School’s success not possible without young staff, says head

Having “very young members of staff” who are prepared to implement a new system of behaviour management has been crucial to a new school’s success.

Peter Lee (pictured), the head at Q3 Academy Langley, an academy outside Birmingham, said his young staff were willing to employ methods drawn from other academies and free schools, which allowed the senior leadership team to build the school up “from scratch”.

These strategies include the “SLANT” directive used by Michaela Community School in north-west London, which requires pupils to sit up straight, fold their arms and track the classroom leader with their eyes, when the teacher says the word.

Lee was impressed when he visited the school, although his staff only use it for two minutes at a time – whereas he once observed it deployed for 45 minutes at Michaela.

Pupils can also receive a five-minute detention for every item they forget from their pencil case. After working in another school where pupils didn’t bring pens to exams, Lee decided to provide pupils with pencil cases in year 7, with star rewards for having the full set and a punishment for forgetting anything.

They think you’re the devil incarnate, but it works

“This works,” he said. “You say it at parents’ evening, and they think you’re the devil incarnate, but it works.”

During transitions between lessons, pupils are given 15-minute detentions if they turn around, clip another pupil’s heels, or talk beyond saying good morning.

Pupils are also required to call all adults on site Sir or Miss, make eye contact and smile.

Mobile phones are collected at the start of the day and locked away, following one experience in which he spent seven hours trying to find a stolen iPhone before finding it hidden inside a pupil’s shoe. Pupils would also text their parents to complain about teachers, who would then turn up to have a shout at staff.

Meanwhile, a tight lunch process has ensured two-minute slots between eating sessions for the year 7s and year 8s, who are currently the only pupils at the school.

“People have called it militaristic, and I get that – perhaps that’s my police background,” said Lee, who trained as an officer before switching to teaching. “But it has to be.”

The “biggest single determiner” of a school’s success is behaviour, he suggested, having worked at those rated ‘outstanding’ through to ‘inadequate’.

When the school first opened in September 2016, Lee was expecting heads of subjects from other schools to apply but instead it attracted mainly newly qualified teachers or recently qualified teachers.

But the young team have enabled him to lay down behaviour and other policies without resistance.

“A lot of our systems and processes would have probably only worked with very young members of staff,” he said. “If I had become a head in a fully-functioning, established school, would I have been able to do some of the things we’ve done? I don’t think the answer is yes.”

He has also implemented a family lunch, having seen it at Michaela, so pupils and staff can sit together and discuss suggested topics, from politics to ethical issues, with one another.*


*This article has been corrected to make clear that only staff and pupils, rather than parents, attend the family lunch. The school is also an academy rather than a free school.

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  1. Young teachers in their first jobs lack contrary experience, are easier to bully and being in their first jobs they won’t argue.

    SLANT and other forma of child abuse and bullying result in compliance at the cost of deep learning. Vygotsky had it right.

    “The true direction of the development of thinking is not from the individual to the social, but from the social to the individual.

    By giving our students practice in talking with others, we give them frames for thinking on their own.

    Every function in the child’s cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological). This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts. All the higher functions originate as actual relationships between individuals.

    Through others we become ourselves.

    What children can do with the assistance of others might be in some sense even more indicative of their mental development than what they can do alone.

    The child begins to perceive the world not only through his [or her] eyes but also through his [or her] speech.

    Human learning presupposes a specific social nature and a process by which children grow into the intellectual life of those around them.

    … People with great passions, people who accomplish great deeds, people who possess strong feelings, even people with great minds and a strong personality, rarely come out of good little boys and girls.” See

  2. Telling is not teaching and listening is not learning. See

    SLANT and its like can result in good GCSE grades, but this says more about the inadequacies of the GCSE system than the success of bullying children as a teaching method.

    The chickens come home to roost at A Level where students forced to pass GCSEs through the methods of ‘Stalinist’ re-education camps cannot be persuaded to submit to what they fear will be more of the same at A Level in maths and STEM subjects. The result is the serious national shortage of STEM graduates needed to address the growing UK innovation and productivity deficit.

    If such methods result in understanding at KS4 then why are they not used at A Level? To obtain the answer would need a discussion with with some experienced teachers not young ‘taught on the job’ teachers, who on the basis of current teacher retention figures, are unlikely to stay long in the profession anyway.

    The cover of my book, ‘Learning Matters’ shows two students in a SLANT type lesson. One is surreptitiously passing a note to the other (how dare they?).

    On it is written,’do you get it coz I don’t’. No amount of SLANT can bring about understanding, but this is counter-intuitive and Executive Principals and MAT Chief Executives that have never studied education would know that.

  3. If SLANT is such a good idea, I wonder whether staff are expected to comply with SLANT in staff meetings and INSET sessions. Maybe it is more difficult to bully teachers than it is pupils.

    • Brian – let’s go further and expect MPs to SLANT in the Commons. This might stop the chatting, tweeting and paper rustling which goes on when someone is speaking. Perhaps Suella Fernandez MP could suggest this the next time she praises Michaela Community School, the free school where she’s a governor.

  4. wasateacher

    As posted elsewhere, I am reminded of a Maths class I had who were finding it difficult to follow my instruction to get on with their work. I told them to stand up (which they did), then sit down (which they did). After several repeats of the instruction, they understand that they were following pointless instructions which didn’t move them forward, but were not following an instruction which would benefit them. I only needed to do it once. It is easy to get pupils to blindly follow stupid instructions. It is much harder to educate them to think and learn something useful.