Growth of private tuition tells story of mounting pressure on parents

Our recent research found that 5% of seven-year-olds and 22% of 11-year-olds were receiving extra academic tuition outside of regular school hours. This suggests mounting pressure is being put on parents to make sure their children “perform”, comparable to the performance pressures on schools to achieve good exam results.

We analysed data from the Millennium Cohort Study, which is tracking 19,000 children born in 2000 through childhood (so far at age three, five, seven and 11) and plans to continue to adulthood. We looked at the children’s out of school activity, at how it changed during primary school and at patterns of activity for children from different backgrounds. The sample we looked at contained about 11,000 children from a white background and about 2,000 from an ethnic minority background – similar proportions to those in the wider population.

Jump in private tuition

Our findings on the extent of children having private tuition, presented at the British Education Research Association conference in September, seem to be quite a lot higher than previous estimates – although of course we are rarely comparing the same groups of children. A paper by education researcher Judith Ireson found that of 3,000 children aged 10-18, 27% had a private tutor. It was only when she got to children aged 11 to 16-years-old living in London that the figures became as high as 40%.

What seems to shock about our figures is that at such a young age, seven years old, 5% of children are having tutoring of some kind. And substantial proportions of children at age 11 are having tutoring, either for English, maths or school entrance. This varied for different ethnic groups, but over 40% of children identifying as Indian, Black, and other (which includes Chinese) had some kind of tutoring.

What we don’t yet have is data on how to interpret these figures. Over the past ten years we have seen the “scholarisation of childhood”, through which parents face enormous pressure to use whatever resources available to them – including tutoring – to make effective choices about their children’s schooling.

Sometimes schools and parents can struggle to engage with each other. In this context, some parents give up and take their own action. This raises questions about the extent to which schools alone are responsible for their exam results – whether good or bad. But we do not know yet how effective private tuition is and how it might influence exam results.

Tough choices

Our research also found that extra tuition was most common among children whose mothers had a postgraduate degree – 30% – and least common among children whose mothers had no formal qualifications, though it was still relatively high at 19%. This suggests that parents with all types of educational backgrounds put an importance on education.

Our finding that music lessons were taken by 43% of children whose mothers had a postgraduate degree, but only 6% of children whose mothers had no qualifications, could lead us to speculate that less educated parents are choosing extra tuition rather than music lessons. But this would be conjecture and more research is needed to interpret this.

There was other good news in our research: most children (78%) help with chores at home, and 53% several times a week. One in ten children aged 11 have commitments at home, caring for elderly, sick or disabled family members at least once a week. It is not easy to find comparative historical figures for the same age – but one in ten seems much higher than other estimates.

What’s clear overall is that there is unequal access to out of school activities. The expense of the school day is shocking. At Newcastle University we are also carrying out an evaluation of Child North East’s work in schools to poverty proof the school day.

They have found that regular costs such as the cost of uniform, trips, homework, swimming lessons and badges, and pressure to collect charity money stigmatise children and parents. In one school, the holiday drama club costs £100 and so excludes a significant proportion of children. The cost of the end of school prom ranges from £250 to £1,000 per child – but students and parents feel pressured not to miss out.

The next phase of our research will be to look at whether there is an association between different after-school activities and educational attainment at age 11.

Written by: Professor of Educational Inclusion, Newcastle University

The education of the heart

By Tran Nhan, Vietnam National University, Hanoi

In this blog post I would like to reflect on my working experience as a part-time Head of English at KOTO Vocational Training Center, Vietnam, a charity organization to train underprivileged youths to work in international hospitality industry. The center is considered the second home of all the youths here, the home where they can feel love, empathy and so much caring to compensate for all the misery they had to suffer during their childhood. The teachers here (both Vietnamese and international volunteers) are normally called “elder sisters/brothers” and we, sisters and brothers, do not just teach them the essential knowledge and skills for hospitality industry but more importantly, we assist them to change their identities from low self-esteem and inefficacy to confidence and success within an 18-month training programme. That seemingly incredible mission has been successfully achieved with the graduation of more than twenty classes so far. The secret behind this success, I firmly believe, lies in the educational philosophy of this center – KNOW ONE TEACH ONE – which reflects the education of the heart and mind mentioned by Sir Ken Robinson, Dalai Lama and Aristotle with his unequivocal saying: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

The educational environment here favors formative assessment.  The teachers have a good understanding of the learners’ living circumstances as well as the affective baggage they may bring to class so that they can be patient, empathetic and wholeheartedly accompany the learners to attainment in their study. Constant verbal feedback is given to the learners both inside and outside class regarding how they progress after each lesson. Weaker learners are boosted by a special tutoring programme with extra support from both Vietnamese and international volunteers. As the learners share the same dormitory, they are assigned to study in pair at home so that they can give and receive mutual support to/from their classmates and the senior learners. Learning and assessment here are similar to what Pryor and Crossouard (2008, p.4) refers to as “an inter-subjective social process, situated in, and accomplished by interaction between students and teachers.”

In this learning environment, more traits of divergent assessment can also be observed. Serious attempts are made at the beginning of the course to establish what the learners already knew, understood or could do via open and explicit dialogues as is mentioned by Pryor and Crossouard (2008, p.4). As most of the learners here start with no English, ‘helping questions’ rather than ‘testing questions,’ have been employed to guide them through the process of constructing new knowledge, correcting mistakes and prompting further engagement. The Know One Teach One culture also indicates that very little explicit ‘teaching’ is found here rather the learners can engage alongside with their “elder sisters and brothers” and peers in carrying out “tasks with high authenticity in the communities of practice in question” (Crossouard, 2009, p.78).

In a nutshell, what I have experienced in KOTO Vocational Training Center is rather contrastive to the traditional form of schools: it favours formative and divergent assessment rather than summative one and a process of co-inquiry rather than measurement (Hargreaves, 2005, p.218). There is a simple truth that I could realize, my heart sings every time I head for the Center.

Author biographical data: Tran Nhan is an IPhD candidate in Education and Communication at School of Education, Communication, and Language Sciences, Newcastle University, the United Kingdom. She works as a lecturer of English in the University of Foreign Languages and International Studies, Vietnam National University, Hanoi. Her research interests include assessment in higher education, thinking skills and learner and teacher identity.


Crossouard, B. (2009) ‘A sociocultural reflection on formative assessment and collaborative challenges in the states of Jersey’, Research Papers in Education, Vol. 24 (1), pp. 77-93.

Hargreaves, E. (2005) ‘Assessment for learning? Thinking outside the (black) box’, Cambridge Journal of Education, 35(2), 213–224.

Pryor, J. & Crossouard, B. (2008) ‘A socio-cultural theorisation of formative assessment’, Oxford Review of Education, Vol. 34, pp. 1-20.

‘Turning Schools Inside Out’: Developing Curriculum with Community Partners

In this blog I will be arguing that it would be extremely beneficial for many schools to engage in community curriculum making (CCM) whereby some of the curriculum is developed with community partners using community resources. It is notoriously difficult to define community, but suffice to say that such an approach would strongly feature the immediate locality but not be confined to it.

The Education Reform Act (1988) established in England that schools should follow a National Curriculum which lays out what subject knowledge and skills should be taught to school pupils. When first introduced, it was characterised by input regulation, in that copious content was specified as the chosen method of government control over schools. Successive reviews have chipped away at this content, and the preferred method of government control has become examination targets, or output regulation. There is a parallel context in the US where the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act imperatives work through state departments of education then down to districts and onto schools, creating strong pressures to teach to the test.

this is a very introverted system which determines curriculum, pedagogy and assessment strictly within the confines of the recognised education ‘industry’ following the policy lead of national government.

Anderson-Butcher et al. (p.161 ) critique the resultant school improvement process as follows ‘ … walled-in improvement planning reflects traditional thinking about schools as stand-alone institutions focused exclusively on young people’s learning and academic achievement, and also reinforces the idea that educators are the school improvement experts’. They argue that resources, opportunities and assets are ‘walled out’, creating an unnecessary gulf between in-school learning and out-of-school learning. In their view this is a very introverted system which determines curriculum, pedagogy and assessment strictly within the confines of the recognised education ‘industry’ following the policy lead of national government.

However it is increasingly argued (e.g. by the Cambridge Primary Review) that schools need greater freedom to offer a curriculum that is locally developed to reflect local resources, opportunities, issues and needs for a proportion of the school week.

The advantages

One of the early advantages one might expect from CCM is interest and engagement. Much CCM work would naturally be issues focused, either national/global issues in local context such as an ageing population or substantial local issues. Evidence from the Royal Society of Arts and our own local evidence in North East England is that primary and secondary students find such work compelling, especially when it brings them into contact with local residents and adults other than teachers.

At a time when many young people have vulnerable identities with regard to sexuality, appearance, personal finance and ethnicity a CCM approach can provide very valuable raw material in terms of role models and experience

A second major advantage is that CCM projects and enquiries have the potential to help students build more complex identities. Generally identity is multi-faceted (albeit with a core), has individual as well as social dimensions, and is dynamic as it is being constantly updated. At a time when many young people have vulnerable identities with regard to sexuality, appearance, personal finance and ethnicity a CCM approach can provide very valuable raw material in terms of role models and experience. At a more basic level students would get to meet a far wider range of people if their school is outward facing. So meeting a dietician, a curator, a care worker, a sound engineer, an allotment holder, a fashion buyer, a joiner or a university researcher can all add to an early store social capital, as well as create insights into working and volunteering worlds and career opportunities. A third advantage is that via CCM, students can undertake commissions for community partners, working to a brief, which gives meaning to their work. This counters the problem that school work only produced for one’s teacher to mark, grade and provide feedback/target can very easily lose any meaning beyond compliance. Furthermore such community or even school briefs can lead to a wide spectrum of project products including reports, displays, films, cartoons, events, plans, food, gadgets, webpages, guides and menus.   Although there is no clinching evidence, a compelling argument can be made that such approaches could have wider social leverage through encouraging more informed labour market choices, widening participation and greater social justice. These issues are significant research agendas.

Whilst many schools, particularly primaries, do use local issues and resources, so much is possible if schools open their curriculum development processes to community partners. For this to happen there is the need for mediators to help schools with process and for a very different model of accountability where much is devolved to the local level.

David Leat, Professor of Curriculum Innovation, Research Centre for Learning and Teaching (CfLaT), School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences, Newcastle University. David is the Executive Director of the Research Centre for Learning and Teaching (CfLaT) at Newcastle University and Professor of Curriculum Innovation. His 13 year geography school teaching career took him round the country, before becoming the geography teacher trainer at Newcastle from 1989 to 2000 and subsequently a researcher.

His research interests started with teaching thinking skills. In subsequent projects, he has been involved in research on Learning2Learn, metacognition and teacher coaching. Between 2001 and 2004, David worked on secondment for a government school improvement strategy, where he wrote many teacher development modules, including Big Concepts, Thinking Skills, Reflection and Coaching.

His current projects revolve around Inquiry/Project Based Curriculum and Community Curriculum Making, in which schools, teachers, students and school partners have far more control over and responsibility for the curriculum. David has worked with Professor Sugata Mitra on both Self Organised Learning Environments (SOLEs) and Skype Grannies/Seniors.

Taken from BERA

Written by David Leat, Professor of Curriculum Innovation

Don’t just send all two-year-olds off to school – involve their families too

The quality of early years education in England has improved, according to a recent report from Ofsted. But while more than 80% of all types of nursery provision is now good or outstanding, not enough of the country’s poorest two-year-olds are taking up their right to free childcare.

All three and four-year-olds in England (and some of the most disadvantaged two-year-olds) are entitled to 15 hours a week of free childcare from all types of nursery education. In 2012, 93% of three-year-olds and 98% of four-year-olds benefitted from some free early education. Around 113,000 two-year-olds (42%) were eligible for 15 hours of free early education, says Ofsted, but did not take up their place.

Ofsted’s chief inspector of schools, Michael Wilshaw, claims this is because “school nurseries have been colonised by the middle classes”. There are, however, other reasons: nurseries may not have capacity for two-year-olds, the fee that the government pays nurseries for each child may not be cost-effective for the nursery or school, and some nurseries are reportedly declining to accept two-years-olds from poor backgrounds.

We know that policies aimed at helping the disadvantaged can be of greater benefit to the advantaged. However, instead of focusing on the inequalities of access to early years care, we should be looking more at the quality of it. Crucially, families need to be more involved in what their young children are doing at nursery or school.

Here is my coat … is it home time?

In January 2014, in a report for the Sutton Trust charity, prominent early years experts Kathy Sylva, Naomia Eisenstadt and Sandra Mathers recommended that the government delay its expansion of free nursery provision for disadvantaged two-year-olds until it could guarantee access to good quality places. The government did not follow their advice.

Some nurseries are rushing to provide places and parents to fill them. Local authorities are doing their best to train nursery staff in areas such as the north and inner-cities that have been disproportionately hit by council cuts. I would like to be able to comment on how this compares with a national picture but the evidence is not there yet.

My conversations with speech and language therapists and other professionals who regularly visit schools and nurseries providing early years places in the north-east of England make clear that it is not access but quality of provision that is the main area of concern.

Access to places will vary nationally, but in areas of the north, many nurseries have been opening their doors to two-year-olds. But two-year-olds are not the same as three or four-year-olds. They tend not to sit as a group and they do not settle the same way. Staff need to be trained for this age group, especially in good communication. What needs to happen in a room of two-year-olds is therefore very different than for older children. One visiting professional I talked to remembered being followed around by an unhappy two-year-old with his coat. “I want to go home” was the clear message.

High quality pre-school can protect young children’s cognitive and social development. And we know what good early years education needs to include. There would be stable relationships between children and responsive adults who have a focus on play, communication and being physically active in a stimulating environment. There needs to be stable, high-quality staff with good leadership and high ratios between staff and children. And parents have to be involved.

Don’t shut families out

The recent Ofsted report has little to say about the role of parents beyond their choice of settings and their role as “teachers” at home. But families are crucial.

Early years education for disadvantaged children needs a joined-up approach between local authorities, nurseries and schools and other organisations involved in their children’s lives that engages with families and focuses on their strengths. This is an approach that is seen in some children’s centres that are providing places for disadvantaged two-year-olds.

Oaktrees is one such, local-authority run, early-life centre based in North Tyneside that caters for up to 64 children of this age group and their families. They have a “stay and play” approach and parents are asked to stay in the centre when appropriate. Oaktrees told me that they offer other work with the whole family that includes adult learning and family activities such as cooking sessions and access to professional support. Links are made with other organisations such as the Adult Learning Alliance to increase the opportunities open to the families.

There is a shared language for parents and children about “learning journeys”. Noticing that nursery places were not available in other settings when their first intake of two-year-olds was leaving, Oaktrees now takes three and four-year-olds to give more sustained support. Most daycare settings do not have the staffing capacity for such a family-orientated approach that teams up with other community organisations.

Families need an approach that recognises and builds upon their strengths and capabilities. In families with children “succeeding against the odds”, teachers, peers and the wider community need to all be involved in helping the children and their parents. Research has shown that such an integrated community approach to schooling can have a transformative impact on children and families and is highly cost-effective.

Instead of blaming the middle classes for snapping up all the free childcare spots, the early years sector needs time, funding and the policy vision to develop high-quality provision that both involves parents, and works in partnership with other organisations to give them families more support.

Taken from:

Written by Liz Todd, Professor of Educational Inclusion at Newcastle University

The challenges and realities of implementing compulsory language learning in schools

René Koglbauer is Senior Lecturer in the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences (ECLS). He is also Deputy Head and Director of Operations of the School and Director of the North Leadership Centre. In this blog, he argues that the proposed changes to the teaching of modern foreign languages in our schools should not be rushed, and that we should engage in active discussions with practitioners, school leaders, researchers and subject associations to make this a successful change.

Two schoolgirls concentrated on their task with notebook

Two schoolgirls concentrated on their task with notebook

What’s the problem?

Since the majority Conservative Government were elected in May, there has been more discussion on the role of languages in schools. Most recently, Schools Minister Nick Gibb MP outlined proposals to reintroduce compulsory language learning in schools. It’s positive to see that the Government are recognising the importance of language learning and to re-position the unique knowledge and skills it brings to the secondary school curriculum. However, should this policy go ahead, we must ensure this isn’t rushed.

There has been a shortage of language teachers in recent years. In the last two years alone, recruitment targets for teacher training places haven’t been met, with 16% going empty for the 2014-15 cohort and the forecast for the coming academic year suggesting a continued decline in applications and consequently in filling allocated training places.

There is also the problem of resources. Recent and proposed cuts mean that an average school will likely struggle to fund the facilities and materials needed. With Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw calling for text books to ‘re-enter’ classrooms, there is further pressure on resources.

We also need to consider whether a single, more rigorous GCSE exam is the right way forward for this policy. Nicky Morgan announced last week that EBacc students will have to gain a grade 5 – equivalent to a low B or high C. What is seen as a ‘good mark’ has therefore risen further. It’s time to get more creative with assessment, looking at how we can keep diverse learners motivated and supported throughout their learning journey.

What’s the solution?

The Government has suggested that where language participation figures don’t improve, schools won’t be able to achieve top grading. Is this really the best approach to motivate and encourage a positive working culture? To get teachers and school leaders on-board, we must not force this onto them too quickly. We need a slower, step-by-step approach, ensuring that change is fully understood, embraced and driven by the school, its culture and its communities, rather than being imposed from outside.

Unless the right implementation is put in place, we risk losing these valuable opportunities to get languages back at the heart of the school curriculum. If we rush and use the stick rather than the carrot, we will simply see demotivated and frustrated teachers, pupils, parents and school leaders. We must engage in active discussion with practitioners, school leaders, researchers and subject associations to make this a successful change.

Taken from the Newcastle University Institute for Social Renewal Blog

Written by Rene Koglbauer, Deputy Head and Director of Operations of ECLS, Director of North Leadership Centre


Using the physical environment to improve education

It might seem as if buildings, the physical location of education, are of only tangential interest to an education researcher: something that can be left to architects in the same way as the human bodies of teachers remain the preserve of biologists.  However, as I will demonstrate, the settings for education, are linked to the practices and outcomes of teaching and learning, both directly and indirectly.  Importantly, the complexity of the relationship suggests the need for developing shared, cross-disciplinary understandings, rather than the adoption of design recipes or reliance on isolated architectural expertise.  There is evidence of physical environments being drivers and enablers of change, but most convincingly when alterations to the setting are integrated with other developments.   Researchers and practitioners of education, therefore, need to think more about actual and possible spaces and places of education.

A fundamental finding is that quality of physical environment broadly correlates with student outcomes, such as attendance, behaviour and achievement (Durán-Narucki, 2008; Kumar et al., 2008; Woolner et al., 2007).  But this is a correlational, not a simple causal, relationship.  It seems to be more about poor environments having negative effects, as opposed to good environments enhancing learning or teaching.  Indeed, defining a ‘good learning environment’ is problematic because its success depends on what you are trying to achieve, with different sorts of learning making different demands on the setting.  This relationship ranges from the banal observation of different environments for PE, science and music, to the more interesting research finding that traditional classrooms tend to be used for teacher-centred teaching while more collaborative learning, as well as teaching, happens in alternative set-ups (Horne-Martin, 2002;Sigurðardóttir & Hjartson, 2011).

Changing the physical setting can be an important part of educational innovations: supporting initial change, then embedding and sustaining new practices of teaching and learning

The next elements to my argument, though, are to note that space does not determine behaviour, although it may influence, and, in contrast, that people can alter space to try to make it fit their intended behaviour.  Individual teachers do this on a small scale whenever they reshuffle classroom furniture, and there is evidence of innovative and effective schools making active use of their setting, reorganising or adjusting as needed to support their educational endeavours (Uline et al., 2009; Rutter et al., 1979).  Changing the physical setting can be an important part of educational innovations: supporting initial change, then embedding and sustaining new practices of teaching and learning.  This role seems most pronounced when the attempted change integrates alterations across social, organisational and physical elements, with development of timetabling, curriculum, staffing and space, for example, pursued as a coherent whole, not as fragmented initiatives.

These sorts of multi-strand changes seem to benefit particularly from including the physical setting because changed space is a tangible sign of the more implicit alterations, and also has the power to inspire and support further innovation.  In a school programme we evaluated (Open Futures: see Woolner & Tiplady, 2014), a very visible school garden was co-opted by a languages teacher to support vocabulary learning through labelling the vegetables in French and as a head teacher in another school put it: “If you’ve got that infrastructure, you can use it and you want to use it don’t you?”.

Thus, while professionals from outside education who design educational settings undoubtedly need to understand teaching and learning, it is equally important that educationalists attempting pedagogical innovation or improvement consider how the physical environment is, or could be, involved.


Durán-Narucki, V. (2008). School building condition, school attendance, and academic achievement in New York City public schools: A mediation model. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 28(3): 278–286.

Horne-Martin, S. (2002). The classroom environment and its effects on the practice of teachers. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 22: 139–156.

Kumar, R., O’Malley, P. M., & Johnston, L. D. (2008). Association between physical environment of second­ary schools and student problem behaviour. Environment and Behavior, 40(4): 455–486.

Rutter, M., Maughan, B., Mortimore, P. & Ouston, J. (1979) Fifteen thousand hours: secondary schools and their effects on children, London: Open Books.

Sigurðardóttir, A.K.&Hjartson,T(2011). School buildings for the 21st century. Some features of new school buildings in Iceland.CEPS Journal, 1(2):25-43.

Uline, C. L., Tschannen-Moran, M., & De Vere Wolsey, T. (2009). The walls still speak: The stories occu­pants tell. Journal of Educational Administration, 47(3): 400–426.

Woolner, P., Hall, E., Wall, K., Higgins, S., & McCaughey, C. (2007). A sound foundation? What we know about the impact of environments on learning and the implications for Building Schools for the Future. Oxford Review of Education, 33(1): 47–70.

Woolner, P. and Tiplady, L. (2014) Adapting School Premises as Part of a Complex Pedagogical Change Programme, ECER, 2 – 5 September, Porto, Portugal.


Taken from BERA

Written by Pamela Woolner, Lecturer in Education

Labelling children ‘dyslexic’ could hinder teachers

To what extent do teachers’ beliefs affect their ability to develop successful classroom practice over time? This question is relevant to many aspects of teachers’ roles. Our interest was in understanding how teachers feel about how they see their ability to support children with reading difficulties. Supporting children to learn to read is seen as a critical component of primary education and as the development of polices around teaching reading through phonics have shaped practice in state schools in England it is in the spotlight more than ever. At the same time there is a sustained anxiety amongst some parents to find a reason, in the form of a label, for the difficulties their children experience.

In our recent investigation we surveyed the beliefs of teachers in primary schools in the North-east of England in relation to supporting children who struggle with learning to read

From our perspectives as academic educational psychologists we are interested in what is known as ‘efficacy beliefs’ which can be defined as the teacher’s individual belief that they can act to make a positive difference. In our recent investigation we surveyed the beliefs of teachers in primary schools in the North-east of England in relation to supporting children who struggle with learning to read. Our questionnaires were designed to elicit responses indicative of teachers’ beliefs that they could do things that would make a difference for these children (their efficacy beliefs). We were also interested in whether or not they thought difficulties with reading were ‘essentially’ biologically distinct and immutable.

Two versions of the questionnaires were developed. In one version children were described as having ‘reading difficulties’. In the second version the words ‘reading difficulties’ were replaced by the word ‘dyslexia’. From all teaching staff in 23 primary schools in the NE of England an opportunity sample of 267 teachers (just over half of all the teachers in these schools) agreed to participate. Schools were matched by number on roll, number of children entitled to Free School Meals (FSM), and number of children labelled as having Special Educational Needs (having statements of special educational needs). All teachers in a school were invited to respond to one variant of the questionnaires. Teachers in a matching school were asked to complete the alternative variant.

We found that when presented with the ‘dyslexia’ variants teachers’ beliefs about being able to do things to achieve appropriate outcomes (their efficacy beliefs) were a) closely associated with responses to items that revealed beliefs that ‘dyslexia’ was biologically determined, immutable and culturally specific; and b) that their beliefs in their efficacy did not increase with experience.

On the other hand, when presented with items describing children as having ‘reading difficulties’ teachers’ efficacy beliefs about being able to motivate and engage children in appropriate tasks were only weakly associated with an element of essentialism we termed ‘cultural specificity’. However, more significantly for us these teachers’ beliefs in their efficacy increased with greater experience.

we suggest that ‘reading difficulties’ may be a more positively helpful label (if any labels can be helpful) than ‘dyslexia’

This may have importance since in general when teachers profess stronger efficacy beliefs these have been associated with better outcomes for children. It is reasonable to anticipate that teachers in their professional careers will encounter a number of children who find it harder than some others to acquire skills in aspects of literacy. Our research suggests that if such children are described as having ‘dyslexia’, then, all others things being equal, teachers appear to be unlikely to gain in confidence that they can intervene effectively. Accordingly we suggest that ‘reading difficulties’ may be a more positively helpful label (if any labels can be helpful) than ‘dyslexia’. The reason we would offer conclusion is that this seems to open the door to a virtuous circle of increasing teacher efficacy beliefs as teachers accumulate experience of work working successfully with children having ‘reading difficulties’. Our proposition is that this could lead to better outcomes for children.

We have just published the study of teachers’ beliefs about teaching children who have some form of difficulty with reading (Gibbs, S. & Elliott, J. (2015) The differential effects of labelling: How do ‘dyslexia’ and ‘reading difficulties’ affect teachers’ beliefs? European Journal of Special Needs Education (In Press) doi:

Dr Simon Gibbs is Reader in Educational Psychology at Newcastle University and is Programme Director for Initial Training in Educational Psychology in Newcastle (the Doctorate in Applied Educational Psychology). His professional and research interests are in developing a greater understanding of how psychology can be deployed to enhance education, the well-being of teachers and their students. He has for some time been fascinated by how reading does (and does not develop) and the beliefs of teachers that enable (and inhibit) reflection and developments in their classroom practice.

Taken from BERA

Written by Simon Gibbs, Reader in Educational Psychology

Beyond mentoring; peer coaching by and for teachers. Can it live up to its promise?

Creating opportunities for individual teachers to work together for professional development is a common ambition in schools in England. Mentoring forms a critical learning resource for both pre-service teachers and those newly qualified (NQTs), offering instruction, support and critical friendship, and typically engaging the mentor in making judgements about the new teachers’ practice. Past the NQT phase mentoring is rarely formalised, and a common concern for early career teachers is that they find themselves exposed to the performance management regime of lesson observation, judgement and target setting with fewer sources of personalised support on offer. For some teachers their next experience of such support comes as they proceed through leadership programmes when they are assigned coaches. In between the NQT and aspiring leader stages a gap can open up, which is typically occupied by membership of school professional learning networks, voluntary attendance at TeachMeets, school-based CPD, subject-based training and engagement in moderation activities. For some teachers there is a growing use of social media for ideas, feedback and a chance to share practice.

Peer coaching takes many forms, but a typical rationale is to fill this gap and to enable teachers to share good practice, work on issues they are interested in and to maintain a focus on improving teaching and learning.Coaching is usually distinguished from mentoring in that it can be accessed in between distinct career transition stages and is less likely to be based on forming judgements and linked to performance management, but instead be orientated towards professional development through learning conversations. Some coaching models deliberately locate teachers in pairs and triads across traditional working boundaries (such as subject departments or key stages) while others use coaching as a mechanism to strengthen working practices within these contexts. Sometimes coaching becomes a whole school endeavour involving all teachers, in other schools a team of coaches is established and either as volunteers or through persuasion they work with a cohort of coachees. Coaching frequently includes lesson observations, sometimes extending to the use of video to stimulate discussion. Coaching is often designed to be cyclical, sustaining sequences of plan, do and review; may be collaborative in that participants work together to plan for learning, and is sometimes reciprocal. Importantly most teachers report that they enjoy being coached. What could go wrong when this sounds so flexible, potentially productive and inclusive?

mentoring conversations are sometimes didactic or instructional, driven by target setting and checking

Having researched coaching over a decade it is clear that issues which support and disrupt it affect its perceived and actual success, and the cautionary tales are useful in diagnosing the potential pitfalls. The first of these might be related to the experience that all teachers have of mentoring. Hobson and Malderez, Wilson , Lofthouse and Thomas all found that mentoring can be distorted away from the personal learning needs of the new teacher. The outcome can be that mentoring conversations are sometimes didactic or instructional, driven by target setting and checking, and do not always engage the mentee in proactive participation in professional dialogue. Teachers’ experiences of performance management observation and feedback can be similar. These experiences can be formative creating conversational and behavioural habits that sustain in coaching. Other teachers report that even when coaching starts as a confidential and personalised learning opportunity it gets swept up by the performance management system of the school or ascribed a role linked to the school’s (rather than their own) CPD priorities. Schools are busy places and coaching uses up the most precious resource, that of teachers’ time. Managing this and the expectations that are generated is problematic. Associated with this is the degree to which decisions and actions in schools are expected to generate outcomes to which teachers and school leaders can be held to account. The drive for ‘improvement’ is incessant and as yet there is limited evidence of the direct link between teacher coaching and pupil attainment. We have started to understand these tensions through a CHAT analysis recognising that coaching too frequently fades in the perfomative culture of schools.

So, where does this leave us? Schools will continue to set up coaching, using its promise as a motive. Research gaps include establishing what can be known about the link between coaching and the desired outcomes for learners. As importantly perhaps, at this time of anxiety about teachers’ wellbeing and resilience, there are real reasons to establish whether coaching can address issues beyond teachers’ and pupils’ performance. Watch this space.

RACHEL LOFTHOUSE is the Head of Teacher Learning and Development for the Education section of the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University. She is also partnership development director for the Research Centre for Learning and Teaching (CfLaT). She has a specific interest in professional learning for teachers and educators, based on innovative pedagogies and curriculum design and practices for coaching and mentoring. These support her learners in building their workplace expertise while developing critical reflection and their ability to contribute to, and draw productively on, the evidence base for teaching and learning. She works with student teachers and their school-based mentors, fulltime teachers as part-time Master’s students, international postgraduate students and school leaders. Rachel has published in peer-reviewed journals on the subjects of coaching and mentoring, the innovative use of video to support practice development, practitioner enquiry and professional learning. She has co-authored a successful book, published by Optimus, called Developing Outstanding Teaching and Learning (now in its second edition), which supports teachers and school leaders in improving pedagogy. She also writes regularly for professional publications and websites. Rachel is currently working with a range of educational practitioners, including those interested in community curriculum development and professional coaching for speech and language support in multicultural early years and primary settings. Through these diverse roles she supports individuals to make a positive impact on the educational outcomes for their own learners and communities.

Taken from BERA

Written by Dr Rachel Lofthouse, Head of Teacher Learning and Development (Education Section)

Making school buildings fit for purpose

In ‘Ideas for an Incoming Government’ no. 14, Dr Pam Woolner from the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences argues that with pupil numbers rising, our schools are under pressure, and our school buildings need to catch up. Her idea is to make working with school students, staff and the wider community a priority in tackling the problem.


What’s the problem?

Our school estate is not fit for purpose. Although this government and the previous Labour administrations have overseen new school building, it was long overdue and has not got anywhere near renewing or refurbishing all the schools in need. It has also led to very uneven provision: schools built over the last 150 years that have been designed for disparate understandings of education.

Meanwhile, student numbers are generally rising, putting pressure on this already-strained infrastructure. For the first time in decades, the UK is experiencing a sustained increase in birth rate which will translate into steady increases in school numbers. As Sarah Healey (then Director, Education Funding Group, DfE) commented in 2013, “this is not a very short temporary bulge […] so it will continue to be a challenge.” (Westminster Education Forum, 16.1.13).

This is concerning because there is an established, if not entirely understood, link between the quality of the school space and student outcomes. In particular, research shows that there are clear negative consequences of inadequate school buildings. Focused research has found direct effects on learning of specific physical problems including noise, high and low temperatures, poor air quality and limited learning space. Other studies reveal correlations between measures of school building and classroom quality with student outcomes including attitude, attendance and attainment. We can see how a poor school environment might contribute to a spiral of decline: this could involve declining student attitudes, increases in poor behaviour, reduced well-being and attendance, lowered staff morale and difficulties in staff retention.

Yet research into the physical environment of education also demonstrates that there is not a single perfect or ideal setting for learning. Although spacious, well-ventilated classrooms with good acoustics and temperature controls will tend to be beneficial, the suitability of other aspects of the school building will depend on what the school community wants to do: collaborative learning in groups, hands-on science, musical performance and sport all make particular, sometimes conflicting, demands on space.

The solution

There is some evidence that in effective schools, staff tend to engage with the physical environment and attempt to make it fit their needs. Other research suggests an important role for students in such evaluation and adaptation activities. In these processes, everyone comes to understand the helps and hindrances of their particular building much better and are able to make better use of it.

The evidence base reveals the negative effect of poor school premises, but it does not provide priorities for fixing them, and shows that there is no ideal to aim for. We need to understand the intentions and needs of the school community to design them an appropriate setting.

This all implies a necessity of actively involving school students, staff and the wider community in any redesign or rebuilding, helping them to think collaboratively about exactly what their requirements are.   There is expertise among architecture and design professionals to make such participation happen, but it needs to be a central requirement of rebuilding and refurbishment processes to ensure that it does. Unfortunately, it is this element of participation that is being determinedly left out of the current government’s funding arrangements for school rebuilding.

An incoming government needs to ensure that the understandings which school users have of education in their settings are brought together and developed to drive decisions in re-builds, re-designs and refurbishments. Ultimately, this is the most productive way to address the shortcomings of the school estate, which if ignored will detrimentally affect the education of the citizens of tomorrow.

The evidence

Bakó-Birób, Zs., Clements-Croomea, D.J, Kochhara, N., Awbia, H.B. and Williams, M.J. (2012) ‘Ventilation rates in schools and pupils’ performance’, Building and Environment, 48: 215-23.

Barrett, P., Zhang, Y., Moffat, J. Kobbacy, K (2013) A holistic, multi-level analysis identifying the impact of classroom design on pupils’ learning. Building and Environment, 59: 678-689.

Durán-Narucki , V. (2008). School building condition, school attendance, and academic achievement in New York City public schools: A mediation model. Journal of Environmental Psychology 28: 278-286.

Flutter, J. (2006). ‘This place could help you learn’: student participation in creating better learning environments. Educational Review 58(2): 183-193.

Maxwell, L.E. (2003) Home and School Density Effects on Elementary School Children: The Role of Spatial Density Environment and Behavior 35: 566 – 577

Uline,C. L. Tschannen-Moran, M., and DeVere Wolsey, T. (2009).The walls still speak: The stories occupants tell. Journal of Educational Administration, 47(3):400–426.

Woolner, P. (2015) (Ed.) School Design Together, Abingdon: Routledge

Woolner, P.and Hall, E. (2010). Noise in Schools: A Holistic Approach to the Issue,International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 7(8): 3255-3269.

Woolner, P., Hall, E., Higgins,S., McCaughey, C., Wall, K. (2007a) A sound foundation? What we know about the impact of environments on learning and the implications for Building Schools for the Future. Oxford Review of Education, 33(1): 47-70.

Taken from the Newcastle University Institute for Social Renewal blog

Written by Pam Woolner, Lecturer in Education

School-Community Advisory Groups: ‘Turning Schools Inside Out’

To turn schools inside out, develop a localised community curriculum, argues Professor David Leat from the Research Centre for Learning and Teaching (CfLaT), School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences. To read other Ideas for an Incoming Government, view the entire series hosted by the Newcastle University Institute for Social Renewal blog.

What’s the problem?

We have a national curriculum which lays out what should be taught to school pupils.  When the National Curriculum was first introduced the mistake was made of cramming in too much content and successive reviews have chipped away at this content.  However it is increasingly recognised that schools need greater freedom to offer a curriculum that is locally developed to reflect local resources, issues and needs for a proportion of the school week.  We need a policy which allows and supports schools, in partnership with local stakeholders, to develop a localised community curriculum.

The solution

Schools should be able to apply to the DES for licence to devote between 20 and 40% of their school year to curriculum which is developed locally in partnership with community stakeholders which would include businesses, community organisations/charities, specialist societies, public services and universities.  The submitted plan would include the aims of such curriculum work related both to the goals of National Curriculum and to individual school aims and characteristics of the region/locality.  Once accepted the plan would be included in the school inspection remit.  Relevance comes from the meaningful work that is produced by the students which will address many of the challenges facing schools in relation to motivation, behaviour, transitions and wider educational outcomes (such as self-concept and resilience).

In practice schools would establish a community curriculum advisory group (CAG)which would advise and assist in developing inter-disciplinary, challenging and authentic projects for the students.  The advisory group would consist of 5-12 members (larger in large secondary schools) drawn from the constituencies outlined earlier, but including one or two governors.  Many might be parents and there should be a minimum of one from the business community and one from the culture/arts sector.  The school would have the final say about the composition of the CAG.  The aim of the CAG would be:

  1. To review curriculum plans for year groups or subject departments;
  2. To advise on and support curriculum development that uses the potential of the locality and community – thus acting as a conduit for school-community relationships;
  3. Have regard to soft skills and EU competences;
  4. Guide and support the school in recognising and validating the wider learning outcomes of school students, from both school activities and out-of-school activities – which would include possible development of digital portfolios.

The school could also submit an application for a community curriculum award at one of three levels (for the sake of argument: bronze, silver and gold).  Such an application would have to include evidence of the wider learning outcomes for the students, and of the ‘products’ generated by the students validated by users or others in the community.


  • The policy would make a substantial difference to schools, allowing them to release the creativity of staff and school leaders and free them from the excesses of ‘teaching to the test’.
  • Pupils would feel the difference through the authentic work and challenges that they are offered – thus engaging with work that matters.
  • Universities would feel the difference in having students who are better prepared for research and both collaborative and independent study.
  • Employers would benefit from having employees who have a wider spectrum of skills (with no diminution of basic skills).
  • The creation of CAGs would also bring fresh air to the feverish issue of accountability.  Currently the government and its agent, Ofsted, determine the criteria for judging the performance of schools.  This is an over-centralised model which is unresponsive to local need and creativity.

There would be teething troubles over how representative CAGs are and it is important that schools have control of their composition, so that they do not feel that they are being ‘done to’.

The evidence

A Demos report (Sodha & Gugliemi, 2009), detailed the disaffection and alienation evident amongst young people of school age, and the harm that they encounter.  Recently, an Independent Advisory Group, coordinated by Pearson, recommended that England must adopt a framework of key competences such as that developed by the European Union (e.g. learning to learn, working as part of a team and intercultural competence) AND a recognition of vocational learning for ALL students (Anderson 2014).

The RSA have produced a report (Facer 2010) which summarises the literature relating to ‘Area Based Curriculum’ and reporting on two ABC projects in Manchester and Peterborough.  The outcomes in Peterborough, where Curriculum Development Partnerships were pioneered included:

  • Teachers learned about the locality and felt more connected
  • School and partner representatives reported a change to the way organisations engage with schools
  • Partners reported that more schools are now open to working with outside agencies

In the US there is a substantial resurgence in interest in Community Education (although with a greater involvement of social workers that we are suggesting) and here the evidence is for far greater engagement.  ‘High Tech High’ in California has a very high profile and reputation for project based work, often but not always, linked to the community (

Taken from the Newcastle University Institute for Social Renewal blog

Written by Professor David Leat, Prof of Curriculum Innovation

Extending Choices and Access for the Poorest to Low Cost Private Schools in India and Africa

Dr Pauline Dixon from E.G West Centre, Newcastle’s School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences, draws our attention to international aid in the latest Idea for an Incoming Government hosted by the Social Renewal blog. In particular, she argues that the evidence supports financial contribution towards low-cost private schools in slums of the developing world.


What is the problem?

A large body of research published since 2000 has documented the significant and growing contributions of low-cost private schools in slums and villages of developing countries around the world. In India, Pakistan and Africa these schools have been shown to have better facilities, teacher attendance and activity as well as higher student achievements than government schools. And this is all achieved at a fraction of the teacher costs. Low cost private schools are already contributing to quality “education for all”.

However, even though many poor people are able to access low cost private schools costing £4-£5 per month, others are so poor that they are unable to afford the fees. Ifinternational aid were to be given at the grassroots level in the form of targeted vouchers and/or conditional or unconditional cash transfers, then this would assist the poorest to access a better education for their children.

International aid regarding schooling in the developing world needs to focus on qualityEducation for All” and not just getting children into ‘schools’ that may be ineffective. Aid agencies should start to consider assisting the poorest parents in gaining access to the better quality and more effective and efficient low cost private schools that already exist in city slums as well as rural areas in Africa and India. Parents voting with their feet away from state education that is failing their children have set an agenda that international aid agencies need to appreciate and acknowledge.

The solution

An education voucher may be a coupon or a cheque that a government or philanthropist provides to parents for them to spend with an education provider of their choice. They may be used as part or whole payment for schooling, which could be in the state or private sector – but typically an approved school participating in the voucher programme. It is possible therefore, through the use of aid vouchers, for funds to reach the poorest at the grassroots level, minimising waste, corruption and theft whilst focusing on efficiency and effectiveness. It is now time that such alternative means of allocating international aid be given a true hearing.

Some, such as Joseph Hanlon et al., also suggest that just giving money to the poor is the best solution to ending poverty. Hanlon et al provide evidence from cash transfer programmes around the world, setting out a case to show that cash transfers given direct to the poor are efficient because recipients use the money in a way that best suits their needs. Cash transfers can be unconditional (no conditions attached for gaining the cash) or conditional (the recipients are required to do something to get the cash transfer). Mothers usually receive the transfer and, in addition, some programmes give money to the student. They can have a broad target or a narrow target providing a very small or large proportion of household income. Typically, conditional cash transfers (CCTs) request those in receipt of the cash to make specific investments in their children’s education and health. The two largest CCTs are in Brazil and Mexico – Bolsa Família and Oportunidades respectively. Chile and Turkey’s CCT programmes focus on the extreme poor and socially excluded, and in Bangladesh and Cambodia CCTs aim at reducing gender disparities in education.

The conditions of the CCTs generally require parents to make investments in their children’s human capital in the form of healthcare and education. The education conditions have typically until now focused on government school enrolment. That is, the child’s school attendance requirements are set at between 80 and 85%. Focus could now be on the low cost private schools’ sector, which would be part of the ‘condition’ of the transfer. The child would need to access a school of ‘quality’ that would increase their attainment and ability, and not merely prove ‘attendance’.

The evidence

In India, randomised control trials have illustrated the advantages of directing funds to the poor through an alternative provider and management sector. The ARK (Absolute Return for Kids) Delhi voucher programme funded by a London based charity has been shown to provide access to the poorest as well as to benefit girls from the poorest families in society. Some of the poorest children in the slums of Delhi started school in 2011 using ARK vouchers. They are attending schools of their own choice. At the end of year one of the voucher scheme, children in both control and treatment groups were tested again in the standardised tests. The results show that there is a positive and statistically significant impact of the voucher programme on math achievement. The voucher adds up to about £100 per year and includes the payment for fees, books, uniform and meals.

The Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) has been running the Education Voucher Scheme (EVS) in Lahore since 2006. In 2011 a total of 40,000 vouchers were offered in 17 districts including Lahore.  Over half of the voucher recipients are girls. The aim of the scheme is to allow the poorest of the poor to have equal access to quality education. The LEAPS project found that children in low cost private schools in Pakistan were 1.5-2.5 years ahead of children in government schools.

In Columbia, the Programa de Ampliacion de Cobertura de la Educacion Secundaria (PACES), was set up 20 years ago and provided vouchers to help 125,000 children from low-income families. Researchers tracked the children over the years. They also tracked a similar number of families who had applied for, but were not allocated vouchers due to limited numbers. The results show:

  • Parents who were given vouchers opted to send their children to private schools and not keep them in the state system
  • The children stayed on until 8th grade (about 13 years old), were less likely to take paid work during school time (therefore concentrated on their studies) and they scored higher in achievement tests than their peers attending government schools.
  • The number of youngsters graduating from high school rose by five to seven per cent and they were more likely to try for university.

Looking at the evidence regarding cash transfers, this shows that they are not only affordable for donors and governments, but provide immediate hardship and poverty reduction for those in receipt of the transfer. They facilitate economic and social development, initiating the potential to reduce long-term poverty. Providing those at the grass roots with a monetary payment, which is regular, assured, practical to administer, fair and politically ‘acceptable’, allows the poor to be in control and in charge of their own development.


Watch Dr Pauline Dixon’s TED Talk on how private schools are serving the poorest in Asia and Africa and why, how and whom they are run and supported by:

Taken from the Newcastle University Institute for Social Renewal blog

Written by Dr Pauline Dixon, Reader in Education & International Dev

PROJECT TEACH: Applying Intelligence to Teacher Education

As part of our ‘Ideas for an Incoming Government’ series, Rachel Lofthouse from the Research Centre for Learning and Teaching (CfLaT)within the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University,writes about the pressing need for supportive improvements to the currentteacher training infrastructure.

What is the problem?

A change is needed in our education system. Rapid policy developments prioritise the role of schools as providers of workplace learning, affecting the experiences of and infrastructure for teacher training. Even those professionals who support ‘on the job’ training for teachers appreciate that meeting the learning and social needs of children and young people has to be every school’s priority. In the current system new teachers are immediately exposed to the performative culture of schools, having their individual successes and failures measured and graded from the moment they arrive.

In some cases this creates significant anxiety. Student teachers may not be encouraged to innovate and instead they simply learn how to survive. Instead of new teachers being a source of inspiration and innovation, they adopt normative practices, and their potential and energy is not garnered for their individual benefit or that of the schools.  In the worst cases, instead of building the necessary professional capacity to work flexibly to meet ever changing demands of the job, they become less resilient to the stresses of the job.

The solution

Student teachers should be educated not only individually but also in teams, tackling real-life workplace challenges through projects based on research, development and practice. The teams would be supported by co-coaches (experienced teachers and academic tutors working together) who enable their team to develop collaborative, empowering and supportive relationships, as well as the knowledge and skills required for them to tackle the genuine challenges of teaching.  The responsibility for the professional learning of all student teachers in a team becomes a collective one; each team is aiming for the best possible outcomes in terms of professional learning, pupil outcomes, and school development.

Through PROJECT-TEACH, intelligent thinking would be applied to teacher training, drawing on the principles of successful learning organisations, coaching and project-based learning:

  • Post-graduate student teachers would form project teams hosted by, and learning on behalf of, an alliance of schools, supported by ‘co-coaches’ – providing combined professional and academic expertise and drawing on principles of servant leadership. The motto of this approach is to ‘gather intelligence and use it intelligently’.
  • The project teams would work through a number of core projects spanning the school year, based on the principles of ‘project-based learning’.  Each project would include the need to teach, and as the year progressed this would be over more sustained periods and include working with learners across the relevant age range and with complex needs.  This teaching comes as a culmination of research and development, making it more evidence-based and allowing for systematic evaluation of outcomes. Student teachers would be registered as post-graduate students, and gain academic awards as well as evidence of meeting professional standards as a result of PROJECT-TEACH.
  • Learning is a social process, and PROJECT-TEACH would enable new teachers to develop skills and knowledge through collaboration on authentic and rich learning tasks set in the context of the workplace. The project briefs would be planned by drawing on the combined expertise of the professional and academic co-coaches who would design them to meet the ambitions of the host schools as well as to take account of the development stage of the new teachers. New teachers would meet the Teacher Standards through coherent development opportunities rather than through atomised practice.  The ‘standards’ would develop significance in terms of long-term occupational capacity, rather than simply as a checklist of time and context limited competencies.

PROJECT-TEACH sits firmly in the current Department for Education policy of creating a ‘Self-improving school led system’, in that it would be ‘evidence based, data rich, sustainable, focused, attract and retain talent and create a collective moral purpose’.  It does however challenge some of the current practices of teacher education.  While the Carter Review of Initial Teacher Training (DfE, 2015) recognised that the ‘challenge for the nation is to maintain a supply of outstanding teachers so that every child has the opportunity to be taught by inspirational, skilled teachers throughout their time in school’ (p.3), it lacked imagination in its proposals for re-creating teacher education.  PROJECT-TEACH can be afforded within current budgets; student teachers pay their training fee, and gain DfE bursaries according to prior qualification.  It is a matter of ensuring that the resource is deployed differently to support the approach and ensure excellent outcomes.

The evidence 

  • Billett (2011) identifies three dimensions to workplace learning; the practice curriculum, the practice pedagogies, and the personal epistemologies.  PROJECT-TEACH would act on each dimension by developing a curriculum based on project-based learning and by addressing the student teachers’ learning needs through more open engagement with authentic complex tasks.
  • Student teachers would be supported by expert co-coaches drawing on the principles of effective teacher coaching (Lofthouse, 2010) and servant leadership through which they prioritise the needs of the student teachers as their main professional role. . This would counter the impacts of the pervasive performativity culture (Ball, 2003) and detrimental practices of judge mentoring (Hobson & Malderez, 2013) in which judgements made by experienced teachers are rapidly revealed to the novice student teachers undermining the potential of mentoring processes to support development.
  • PROJECT-TEACH would develop new teachers’ resilience by enabling them to develop positive collective teacher efficacy and beliefs, which can help to mitigate the deleterious effects associated with socio-economic deprivation (Gibbs & Powell, 2012) and as such would help to address the problems in teacher supply and retention in England.
  • PROJECT-TEACH would support schools to become learning organisations where staff and students ‘continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free’ (
  • PROJECT-TEACH would build a ‘culture of trust (and challenge) in schools to enable professional learning of teachers to prosper’ which was recognised as key by the 2015 Sutton Trust’s ‘Developing Teachers report and thus encourage the essential components of professional learning of ‘creativity, innovation and a degree of risk-taking’ (Major, 2015).

We need to put energy and vitality back into educating (not simply training) new teachers, ensuring that those that enter the profession gain relevant expertise but also the experience and insight to fulfil their potential role to transform schools for the next generation, not simply replicate the working practices of yesterday’s schools.


  • Ball, S. J. (2003) The teacher’s soul and the terrors of performativity. Journal of Education Policy, 18(2), 215-228
  • Billett, S (2011) Workplace curriculum: practice and propositions, in F. Dorchy, D Gijbels. Theories of Learning for the Workplace, Routledge, London (pp.17-36)
  • DfE (2015) The Carter review of initial teacher training (ITT)
  • Gibbs, S., & Powell, B. (2012) Teacher Efficacy and Pupil Behaviour: the structure of teachers’ individual and collective efficacy beliefs and their relationship with numbers of children excluded from school. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(4), 564-584.
  • Hobson, A.J. (2013) Judgementoring and other threats to realizing the potential of school-based mentoring in teacher education, International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, Vol 2 [2] 89-108
  • Lofthouse, R., Leat, D and Towler, C., (2010)  Improving Teacher Coaching in Schools; A Practical Guide, CfBT Learning Trust
  • Lofthouse, R. & Thomas, U. (2014) Mentoring student teachers; a vulnerable workplace learning practice, International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education Vol. 3 (3) pp. 201 – 218
  • Lofthouse, R., Thomas, U. & Cole, S. (2011) Creativity and Enquiry in Action: a case study of cross-curricular approaches in teacher education. Teacher Education Advancement Network Journal, Vol. 2(1), pp.1-21.
  • Major, L.E. (2015)  Developing Teachers; Improving professional development for teachers, The Sutton Trust

Taken from the Newcastle University Institute of Social Renewal blog

Written by Dr Rachel Lofthouse, Head of Teacher Learning and Development (Education Section)