*NEWS* We are proud partners with PiXL

We are delighted to announce we are partners with PiXL

PiXL have an outstanding reputation for supporting school improvement. Their unwavering dedication to promoting excellence for all students, belief in people, and family ethos is in line with our strong values that continue to drive us forward year after year. 

As a teacher-led and family - run business we believe: 

  • All children can achieve no matter their social economic background.
  • In a personal and holistic approach to raising achievement and aspirations. 
  • In the power of creativity and imagination to inspire a love of learning. 
  • In family; trust, respect, honesty and unconditional support. 

We are thrilled to be partners with PiXL! All PiXL schools will receive a 20% discount off our workshops. PiXL Schools who would like to work with us to embed a whole - school approach to metacognition, self - regulation and well - being as a Learning Performance Partner School also receive exclusive benefits! 

Our Managing Director, Carrie Starbuck, will be at the PiXL Main Meeting on Thursday 11th May so come and say hello! 

Our values

Are effort grades harming our children?

Gill Robin's book, "Praise, Motivation and the Child," suggests there are two models of teaching. 

Behaviourism vs Constructivism

Robin's argues that Behaviourism creates extrinsic motivators, while constructivism leads to intrinsic motivators. 

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivators

Whilst I don't believe it is quite as simple as that, nor do I believe the two are mutually exclusive, it does beg the question; what type of students would we rather develop - those who have an intrinsic drive to learn or those who do it for the reward or worse, to avoid a punishment?

With Carole Dweck's Growth Mindset taking schools by storm, many schools have adopted effort grades in attempt to recognise and reward her work. 

Yet studies such as, Cognitive Evaluation Theory, have shown that such an approach could diminish intrinsic motivation; especially if the children believes the only to work harder is for a reward. 

For example, a child receives a sticker for painting. The child believes the reason they are painting is to get a sticker. This interpretation could diminish the child's intrinsic motivation, as the only reason they are painting to receive the reward. 

There is of course, another possibility that the child believes the reason for receiving the sticker was because they are improving at painting. This would produce positive results such as, feelings of competence and pride. 

It is the interpretation from the student that is key. What do they believe?

Edward Deci and Richard Ryan's work on Cognitive Evaluation and Self - Determination Theory led to them identifying 4 learning behaviours. 

Self Determination Theory

Alfie Kohn in "Punished by Rewards," is completely against grading effort. He states, 

"Grades by their very nature make students less inclined to challenge themselves...The fatal paradox though, is that while coercion can sometimes elicit resentful obedience, it can never create desire."

Kohn's concern is that low grade for effort is more likely to read as, "You're a failure at even trying." On the other hand, high grade efforts combined with a low grade for achievement says, "You're just too stupid to succeed." 

Deci and Ryan's suggested solution was to focus on the three primary factors that encourage motivation: 

  1. Autonomy 
  2. Competence
  3. Relatedness

Kohn's three points to motivate students were similar:

  1. Pupil Autonomy
  2. Learning Mastery
  3. The acknowledgement of curiosity 

What do you think - are effort grades the best thing since sliced bread or are they detrimental to students' motivation? 

Join the conversation tweet me @CarrieStarbuck

What makes successful schools successful?

The government commissioned the NFER to research good practice in raising attainment of disadvantaged students. They specifically looked at features of schools that successfully narrowed the gap and compared them to schools that weren't doing as well. 

It is a fascinating report but like it's title, it is long and not sexy. It is tough to find time read such reports so we have gathered the highlights to make life a little bit easier. 


What makes successful schools successful?

This is the question on everyone's lips. In a nutshell they place an emphasis on: 

  1. Teaching and learning strategies including emotional/social support. 
  2. Straightforward assessment for learning systems. 
  3. Clear feedback for pupils. 
  4. Improving pupils' ability to learn through metacognitive strategies


What is the silver bullet to raising attainment?

There is no one singular approach identified as raising attainment. This is important, they repeat that a lot. In fact, the most successful schools had on average, 18 different strategies in place to support disadvantaged pupils. 

The are four main groups of strategies used by schools to raise attainment. The analysis of relationships between these factors identified one statistically significant relationship; more successful schools were more likely to use Group 4 - metacognitive strategies. 

This is supported by the Schools' Week Alternative GCSE League Table which shows the best performing schools in the country for FSM pupils. We work with 4 out of the top 10 schools with our Pupil Premium Project.  


What can my school do next?

What is clear from the study, is the effectiveness of such strategies relies on them being embedded into a whole - school ethos of aspiration and attainment. 

There are seven building blocks for success:

Building Blocks for Success

What is the improvement journey?

I found the below visualisation of the school's pathway to success really helpful. 

Timescale 3 - 5 years

Timescale 3 - 5 years


There is no simple or one size fits all solution to closing the gap. Instead, a number of measures are required including setting a culture of high expectations and looking at evidence based strategies, such as metacognition. It must be tailored to each school's circumstances and above all, the students themselves. 

For more information about our partnerships focusing on metacognition, self - regulation and resilience, and the whole child please click here.