Review by Sarah Gallagher

Headteacher, Snape Primary School and PGCE tutor, University of Cambridge

18 Nov 2023, 5:00


The Conversation – with Sarah Gallagher

Practice makes mindset

This week’s guest on the School Behaviour Secrets podcast is Kate Parish, a primary teacher who also specialises in neuroscience (among many other talents).

The conversation offers up a refreshing take on growth mindsets, which I will be putting into practice myself and with pupils. Parish makes the point that, though many schools use growth mindset terminology, there’s little evidence to measure impact. This is unsurprising; having posters up and talking about something  doesn’t add up to practical application.

But practical application is where Parish shines. Using correct terms for our brain (which even younger children are quite capable of remembering), she talks through a process which enables us to take control of our thoughts rather than let them take control of our actions.  

I guarantee you’ll want to hear about the ‘grab, look and bin’ method, which has had success with children to regulate their emotions and develop their self-esteem. With techniques like this, we can genuinely start to train our children to adopt a growth mindset and take back control over their learning powers rather than deploying so many empty words, too often after the fact.

What’s in a name?

‘How silly,’ I thought when I saw the theme of former headteacher and leadership consultant, Jill Berry’s new blog. ‘Of course we need to know children’s names.’ However, empowered by my podcast listen I resisted this thought process, tamed my amygdala and went on to read it open-mindedly. After all, a secondary school setting is a different thing altogether.

But still, how crushing for a young person to attend a school and not feel seen. This is what motivates Berry to write, and just like Kate Parish she is not satisfied with mere words. Armed with some useful tips on how to go about remembering lots of them, every teacher can play their part in creating a culture of belonging regardless of setting.

Results beget results                    

Speaking of the differences between big and small schools, this schools commentary on the Ofsted blog appears to be an attempt to reassure the sector about the return of data at the heart of inspections now that we have two years of IDSR data to go on.

The analysis reiterates that Ofsted takes a holistic view and don’t just look at test and exam results, but nevertheless makes clear that it is uncommon for the two to be out of kilter.

As always there are some caveats, including one that interests me. Small schools have very ‘noisy’ data which can be heavily skewed due to small cohorts. Indeed, the IDSR for small schools displays greyed out sections due to unviable statistics.

Can Ofsted claim to be giving parents a full picture of a school if a summary judgment is ostensibly informed by aberrant data? To me, this seems like another good reason for one-word judgments to go. Until then, this article’s assurances don’t feel very reassuring – at least for small schools.

Progressive amnesia

Finally this week, Walk Thru co-creators, Tom Sherrington and Oliver Caviglioli appeared in the first episode of season 3 of Zack Groshell’s Progressively Incorrect podcast to serve up a timely reminder that if we are to expect professional dialogue and practice we need to make time for them.

I can hardly believe I’m writing this, but I am one of the ‘old teachers’ referred to in this conversation – the ones who are heard to mutter ‘I used to do that’ when presented with some of the authors’ teaching techniques. But there’s no judgment here. Caviglioli calls this ‘continual professional amnesia’; teachers are kept so busy they often can’t remember what works.

The programme’s focus is on instructional coaching. As a primary PGCE tutor, I’m proud of the work we do in this regard to build classroom confidence and demystify practice, and I agree with Sherrington and Caviglioli that we need to do this for teachers at all career stages. I was also pleased to hear them emphasise the importance of context and working with what you’ve got. More reassuring than Ofsted, for sure.

I’ve grabbed. I’ve looked. I’ll let you guess what’s going in the bin this week.

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