Leadership for inclusion

Steve Pendleton writes..

With increasing numbers of students being identified as having SEND and record numbers of students with an EHCP, local authorities are expecting more to stay in mainstream schools. In one primary school in Warwickshire, large numbers of pupils with SEND are flourishing, and it would seem that this success can be tracked back to the Headteacher’s unshakeable commitment to inclusion. In this month’s Leadership Blog, Jen James talks about how she has created an inclusive school.

‘Does it matter?’ – Embracing SEND through our shared moral purpose.

Does it matter? I must have asked myself and my staff that question more times than I care to remember over the last few years. Does it matter if she isn’t sitting down? Does it matter if he needs to chew on his sleeve? Does it matter? This has become a whole school mantra and in many ways, these few words have completely changed how we plan provision for children with SEND.

Having been thrust into the headteacher’s chair in January 2017 as an inexperienced, naïve and completely unprepared educator, I had no idea the moral dilemmas that I’d be faced with as a leader. Balancing needs and standards amongst many other things has not been an easy task and it has been even more complex for our governors and trust to understand.

Only recently, we have taken a child with very complex medical needs on to our roll. Having been previously refused by several schools, we were of course concerned about how we would meet his needs in terms of managing his oxygen and his tune feeding. Now he is here, settled and thriving. It was a challenging time for all involved but ultimately, we are doing what is right by the children and families. An opportunity to access mainstream education for as long as possible.

Practising fine motor skills

Our partnership with the local Special School has helped support the vision we have, where pupils on their roll attend our setting anywhere between half a day to 5 days a week. We needed to know if we could fully integrate these children into our mainstream classrooms. If we could make it work for these children, what other children could benefit from this? Over the last 18 months, a shift has occurred. We have begun to expect more from ourselves as to what experiences we could offer to children with SEND in terms of full integration into the classroom.

Multi-sensory approaches to cognitive development

I am not saying that this is easy – it absolutely is not and the hard work and dedication of our team is not to be underestimated. This has been something that every member of our whole school community has had to buy into in order for its potential to be maximised. Our whole staff body are trained in Makaton, communicate in print, nurture philosophy and many other areas to enable every corner of our provision to be accessible to all pupils.

Our school has become more than I could have imagined – a community joined by a shared vision, aspiration and passion for ensuring inclusion is at the very heart of what we do.

Jen has changed the culture of school by inspiring all staff to share a commitment to inclusion. Not all staff in a school will initially feel comfortable with this change in culture. This poses some questions to SEND leaders.

What is the best way to support staff who have values and beliefs that are not aligned with the school’s vision of inclusion?

Are these beliefs and values malleable? In other words, can reluctant staff change when the new arrangements are shown to work for all children?

What support needs to be in place for SEND leaders implementing a cultural change that is challenging to the values and beliefs of some staff?

Jen James is the headteacher of Rokeby Primary School in Rugby, part of the Stowe Valley Multi Academy Trust


Leadership is about unlocking potential

By Giles Delaney

It’s a new year – a time of reflection, gratitude and expectation of the year ahead. In this blog, my intent is use use a narrative reflection to draw out dome key learning points for those in leadership or stepping into it.

Recently I was reminded of an interaction I had some years ago with a newly appointed member of our school leadership team. She had been appointed to lead a section of the school which involved responsibility for pupil progress, pastoral care and parental liaison. She was an inspirational colleague who enjoyed the absolute respect of the pupils and the strong support of her colleagues.

Six months into her appointment, she met with me (the head teacher) to say that she did not feel she was performing her role well enough and that another colleague would be better in the role she held. I asked her why she felt this and she replied that her colleague, with whom she enjoyed a strong working relationship, had many really excellent ideas/observations for the department and she was concerned that she was missing things and had not thought of these ideas herself.

This interaction highlighted the dilemma that many face on taking up positions of leadership: a sense that others can do the job better or that they are being judged by their colleagues for their apparent weaknesses.

Over a period of some weeks, I was able to coach, discuss and evidence with this colleague her many strengths and demonstrate, even over a relatively short period of time, the systemic change she had begun to implement in her department. I felt that this ‘validated’ her appointment and current position, but also showed her the measurable progress she had made against her own development plan: she was, undeniably, ‘on-track’.

She had contributed in a significant way to a systemic change in the culture of the school (and been appointed for exactly this reason) but her story draws into focus the dilemma facing many who move into leadership positions in the education sector.

When many join the teaching profession, a significant driver is the desire to build meaningful relationships with children and to make a difference in their lives. In the early stages of our career, this is manifested by personal interactions which fuel our motivation, commitment and a sense of our own identity. Messages of gratitude from parents, the pupils’ own testimonies, observing their academic or creative progress as a result of our personal intervention: these are all significant factors. However, when we enter a leadership position, this dynamic can change fundamentally. There are two changes that are particularly marked: firstly in our colleagues’ perspective of our performance and ability to bring change and secondly, in our fundamental relationships with our pupils which, on an individual level, are reduced. The very factors which drive our sense of identity and motivation have changed at our most vulnerable time.

My colleague experienced this same sense of anxiety: that there were aspects of her leadership role that others were doing better than her and, importantly, in areas that she felt were critical to her identity as a leader, for example; innovation and reflection. She was of course right in the sense that her colleague was contributing experience that she did not have, but it is important to acknowledge the culture she had brought about. She had given this colleage the space and confidence to share their oberservations in the knowledge that they had something of value to offer. She had created an environment where her colleagues cared so deeply about her vision and wanted to contribute and play their part. This was a measurable element to the ‘systemic change’ I mentioned earlier. The pupils sensed the teachers’ buy-in to this cultural change and their relationships with them had begun to change also.

As leaders, one of the most important things we can do is to recognise that our own success, at that of our schools, rests on our ability to unlock the potential in our colleagues and to create an environment in which they can be the best version of themselves. If they can offer skills and knowledge that we cannot, then so much the better.

These changes do not minimalise our influence or agency, they re-focus it on a larger scale. We can still have an enormous impact on individual children but the ‘drivers’ I spoke of earlier will be replaced often by influence and change which is not as easily measured or which evolves more slowly. This change is the result of our creating an environment where both our children and colleagues flourish: it is the essence of ‘servant leadership’ – serving those around us.

It seems appropriate to finish with the first piece of advice I ever received after taking up my first headship. My new secretary at the time said to me “…remember, you cannot look after 300 children….but look after the staff and they will look after the children for you”. She was absolutely right, although it was very difficult letting go!

What advice would you share with fellow leaders or those aspiring to be leaders?

About Giles

After more than two decades of headship, Giles joined TeamADL in the latter part of 2022. He has a Masters degree in Teaching & Learning, but is pursing further studies in child-centred approaches for wellbeing and academic progress. To contact Giles visit www.teamadl.uk

Leadership Legacy

By Giles Delaney (Joint TeamADL Leadership Blog Lead)

This is my first blog for #TeamADL and I wanted to use this space to reflect on two things:

  1. What can we learn about leadership from those who have gone before?
  2. What models of leadership are we planting and investing in the learners we teach?

Past Reflections

As a school leader, I have often reflected on the way I lead and it is natural when we do this, to compare ourselves to others. As someone who has worked in Jesuit institutions for the past 25 years, the life of St Ignatius is well-known to me and in this blog, I explore four timeless aspects of leadership, based on a Christopher Lowney’s book ‘Heroic Leadership’ (2005)

In his book, Lowney shares the 17th century story of St Ignatius of Loyola and the evolution of the Society of Jesus, (colloquially known as ‘The Jesuits’).  It is an extraordinary story of how Ignatius created and nurtured one of the world’s most successful, innovative, globally-integrated and socially impactful institutions that has ever existed!

Lowney argues that the challenges faced by modern corporations are the same as those faced by Ignatius 450 years ago and Lowney points to the fact that Ignatius created a model for their organisation that was’ ‘change-ready’, adaptable and which enabled them to think globally, be ambitious and take risks.

The Society was founded in 1540 by ten men with no capital and no business plan but, in time, it became one of the world’s most influential institutions of its kind which enjoyed unrivalled global influence. Jesuits and were known to be confidents to the Chinese Ming emperor, the Japanese Shogun, Mughal emperors and European monarchs and within a decade of their creation they had opened over 30 schools across Europe and at one time educated over 20% of all pupils across Europe.

Lowney distils this success and the model into four key attributes:

Self-Awareness: This is about being aware of the all the dimensions of our being and the impact these have on others.

Ignatius’ believed that we are all leaders, all of the time, irrespective of our position in an organisation.  He believed that leadership springs from within each of us: it is about who we are, not what we do: consequently, it was not seen in individual traits but in our way of living. It is an ongoing process, never completed. If our whole lives are one of leadership, conscious or otherwise, then Lowney proposes that we do not therefore not always choosing our opportunities to lead. To do so requires a sense of adaptability, agility and an ever-ready approach to challenge and opportunity.

Ingenuity: This is about being inventive and finding new solutions to fit the season, population and space.

Ignatius’ leadership style and vision for the Society swam against the prevailing and influential ideas of the time and in particular against the Catholic church itself. Whilst the Church’s reaction to the threat of Lutheranism was to excommunicate the Augustinian monk and ban all ‘illegal’ literature which contradicted its teaching and threatened the infallibility of the Pope, Ignatius instead saw the potential to emphasise and propagate the joy of the Gospel (Good News) through education. The Jesuits’ response to Luther was to translate the Bible into new languages and dialects and to spread the word of God across the known world and beyond.

Love: This is more than just about kindness, caring or being affectionate. Its about honouring from a place of seeing the inner core, not just outer expression.

Ignatius’ vision for his emerging companions was to spread the word of God with “more love than fear”: as Lowney says, “they saw in each person a uniquely endowed with talent and dignity”. How often do we see the limitations and errors of those with whom we work? Instead, Ignatius implores us to reflect on how we can make the very best of each person. As leaders, whatever industry or role we work in, we are educators. The word derives from the Latin ‘educare’ to draw out or to lead, and Ignatius teaches us that we can better fulfil our collective vision by recognising the inherent value and potential of our colleagues. Let our HR department do their very best: our role is to develop, or draw out, from there! Also think about this in relation to behaviour management.

Heroism: This not about wearing a cape, but everyday bravery. Taking risks for the greater good.

The Jesuit’s call to arms, still 450 years after their inception, is the idea of ‘Magis’: what more can I do what more can I give? It is this restless idea for human flourishing through contribution and advancement that has inspired some of their greatest achievements. Whether it was Benedetto de Goes’ odyssey across the Himalayas, St Francis Xavier’s missionary journey to Asia, Matteo Ricci’s entry as one the first westerners into China or Christopher Clavius’ ground-breaking work on the Gregorian calendar: Ignatius’ voice and vision hasbeen perpetuated through the centuries and his perspective of human flourishing, or what we now term ‘leadership’ is a true today as it has always been. The capacity to take risks, to fail and rise again, is at the heart of human growth. Our role as leaders is to inspire this is those we lead and remains at the heart of our personal and institutional journey.

Future Hope

I often think back to a conversation I had with a group of junior teachers some years ago. When asked what they taught, one young member of staff, rather than defining herself by the subject she taught, replied assertively “I teach children” and she was absolutely right.

Our subjects are just one of the tools we use to facilitate a child’s growth and their full worth will ultimately be determined by their impact on society. It is our role to nurture in them an instinctive sense of leadership. This must not be defined by a title or role but by their potential to recognise opportunities to make a difference. The example we set them in our own lives has the potential to echo through the years. Let them be led with more love than fear and be defined by their potential.

So here is my question to you: how do you nurture future leaders, without necessarily giving them a role or title?

About Giles

After more than two decades of headship, Giles joined TeamADL in the latter part of 2022. He has a Masters degree in Teaching & Learning, but is pursing further studies in child-centred approaches for wellbeing and academic progress. To contact Giles visit www.teamadl.uk

Giving students choice in the classroom

By Steve Pendleton

In this month’s #Leader5Aday blog, I want to explore the importance of the power for choice in developing learning agency and motivation.  In a Post-COVID19 era, this is vital as so many young people experienced a lack of agency and choice during that period.

There appears to be a trend in English schools for teachers to be more and more directed by their managers as to how to operate in the classroom. For example, a friend working in a secondary school in Outer London was given a 50-point detailed and non-functional list, describing the non-negotiables of the school’s teaching policy. It seems that school leadership is becoming increasingly authoritarian and teachers are being given less and less freedom to teach in a way that suits them. Driven by the current culture of school accountability, school leaders may feel that exerting this sort of control improves the overall performance of teachers because individuals’ preferred methods may not necessarily be effective. Insisting on minimum standards may therefore be considered to eliminate poor teaching. However, this controlling approach may also bring about unintended consequences.

When teacher autonomy is suppressed, it is likely that it will lead to a reduction of student autonomy (Roth et al, 2007).  Self-determination theory (SDT) developed by Ryan and Deci (2017) concludes that autonomy is a basic psychological need, essential in order for individuals to develop self-determined forms of motivation such as intrinsic motivation. Such forms of motivation have been found to lead to many beneficial outcomes. For school students, these outcomes include improved academic performance as well as mental and physical health and happiness.

Autonomy for students in lessons means that they have a sense of control or agency of their own learning in that they can make decisions freely. An aspect of this is providing them with the opportunity to make choices. Given that groups in English schools contain 30 or so students, how can this be done? Fortunately, research conducted round the world has shed light on approaches that can work successfully.

Stefanou et al (2004) points out that three types of choice can be offered to students: organisational, procedural and cognitive. Organisational choice is allowing students choice of how they work together. For example, students can choose where to sit or in which group they will work. As a teacher, I worried that students sitting with their friends would be more likely to engage in off-task behaviour. Sometimes I sat them in allocated groups or in boy-girl pairs to suppress this. Now I realise I was mistaken. First, this approach restricted opportunities to collaborate with trusted peers. Also, this seating arrangement did not address why they wanted to avoid the learning activity in the first place. Their sense of autonomy would have been thwarted which would have made matters worse for the future. Of course, there are other considerations when managing the organisation of a group such as group social dynamics, the additional needs of specific learners and the need to encourage students to learn how to work with peers who they might normally associate with.

Procedural choice is where students are given options as to which materials they use for a learning activity. They could choose which questions they will answer or how they will demonstrate competence with respect to specific learning. Recently I saw a maths lesson where students could choose the difficulty of questions to answer – either easy, medium or hard. However, the teacher guided the students as to which questions they ought to select so it wasn’t a choice at all. The teacher encouraged some “more able” students to do the hard questions. This threatens how the rest of the class see themselves. They are more likely to feel lacking in competence which is another basic psychological need which underpins self-determined motivation. Not only that, but this approach could impact on the feelings of competence of “more able” students who are unable to do the hard questions.

Another way to provide students with procedural choice is by allowing them to carry out learning activities at a pace that suits them. Again, as a teacher I worried that if students were not given time limits they would be tempted to engage in off-task behaviour. With the benefit of hindsight, I think this had an adverse effect by changing the nature of the task from one where the objective was to learn something new to one where the objective was to complete a task in a given time – a subtle adjustment but one which undermined student autonomy.

The third category of choice is cognitive, when students have the freedom to use their chosen intellectual strategy to solve a problem. An example of this is when a group of students is given some text and some accompanying questions which interrogate their understanding of the text. The students could start by reading the questions and then have these in mind when they then read the text. Alternatively, the students could read the text first. Autonomy would be supported if the teacher does not insist on one of these approaches. Rather, the teacher could facilitate a discussion in the group afterwards to hear the experience of different student approaches. Students would then be able to consider choosing the other approach next time

Giving students choice will not always support autonomy. Students need to be able to choose options which reflect their own personal values and goals (Katz & Assor, 2007). Offering students the choice between writing an essay on either plants or animals is not likely to provide that but writing an essay about someone they admire might. Also, choices need to be limited in number (Lepper 2000). Otherwise the risk is that student effort is diverted to making a satisfactory choice rather than undertaking the learning activity.

When I was teaching, I think I was more inclined to offer choice to students that I considered academically “able”. I didn’t believe lower attaining students would make good decisions. This was a mistake. The students who had made less academic progress probably needed their autonomy to be supported more. They were more likely to be extrinsically motivated rather than doing activities for the pleasure of learning.

In conclusion, I would encourage teachers to offer real choice to students wherever this is feasible. This could be by allowing them freedom to choose who they work with, how they allocate their time or how they approach a problem. When students make choices that you don’t agree with, instead of correcting them, try to understand their decision by taking a curious and non-judgmental stance. Students won’t want to make bad choices and they will learn from their mistakes, so let them.  However, as leaders it is important to remember if we do not give staff choice, they in turn may not offer learners choice.  It starts with leadership.

Steve Pendleton is a school improvement specialist with expertise in the education of vulnerable and disadvantaged children. After a successful career as a teacher and leader in secondary schools, Steve became a school inspector, improvement adviser and senior leader in a local authority in the West Midlands. He is now a consultant working with TeamADL and is undertaking doctoral research at the University of Wolverhampton.


Katz, I. and Assor, A. (2007) ‘When Choice Motivates and When It Does Not’, Educational psychology review, 19(4), pp. 429-442. doi: 10.1007/s10648-006-9027-y.

Reeve, J. and Cheon, S.H. (2021) ‘Autonomy-supportive teaching: Its malleability, benefits, and potential to improve educational practice’, null, 56(1), pp. 54-77. doi: 10.1080/00461520.2020.1862657.

Roth, G., Assor, A., Kanat-Maymon, Y. and Kaplan, H. (2007) ‘Autonomous Motivation for Teaching’, Journal of educational psychology, 99(4), pp. 761-774. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.99.4.761.

Ryan, R.M. and Deci, E.L. (2017) Self-determination theory: Basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness. 

Stefanou, C.R., Perencevich, K.C., DiCintio, M. and Turner, J.C. (2004) ‘Supporting Autonomy in the Classroom: Ways Teachers Encourage Student Decision Making and Ownership’, Educational psychologist, 39(2), pp. 97-110. doi: 10.1207/s15326985ep3902_2.

Expect great things from your team & do great things for your team!

By Dr Anita Devi

One month into the academic year and it’s important to check in on how are you doing and also how is your team doing. Those of you who have heard me speak before know how much importance I attach to teams, as a significant part of #leadership

Last month Jenny Bowers addressed the need to be ambitious Quoting Edmund Burke, Jenny suggested ambition can be a season of creeping along or soaring the skies. Either way, movement is involved.  This led to question, what should we be ambitious for?

So, this month in our #Leader5ADay blog, I am looking at teams through the lens of William Carey.  In 1792, Carey gave an iconic speech based on Isaiah 54.  Adapting this as leaders, we could ask:

Do we expect great things from our teams, and do we do great things for our teams?

Let’s address the second part of the question first. To be a leader is honour and a privilege. It means we have been entrusted with a group of people – their care, their progress and their contribution to a wider vision.  As such we have a responsibility to them, not just for them.  We have a responsibility to enable them to be the best they can and more. This requires us to first and foremost know our team members.  To have a healthy relationship with them that creates space for an honest and open two-way dialogue. These meaningful interactions do not happen overnight.  People have to invest time, energy and forgiveness.  Forgiveness you might ask – really?  Absolutely! Honest relationships will at some level involve friction and so showing each other grace to know we all make mistakes is key for team building.

Expecting great things from your team isn’t just about setting high expectation or targets.  It’s about believing in them & their success. Sometimes this can be about encouragement and cheering them on, at other times it is about providing honest feedback that helps them grow.

Leadership isn’t easy. Author Sandra Carey (no relation to William Carey) advises, “Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.”  Wisdom in leadership is critical.  It’s about skilfully combining experience, knowledge and good judgement by being still and listening to that wise inner voice.  As leaders how much time do we make to be still.  I know for me; this is a critical part of my day and enables me to be effective in myself and for my team.  Acquiring wisdom in different situations and season is a continuous process.

 “Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”

― Albert Einstein

So, in practical terms, what would expecting great things from your team & doing great things for your team look like?  Isaiah 54, where this all started talks about reaching out to the world – a global perspective on justice and goodness. Using the acronym GLOBE seems apt:

Give of yourself fully to your team and its success

Listen and reflect, its foundational for wisdom

Observe, analyse and celebrate successes and failures

Be compassionate of needs and forgiving of mistakes

Encourage everyone to be the best they can

At the start of this year, TeamADL announced its membership to Catalyst 2030.  We are part of a global vision, and we are directly contributing to the wider fulfillment of Sustainable Development Goal 4.  From my perspective, as team leader – it is a privilege and honour to serve my team to be the best they can, as well as serve with them to deliver the best we can for children, young people and their families. On Friday 30th September 2022, the Catalyst 2030 community gathered in an Online Conversation Cafe to discuss the leadership of special educational needs and disability. As part of the discussions, we all agreed – everyone is on the SDG 4 Team, everyone has a responsibility to make it happen and a contribution to make. This includes you! We will share more in the coming months about how you can play your part. Follow #TeamADL

You can read the Catalyst 2030 Report presented to the United Nations in September 2022 on Pathways to Transforming Education: Proven Solutions from Social Entrepreneurs here.

Keep leading!


About Anita:

As a former SENCO, Senior Leader, School Improvement Advisor, and local authority SEND Advisory Teacher and Healthwatch Trustee Anita Devi carries a wealth of experience in developing leaders of learning. Her own teaching career spans early years to post grad in the UK and overseas and Anita lives her why through her belief in the joy of learning. In 2017, Anita was awarded the prestigious international Influential Educational Leaders Award for her SEND Pipeline strategy developing professional from initial teacher training to advanced and experienced SENCOs. Anita is author of the first SEND book for Early Career Teachers and has contributed to several other publications. Anita passed her PhD thesis viva on the career trajectory of a SENCO (beyond the NASENCO) in in 2022. Currently a Changemaker Education Consultant & Founding CEO of #TeamADL www.teamadl.uk and #365send www.365send.uk T: @Butterflycolour Insta: @Butterflycolour9

Rewards – can they help motivate children to learn?

By Steve Pendleton

As a teacher, I sometimes used rewards as an incentive for students to perform well in learning activities. Typically, the reward was relatively trivial such as a sticker or chocolate bar. Sometimes it was simply explicit praise, either written or spoken. I did this assuming that rewards would only have benefits. I did not give any thought to potential downsides. But my research on motivation suggests that not only were these rewards unlikely to improve the learning of my students, they could even have harmed it.

Alfie Kohn’s book “Punished by Rewards” (1993) explains many of the unintended impacts of rewards. He also explains how sanctions have similar effects to rewards except they have a negative rather than a positive value to the student.

Kohn describes how some of the negative impacts arise because rewarding a learning task changes its purpose. Students become less concerned about the actual learning and more bothered about satisfying the criteria for getting the reward. As a teacher, my intentions were to encourage students to put more effort into tasks. I hoped they would take longer and persist with the task when they faced difficulties. However, Kohn explains how students may actually put in less effort than they would have done if the task was purely about learning, as they are more likely to do only what is necessary to get the reward.

Furthermore, Kohn explains how class competitions, with fewer prizes than students, may be even more damaging since many students end up as losers and may see the effort they have invested as futile. Also, if classmates are competing against each other for limited rewards they are less likely to collaborate, reducing opportunities for learning from one another.

Kohn also points out that if a teacher resorts to using a reward to encourage a student to do something, the reason why the student is reluctant to do it in the first place is not considered and addressed. Also, students may be more inclined to use short-cuts that are ultimately unhelpful.  For example, if a student is told they will get a prize for 10 correct answers in a quiz then are they not more likely to take a peek at another student’s work?

Sometimes rewards may appear to have a short-term impact on task success so teachers may feel they are working. However, improvements are likely to be superficial. Also, the teacher will need to continue to give out rewards indefinitely for the effect to be sustained.

When I was teaching, I think there were many teachers like me who believed in using rewards to motivate. After all, the use of rewards is a strategy that BF Skinner (1965) showed to be effective, albeit in changing the behaviour of animals by rewarding specific actions with food. Skinner was a pioneer of behaviourism. Many features of society and the school system encourage behaviourist approaches such as performance-related pay rises and school awards ceremonies.

Schools in England are obliged to have a behaviour policy as specified in The Education and Inspections Act (Department for Education 2006) and it now an expectation that this policy incorporates rewards and sanctions (Payne 2015). So, if rewards are encouraged to promote good social behaviour then why not for good learning behaviour? The answer may be found in the wealth of research evidence which concludes that using rewards for learning reduces students’ chances of long-term academic success

Deci, Koestner & Ryan (2001) explain how rewards harm learning in the long-term by suppressing students’ self-motivation. In using rewards, I was trying to induce students to engage in learning behaviour that they would otherwise not otherwise engage. This effectively meant I was trying to exert control over them in a way that ultimately undermines their feelings of self-determination, or autonomy.

Deci et al (1999) carried out a meta-analysis of 128 studies which showed that using rewards to control students made them to feel that they have less autonomy. Consequently, they are less likely to be intrinsically motivated. Intrinsic motivation for learning can be described as a desire to learn simply for its own enjoyment. Deci et al (1999) found that the presence of this kind of motivation was associated with improved academic achievement.

Research has also found that the use of praise to encourage students can also lead to unintended consequences. Praise could be a form of reward which would have a similar negative impact as a physical reward. Praising the efforts of a student may convey messages which undermine self-confidence. Graham & Taylor writing in the Handbook of Motivation at School (2016) give the example of two students who achieve the same examination mark. If one receives more praise, that student is likely to deduce that the teacher thinks they have less ability. Consequently, the student’s belief in their own competence may be negatively affected with detrimental impacts on their motivation.

Praising effort may not necessarily result in a student trying harder in lessons. If a student is praised for working hard on a task they may infer that the teacher thinks they have to work hard to compensate for lower aptitude. Again, this is likely to undermine the student’s self-efficacy which is their belief that they can be successful at something.

In summary, I have found that teachers should avoid using either physical rewards or verbal or written praise to try to change the learning behaviour of their students. Rewards lead to superficial learning strategies which help students get rewards but discourage a long-term love of learning. Praise is a form of reward that can also have harmful unintended consequences.

Being kind to students is essential in developing positive relationships in the classroom, leading to trust and confidence. However, teachers should take care to ensure that expressions of kindness are not given in the form of praise which leads to the problems I have described.

(In a future blog, Steve will examine the impact of sanctions.)

About Steve:

Steve Pendleton is a school improvement specialist with expertise in the education of vulnerable and disadvantaged children. After a successful career as a teacher and leader in secondary schools, Steve became a school inspector, improvement adviser and senior leader in a local authority in the West Midlands. He is now a consultant working with TeamADL and is undertaking doctoral research at the University of Wolverhampton.


‘Attribution Theory and Motivation in School’ (2016) Routledge, pp. 23-45.

Deci, E.L., Koestner, R. and Ryan, R.M. (2001) ‘Extrinsic Rewards and Intrinsic Motivation in Education: Reconsidered Once Again’, Review of educational research, 71(1), pp. 1-27. doi: 10.3102/00346543071001001.

Deci, E.L., Koestner, R. and Ryan, R.M. (1999) ‘A Meta-Analytic Review of Experiments Examining the Effects of Extrinsic Rewards on Intrinsic Motivation’, Psychological bulletin, 125(6), pp. 627-668. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.125.6.627.

Department for Education (2006) ‘Education and Inspections Act 2006. London: OPSI.’

Kohn, A. (1993) Punished by Rewards. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Trade & Reference Publishers.

Payne, R. (2015) ‘Using rewards and sanctions in the classroom: pupils’ perceptions of their own responses to current behaviour management strategies’, null, 67(4), pp. 483-504. doi: 10.1080/00131911.2015.1008407.

Skinner, B.F. and Skinner, B.F. (1965) Science and Human Behavior. Riverside: Free Press.

Why, why, why …. !?!

Here’s a story for you …. a boy enjoyed helping his mum cook the Sunday roast every week, he loved the senses, the smells, the textures and spending time one to one with his mum, chatting and asking questions.   He noticed every time mum cooked a chicken, she would carefully remove the legs and the wings before basting and putting it in the baking tray.   One week he asked, “Why do you remove the legs and the wings?”  Mum said that it was what she learnt from her mother.   And so, the mum asked her mother why, who in turn had to ask her mother and so on.   Eventually it turned out that great, great grandmother had a small oven and baking tray that was not big enough for the chicken!   This pattern of behaviour was passed down generations without anyone asking the question, “Why are we doing it this way?” 

Do you feel like that sometimes, or have you fallen into the trap of just accepting that we must do it the way we do?   Similarly, in my Deputy Headship role the staff ran the same reading intervention programme that had been running for nearly 10 years.   No one had asked the key questions about the underlying pedagogy, the impact on pupils’ progress or even how it all started.   You can guess, we discovered it started with good intentions for a particular child and certainly was a popular time of nurture for pupils, but it definitely did not have any evidence base or appear to improve outcomes.  I was not very popular for asking the ‘what, how and why’ questions.

I am often asked by schools to come in train them on how to carry out ‘deep dives’ (English school colleagues will immediately know why this requested!)   It’s a cry for help or reassurance that they will do well when OFTSTED apply their methodology to inspection.   I always say NO but reply with ‘what is the thinking behind the methodology?’   It’s not about jumping through another hoop, it’s far deeper thinking than that (“Rubbish!” I hear you shout through the page.  Here is the Research base underpinning the thinking behind the deep dive methodology )  Essentially, it’s about metacognition and theory around memory recall and ability to generalise knowledge to new situations.   Have you grasped the research behind this and discussed the evidence based arguments for or against the research OFSTED has referred to?  Now might be a good time to give yourself and your staff permission to breathe and read.  

Know the ‘what, the how and the why’ behind everything you ask staff to do and help them to understand the ‘the what, the how and the why’ behind each element of their ‘workload.’   Most of us will feel energised and willing when we are motivated by clear understanding and potential impact on improving the lives of our children. 

Remember, #TMOS (True Measures of Success).   #whathowwhy .  Let us know what your top tips for building evidence based work load practices into your school culture.  Here are mine:


Go through the school calendar and list all the tasks you and your staff are doing over each term.   Add in the list of things you do that you have not been asked to.  It will be a long list!    Sift out the list into three categories

[a] things we get value from and perhaps we enjoy.  Give these things priority (START, re-start)

[b] things that do not bear the fruit you thought (Stop doing these things)

[c] things that you are not sure about but need to reflect on. find the evidence base or impact statements, (Re-think)


Do not assume that because something makes sense to you that it is clearly understood or communicated well.  You may not be as good at communicating as you might think!   A classic example includes the use of published schemes (e.g. the recently approved Phonics schemes from the DfE, which by the way are NON-STATUTORY 😊)  They key as above is understanding the methodology.  If teachers are simply delivering by script and rote rather than with clear professional understanding of the evidence and pedagogy, then the impact may be limited and not allow teachers to make pedagogical decisions about any adaptations that may be needed to meet the need of key pupils.  For example, did you know that SATPIN is not necessarily the best evidence base order in which to teach the sounds?   Well how do I know that?  Where is my evidence base?   What are the implications of that for pupils with dyslexia?  Do you see?  


Yes, I said it!   No more hours debating how sports day should be organised!   I jest slightly, but seriously, I did replace staff meetings once in favour of SEMINARS.   I asked each teacher in turn to read an article, book or research paper and to plan an interactive task to teach their colleagues what they had discovered.  Teachers were then asked to try something new in their classroom practice each week as a result of what had been discussed.   I cannot put into enough words how much positivity and energy this put into meetings and classroom practice as a result.   And this was at a time in the 90s when I was introducing the use of target setting into our curriculum plans.   Learning about ‘Inside the Black Box’ research paper allowed to make sensible and professional decisions about what target setting meant to pupils rather than aimlessly putting National Curriculum levels after each pupil’s name.   The net result is that pupils made what we now describe as accelerated progress.  The teaching pedagogy aligned with the evidence base not just policy from on high. 

Please get in touch and share your top tips for reclaiming our what, how and why. #TMOS

Till next month … and have a good Easter break everyone!


Everybody having fun ?

Building resilient staff teams in times of uncertain futures

“So here it is, Merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun.   Look to the future now it’s only just begun.”

Slade, 1973

I heard this in a store at the beginning of November and the grumpy old man in me sayeth, “I don’t believe it!”  Then I thought, actually I have missed you my old friend, I did not hear you last year and yet you have been a consistent part of my annual cycle of life for most of my life (since the age of 2 to be exact).  It rang in my ears  when I rehearsed the Nativity in my first year of teaching in North London in the early 90s and it was there that year as a Head teacher I had to endure dressing up as a Spice Girl (Thank you very much staff from a certain town on the south coast, you know who you are!)  

And so here I am today having lived through what is probably the most challenging start to a school year in my whole career.  Anyone had a full complement of staff in school yet ?  Let’s hope Christmas brings us the joy and peace we so yearn for.  Take a moment to think about what joy and peace will feel/ look like for you.

As a leader I hope for an opportunity to bring connection to my staff, a rebuilding of that sense of belonging to a community.  Or maybe I am thinking, let’s just make it through and hope for the best.  So, here is my Christmas gift, a challenge to all leaders out there.   I say let’s be real, let’s face the elephant in the room with more than another 2 hour wellbeing slot in the staff meeting schedule.

Let’s talk about building resilience in my staff team, right now, this term.  “Cole, you’ve got to be joking!” I hear you scream back at me, whilst covering staff absence, dealing with poor staff mental health and your own rapidly reducing capacity to stay sane.   Well, I acknowledge where you are at and believe me I understand having spent time allowing leaders to (literally) cry on my shoulder and scream down the phone and WhatsApp their emotional rants on almost a daily basis.  

Pause, breath, have a moment with me and bear with my blog.  

Start here (watch this video) … Amygdala Hijack

Search for other video clips describing the concept of the amygdala hijack, often discussed in the business world, but very relevant to help educationists understand their own emotional self-awareness.   This is a concept that I have found very useful in opening up meaningful discussion in staff meetings that perhaps could have more substance than discussing the setup of a well-being twilight.  

Here is how I would approach it:

  1. Watch the video
  2. Lead by example in telling a true story of an amygdala hijack you have experienced in work life at some point in your career.  Ensure you complete the story with a clear example of what resilience tools you have learnt to apply as a result of this incident.  
  3. In groups of 3 or 4 map out the potential root causes of emotional threat that have been evident in our work lives over the past 2 years
  4. Ask the staff groups to come up with and/or research on the internet any tools / strategies they have that help them.  
  5. Ask each group to share their top 3 tips for helping us regain or even avoid the onset of a hijack when they can sense it coming on.
  6. Work together as a staff team in creating a ‘Resilience Wall’ of tools/strategies to help in times of emotional hijack.
  7. Touch base with staff at regular intervals in keeping the dialogue open about being self-aware, taking control and/or helping one another when feeling overwhelmed
  8. Celebrate successes and be kind to oneself in times of success or otherwise
  9. Share what you have learnt in leading this process and pass on the key messages from this exercise to other members of our key teams and colleagues across your local area.  Remember #TMOS (True Measures of Success in leading ourselves and our teams to thrive)
  10. Teach the pupils to learn from your example increased emotional self-awareness

So here is my key point in this challenge.  Find a way (perhaps with this exercise) to open up the dialogue and create a common language, non-threatening but evidence-based model for discussing issues around our mental health.   This shared vocabulary and openness can help also find the solutions, many of which already exist within ourselves or those around us.  We are in this together, in the good times and the bad.   There is no greater gift we can give to ourselves, and our staff teams this year than to face the fact that life can be hard, but we are in it together.

There is no greater joy than to find peace in any and every situation, in good times and bad.   Let’s begin opening this gift and commit to building each other up with tools to help us regulate our emotions in healthy ways.  This is the most powerful intervention we could consider. 

Final thoughts ….

When teachers thrive, pupils thrive. 

When pupils thrive, their progress accelerates.  

Do you agree?  #TMOS (what have been your true measures of success in building resilient staff teams this year?)  Share and let’s face the future with renewed confidence and a renewed hope that we can look to the future together.

Merry Christmas one and all


Leaders, you don’t have to have all the answers!

Are you the kind of leader who needs to be in control, to micromanage and build a sense of purpose by being the boss?   Or perhaps you’re the quiet lead from behind kind of person, delegate and let them figure it all out?  There is a myriad of leadership style models out there (laissez-faire, didactic, collaborative etc).   Whatever style you relate to I found my staff teams consistently seeking for me to daily fix the following issues:

IssueMy unspoken thoughts
We need more TA support staffDo I have a magic Narnia type wardrobe full of ready to go staff willing to work for free?
I need time off for my routine appointmentsDo you not have 13 weeks of time at home each year?
I cannot submit …… on time, I’m too busyDo I not have to do the same?  Have I not given you an annual calendar so you can plan ahead and meet the deadlines ?
Issues arising and my unspoken thougths

I’m sure we could all fill the grid with our own examples.   In addition, I was a daily problem solver for my team’s life problems; relationship break ups (“here’s the number of RELATE counselling”), debt problems (“here’s the contact for CAP Money course”), the cat is ill, and I can’t afford the vet bills (“let’s find a vet that provides support”).  I became a font of knowledge of everything from bereavement support to birth plans.   Where, I say to myself, is this in my job description, where was this on the NPQH course modules and why can’t staff see this invisible pressure I deal with on a daily basis when they say they are struggling with workload?

The fact is I am not the superhuman problem solver, but I realised I did not need to be.  The point about these examples and so much more is that I did not know the answers.  Even, dare I admit, answers to strategic educational problems, where I felt perhaps, I should know everything.  Admitting so was not a weakness but, as it turned out, my strength in the minds of my team and my saviour in relation to building effective team relationships and shared ownership of this roller coaster of a journey called school life.

So here are my 10 top tips for that moment when you panic and realise, ‘I don’t know what to say!’

[1] Use stock phrases to buy yourself some time, like, “Thank you for bringing this to my attention, I will get back you with a response later today.”  

[2] Avoid making quick fired promises in ‘corridor conversations.’  Even you are confident you know the answer, give yourself at least a minute to think it through a realise the consequences of what it is you are about to agree to.

[3] Collate a stock of helpful referral contacts for support agencies for the most common life events (the staff think you are amazing for knowing all this!)

[4] Listen, quite often you don’t need to provide a solution, they just need to know they have been heard.  Coaching them through a thought process is often enough for them to find their own next steps.

[5] Know your own non-negotiables when it comes to the vision you have laid out, flex on the routes but not the expected outcomes. 

[6] Be humble and wise by building up a network of colleagues who have skills and experience you just don’t have (yet).   Know who you can phone for advice, or even reassurance, when making a difficult decision.  This again is a sign of strong leadership and is not a weakness.

[7] Do a coaching course.  Many of us like to think we are naturally good at coaching people, but often fall into the trap of confusing this with mentoring.  If you find yourself giving away advice and answers, then the chances are you not as good a coach as you thought you were.

[8] Get an independent person to facilitate a 360 degree review of your performance as a leader.   It’s tough to hear what people really think of you as a leader but so, so helpful if can do this and follow through on point [6]

[9] Research and develop a whole school approach to problem solving.  It can be done!   I love the mind mapping approach for its visual impact and practical approach to sharing the issues and agreeing as a team what the next steps could be.

[10] Be kind to yourself and your staff.  Allow yourself to take risks and fail in order to grow and learn.  We aspire to teach the children to do this in the curriculum, but we often neglect to give ourselves permission to do the same. 

What would your top tips be, I’d love to hear them. Remember#TMOS is about defining your ‘true measures of success’ in leadership.

Till next month,


Hopes Dreams and Reality

Create your new reality

Welcome back to school/college/settings wherever you are!  Are you feeling excited, full of energy and hope?  Have you, perhaps, had that annual dream where you wonder if the people you lead will find out at last that you are a fraud and just as human and flawed as anyone (or is that just me?)  

Winston Churchill is quoted in 1952 as saying, ““It is no part of my case that I am always right.” True measures of success (#TMOS) in inspiring leadership behaviours must include integrity, honesty, and a good dose of reality; this has to start within yourself. He also wrote in his diaries about his dark moments in life, often when he had experienced professional failure or loss, referring to it as his ‘black dog,’ – a Victorian phrase to depict low mood. ‘Black dog on my back’ is a phrase that we might translate as ‘got out of bed on the wrong side today.’  You will have hopes and dreams about how this year will pan out for you, your family, your school/college/setting.  You have overcome SO much over last 24 months and know that some of those ‘black dogs’ may still reappear in the months to come.   So how can you face the juxta position of hopes, dreams and the realities that work and life are about to launch at you?    

How honest are you really ….? Take my 3-step challenge in creating the healthy culture in your setting to achieve the most effective and productive work ethic among your team than you have ever seen!

Challenge 1

If you don’t already, commit this year to writing a journal for yourself.  It is by far the most powerful method of honest self-reflection and improvement in self leadership, thus, effective leadership of others.   Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln did it so it should be good enough for us.   Keep it personal and private, but let it be a key priority in your scheduled working week.  This is my Friday afternoon when everyone else has gone home, I sit in my office or nip into a coffee shop, hotel bar on the way home and commit to spending an hour in reflective writing, thinking, and feeding strategic ideas onto my to do list for the following week(s) (see previous blogs on time management).  This is no fluffy in the clouds leadership rhetoric; this is rubber hits the road, get gritty with the issues starting with yourself approach to truly shifting the seemingly immovable mountainous problems you face in life and in your workplace.  This IS the place where battles are won, enemies defeated and that budget deficit, the challenging teacher, the poor results, the recovery from an inadequate OFSTED grading ….. are overcome. 

Challenge 2

Tweet / Whatsapp, etc (or whatever is your preferred methods of venting) only positive vibes this year, commit to have deep and meaningful debate face to face, not in texts without body language, tone of voice or the true intentions of integrity and honest role modelling. Use challenge 1 as part of your process in problem solving before you react; remember the adage, ‘act in haste, repent at leisure’. Seek wise counsel from others for those deeper issues, you do not have to have all the answers at your fingertips to prove you are an effective leader. Strategically map out who your go to wise counsel members would be.   For me, I have 7 key people with key skills and credibility around business, finance, mental health, family and of course leadership.   Who are they for you, write down your list and be determined to diary in regular catch-up sessions with them regularly through this year.  Coach others to then do the same …. Achieve this this year and you will see a significant and measurable impact on your team’s impact and outcomes. I dare you to prove this true in your world.

Challenge 3

Encourage a culture of safe honest professional debate to feed your journaling and deeper decision-making behaviours. Replace some of you staff meeting time with Seminar style discussion.   One year I scrapped staff meetings altogether in favour of this approach and I cannot put into words the impact this had on our teams and sense of professionalism.   Get in touch to explore this further and how you might dip you toe into this shift in culture.  To start with some staff were sceptical and confused; particularly those who feel success is ticking the boxes of ‘jobs done’.  i.e., I have done my job well when I have submitted my planning on time, written my subject action plan and filed it away, ordered the teaching resources and planned a staff meeting.   Again #TMOS.   Try these for healthy alternatives:

  • X% teachers appraisals include SMART goals around impact of action-based research project on a cohort of pupils.
  • Targeted subject action plans are based on research/evidence-based teaching pedagogy and direct input from nationally accredited subject leaders (university departments, maths hubs, etc)
  • School improvement plan includes the above approach and the jobs list associated with it are directly linked to #TMOS you have identified
  • If OFSTED is due for you, you will only challenge staff in regard to the above points knowing that they will be the true measures of success that get you the Good or Outstanding grades.

Are you up for any or all these challenges?  If you want to challenge me back or discuss your steps towards these for a truly productive year, get in touch #Leader5aday