Promoting British Values

Ever since I attended the development day @sheffcol on how to have conversations about Prevent and British Values with students, it occurred to me that we needed to be integrate more explicit promotion rather than hidden embedding of these values.

This has resulted in a collection of ideas to start us on this journey. I’m hoping it will grow as a result of colleagues sharing their approaches.

Click here for the live online version





And I’m not sure I know anything more powerful for beginning a conversation about mutual respect and tolerance than this:


It’s that time of the year when teachers and students alike enter a frenzied state of revision, revision, revision. With many FE courses incorporating exams for the first time (or at least the first time in a long time), I wanted to create accessible guides to revision for our staff. The guides that follow (one for staff and one for students) each has science incorporated as well as concrete examples of what this might look like. Each of the guides will hopefully develop over the coming weeks as we receive feedback but I hope that others within the sector, and beyond it, can benefit too.

For staff

Preview images below

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Click here for printable version



For students

Preview images below

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Click here for printable version



What makes great teaching? A student perspective

This is a blog written by my current work experience student, Ellie Townsend. It is her first blog. Please read, share and comment! @ellietwnsnd



As a student, I think that the most important element in great teaching is a good relationship between student and teacher.

First impressions are key in forming a good relationship between student and teacher, and from the moment you meet a teacher a certain level of respect must be clear. A teacher must make their authority known; no student will respect or listen to a teacher if they think they can walk all over them.


Expectations of the students from the teacher play a big part in good teaching. If the teacher is expecting us students to behave badly, why would we do any different? We haven’t got anything to prove. For example, if a teacher was to say ‘if you do this, I am going to do this…’ it is natural, as a curious teenager to want to challenge that and see if the teacher will follow up on their actions. Instead, effective learning and good behaviour comes from a teacher expecting and encouraging that, and motivating the students to behave well with a positive environment.


I learn best when I am being actively motivated by my teacher. When a teacher is too relaxed it comes across as they can’t be bothered, and if they can’t be, then why should I? I want to feel like my work is appreciated through praise, when I have worked hard and produced a high standard of work, a simple ‘well done’ means a lot. When a teacher gives too much praise however, it works the opposite way. Getting praised just for doing what should be expected of you is boring and feels patronising, like the teacher thinks you’re incapable of doing basic tasks. It just makes me think, if I’m getting praised for doing bare minimum then why do I need to do anything more than that? This is why the correct level of praise is important, not too little that the students feel unappreciated, not too much that they feel like they don’t need to work hard, just enough to motivate them to work hard and make them feel their work is important and has made a contribution to the lesson. It’s important as a student to feel like your work matters, and also to be reminded of the qualifications you will be rewarded with at the end of the course, and how they contribute to your future. Otherwise, I find myself asking: Why am I even doing this? I know that myself and many people my age feel lost and as though there is no end goal to their work, so what’s the point in doing it if I don’t feel like I’m getting anything out of it? 

In the classroom, a little bit of praise and respect goes a long way.

Finding a path

I made the decision to leave my college course and enter the workplace as an apprentice because I believe that the motivation a job can provide will help to set me on my future path. Of course, money has also been a big part of my decision!

GCSE English Language (WJEC Eduqas)

For much of this year, I spent a significant amount of time wrestling with how to organise my online learning environment for students. In September, I had a class confirmed the day before I taught them. I was excited to be back in the classroom but it cut down my advance preparation time somewhat (and with a new specification, I’ve felt on the back foot the whole time).

Fairly soon into the year, we created a Facebook page (by student request) for me to share announcements, links and for them to engage in discussion and learning. It’s proven to be a quick and easy way for us to communicate with one another but I’m yet to truly harness the space for extending their learning.

I also created a Google site for sharing resources, links and for them to access online learning activities. This worked for a while but I soon realised the structure wasn’t working and students weren’t easily able to access and interact with content.

Enter NEW Google sites. As soon as Kieran Briggs showed me one he’d been working on, I was excited to get started. There will be some work to get it more organised and streamlined for the new academic year but it serves its purpose as a revision site for now.

Screenshot 2017-03-05 at 14.59.46.png

The site can be viewed here:

So what does the site contain?

I must say a huge thank you here to Mr Harvey of YouTube fame and #TeamEnglish (especially where past papers and ideas for resources is concerned). If you see any content of yours (blog links and past papers) that’s not as referenced as you’d like then please let me know!


This part of the site has 1 page summaries for each of the papers. These documents have gradually been improved through response to students’ work and consultation of Twitter colleagues too. As they’re created with Piktochart, I can keep them up-to-date and yet they’re also available as printable PDFs. This page also has a summary video for each paper from Mr Harvey that I located on YouTube. I have also now added a ‘TOP 5’ for revising Paper 1 and the equivalent for Paper 2 will be added soon.

Paper 1 – Fiction Reading

  • Guides to answering each of the questions in written and video format.
  • Some resources to remind them of top tips and aspects we’ve explored in class
  • A folder filled with practice papers (created by me, colleagues at College, #TeamEnglish crew and some official Eduqas samples too)
  • A folder filled with example responses (to match video guidance shared)
  • Plus a whole host more revision activities and videos

Paper 1 – Creative Writing

  • A guide to answering this question well with video advice from Mr Harvey again!
  • Top tips for maximising marks for this section
  • Approaches to planning and structuring their narrative
  • LOTS of questions to practise with
  • A folder filled with example responses from WJEC and my students
  • Plus a whole host more revision links, activities and videos

Paper 2 – Non-Fiction Reading

Paper 2 – Persuasive Writing

Spelling Punctuation and Grammar

I first began working on the spelling, punctuation and grammar page so that when I’d marked students’ work or seen it in class, I was able to direct them to further learning activities to support their progress (ie. complete Apostrophes Activity 2). Many of these are TED-Ed lessons and other existing content online but I’m also gradually developing my own EdPuzzle lessons and Google Form activities, like this Affect vs Effect one:

Teaching Resources

  • A reflective journal
  • A revision quiz (Kahot)
  • A skills assessment
  • A confidence assessment
  • A feedback reflection sheet
  • A vocabulary sheet
  • A motivational revision card
  • Terminology flashcards
  • Analysis and comparison structures
  • Paper 1 and 2 classroom posters
  • Paper 1 and 2 Teach Me, Tell Me cards
  • Paper 1 and 2 mark schemes
  • Implicit meaning activity grid
  • Lots of links and blogs for each exam- mainly via #TeamEnglish


If anyone would like to contribute any resources for the site then it could become a site for any student studying on WJEC Eduqas English Language. Anyway, I’d love to collaborate so do get in touch (comment below or @hannahtyreman on Twitter).

British Values

Most of us want to prepare our learners for life and British Values gives us another opportunity to do that.

Although I’ve not heard any of my colleagues contest that ‘British Values’ is important, they may have contested the term itself. The ‘British Values’ term is still being used by Ofsted, and whether we find it problematic or not, we need to use it too. Our job, especially in South Yorkshire (where the threat is high because of right wing extremism), is about challenging the views that may have arisen about what ‘British’ means; all those things that are entirely un-British. There are many within the communities we serve for whom, ‘British’ means the exact opposite of the values detailed within the Prevent duty. It is our job to teach our students what it really means to be British:

  • Democracy
  • Rule of Law
  • Individual Liberty
  • Mutual respect and tolerance of other faiths and beliefs

Both our staff and students need to be able to say what they are and how ‘extremism’ can be both prevented and avoided.

What is extremism?

‘Vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values and calls for the death of members of our armed forces, whether in this country or overseas.’

A person can be vocally opposed to the values but it’s about what the person does with that view; where and with whom. Nicola Sturgeon is effectively rallying against democratic values; fighting against Brexit. But she isn’t being dealt with as an extremist because although her views don’t align with British Values, she’s not rallying calls to violence and getting young and vulnerable people involved (at least not yet!). Crucially, she’s engaging with respectful debate and discussion- not closing it down.


The picture from Ofsted and ETF (this blog is written after an ETF event)

What do Ofsted expect to see or hear?

  • Students who know what the Prevent duty is
  • Learners know how to keep themselves safe from extremism and radicalisation
  • British Values are integrated fully into the curriculum (more than superficially)
  • Multi-faith rooms are seen to be used by more than one faith group
  • Minority groups are not feeling discriminated against.

If Ofsted deem an organisation as not meeting the duty will result in:

  • Independent training provider’s contract being terminated.
  • Commissioner making an immediate assessment.

Exemplify AND find opportunities to promote British Values.

Leaders promote equality of opportunity and diversity exceptionally well so that the ethos and culture of the provider prevent any form of direct or indirect discriminatory behaviour.
The promotion of fundamental British Values is at the heart of the provider’s work.

High quality training develop staff’s vigilance, confidence and competency to challenge learners’ views and encourage debate. We need to work with staff to develop how able they are to create a controlled climate in which debate can occur(without prejudice or discrimination).

EVERYONE needs to be trained in the organisation- how confident could we be about this? Governors, managers, staff and volunteers.

Online (this covers you at a basic level), as well as face-to-face (for the depth and detail required).

We ALL need to exemplify British Values in management, teaching and through general behaviours across the college, school or training provider; including through opportunities in the FE curriculum and, they encourage students to respect other people with particular regard to the protected characteristics.

We need to be able to challenge views that are unacceptable with regards to Prevent, British Values, and E&D. We need to support staff to feel confident about challenging these views.

External speakers- could they be a threat to our College/school’s safe environment?

We need to take care with who we invite in. Vet them first and assess the risk. A process needs to be followed through for speakers- even if they’ve been coming in for 10 years… This goes for all safeguarding.

Once the risk has been assessed, if we’re unsure whether they’ll share their extremist views, then we have a choice:

1- Mitigate the risk by having staff there who will work to actively counter the views and perhaps put a stop to the event if required. View resources beforehand and have a strong staff presence on the day to safeguard students.

2- The more likely and safer option- avoid the risk to students andthe college’s / school’s reputation by cancelling the speaker.

Prayer rooms

Prayer rooms should be multi-faith. Ensure prayer mats are in cupboards and there are no posters or leaflets on display. Also ensure that any one group of students are not preventing others from using the room. Positioning of the room is important- ensure passing oversight- don’t hide it away.

Other considerations
Regular updates should be made to risk assessments with regards to the Prevent duty so that they can be explained to Ofsted- what we’re doing, what the impact has been, what we’re still planning to do to improve.

Ensure due diligence with sub-contractors- check they’re not inadvertently finding terrorist organisations.

Monitoring of internet usage- often problematic. Personal devices with 3/4G pose a particular difficulty. Far better to have them use their devices in College (so that we have a chance of seeing what they’re doing) rather than keep it all outside of school/ college though.

Channel Panel

Channel is the mentoring process for those vulnerable to manipulation by extremists. They’ll decide who to work with based on the following:

  • Engagement with a group, cause or ideology which is identified as extremist
  • Intent to cause harm
  • Ability to cause harm

A clear pathway should exist within policy, procedure and action for supporting any individual that may need intervention from Channel. This referral is made via the Prevent coordinator in the Local Authority (in Sheffield at least as we’re a high priority area).

Pedestrian Crossing Crossing City Buildings

Image available from here


From theory to practice

So the big question, as always with these things, is what is the advice for turning the duty from theory to practice?

‘Preparing students for life in modern Britain’ is really what the values are concerned with. So what are some examples of what this might look like? Here are some the examples of practice that were shared on the day:

  • Debates and pieces of writing around faiths and beliefs in FS English and GCSE
  • Give students cards of the values and ask the students to hold up their card when they think they’ve seen it during a session OR ask them at the end of the session what British Values were incorporated today?
  • Incorporate debates properly into a SoW- use a vote so that students can see that democracy is about ‘losing’ as well as ‘winning’.
  • Use votes to decide on things in class.
  • Provide choice of learning activity or approach in sessions.
  • ‘The pursuit of happiness’ as part of individual liberty- focus on the choices our young people can expect to encounter along their life journey- where do the limits on their freedom end? Because they do… freedom of choice does not just extend infinitely.
  • Register all learners to vote (they can register to vote at 16). Some universities do this as part of enrolment – could colleges do this too?
  • Encouraging involvement in election of reps.
  • Use the news (especially at the moment!) to start lessons or make links with topics being studied to draw in British Values in action currently.
  • MOve students from any sense of alienation, frustration, feeling disenfranchised by sharing the legitimate ways in which we can make our voices heard- petitions to the government etc. This is how change can be facilitated. This is a far better use of their voice then trolling online for instance…
  • We can use national minimum wage to discuss British Values- democracy (it was brought about in this country because of petitions, votes and laws being created in Parliament). Compliance with the Equality Act- no matter what their protected characteristic. But they can also have a discussion about age- particularly in relation to apprenticeships- how fair is it that the pay is lower?
  • We can use examples of tribunal cases to discuss British Values INSERT IMAGE
  • We can use voting data INSERT IMAGE
  • As part of induction- incorporate a quiz to check basic awareness and understanding.
  • Apprentices- bring first wage slip in as well as contract of employment and explore it- incorporates numeracy as well as rule of law.
  • Incorporate news items as part of starter activities- ask students to bring in items to share with one another/present (builds confidence).
  • Reflective questions at the end of a session- where could you see maths and English/ British Values in today’s lesson?

Some concerns were raised about Apprentices- they’re in the workplace- the staff may not display behaviours that align with British values. We’d be unable to eradicate the comments they may come across. Our job is to prepare students for life in modern Britain. How equipped are they to respond to these offensive comments and situations?

We have a job to challenge the ‘normality’ they might be used to, whether that’s work, home or their community.

If we have extreme concerns about a workplace, we need to ensure our risk assessment covers aspects of safeguarding as well as Health & Safety.



Image available from here

Responding in the moment

We now have a legal duty to challenge whether we feel confident to do so or not. ETF advised that there is no script- it’s dependent on your knowledge of a learner and the context. There could be a script though? Paul Dix suggests this for behaviour management so that responses are consistent across all staff. Scripts could really help us to raise confidence levels of all staff. Some go to phrases that could be used, especially if the student was then to be referred elsewhere for support/ a further conversation/ a restorative conversation.

Immediate challenge and follow-up is necessary in every case stated below. For some staff, the minimum would be to challenge the statement and say that it’s unacceptable. Follow-ups could then be taken to other groups safeguarding etc. We don’t have to feel confident about the history and politics of every view students might present with.



How might someone respond to you saying that kind of comment? That’s not a respectful thing to say. How could those words cause harm to another person?
Avoid getting into an argument about scripture. It might be there in the Koran- that’s not the issue.
After initial reaction, a more in-depth discussion about where he’s got the view from and if he’s at risk. Likely to make a referral to Prevent- link to a mentor from the local Muslim community through the Channel panel.


Initial response- Why? What have you seen/heard? You might have seen hat but it’s not demonstrating mutual respect.
Replace ‘muslims’ with something else- ’16 year old boys’, ‘jobseekers’… then you realise how ridiculous the statement is.
Afterwards- follow-up 1-1 discussion as to ‘why’ they think that.
Make the rest of the delivery team aware to keep their ears open- record it so that there’s no missing link (she might be making comments in other lessons too).
Follow-up with a lesson or starter activities about media and stereotyping.


Initial response- That’s not a respectful remark to make. It might be banter but how does it make your friends feel? How about the students walking past?
Afterwards- 1-1- find the root cause of threat perception. Work on debunking the view- stats about jobs to be shared as part of a class activity.


Initial response- that’s completely unacceptable behaviour. Check their understanding of the term. Talk about the impact on young women- speak about heir sisters/ mum/ family. Sit down next to them so that you’re on their level and therefore it’s not an altercation. To be a self-respecting young man then you don’t target young women in that way.
Speak with the girls about what they’d like as an outcome.
Follow-up with a lesson about women and how they’re made to feel. Disciplinary route and conversation with parents.
‘I don’t want to work with him. He’s a Paki’

What’s important is that we can’t and shouldn’t ban discussion of politics altogether (especially in the current climate where it’s all they’ll see and hear around them). Far better to open up a discussion and develop students’ critical thinking skills so that they can challenge what they hear/see for themselves (which becomes an increasing challenge in the face of fake news).

Questions like these can help:

  • What makes you believe that?
  • Where have you read or heard it?
  • What was the evidence given?
  • Have you checked that evidence? You need to if you’re planning to spread that belief to others.
  • Why might they be arguing that? What are they trying to persuade you of? What is their intent / purpose?


The best teachers I know…

Are easily identifiable. 

In my current role I, rather luckily, get to see many of them in action and there is one thing they all have in common. 
They demonstrate genuine care.

In each instance, this care is made apparent in different ways.

I could see it in one teacher through their insistence on students displaying industry standards of behaviour and nothing less would be accepted. This teacher genuinely cared that these students were given the opportunity to enter the industry at a high level; not just as a result of their skills but as a result of the attitudes they’d developed. These would be the kind of students who had developed the potential to become Michelin starred chefs.

I could see it in another teacher through the continual focus on students’ wellbeing as well as their studies; fully in the possession of the knowledge that if they felt more ‘well’ and more able to share when they weren’t, the learning would take place.

I could see it in another through their willingness to adapt their practice to ensure the success of their students. They were willing to abandon their preferred way of doing things and their beliefs about what works in favour of more evidence-based approaches to see the effect on their students’ learning.

But the one place their genuine care is most evident?

In the relationships they have with their students.

Of the numerous educators I have known, worked with, and observed; the best ones have incredibly strong relationships with their students. This does not mean there’s laughter and smiles all round at all times but their genuine care drives their actions to positively impact the students’ learning experience.

If a student is challenged on their behaviour then it is out of genuine care for them and their success.

When feedback is given on their progress, it is done in such a way that demonstrates genuine care for them improving their work.

A climate is created that, as Mary Myatt puts it, leads to high challenge and low threat. No one is made to feel like a muppet. A learning environment filled with genuine care is one in which no one is ever humiliated or made to feel stupid. This is a safe environment filled with praise, challenge pitched at the right level, feedback (and plenty of it too!).

The relationship between student and teacher is a valuable one. For the best teachers, this is a relationship not built on ego, Ofsted or a misplaced sense of duty. 

It is a relationship not built on anything other than genuine care.

‘Measuring Progress’- It’s Messy!

When we planned this year’s Learning Festival, we made sure that sessions were being offered on areas of practice departments knew they needed development in. As the offers of workshops were confirmed, it became clear that the ‘measuring’ of progress was somewhat lacking. I stepped up to offer something – mainly as this is an area of my practice that I’ve struggled with- generally finding that any in-session ILPs I’d come across were a tick-box exercise (essentially functioning as a log activity on top of a session rather than a meaningful activity designed to further learning and not hinder it) and hardly ever designed to engage students in the deep reflection required for learning to be successful. I felt it might be of some use for me to share both my struggle and my learning journey with staff. As the day drew nearer, it occurred to me that I possibly wouldn’t be the ‘expert’ my colleagues might be expecting (never having quite struck a ‘perfect’ solution myself) and so I would enable discussion and exploration instead.


Their ‘rulers’ were paper ones from IKEA- I don’t really advocate you taking (stealing!) as many as I did but it was worth it!

I set out what they could expect from the session early:hannah-tyreman-progress-is-messy-1I made clear my view that learning is rather difficult to ‘quantify’ due to its nature of ups and downs, backs and forths, failures, debunking of what we thought we knew to be true…


I’m unsure how successful this reflection activity was bu the idea was for each of them to reflect on this concept of learning being particularly tricky to measure- like the perimeter of a pair of star shaped glasses- certainly not impossible but a challenge. I have taken inspiration from the pair sat on my desk!


My colleague, Helen Hayes, also thinks that an active volcano would be a pretty challenging thing to measure due its ever-changing nature (and the fact that you wouldn’t want to be anywhere near it!)


I shared with my workshop participants that perception plays such a huge role as teachers- just because it seems as though progress has been made, how can we really be sure that’s the case? Equally, where we think little progress has been made, the students have merely been engaging in the important struggle part of their learning journey and are ready to accelerate at a much quicker rate in a subsequent session.


I shared my hope that the session would provide them a little more confidence in talking to others about the progress being made by their learners.hannah-tyreman-progress-is-messy-8

I then gave a couple of minutes individual silent reflection time- a rare luxury! I didn’t ask them to share this reflection but just to have completed it for themselves so that it could frame the session for them.

I also shared the variety of things they could choose to ‘measure’ (not just the things they might automatically choose to):


When planning my session, I found I had numerous resources to share with them but it all seemed so haphazard- I needed some structure. I came up with 4 stages of ‘measuring’ progress that could be followed and they’d explore resources related to each (mainly thanks to Shaun Williams, @thebadpedagogue!)hannah-tyreman-progress-is-messy-10

This list is certainly not exhaustive yet and I’d love to develop it some more:hannah-tyreman-progress-is-messy-11

All resources and ideas have been made available electronically here (once you’ve clicked to access the collection below, just double-click to open each individual resource):


The afternoon provided the chance for some of my participants to explore the ideas they’d been presented with and how these could be implemented in their sessions (mainly on a 1 page sheet that covers each of the 4 stages of ‘measuring’ progress. I’d be interested in any ideas you might have in relation to ‘measuring’ progress as I move forward- or backwards- or up- or down- with my learning.

Learning Festival 2017

2017 had finally arrived and the day of my second Learning Festival at The Sheffield College. The first one would always be a hard act to follow and I wasn’t entirely sure that my post-holiday brain was up to the job. We’d soon find out. An inhumanely early alarm was set and I was bound for the earliest train.

After the fear subsided that the College was closed (it wasn’t!), we set about the last minute tasks to ensure we were ready for the day ahead. It was in these moments that I remembered what the first day of the January term is like- you’re there in person but you’re unsure where the rest of you is- probably tucked up at home in bed if it has any sense!

Staff settled into their free breakfast and were invited to register to receive the Teaching & Learning newsletter while they were at it. You may also wish to register for this newsletter and you can do so here:

I also decided we’d start a ‘wellbeing buddy box’ this term a la @mrshumanities

Colleagues who have registered will be allocated someone else from the list and they will be tasked with sending them, at some point in the coming term, a box of wellbeing goodies. At some point in the term, they will receive one in return. It’s not something you can really argue with- the good feeling provided by an act of kindness, as well as the excitement of a surprise gift. Staff will have another week or so to register for this term’s boxes. You can find out more about the initiative that inspired this internal action, launched via Twitter, here.

After an opening and welcome back talk from Paul Corcoran, staff headed to their workshops run by over 50 of our generous staff, one CEO, three students (most proud!) and one Alex Krasodomski-Jones.

As usual, we also offered a range of online workshops to staff:

After two 45 minute workshops, it seemed that staff were more than ready for lunch.

After staff had been sufficiently fed and watered, they were invited to the afternoon’s Unconference. The morning’s workshops had been grouped by theme and provided with a floor of rooms where staff could gather to make resources, continue discussions and further their learning.

3-4pm saw staff sharing the day’s learning with their teams and making their pledge- the one thing they’re going to try out, experiment with or make a change to in the coming term. This was a crucial part of the day- to ensure all of the day’s learning turns into an action that will, in some way, improve the service we provide to students and stakeholders alike. I’m looking forward to reading these pledges over the coming days and to reviewing progress with them in March’s Development Day.

Staff were then gathered together briefly at 4pm to share pledges with their colleagues, whilst Heather Smith shared positive messages about taking risks, being 10% braver and celebrating success. All facilitators were thanked and staff released after a long but hopefully learning-packed first day back.

In the spirit of a day of learning, it’s also important for me to reflect on how it went. All of this will, of course, be reviewed in light of a debrief with my team later on this week and a more detailed exploration of attendance, feedback and pledges but here are some of my initial thoughts:

  • Last year’s feedbackGreat– In response to staff feedback, we were able to provide an informal breakfast, fewer workshops, longer workshops, time in the afternoon to work on resources and ideas, and a final talk to gather everyone together again at the end of the day.
  • New initiativesGreat– Wellbeing boxes went down well with staff with far more sign-ups than anticipated. Not so great– Fewer sign-ups to the Teaching & Learning newsletter than expected but I’ll be following this with further promotion and relying on word of mouth.
  • Rooming and atmosphereGreat– Most of the rooming seemed to work out and we had enough suitable space for everyone. Not so great– The vibrant environment created at the last Learning Festival in Hillsborough was far better and this may have been due to the more compact layout of the College site. This is purely speculation at this moment in time so I need to give it some more thought- time of year is likely to have played a significant part in this too.
  • Opening and closing talksGreat– The diner was packed out for Paul’s opening talk and we were all set with mic and lectern. The afternoon was laid out well and we ensured a member of staff was on hand and visible in case anything went wrong again. Positive and uplifting messages were shared at each of the talks. Not so great– The battery for the mic ran out before Paul finished his welcome and with no spare seemingly available, we missed the ending and key messages about the day were unable to be shared. This will be followed up with the sharing of Paul’s written speech in full but there was little we could do about the other communications- bar bellowing at a room full of people and I don’t think my voice would have quite been up to that!
  • WorkshopsGreat– We had more facilitators than previously and managers had helped us to put the day together so it better met their staff’s needs; skills to be shared and areas for development. Not so great– Business Support managers were not incorporated into this planning phase in the way I would have wished and as a result, the offers of workshops from staff and teams were limited. This is something we will look to address for future development days to ensure that their needs are being met. Great– Having said that, more of the SEND Team, LSAs, library team, workplace assessors and technical trainers were incorporated and involved than ever before. There was also a set of bespoke workshops offered by one manager for her administration team- and all without any involvement required from my team!

I could go on but instead I will choose to end on the words of one recently, and very sadly passed, John Berger- an author whose ‘Ways of Seeing’ had such a great influence on me during my years of studying and well beyond it too:

‘You can plan events, but if they go according to your plan they are not events.’

I am left satisfied that it was, therefore, a pretty decent event and now I await, with anticipation, the abundance of pledges, risk taking and acts of 10% braver that will hopefully emerge from the past two development days.

A Further Education

I’ve always known, as a teacher of English (and sometimes maths, ICT and study skills) that there was a whole world of FE I didn’t have any real involvement with- a world filled with industry expertise and students working towards employment. Being present at open days and enrolment events always gave me an insight into the start of that journey but what of it then? Having a role in CPD has certainly brought me closer to that world but no better insight is gained than when I’m in lessons, observing the learning and speaking to staff and students.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been lucky enough to gain an insight into the great learning experiences provided for students at The Sheffield College @sheffcol and what follows are my notes.

Developing Vocational Skills

In Hospitality, students were absorbed in a demonstration of the day’s cooking; making copious notes, asking questions and answering chef’s targeted questions. Once the cooking commenced, it was clear that students had developed a range of professional skills on their course so far; chopping, cleaning up and staying safe by placing mats under boards to prevent slipping all indicate these students are becoming work ready. The respect was clear between ‘chef’ and students as I witnessed appropriate levels of challenge accompanied by careful observation of their work and coaching questions to develop students’ independence and resourcefulness.

In Hairdressing, students were engaged in a demonstration about shampooing hair effectively with students asking questions to confirm their understanding. This class were a group of mature learners, all currently working in industry and this was used appropriately by the lecturer to enhance the session; drawing on their current experiences through questioning and making reference to her own experience too. Students’ future plans were incorporated through a discussion around expenditure considerations that would need to be made when setting up and running their own business (cost of disposable towels in comparison with washing and drying towels for instance). The demonstration was thorough, with clear explanations given for students to follow- students were also encouraged to film the demonstration so that they had something to reference later on. It was clear that the lecturer had built up positive rapport with students- a blend of good humour and professionalism.

Developing Industry Expertise

I stayed far longer than intended in an Animal Care session on ‘barrier nursing’ as the lecturer’s expertise and passion was inspiring to say the least. This new lecturer has brought extensive and recent industry knowledge and expertise with her, which prove invaluable in the classroom. Each of her students were curious; with questions being asked about the subject content and much more besides. These students have developed excellent collaborative working techniques; all of them drawing on one another to answer questions and support them during the initial activity. When one student asked how she would be able to become a veterinary nurse, the lecturer was able to outline each of the steps of this journey to make it transparent to students and with a heightened awareness of what’s required, these students are learning with purpose.

In an Electrical Engineering session, the students’ brains were prepared for learning with challenging English and maths warm-up activities- a scrabble conundrum and a ‘what’s the missing number in this sequence?’ task. All students were engaged in calculating the answers before the time was up and late learners were incorporated without disturbance or a break in activity. As the lesson began, students were continually challenged through skillful questioning, with appropriate thinking time provided. This lecturer masterfully embeds a great deal of up-to-date knowledge from industry; adding context to a textbook and syllabus that has some outdated information. He shares with students what they can expect to buy in wholesalers and discusses the merits of different amp sizes and their impact on the cost of a job. These students are being well-prepared for their future.

Developing Digital Skills

In a Sports session, students were challenged with a team competition that demanded they engaged with higher level thinking- ranking items, making comparisons and selecting the most important parts. I was then able to see how the class are making use of Google Classroom and Apps for learning- engaging with lesson resources, working on and submitting their assignments. The students cited a variety of advantages to this online learning tool:

  • Being able to use it on their phones to check deadlines and view slideshows on their way in / way home from College.
  • The structure used helps them to navigate materials easily.
  • The easy communication with their teachers is also of benefit.
  • Gone are the days when collaborating on a project together is a great challenge and they lose their work (memory stick) or it crumples in their bag (paper hand-ins).
  • The fact that all of their teachers now use the same space was cited as being of particular benefit.

In a Games Development session, it was clear how the lecturer’s professional and knowledgeable approach helped the students to make progress; instilling high standards of work. It was clear that this lecturer was helping students through their qualification but was also, and perhaps more importantly, preparing them for successful work lives by encouraging them to learn from one another’s ideas and designs in order to create and then iterate their own. OneNote is the online learning tool of choice in this classroom with notebooks being used to bring about collaboration and ideas sharing across campuses and classes, replicating how these students might work in industry; having to share ideas with other games designers beyond their immediate vicinity. The students were growing in confidence with its use and although they had the class spaces to work with other students, they also had personal pages that the lecturer had created for each of them. The notebooks were well-structured to be easy to navigate and students cited being able to log-in from home when they needed to.


Students share their favourite ‘board game rules’ in a class notebook

In a Photography session, students were working on their projects within Google Slides (shared via Google Classroom). Instead of a written assignment or a paper scrapbook, students were able to access a set of slides that held a clear structure for dropping their work into. The lecturer cited how she was now able to see where students were up to on projects prior to deadlines; enabling her to tailor her work with individuals accordingly. It has also helped with the admin side of assessment as she is able to more easily track submissions and troubleshoot potential concerns with learners before the deadline.


Students have workbook pages to match learning activities in class so that their assignment is completed a section at a time but they can also see the overview.


Feedback sheets are incorporated at the end of the slideshow so that the lecturer can add this once the completed workbook is submitted on Google Classroom.

Developing Learning Habits

In one English lesson, collaborative learning was being encouraged with seating arrangement and room layout. Students responded well to activities and were clearly accustomed to setting and reviewing targets and their learning. The lecturer transitioned well from getting ready for the lesson to – now the lesson has started- and had all of the students following. Praise was used throughout in order to build confidence and encourage contributions from everyone whilst nominated questions were used at times to target certain individuals and check understanding.

In a different English lesson, it was clear how building rapport over time has resulted in engaged learners- keen to learn English and progress into employment.

In another English lesson, the lecturer had clearly established routines for her students to encourage their engagement- through seating arrangements, starter activities and ILP completion. Praise, a warm smile and a positive demeanour built students’ confidence too.

I wished I could have stayed longer in an Apprentice Advantage course where the lecturer had built up strong rapport with students just 3 days into their course. The lecturer played a speech as students arrived that contained words to inspire confidence; a quality integral to the success of these students in particular. The starter activity used was fun, challenging, related to CV writing and resulted in a room full of engaged learners- all intent on getting all of the answers correct. The session was carefully planned- structured to enable students’ purposeful progress through exploring skills and qualities for writing their CVs whilst English skills were developed through spelling, writing and communicating effectively. This lecturer’s assertive approach to positive engagement, with warmth and good humour, accompanied by a coaching approach to support students through lateness and remembering the correct equipment is already helping them to develop the skills required for employment.

In a Biology session, a warm and safe environment had been created where all students felt comfortable to learn in their own way and contribute to the learning of their peers also. It was clear that good learning habits have already begun to be developed with students responding to questions with confidence and demonstrating curiosity in asking questions and making observations. The lecturer’s modelling and subsequent construction of activities lead to students grasping concepts as they were repeated in a variety of ways. It was really lovely to see the students teaching one another; offering support and encouragement as well as challenge so that everyone’s understanding was secure.

The future of Further Education?

The last few weeks have reminded me of the joyfully diverse nature of FE- a whole world of opportunities, expertise and people held under one roof (or several…). I am even more convinced now of the great value to be found in bringing our various skills and knowledge together to collaborate across disciplines and contexts in order to transform our students’ lives in every department and not just our own. Whilst industry expertise may be strong in one area, the development of successful learning habits may be stronger in another.

In my 9 years in FE, I have witnessed staff being precious with resources. I have seen one department unwilling to learn from another because their students were far too unlike their own. I have been on the receiving end of judgement and criticism when I shared challenges I was facing with a group of students. I have, of course, been a part of some incredibly successful collaborative projects and activity but I am left wondering what might drive us to work more supportively with one another? FE is certainly not helped by the fact that we are an inherently competitive sector- if we work with the college down the road to become better together then we’re at risk of losing our students to them. As more and more cuts are made to the sector, jobs change, time and money constraints wrap tighter around us, and it becomes increasingly difficult to see outside of our own bubbles.

I’ve always set my sights sky-high but I have in my mind, a world where our bubbles collide, burst and instead of sending us crashing to the ground, free us to work as we wish- connecting across disciplines and making the most of the variety of skills under one roof (or several…). As education professionals, we can never be all things to all people but combined, that could be a possibility. I’m thinking of a curriculum enhanced by the professional standards to be found in Hospitality, the approaches to incorporating industry expertise held in Engineering and the learning habits to be found in the Sciences. By learning from one another and working together, I believe we really could have the best of all worlds right under one roof (or several…). Now to contemplate how such a world can be achieved whilst still anchored to this one…

Be…assertive! Be, be assertive!

You can read about week 1 (managing your own behaviour) here and week 2 (rules and routines) here and week 3 (making praise personal) here.

What kind of teacher are you?

Hostile, passive or assertive?

Find an assertive voice in the classroom- assertive is much more than an aggressive voice. Passive is equally as ineffective as you’re pleading with students. An assertive voice is more urgent and more focused.

Try some assertive sentence stems:

  • Try ‘I need you to’…
  • In 5 minutes, I will see…
  • You should be…
  • You must be…

The following article was recommended by one of the MOOC participants and it includes advice on tone, language and body language: what to do and what to avoid. It reminds me of some of the more passive-aggressive tendencies I might sometimes display- like rolling my eyes or sighing. It holds some incredibly helpful content about how to adapt your approaches to display a more assertive style.

Be assertive and fair while maintaining student dignity

Another of the MOOC participants shares her examples of hostile, passive and assertive communications:

Hostile: “Just do it”, “I told you to be quiet.” “Close your book – NOW”, “I don’t tolerate that in my class” “I’m not asking, I’m telling you…” , “Nobody is leaving this room until….”, “You’ll be sorry you said that…”

Passive: “Could we all be quiet please?”, “It would be good if you could finish that”, “1,2,3 eyes on me”, “I’m not sure that’s a good idea”, “Its getting very noisy in here”, “The bell’s about to go. We won’t be ready to leave” “Could someone please sort out the books”

Assertive: “In two minutes I need to see you settled and writing”, “We can discuss it at lunch time”, “I need you to put that away “, “When you’ve taken your hat off, then I will help you”, “You need to listen carefully to the instruction”

Some more examples were shared:

Hostile: I’ve had enough of your behaviour / Stop throwing  Put your phone away now

Passive: Don’t behave like that please / Why are you throwing things? It’s very disruptive./ I really don’t want you to have your phone out

Assertive: I need you to stop throwing paper aeroplanes and concentrate on your work/ When we meet at break we can agree some strategies to help you stay on task/ Please be ready to report back to the class in 5 minutes/ I need you to put your phone away . When I return to your table I want to see you have made a start on your list

Reading through these examples, I definitely recognise some of the more passive behaviours in my own approaches and I think the assertive stems will be really helpful in approaching my requests to students and the class- one of my colleagues said he had tried these out already and had experienced great success.


Image available from here

Light-touch interventions

These simple gestures and ‘light-touch interventions’ work by demonstrating to students that you have noticed their behaviour but you’ll be giving attention to the rest of the class too. They do not commandeer all of your attention and focus.

These were some favourites suggested on the MOOC:

  • ‘Offering the student a pen while speaking to another student who is sitting alongside
  • Standing next to the student who is causing concern while speaking to the rest of the class
  • Sitting next to a student while continuing other conversations
  • Adjusting the student’s work while calmly reminding them of the first step in the task
  • Giving simple non-verbal cues to remind the student of the expectations
  • Showing acts of kindness – lend them a pencil, smile and see if they are ok, hold the door open for them, ask if you may hang up their coat’

Decelerating poor behaviour

You can read this article, printed in ‘Teach Nursery’ magazine, here

Using the biggest sanctions too soon can cause problems later on- often leaving you with nowhere to go when faced with behaviour that doesn’t meet expectations.

‘From disappointment to disapproval, there are a million shades in between.’

The article shares how you can move through levels in a subtle way: shifting tone, body language, word choice- before having to escalate to a more dramatic state.

It’s all about ‘slowing down the rush towards consequence and encouraging pause for thought.’

This serves as a model for the student’s behaviour- encouraging them to mirror your calm and assertive behaviour.

Use the 3 As when you intervene in poor behaviour:

Audience– How might the audience affect the interaction? How could they be affected by it? Consider moving to quieter space or having the conversation away from the group.

Acceleration– How can you stop the situation accelerating? Which deceleration techniques work with this student?

Anger– How are you managing your anger and the anger/emotion of the student? Do you need to give the student time to calm down, time to think or consider their next move?

Ten reasons not to send them straight out

  1. If you stray from the agreed hierarchy of sanctions you are showing the children that you are inconsistent; you have broken your agreement with the class.
  2. Going for the highest sanction straight away leaves no further room for manoeuvre.
  3. The child may react defensively – answering back, confronting, protesting publicly.
  4. Colleagues find it difficult to gauge when you need support and when you are simply sending children out through frustration.
  5. You allow the class to see your emotional reactions over your rational choices.
  6. You are encouraging parents and senior staff to question your management of behaviour.
  7. By sending children out you only relieve your frustration temporarily.
  8. Other children will see your inconsistency and may protest or react against it.
  9. For children who are often sent out without moving through the sanction steps, being excluded becomes an expected outcome.
  10. Your behaviour management agreement with the class is trampled on. Trust is broken.

As a teacher in further education with a class full of students who were repeatedly sent out of English classes at school for messing about, I can see the detrimental impact it has later on when there is no escape (which is all they ever saw it as)!


Image available from here

Diversions and Diffusers

…are exactly what they sound as though they are. Confronting behaviour head on is rarely the best way to calm students down and put them in the right frame of mind for learning.

‘A skilled diversion gives everyone a chance to take a moment to regroup and avoid behavioural cul-de-sacs such as, “You will”, “Shan’t”… You want to stick to the conversation you have planned. Diffusers let the student know that you are listening to them and that they have been heard. ‘Diversions’ and ‘Diffusers’ will stop the interaction exploding.’

One of the MOOC participants shared her examples of diversions and diffusers:

‘Diversions basically mean asking the student to do anything unrelated to the problem thus giving them time away from the problem for a while to regain composure, they are distractions, for example, can you help me hand out these books, can you send this message to…, can you come up the front and do this on the board, can you help a person with… Etc.

Diffusers are basically giving the student permission to feel the emotion and deal with it then or later and helping them move on from that, I understand/know/get this is. Problem, let’s come back to it later…, that’s great but let’s talk about it later, you did this rally well yesterday, let’s try and find that again shall we, or let’s work on something together.’

We were then provided with a checklist of strategies for each- the great thing about this course is that alternatives are provided to suit our different teaching styles and approaches. I chose:
  • Grab the student’s attention with, “I need your help”, “Did you see…?”
  • Break up the lesson with a quick game to change the focus of the lesson and give you a chance to notice and comment on positives.
  • Tactically ignore and change the subject (but don’t forget the behaviour later).


  • End a request with ‘thank you’ – expecting that task will be done because you’ve thanked them for doing it already.
  • “You can’t help how you feel but you do have a choice about how you deal with those feelings.”
  • “Ok, I hear you, tell me the main thing that is upsetting you.”


Having a script can really help in situations where you might jump to feeling exasperated or reacting in an emotional way. Initially, a ‘script’ might seem like a restrictive approach. A script can help us to keep calm and is a powerful way to get our message across and behave in the kind of assertive way that’s necessary.
Get in, deliver the message, get out- with your dignity and the student’s dignity in tact. 
  1. An opening line … ‘I notice that … ‘
  2. The message delivered … ‘And you know that we need to … ‘
  3. The consequence … ‘If you choose to … I will need to speak to you after the lesson …

‘I’ve noticed you got a problem getting started this morning. Am I right? And you know we’re working on resilience. I need you to join in with the group.

You are going to have to speak to me for two minutes after the lesson today. Do you remember last week? Do you remember last week when I sent that note home to mum? I remember it. You did some outstanding peer assessment. The write-up of your investigation was extremely accurate, and you came to science club on Wednesday. That– that is the student I need you to be today. Thanks for listening and I’m off. I won’t take more than 30 seconds to intervene because I’ve got 30 other children to deal with, and they deserve my attention just as much as the child who’s disrupting. My script is repetitive. It’s calm. It sends a clear message.’

One MOOC participant shared: ‘I’ve noticed that you are having troubles getting started today. When you do……. I feel….. Can you please do (the behaviour desired)? I’ll give you a minute to get started and make a choice about how to get going. (Walk away and circulate the room). Come back to the student and either praise the for making a good decision or let them know you need to speak to them briefly after class because that has broken classroom rule number three about having mutual respect for others learning and we can discuss how to correct it privately after class.’

In an example we were shown- a scene that’s often seen escalating is reduced by the teachers words and actions. One MOOC participant summed up the steps taken and the script used in this comment:

‘I need you to stick to our agreement. (Instruction given) Phone out of sight and silent.
I’m giving you an instruction. (Instruction repeated) Phone out of sight and silent. (Expectation of the required behaviour anchored) Thank you. Thank you very much then I will deal with Michael (message to the rest of the class that the behaviour will not be ignored. Safety within the classroom is maintained). Thank you for putting your phone in your pocket. Ok everyone I’m looking forward to hearing your persuasive arguments and well chosen phrases. (expected behaviour reinforced). Thank you Michael for putting away your phone. No, really. Look you got started, date and time, you are off. (Michael is caught making the right choice. Even small steps can help students move on.. The teacher is calm and consistent. The trust is not broken. The teacher’s and Michael’s integrity are intact.’

Micro-script model

The key thing to remember is that people are not their behaviour. There are moments when their behaviour will be poor and it’s that we should attack- not the person.

Behaviours should be shifted into the past tense as often as possible- not dwelling on poor choices but presuming they are in the past.

‘Limit your formal one-to-one interventions for poor behaviour in class to 30 seconds each time. Get in, deliver the message, ‘anchor’ their behaviour with an example of the student’s previous good behaviour and get out.’

A script takes away the need for improvisation- where things can go wrong.

In fact, I’ve spoken just today with one of my team who is going to help me write a script for dealing with difficult staff as it’s adult behaviour that can be just as bad as that of our students! She deals with it impeccably because she’s built up a range of statements that she can draw upon in such situations so that the behaviour doesn’t escalate. With this one and the script for my students- the job will be to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse- because these situations are all about nuance in language and tone and careful choices must be made. For full-time teachers (or those with plenty of hours), Paul advises trying out the script with the classes you are more confident with- your less challenging students (rather than running straight in with the most difficult behaviour in your most challenging class). I’ll have to practise on the one class I’ve got and will develop a script further.

Recommended reading

Why some teachers have fewer inappropriate behaviour issues than others.

‘Using low intrusion teacher behaviours not only supports learning, but also ensures that the vast majority of students don’t end up on ‘punishment road’. Read more in this book from Bill Gribble.

Praise: make it personal

This week’s learning challenged me to think about how I show my appreciation to students. I am aware of how I demonstrate it to colleagues but have I been as aware of exactly why and how this is shown to my students over the years? I’m not so sure…

You can read about week 1 (managing your own behaviour) here and week 2 (rules and routines) here.

Chatting with a colleague towards the end of the last week, we both agreed that this MOOC is something that we wished we’d had as part of our PGCE or anywhere on our teaching journey thus far. What it contains isn’t rocket science but it is transformational and it’s challenging us to change our practice for the better. The perfect CPD! (So long as we continue the good work and continue learning- we’ve set-up a One Note notebook to gather things for now and we’ll be adding some more meetings after half-term with any luck).

Q&A session 1

Q. How can I make students understand that there are things they just HAVE to do? Whether they want to or not… Resorting to shouting is often the easiest option.

A. If we do shout then apologising for this later on is a valuable action to engage in as it sets a clear model for the student to follow. Repairing the damage creates trust and builds relationships. We can’t MAKE students understand things- if they don’t understand the ‘why’ and the learning is done TO them then this will remain difficult. Create an environment that encourages and empowers them to want to learn and develop.

How many things are we asking them to do and how many of these are absolutely necessary? Giving students too many things that they’re REQUIRED to do leads to their frustration. Once routines are embedded, the things students are expected to do become the norm.

Pick battles carefully- make decisions in advance so that decisions are planed and considered- is a student arriving 10 seconds after the start time of the lesson worth kicking off about and creating a scene that distracts from the learning experience for a far longer amount of time. Make it clear to the students that you follow-up by noting a name down, making a record etc.

Behaviour needs to be a 1-1 thing rather than publicly to satisfy other students’ needs-students have to understand that the behaviour of a student is between the student and their teacher.

Demonstrate that you’re not ignoring the behaviour; you’re choosing to explore it at the most appropriate time. This is a measured role model for them to follow.

Covering a lesson

A. Students have a level of anticipation and expectation from the moment they realise you’re a supply teacher. Bringing along some of your authentic personality is important: create something intriguing that leads to buy-in. Inject a bit of ‘self’ that will lead to magic for the students.

You won’t get automatic respect- we have to prove that we deserve it; don’t go in commanding it and expecting it. The meet and greet helps students to feel safe and this is vitally important too. Find out what routines and rules are already in place with their current teacher and how can you be consistent with that? If this level of detail can’t be obtained then find the school/college’s policy and think how your behaviour could align with this?

Dealing with ringleaders

A. Find out what’s important to these learners- What makes them feel valued? Spend time with them in between lessons and at lunchtime if possible. Work alongside the students rather then generating this attack/defend battle culture all of the time. Think about the students’ possible backgrounds and how this might be affecting their behaviour. ‘Will you be just another adult who walks away from me?’ if you never give up and never leave then this builds trust between you. Smile and say hello to them- you might be the only adult that does this to them all week. Engage them before it gets to the point where a sanction has to be instigated.

Making allowances for specific behaviour needs

A. Yes- we should make allowances but there’s a difference between being fair and equal. We need to differentiate for behaviour as comfortably as we do for ability. A punishment that’s designed as a deterrent or a reward is problematic: we need to focus on our students becoming problem solvers and much more self-regulating in their behaviour. We wouldn’t expect a wheelchair user to get up and go for a run. In the same way, we need to adjust our expectations of students with specific educational needs. Developing empathy helps us to build relationships: its adults who usually struggle with ‘fairness’ and children are usually more comfortable with it. This presents a n added challenge for dealing with behaviour at an FE, HE or adult level.

We often take a default position of teaching to the behaviours we would exhibit; forgetting that our students are human, individual and won’t necessarily behave in that same way.

How do I deal with colleagues who have different behaviour management strategies and approaches?- Especially those less friendly and more dictatorial. 

A. We can be friendly with students- but not friends. They want to feel safe with you. The thing to focus on is what you can control and change in your immediate environment. The climate in your classroom is the one you can control. Be comfortable with the fact that being friendly, warm and nurturing is not problematic and highlight this with colleagues. It’s important to find a school or college that aligns with your own values and this might lie outside of your current workplace. Seeking and finding the voices that match your own are the ones to try and communicate with. A smile is such a human action that creates a safe and comfortable environment. Where teachers rule by fear, students won’t learn in the way they need to.

Q. How do you deal with learners who are slow to start an activity?

A. Having routines in place is absolutely critical. Be relentless in the embedding of this routine with your students. The consistent continuation of these routines makes them habitual and it lessens the excuses a student can give for not getting on with an activity. We take a lot of small routines for granted: working in pairs, moving into groups, writing homework, reflecting on the lesson, starting work… Give these the thought and time they deserve to develop good learning habits.

Q. How do you deal with a pupil who’s constantly commenting opinion and questioning what’s being taught?

A. Students trying to get out of tasks- dig down to why- why are they challenging this? We can’t challenge them if we don’t allow them to challenge us back so we do have to be accepting of this. Is there a need to be more concise in speaking to students and relaying new information? Train yourself yo respond to their challenges in an emotionally controlled way. Often a peer observation or filmed lesson can help us to identify what’s going on/wrong with our teaching approaches- speaking for too long, giving too many instructions in a row…

Q. How do you motivate disinterested/unmotivated learners?

A. This is the magic question really. If we all had the answer fully then the situation would be quite different (our job would be a doddle, wouldn’t it?!). What’s contributing to their apathy? How can we begin to strategise what’s going on with the learner(s)? Knowledge just exists- we don’t give it out- we just create and facilitate environments where they discover for themselves. This can go a long way to motivation and engagement. They will be more engaged with people who they think care about them than those who don’t. Observe other teachers and see what they’re doing to engage them. Speak to the other teachers who work with a specific student and find out how others have broken down barriers that you could work into what you do. Tap into what they’re great at and share it with the student- that you’ve discovered something about them… Challenge how students have developed negative internal loops by observing how positive and smiley they are- counteract the impression they think everyone has of them as demotivated, lazy etc. This gives them less negative stereotyping to live up to.


Image available from here

Positive Notes Home

A positive note home is 4 levels of recognition they will truly value: it’s for the students who come every day, work hard, are polite and diligent.

  1. Give it to the child- this is you, behaving brilliantly and remember this moment. It’s so much better than a digital reward- it’s something tactile.
  2. They take it home- it’s then a level of recognition at home.
  3. The note gets stuck on the fridge or it’s public at home- family reinforces the positive messages you’re giving them
  4. Where does it go when it’s off the fridge? In the bin-unlikely. A file/scrapbook will exist.

For the entirety of this video- I’m thinking about all of those students we have in FE who can’t share it at home or who wouldn’t get that same reaction but then I think about notes I’ve received from colleagues or managers at work. I treasure each of them personally- they don’t go on the fridge and they’re not shared with my family but I still get a lot from them so I’d hope the same would apply for our students.

Give opportunities for the student to go even further in their learning as part of the positive note/ moment of recognition- an invite to maths club on a Wednesday, a research task, invited to work with some older students on something more advanced… They’re not just rewarded with praise but with more work- an added challenge. Suddenly, you’ve got something cheap and allows them to go even further in their subject.

Which rewards do students value the most?

  • Responsibility/job in the lab/teaching space
  • Selection from a goody bag of pencils, rubbers, pencil sharpeners etc.
  • Time on the computer
  • Cup of tea and biscuit at breaktime
  • Praise postcard or letter home to parents
  • Mention in assembly
  • ‘Free time’ at the end of a lesson
  • Stars on a chart for a weekly award
  • Fun experiment or other exciting activity (relating to your subject) at the end of the week

Giving rewards to the students who behave and work diligently is of vital importance in order to encourage their continued engagement with learning. Giving a naughty badge or an angry phonecall home can create an attractive package, with just the right level of recognition they crave. This is no behaviour that should be encouraged, the other is.

It’s not what you give that makes the difference when it comes to rewards but the way that you give it- how many small tokens of appreciation litter teachers’ desks? I know I have a few and a colleague used to give me a badge or a sticker on frequent occasions- I have kept them all and refer to them often for a little boost.


This hangs from my PC even now- from a group who worked well together, bonded, made friends and who still keep in touch with me 5 years later. We went on a trip down to London and during a free bit of time to wander Covent Garden, they bought me this little token. Many of them had never been to London before and one of them even ended up at University there in the end. I don’t think they really thought of me as the ‘best teacher’ but this token of appreciation meant a lot to me. It really is the ‘thought that counts’.

The reward ladder:

  • It all begins with Positive reinforcement
  • Moving to Sincere, private verbal praise
  • …Addition comments on written work
  • Peer congratulations
  • Work on display in the classroom
  • Work on display in public areas/website
  • Positive referral to another teacher
  • Positive text home
  • Positive note home
  • Positive phone call home
  • ‘Mentioned in dispatches’ in assembly and in staff meetings
  • Extra class responsibility
  • Class award certificate
  • Year award certificate
  • Extra school responsibility
  • School Honours


Image available from here

Reward systems that work aren’t elaborate

Reward over and above – don’t reward minimum standards because that is what you will get, rather reward those who go over and above the required standards.

It’s not what you give but the way that you give it – the system itself isn’t necessarily critical, it’s how staff operate it- ie. not rewarding minimum standards and choosing to be consistent about praising students.

The system itself or what we spend on it is not what counts. Make the reward system simple to operate – it must be simple enough to fit in with the rhythm of the teaching of the busiest staff e.g. if you have to log into a computer between lessons to use the reward system then you are storing up work for yourself because it doesn’t fit in with the pace you need to be working at – this leads to teachers using their own, simpler systems rather than the consistent school one.

Make the reward system personal – personal praise which is sincere and rewards students for going over and above is one of the top three things learners say they want – the danger of using a technological system for rewards is that it can take away the personal touch. I recognised this last week. I was giving students points using Class Dojo but it was the personal comment I made to a student at the end of the lesson that I believe will have had more impact- it felt good at my end and I’m sure he recognised this. It has provided an interaction I can refer back to when his behaviour slips too.

Recognition beats material rewards every time – the tiny moments of appreciation and feeling valued are far more important to the majority of learners than raffle tickets to win an iPad at the end of term which distances the reward far too far from the behaviour to be effective.

Attendance rewards are seen time and time again by Paul Dix- attend 100% of the time for a raffle ticket to win an iPad. Get up on time and attend College every day for a whole term… for a raffle ticket! Far better for a personal piece of recognition- a word at the end of the lesson, a piece of encouragement written on a post-it note…

You have a chance of making it fairer and more right if it’s personal praise rather than a longer-term points system where you’re attempting to manage points for 30 students. The why behind the reward/recognition it is so crucial as well- students need to know why they’ve been rewarded points or what they’re being rewarded for. Otherwise, it has about as much impact as a delayed sanction or not doing it at all.

Rewards ceremonies are problematic too- many students will be made to feel uncomfortable with the adulation that might occur at a certificate-giving ceremony.

Differentiating praise is important- for different age groups of students and you need to differentiate between the long and short-term rewards. Positive notes home can be more easily controlled so that they’re not given out like beans.

Electronic systems are great when they’re carefully managed. When they’re also linked to charity- students can choose to award their points to a charity of their choice. Systems can be used really well AND really badly: buy-in from staff is crucial: it’s not what you give but the way that you give it.

Praise, positive notes and phonecalls home simplified one school’s system and allowed them to focus, in a clear way, on their practice and improving its impact as much as possible.

Prefects, responsibilities, awards- should be lead by the Senior team- including earning rewards that will help students to engage employment (a passport to employment- one college has achieved this through engagement with Reed: arranging mock interviews).

Short-term rewards- recognition boards, verbal praise, post-it praise- showcase your work to someone in another classroom- another teacher, an external person (they will re-affirm that it is of a high standard). Don’t assume that because a learner is of a certain age that they won’t respond to recognition in the same way as children.

Join this up and recognise staff as well! Small notes to them have impact too!

Teachers need to reward in their own way- based on their character so that it doesn’t feel contrived. The freedom needs to exist for teachers to change systems and reward in new ways- a system or policy at a school/college shouldn’t be a blanket one.

The best reward he’s seen (in terms of impact) is in schools where it is a Friday evening routine to make a positive phonecall home. Friday evening- every single adult picks up the phone and makes a phonecall home- those learners that have consistently gone over and above (not just those that have decided to behave one week).

You can listen to lots of Pivotal podcasts on behaviour here.

Recognition Boards

  • Targeted at ‘Learning Attitudes’ not just functional behaviours.
  • Names or tallies go on the board to recognise learners who are demonstrating the desires learning attitude.
  • Names or tallies are never removed from the board. Learners who disrupt are dealt with privately.
  • Learners can nominate others to be put on the board.
  • The key is to generate peer responsibility. It is not a competition between individuals, rather a whole class helping everyone to get their name up.
  • Recognition boards need refreshing daily or weekly.
  • Learners are recognised for effort and not for achievement.
  • When everyone has their name on the board a collective ‘whoop’ is appropriate; large rewards are not necessary.
  • Use the recognition board to persistently and relentlessly catch learners demonstrating the right learning


Image available from here

Giving Importance

Written by Chris Sweeney- Pivotal Education Trainer for the Pivotal education Blog:

Chris writes about the lessons he learned about behaviour from a pub landlord when he was working in a pub for a year. He learned about the importance of getting to know the customers and going above and beyond to make each one of them feel important (in whatever way seemed most suitable to them and their personality). You can read his reflections here:


Amjad Ali often reminds teachers on Twitter that school might be the best part of the day for some of our students (even though they won’t let on that it is!). We should therefore be mindful of this and give them a smile, show that we know who they are, and make them feel important. One of the images he shares:



Some recommended reading:

Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes

For best results, forget the bonus

Learning behaviour: lessons learned

Raising behaviour: a school view