Resilience : steps to an action research project

This entry relates to one of our schools that we have been in for almost a year. Initially the work was round supporting the headteacher by facilitating discussion around ethos; our first building block. As a result the school has created a framework focusing on 10 elements of learning. The school decided to move forward by modelling an action research approach that can then be evaluated, modified and replicated in September 2017. Below is a summary of the steps they are taking in developing the action research project;

1 Agreeing the focus 

  • Developing children’s knowledge, understanding, use and application of ‘resilience’ to support and enhance their learning.
  • Developing aspects of oracy with a focus on; enhancing the ‘breadth and depth’ of ‘emotional language’ and developing the language of ‘resilience’ to ensure children can communicate effectively this aspect of their learning.

2  Identifying tangible outcomes 

  • A ‘set’ of learning attributes to underpin ‘resilience’.
  • An explicit visual model to support children’s learning.
  • A ‘set’ of sentence starters to support both children and staff.

3  Defining intended impact 

  • Children recognise and manage their emotions more effectively.
  • Children’s; language developed to enable them to more effectively articulate aspects of their learning, with a focus on resilience and an increased understanding of the ‘concept of ‘resilience’ and it’s importance in their learning.
  • Children’s use of a visual ‘model’ to enhance resilience.
  • Children become more resilient.

Based off this the school have agreed some focused actions (March 2017)

a) Developing emotional language

  • Consolidate ‘graded emotional washing line’; using words, pictures and/or diagrams.
  • Use ‘bucket dippers’, Giraffes cant’ Dance, a Bag Full of Worries or similar text to extend the breadth of language on the ‘graded emotional washing line’.

b) Carrying out an audit

  • Carry out a baseline audit by adapting Appendix A from : Bouncing back : how can resilience be promoted in vulnerable children and young people Believe in children. Barnardo’s by Jane Glover Published 2009. Evidence to be collected from individual modified questionnaires, semi structured interviews and observational notes for a sample group.

c) Introducing the notion of resilience

  • Use power point to explore the children’s initial understanding of resilience.

d) Experiencing resilience

  • Develop activities to explicitly ‘test’  and ‘experience’ resilience.

e) Making sense

  • Create a classroom display that ‘captures’ and helps children make sense of ‘resilience in context’; using annotated photographs, diagrams, pictures and children’s and teacher’s comments.

f) Sharing the process

  • Create opportunities for the action research project to be shared’ step by step’ with other staff.

g) Developing our own understanding by exploring the following

Glover, J. (2009) Bouncing back : how can resilience be promoted in vulnerable children and young people, Barnardo’s: London. 

Public Health England (2014) ‘Building children and young people’s resilience in schools’,  Health Equity Briefing 2 : September 2014,  Public Health England PHE publications gateway number; 2014334

Building resilience in Young Children Booklet for parents of children form birth to six years Best start / meilleur depart by / par health nexus sante

Being a Scientist: language and skills

This is Part 2 of a blog posted on the 12/1/2017

The Centre had the opportunity to follow up and review the initial impact of ‘developing the language and skills of being scientist’.

Children from Years 1 to 4 brought their collaborative ‘science journals’ to the review meeting where they were ‘interviewed’ by us and the subject leader. It was ‘observable’ that the children:

  • were able to articulate their learning in great detail,
  • used scientific language, both technical and process based,
  • could identify and illustrate the skills that they had used in science,
  • could identify and illustrate aspects of their agreed ‘learning attributes’,
  • were able to demonstrate their abilities to be ‘collaborative learners’.

Children in Years 5 and 6 demonstrated all of the above, however, they faced two additional challenges.

Firstly the children were asked to sort the eight elements of being a scientist in terms of which element was most significant in terms of their learning in that particular topic. The discussion was of a very high quality; the children were able to effectively collaborate and easily sought consensus. It has been great to see how this schools social learning attributes have played a part in supporting them in furthering their science curriculum.

The second challenge was to create a video explaining ‘how we learn science’. This is in the process of being edited and we hope to publish on either our or the school’s blog. Watch this space…

Coaching a strategy for professional development and learning

For the last year the Centre has been supporting the development of coaching in two schools. In both schools the first step was to provide professional development opportunities for the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) focusing on:

  • reaching consensus as to what defines and constitutes coaching,
  • providing a structure to facilitate coaching.
  • developing coaching skills.

All members of the SLT were coached, coached each other and in the first place coached ‘willing volunteers’. In one of the schools this has been implemented as an element of their on-going professional development and as a vehicle for encouraging and strengthening professional dialogue. Feedback from the SLT suggests that the leadership skills associated with coaching are having an impact on their day to day roles and responsibilities as leaders.

In the second school all teaching and support staff have been introduced to the concept of coaching and as this year progresses coaching will be implemented as a teaching and learning strategy for children under the umbrella of ‘empowerment’.

This has been an exciting and powerful project so far, as staff have recognised the value of coaching personally. We are really looking forward to seeing how this is increasingly applied within the classroom.

Developing a language for resilience (part 1 and 2)

Part 1: (first uploaded 13th February 2017)

As a starter project  in a new school the Centre  spoke with Years 5 and 6 children about resilience; one of the school’s priorities. We used a range of stimuli such as; video clips, challenges, as well as speaking and listening strategies such as thinking time and both A/B and ‘spy’ talk together with independent and collaborative learning in order to explore:

  • the language of resilience;
  • the emotions associated with resilience
  • the ‘benefits’ of becoming more resilient

The children’s responses were then used to facilitate a staff meeting.

The structure of which replicated what the children had experienced earlier in the afternoon.

The school is now addressing the following four questions.

The school has decided, in partnership with the Centre, to use an ‘action research’ approach. Two teachers will be supported over the Spring Term to focus on the four key questions, the process and outcomes will be reviewed, developed and shared with the rest of the school as a stimulus for a ‘whole school approach’.

At the first ‘action research meeting’ we reviewed the work with the children in Years 5 and 6 together with the feedback from the staff meeting. As a result of this the teachers have set themselves some targets namely:

  1. To agree a ‘school based’ definition of the term resilience. This will be linked to other learning taking place in school – such as their GREAT DREAM (focused on furthering children’s aspirations).
  2. To engage children in a range of stimuli to explore feelings and record on a  ‘graded washing line’ (a tool that allows the children to assess the importance to them of these stimuli as they discuss where they fit on the washing line).
  3.  To establish a ‘cycle of resilience’ that demonstrates to the children the process  (or steps in) in being resilient.
  4. Develop a bank of words and/or phrases that teachers can ‘para phrase’ and   model for children.
  5.  Capture the children’s understanding of resilience with  pictures, diagrams, quotes, photographs and more – so that it can be evaluated and hopefully shared.


Part 2: (First uploaded 2nd March 2017)

At the second ‘action research meeting’ we reviewed the 5 steps above.

Two members of staff had created the  ‘graded washing lines’ (point 2 of the original targets) for the children to use to discuss and assess their emotions. These will increasingly become a tool that can be applied in different contexts furthering the ability of the children to explore, discover and communicate their feelings about their learning.

The school is now working on creating a  ‘school based’ definition of the term resilience, which will have meaning and application within their learning community.  Staff are also testing out using symbols to help communicate these ideas with their younger children.

This will all be reviewed later in the year and it will be interesting to see how terms such as ‘responsibility’ become a focus as the children start to manage their ‘resilience’ based learning.  We look forward to sharing these developing attributes of resilience, an interesting early example –  ‘we know how to change our emotions from negative to positive’.

Another practical tool that staff are testing out is a ‘cycle of resilience’.

Next steps: Develop a range of activities to explicitly ‘test’ resilience including:

  1.  Over four to five days present the children with a range of the activities introducing the ‘circle of resilience’ in an agreed order.
  2.  During the week above try to capture the ‘essence’ of resilience through annotated photographs, ‘post-it’ notes, pupil voice, teacher observations.
  3.  Continue with the ‘emotional washing line’.

We look forward to sharing more on this project.

A forum for dialogue – ‘let’s talk about social learning’

The Centre’s 1st ‘Social Learning – Learning Network’ – 2nd February 2017

“inspiring and thought provoking”

“my head is spinning with thoughts and ideas”

Just two of the comments that we have received after our first ‘Social Learning – Learning Network’.

First of all we must thank Wormley School for hosting the first learning network meeting, secondly a big thank you to those who were able and willing to tell us their story to date and thirdly to all those who contributed to the discussions.

During the meeting we:

  1. Shared the 3 aims and 5 building blocks that underpin the work of the Centre.
  2. Clarified the purpose and nature of the learning network itself.
  3. Provided an insight into the methods behind establishing a social learning agenda – as we shared an assessment tool – ‘starting conversations’ – which is currently being developed with 5 Cambridgeshire Schools. We also shared some thoughts on evaluating impact.

At this point staff from three schools shared their journeys to date focussing on:

  1. Why start the journey and three years later its impact on children as effective learners.
  2. The development of ‘reasoning in the context of ‘notice, narrate and navigate’ and the importance of ‘pause moments’.
  3. Establishing learning attributes using the 7Cs (from Educating Ruby by Bill Lucas and Guy Claxton), developing a language for learning.
  4. Coaching as an ‘empowerment’ model for enhancing professional development and for extending the way in which children can manage their own learning.

During the discussion key messages were shared and included.

Pupil Voice : How often do we seek children’s views, at what depth and for what purpose?

Teaching : What is the role of the teacher? What does it mean to ‘facilitate’ learning and the skills involved in that? Do teachers have the confidence to ‘pause’ the activity to focus on the pace and depth of learning?

Staff : Do we recognise the importance of building teams, identifying champions and the need  for trusting relationships?

Strategic development :  To what extent are our decisions informed by ‘research’? Do we realise that “we don’t need to do it all on day one, its a journey” ?

Ethos : Do we recognise that the school culture/ethos is the key driver, that this should be based on a clear and explicit set of values, principles and beliefs, that underpin all our decisions? With the most important question being:

Where do children fit into this big picture, as partners?

We hope to post some audio extracts of the meeting and the ideas shared soon.

The next ‘Social Learning – Learning Network’ 

again hosted by Wormley School, Broxbourne, Herts, EN10 6QA)

Thursday 18th May from 12:00pm until 3:00pm

If you would like to join us, or would like any further information,

please get in touch…


For the last three years the Centre of Excellence has worked alongside Wormley School in Hertfordshire supporting the development of a whole school approach to embedding the ‘social learning agenda’. Over this time the school has introduced a significant number of very effective, innovative and creative approaches to teaching and learning that are having a positive impact on the children’s abilities.

The last two developments have focussed on developing ‘children as researchers’ and more recently on providing children with a breadth of language; that they know, understand and can use, to support their skills in reasoning.

The ‘children as researchers’ day explored three of our five building blocks namely; lead, speak. and act. The day provided the children with the opportunity to develop their own skills with regard to research namely; questioning, data collection and interpretation and then to lead a project of the their own. The children took full responsibility for their actions. The three key questions that the children explored were:

The most recent day focussed on reasoning we used a range of stimuli to explore the language of reasoning including;

  • artefacts,
  • mathematical challenges,
  • texts,
  • historical contexts.

The purpose of the day reflects our building block on ‘speak’. For children to be able to explore and articulate their feelings, for children to be able to communicate aspects of their learning and for children to be able navigate their complex world then the language for reasoning is key.

The school is looking to agree the language, skills and strategies that underpin the development of reasoning, to ensure consistency and progression, making the language both visible and explicit. A number of key questions can be asked as illustrated by the diagram from ‘culture of thinking’ –

You may be interested in following the innovative work from Wormley

If you are on twitter you can follow Super Social Learner @WormleySSLearner

Starting a discussion – building blocks for social learning

Over the last week and a half we have been getting to know a wonderful group of children and adults in schools in Cambridgeshire.

  • Elm Road Primary – Wisbech
  • Nene and Ramnoth Primary – Wisbech
  • Millfield Primary – Ely
  • Highlees Primary – Peterborough
  • Eyrescroft Primary – Peterborough

Within each of these schools we found an energy from those at the top to make these schools an inspiring place within which children can make the most of their potential. No different to many other schools you might think? Perhaps not in sentiment, but in reality, these schools were facing some significant challenges, as they supported children who faced major disadvantages.

It was in this context of schools that were seeking to overcome the reality of the life situations that many of the children found themselves in, that we were exploring whether our social learning agenda would help.

In order to offer support we began our involvement in these schools through what we have termed ‘starting point discussions’. These discussions allow us to explore with schools our five key areas of attention: ethos, community, lead, speak and act.

Through conversations with children and adults, driven though simple questions through to the making of a fun film, we were able to start investigating how we could make connections that defined that link between the individuals (children and staff) and learning rooted in these unique learning communities. From these discussions clear next steps are emerging – these will feature in future blogs.

Acknowledging disadvantage means one can easily focus on the support that might be needed, rather than recognising the lessons that can be learnt. For there was so much that was going on in these schools that others could benefit from. These schools had become community hubs, sanctuaries for children and parents, in which inclusion was far more apparent than the divisions that jostled in the streets beyond. Here children felt they belonged, offering that most important starting point from which they were then able to learn.

Such schools highlight just how we need to be aware that children’s learning journey is not simply about the marks they receive in government tests, but in the personal journey that children go on. In these schools we met so many amazing children who were on an inspiring journey as they faced up to the challenges around them, and looked at how they could, with the support of their schools, overcome them.

To find out more about our Starting Point Discussions and how they might benefit you – get in touch –

Science, Language and Social Learning

We had an ‘explosive’ day at Maplecross Primary School, UK, on Thursday 5th January exploring approaches to science with staff. The focus was on engaging children in their learning and structuring their thinking with a heavy focus on developing the language for learning. In addition, the school also looked at embedding its agreed ‘generic social learning attributes’ into the teaching of science.

This approach reflects the Centre’s view that the language for all learning needs to be;

  • known and understood by all the children and the staff,
  • used consistency within and beyond the school community by all learners,
  • made visible and explicit within and beyond the formal curriculum,
  • developed through practical activities.

If you would like to find out more about what this school are doing visit their blog.

Developing Science Journals

Developing a Science Working Wall

The school has also been working on developing a wider range of speaking and listening opportunities for the children across the curriculum to help them articulate their learning including;

  • A/B talk (A talks to child B, B listens to A and then B reports back to the teacher or other children. Child A is then asked if they wish to add anymore. This is then repeated; B talks, A listens and feeds back)
  • Hot seating
  • Consensus seeking in collaborative group work
  • The smallest theatre in the world
  • Reader’s theatre
  • Talk for writing

These strategies are not curriculum specific and therefore can be used in all subjects areas and more importantly from the Centre’s perspective can be used in classrooms to explore and develop the child’s ability to reflect upon and manage their learning now and in the future.

Creativity and Social Learning

The Social Learning Agenda is proving effective within schools. However, an exciting development has been exploring the application of the Social Learning Agenda out of schools. As part of ongoing work with colleagues in Canada (Kings University College at Western University, Ontario) we have been exploring this. The Social Learning Agenda thus formed part of a publication (forthcoming) on Article 6 of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child for the Canadian Bar Association, as part of their drive to create a practical toolkit to inform professionals .

Students too have been exploring how the Social Learning Agenda might have application in settings beyond school. Recent projects have considered its use in:

  • children’s homes (developing personal care plans)
  • for use in family break up (both as part of the legal process and personal arrangements)
  • in establishing a place or presence in local authority decision making
  • in health care

The creativity of the students on the Childhood and Social Institutions programme demonstrates how much there is to build on as we encourage organisations to think carefully about how they position children.

Wellbeing Matters – a research project

Funded by the Laurel Trust we are excited to be working with the Elliot Foundation to extend understandings of ‘wellbeing’ in schools. The focus for this project is to take the approach developed by the Centre and to test out the extent to which it can support children’s ability to define, control and manage their learning whatever their presumed disadvantage.

We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with a range of primary schools in different parts of the country and hope that the findings of this project can be used to benefit increasing number of children as schools find ways to recognise and respond to the issue of ‘wellbeing’ as a factor that shapes children’s learning experiences.

Much more to follow as the project gets fully underway in January 2017.