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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.

Seizing the Agenda | From Raising the Floor to Raising the Ceiling

September 2, 2015

David Crossley



David Crossley, Executive Director, Whole Education


Whole Education’s 6th Annual Conference at Kings Place, London on the 12th and 13th of November seeks to enable school leaders and educators to share and develop their thinking in order to ‘seize the agenda’. The first day will explore how schools can raise attainment and meet national accountability measures, whilst developing learners who are both work and life-ready.  The second will involve employers, industry experts, school leaders and other stakeholders in exploring how we can best equip the learners of today to thrive in the World of tomorrow

The first day of the conference, facilitated by Professor Sir Tim Brighouse, will provide an opportunity for primary and secondary school leaders to establish a shared vision for school improvement that will enable your school to thrive, sustain and build on its achievements to date whilst focusing on medium and longer term goals too. Our aim in ‘seizing the agenda’ is to help us to sustain, build on and direct the movement of change towards what we value in order to enable both our schools and our system from “good to great”. Contributors include: Sir David Carter, Regional Schools Commissioner for South West England; Toby Greany, Professor of Leadership and Innovation, Institute of Education; Drs Linda Kaiser and Judy Halbert from British Columbia; plus school leaders and students from our network.

The second day, facilitated by Lord Jim Knight former Schools and Employment Minister seeks to contribute and inform the debate about the skills and knowledge that young people need so they can leave education with “dignity, purpose and options”(Drs L. Kaser and J. Halbert). The day will progress to explore and discuss how we can collectively best deliver these requirements. We will endeavour to respond to recent warnings of a skills shortage and reflect on how we can productively cater to the ends of 50% of student who will not go to university.

Overall, the conference will explore how we can collectively approach leadership, change and accountability; learning and pedagogy; curriculum and assessment; and in a time  when schools feel under increasing financial pressure, with school budgets no longer growing in real terms to explore how we are and can make best use of the professional skills, capacity and wider resources we have.

The conference is open to members and non-members of the network. Delegates have rated the conference as one of the most inspiring and important events in their annual calendar.

“To describe my two days on your conference as life-changing does not even begin to give you the sense of enthusiasm and delight I experienced.” – Feedback on 5th Annual Conference

If you would like more information, please view the conference flyer here or visit the conference website. You can also follow us on Twitter for the latest updates @WholeEducation #Seizingtheagenda

To book your place(s) fill in our booking form here, alternatively, please contact Chloe at or call 0207 250 8423.

We are pleased to offer a 10% Early Bird discount for all bookings received before Wednesday 16th September 2015.

Going above and beyond | The Martin Bacon Memorial Headteacher of the Year Award

July 14, 2015
Andy Sprakes receiving his award

Andy Sprakes receiving his award

This year, as Andy Sprakes stepped up to receive his award he gave a little speech.

“I don’t believe in awards”, he began. Uh oh.

“It’s not me who has made any of this happen, is it? It’s the students and their families, the staff and the governors, it’s everyone”.

This tells me Andy is a perfect candidate for our Martin Bacon Memorial Headteacher of the Year Award.

I never had the privilege of meeting Martin Bacon, but he is credited with great success: turning Swavesey Village College into the best performing secondary school in Cambridgeshire, with a national reputation for excellence and a steadfast focus on delivering a whole education; establishing the Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust as a lasting legacy, turning around Nene Park Academy, beginning the process at Manor School, and paving the way for the new build at Northstowe; and all the while still finding time to value individual young people in the school, many of whom remember sitting down for a cup of tea in Mr. Bacon’s office.

When asked about the secret of his success, Martin replied with the words Andy echoed last week: the praise wasn’t due to him; it was the students, the staff, the whole team who made a school successful. Perhaps he would have been embarrassed to learn we named our award after him.

Andy Sprakes has a similar track record of school improvement, as the Head at Campsmount Academy in Doncaster where he had everyone back in a learning environment the same week that the school burnt to the ground in an electrical fire, and led the school to its best ever results and a glowing Ofsted report despite working out of Portacabins.

This year, still not satisfied with the success he was having, Andy co-founded and took on the headship at a new flagship school, XP, working from Ron Berger’s expeditionary learning principles and with a supportive culture at its heart. At XP, students work in crews to produce beautiful work as part of expeditions that have end products with real value and real audiences. Andy has been in temporary accommodation again, but this time an adapted room in Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium. We took 25 visitors over there this term and were astounded at the students’ enthusiasm and eloquence in speaking about their unique curriculum. As a free school, the team at XP didn’t have to follow the National Curriculum, but their vision is to see what they are doing replicated, so they’re making it as easy as possible for other schools to follow in their footsteps.

So should we be rebranding our Headteacher of the Year award? Our previous winners, Sally Lees at Homewood School and Sixth Form Centre, Wendy Heslop at Cramlington Learning Village and Karine George at Westfields Junior school, are very different leaders but share the same emphasis on developing staff and students and a culture of experimenting and achieving. Modesty and a genuinely empowered team might make any of these great leaders feel awkward about accepting an award for the achievements of their schools, but perhaps this makes it more important that we blow a trumpet for them.

By Iggy Rhodes
Whole Education Network Facilitator

Developing a curriculum that meets the needs of all young people, whilst making the most of the choices we have

February 16, 2015

An Education worth Having | Whole Education Curriculum Conference March 5th London

Developing a curriculum that meets the needs of all young people, whilst making the most of the choices we have

David Crossley Executive Director Whole Education Network

The Whole Education Network champions and shares practice that supports the development of a curriculum offer that is “real, relevant and engaging” that not only will meet the conventional system demands, but also develop wider skills and attributes too. We argue that the offer of an entitlement to a whole education is the only way to truly narrow the gap and genuinely meet the needs and aspirations children and young people.

Together we can build our confidence to really make a difference

Our annual curriculum conference on 5th March seeks to explore how we can offer a curriculum that meets the needs of all of our learners, whilst at the same time meeting the demands, challenges and changes to our system; including GCSE and AS Levels examinations, changing accountability measures and life after levels. To help us to navigate this territory we have contributions from; our Partner organisations and supporters, an examination board (OCR), and expertise on data analysis including use of Progress 8. Most importantly, successful schools in our network will share what they are doing in their schools, and what’s working. Contributing schools include; Passmores Academy, Cramlington Learning Village, Shireland Collegiate Academy, Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust and School 21. We genuinely believe that together we can build our confidence, share our knowledge and understand how best to achieve these goals.

The potential of the profession to harness evidence to drive improved outcomes for children

This year, in the innovative surroundings of The UCL Academy at Swiss Cottage, London the conference will open a keynote talk from Dr. Kevan Collins, Chief Executive, Education Endowment Foundation, which will both challenge and inform our thinking. He will explore the potential of the profession to harness evidence to drive improved outcomes for children and inform the design of the curriculum they are offered. We hope the conference will act as catalyst for your schools, and mark the beginning of some important on-going development work across the Whole Education Network, with a particular focus on assessment and measuring what we value.

Isn’t there a case for a more balanced approach to assessment in general?

What exactly are we assessing in a three-hour handwritten terminal examination, and are these the things we really value? Why not include something really radical – teacher assessment. Teachers see students’ work every day and can formally assess a far wider range of skills than is currently asked of them. When combined with an examination element, would we not get a better and more balanced assessment, and a more professional profession too? We live in a digital age: high levels of competence in oracy, presentation, problem-solving, creativity, interpersonal engagement and teamwork are now expectations rather than desirables. Surely it is time to move forward from just assessing what students can write in a test?

Unleashing the Curriculum designer in us all and making the most of the choices we have

Demonstrating what works, being bold, and showing that radical approaches do not just develop wider skills but also deliver in conventional ways too, is surely the best way forward. In England, we have one almost unique advantage – the bulk of the resource is in our hands in our schools. This gives schools choices and options, but only if they choose to use them. This isn’t really about new money. Rather, it is about abandoning things and redeploying the resources we already have. As Sir John Dunford, Chair of Whole Education, Pupil Premium Champion and former general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, who will close the conference often remarks – this is the time for us to stop looking up and to start looking out.

All schools have more choices than they often think or feel. Some are understandably fearful in a context of accountability pressures, floor targets and changes in examinations requirements. Indeed, part of the purpose of the Whole Education Network is to help us be bold and to give us the confidence to take the risk out of innovation. Whole Education offers schools a call to action, a safe space in which to experiment, and a range of contact with others who are on the same journey, maybe even trying the same things. There is a world of lessons out there for us to draw on as we seek to do the very best for all young people. 

David Crossley is Executive Director of the Whole Education Network and a former school leader. His book, Sustainable School Transformation: There is another way, was be published by Bloomsbury in 2013.

Further information

Both members and non-members are welcome to join us on March 5th – for details of the conference visit the conference website here or, e mail

Whole Education is a non-profit organisation committed to ensuring that all young people have access to a broad, rounded education. It works with, supports and enables collaboration between schools that are experimenting with effective and engaging curricula.

Student observations!

February 9, 2015

At our school the Learning Leaders (the student voice group we all attend) do observations of teachers (with their permission of course!). However we decided to design our own observation grid, this includes all the things we think make a great lesson. The ideas are a mix of those we thought of on our own and the school observation grid. We changed the wording however so it made sense to us. We like the grid because it is our way of showing teachers what matters to us.









The Student Leaders at Shenley Brook End School @SBElearninglead #Studentsreport