Growth Mindset: Walk the Talk

Education, Memory, Mindset, Motivation, Teaching and Learning

I have been to a fair few terrible CPD days in my teaching career. One of the worst I wrote about here and the best by far were ResearchED and the Education Festival.

ResearchED and the Festival of Education are head and shoulders above the rest because sessions were practical and actionable. I left inspired, full of ideas that I could implement the very next day in the classroom. That is the mark of truly great CPD.

When the Growth Mindset philosophy exploded into schools I was ecstatic. I had seen firsthand the impact having such an approach to teaching and learning can have in a stellar PRU I taught in. I had also grown up surrounded by it, at LPT my parents had been advocating the philosophy for decades and it is at the core of every programme we design.

I would be lying to you if I didn’t confess I was dubious too. Growth Mindset is marvellous, but incredibly difficult to make tangible. As a result, it is easy to fall into the meaningless “you can achieve anything” band camp. An excellent, heart – felt mantra, that ultimately does little to help young people grow.

Yes, any child can achieve anything but only with a bucket – load of hard work, the ability to bounce – back, to learn, develop and grow from life’s inevitable hard lessons of rejection, obstacles, and negativity.


This is the score used in rehearsals by a well known soprano. 10% genius, 90% hard work. Shared by @fimetic on Twitter.

That is no easy task, and one assembly on having a Growth Mindset isn’t going to cut it. Children need to be equipped with practical strategies. Teachers need to be open about their own mindset (we are human after all!) and above all, know how they can implement the Growth Mindset philosophy in their classroom and school.

That is why I wrote Growth Mindset: Walk the Talk – a practical CPD programme that aims to make the philosophy tangible and actionable by focusing on ideas, techniques, research and case studies.

It’s had such a great demand from schools that I’m thrilled to be running the event at King’s College London on Friday 1st July 2016. Tickets are extremely limited (we only have a few left!) so book here

I look forward to meeting you!

Carrie Signature 2016


Raising Literacy and Numeracy Standards

Creativity, Education, Learning, Literacy, Numeracy, Teaching and Learning

Last week I attended Inside Government’s Raising Literacy and Numeracy Standards Conference. As conferences go it was pretty feeble but there were some gems.

The star of the show was Kelvin Hall’s Headteacher, Sarah Smythe. In 2013 Kelvin Hall was labeled RI and by 2015 was rated Outstanding. She shared her experience. The best bit? The clear, definite statement from Sarah that there were “no magic tricks.” In fact, the school simplified things and focused on the following areas:

  1. Marking and Feedback – consistent
  2. Data Analysis – clearly defined bands
  3. High profile reading – Everyone Reads In Class
  4. TA Tutors – Period 6 was tutor time
  5. EPIC ERIC – the award winning fictional Kelvin Hall student!

Epic Eric is genius. Eric is a fictional Kelvin Hall student who is sucked into a portal transporting him to other dangerous, ghostly, pre-historic lands.

Students then have to complete certain literacy tasks, ranging from SPAG to cross devices, to submit golden tickets that allow Epic Eric to step into the next world.

They often receive 100s of gold tickets, their highest being almost 1500. It’s a whole school initiative with teachers dressing up as Epic Eric for World Book Day. It’s particularly effective in Key Stage 3 and has particularly helped to engage pupils in reading and writing.

Simple, wacky, creative. Effective. 

Wonder what Epic Eric looks like? He’s rather charming. Click here to see a past Epic Eric newsletter!

Incidentally, we worked with Kelvin Hall’s Year 11 students to help them prepare for exams in February 2015. That March they were rated Outstanding. A coincidence I’m sure…

Either way, it was enlightening learning from Sarah and Kelvin Hall’s journey. Thanks Sarah! Epic Eric

5 Things I Learnt from ResearchEd

Education, Learning, Teacher Resources, Teaching and Learning
  1. People are VERY precious over technology. 

I was part of a panel discussing “Is technology wasting our time?” My answer? Yes.

Most of my teaching career was spent in developing countries where too often technology was used as an attempt solve social issues. It’s exactly the same in the UK. We have an education system that fails almost half of its’ young people. We have questionable literacy and numeracy standards. We have been told our children are one of the unhappiest in the world. Technology can’t solve these issues, people can.

There is a huge difference between learning the digital tools of modern life and the critical skills needed. What about the basic maths to become an engineer? What about the communication skills to become a good doctor, teacher or alas, a human being? Technology can’t teach this, teachers can.

On top of all this, there is hardly any evidence that technology can improve pupil attainment but there is plenty of evidence that it can impede focus and thus results.

I argued it would be better to invest our time and money in people, as ultimately, no app or gadget will surpass the power of a teacher.

2. I didn’t think the above was particularly controversial. Oh, but it is. 

To the extent I was told that if technology doesn’t work in a school then it is the students, teachers and school’s fault. Right…

3. Everyone loves to tweet. 

As we were chatting I could see lots of people tweeting furiously, so once the panel was wrapped up I was keen to see what people were saying. There were a few tweets about my “poor pedagogy,” being the reason technology failed in my classroom. It’s a shame that this wasn’t raised during a panel where anything and everything is up for discussion. I would have enjoyed the challenge of such an argument. Then again this lack of face – to – face communication just helped to prove point 1, so thanks.

4. I didn’t think I would like Nick Gibb MP, but he was actually quite charming. 

The Labour member, Corbyn voter in me wanted to dislike this man intensely. Instead, I found myself nodding in agreement with many things he said and even laughed at his joke. My Grandmother would have been horrified. Sorry Gran.

Nick Gibb's speech "The Importance of the teaching profession."

Nick Gibb’s speech “The Importance of the teaching profession.”

5. We have an awesome, dedicated and passionate learning community.

I already knew this of course, but ResearchEd really bought it home. 700+ teachers giving up a Saturday, many travelling from a far, all there with a singular purpose to learn, to improve, to be the best teachers for their students. Not many industries could boast such a dedicated workforce.

The masses. Photo via @miss_mcinerney

The masses. Photo via @miss_mcinerney

I quit. You didn’t. A message to the Secret Teacher.

Education, Learning, Politics, Teaching and Learning

September is my favourite month. It is a month that marks change. Those that were toddling about in nappies only a year or so ago suddenly transform into young infants starting their school journey. Children make the leap from primary to secondary school. Teenagers become young adults and young adults begin their life beyond the realm of school.

September. It’s new. It’s exciting. I love it.

Perhaps naively, I believed everyone loved it too, then I read the Secret Teacher: I really don’t know if I can face another school year.

At first I was surprised, swiftly followed by sad, then ultimately, understanding. I was a TEFL teacher. I lived and worked in Ghana for six months teaching primary and secondary school children, then nurses and doctors. Somewhere right now on the Gold Coast are nurses and doctors speaking English with a South London accent. I’m dead proud.

I adored teaching. Watching a student have an “Aha” moment is the ultimate buzz. I even liked the planning and the marking. I returned from Ghana set on doing my PGCE.

Then I received a frantic phone call from a friend 6 months into her PGCE. Her school placement was a nightmare. A kid had hit her line manager with chair with such force it broke his arm. Staff were overworked and overtired with little time to support a trainee. The university was disorganised, unhelpful, in disarray. That morning her microwave had caught fire because she forgot to put the milk in the porridge.

The purpose of the call wasn’t just to let off steam but to ask if she was crazy (probably) and if I would judge her if she quit. No, I said, I wouldn’t judge. I would do more than that, I would understand.

I had been working at a school the past few months with the view to getting my teaching qualification. The constant pressure and the relentless drive to hit targets meant I was burnt out. Worst of all, my love for teaching was slowing being drained out of my soul.

When I was headhunted to work with the government I leapt at the opportunity and I didn’t look back. It was only some 5 years later did the education world lure me back into its voracious embrace, not as a teacher but as a consultant.

This was over 8 years ago so I had forgotten just how difficult it was. My friend and I were not unique. 4 out of 10 teachers quit the profession in their first year. The Teacher Support Network health survey found 88% of teachers have suffered stress, 72% anxiety and 45% depression in the past two years.

Education Staff Health Survey 2014 report

Education Staff Health Survey 2014 report

Retention is one problem, but so is recruitment. UCAS figures for April 2015 show there were 5,260 fewer people applying for teacher training positions than there was in the same month last year. 73% of English LEAs said their schools were struggling to find suitably qualified staff, half said the shortage was either moderate or severe, while the rest stressed it was slight.

Professor John Howson, from TeachVac, warned London and surrounding areas such as the southeast and the east of England is facing a crisis, with almost four teaching vacancies per school in the capital.

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Employment said the Government had taken ‘decisive steps’ to make teaching more attractive.

It had introduced performance-related pay, giving good teachers an immediate £2,000 increase. All postgraduate trainees got a salary of £150 a week, while those training to teach shortage subjects got another £4,000.

All are positive steps but it doesn’t feel enough. What about valuing the profession? What about well – being? What about the love of teaching and learning?

My message to the NQT Secret Teacher is – I quit. You didn’t. You deserve a street, nay, a DAY named after you. You have done the hard part. The next year is about developing as a person, an educator and a role model for future generations. Roll on September. You got this.