Tag Archives: College


At the beginning of this academic year I led a training event for the whole teaching staff.  It was a positive and upbeat meeting with the team in positive spirits following some great A level and GCSE results.


I decided to focus the session on the teachers themselves to ensure they each felt a part if the success of the College as a whole.  I wanted teachers to know that they make a difference and that their contribution was valued.  I also wanted to challenge some old attitudes and so focused the day on three themes:
  • The impact of the teacher in the classroom
  • No labels
  • Remove expectations
The impact of the teacher
Looking at the impact of the teacher allowed me to discuss the research of John Hattie.  As a starting point to presenting his research, I looked at his own feedback on the importance of the teacher in the classroom.


The teacher can have a huge positive impact on learning (although also a negative one if teaching is not good).  Hattie presents this idea as “know thy impact.”  I wanted the teachers to make sure they understood their importance, but also that they take responsibility for the learning in the classroom.  This animation which illustrates (literally!) Hattie’s eight ‘mindframes’ was a great aid to the introduction of this idea.


No labels
The idea of not labelling students is not a new one.  There is some debate as to what constitutes a label.  Does setting or streaming in schools apply labels to the students inadvertently for example?  But this was not the focus of my session.  Essentially this session was about Assessment For Learning.


AFL is also nothing new, but how much do teachers actually do it on a day-to-day basis?   I know that especially in sixth form teaching there can be a tendency to give a student a grade for a piece of work and then offer no further feedback to the student.  The grade then becomes a label.  For some students who only “need a B to go to university” if they get their B grade awarded repeatedly by the teacher, they have little incentive to improve and have reached a self-imposed ceiling that the teacher is doing nothing to remove.  Equally, there is nothing more demoralising for an A level student who feels they are working hard than to repeatedly receive no feedback other than a single letter “D” “E” or maybe “U” on every piece of work.


Here is Paul Black discussing AFL and the difference between routine feedback and “high-stakes” end-of-school, summative assessment.



Remove expectations
Related to labelling and and appropriate assessment, this is different to raising expectations.  Every teacher should have high expectations for every student.  By remove expectations, I don’t mean “expect nothing”, I mean “expect anything!”  Let’s imagine every learner has the capacity to learn more and to always improve.  I once had the privilege to meet one of my heros – Carl Lewis.  During the talk he was giving he made the remark “not everyone can be the fastest, but everyone can get faster.”  This makes perfect sense in education too.  Expect that every student, no matter what their current level, can always get better.


Zimbardo (he of the famous and controversial prison experiment), here discusses research carried out when teachers are given false “high expectations” of a group of students.  They inadvertently give preferential treatment to that group and the group in turn improve at a faster rate than those the teachers are told to have ‘low expectations” of.  There is no criticism of the teachers, just an interesting observation on how students’ expectations of themselves and teachers’ expectations of learners can influence the quality of learning.




Students beginning their A2 year of A level or their final year of IB will no doubt be beginning to prepare their university applications this week if they haven’t already started. As schools and colleges go back, so upper sixth/A2 groups are encouraged to register for the UCAS system and to start taking some decisions about university. There is lots of advice available and lots of advice to give about this process, but here is my tip for the week…
Choose your five universities wisely! 
This means that you should select five institutions that you would like to study at. It sounds obvious, but you are no longer required to rank you list in order of preference. In fact this practise ended decades ago. So your choices should be of five institutions or courses that you would definitely like to go to and you should ensure you’d be happy at any of the five. This is more difficult than you might think and the temptation is to rank them in your head in order of preference anyway.
This is dangerous, because it means that you end up with a ‘fifth choice’.  Fifth! Who cares about fifth!? Two places outside of the medals in an Olympic event and not even a champions league place (if you get the football reference). The problem is that your ‘fifth choice’ is likely to also have the lowest entry requirements and therefore, if you miss your firm choice offer it could well be the place you end up.  Experience tells me that on results day students who have made their insurance offers are disappointed that they now have to go somewhere they never really thought they would end up and they never really wanted to go anyway!
Now, I hope that every gets their grades for their firm choice institution, but the reality is that many people don’t.
So consider this.  You are lucky enough to have five offers from five universities which are:
University 1 – AAB
University 2 – AAB
University 3 – AAB
University 4 – AAB
University 5 – BBB
You then have to pick two. Your firm choice and your insurance choice (note they are not called first choice and second choice – that is deliberate). If you want to have a genuine insurance policy,  University 5 HAS to be your insurance choice, even if you would rather go to any of the others. So… You had better make sure you want to go there!
A trap students often fall into is to pick a ‘fifth choice’ that has substantially lower entry requirements than the other places you apply.  Imagine the scenario above, but where university 5 had entry requirements of DDE. If you miss your grades by a fraction (say you get ABB) you may well end up going to university 5 and you may feel under-sold.
More often than not this ends up as a wasted choice in any case. Why? Because if you end up with more than two offers, imagine this scenario:
University 1 – AAB
University 2 – AAB
University 3 – ABB
University 4 – BBB
University 5 – DDE
You’re not likely to pick university 5. You didn’t want to go there any way and so wouldn’t you rather have another university to choose from than this essentially dead choice?
And so, my tip for the day and for the week is – CHOOSE WISELY! Pick an range of universities that are within your academic range and skill set. Don’t over-sell yourself and don’t under-sell yourself.
Good luck!


On Monday, as in many schools and colleges thought the uk, a new academic year begins. For us at Ashbourne this means registration days,  induction meetings and ‘getting-to-know-you’ for students followed by a full-day ‘welcome back’ meeting for the staff. 

As a senior manager this is arguably the most important week of the college year. For the students coming to us for the first time it is essential that the college presents itself as the modern, inclusive, successful institution we believe ourselves to be. The focus is three fold:

1. Efficiency – we have a lot of students to process in a short space of time. We need to reduce ‘hanging around time’ to a minimum, ensure there is plenty for the students to be doing and that we take their details and diseminate materials and information swiftly. 
2.  Professionalism – a slick, professional first impression is crucial.  there should be no hint that anything is going wrong (even if it is) and all staff should be well drilled and know exactly what is required of them that day. 
3.  Welcoming and friendliness – sixth firm colleges are curious places. Students join in our case from all over London and the world. Despite some bravado and some brave faces, most of them are nervous and frightened. “Will this be the same as my old school?” “I don’t know anybody here!” “Everyone seems to know someone except me!” “Everyone seems so clever/smart/good looking/popular (or whatever…)” the college staff have a very important job to do to settle nerves and make everyone feel welcome. 

If any if these don’t happen or are not delivered at 100% it is very easy to “lose a life” with the students. It is so important for them to leave with the impression that they have made a good choice, that they will be successful and welcome and that they are looking forward to getting started. 

Good luck to anyone starting a new school or college next week and good luck to the staff involved in making their first few days run smoothly.