The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Elizabeth Holmes

Regular blogger Elizabeth Holmes is a writer and researcher in education. She has taught in secondary schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex and written many books, including The NQT Handbook, FAQs for NQTs, Teacher Well-being: Looking after yourself and your career in the classroom, What Next After School? and FAQs for TAs. Elizabeth has edited the CPD Update ebulletin for Optimus Education for several years. She has a particular interest in the well-being of teachers and pupils. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter: @EA_Holmes

After gaining a degree in Politics and International Relations, Elizabeth studied for a PGCE at the Institute of Education in London and taught in secondary schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex before leaving full-time teaching to write in the fields of education and health.

 

Latest blog posts

Elizabeth Holmes

Teachers: does your professional learning have purpose?

To guarantee the 'C' in CPD, teachers should always be asking questions of the research they carry out or the training they receive. Karl Bentley is a senior lecturer and programme director for PGCE 7-14 at Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent. After a career in power and control engineering...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Spotlight on Northern Rocks

Although only in its fourth year, Northern Rocks is firmly established in the academic calendar as a powerhouse of pedagogical thinking. I spoke to its co-founder ahead of this year's conference. Drawing together teachers and others working in the field of education, Northern Rocks offers a forum...
Read more...
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...
Read more...
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...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Championing diversity and equality in these challenging times

In these turbulent times, schools must ensure that their commitment to equality and diversity shines through. 'It’s never too late to give up your prejudices.' ~ Henry David Thoreau As with our communities, our schools are diverse. Diversity is not abstract in any way. It is simply a reflection of...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

A proactive approach to keeping pupils safe

In addition to keeping pupils safe from physical harm in school, all staff must stay alert to signs of abuse - online or offline. All aspects of pupil wellbeing should be at the heart of what a school provides. This is made clear in the Teachers’ Standards 2012 , which emphasise teachers’...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Finders, keepers: improve wellbeing to retain the best staff

The recruitment and retention of staff can be testing at the best of times. Time spent finding and hiring the best person for the job is wasted if the job doesn't entice them to stay in the role. Discussions around staff retention usually follow the premise that keeping staff is good. This isn’t...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Spotlight on #WomenEd

Is #WomenEd, a growing grassroots movement for women aspiring to school leadership, a force for good in education's current climate? I caught up with Jules Daulby to find out more. Elizabeth Holmes : What is #WomenEd? Jules Daulby : #WomenEd is a grassroots movement which connects existing and...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Has teacher workload reached critical mass?

It is a surprise to no-one that indomitable teacher workloads are contributing to the current recruitment and retention crisis. What action must be taken, both on a national and individual level? For almost twenty years I have been writing about the demands of teacher workload and the devastating...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Healthy schools: working towards wellbeing

Promoting health and wellbeing in school can help pupils lead long, happy lives. Here are some tips for encompassing the 'whole package' of wellbeing in your school's approach. It is undeniable that schools have a responsibility to promote healthy lifestyles. There is little point in developing...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Mantle of the Expert – making learning meaningful and engaging

A Beginner’s Guide to Mantle of the Expert is an intriguing pedagogy with the potential to transform primary education and children’s experience of learning. I caught up with the author, Tim Taylor. Please explain your part in the development of Mantle of the Expert Tim: Mantle of the Expert is an...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Making homework ‘work’ at your school

Research suggests that homework has little impact on academic achievement. So, how can schools ensure it is used to improve pupils' learning? 'Spoon feeding, in the long run, teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.' - EM Forster In my final year at primary school, we were challenged to...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

The College of Teaching is 'an irresistible offer'

Following her appointment as CEO, Professor Dame Alison Peacock shares her plans for the Chartered College of Teaching, including Chartered Teacher status, associate memberships and a commitment to evidence-based expertise. With the recent appointment of Professor Dame Alison Peacock as the chief...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Coping with and responding to change in your school

Change in education seems constant. Whether it’s new legislation to implement, new teaching strategies to learn or adapting to new staff and leadership styles. Elizabeth Holmes outlines how to cope and what you can do to ensure change is a success in your school. He who rejects change is the...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Refresh your school's CPD: top tips

Give professional learning at your school a boost. Elizabeth Holmes offers eight top tips to help CPD leaders refresh their policy and practice. 'Know how to listen and you will profit even from those who talk badly.' Plutarch However successful professional and personal learning have been in your...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

CPD support for teacher's wellbeing and self-worth

Teachers' wellbeing and self-worth are of paramount importance if they are to nurture similar confidence in their pupils. Elizabeth Holmes discusses what steps can be taken to support this important area of CPD. Self-worth comes from one thing – thinking that you are worthy. (Wayne Dyer) Is it...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

The Standard for Professional Development: a timely reminder for all

The Standard for Professional Development is clear about the importance of effective training to effective teaching. What are its most important messages? The recent publication of the Standard for Professional Development offers us the impetus to focus on CPD with a fresh perspective and renewed...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

How to teach community cohesion in a time of turmoil

The EU referendum has been connected with a 57% increase in race related hate crimes. Elizabeth Holmes examines how to keep schools and pupils safe and champion equality. After months of campaigning and ugly politics, the United Kingdom looks set for Brexit, if the necessary constitutional wrangles...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Engaging children through space exploration: the Tim Peake effect

With Tim Peake’s momentous return to earth we are reminded of what a superb ambassador for space exploration he has been. Elizabeth Holmes discusses his impact on children's learning. Explore often. Only then will you know how small you are and how big the world is . Pradeepa Pandiyan Tim spent 186...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Why teacher mental health matters – and how to improve it

With a third of the teaching workforce predicted to leave the profession by 2020, Elizabeth Holmes explores the links between positive mental health, productivity and retention. To think too much is a disease. (Fyodor Dostoyevsky) Research by the Education Support Partnership has revealed that over...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Trusting in transitions: getting it right in the early years

Coping effectively with t ransition, especially if difficult or traumatic, is crucial if we are to thrive in later life. The need to get it right in early years is essential. Transition isn’t pretty, but stagnation is hideous. Nikki Rowe Transitions are inevitable. We experience transitions to...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Montessori education (part 2): classroom activities

In the second of this two-part interview with nursery owner and teacher, Nick Peck, Elizabeth Holmes delves into Montessori classroom activities and the contribution that Montessori is making to early years education today. Elizabeth: Can you explain the different types of activities for children...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Montessori education: an international pedagogical movement

With an estimated 22,000 nurseries and schools worldwide and approximately 750 catering for around 30,000 children in the UK , Montessori education is a considered choice for many parents. But what are its key characteristics that distinguish it from other early years approaches? In this first of a...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Teaching interviews: 10 top tips

Interviews can be a nerve-wracking experience. Elizabeth Holmes shares tips to make them less painful and more productive. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Eleanor Roosevelt Whether you’re helping colleagues to move on in their careers or thinking of making a change yourself...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Getting to the heart of professional learning and literacy

‘New teachers are starting a journey, not being prepared, glazed and kiln baked by CPD to be career ready.’ Diane Leedham , English, Literacy and EAL teacher and advisor, and all-round voice of sense and reason on edu-twitter, has clear ideas about helping children to learn and thrive. I caught up...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

The mid-winter blues: helping ourselves and helping colleagues

Elizabeth Holmes shares practical wellbeing advice for those struggling with the mid-winter blues. It’s leap year. Forget the usual traditions, the real story is that February is rather miserably extended. An extra day of winter, and for those hit by the blues this time of year, that’s not great...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Being a reflective teacher: making it work for you

Being a truly reflective teacher is hard. Skills of reflection are difficult to acquire and seemingly not frequently demonstrated (when asked to reflect, many simply describe). Elizabeth Holmes outlines the benefits and offers tips for effective reflection. Life can only be understood backwards;...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Wellbeing for the year ahead: 12 tips

Study after study tells us that teacher wellbeing is in danger of hitting rock bottom and a visit to any staffroom is likely to confirm those findings. What to do? 'Getting down to the gym a couple of days a week and having low-fat milk in your latte isn’t going to make much of a dent in a system...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Staff wellbeing: avoiding burnout in the run-up to Christmas

The festive season is upon us, and whether you celebrate Christmas or not, there’s no doubt that reaching this point in the school year can be an exhausting experience. Elizabeth Holmes outlines research from City University on the importance of taking a break over the holidays, to ensure staff...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

The College of Teaching and the Big Staff Meeting

As we move closer to the creation of a College of Teaching there is still much to be finalised about the finer details. To find out the latest, Elizabeth Holmes caught up with Professor Angela McFarlane, CEO of the College of Teachers and Founding Trustee of the College of Teaching to pose some of...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

The Prevent duty – guidance and training for schools

What can schools do to help keep children and young people safe from radicalisation and extremism? Elizabeth Holmes provides a summary of essential guidance, documents and training resources. Keeping children safe from radicalisation and extremism is now a top priority with important...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

A toolkit for teachers for supporting mental health

Natasha Devon explains how schools can best equip teachers for the rigours of supporting young people who are suffering. In part one of this conversation we explored the prevalence of mental health distress in children and young people and how the teaching profession may respond to that. What might...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Using a range of activities to make CPD count

Do you tweet? Are you involved in peer networking? Are you a member of a working group? Do you include these activities under the broad definition of CPD? And indeed, should you? What does – and what does not – constitute CPD (continuing professional development)? At a time when grass roots...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Championing wellbeing with Natasha Devon

Charged with helping to raise awareness and reduce the stigma around young people’s mental health, Natasha Devon MBE was named as the government’s mental health champion for schools. Elizabeth Holmes finds out more. Natasha Devon is seen as an inspiration to many young people. As founder of the...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Does your school need to be more involved in research?

Research has long been the focus of higher education institutions. But concerns are growing that schools are not directly involved. Optimus expert Elizabeth Holmes caught up with Mark Healy, deputy head (learning and teaching) and psychology teacher at a Scottish secondary school, to find out his...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Improving practice to support more able pupils

Elizabeth Holmes outlines what schools need to consider to ensure teachers are equipped with the right tools to support more able pupils. Supporting the individual needs of children is what great teachers do every day. It would be unthinkable to expect to go into a classroom and ‘deliver’ an...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

NQTs: tips to help you get off to a great start

Making the transition from trainee to fully fledged teacher is exciting, challenging and, at times, daunting. Whether this is your first career or a change of career, being in charge of your own class(es) can feel so different from the relative cocoon of training. Optimus expert, Elizabeth Holmes,...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Reading research papers efficiently and effectively

With so much relevant reading material out there for teachers and other educators, it’s no wonder we can, at times, feel overwhelmed by it all. Optimus expert, Elizabeth Holmes, outlines techniques and strategies to ensure you get the most from your research. Think before you speak. Read before you...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Getting to grips with Ofsted inspection

Love it (and some do) or hate it, Ofsted inspection is a feature of the landscape in the world of education. With a new Ofsted framework due to take effect from September 2015 Optimus expert, Elizabeth Holmes, caught up with Sean Harford , Ofsted’s National Director for Schools, to find out exactly...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Getting it right in RE

Following the publication of the report, A New Settlement: religion and belief in schools , Elizabeth Holmes caught up with Dr Mark Chater to find out where things stand for the subject. The report, by Charles Clarke and Linda Woodhead, has raised some interesting questions, not the least about...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Developing Great Teaching: 8 key points from the TDT report

A major international review of CPD has recently been published, revealing what many of us have long suspected. There should be ‘an urgent move away from models of one-off, one-day continuing professional development (CPD) for teachers to more effective longer-term programmes of support and...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Developing critical thinking skills

Whether you are a professional learning leader in your school or interested in your own CPD, developing your critical thinking skills will help just about every endeavour. Being able to read research, blogs, articles or any literature concerned with your role in education with enhanced critical...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Presentations: top tips to engage your audience

As schools utilise in-house expertise, teachers are not only educating children and young people - but colleagues too. What could we accomplish if we knew we could not fail? -Eleanor Roosevelt I’ve seen poor presenters with great content and slick presenters with poor content – never be taken in by...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Maths-specific CPD: challenges to address

With subject-specific CPD ever in demand, Optimus expert Elizabeth Holmes catches up with Steve McCormack, former maths teacher and now communications director for the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) , to find out the key challenges around CPD in maths. It’s...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

How to encourage professional dialogue in schools

Effective face-to-face professional dialogue requires good listening skills, empathy, compassion, understanding and being civil in the event of disagreements. Elizabeth Holmes explains what schools can do to encourage positive discussion. A single conversation across the table with a wise man is...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Mindfulness: a classroom tool for all

Looking to introduce mindfulness into your school? Elizabeth Holmes explains why there's potential in the idea, and how you can get started. After some time in the wilderness, mindfulness has recently enjoyed wide-scale exposure and drawn the attention of researchers keen to determine precisely how...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Supporting NQTs: ideas to implement

Are you meeting the needs of your NQTs? Elizabeth Holmes offers practical ideas to ensure your newly qualified teachers feel valued and motivated. Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be. Ralph Waldo Emerson If my inbox is anything to go by, this is the time of...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Mental health and wellbeing: supporting children and young people

There is much that schools can do to support children and young people with mental health difficulties but good quality CPD is essential. Elizabeth Holmes outlines what schools can do. With the great need for subject-specific CPD, it’s little surprise that training in care for the mental health and...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

The College of Teaching – what’s it all about?

‘The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change.’ – Bill Clinton If you’re not a regular on Twitter some of the wrangling over plans for a College of Teaching for the profession may have passed you by. But now a proposal has been published by the Claim Your College...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

CPD and the year ahead – the view from the TDT (Part 2)

'Learning never exhausts the mind.' – Leonardo Da Vinci Following on from our recent blog on David Weston and the Teacher Development Trust , we discuss with David the key characteristics of effective CPD and what schools can do to raise the profile and standard of the CPD accessed by teachers...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

CPD and the year ahead – the view from the TDT (Part 1)

'Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.' – Albert Einstein There are few people out there with as much interest and involvement in the continuing professional development of teachers as David Weston, Chief Executive of the Teacher Development Trust (TDT) . In the two...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Happy New Year! 15 CPD resolutions for teachers

'I think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the year’s.' - Henry Moore So, a new calendar year is almost upon us and although we are only a third of the way through the academic year, it still feels like a time to reflect on how things are going – focusing on what we may change for the better...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Teacher wellbeing: once more with feeling

Teacher wellbeing has been a major professional interest of mine for well over a decade. I have been writing on it and supporting teachers and lecturers through training and personal development, visiting many schools and speaking to hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers over the years. What do I...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Great CPD: making it count

'Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardour and attended to with diligence.' - Abigail Adams After over a decade of thinking and writing about teachers’ professional learning, I never tire of talking to teachers about their experiences of CPD and how we might improve what...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Reflective practices – how they can work

‘I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.’ - Abraham Lincoln Recently when I was working with a group of PGCE students, the subject of reflective practice and how new teachers can achieve this under time restraints came up. There was no doubt that being a reflective...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Collaboration between schools and HE institutions – a force for good in education

‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.’ - Helen Keller As someone who works in schools and in higher education, one of the biggest disappointments I encounter is the apparent lack of appreciation among some educators for the links between those working in early years settings,...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

How good is your school at supporting pupils SMSC development?

The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as long as we live. Mortimer Adler Developing understanding I have a habit of doing unscientific surveys every time I’m talking to a group of teachers. They always offer insights worth listening to beyond some...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Why subject-specific CPD has to be a priority

How do we bring our subject to life for pupils? By regularly topping up our own interest, knowledge and skills. Elizabeth Holmes outlines the characteristics of effective subject-specific professional development. ‘Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.’ Mahatma...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Wellbeing: take control of yours and your school’s

Stress and workload issues don’t just disappear during the summer. Avoid ruminating this holiday and take action to improve your wellbeing next term, advises Elizabeth Holmes. ‘The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.’ William James It's summer, and with...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Teachers struggling with behaviour need support, not ridicule

Asking for help with behaviour management is not a sign of incompetence. Elizabeth Holmes suggests adopting an approach to development based on evidence and understanding could help to reduce fear and stress. ‘Pain explains a great deal of human conduct, but the fear of pain even more.’ Neil...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

‘A chance to develop and learn from the best’

The Teacher Development Trust is developing a compelling vision for teacher-led professional learning based on evidence, collaboration and entitlement. Elizabeth Holmes uncovers more about what the organisation is proposing via its annual report. ‘Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise.’ Horace If...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Does having a strong professional identity hold teachers back?

Elizabeth Holmes looks at the impact of professional self-image on professional learning in schools. ‘Change is the end result of all true learning.’ Leo Buscaglia Looking back at staffrooms I have sat in over the years, it is evident that as educators we all have a sense of professional identity...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

How to learn anytime, anywhere in school

Elizabeth Holmes explains how to facilitate professional dialogue for learning. ‘Discussion is impossible with someone who claims not to seek the truth, but already to possess it.’ ― Romain Rolland , Above the Battle Imagine a working day where you spoke to no-one but your pupils; no interaction...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Developing a positive mindset to CPD in your school

‘Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.’ Lou Holtz Attitude is everything, so the saying goes; not least in our approach to CPD. In a publication I wrote for Schoolmanager.net 14 years ago I covered what I termed the ‘...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Building a CPD community

eTwinning currently involves around 249,000 teachers in some 33,000 projects in over 122,000 schools across Europe. Elizabeth Holmes thinks this just might be an opportunity for collaboration in the true sense of the word. ‘Collaboration, it turns out, is not a gift from the gods but a skill that...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Learning about children’s mental health: the essentials

Help teachers develop the skills needed to identify children with a mental health condition using this online tool from MindEd ‘There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.’ Laurell K Hamilton The mental health of the nation’s children and...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Small-scale research: your next CPD priority

Use action research to enhance teaching and learning. Elizabeth Holmes explains how ‘Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.’ EM Forster ith the ongoing debate about using research in education to inform teaching and learning, it seems timely to revisit the...
Read more...
Elizabeth Holmes

Encouraging creativity in the classroom

Elizabeth Holmes suggests how schools might drill down into precisely what ‘creativity’ means for both pupils and staff ‘Creativity takes courage.’ Henri Matisse We talk about creativity in the classroom as if it were a widely understood concept, with clear steps towards its achievement and a...
Read more...