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Why Growing Great Schools?

November 7, 2016

 – from David Crossley, Associate Director of Whole Education

The Whole Education Annual Conference enables school leaders at all levels from within and beyond our network to come together to share, reflect on, explore current challenges and opportunities.

As delegate after delegate has commented, the conference is a chance to step off the day-to-day treadmill, be inspired and perhaps identify a key idea or way forward for your own school or schools. It also helps form and cement relationships with colleagues from around the country.

In January, we come together at time when few expect resource levels in our schools to increase in the years ahead but most will want to continue to change and develop what they do. This raises the risk of constantly adding things to what we do already and overloading already hard pressed staff.

This challenge set the basis for this year’s theme of ‘doing thing differently’, examining how we can make the most of the staff and other resources we have and how we can ensure we focus our efforts on things that will make a real difference to the life chances of all the children and young people in our care.

On Day 1 we look forward to the inputs, reflections and learning our plenary speakers, including Becky Francis, Jonathan Neelands, Estelle Morris and Tim Brighouse, will explore with us, and the ideas and developments in practice schools and other partners will share.

On Day 2 Andy Hargreaves will lead and facilitate an involving and engaging day around the important questions about leadership, effective collaboration and how to be bold and successful. Sir David Carter will also share his thinking on our school led system and on the importance of how we support develop our most important asset our staff.

We are shaping a confident agenda that will tackle the real challenges schools are facing head on and work towards positive responses. I look forward to meeting many of you there.

Click here to read the most recent conference programme.

Click here to book your tickets.

Growing Great Schools – booking now open for 7th Annual Conference

October 20, 2016

Booking is now open for our 7th Annual Conference, taking place on Thursday 26th-Friday 27th January 2017.

The Growing Great Schools conference will focus on thinking differently to achieve more with less.  On the first day a range of inspirational speakers, including representatives from schools, will share their experiences of practical solutions and wider perspectives. The second day will be facilitated by Professor Andy Hargreaves, who will explore how to make the most of teachers’ professional capital through uplifting leadership.

Visit our booking page to see pricing and the latest agenda and don’t forget to check back here for exclusive input from conference speakers.


Partner Post | Evolve Health Mentors

March 24, 2016

Evolve Health Mentors embedded in primary schools are having a powerful effect on the whole education agenda, an independent research study has found.

A leading Professor of Physical Activity and Health is calling for greater use of Health Mentors in schools after a report found they are having a positive impact on changing the emotional wellbeing and behaviour of children.

A research study led by Professor Jim McKenna of Leeds Beckett University, has found the work of Health Mentors from social impact company’s Evolve’s Project HE:RO led to previously inattentive pupils doing better in lessons.

And by building positive relationships with both pupils and staff the mentors’ short-term benefits of boosting emotional wellbeing are likely to extend to a healthy future life and higher academic progress for all pupils.

A researcher shadowed trained Evolve staff in four schools in Keighley, West Yorkshire, for five days as they mentored children using increased physical activity and one-to-one help with learning when needed.

Professor McKenna said: “This project that builds positive relationships works better than anything like it that we’ve seen brought into schools.”

“The work of the Health Mentors is having a profound effect on the whole school environment. Although the mentors tend to work with disruptive children, that impact extends to all children. If a teacher has a class of smiling children this helps the behaviour of everyone in that class.  That improves all classroom activity.

“I would like to see the health mentoring scaled-up into more schools. That would see a notch up in children’s performance by displacing a lot of anti-social behaviour.”

Professor McKenna added:  “Any school might benefit where it has similar issues to those in the Keighley schools we visited.  That said, there are many schools that are already very well served for adult ‘presence’.  Most, however, are not well served by adults who bring an activity-oriented approach to learning.”

The Evolve programmes are active in London, Birmingham, Sheffield, Bradford and Nottingham, where they are having a positive impact.

Professor McKenna explained that by improving physical activity and health and promoting positive behaviour, children learn self-control in the classroom and for the rest of their lives. “In the short-, mid- and long-term this helps enhance positive behaviours and prevents anti-social and criminal behaviours.

“If success only comes in a chaotic way, children don’t learn how to control their achievements. It is crucial that children learn how to control success in a structured way before the age of ten,” he said.

“Some boys don’t have meaningful relationships with male adults as primary school teachers are predominantly female. Few of these boys had any gifted male role models show any interest in them.  Through Project HE:RO they have access to adults they can trust. This results in emotional wellbeing; once that’s in place, then we are in business for better learning.

“The mentors are having a powerful effect in unlocking success and supporting the oasis of learning that teachers are working so hard to create.”

The research was commissioned by Bradford Public Health to evaluate the impact of Health Mentors. Independent researcher Stephen Zwolinsky observed the mentors, interviewed teachers about their experiences, collected data and identified the impacts of physical activity and social behaviour.

He said: “Project HE:RO supports children’s holistic development. With a particular focus on increasing their contact with supportive adults, mentors energetically promote physical activity.”

“Evolve carefully recruits and trains young, active and highly motivated staff.”

“The teaching staff and head teachers I spoke to were all fulsome in their praise for the positive addition to the staffing and the importance of the mentors’ contribution.”

“It was fantastic to see how the inspiring role models built relationships with the pupils and made such a difference. I wasn’t expecting to see such amazing changes in behaviour, self confidence and academic achievement.” A class teacher who was interviewed for the study said: “The confidence he has built there is amazing, a real big change, you see a huge difference. The pupil he is working with has massively grown in confidence.”

And a head teacher said: “It’s about meeting the social and emotional needs of the children, if you can’t concentrate, have no confidence or lack self-esteem then the classroom is a very difficult place. Building that up, for me, is so important before you can start learning.”

Birmingham-based Evolve director John Bishop said the findings of the report are welcomed and he hopes the study will be taken seriously by education leaders.

“Our strength is bringing children’s health and education together,” he said.

“We combat inactivity and obesity through active learning and this is improving basic numeracy and literacy. The research shows that one of our biggest assets is improving the emotional wellbeing of pupils too.”

His co-director, Keighley-based Graham Morgan said Evolve is commissioned by individual head teachers to provide successful health intervention. “Physical activity is helping prevent future illnesses that cost the NHS millions, such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. We can help prevent these conditions.

“Our success has come from careful recruitment, rigorous training and the excellent rapport our Health Mentors develop when engaging with children.”

Project HE:RO (Healthy Engagement: Real Outcomes) has been running since 20 and delivers programmes to 120 primary schools.

For more information about Evolve visit

To view the full evaluation report of Project HERO click here

Unleashing the curriculum designer in us all at Secondary

March 23, 2016

graph image cropped Heather Tydesley, Whole Education Secondary Network Facilitator

“Thank-you for a very inspiring day that has brought my spark back!”

– Feedback from Deputy Headteacher, Curriculum/Teaching and Learning


This year’s Secondary Curriculum Conference, ‘Unleashing the Curriculum Designer in us all‘, had some big questions to answer: If we are to become curriculum designers again, where do we start? And how should the process of innovation be managed? What are others’ doing about assessment and how do we know what is best for students in our schools?

Our host school, Shireland Collegiate Academy, certainly got us off to a good start: their inspirational and bold journey of change to establish a blended curriculum and assessment model that suits their learners encouraged delegates to consider the needs of their own school and what stood in the way of meeting them.

“Real admiration for Shireland’s L4L; it’s a brave and rigorous programme”

– Feedback from Head of Year 7


Network schools shared some brilliant practice in breakout sessions and Sir John Dunford reminded us that KS3 is a really powerful place to deliver a whole education, that we are stronger together in working toward a curriculum that maps skills and qualities onto the development of  knowledge, and finally that we need to ‘stop looking up and start looking out’.

“Refreshed my desire to make the change for my students”

– Vice Principal




North East Regional Workshop – at Lord Lawson of Beamish Academy

March 22, 2016

Regional workshops were piloted for the first time last month, hosted by Lord Lawson of Beamish Academy in Newcastle. The event was very successful, perhaps because it is the only occasion on which schools in different ‘sub-regions’ come together at a regional level to share some of their strongest practice over the year.

Sessions presented by schools from across the region included ‘Emerging from The Wasted Years – Ensuring Challenge at KS3′, ‘Questioning for Challenge’, and ‘A whole school and inter-school approach to action research based on the Spirals of Enquiry model’.

I think we all benefited from learning about Lord Lawson’s approach to life without levels, their work to prevent the gap from emerging in KS3, their quality assurance process and lots more.

“We all want to do the best for our students, but it can get very insular when you’re just working in your school and you’re not going and having a look at what else is out there… One of the most valuable things about whole education is that opportunity to talk and actually share ideas  and find out what other people are doing… When we’ve had a look at what’s really made our school improvement in the last two years a lot of it has come back to either what we’ve seen at different schools through Whole Education or what we’ve done with the projects… It really is moving us forward.”

– Deputy Headteacher and Whole Education Champion

We look forward to running regional workshops across the country next academic year and do get in touch with your Network Facilitator if you would like to host one.

Heather Tyldesley
Whole Education Secondary School Network Facilitator

Unleashing the Curriculum Designer in us all at Primary

March 22, 2016

“Positive, reaffirming and inspirational”

– Curriculum Lead


Our first primary curriculum conference took place at The Great Northern Hotel in Peterborough on Monday 14th March. Schools from across the network came to share their approaches on designing a child-centered, ‘whole education’ curriculum and discussed the current challenges and opportunities for schools in the ever changing education landscape.

We heard contributions from Sharon Bruton, CEO of The Keys Federation Academy Trust, Iain Erskine, Principal of The Fulbridge Academy, Avnish Dhesi, Head of School at Victoria Park Primary Academy, and David Crossley, Executive Director of the Whole Education Network.

Sir John Dunford OBE, Chair of the Whole Education Network and former Pupil Premium Champion, gave a rousing speech on ways in which schools can seize the opportunities available to them when designing their curricula. He reminded colleagues that the curriculum is really everything a child experiences when they come into school.

“Very inspiring to hear how we can broaden the curriculum for the benefit of our learners… Don’t be afraid to innovate!” 

– Year 5 Class teacher & Science Coordinator


Break out sessions gave schools an opportunity to explore curriculum design approaches by All Saints CE Junior School, Hampton Vale Primary School, Wyndham Primary Academy and many more. There was also an opportunity for practice sharing on topics such as innovations in literacy, use of Bloom’s Solo Taxonomy in the curriculum, child-led learning in Kunskapsskolan and parental engagement in EYFS.

Delegates left the event feeling inspired, emboldened and taking away some excellent ideas for transforming their school’s curriculum.

Thank you to everyone that contributed to the conference. We look forward to seeing you again soon!

Natasa Pantelic, Whole Education Primary School Network Facilitator


Development and Innovation Workshop 2016

January 19, 2016

Our third annual Development and Innovation Workshop served to emphasise the growing demand from Whole Education schools and partners for collaborative work on innovative projects. We are now using our collective weight to access joint funding streams and buck the national trend towards an ever-narrowing offer for our young people.

One year ago, the Whole Education team and our Partner Organisations presented 8 potential projects to interested schools. This year, we began by sharing 10 already-funded projects, while exploring 6 further bids in the developmental stage. Among the funded projects, we had a lively discussion about our whole-school numeracy trial, funded alongside our partner National Numeracy by The Mercers’ Company and The Rayne Foundation, in which 25 of our secondary schools have received match funding to support cross-curricular development of numeracy policies and practices that have a real and sustainable impact on the consistency of numeracy teaching.

Our latest funded project supporting student leadership also proved popular: the Whole Education Student Network is set to be a major focus over the next two years, as funding from the Pears Foundation and Cabinet Office, in collaboration with our partners Learn to Lead, UFA and Makewaves, will support our students to share their ideas on social action and school improvement directly, with match funding to enable students in 15 of our schools to receive training and support to develop action groups across their schools.

Later, we explored six key areas in more depth, sharing already established projects and generating new ideas. Deeper discussion centred around oracy, student leadership, maths & numeracy, literacy and future developments in the Whole Education offer around curriculum support, in addition to an expert input from Place2Be on the link between teacher and student wellbeing.

For more information on Whole Education funded projects and our Development and Innovation Hub, please visit our website.