Like Pie Corbett’s other Jumpstart game books: Literacy and Storymaking, this is another practical and easy to use text packed full of fun and engaging ideas to develop children’s grammar across the primary school and beyond.

Front Cover

Here is an overview of the book courtesy of Amazon.co.uk:

‘This collection of simple to use, multi-sensory games and activities will jumpstart pupils’ understanding of grammar in action. If you are one of the thousands of teachers who feels insecure about how to teach grammar engagingly, and perhaps also lack confidence in your own grammatical knowledge, then this is also the perfect book for you.

Fun games will focus first on helping children hear the difference various types of grammar can make followed by activities to help them understand what different effects you can create with grammar, rather than dwelling on arid naming of parts. Technical terms will only be introduced once the children have established what the various features can do, with a particular focus on those terms that really help children discuss what makes language coherent and effective. By the time the children are asked to use the terminology, they will have a real grasp of what it’s good for.

It will prepare children for any grammar tests on the horizon in an engaging way so that they love playing with words and spinning sentences to make ideas dance. And, of course, they will be able to name the parts if that is what is required.

Jumpstart Grammar will celebrate the joys of language, and coherent expression; of finding just the right words or phrases to express what you want to say.’

An investment definitely worth making!

Categories: Curriculum, English, Teaching and Learning | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Philosophy for Children (P4C)

At Hamford we are implementing P4C as one of the four pillars of our new curriculum.  Most of the staff are new to using P4C, so we invested in the pocketbooks as a starting point for finding out more.

Authors: Barry Hymer, Roger Sutcliffe
Philosophy for Children (P4C) was conceived by Professor Matthew Lipman in the late 1960s. Here’s what he said about it: ‘The aim of a thinking skills program such as P4C is to help children become more thoughtful, more reflective, more considerate and more reasonable individuals. ‘

Recently, the excellent UKEdChat did a subject special on P4C, which focused on discussing:

  1. What does p4c look like in your classroom, and how is it timetabled?
  2. What are your favourite p4c activities?
  3. Have you ever been surprised by pupils reactions to p4c activities? Can you share examples?
  4. Where do you go for p4c ideas or resources and what do you use to stimulate discussion?
  5. Are there wider benefits to embedding P4C in a school? Any cons? Do you encourage these activities away from school?
  6. Finally, let’s make a usable resource. What are your best/favourite Philosophical questions to use in class with pupils?

Click here to find out what the teaching community contributed to the discussion.  Furthermore, take a look at some of the following website links that members of the Hamford Team have been exploring:





Please post your comments and experiences of P4C, whether at Hamford or beyond.

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Build your Learning Power

As we begin the journey of  designing our new curriculum at Hamford, we continue to consider ways of developing the child holistically so they are prepared for life beyond school and a lifetime of learning.  Have a look at our new Learning Power page.

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Kagan updated!

Our Kagan page has been updated with some videos and the latest Kagan Structure of the Month: Pairs Compare!  Next step: videos of Hamford teachers and children carrying out Kagan Learning structures in our school!

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