Part 4 – Unleash Your Imagination

Creativity, Education, Exams, Memory, Revision, Study Skills, Teacher Resources, Teaching and Learning

Strategies for Success AI

Yes, really. You can improve how you learn, remember and recall information by unleashing your imagination. The crazy, absurd visual story you used to remember the key dates of WWII has created stronger links between neurons making it easier for your brain to recall the information when you need it most, in the exam.

So go wild, enjoy using your imagination and creativity to make learning easier.



Building Blocks of Success: A summary of DfE report

Education, Learning, Politics, Pupil Premium, research, Study Skills, Teacher Resources, Teaching and Learning

The government commissioned NFER (National Foundation for Educational Research) to investigate good practice in raising attainment of disadvantaged students. They specifically looked at features of schools that narrowed the gap successfully and compared it to schools that weren’t doing so well.

It’s a fascinating read but the report, Supporting the attainment of disadvantaged pupils: articulating success and good practice,” like the title is long and hardly sexy. If you’re anything like me – teaching, being a governor, mentor, and business owner – it’s tough to find time to read research reports like this. Four months later I am celebrating finishing the study with a) a glass of wine b) a summary blog to make other teachers’ lives easier.

1. What makes successful schools successful?

The question on everyones lips and in a nutshell they place an emphasis on;

  • Teaching and learning strategies including emotional/social support
  • Assessment for learning systems so they are straightforward
  • Clear feedback for pupils
  • Improving pupils’ ability to learn through metacognitive strategies

2. What is the magic potion? 

No magic tricks here. There is no one singular approach identified as raising attainment. (That’s important, they repeat that a lot) In fact, the most successful schools had on average 18 different strategies in place to support disadvantaged pupils.

In secondary schools the analysis identified four main groups of strategies used by schools to raise disadvantaged pupils’ attainment. The analysis of relationships between these factors identified one statistically significant relationship; more successful schools were more likely to use the Group S4 strategies.

GroupingThis is backed up by Schools’ Week Alternative GCSE League Table which show the best performing schools in the country for pupils receiving free school meals. We work with 4 out of the top 10 schools who have over 20% FSM pupils on study skills, metacognition, and independent learning strategies as part of our Pupil Premium Project.

3. What can my school do next?

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

The study identified seven “building blocks” for success for all pupils, including those from disadvantaged pupils.


Building Blocks

The details of the building blocks can be found between pages 73 – 82. You can skip straight to these pages as they are well worth a read and have handy comparisons.

4. The improvement journey 

This visualisation of the “schools’ pathways to success” in raising attainment I found particularly helpful.

Schools' Pathway to Success

(Timescale 3 – 5 years)

5. Conclusion

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

What do you think makes a school successful in supporting the attainment of disadvantaged pupils? Comment below!

Philosophy of Memory Step 3: Link it together!

Creativity, Education, Exams, History, Learning, Memory, Mindset, Revision, Study Skills, Teacher Resources, Teaching and Learning

Strategies for Success AI

Capturing the brain’s love of imagination and logic is a powerful way to learn. Creating a whacky story, a mnemonic, a memory palace or a number system (to name a few) is an efficient and effective way to learn.

These techniques are particularly great for lists, processes, dates, formulas, and people. But what about entire topics?

Breaking down the huge information into key points e.g. Theme, Main Idea and Details, is vital. Then you can turn it into something creative, logical and most importantly, memorable with Mind Maps. Here is an example!

Henry A - Map


Memory Matters.

Creativity, Education, Exams, Learning, Mindfulness, Revision, Stress, Study Skills, Teacher Resources, Teaching and Learning

The national curriculum and exam changes are transforming the way our children have to learn. They have to retain and recall huge amounts of information when it matters most, in the exam.

It is a big demand on our young people. We can meet this demand head on with *wait for it* creativity and imagination. Yes, that’s right. By unleashing the power of creativity and imagination we can empower students to learn independently with effective memory techniques, learn to learn and study skills.

Over the next five weeks we will be sharing our 5 Point Philosophy of Memory as part of our #memorymatters campaign.

The first step in our Philosophy is RELAX. 

Strategies for Success AI


The brain reacts to physical stress (think hungry lion chasing you down the street) exactly the same as emotional stress (think exams). It automatically goes into flight or fight mode. Stress hormones like adrenaline, run rings around you. When stressed your body is in a high state of alert – trouble sleeping, change in appetite, fast or shallow breathing, struggling to make decisions, lacking focus – are just a few signs of stress.

It is incredibly difficult to learn, retain and recall information when your stressed so it is important to know how to relax. Here are our Top 3 Relaxation Tips that you can do even during an exam!

  1. Mindful Breathing. 

Breathe through your nose for the count of 5, then out through your mouth for the count of 5. Really focus on your breathing. This will help calm your thoughts and soon your brain will realise you’re not going to get eaten by lion (unless you are, then run.)

It’s a great, simply, subtle technique. No one needs to know you are breathing mindfully and it takes just a minute.

2. Mindful Listening. 

Close your eyes for 30 seconds and concentrate on all the sounds you can hear – a ticking clock, tapping of a pencil, a car passing, your own breathing. This will help to clear your mind, to slow down and to focus. Open your eyes and the world will be a little bit clearer.

3. The Ten Second Count

This is a variation of Tip 1 but rather than focusing on your breath, close your eyes and focus your attention on slowly counting to ten. If your concentration wanders start back at number one!

For more information about Memory Matters click here and don’t forget to check back this time next week for Step 2…!

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

Teachers; Thank You

Education, Teacher Resources

It is scary how quickly time passes by. The nervous new Year 7 pupils are now seasoned professionals and bewildered students returning from a 6 – 8 week summer break are now hard at work (hopefully).

In these two months alone we have worked with 200 schools across the UK (and Vienna!) reaching over 20,000 students, 2000 parents and 2500 staff. 70% of schools visited have contacted us, without prompting, to say how wonderful the workshops were and how our presenters are an inspiration.

This is staggering, especially as we are only at the beginning of the 2014 – 2015 academic year!

As a family company that is run by teachers, we can’t thank you enough. Without your dedication to students’ futures and passion for raising achievement we wouldn’t have an enviable education system. It may not feel like that every day, but put government policy and newspaper headlines aside, you are awesome.

I know you won’t be fully resting this half – term break; you will be marking papers, planning lessons, and when friends moan about the long hours they work you will be wondering about the kid with a questionable home life, and that is what makes you a teacher.

Now, go be awesome.

Kind regards,
Carrie Starbuck and the LPT Team

Why Memory Matters

Why Memory Matters

Education, Learning, Politics, Revision, Study Skills, Teacher Resources
Love or loathe them, the new national curriculum and exam changes are transforming the way our children have to learn. They now have to retain and recall large amounts of information when it matters most, in the exam.
This is a tall order for even the most talented and confident person, let alone a stressed 15 or 16 year old.
If we don’t do something now to help students then among the usual “Education in Crisis” headlines, there will be a heart – broken 16 year old who can’t study Engineering at College. He failed to get a C in Math because he forgot how to Factorise Quadratics.
Then there will be the young girl with high aspirations with offers from the top 3 universities in the UK but panicked in the exam and came away with D grades.
It is a grim thought, but thankfully an avoidable one. That is why memory matters.
Equipping students with metacognition skills such as, revision strategies, exam techniques and above all, a positive mindset, will be the key to success.
Our ‘Memory Matters’ workshop does exactly that, but if this hasn’t sold it to you already then this comment from a student we worked with recently should:
“I now believe I can do anything. If I set my mind to it, work hard, and believe in myself then there are no limits to what I can achieve. Thank you.” – Ben Year 10

For more information about how we can help students today prepare for tomorrow read our latest White Paper, “Why Memory Matters” by clicking here.

“Gifted” or “Thick”? It doesn’t matter. Intelligence is a myth.

Education, Learning, Pupil Premium, Study Skills, Teacher Resources

I was recently asked if we had any programmes for “thick” kids. I know. I made that face too. Biting my tongue and using my best diplomacy skills I said,

“It has nothing to do with so-called, intelligence. In fact, we prove to students their brain is simply a muscle that with the right training can strengthen and improve, just like an athlete. 

This shows them that nothing is set in stone. So if they feel they can’t do Maths, or can’t do Biology then we say to them, “You just can’t do it YET. Now, let’s work together so you can do it.” 

We then empower students by equipping them with learning strategies that will help them to become creative, independent thinkers with a passion for learning. 

So to answer your question it doesn’t matter if the student has the outdated label of “thick” or “gifted” because they all have potential. Intelligence is a myth from a different era and one that doesn’t belong in the 21st Century. What we do have is programmes to help students in different ways such as:

Reach for the Stars for A/A* Students – includes stress management and mindfulness.

Hit the Mark for C/D Students – includes motivation and growth mindset to boost confidence.

Learn Too for E/F or SEN students – includes building self – esteem and confidence.

Time to Say Yes for disaffected or those at risk of becoming NEET – focuses on behaviour, the future and the value of school. 

What do you think? Are labels helpful or outdated?

Leave your thoughts below. 


The Perfection Obsession that’s damaging a generation.

Education, Sex Education, Teacher Resources, Uncategorized

Today I have been working on our Positive Body Image workshop as we prepare to visit schools with it in the next few weeks.

It’s hit a nerve. I’m a voluptuous woman and like other people, male and female, have grown up with deep insecurities about my appearance. The difference between growing up twenty + years ago and now is the staggering amount of media coverage on ‘perfection,’ our young people are bombarded with daily.

It has reached levels of absurdity. Celebrity Kim Kardashian was labelled ‘fat’ when heavily pregnant. What the…!?! And “embarrassing” beach photos were published of Angela Merkel. I mean, Kim Kardashian for all her faults, is bringing a child into this world, which is nothing short of amazing, and Angela Merkel is the leader of the most influential European country. Yet their bodies is what the media (and us – we read it after all) decide to focus on.

This obsession with appearance has potential lethal consequences for our young people. The YMCA research indicated that 1 in 4 adults feel depressed about their bodies. 54% of teenage girls said they had body image problems and 23% of boys said they didn’t like their body either. 50% of teenage girls and 34% of boys have been on a diet. 1 in 10 boys have taken steroids to build up muscles.

What is with the self – loathing? The need to hate ourselves? Why do we do it? More importantly, why do we continue to push this burden of perfection on our young?

For me, the danger of the “perfection obsession” is the perception that beauty is linked to success. To be thin is to be successful. To have straight hair is have more confidence. To have muscles is to be respected. Who can blame young people for thinking this way, it is practically drip fed into them from infancy.

That is why, the body image workshop has taken a turn from “love yourself” to “What is success?” By looking at well – known but not typically beautiful celebrities, such as, Ricky Gervais, Katie Piper, Miranda Hart, and Seal we can begin to build a positive image around appearance and success.

I hope students will leave the workshop with a tiny planted seed in their mind that will start to question the media, society and the ideal of perfection. So one day they can recognise their beauty, their value and their future beyond the constrains of the latest fad diet.

For more information about these workshops contact