Come up and see me make me smile…

It is not quite the season to be jolly.  As all who live and work in schools now, we teachers are seasonal creatures, driven be calendar and event more than most, able to ride the various winds that blow, and hunker down when the winter comes,wrapped in tinsel and warmed by seasons greetings.

It is the season for us to receive lectures, from the party politicians at conferences of all colours, about how perhaps we i/c education plc should be doing a better or different job, and I’ll admit to being old enough to listen and judge for myself whether the advice is good, sound, convenient or even arrant nonsense.

Education UK is awaiting the arrival of Professor John Hattie, researcher extraordinaire from NZ via Melbourne University’s  Education Research Institute, on tour here to highlight how the best can be gained from our children. He has written prolifically, his seminal work being Visible Learning (2008), and when he updated this work, he added Teacher competency to the list of the best four things we can do to raise achievement. Now, Hattie’s overall rules for improvement are no magic bullet, more of the ‘Teacher know thyself and thy subject’ and ‘if things aren’t working, do them a different way’. At Claires Court we have focussed his research onto these 6 positive outcomes:

1.The deployment of our professional skills – ‘The Credibility of the Teacher’

2.Behaviour of Pupils

3.Feedback to/from Pupils

4.Metacognition & self-regulation strategies to improve thinking and learning

5.Peer tutoring

6.Early diagnosis, intervention, remediation and acceleration

Teachers and Pupils knowing each other is really key to progress, and after 6 weeks of the new academic year, most in this relationship struggle are where they need to be. For teachers, it is their credibility in the classroom that is key to success, and this is where Hattie’s research is so powerful.  He lists four territories that Teachers need to occupy successfully, those being Trust, Competence,  Dynamism and Immediacy.  I think these are pretty self-explanatory and work both ways.  Trust for example is not just about Trusting the teacher, it calls up the need for mutual respect, and our school values fit well with these headings.  Immediacy is not about prompt response, more about lowering barriers and inclusion, ensuring children are given a voice.

There is also a parallel debate about what makes children great learners, and lifestyle choices are to the forefront again. Most worrying for our school is the report out this week (see BBC Education news) that children by the age of 10 have five screens at home through which they can view rich media, that’s  bedroom TV, PC or laptop, slate, phone and games console and all of which out of reach much of the time of their parents. What the research makes absolutely clear is that there should be no external rich media stimulation less than 1 hour before bedtime, so that’s a tough ask for families that use TV as a reward for after all other things are done.

Now readers of my blog won’t expect this just to be a lecture, so I’ll finish with some lovely words by Guardian writer, Anne Wood, writing about the worrying signs that Britain is no longer investing in its program-making for children.  The article published on Tuesday ( is entitled “Television that makes children smile is so valuable” and includes this priceless summary: When children are smiling they are confident. When they are confident, they are curious. When they are curious, they are ready to learn. So please may we allow children and parents to relax a little, smile and be confident? Enjoying good children’s TV together may be only one way to relax, but it is a highly valuable one. Producing television is an art form whether for children or adults.

The key to success is in the penultimate sentence, ‘together’. And that’s where the most success can be found in any endeavour, not in the individual pieces however well crafted but in the whole, and if fit for purpose it will not only ‘Come and See us, and Make us Smile’, but a whole lot more! With our School Bonfire night almost upon us, and with fingers crossed for good weather this Saturday evening, I have every hope our ‘Pinewood’ Blockbusters display won’t just be a great success in itself (no pressure, Sean at Star Fireworks), but it will provide reinforcement that in our immediate area we can’t half make great films and TV for all the family, and in addition that our school community will reaffirm their faith in coming together as one big family for an hour or so! Because I trust my school, I for one will have a big grin on my face, come Saturday night!

About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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