The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Leading teaching and learning

Ian Warwick

How to stretch the more able: go off-piste, define differentiation and avoid time-wasting marking

Conference chair Ian Warwick addresses some of the questions posed by delegates at the 'Stretch and Challenge the More Able' event. Like a GPS, teachers are prone to denying students responsibility for their own path-finding We're told the curriculum is about mastering all learning at a child's own...
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Dr Karamat Iqbal

Are extra-curricular activities important?

Out-of-hours pursuits can play a significant role in shaping a pupil's future. They deserve pride of place in a school's offer. In 2014, the then-secretary of state for education, Michael Gove gave a speech in which he pointed out that schools that excelled academically had a programme of extra-...
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John Dabell

Why lazy teachers are the best

Working hard or hardly working? John Dabell explains why putting the power in pupils' hands is the best way for teachers to look after their own wellbeing. I'm a lazy teacher – a really lazy teacher. Many of my colleagues are too. We don’t mind admitting it either. In fact, we’re very proud. You...
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Elizabeth Holmes

'Serious potential': David Weston on the benefits of lesson study

Across the country, schools are using lesson study to explore the 'what next' of learning. Elizabeth Holmes caught up with David Weston to discuss the growing popularity of this imported approach. The continuing personal and professional development of teachers will always be of the utmost...
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Anna Reid

What does ‘high potential’ mean for languages?

Our languages department strives to convince all pupils that they have can thrive at French or Spanish. To do this, we wanted to understand what being 'high potential' actually involves. ‘High potential’ is a puzzling term if you believe, as I do, that every child has latent skills and competencies...
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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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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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Linda Evans

Ask and you shall receive: how to stretch pupils with questioning techniques

Linda Evans explains how developing questioning skills in teachers and pupils can extend learning. Many books have been written on about the role of questioning in teaching and learning, and its importance is clearly acknowledged in published good practice. In the day-to-day delivery of lessons,...
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Anita Foster

Help pupils make memories, not take photos!

We snap, share and store our memories all the time - but if we truly want to help children learn, we need to consider swapping tablets for trees. Many years ago, I was lucky enough to whale watch in New Zealand. Sperm whales just off the coast of the South Island. I have many photos, including...
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Anita Foster

Effective teaching in the great outdoors

Outdoor learning can be a great way to enrich a school's curriculum and engage pupils in new opportunities beyond the typical forest school afternoon. When I tell people what I do, I often get a response along the lines of ‘Oh, forest schools?’ While I appreciate much of what forest schools can do...
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