The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Sue Birchall

SBMs: let's focus on solutions, not problems

Given its skewed portrayal in the media, you'd forgive people for wondering if there's any hope left in education. It's time SBMs took a solution-based approach to funding challenges. ‘Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.’ ~ George...
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Elizabeth Holmes

Mastery, picture books and teaching styles: a headteacher's view

Elizabeth Holmes sat down with headteacher Simon Smith to discuss mastery learning in primary schools and the benefit of using picture books to develop young readers. Simon is the headteacher at East Whitby Academy, a primary school in North Yorkshire. He is a dedicated champion of literacy in...
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Alex Cuetos

Do new teachers set their expectations too high?

In my experience of working with new graduates from other countries, even a six-hour working day can apparently be 'too much'. Is this a generational gripe, or something more systemic? One of the worst things about working in China is being so far away from home. Seeing so many people come and go,...
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Gareth D Morewood

Mental health: what can schools do to build resilience?

Establishing a school-wide culture of resilience should be at the forefront of what we do to address the alarming prevalence of mental health issues among young people. 'It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to...
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Jack Procter-Blain

Education: an election battleground?

Many promises for a better system of education will be made before June’s election. What issues are you hoping to see discussed, and what does the next government need to deliver? Just when you thought you'd voted enough... ( Picture credit: secretlondon123 ) As campaigning gets underway for June's...
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Nickii Messer

Budget cutting should be long-term, not knee-jerk

In a climate of ever-tightening purse strings, it’s all too easy for school business leaders to overlook strategic plans and make hasty attempts to cut staff in order to balance the budget. With most schools feeling the pinch – or the tight grip of a vice, in some cases – of rapidly shrinking...
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Robert Slavin

Leave no pupils behind: the principles (and limits) of a mastery approach

If all pupils are to master the prerequisite skills for important lessons, teachers must have the resources to help them reach the same baseline. When giving a lesson, all teachers face a dilemma. Some pupils will master all the lesson content, some will learn it partially and others will not learn...
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Alex Masters

How my hour-long appraisal nearly destroyed me

Appraisals can truly make or break a person, as Alex Masters discovered. Use these expert tips to ensure your feedback is always constructive. It was an hour of pure hell. I was in the English department office, two pupils (who had just been sent out of a nearby classroom owing to disruptive...
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John Stanier

A character-building curriculum in 12 easy steps

Great Torrington School redesigned its Year 7 curriculum to unleash passions and embed character. Assistant headteacher John Stanier explains how you can do the same. Building characters, one opportunity at a time (picture credit: W_Minshull) Our Year 7 pupils don’t ‘do’ individual subjects. They...
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John Viner

Term-time holidays: the verdict is in

The Supreme Court’s recent decision on the Jon Platt case highlights again the importance of dealing with term-time holidays - though we're yet to hear the last of this legal tussle. I have previously examined the debate surrounding term-time absences. In this update, I consider what happened in...
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